Monday, March 15, 2010

Have any Maasai Mara camps or lodges closed yet?

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audit", then his own interest is safe, since the rambling spreadsheet I've seen looks to be about a year out of date, and is contradictory and only partly complete.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.



    There is a very interesting statement in this article.

    "The Environmental Impact Assessment Report was found to have been an exact copy of the report submitted by Ashnil Hotels for their Samburu property in Northern Kenya. The name of the reserve had been changed but the rest remained the same, including the names of animal species that do not even exist in the Mara."

  2. There is a lot of hypocrisy in this hullabaloo against the Somak lodge. I don't have enough data to say yay or nay to the lodge itself but from previous experience, I can say that the data on black rhinos they used to support the building of the lodge is also the same data they used to kill the building of a much more responsible tented camp in the Mara. The Kenyan Cowboys are a huge cabal of vested interests. They have a lock on the camps and safari activities and go all out to kill any possible competitor that comes in. Why is there no outcry against the little Kenyan Cowboy camps that sprout everywhere in the Mara? Why is it only directed against "outsiders" (e.g. Indians, Asians, non-whites)? Calvin Cottar and his ilk decry these lodges but that's because he has his own camp that could be threatened by these new, more well-funded efforts!

    What is really needed is a man of pure heart and intent to lead a comprehensive effort to sort out the grain from the chafe and put together a long-term plan for the Mara that includes pulling down the camps and lodges that are truly not helping and courting responsible, proper investors with international names to come in and build or operate in the Mara.

    The Mara is a jewel that is tarnished by all the vested interests. Anyone who is willing to grease the pockets of Nema, Ole Ntimama, the Narok Council, Kibaki and his team, can build a lodge or a camp. Or anyone who has ties to the Kenyan Cowboy cabal, for that matter.

    But I'm just blathering on because in my experience, it will take a real leader to do this and there is no one I see on the horizon who can. So the Mara will remain tarnished and everyone else will keep on screaming each other down and the wildlife will continue to suffer.

    What a disaster.

  3. What a disaster, yes, possibly. Hopefully that can be averted. But what a pity that these two comments are anonymous. What is this "responsible camp" you're referring to that was "killed off". And what is this "Kenya Cowboy" cabal you talk about, and these "little Kenyan Cowboy camps"? Why not provide some examples, or do you also have a vested interest yourself? I've been visiting Kenya for 30 years, and I'd say there's just as much competition and rivalry within the Euro-Kenyan community (such as it is) as there is between Kenyans of any other background.

  4. Ok i hadnt heard of the crack down on unlicensed camps in masai mara, but i think it would be a great thing.

  5. "The government has stopped 13 unlicensed hotels and lodges from operating in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in a clean-up exercise meant to boost the image of one of the country’s leading tourist attractions."

    See :