KENYA AIRWAYS TURNS ON THE HEAT WITH NEW STAND BY FARES
Undeterred by pending legal action and the sound of the collective teeth gritting in the industry has Kenya Airways just launched another volley into the aviation sector�s hottest route, when introducing a new stand by fare, at Kenya Shillings 3.000 return, all taxes included.
The other airlines on the route between Nairobi and Mombasa reacted with incredulity when first confronted by this correspondent with the breaking news a few moments ago, before claiming �I need to check this out first please before commenting� � while ostensibly taking a deep breath and wondering what next would be cooked up by KQ�s marketing department.
The fare is available across the day, payable at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and valid in economy class only, but with presently 10 flights a day between the two cities � there is speculation that over the peak period between just before Christmas and just after new year the airline may add yet more flights to cater for the expected traffic increase � there is ample opportunity to actually travel, if not on the next then the flight afterwards.
The fare wars have brought smiles to the faces of travellers and hotel and resort owners at the Kenya coast, as more and more people will be taking advantage of such fabulous offers while they last, while the accountants at other airlines will be scratching their heads and getting into strategy sessions to determine counter moves. Meanwhile so it does appear as if KQ�s new aggressive pricing and frequency strategy is bearing fruits as more and more travellers are making it on their flights between the coast and the capital, while the other airlines on the route are putting on a brave face, playing down the impact of these measures by �the Pride of Africa� on their own flight occupancies and bottom lines. Watch this space for the latest and most up to date information from the East African �skies�.
Archive for November, 2010
KENYA AIRWAYS TURNS ON THE HEAT WITH NEW STAND BY FARES
TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Fifth edition November 2010
SACKED BY COURT AND STILL TRYING TO PUSH THE SNOUT INTO THE TROUGH
Information came to light last week that those members of the UWA board of trustees, deemed by court to be eminently unqualified to hold such positions – the ruling is under appeal but an injunction was denied – continue efforts to put their sticky hands into the money jars. A huge budget overrun for board expenses was reported in the local media for their few months in office, as well as information ‘leaked’ that those very ‘sackees’ had attempted to get a supplementary budget approved, aimed to line their pockets even more.
The figures published in the Saturday Monitor via www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1061118/-/ckmykgz/-/index.html are revealing enough, and according to a former chairman of the board ‘outrageous and anti conservation because those who benefitted from these extra large payments denied much needed funds for the field operations’. He continued to say: ‘under my chairmanship allowances were what I should call frugal because we felt it an honour to be chosen to serve and did not see it as a source of regular income but a small token for our time and efforts’. True words and anonymity preserved and respected as promised Rafiki.
The dismissed chairman Dr. Muballe had a few weeks ago publicly pronounced that he was not in it ‘for the money’, an attempted whitewash now clearly relegated into the realm of myths after progressively more facts are reaching the public domain now that the man, omnipresent during his short and ill-fated rule, was removed and his ability to keep things under wrap – for a while at least – had been decisively curtailed. The shame however is firmly laid on the door step of the office of the Minister for Tourism, whose choice of chairperson and board members – if by nothing else but their actions reported in recent weeks in the media – was shown to have been unwise, if not bordering the incompetent. Fodder for thought how officials should use their discretions when making appointments and observe and respect the letter of the laws governing such institutions.
UWA’S ACTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR UNDER FIRE
Comments attributed to the acting executive director of UWA Mark Kamanzi, to the effect of ‘what is wrong with a golf course in the park’ have raised a storm of outrage across conservation circles in Uganda and the wider region, with some rather outraged individuals questioning his sanity and ability to perform the job he is supposed to do. His utterances and off the cuff remarks, according to one regular inside source at UWA confirm that ‘the man is in the wrong job and wearing shoes 10 times too big for him. Such comments undermine what UWA has been working for over the last decades and make us look like amateurs amongst our colleagues in neighbouring countries. The man is a mediocre lawyer to start with and the worst choice to act as our CEO while the mess the former chairman created together with our minister is being sorted out. It is time to bring people back who understand conservation’.
Such hard hitting comments were echoed right across the spectrum of many sources this correspondent spoke with in recent days, with some of the more outspoken critics going as far as calling Kamanzi a ‘hapless nitwit as far as conservation is concerned’.
