Narok governor Samuel Tunai has halted development of tourist facilities in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and threatened to demolish camps and lodges that do not meet international standards.
Mr Tunai said congestion of the facilities was risky for the survival of the world famous game reserve, adding that it must be maintained as a prime tourist destination.
“We are not going to issue licences for the construction of new facilities within and outside the 1,526-kilometre ecosystem. The moratorium will be in place for protected areas, wild animal gorges, and breeding areas,” said Mr Tunai.
He added that apart from the ecological concern, the reserve should offer premium game viewing to all visitors, including local communities.
Foreign visitors to the Maasai Mara, one of Africa’s biggest tourist draws and famed for the wildebeest migration, pay $80 (Sh8,240) per day to roam an area teeming with wildlife such as lions, rhinos and giraffes. Local visitors pay Sh1,200.
Upmarket lodges and luxury tented camps can charge hundreds of dollars per person per day for the experience, underlining the premium status of the camp. Entry to other parks managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is capped at $60 (Sh6,180) for foreigners and Sh860 for locals.
Mr Tunai said among the establishments that will be demolished are camps developed without impact assessment.
First to be demolished under the governor’s orders last Friday is the Mara Rafiki Luxury Tented Camp, whose construction is at the centre of a legal battle.
The governor argued that the camp is on the Mara River riparian area.