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Access blocked to Masai Mara Game Reserve

Tourists stuck as local protest state of Mara Road

Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Uganda  Oct 09, 2011

(eTN) - Dozens of tourists were reportedly blocked for some time on Saturday, October 8, 2011, enroute to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya as incensed locals demonstrated against the continued failure by the contractor to repair the crucial access road between Narok and the Sekenani entrance gate.

Emotions over the road have been running high with safari operators also repeatedly in the past demanding that the road be fixed up on the fast track and driver guides calling for a strike if nothing would be done. To date however, in spite of regular assurances by government officials, the road is still in a pathetic state and no end of the snails’ pace construction is in sight.

The Masai Mara is one of Kenya’s best-known game parks and world famous for the annual migration of the wildebeest from the Serengeti. The Narok council - financially the key beneficiary through gate receipts - and central government, have, in the past, been playing a game of contemptuous ping pong with the road, trading accusations over the responsibility to fix the road, leaving safari operators to suffer damages to their vehicles and have tourists complain about the intolerable state of the road causing many of them backaches by the time they reach the park proper.

A regular source from within the safari operators fraternity sent these comments by email overnight: "Going to the Mara is almost a must in every tourist itinerary. The more upmarket safaris are using the scheduled flights from Wilson to the Mara airstrips to save time and avoid this particular road, and the top-end clients simply fly in by chartered aircraft. But it is true, most clients, the majority, are going to the Mara using vehicles. They come by road and for them it is a torturous journey when they reach this piece of road.

"Many of our roads have been fixed up across the country, but between Narok and the Sekenani gate it is obvious that the contractor is not up to standards. Government has options to intervene and make this happen, but like with other incidents in past weeks affecting tourism, they only seem to react to a lot of pressure and when negative publicity is giving them headaches.

"The residents along that road have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate, because many of them make a living from tourism in shops and restaurants. They are also stakeholders. Maybe the tourism ministry can now intervene and speed up the road rehabilitation. We don’t need more statements from anyone; we need machinery and workers on site and [to] get this done before the next high season starts."

In spite of the uncertain economic outlook in key Kenyan source markets overseas, the country is expected to reach a new arrival and revenue record in 2011, giving stakeholders the strength of argument to demand greater investments in infrastructure and marketing budgets from government.

Tourists stuck as local protest state of Mara Road
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