It is also understood that a powerful conservation lobby is being formed, including at least one former chairperson of UWA, aimed at bringing about measures to restore sanity and renewed order to the Uganda Wildlife Authority but also to fight the misuse of park land for a golf course or any other purpose than conservation and wildlife based tourism. It is in fact the latter which galvanised conservationists and at least some tourism stakeholders into action, before expanding their own brief to the authority itself.
In this regard it seems the Madhvani Group shot itself in the proverbial foot with this unfortunate repeat request – a similar attempt to build a golf course on the Mweya peninsula of the Queen Elizabeth National Park was halted several years ago in the face of stiff opposition – and might live to regret it should threats of boycotting the new lodge would come true, at least until such plans are withdrawn once and for all. That would of course be a crying shame, considering the location and facilities of the Chobe Safari Lodge, and that it can be reached by road and air with ease from Kampala and how this eventually plays out will be featuring right here in coming weeks and months.
UGANDA AND CONGO DR SIGN NEW BILATERAL AIR SERVICES AGREEMENT
Last week saw pen put to paper in Kampala, when the long drawn out negotiations over a new BASA were finally concluded. The Ugandan minister for works and transport John Nasasira signed the agreement into effect with his Congolese counterpart Marie Kayena countersigning the new deal.
Relations between the two countries, often rocky in the past, seem to have improved in recent months, paving the way for greater cooperation, including the field of aviation.
Presently two DRC registered airlines are flying from Eastern Congo to Entebbe, namely TMK and Cetraca Aviation, both covering the route from Goma. The new BASA will permit airlines from both countries to fly between their main airports Entebbe and Kinshasa but also from Goma, Kisangani and Bunia, amongst others. It is understood that Air Uganda had expressed interest in flights to Eastern Congo but could up to now not proceed in the absence of an enabling bilateral air services agreement. Watch this space for regular aviation news updates from the entire region.
AIR SERVICE LICENSE MEETING RECEIVES MAJOR OBJECTIONS
The recent 34th Air Service Licensing Committee meeting conducted business of receiving application from a range of new applicants, many of whom located in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania but trying to establish branches in Uganda too. A few key stakeholders like Eagle Air and Mission Aviation Fellowship also applied for renewal of their existing licences for the maximum term of 5 years and were according to a well placed source so granted.
However, the air operators located in Kajjansi also filed objections against the applications from Kenyan and Tanzanian firms, citing a range of issues including lack of reciprocity, demanding that this issue be urgently addressed in the forthcoming Council of Ministers Meetings of the East African Community in Arusha next week. The Licensing Committee of the Civil Aviation Authority Board was also told that in view of the current lull in oil exploration business utilisation of existing fleets was not at its optimum and that added competition would likely only result in cut throat undercutting by new entrants, trying to secure business than way instead of finding new business in the market.
The respective applicants were needless to say less than amused over what one applicant called ‘ambush’ claiming that they never did receive the letter of objection and could not adequately prepare for a response in good time, a claim found hard to believe as this correspondent had seen the letter several days in advance of the scheduled hearing.
It was also noted that some of the applicants for new licenses verbally mentioned they would like to commence operations within two weeks of being granted an Air Service License, obviously and blissfully unaware of the minimum timeframe of 90 days to additionally apply for and obtain certification as an Air Operator by getting their AOC issued leave alone the fact that current regulations stipulate that any new applicant for an AOC has to conduct at least 75 hours of supervised test flights to the destinations listed in the application for an ASL. In addition there was general criticism of new applicants listing very aged aircraft like the DC9-30 series and DC 10-30’s first generation, which were pollution intense in both fume emissions and noise emissions alike, expensive to operate and equally expensive to maintain. None of those operators however was willing to go on record and answer questions to the effect, why they would wish to come to Uganda with aged aircraft and if they considered Uganda a dumping ground for old aircraft. It was also ascertained that some applicants had formed their airline companies only weeks before the application hearing and had a paid up share capital of only 5 million Uganda Shillings, equivalent to about 2.200 US Dollars ONLY, which prompted some intense questioning by members of the licensing panel, again with some answers less than satisfactory.
Watch this space for regular updates from the aviation sector in Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean.
