Read us | Listen to us | Watch us | Join Live Events | Turn Off Ads | Live |

Click on your language to translate this article:

Afrikaans Afrikaans Albanian Albanian Amharic Amharic Arabic Arabic Armenian Armenian Azerbaijani Azerbaijani Basque Basque Belarusian Belarusian Bengali Bengali Bosnian Bosnian Bulgarian Bulgarian Catalan Catalan Cebuano Cebuano Chichewa Chichewa Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional) Chinese (Traditional) Corsican Corsican Croatian Croatian Czech Czech Danish Danish Dutch Dutch English English Esperanto Esperanto Estonian Estonian Filipino Filipino Finnish Finnish French French Frisian Frisian Galician Galician Georgian Georgian German German Greek Greek Gujarati Gujarati Haitian Creole Haitian Creole Hausa Hausa Hawaiian Hawaiian Hebrew Hebrew Hindi Hindi Hmong Hmong Hungarian Hungarian Icelandic Icelandic Igbo Igbo Indonesian Indonesian Irish Irish Italian Italian Japanese Japanese Javanese Javanese Kannada Kannada Kazakh Kazakh Khmer Khmer Korean Korean Kurdish (Kurmanji) Kurdish (Kurmanji) Kyrgyz Kyrgyz Lao Lao Latin Latin Latvian Latvian Lithuanian Lithuanian Luxembourgish Luxembourgish Macedonian Macedonian Malagasy Malagasy Malay Malay Malayalam Malayalam Maltese Maltese Maori Maori Marathi Marathi Mongolian Mongolian Myanmar (Burmese) Myanmar (Burmese) Nepali Nepali Norwegian Norwegian Pashto Pashto Persian Persian Polish Polish Portuguese Portuguese Punjabi Punjabi Romanian Romanian Russian Russian Samoan Samoan Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic Serbian Serbian Sesotho Sesotho Shona Shona Sindhi Sindhi Sinhala Sinhala Slovak Slovak Slovenian Slovenian Somali Somali Spanish Spanish Sudanese Sudanese Swahili Swahili Swedish Swedish Tajik Tajik Tamil Tamil Telugu Telugu Thai Thai Turkish Turkish Ukrainian Ukrainian Urdu Urdu Uzbek Uzbek Vietnamese Vietnamese Welsh Welsh Xhosa Xhosa Yiddish Yiddish Yoruba Yoruba Zulu Zulu

Lonely tourists enjoy extra space at Kenyan game reserves

Written by editor

SAMBURU GAME RESERVE, Kenya – A row of empty pool-side benches stretches beside a lone tourist at a luxury lodge in Kenya after post-poll turmoil cut travel to one of the world’s most famous safari spots.

SAMBURU GAME RESERVE, Kenya – A row of empty pool-side benches stretches beside a lone tourist at a luxury lodge in Kenya after post-poll turmoil cut travel to one of the world’s most famous safari spots.

“We were really hoping our safari would not be cancelled,” says Canadian tourist Debbie Shillitto, stretching back on her sun lounger at the Samburu game reserve, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital Nairobi.

She is one of the rare tourists who did not cancel her high-season holiday to Kenya.

Most of the 62 rooms are empty at the lodge, which lies next to a crocodile-infested river on the vast plains of the Samburu.

“Nobody is willing to make any fresh bookings,” says Paul Chaulo, the Samburu Serena lodge’s manager. “We had projected a bed occupancy of 69 percent, now we have an occupancy of 15 percent for the month of January.”

Riots that blockaded some of Kenya’s main roads also cut off supplies to the lodge, forcing the facility — already hobbled by low revenues — to use expensive air transport to bring in provisions.

Shillitto drove through roadblocks to reach the site just days after riots erupted across Kenya over the disputed December 27 presidential election.

Although the unrest was confined to specific areas, particularly the west of the country and the capital’s slums, safety fears sparked by violence have affected almost all hotels and lodges within less than a fortnight.

But Shillitto says she feels sad rather than scared.

“We watched the news, a lot of it is very sad. We were saddened by how many lives were taken.”

At least 600 died and a quarter million were displaced in clashes sparked by the December 30 announcement that President Mwai Kibaki had been re-elected amid widespread allegations of fraud and claims by opposition leader Raila Odinga that he was robbed of victory.

For now, political deadlock remains, as well as international travel advisories warning tourists to stay away.

“We are talking of cancellations from January to the end of the year,” Chaulo said, adding that in the interim they would be forced to send casual workers home.

Many warn that tourism — which earns Kenya nearly one billion dollars a year — may remain shackled for a long time.

At the Masaai Mara reserve south of Nairobi, which extends along the border with Tanzania and the Serengeti, the head of the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, Duncan Muriuki, predicts the immediate future is bleak.

“With time you will see hotels completely empty,” he says as he travels in a jeep around the reserve.

“Travel advisories are really going to kill us.”

The head of the Masaai Mara Conservancy, Brian Heath, agrees.

“Many of us cannot comprehend how quickly it (violence) has devastated the tourism industry,” he says.

The Kenya Tourism Federation said Friday that hotels had lost around 60 million dollars (40 million euros) in cancellations so far this month due to safety fears.

But for now, the handful of tourists remaining in the largely deserted hotels and lodges say they relish the extra calm and close attention they are receiving.

“I don’t feel I am in any danger at all,” says Briton Steve Burgin, on the tail end of a two-week vacation with his wife in the Masaai Mara.

“We can’t think of any view other than that,” he adds, gazing across expansive savannah from the hotel lobby.

Back in Samburu, Shilito agrees.

“We get all the attention,” she says. “It makes me feel special.”