The unspoken truths about the Maassi Mara

“This panoramic view is what I imagine heaven to look like,” I overheard a fellow visitor comment.

With the multi-coloured crepuscular rays breaking through the clouds, the waist high golden grass contrasted against the blue and purple hues of the hills and the animal surprises popping up behind every bush, I’m sure a lot of visitors think this place could be how they envisage heaven.

Until they turn 180 degrees from this heavenly view point and reality kicks in, the ground is covered in litter, used toilet tissue and human faeces.  Apart from the terrible sight, isn’t this dangerous to the wild animals and potential transmitting diseases?

I have been on many safaris in Africa and know it’s really not that hard to build a pit toilet in a place they know visitors will get out of their transport, look at the view, and inevitably go to the toilet.  For the highest entrance fee of any safari park in Africa that I know about, ($80 per day) wouldn’t a toilet be a good thing for conservation of this fragile habitat?

This is not my first Mara safari, but I think that it may have been my last.  I had wanted to photograph the world’s largest animal migration, but this was another area of huge disappointment.  Admittedly the main migration had happened a week before but there were still a few wildebeest stragglers that needed to join their group on the other side of the river.

“What we need to do is get the other safari vehicles and herd the few wildebeest left towards the river,” I had said jokingly.

Unfortunately this comment became somewhat true.  Safari vehicles in the hundreds were racing from one crossing point to the other to get optimum views of a potential crossing over the Mara River.  These guides had no appreciation for the natural migration that was happening; they were parking in front of the entrances and the exits to the river, scaring any animal from crossing.

I had not come to change the migration pattern of one of the world’s natural wonders.  Our safari guide said that it was better when the main migration was happening, as there were so many animals being pushed across the river, the vehicles were more spread out and it didn’t affect them.  I’m not sure this is true; don’t these animals have enough to fear whilst doing this dangerous crossing; the predators hunting them on the land and in the water or the potential occurrence of drowning or being crushed to death by the masses? Do they really need hundreds of vehicles affecting their crossing too?

They need to control the amount of vehicles, how close they can get to the entrances and exits of the river and how long they can stay.  I fear that if controls are not imposed then this natural wonder may be forever altered by human interference.

The Mara is still an amazing place to go on safari, whether in an expensive lodge or do-it-yourself-camping.  The amount of animals to spot is incredible, you are almost guaranteed to see lions, many people see cheetahs, leopards and rhinos and the landscapes, especially at dusk and dawn are breath taking.  However I beg you to ask yourself a question next time you plan on a safari, “is the Maassi Mara really the best place and only place to go on safari in eastern or southern Africa?”

I think the Mara Conservancy needs to buck up its ideas before I return to this wondrous land, where does all the money go from the entrance fees?  The Mara Conservancy I see with my own eyes that you can do much better in protecting your habitat and animals.