DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – Tanzania’s official tourism institution, the Tanzania Tourist Board (TBT), has resounded no to Kenyan tourist business umbrella organization, Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) over the opening of the controversial tourist entry point of Bologonja in Serengeti National Park.
Tourism officials in Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam told eTN Wednesday that the Bologonja border entry, which allows tourist vehicles to cross into Tanzania’s northern and famous tourist park of Serengeti, remains closed since its closure in 1977 with little or no hope of seeing it opened.
The tourism board issued a media alert this week telling tourists visiting the East African region about the official routes to pass through when they enter this country from neighboring Kenya on road, advising them not to cross through Bologonja entry point inside the famous wildlife park of Serengeti.
The TBT, which is the official institution to market and promote Tanzania’s tourism and other assignments in tourist development, has taken an apparent move this week to clarify a circular issued by Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) informing its members that the controversial entry point was on opening process.
Since the entry point between Kenya and Tanzania was closed 32 years ago, Kenyan tour operators have been lobbying for its opening so as to allow their vehicles to enter the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and other parks in northern Tanzania tourist circuit.
The circular was circulated as an e-mail message to all KATO members last month telling them that an agreement has been reached to open up Bologonja gate to allow tourists from
Kenya to enter Serengeti through the Kenyan crossing of Sand River.
It further told Kenyan tourist members that decision to open the Bologonja/Sand River crossing will dramatically reduce the travel time between Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania and signify a new official border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania.
The circular said that Kenyan Wildlife and Tourism Minister Najib Balala announced the new development on the opening of the Kenyan/Tanzania entry after he obtained confirmation about the opening of the controversial tourist-crossing border from immigration chiefs from both Kenya and Tanzania.
It said that initial inquires to confirm the actual situation on the ground reveals that there is full deployment of immigration staff on the Kenyan side at Sand River, whereas they are yet to be deployed on the Tanzanian side.
Responding to the Kenyan tourist operators umbrella association’s circular, the TBT said the e-mailed was misleading since there was no agreement of any kind reached to open the Bologonja/Sand River border point, a situation that would distort, confuse and creating inconveniences to tourists visiting Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya.
The agreed and designated border point that is currently being used to cross by road from Maasai Mara to Serengeti is Isebania/Sirari outside the Serengeti National Park and that is now being commonly used by all tour operators from Tanzania and Kenya.
The TBT’s officials said all diplomatic missions, within and overseas, tourist representatives, tour operators, travel agents, operators of tourist accommodation establishments, transporters and tourists should know that the Sand River and Bologonja border crossing point connecting Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is not open.
Esteemed clients were also notified that Tanzania has no intention of re-opening the Bologonja border point. The entry point will remain closed for environmental reasons.
The fragile ecosystem of the area, which is a World Heritage Site, cannot be sacrificed for the purpose of shortening the route between Maasai Mara and Serengeti National Park, the Board officials said.
The TBT further advised tourists entering Tanzania to go through designated border posts or regional towns.
According to the Tourism Co-operation Agreement between the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Kenya following the Arusha Summit Communiqué of November 16th, 1983, Article X(b), tourists shall be transported in and out of each country through designated border posts or regional towns, the advisory said.
Current border crossing points that have been authorized by the two neighboring countries are Namanga (Kenya and Tanzania), Sirari and Isebania, Holili and Taveta, and Horohoro and Lungalunga from Tanzanian and Kenyan sides respectively.
Bologonja crossing was closed as a precedent move to save Serengeti ecosystem from mass tourism and nature destruction.
Serengeti boasts of the picturesque annual migration made up of over one million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras.
The park is the known residence and home of millions of wildebeests, which spend nine to 10 months roaming the 14,763 square kilometer plains.