In Summary
  • Flash floods deaths trigger debate on safety of the national parks.
  • Despite Kenya Wildlife Services access to regular and readily available updates from other government agencies like Met and police, tourists continue to die while criminals continue to dump bodies in parks.
  • On our tour on Monday, the Nation discovered several loopholes in the management of the high risk gorges.

The wildlife conservation agency, KWS, is on the spot over the safety of tourists in parks following the death of seven people at Hell’s Gate in Naivasha on Sunday.

Despite Kenya Wildlife Services access to regular and readily available updates from other government agencies like Meteorological department, police and others, local and international tourists continue to die while criminals dump bodies in parks.

On Sunday, a family lost five members at the Olnjorowa Gorges inside the Hell’s Gate National Park after flash floods swept them and dumped their bodies 50 kilometres away at Oloirouwa in Suswa, Narok County.

The Olnjorowa Gorges are known world over as a scenic geological wonder as well as one of the most dangerous places to venture.

For this, one would expect KWS to have a cautionary note to visitors, have a mordent warning system like electric bells and alarms and provide protective gear to tourists.

GUIDES

But the situation is different. At any one time, the Rangers' Post is manned by three uniformed KWS warder— one controls cars at the outside parking, one coordinates the tour guides and another one stays at the records office.

The tour guides are drawn from the Olomaiyana community and they have a self-help group.

“We came together as youth from the areas around this park and formed the group,” a tour-guide Johnston Ole Tuiya said.

“Each one of us undergoes vetting by the KWS before they are allowed to accompany visitors into the gorges.”

He said the guides do not necessarily have to be educated. As long as they know their way in the gorges and they are trusted by the community, they are admissible.

“During rainy seasons, we are not allowed inside the gorges. The furthest KWS can allow you is to the viewpoint which is just behind the Rangers’ Post,” Ole Tuiya said.

“But in some seasons, all you do is look at the skies, make your own judgement and risk your life and those of the people you are guiding.”

A sign warning of flash floods Hell's Gate

A sign warning of flash floods stands at the entrance to gorges popular with hikers at the Hell's Gate National Park, on September 2, 2019, a day after floodwaters rushed through the park, killing seven people. PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA | AFP

He admits that it is risky even when it does not rain in Olomaiyana because when it rains in Synnopec, Olkaria 4, Ol Karia 5, the Hell’s Gate National Park and other parts of Ol Karia, gullies collect water and direct it to the Central Tower, which then allows it to flow over 40 kilometres Suswa in Narok County.

“There are times the skies swell and warn you but there are days the rain just falls. The problem is that when you are down in the gorges which are 50 metres down, you cannot see and even if you have a phone, you cannot receive warning calls because there is no network coverage,” he said.

LOOPHOLES

On our tour on Monday, the Nation discovered several loopholes in the management of the high risk gorges.

Not all visitors entering the gorges are registered for instance.

On Monday morning, a day after the tragedy, only four people had their details listed down in the book inside the Rangers’ Post.

They included Benjamin Mandrovis accompanied by one person; Smart Kiev, who registered that he was accompanied by three others; Dipak Dliji who was accompanied by eight others; and Shane Walker who was accompanied by three others.

All these records were taken down between 10.37am and 12.50pm even though the seven tour guides interviewed by the Nation admitted to have made at least two trips each with at least eight people per guide.

REACTION

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