BUJAGALI FALLS’ LAST FEW WEEKS
Information was received last week that the upcoming hydro electric plant is nearing completion and that the presently open ‘bypass’ for rafters, kayakers and riverboaters will soon be closed, once work on the ‘other side’ of the dam has been finished by the contractors. This will be the last chance now for adventure and thrill seekers to raft this section of the upper Nile, and see the Bujagali Falls in their full flow. Once the dam has been effectively closed water levels behind it are expected to gradually rise, submerging first the other rapids between Bujagali and the dam, and eventually the Bujagali Falls themselves will be submerged too, before power production is to start in early to mid 2011.
While this will be good news for a power hungry nation, especially considering the recent re-introduction of the dreaded ‘load shedding’ – on start-up the power plant will feed about 50 MW into the national grid before gradually rising to the full 250 MW – the adventure businesses’ hubs now located around the falls will have to relocate their starting point for rafting and river boating to a point below the new power plant. For this reason, it will be both tears of joy and tears of sorrow, depending from which side one looks at these developments.
SAFARILINK ADDS SCHEDULED SERVICE BETWEEN KENYA COAST AND SAMBURU
The Samburu National Park will undoubtedly get a ‘shot in the arm’ when SafariLink is launching their scheduled flights between Diani / Ukunda (South Coast) and Mombasa to Samburu from the 16th of December. Air safaris from the coast traditionally cover the Amboseli National Park and the Masai Mara Game Reserve but the new flights are now opening up Samburu too, with a minimum of 2 passengers booked. Being a scheduled flight passengers pay for their tickets, a return ticket costs US Dollars 380 plus presently 14 USD tax = USD 394, but do not have to charter a flight, if they want to visit Samburu, Buffalo Springs or Shaba game reserves as part of their Kenya holiday. The lodges and safari camps located in the three protected areas are all offering ‘in house’ transportation, not just from and to the airfield but game drives too, making the new service ideal for tourists staying in one of Kenya’s beach resorts to discover the country with the comfort of flying.
This will, according to the airline’s Director of Sales and Marketing Anu Vohora, be a daily service, with no if’s and but’s other than the minimum requirement of having two passengers ticketed. SafariLink is one of Kenya’s leading domestic airlines connecting Mombasa and Nairobi’s Wilson airport with almost all national parks on a daily basis and they are operating a fleet of Cessna 208 Caravan and several larger twin engined turboprop aircraft. For more information on fleet, schedules and fares visit www.flysafarilink.com
HARGEISA NEXT AFTER MWANZA FLIGHTS LAUNCHED
Jetlink, one of Kenya’s leading private airlines, last week launched their daily flights from Nairobi via Kisumu to Mwanza / Tanzania. At the launch in Kisumu was the Kenya Airports Authority asked to reconsider the closing of the airport at 20.00 hrs (8 p.m.) and expand flight operations to around the clock, making better use of the new facilities which have been established in recent years.
Jetlink also announced the imminent launch of flights from Nairobi to Hargeisa / Somaliland – the breakaway part of Somalia seeking diplomatic recognition and enjoying relative peace unlike the rest of this war torn country – and their spokesperson was confident that Eritrea could be next on the list, just as soon as all necessary approvals and permits have been secured. As reported last week Jetlink has taken Kenya Airways to court and remarks made at the launch over the need to level the playing field for air operators, directed to the Kenya government, were thought to have been made with this and other grievances in mind. Watch this space or sign up on Twitter to @whthome to get the latest updates on aviation news from across the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region.
KENYA AIRWAYS ADDS ANOTHER AFRICAN DESTINATION
The ‘Pride of Africa’ has just announced the addition of Nampula in Mozambique as its 51st destination, after successfully operating flights to Maputo for quite some time now. Kenya Airways is adding new and exciting cities across Africa to the network, all connecting through its Nairobi hub, where it flies in conjunction with partner airlines KLM and Air France, opening up almost the entire continent of Africa to travellers from around the world. It is understood that the arrival of more narrow bodied aircraft of the B737 series and of Embraer make will allow the airline to continue this expansion strategy and eventually connect all key countries and cities in Africa with East Africa’s economic and tourism powerhouse Kenya. Visit www.kenya-airways.com for more information on schedules, network, fares and for direct bookings.
ANTI PIRACY OPERATIONS IN TANZANIA GET BOOST
The United States government donated two state of the art 27ft patrol boats to the Tanzanian navy, aimed to boost their ability to track and hunt down pirates from Somalia, who increasingly often have been operating in Tanzanian waters off the coast in recent months.
