Unlicensed Mara lodges in Kenya closed


Further to recent reports here over allegations that a number of safari lodges and camps in the wider Masai Mara area were operating without licenses, it was learned last week that indeed the government had made good on its promise to shut such facilities down upon establishing their status.

At least a dozen unlicensed camps and lodges were closed, with the ministry of tourism mulling over added action like prosecution and fines, most of them found in the Siana Springs area adjoining the Masai Mara proper. More investigations are also underway into properties under construction to establish that they, too, have all relevant licenses, including clearance from National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), and these findings are likely to produce more action against offenders in due course.

It was pointed out to this correspondent by a reliable source in Nairobi though, that a number of those alleged to operate without a license were invisible at this time of the year, as they would only operate during the high season to cater to the increased demand and overflow from other lodges and camps while being overbooked. This, the source said, was “a problem for the inspectors now, because these camps are now not there, but we will make sure that more inspections go there during high season to track down the culprits.”

The Masai Mara is one of Kenya’s best known tourism attractions and forms the extension into Kenya of the Tanzanian Serengeti National Park, and the annual migration of the wildebeest and zebras moves between the two parks every year, when the big herds follow the rains to find fresh pastures.

In comparison, taking geographical size into account, the wider Masai Mara is thought to be rather overpopulated with lodges and permanent and non-permanent safari camps, while in contrast, the Serengeti has far fewer accommodation facilities, a situation appreciated by conservationists but contested by the developers of new lodge projects in Tanzania, who at present must either choose a site immediately outside of the park or else forego their plans.