"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." (Mark Twain : The Innocents Abroad, 1869)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Getting there before it's too late !

Surfing the intergalatic interweb thingy finding out about things to do and places to go has highlighted a number of interesting facts etc.

However, one of the most worrying has been a number of references to the overdevelopment of the Massai Mara.  A local newspaper reporter says "The allure of the Masai Mara is turning out to be its achilles heel, with the ecosystem facing an imminent collapse under the weight of heavy investments by hoteliers and camp operators".

He goes on to highlight that developers are disregarding the sensitive nature of the Mara's ecosystem and are now threatening not only that area but also the wider area that encompasses the Serengetti.  Some camps were originally just 'temporary' to cater for the number of visitors during the high season - but they remain after its end.  One five mile stretch of the Mara now accommodates five camps.  A number of the Triangle's Private / Special Camps - renown for their peace and isolation - have been withdrawn following the development of lodges on the opposite bank of the River.  In another area, there has been a big development within an area crucial to the local Black Rhino population.

It is reported that "To stem the human activity that now threatens the Masai Mara ecosystem, Tourism Minister, Najib Balala has launched a plan to shut down camps and lodges operating illegally starting next week. There are 108 camps and lodges in the Mara by the last count. Stakeholders are, however, calling for the gazettement and impementation of the Mara Management Plan that promises to offer a long-term solution." 

It seems to be high time that the powers that be - both in the Mara area and in Nairobi - get together to agree a plan for the future of all parts of this sensitive area.   It should cover the National Reserve areas on both side  of the Mara River (currently administered by different local authorities) and also the surrounding conservancies.  BUT the plan needs to be more than a piece of paper - it needs to be enforced.

Already the Mara has already lost 50% of its wildlife in the past 10 years.  Also, since both County Councils agreed a moratorium on new lodges in 2005, another 50 have appeared in the Eastern / Narok part of the Mara - that's 10 every year !
If it is not enforced, there will be a lodge or camp under every Acacia tree and 20 combis around even the smallest animal.  Once that happens, the Mara will lose its special place in people's hearts, they will stop coming and everybody will be a looser !

Following writing this post, this interesting article about lodge/camp developments in the Mara subsequently appeared in the Kenyan Star newspaper.

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