Reports that some of the pirates have in fact made camp at remote locations along Tanzania’s Indian Ocean beaches have not been independently confirmed but there are persistent rumours that at least in one location, near Lindi, a deserted camp was eventually discovered, which would explain how hot pursuit of pirates in the waters off Lindi yielded nothing in the end.
While the Tanzanian navy had some limited successes in the past to capture pirates, a more robust approach is now needed from all the countries along the Eastern Indian Ocean seaboard, from Mozambique over Tanzania and Kenya, to more decisively engage pirates and more robustly combat them. Some shipping lines are said to be considering a withdrawal of their port calls in affected harbours due to the increased risks of traversing these Indian Ocean waters, which if found to be true could set an alarming trend and make trade to and from Eastern Africa much more difficult and also costly.
The Seychelles in comparison have actively engaged the ocean terrorists and recorded several successful rescue missions and brought the Somalis to court in Victoria on piracy, terrorism and related charges, unlike the UK navy which stood by watching the Chandlers to be abducted or other naval assets deployed by the international naval coalition watching captured vessels escaped to the pirate havens. Only now, and seemingly reluctantly, are the naval coalition vessels starting to use their superior equipment to retake captured ships while still at sea as seen a few weeks ago when a ship was stormed and the terrorists arrested.
It was also ascertained that cruise tourism has indeed taken a major ‘hit’ for this part of the Indian Ocean as more and more cruise lines have relocated their vessels to safer waters elsewhere, standing by, watching and waiting until the situation has at last been brought under full control. Until then however the ports of Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Mombasa, Victoria, the Malagasy ports and even those as far as Reunion and Mauritius will see less cruises arrive on their shores to the detriment of the respective tourism sectors and denying cruise travellers the opportunity to visit Eastern Africa.
SERENGETI POACHERS ‘LIKELY TO BE DEAD’
A group of suspected poachers, who entered the Serengeti National Park in the border area with Kenya in mid and late October, have been missing for quite some time now, lending credence to reports from some of their co-criminals captured by law enforcement that they might have been killed by crocodiles or other predators while attempting to cross a river, and possibly into Kenya. Poaching has been a menace on the increase and inspite of attempts, many say half hearted, by TANAPA and other Tanzanian law enforcement agencies, not been decisively stopped, but in fact has rather increased in the recent past.
Conservationists contacted expressed no sympathy at all, claiming that anyone entering the park, often armed to the teeth, with intent to poach, not only commits a criminal offence but also faces the risks of encounters with wildlife and dangerous predators, and that casualties as now suspected would be one of the inherent dangers related to poaching.
Reports from Arusha too indicated that the authorities now had little hope left to find the 6 or 7 still missing alive inspite of increased patrols and surveillance in the area where the poachers has entered the park.
NEW TOURISM MINISTER FACES STERN TEST OVER SERENGETI CONTROVERSY
When the former tourism minister Shamsa Mwangunga was shown the door by her constituents in the preliminary party elections, many attributed her loss to her failure to ‘deliver’ to her own back yard, leave alone becoming known as a ‘parrot’ singing the tune of destroying the Serengeti by pushing for the highway construction, on orders of her ‘bosses’ instead of standing up and doing right for conservation.
Being left in the political wilderness for the next term of parliament she is undoubtedly facing music enough, not the least by being severed from the political ‘trough’ from which her ‘snout’ had been removed.
Her former deputy has now found himself elevated to full cabinet minister and Ezekiel Maige will be the one to face the country’s tourism industry over the hugely controversial plans to build a highway across the Serengeti migration routes.
He will in parliament also face the former Secretary General of TATO, the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, who has defeated a ruling party candidate, and very handsomely for that matter, to become a member of parliament, and he will undoubtedly take on the mantle as ‘shadow tourism minister’ and challenge the government’s position on many crucial issues for the sector, on incentives, promotional budgets, availability of affordable financing and not the least the question of where the highway should pass, through the heartland of the migration of far away from it, having after all been elected on such a platform.
Time will tell, and hopefully soon, if common sense persists in the end and the highway routing be changed to leave the migration alone and free of killer traffic, as experts have predicted. Watch this space.
