Most hotels in the Masai Mara Game Reserve will be fully booked during the long Christmas and New Year holidays. Hoteliers say visitors started booking for holidays at the beginning of the month, adding that the guests will be from different parts of the world.
The Mara has been without visitors since September (the height of the peak season) because of political uncertainty prevailing in the country after the Supreme Court nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election.
Most hotels had sent their staff on unpaid leave. Kevin Mwendwa, general manager, Mara Intrepids and Mara Explorer Camps, says the two units will be fully booked until the second week of January. “Our guests will be mostly from Europe. They will stay in the reserve long after others have departed because of the biting winter at home,” he added.
Lodges and tented camps have offered different packages for local and foreign tourists, with high-end facilities charging up to Sh80,000 full board per person per night. Others targeting local clientele are charging Sh15,000 to Sh20,000 full board a night. Two hot air balloon companies, their proprietors say, will be operational during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“We have bookings up to the New Year mainly from the US,” said a pilot who declined to be named. Wildebeests, a main attraction in the July-September peak season, migrated back to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania in September, a month early because of lack of fodder and water.
As a result, visitors on game drives will be forced to travel long distances to watch the big five because they have moved out of their habitats to follow their prey. Agama Camp, Serena Mara Lodge, Sarova Mara Game Camp, Keekorok Lodge and Kempinski Olare Mara Camp will be fully booked during the holidays.
Meanwhile, hotels in Narok town are gearing up to receive visitors during the long holidays. Most of them will be staying in the town hotels after going for game drives in the reserve during the day.
Among the fully booked hotels are Seasons, Mara Link, Chambai Springs and Lexington Resort. “Because of high boarding charges inside the Mara, they will be spending nights here after the game drives. We will also be preparing take away picnic lunches,” says Ishmael Ayabei, manager at Chambai Springs.