It is all systems go ahead of this year's wildebeest migration on the Masai Mara National Reserve as hotels, camps and lodges experience full tourist bookings for the first time in two years since the Covid-19 outbreak.
The pandemic, which had led to cancellation of international flights, disrupted tourism across the country. But Mara hoteliers are now set to make a killing as the sector begins to boom again. They are ready to receive both local and international tourists, some of whom will be keen to witness the migration.
Mr James Chege, the manager at Beyond Kichwa Tembo Hotel, said the bookings are impressive for the first time since the Covid-19 crisis rocked the sector. He said business is now back to normal at the high-end hotel.
Mr Chege said most camps and lodges on the reserve had started recalling workers who had been fired because of Covid disruptions.
"Most lodges and camps had retrenched their staff and others were taking half pay, but right now the staff are being recalled. Occupancies are looking great for the first time in two years,” he said.
Tourists excited to be in Kenya
Some of the tourists who have already thronged Mara were excited to be in the country. Keiza Graham and his wife, Nina, who are on a honeymoon trip, revealed that Mara was their dream destination.
They regretted that their Mara trip could not take place two years ago because of Covid-19. "I am super-excited to be here in Kenya. It has always been my dream to visit Masai Mara. People here are incredibly loving. We knew it would be a memorable experience," said Nina.
Local beadwork traders are also happy as their business is already booming. Joshua Ndienka, a traditional Maasai dancer and beadwork artefact seller, said the season had kicked off earlier than expected and they are reaping big.
"For the last two years, we had zero business. There were no tourists and our income dwindled. Our local Maasai women make the artefacts and we (men) sell them to tourists and everything now looks up," said Mr Ndienka.
Wildebeest migration is an annual event that happens between July and September when about three million wildebeests and zebras, in a tantalising spectacle, cross the crocodile-infested Mara River.