ELECTRICITY CUTS TO WORSEN ACROSS TANZANIA
A recent article about a ‘growing shortages list’ drew some acid comments into this correspondent’s email box, but reality on the ground was different from what the common breed of sycophants wanted it to be. Only over the weekend did TANESCO, the Tanzanian national electricity company, have to finally admit what was written on many walls and openly talked about in business circles: ‘there is not enough electricity and power outages will increase from Monday across the country’. This belated admission was long in coming and was probably held back ahead of the elections up to the last possible moment, when the system was about to go into a full scale brown out and subsequent black out, as a result of private electricity producers feed into the national grid falling short of requirements. In addition did breakdowns of equipment and fuel shortages – named previously here together with electricity and water shortages – play a major role, as did rising fuel cost for which someone has to pay.
There have been long running arguments and political battles over the standing of private owners of thermal power plants, their incentives and also the prices they get per unit of electricity produced, resulting in several such plants to be shut down while the ‘discussions’ are ongoing.
The resulting electricity shortages have already brought manufacturers, industries and the hospitality sector to the forefront of demands, that this situation be swiftly and comprehensively resolved, as using stand by generators was at the present cost of fuel not a viable and financially sustainable option for them. Hotels in Dar es Salaam and Arusha, but also other municipalities and areas where tourists regularly visit, depend on mains supply of electricity, and running their standby generators will according to one source in Dar es Salaam put a huge financial burden on their businesses and impact on their profitability. Safari lodges too will be affected, in particular those along the national grid, and hotels and lodges from Manyara via Karatu to Ngorongoro have already reportedly began to stock up diesel to run their stand by generators whenever they are subjected to ‘load shedding’. Operations according to a source in Arusha are not likely to be affected for tourists though as service levels will be maintained, albeit at a substantial cost for the individual properties affected by powercuts.
KANOMBE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT GETS MORE TRAFFIC
Information from Kigali last week gave a glowing outlook for business at the country’s main airport. Traffic since last year has grown by over 50 percent, and landings have now reached over 100 per week from scheduled flights, compared to under 70 a year ago.
The growth is attributed to increased scheduled flights by RwandAir, but also by regional airlines like Air Uganda and the international carriers as Brussels Airlines and KLM, all of which added more frequencies to Kigali or in the latter’s case commenced operations between Amsterdam and Kigali, via Entebbe.
Once RwandAir launches their new destinations the number of daily flight movements is likely to grow further, at last providing day round activity at the airport, the only international link with the region and overseas for the ‘land of a thousand hills’.
HOTEL AND RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR HIGHER STANDARDS
A meeting of the RHRA last week confirmed the setting up of committees aimed to promote improved customer services but also hygiene and sanitation across the hospitality sector in the country. The association made it clear that they were firm in their efforts to promote standards equitable to those found in the other countries in the region so that the ‘in country’ experience of visitors can be raised to the levels of satisfaction expressed when visiting Kenyan or Tanzanian hotels, resorts and safari lodges. It is also understood that a new tourism law is presently in the making which, when passed and related regulations have been promulgated, will demand a range of criteria to be met before licensing, or re-licensing for that matter, can be effected. Rwanda has in recent years made a concerted effort, through the Rwanda Development Board, other government institutions and the private sector, to improve customer services through a range of workshops and training sessions for stakeholders, raising awareness. Beyond this however RDB has also been paying greater attention to the establishment of tourism and hospitality training institutions as a way to train the workforce intent to start a career in the industry and offer refresher courses for those already in employment but in need for greater skills.
FIRE PREVENTION A KEY TOPIC IN TRANSBOUNDARY CONSERVATION MEETING
Conservation stakeholders have last week met in Rubavu district, Western Rwanda, discussing amongst other things the need to harmonise regulations and guidelines towards controlling bush fires, likely as a result of raging fires devastating national park land in the recent past. Some of the fires were spreading across national borders, bringing the wildlife managers from Rwanda, Uganda and Congo together to devise an information system and alert mechanisms in case of future fires, which might extend into sharing resources and manpower at short notice, should the situation demand such cross border cooperation.
