Running the Mara

The outcry from President Kibaki’s decision to return the Amboseli Park to the Masai community prior to the 2005 referendum was probably influenced by the impression that community was incompetent and would run down Amboseli reserve in no time. But the Masai Mara, Samburu, Baringo and other reserves are all run by local communities and rather successfully – even from before Kenya got its independence (in 1963).

Narok County Council: Said to be the richest council in the country, thanks largely to its stewardship of the Masai Mara. I can’t vouch for its financial efficiency but they have maintained the park well. They collect gate fees (no KWS smart cards here), undertake road repair within the parks, approve construction/expansion of lodges/camps in the park and hires rangers to guard the animals and the surrounding forest. The revenue collected is meant to be shared among communities and the council also controls the issuance of title deeds to the community with a subtle view to discouraging transfers to ‘outsiders.’

Roads: You need a true 4WD to get around the Mara which can get muddy and flooded when it rains. There is some serious road repair work going on, and roads inside the park are generally better than those leading to the park. However, I get the feeling that it doesn’t bother the tourists as much as it does locals (vehicle owners, hotel suppliers, tour operators) since it’s all part of their TIA experience.

Numbers to know:
5 – The number of airstrips in the Mara
4 – Types of hyaena exist – and that’s how it is spelt, not hyena
0 – Number of lodges that will be constructed inside the Mara as the council feels it is too crowded. Hence new projects are coming up along the fence or just outside the Mara.

More on property development at other parks

7 thoughts on “Running the Mara

  1. Sijui

    Letting the Maasai run these national parks as wildlife concessions has always been and continues to be an excellent idea! The outcry was a classic case of NGO myopia ESPECIALLY foreign NGO myopia! They’re always wailing and screaming about wildlife conservation but surprisingly always miss the bigger issue: conservation is only relevant if it is economically viable for the communities who own the resources! And it has to go beyond Ksh.1000 compensation for a cow devoured by errant lions. Masai Mara is fantastic specifically because the Maasai run the show, and not in the superficial way “morans posing for pictures by the roadside”. It is quite evident that they have a major say in the economic largesse that the park generates. Botswana has adopted this management style for decades, and one can argue in terms of pure luxury of their facilities, they beat Kenya hands down yet Batswana own and manage those areas. And in terms of conservation practise, the Maasai can run circles around any Western scientist any day.

  2. coldtusker

    Hold on… weren’t the road in the Mara really crappy… remember reading an article on cars getting stuck all over the place during the rains!

    Sijui – The issue as Banks put it is “financial efficiency”… the guys at the top skim off the cream… Similar situations have occurred in the USA regarding reservations & casino incomes.

  3. Holy Cow

    Your post on Mara was refreshing. Been to the Mara twice the last being 2005.
    I’ve always used Sekenani gate and have to say the road from Narok to the gate which is over 100km was atrocious. Hope its the one under repair. Am aware of Narok Mai-Mahiu stretch being done by the contractor TM-AM Africa.
    Once you get to the park gate, the ride gets good.
    As for the lodges, they seriously discourage locals from visiting because the rates are prohibitive.
    Are there any Safaricom, Cetel masts??? the last time was there, there was no GSM network, maybe they were allowed to erect the masts.

  4. Phil

    The Mara as managed is good and serves the local community well,The Mara serve as an example to the rest of th e country ,in my opinion, Communities leaving adjacent to national reserves and parks should be given an opporturnity to share in he revenue and invest the money earned from tourism dollars in education and other worthwhile projects,I grew up around the Mara and have see it grow into what it is now,the management structure should be left a lone, Ia m always suprised how Americans are knowledgable and concerned of the Mara, We should all be proud of it, Bankele thanks for reminding us that,
    Phil, NYC, USA,

  5. bankelele

    3Sijui: Local authorites have run these reserves since colonial times. There are so many parties with ulterior motives in the wildlife issues like hunting, new lodges – which plays in to the larger ongoing land debate. I will read up on the Botswana model

    coldtusker: (naivasaha rd – narok) road under repair now but not the 80 km one to the mara gates which is still murram. and you’ll still get stck if it rains due to the drainage & soil.

    I guess we have to look at the Masai /wildlife issue as a min variant of the Native American /casino one

    Holy Cow: That road not been worked on, but you’re right about the narok part. Rates are prohibitive, but in the low seaon, places like keekorok charge about 5,000 which is as ow as it goes, unless you go camping on your own. there’s phone serive is many parts now, (maybe the lodges have installed mini towers!)

    Phil: Thank you for the comments

  6. Sijui

    Holy cow, no cell phone masts in the Mara please! That’s what separates the Mara from Disney’s Animal Kingdom…….complementary infrastructure only.

    Regarding the roads, definitely they should be tarmacked up to overflow wildlife areas outside the park i.e. a 15-20 mile radius outside the official park boundaries…..the last thing the park needs is road kills and vehicle accidents. Our neighbors Tanzania can teach us on two fronts: infrastructure planning…the road up to the periphery of the Ngorongoro National Park is beautiful, tarmac…..built by the Japanese and in the process of being extended to Serengeti. Once you enter the main gate, it is a well maintained rural, murram road. The park is also mixed use and is jointly managed with the local Maasai community.
    In the controversy surrounding the poor Mara roads, wasn’t the conflict a he said she said whereby the Narok County Council said the 80 km stretch was not their responsibility and GK saying otherwise? I am wont to believe the County Council since the roads inside the park are as good as they should be, that cannot be said for the rest of the country’s infrastructure under the jurisdiction of the Ministry.

  7. Anonymous

    Hyaena is an alternative spelling of Hyena. Both are correct. Your comment suggests that the latter is a wrong spelling, which is incorrect.

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