In East Africa, Safari workers wash cars, fry fish, and struggle to survive

“We knew we wouldn’t get the vaccines as quickly as in America and Europe,” said George Gituku, owner of Sandrage Safaris in Kenya, “so under the circumstances we are grateful to have business.”

In 2019, Kenya received more than two million international visitors, a record number and an increase of almost 4% from the previous year. In 2020, overseas arrivals fell 71.5% to 579,600, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Between January and June of this year, the country welcomed just over 300,000 travelers, the state-run Tourism Research Institute reported.

Since June, Sandrage Safaris in Nairobi has received around 30 guests per month, a significant drop from the 100 guests they averaged during peak 2019 season. Most visitors were Americans who were feeling optimistic after being vaccinated Mr Gituku said, but Kenya’s low vaccination rate – currently just over 3% of the population – has caused many of its clients to postpone.

“We are learning to live with this virus and are constantly adapting our protocols to ensure our customers have a comfortable and safe experience,” said Mr. Gituku. “So far everyone has had a great time, the migration has been amazing this year, there have been so many animals to see, and luckily no one has tested positive for Covid upon their return.”

Kathy Freedman, a retired architect from Boston, said she felt safer on her recent 10-day safari with her husband in the Masai Mara than on a hiking vacation an hour from home, where she stayed in a hotel full of guests. who, she said, did not wear masks or social distancing.

“Our children were so worried that we were traveling so far in Kenya, but Covid is worse at home than most places,” Ms Freedman said. “We chose the best time to go on a safari when it was not crowded. It was just us and our guide in the wild with the animals.

Safari workers hope that when their customers return and share their positive experiences with friends and family, it will encourage more people to book trips. Many companies pay their employees daily rates based on the bookings they receive, which workers say is not enough for them to pay their bills and the debt they racked up over the past year.

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