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Mara fortunes change as wildebeest arrive a month early

Exclusive lodges and camps in Masai Mara National Reserve have for the last one-week been doing a surprisingly brisk business due to unexpected tourist arrivals in the middle of the low season.

All hotels had been on a two-month business lull after local and international arrivals dipped. Several hotels had closed for renovation while others sent their employees on unpaid leave.

Hoteliers say arrivals will be boosted ahead of the July-October peak season by the recent launch of passenger trains between Nairobi and Mombasa.

But the main surprise is the crossing at Sand River Gate and Serena points by more than 15,000 wildebeest between Wednesday last week and Monday this week.

The gnus were expected from mid next month from Serengeti plains. “Their numbers will increase as they continue running away from drought sweeping northern Serengeti in Tanzania” says Jackson Spit, a tour guide -cum-driver, Sarova Mara Game Camp.

Rains between March and early last month aided growth of grass, filled water pans and increased water levels in Mara and Talek rivers. The grassland is now teaming with lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetahs preying on the gnus.

The development has seen bed occupancy in some lodges and camps, especially those located in the park, rise from almost nothing to about 75 per cent in two weeks, hoteliers say. “We have been fully booked for the last one-week.

As we head towards the peak season, all hotels will be doing well,” said Kevin Mwendwa, general manager, Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer.

However, tour operators say a few clients making booking enquiries are worried about possible eruption of violence before, during and after the August 8 General Election, despite indications that the political fever will peter out.

“Some are asking us if we think the election will be peaceful but many others are booking after shrugging off election fears,” said Lily Waddington, proprietor of London-based UK Travels.

She said more tourists will visit the country between next month and January next year compared to previous seasons because of the general peace in the country and incentives through marketing of products.

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