If you’ve seen The Lion King, you know all about the annual wildebeest migration (RIP Mufasa), but this year, the natural spectacle — just like everything else in 2020 — looks a little different.
Every year on the plains of Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, crowds of visitors flock to see the impressive migration and the predators that lie in wait to make an easy kill. This year, however, international travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have been mostly preventing foreign visitors from traveling to the country, so the 1.5 million wildebeests are migrating without their company.
This weekend, thousands of locals visited the park to see the migration, many of whom had never done so before.
Patience Mumo, a 29-year-old tourist from Kenya, told Reuters, “Once I came here, my thoughts and my view about everything has changed. I am actually embarrassed that I have not come here the 29 years I have been alive.”
Tourism and Wildlife Minister Najib Balala said that since the country has lost hundreds of millions in tourism dollars, focus is being shifted to domestic tourism, which involves using national celebrities to promote events and attractions. Eliud Kipchoge, world marathon record holder, for example, has been employed by the tourism agency to promote travel to the Maasai Mara National Reserve.