Monday 15th March was supposed to be the first day of a "crackdown" on unlicensed camps and lodges in the Mara, as the Nation reminded readers the following day. The offensive, first announced in mid-February, is supposedly being led by the tourism minister Najib Balala, but he has very vocal support from Hassan ole Kamwaro, the former chairman of Narok County Council (who presumably knows a thing or two about how to license Mara properties properly). Kamwaro, who happens to own the formerly wooded site inside the reserve where Somak's controversial new Ashnil Mara lodge has either just opened or remains un-opened (confirmation welcome, whichever it is) asserts:
"Most of the unlicensed lodges and camps belong to foreigners whose aim is to make money without paying revenue to the government. They also pollute the reserve eco-system posing a threat to the bio-diversity in the area.”
If he's basing his views on the so-called "inter-ministerial audit", then his own interest is safe, since the rambling spreadsheet I've seen looks to be about a year out of date, and is contradictory and only partly complete. Somak's new lodge isn't even included.
Anyone who cares about responsible tourism, community development and environmental stewardship would welcome a new era of CSR in Kenya's safari parks. But we'll only get that from impartial judgements given by a credible regulatory body. And one thing is certain: closing a lodge or camp while tourists were staying would be a BA-strike-sized disaster for Kenyan tourism.