Maasai Mara roars back to life ahead of wildebeest migration

Wildebeests cross the Mara River during their migration to greener pastures between the Maasai Mara game reserve and the open plains of the Serengeti, southwest of Kenya's capital Nairobi. [Reuters]

A silent cross characterised the 2020 wildebeest migration, which went unwitnessed.

The stunning spectacle last year occurred with zero tourists due to the Covid-19 pandemic that led to the cancellation of international flights.

Life is, however, back this year as tourists throng Masai Mara Game Reserve to witness the wildebeest migration.

With their strong calves, about three million gnus have started crossing the River Mara from Tanzania’s Serengeti Park heralding a four-month-long thrilling experience for local and international tourists who have started arriving after cancelling their hotel bookings last year.

Erick Fisher, an American tourist who jetted in for the spectacle, could not hide his joy after missing last year’s migration.

“I had booked a hotel room for my fiancé and I. All was well until international flights were banned ruining our plans of witnessing the migration live for the first time in our lives. I am excited to be here,” Mr Fisher told The Standard.

Wildebeests, according to Masai Mara’s Chief Park Warden Joseph Sindiyo, cross over to mate in the Mara then return to Serengeti in neighbouring Tanzania to deliver.

Mr Sindiyo confirmed that hundreds of thousands of gnus have crossed over and more are expected to troop in soon.

“The actual migration is set to happen any time. Huge herds have crossed Sand River and in the next few days they will plunge into Mara River marking the official migration,” said Sindiyo.

He revealed that most hotels in the park were currently fully booked ready to host both local and international tourists.

Godfrey Mwirigi, manager Siana Springs Tented Camp, told The Standard the camp had received over 50 per cent bookings of its 200-bed capacity facility.

“Tourism is back and we are optimistic that we shall make a comeback after the huge losses last year when tourists cancelled their bookings due to Covid-19. Most of us are now hosting tourists on their previous payments,” says Mr Mwirigi.

Mwirigi’s sentiments were echoed by Entumoto Tented Camp Manager John Murage, who revealed that the hotel industry in the Mara was finally coming back to life after being deserted the whole of last year due to the pandemic.

“We had 100 per cent bookings last year but tourists had to cancel them at the last minute. Most of them had paid upfront and some of them have already arrived and more have confirmed their flights. Business is slowly picking up,” said Mr Murage.

Narok Governor Samuel Tunai, who is also the Tourism Committee Chair at the Council of Governors, has welcomed tourists from within and without to tour the Masai Mara Game Reserve to witness the wildebeest migration.

“Since the beginning of this year, tourist attraction centres have been receiving visitors. From this month all the way to October, Masai Mara is at its peak due to the wildebeest migration,” said Governor Tunai.

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