Several weeks ago, a Kenyan friend enthusiastically took me to the Nairobi National Park. No other city in the world can boast a national park within sight of city skyscrapers like Nairobi National Park. Although it is almost completely encircled by human settlements, it remains an important refuge for the endangered black rhino, all three big cats and abundant bird-life. I would like to share a small interesting account we had at the Nairobi Safari Walk – aboard walk where a zoo-meets-nature just outside the main entrance of the National Park.
Like many tourist destinations in the world, Nairobi National Park has a policy of charging tourists a massive rate higher than locals (tourists are required to pay more than 7 folds of the locals’ price to visit this short park walk).If the claim is that tourists can afford to pay more therefore they should, then where does it end? Where can one draw the line?
Nevertheless, it was even more thought-provoking to note that visitors are also treated with great inconsistency inside the park.
“Please throw away your soda because we do not allow soft-drinks inside the National Park!” the park guide demanded a local Kenyan with great authority.
Yet, I noticed that within 3 meters of this incident, an Asian tourist was drinking from a can of coke.
“Who gave you the permission to be in this park?” a different park security came scolding at us.
“Are we not supposed to be here? But we see other tourists are also observing the animals from here.” I replied pointing to another group of tourists close by.
“Who gave you the permission to be in this park? What are you going to do for me? Something small?” he reproached us again holding tightly to his shotgun.
His last question gave all the answers as to why certain tourists were being set apart inside the park. It was the very difference in the “something small”^of what we are giving to these park rangers.
In Kenya, the government often talk up tourism as an important pillar of their economy. Yet it is fair to say that widespread corruption is hurting Kenya, including the tourism industry. Transparency International earlier this year ranked Kenya a low position 139 out of 168 in a list of the most corrupt countries in the world. After all no one wants to travel all the way to Africa to be scolded by a park ranger demanding for a “something small”.If Kenya wanted growth in tourism, perhaps one of the first impediments they need to overcome are the different treatments amongst visitors due to “something small” for the government authorities.
^ The Swahili expression “kitu kidogo” (something small) is a euphemism of corruption and bribery work to deflect attention from the action or minimize its importance.