22-06-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo
I wonder if some of the thousands of wildebeests moving from Serengeti Park in Tanzania to Maasai Mara will be surprised to see no off-road vehicles or minibuses around.
If the lions waiting near the banks of the Mara river will rejoice in finding them completely clear and will be happy not to have to squint at the intrusive flashes of telephoto lenses. And if the ego of the crocodiles among the whirlwinds of the murky waters will be a little less in knowing that there won't be great photographers to film their predatory deeds.
These are obviously surreal fairytale thoughts, not even from films or documentaries. The reality is that in these days between Kenya and Tanzania the first Great Migration of two million wildebeests has begun without a few thousand tourists to enjoy the dramatic but spectacular story.
As is well known, in fact, the lodges and tenured camps of Maasai Mara have been closed since last March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even the employees of these facilities have been sent home, leaving most of the facilities, some luxurious with swimming pools, verandas and restaurants available for wildlife.
We have already seen in recent weeks images of elephants taking possession of the premises of certain lodges and wandering undisturbed among the tents.
Traditionally, migration is one of the main tourist attractions in the country, with thousands of fans from all over the world visiting the reserve to watch the animals pass by.
This year, Kenya's Ministry of Tourism has promised streaming virtual safaris, while other video amateurs will do their best to film and stream scenes from the Great Migration 2020.
The reserve's Senior Warden, James Ole Sindiyo told the media that after traditionally low season months like April and May, the Maasai Mara usually experiences one of its magical moments in June for three months. But never before in at least 40 years of trade and 60 years of life, the reserve, which measures about 1500 square kilometers, has been so deserted.
"The hotels, lodges and tenured camps of the Mara have no visitors, compared to the occupancy rates between 90 and 100 during this period - admitted Sindiyio - the closure to local and international flights has totally worsened the situation".
The Governor of Narok, Samuel Tunai, had previously warned that the closure of the reserve's hospitality facilities would seriously affect the County's revenue.
Tunai, who is also the chairman of the Tourist Committee of the Board of Governors, said that his County alone could suffer losses of 2.4 billion shillings.
"Without tourists coming to Maasai Mara, our revenue collection is at zero, reservation is at zero, all lodges are closed due to the stop to international and domestic flights. The migration this time will take place without anyone witnessing it".
Fortunately, even though there is no bed available for anyone, police and KWS are always working to protect wildlife from poachers. Because they don't stop and their life as children of p... is worth so little that Covid-19 scares them very little.
Meanwhile, like every year, the many wildebeests who survive the crossing of the Mara and the ambush of lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and other carnivores waiting for them before and after the ford and during the transfer, will go to the Talek, where they can finally blissfully reproduce.
(Photo Courtesy of Paolo Torchio)
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