25 August 2006

Kenya: Maasai Mara Among World's Top 10 Tourist Sites

Nairobi — The Maasai Mara Game Reserve has been ranked among the top five tourist attractions in the world.

According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature's website, the game reserve is among the 10 ideal places that tourists should visit this month. WWF ranked it as the fourth best tourist attraction.

Located in the southwest corner of Kenya and bordering Tanzania, the reserve, which covers 1,510 square kilometres is considered one of Africa's greatest wildlife reserves. It was gazetted in 1961.

Brazil's Amazon Rainforest tops the list with the Great Barrier Reef of north eastern Australia and the Himalayas following closely at second and third positions.

The Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA, was ranked fifth, while Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls was sixth. The Sundarbans Mangroves on the India/Bangladesh border was seventh. Others in the list are the Great Sandy-Tanamy desert in Australia, Con Dao Island in Vietnam and the Niagara Falls on the American/Canadian border.

Every year, more than 1.3 million wildebeests and zebras form a single herd and migrate from the Serengeti plains into the Mara, making it one of the greatest natural spectacles attracting thousands of tourists.

Statistics from the Kenya Tourism Board shows that the country received 70,000 tourists from Britain, the main source of visitors to Kenya, compared with 64,000 the previous year.

On average, tourist arrivals rose to 824,000 over the period compared to 728,000 a year earlier.

Earnings from the industry rose by 12.5 per cent to Sh27 billion in the first half of the year. The board estimates that Sh56 billion will be earned from the sector this year, representing a 14 per cent increase over last year's Sh49 billion.

The ranking of the Mara is expected to boost the industry which is recovering after years of decline following bombings blamed on al-Qaeda at the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998 and an Israeli hotel in Kikambala at the Coast in 2002.

Despite the ranking, deforestation in the Mara Forest has left many wild animals, which depend on the River Mara for sustenance, at risk as the water catchment is destroyed. The road to the park is also dilapidated.

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