Maasai Mara hotels run out of beds on wildebeest crossing

Wildebeest at Mara River at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in August last year. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Hotels in Maasai Mara have run out of bed space on increased tourist arrivals following the annual wildebeest migration. This has compelled visitors to seek accommodation in private homes.

Mara National Reserve management said more than 100,000 tourists have witnessed the migration and more are coming before the spectacle ends next month.

Over the years, the peak tourist arrivals for the migration spectacle have been recorded at about 90 percent, giving the facilities room to cope with the high demand. It is different this time around.

The migration from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania started early this year from May as opposed to July and August, catching the hoteliers on the wrong foot.

Mara National Reserve administrator Christine Daabash said on Monday the number of tourists had risen in recent weeks.


“The number of tourists has been increasing between April and this month. In April we had 9,000 tourists. This shot to 11,000 in May and 26,535 in June. We expect the number to go up to 100,000 by the end of this month,” she said.

Tour operators and hoteliers normally report near full capacity, in large part because of safari-lovers going to watch the spectacular scenes of the hundreds of thousands of wildebeests crossing the Mara River in search of greener pastures, and running into hungry crocodiles along the way.

Hotel manager Antony Tira said they had been forced to refer some clients to facilities outside the reserve for accommodation.

“Most of the boarding facilities within the reserve cannot accommodate more tourists.

“We either look for an alternative hotel in the conservancies around the reserve or move out of our houses with other staff and literary rent the houses to our clients. Business is good,” he said.

Locals around the reserve are also cashing in on accommodating tourists seeking the first-hand experience of the Maasai culture like dance, food and bead stitching in special tourism Manyattas.

Tourists pay Sh15,000 per head for a 24-hour stay within a Manyatta.

Kenya’s earnings from tourism rose by almost a third in 2018 from the previous year to Sh157.4 billion, after visitors increased by 37 per cent.