Hoteliers pick up the pieces after Maasai Mara flooding

A tented suite at JW Marriot in Maasai Mara.

Photo credit: Pool

The night of May 2, 2024, was one of horror for unsuspecting guests and staff of the most luxurious hotels in the Maasai Mara. After a day of enjoying the wild, none of them expected to be woken up late at night by the sound of rushing waters, infiltrating their tents that had lost power, leaving them in darkness.

After rescue efforts were successful, hotels now remain with the task of rebuilding and cleaning up the mess that the waters of Talek River left behind. Jackson Amutala, Business Development Director of PrideInn Hotels says that the damage left behind at the PrideInn Mara Camp is almost unquantifiable.

“In 2020, we experienced flooding but not to the extent we have seen recently. Water flowed into the camp at 10 pm. Luckily, some people had not slept and they alerted others. We had 10 guests in the hotel. We were expecting a larger number of guests the next day,” he says.

Some staff members were forced to spend the night high up in the trees since they could not find a way out. Some were rescued the next day at 10 am by the Kenya Red Cross. The bushy trees made the rescue more difficult since there was no land for rescue helicopters to land on because the muddy waters covered everything.

“We have 16 cottages and 14 tents. All the tents were affected. Four were completely damaged while the rest were almost fully submerged since the water levels reached the roof. Some fallen trees were swept into the hotel. Water is so destructive because the whole camp became a no-go zone,” he explains.

Infrastructure damage

He adds that tents and cottages that are commonly used in the Maasai Mara are not permanent structures which forced them to start afresh. They hired over 100 people to clear the mud and debris that the floods left behind. He laments that the floods destroyed the power system, generators and boreholes.

Masai Mara flood

A flooded JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge in Kenya submerged in water on May 1, 2024.

Photo credit: Pool

Despite this, the hotel reopened on June 5 as they continued with repairs.

“Most of the bridges for most hotels were swept away but ours is still standing and being used by the local community as well to cross Talek River. Some hotels have opted to move further away from the river but that is not the issue. All these hotels are inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the water from the river reached the main gate of the reserve which is one kilometre away. That means it was not preventable,” Jackson said.

Altaf Jiwa, Group Director of Communications, Marketing and Strategy of Ishara Mara Camp says they have lost millions of shillings in infrastructure as well as in reservations since they decided to close for the rest of the year to rebuild. This means they will miss out on the wildebeest migration, which is the peak season in the Mara from mid-June to mid-October. Ishara Mara Camp’s luxurious suites cost Sh259,000 (US$2,000) per person per night.

“Parts of the camp will be moved to higher ground away from the river. Six out of 11 suites were affected. We were fully booked from June to October but we had to reimburse all our clients,” says Altaf.

Some hotels went the extra mile to accommodate guests staying with them when the floods happened. Shreta Kerai, JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge’s PR and Marketing Executive, says that after their guests were evacuated, chartered flights took them to Nairobi where they provided one hotel accommodation.

“Additionally, we issued a letter of insurance compensation to assist guests in engaging their travel insurance during this challenging time as they also lost their personal belongings,” she adds.

A flooded Ishara Mara Camp on May 01, 2023. 

Photo credit: Pool

Almost a year after opening their first foray into the safari game, JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge was forced to close temporarily to rebuild the lodge and make enhancements to the structures and the river to avoid such a tragedy from occurring again.


“We are planning to uplift pathways and add more gabions to fortify riverbank stability. Further, based on recommendations from geological experts and in conjunction with the county government, we are considering river canaling to better manage water flow and minimise future risk to the property and the community. We will also be introducing additional safety equipment, including boats and life jackets, to ensure swift and efficient responses in emergencies.

Reinforcing structures to withstand severe weather conditions is another critical aspect of our reconstruction efforts. Additionally, an alarm system will be activated if the water level rises above the designated meter metric,” she says.

Shreta notes that most of their clients opted to reschedule their stays. JW Marriott announced they will reopen the lodge on July 15. Room rates start from Sh194,250 (US$1,500) per person per night.

Most hotels are rushing to resolve the structural issues to not miss out on the upcoming Wildebeest migration season to replenish the lost revenue.

“The structural integrity of the tents remains intact. Fortunately, the remaining tents, public areas, and pathways have sustained minimal damage and require only minor repairs,” she explains.

Some of the other affected hotels include Fig Tree Camp, Saruni Basecamp, Saruni Basecamp Adventure, Mara Explorer Camp, Mara Sweet Acacia, Crocodile Camp and other properties located close to the river in Talek.

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