During the early hours of March 4, Great Plains Conservation’s Mara Expedition Camp was washed away due to rising river water.
This comes at a time when the Meteorological Department has warned against adverse weather conditions, with heavy rains and the risk of floods expected, especially in Nairobi. "All are advised to beware of the risk of floods. Be advised that fast moving water is extremely dangerous," read the warning from the weatherman.
At 03h00 in the morning, a Mara Expedition Camp askari (night watchman) woke up the camp to warn against the rising river. A few hours later the camp was washed four kilometres downstream. “The camp has been destroyed,” said Dereck Joubert, CEO of Great Plains Conservation and the Great Plains Foundation.
At the same time, waters were rising around Mara Plains Camp, with the most significant damage being to the back of house and bridges.
As a result, both camps have been temporarily closed, with Joubert saying both will be blocked off until July 1.
“We will be using this opportunity to upgrade both camps,” says Joubert. A new improved suite is planned at Mara Plains Camp, which will be called the Jahazi Suite, designed along the lines of the Dhow suite at Zarafa in Botswana.
Mara Expedition Camp, already a mobile-style camp according to Joubert, will be further formalised with a 1920s-style mobile safari camp that will be based in the same site but move for some months of the year.
Joubert continues: “Our thoughts are with those who also lost camps and in at least one case were stranded in a tree for seven hours.
“I am far more concerned about why this massive flood happened. Heavy overgrazing of livestock on the escarpment and throughout East Africa is causing grass seed banks to fail, erosion is spreading and annual floods are much angrier than ever.
“Going forward our efforts in conservation will focus more intensely on controlling the livestock issue. This flood is just a symptom of something we will all need to work together on, and you will hear more about this initiative as we develop it further to scale,” concludes Joubert.