After a long wait, the popular wildebeests’ migration spectacle at the world renowned Maasai Mara Game Reserve has kicked off, with tourists, guides being warned against crowding at crossing points.
The snorting gnus and zebras have crossed from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park to Maasai Mara in the annual phenomenon.
The first batch of about 40,000 wildebeest have already crossed Mara River to kick off the annual spectacle at the Masai Mara Game Reserve.
About three million others are expected to cross the river from Serengeti in Tanzania, this year.
However, this year’s wildebeest migration will be happening under the new Masai Mara Management Plan.
A spot check by established herds of gnus crossing Sand River while headed to the climax point at Mara River,with tens of tourists pitching tents to have a glimpse of the crossing.
Both domestic and international tourists from all walks of life are thronging the game reserve,for the occurrence popularly known as 'the eighth wonder of the world.'
Also read: Magic of the Mara Triangle
Mr Asokan Ponnusamy, Singaporean a photographer, who is touring the Maasai Mara to witness the migration for the second time is hoping to enjoy the spectacle after failing to witness it in 2019.
"We came here in 2019 as a group of 15 photographers but our time elapsed before the migration started.This time we are camping within the park and before we leave on July 21 this year,we will have captured the moment,"said Mr Ponnusamy.
He also disclosed that visiting the Mara has always been a dream-come-true for him.
"We were planning to visit in 2020 but Covid-19 disrupted everything.I want to tell all tourists intending to visit Kenya to tour Mara because they will not regret,"urged Mr Ponnusami.
Tour Guides and drivers are also upbeat as the season kicks off.
Mr Anthony Leteipa,a tour guide could not hide his excitement after spotting the gnus crossing the border after waiting for three days.
"We have been camping here for the last three days with my clients.At last they have seen them approaching and hopefully they will witness the climax at Mara River,"said Mr Leteipa.
Tourists, tourists’ guides and drivers have however been warned against flouting Park rules and regulations as they risk facing Sh20,000 instant fines.
According to Mr Stephen Minis the Chief Park Warden,the county has deployed 387 rangers who will be patrolling all the wildebeests crossing points to ensure that there was no crowding of tour vehicles.
"We have the new management plans now in place and we are glad that all the stakeholders have complied to it.Thosw who will drive off road or found harassing wildlife will face an instant fine of Sh20,000 and if they repeat thrice then we shall ban them from stepping in Mara,"said Mr Minis.
Mr Minis revealed that this year's wildebeests’ migration will be better than 2019 as the bookings are now at 90 percent.
For the next five months,Mr Minis said,the gnus will have criss-crossed Mara Triangle,Central Mara and conservancies which will give tourists a lifetime experience.
There is a tourism boom in the Mara that has spilled to hospitality facilities which has for the first time witnessed full booking.
Masai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association(MMWCA)Chairman Mr Jackson Mpario said the tented camps and hotels in the 24 conservancies are fully booked.
"Right now you will never get a bed if you want. Facilitied are now 100 percent booked,"said Mr Mpario.
He has however hailed the new Management Plan saying it will now manage the Mara Ecosystem as one unit.
"Without community conservancies we could not have the Mara in existence.A recent research by Kenya Wildlife Training Institute found that 85 percent of wildlife in Mara reside in conservancies that is why we want the new plan to be used to open all the wildlife migration corridors,"added Mr Mpario.
Recently,the Narok County Government has introduced the new park rules among them the introduction of the 12-hour ticketing as opposed to the earlier 24 hour-ticketing system upon entry and exit to the park.
In a letter to tourism players by Narok County Finance CECM Mr David Muntet,the ticketing will be issued from 6am to 6pm.
According to the letter dated June 26 this year,all guests residing in hotels/camps are required to pay an entry fee equivalent to the nights they are spending within the Reserve.
At the same time,those residing outside the park will have to pay a daily fee anytime they access the reserve for game drives.
The directive also indicated that all departures by road to exit the reserve not later than 10am are the same to those using air where they are supposed to be at the airstrip by that time.
The county official also directed the hot air balloon operators to register their daily booking transfers at the County Revenue Desk at the hotels near them for convenience.
The CECM also assured that there will be no queues as the revenue collecting companies of KAPs and Mara Conservancy will be in all the entrances to deal with the pressure of high season.
Tourists are however directed to use the approved entry/exit points.
Those using road are asked to use the Sekenani,Talek,Musiara,Ololaimutia,Sand River,Enoopuai,and Oloololo gates
Those using air are asked to use Keekorok, Olkiombo,Musiara-Governors,Mara Serena and Kichwa Tembo Aistrips.