The Kenyan government is now focusing on upgrading the Angama Mara Airstrip in the Maasai Mara into a fully operational airport.
This is in a bid to boost tourism in the region that receives thousands of visitors every year.
The Maasai Mara is at the heart of Kenya’s tourism due to the annual wildebeest migration. At least two million wildebeest and zebras cross to and from Serengeti to the Mara. It is the seventh wonder of the world.
Now, the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) is at the heart of the rehabilitation works of the airstrip.
Angama Mara Airstrip in Narok is 1,260 meters long. KAA envisages expanding it to 23 meters from the current 18 meters. Also, fencing will be done in the first phase.
According to KAA, the upgrade comes in three phases. When complete, the airstrip will be elevated into a fully-fledged airport handling large aircraft.
It will add to Kenya’s list of airports meeting international standards. Currently, Kenya has four airports of international standards.
They are the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Mombasa International Airport, Kisumu International Airport, and Eldoret International Airport.
Upgrading the airstrip will hive off the land from the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The airport will take up 44.7 hectares of land. The National Lands Commission acquired the land from Manati Limited.
Speaking on the project, Transport Principal Secretary Solomon Kitungu told Nation that it is a big milestone executing the project.
“Today marks a major milestone in the partnership between tourism and the aviation industry in line with the government’s approach to foster development across the country,” Sungu said.
KAA in its 2018 budget set slotted Ksh691 million for the upgrade of six major airstrips in the country. Angama Mara Airstrip was one of them.
With works starting on Angama Mara’s expansion, tourism players are upbeat in increase tourist traffic in the coming years.
“The plan is to expand the airstrip to modern standards to increase traffic inflows into the Masai Mara Game Reserve,” KAA’s Wilson Airport and Northern region Airports manager Joseph Okumu said earlier.
Maasai Mara National Reserve is a key revenue earner for Narok County.
According to reports by the Controller of Budget, the Narok County Government which controls the reserve rakes Ksh1 billion from the reserve.
Narok is one of the few counties in the country that collect such from their own source revenue (OSR) courtesy of the game reserve.
In the past years, revenue loopholes denied the county government maximum revenue collection but the pitfalls were solved by a revenue collection app.
Game wardens at the Mara Conservancy teamed up with local revenue management firms and developed a mobile app to offer ticketing services.
The app certifies payment status, ticketing among other things.
Maasai Mara Tourists
There are at least 300,000 tourists visiting Maasai Mara every year. There are 40 properties – camps and lodges within the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
The number rose from a dozen lodges in yesteryears to 40 as tourism in Narok promises an almost guaranteed path to opulence.
In March 2021, the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments vowed to undertake a census of wild animals in the Mara Ecosystem.
The census would focus on the big five – elephants, buffalos, leopards, lions, and rhinos. The two countries also pledged to take count of other big mammals crossing the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.