A PLEA FOR SANITY AT MARA RIVER CROSSINGS.
I took these photographs 40 years ago at a quieter time when safari guides talked about “The Greatest Bird Spectacle on Earth” – referring to the 100s of 1000s of flamingos at Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria – and to “The Greatest Wildlife Spectacle on Earth” when describing the wildebeest and zebra migration.
How blessed is Kenya to host these wonders of nature, the Wildebeest Mara River Crossings? But sadly we have begun to view these events as Entertainment rather than standing in Awe at such epic moments in the lives of these wild creatures. Instead, we have turned them into a circus at times that not only diminish us and our experience of these natural cycles but endangers the very creatures that we have come to watch.
We have to rekindle a sense of respect for these amazing creatures – and not just for the magnificent big cats that we all love to follow and sadly sometimes make life very difficult for them in the process. There are a number of things we can do as individuals to prevent this.
There is no reason to sit or stand on the roof of safari vehicles or walk outside the vehicle at river crossings. We need to sit quietly, take our pictures – or simply watch the scene unfolding in front of us. It is vital that vehicles don’t crowd the Entry or Exit points used by the animals during river crossings.
We say we care about our impact. But how much? Every camp and lodge should ensure that their driver-guides follow these conventions and brief their guests accordingly BEFORE leaving camp. Guides are under a lot of pressure to deliver the best photo opportunities for their guests.
We all know that but must stop using it as an excuse to condone bad practice. Yes, it is hard to control visitor expectations – but by preempting the situation by talking with your guests ahead of time makes it a lot easier to control the situation.
And remember as guides we must control the situation – not the guests. As an industry we have to regulate ourselves – it is no good blaming the authorities. We know what is good and bad guiding ethics. If we don’t then we should not call ourselves professional guides. We need to pride ourselves on our profession. A good guide is a gift to their guest’s safari experience.
Recently a young Maasai guide told me that his fellow guides were starting a WhatsApp Group to name and shame people who do not follow the basic conventions – to Respect the Wildlife, Respect your Profession, and take Responsibility for your own actions.
The Maasai Mara is the most extraordinary place to view wildlife on Earth. We want to see it achieve World Heritage Status in 2022 – but for that to happen we must all play our part. Thank you for reading.
By Jonathan Scott
BIG CAT DIARIES – MASAI MARA KENYA
Photos Taken by Jonathan Scott 40yrs back in Masai Mara witnessing the Mara River Crossings
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