A few days ago the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the custodian of wildlife in Kenya, announced new park conservation fees for the various national parks and reserves in their custody. At the beginning of the year, KWS releases new park fees and this year was no exception.

In what has now become a trend, 2014 will see the entry fees go up yet again. This upward review of prices, KWS says, is necessary to meet the rising cost of improving infrastructure within national parks to meet visitor demands as well as enhance conservation activities.

Many stakeholders seem to think this is increasingly becoming prohibitive to many visitors, especially local ones who will now have to part with a few extra shillings to access the wildlife facilities.

This time around the hikes have nothing to do with the need to enhance conservation efforts in the parks though. They are in conformity with the new VAT Act 2013, which imposes a 16% tax on all tourism activities.

Apparently, private game ranches and tour operators increased their park conservation fees in September last year when the VAT Act took effect, but KWS has been absorbing the cost till now.

Premium parks such as Amboseli and Nakuru will now charge 20% more to citizens and residents compared to 2013 rates while International tourists who fall under the non-resident category will have to cough an extra 13% to access the facilities.

It will now cost citizens an extra 25% more to enter Marine parks such as Kisite and Mpunguti with residents expected to part with an extra 17%. Non-residents will cough an additional 25%. The highest hikes went to Nairobi National Park and the sanctuaries.

Citizens and residents will now pay an additional KES 200.00 per adult while non-residents will part with an extra US$ 10.00 to enjoy the spoils of the Nairobi National Park.

Sanctuaries like the Animal orphanage in Nairobi and the Impala Sanctuary in Kisumu will now charge KES 100.00 more to citizens and an additional KES 50.00 to residents. Non-residents will dig deeper in their pockets by a whopping 67% if they ever want to see the inside of these places.

Meanwhile the controversial 24 hours continuous stay validity period on purchased tickets still remains in effect. What it means is if you exit the park before finishing the 24 hour period, your fee will expire and you will not be allowed back into the park unless you pay for another 24 hours.

It gets even more interesting if you exceed your 24 hour period by even a single second – you will be charged an overstay of the full 24 hours!

We do not foresee a significant reduction in visitor numbers though. Based on past trends, the increase in park conservation fees never seems to have a huge impact on numbers in the wilderness areas. We do not expect this year to be an exception.