It was also agreed to increase efforts of sensitising the nearby communities to the dangers of lighting fires in order to harvest honey, or leaving domestic fires unattended, as this has been identified as some of the major causes for fires spreading beyond control and becoming a raging inferno endangering not just humans but also the habitat of the endangered mountain gorillas and other animals and birds found in the parks. Said one regular source from Rwanda: ‘these fires can have a big impact on tourism. When an area is burnt down tourists will not go there, the gorilla families living there are displaced and when seeking new feeding grounds come into conflict with other groups. This makes tracking them difficult and even dangerous. Not long ago we had fires spreading from the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to the Mgahinga National Park across the border in Uganda and only because of very good working relations were we able to cooperate in fighting these fires. However we need a proper mechanism and action platform towards fire prevention and fire fighting in the worst case, and this is now a great deal nearer to reality. We also need greater resource allocation from our respective governments towards training the population in fire fighting techniques to act as volunteers when called upon. In addition we need to have equipment procured and stationed nearby, which should primarily be used to combat forest fires but is also available for fighting any domestic or industrial fire outbreaks in or near those locations’. Transboundary cooperation at its best!
AIR SEYCHELLES NAMES CHENNAI AS NEW ASIA HUB
Last weekend information was obtained from HM that the airline has made Chennai their new hub for Asia, not a surprise for keen observers as code shared flights with Air India on the route and beyond can open up new and emerging markets for the Seychellois national airline, in accordance with their medium and long term market strategies. The initial flight was between Mahe and Chennai was delayed, arguably due to mischief at the Indian aviation authorities’ offices, probably at the bidding of a rival airline not happy with the arrangements but now that ‘traffic finally flows’ there are smiles all round. Bookings to and from Chennai look promising according to an airline source and with the ability to offer code shared destinations in India and beyond via Air India’s flights, travellers to the subcontinent are suddenly rediscovering Air Seychelles, having travelled to and from India in the past on other airlines.
Air India too has access to the onward flights between Mahe and Mauritius and South Africa, providing an added incentive for them too to book passengers via HM.
It is however up to this moment not yet clear if, or when the sectors between Chennai and Singapore can be operated in the future with full traffic rights for the flight, which under a codeshare with Air India should be possible, yet considering the ‘spanners in the works’ in the run up to this flight more difficulties are expected to be put in the way of HM and AI by aviation bureaucrats. Watch this space.
AFFORDABLE SEYCHELLES GETS FURTHER BOOST
The opening last week of a new Seychellois owned and managed holiday ‘villa’ near Mahe’s Carana beach has added further rooms in the ‘affordable’ market bracket in line with the Seychelles Tourists Board’s aim to combine economic participation and empowerment for citizens with more rooms in the lower priced market segments. Still, guests will miss few amenities in comparison with bigger resorts and beach hotels, as the new ‘Carana Hilltop Villa’ offers beauty treatments, spa services and car hire, while being only a few minutes’ walk to the sandy beaches below. Visit the STB website www.seychelles.com for more information on ‘Affordable Seychelles’, where bookings can be made via the site’s links with a variety of such properties located on or near some of the most popular beaches on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.
The opening came hot on the heels of the launch of a new restaurant on Praslin, the ‘Capricorn’, owned and operated by the Godley family, which also managed the ‘Islander Guest House’ nearby, a popular place for local and overseas visitors. Brand Seychelles surely making an impact and progress across the archipelago!
Southern Sudan News
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOSTS TOURISM
The recent first ever showing of the National Geographic’s ‘Great Migrations’ programme filmed in the Southern Sudan was a massive eye opener not only for the world at large but also for many residents of Eastern Africa.
Many still don’t appreciate the rich biodiversity and large numbers of game found in the Southern Sudanese 6 national parks and 13 game reserves and a few have in the past even spoken of outright ‘inventions’ when this correspondent talked and reported, from his own experience and viewing, about the huge numbers of for instance white eared kobs found migrating between the Boma National Park on the border with Ethiopia and the Nile. Inspite of a decades’ long war of oppression, waged upon the South by the Northern regime in Khartoum, game has not been ‘eaten’ or ‘poached out of existence’, as Northern ‘sources’ have often suggested, arguably to limit the tourism potential in the South, but has in fact benefitted from a strict discipline imposed by the SPLA at the time, which allowed shooting of game for food only after a process of application and approval, being foresighted enough even then to see the benefits of wildlife for a future independent Southern Sudan.
