County bans use of private vehicles for game drives in Maasai Mara

Tourists visiting Maasai Mara Game Reserve will no longer use private vehicles for game drives.

This follows a directive by the Narok county government in efforts to control the flow of tourists into the world-famous park to protect its ecosystem.

On Monday, the county government banned the use of private vehicles for game drives within the Maasai Mara game reserve to control traffic ahead of the wildebeest migration set to kick off in June 2024.

In a letter dated June 3, 2024 and signed by Chief Park Administrator Alex Nabaala, the county government says the  directive is in line with the Maasai Mara Management plan that was endorsed last year.

"The vehicles that will be used during game drives are safari trucks, safari Land Cruisers, and safari vans only and no private vehicles will be allowed into the reserve," said Nabaala in the letter copied to all the gates section commanders and all airstrip commanders.

In February last year, Narok Governor Patrick Ntutu signed the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR) Management Plan, spatial plan, and greater Mara ecosystem plan to be used between 2023-2032. He said the ten-year plan is a significant milestone in the development and management of the National Reserve as it reflects the diverse interests and concerns of all those who care about its future.

The plan is expected to control the number of visitors allowed into the park at any given time, especially during the peak season of the wildebeest migration.

The plan would also see the county government shut down some tourist facilities and issue permits to lodge developers in a more controlled manner.

The annual wildebeest migration from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Masai Mara in Kenya is one of the greatest natural spectacles, which led to it being named the Eighth Wonder of the World.

The elevation of the park’s status globally has seen it attract high tourist numbers and in turn a huge number of investments, with some lodges and camps being put up illegally. This has led to the degradation of the environment and a reduction in tourism numbers.

The county continues to maintain and improve the park's infrastructure after the deadly rains that have ravaged bridges and damaged over 14 tourist camps and lodges in May 2024. These initiatives are expected to make it easier for visitors to access the Mara and reduce the tour operators' cost of doing business.

The status of the Mara as a premier safari destination remains unchallenged. The reserve was 2018 ranked Africa's leading national park by WTA, beating South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, and Central Kalahari Game Reserve.