Pay attention to game parks in the roads boom

The Narok-Mai Mahiu road when it was being built: Some access roads to the Masai Mara need urgent fixing. Photo/FILE
The Narok-Mai Mahiu road when it was being built: Some access roads to the Masai Mara need urgent fixing. Photo/FILE 

Tourism and smooth roads are inseparable.

That the government is allocating major resources towards building roads across the country means travel is set to be a major beneficiary.

Last week, Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta allocated Sh78 billion for infrastructure development, and it is expected roads will take a major portion.

Travelling across Kenya by road is becoming a smooth ride as the government boosts the investment.

The days of dreading travel to rural areas are fading as roads across the country are upgraded, opening up new destinations to the attention of people keen on adventure, fun, and games.

For that is what tourism is all about.

It is no use having attractive, or even world-wonder destinations if access is restricted thanks to poor roads.

The Sh78.6 billion budget for infrastructure in the 2010/11 Estimates is a 34 per cent improvement over the last fiscal year.

Some of the roads expected to be built are the Isiolo and Voi-Taveta sections.

The road to Isiolo will open up Northern Kenya and neighbouring national parks and reserves like Samburu, Shaba, Marsabit and Buffalo Springs National Reserves to more foreign and domestic visitors.

Under the Vision 2030, there are plans to make Isiolo a resort city and the government is planning an extensive transport system that will open up the country to Ethiopia.

While the Tourism ministry is perennially complaining about inadequate funds, it behoves the Kenya Tourist Board and sister organisations like the Kenya Wildlife Service to identify new attractions and bring them to the attention of policy makers.

Tourism has proved resilient, recovering from the lows of 2008 when the sector earned Sh52 billion, down from a record Sh65 billion in 2007.

Last year, it bounced back with an impressive Sh62.5 billion, representing a 19.5 per cent growth.

This is why attention must shift to World wonder Maasai Mara where the road leading to the famous Sekenani Gate needs fixing urgently.

The Kishal Murwa road leading to Nkoilale to Sekenani is bumpy and discouraging, travellers have complained.

It is inexplicable why such horror is allowed to sit next to a gem like the Mara.

First, the potholes, then no road, which forces seasoned tour guides to go off-road to drive through private land.

Drivers can be heard giving colleagues directions, mentioning a particular shrub, rock or hut as a landmark to avoid rough patches.

“Tour guides are making their own roads through community land and some divided parcels,” said Jake Grieves-Cook, the chairman of Kenya Tourist Board.

A game drive in the reserve does not pose as many challenges as the drive to get to the Sekenani Gate.

Hopefully, a percentage of the infrastructure budget will be allocated to this road.

However, the maintenance of this access road falls under the Narok County Council who have come under stinging criticism by tourism players.

Comparatively, the roads on the other side of the Mara National Reserve — the Mara Triangle — that fall under the Transmara Country Council, are in a better condition.

Infrastructure boom

Park roads managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, which is recognised as a roads agency due to the network in the parks, are also well maintained and provide a smooth outdoor experience for guests.

Perhaps this is why the organisations mandated with managing tourism wealth should work in tandem to continue raising Kenya’s destination standards.

One of the areas to start from is a policy that places certain sites in packets, giving them a rating to ensure the roads, like the hotels, meet certain standards.

Tourism must not miss out in the roads boom.