For the first time since the establishment of Masai Mara in 1958, tour operators are taking their clients to the game reserve with ease, thanks to the ongoing upgrading of Narok town-Sekenani Gate road to bitumen standards.
Until now, tourists have been taking long hours to reach their destinations because of the poor state of the road. Long years of neglect made the key road resemble a cattle track, leading to a booming air transport business as tourists opted to fly.
Ongoing road construction has already reduced travelling time for tour vans from Narok town to the Mara from three to one-and-a-half hours. The State is spending Sh1 billion in upgrading the road.
As a result, the current tourism peak season has seen an upsurge of visitors using the road to access the more than 170 tourist facilities inside and outside the park. “Many tourists now prefer using the road to flying,” says Njoroge Gichina, national chairman, Tour Guides and Drivers Association.
He says some tour firms folded after road transport overheads increased due to frequent breakdowns and accidents. Preference for air transport, also affected curio businesses along the Mai Mahiu-Narok town-Sekenani Gate road. Many shops, which had closed because of lack of business, have reopened, creating employment and boosting livelihoods.
“From Mai Mahiu to the Mara, all curio shops that had closed a decade ago are now crawling back to business,” says Geoffrey Kimani, an official for Masai Mara Curio Dealers Association.
Gichina says the security of drivers and their clients was now assured, adding that in the past, they were targets of armed bandits.