A team from National Geographic Television was in the Southern Sudan on several occasions from 2008, putting together a documentary on the wildlife migration of an estimated 800.000+ animals, and as a result USAID and the Wildlife Conservation Society have been funding efforts to create infrastructure along those parks to gradually start the process of bringing tourists to the South, once the independence referendum has passed and a new country has been born.
Meanwhile is the film also used to put pressure on the Government of Southern Sudan to halt plans to lease out parts of their parks to UAE based ‘investors’ who have openly expressed their desire to turn their concessions into a hunting paradise for the rich and famous from the Gulf area, an idea which is both revolting as well as reeking of corruption claims made by conservationists in the South Sudan and the East African region. Watch this space – and tune to the National Geographic Channel to watch any of the forthcoming repeats scheduled for this unique programme.
AND in closing today once again material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, produced at the Victoria Falls by Gill Staden – thank you!
Of special interest is the first piece about Carmine Bee-eaters, where – and this comes as no surprise to those who are watching the connection between Chinese expatriate workers and poaching – an alarming story is told about yet another target in the African nature to satisfy their burgeoning greed for trophies.
However, there is also an update from the Painted Dog Foundation, aka Hunting Dogs or Wild Dogs, and from the Africa Wildlife Foundation, telling their story of successes and challenges – enjoy!
I was told rather a disturbing story during the week about carmine bee-eaters. Apparently there is a growing Chinese market for the feathers of these beautiful birds. The villagers around the Caprivi/Western Province area and along the Zambezi are fully aware of this and are catching them. You would think that catching a bird would be difficult, but carmines are very easy because they come here to nest in the high banks of the river. A dugout canoe along the river at night, cover the riverbank (and nest-holes) with a net, shine a torch … and the birds come out and are caught in the net.
This, of course, is a sign of the times and the poverty that lurks in Zambia. Fortunately I chatted with a friend in Botswana who said that it wasn’t happening there. I assume that this will be the end of our carmines. Anyone got any suggestions?
From Africa Wildlife Foundation
You have been hearing a lot from me over the past year about AWF’s successes in the Kazungula Heartland, a large conservation landscape along the Zambezi River that includes the Sekute Conservation Area, our Easements for Education program, and the new primary school we are building. But as an ecologist, I’ve most enjoyed talking about the white rhinos of Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia.
A little over a year ago, with your generous support, AWF helped wildlife authorities to settle four new white rhinos translocated into the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park after poachers had shot all but one of its rhinos. Since then, again with your help, AWF has provided ongoing field and technical support to the park’s rhino protection team; today, all of the rhinos are doing fine. While just one of scores of programs being carried out by AWF, I think the survival of the white rhino is an apt symbol of our important mission across the Heartlands.
That’s no small order. Resources for conservation, especially in the region where I work, are scarce, and growing scarcer. Much of what we’ve been able to achieve has been thanks to the support of people like you. As the year draws to a close, I urge you to do all you can to help AWF continue this work and our other important programs. Without your contribution, there is no way we could carry out the important mission we have set out to do.
We depend heavily on this season of charitable giving to fund AWF programs throughout the entire year. Please do all you can to help us make 2011 as successful as 2010. Only with your support can AWF continue its programs to protect rhinos and help communities conserve wildlife.
Painted Dog Foundation
The sound of the chase, fast feet racing by, the kill and eating noises were all unmistakable. The Kutanga pack had killed an Impala. Good news indeed for them but wonderful for me as it was right outside my house in Hwange! I was having dinner with Ester, Hans and my Father, having just arrived back in Hwange after an unusually long absence of six weeks due to personal commitments, followed by the annual fundraising trip to the USA. It was as if the dogs were welcoming me back! A bit of an exaggeration in reality, but the coincidence of them making a kill right in front of the house only minutes after I got back was a little hard to ignore. It was as if they were saying “welcome back and look at us, we are doing fine.”
They were actually doing ok for once. Ester and Jealous had been doing a great job, keeping up the monitoring of the pack and dealing with what we now call the “usual” issues with the Kutanga. One of the males, Moth, had a badly wounded ear, which was red raw and hanging down. Ester immobilized him and cleaned the wound. A few days later he was “fighting” with John and Romany, two residents at our Rehab and his ear got torn again!! Its healed now but looks rather floppy. Alpha male, Bullseye, has been limping around but has also recovered now as has the young female, Shoulder Patch. With the pack now spending a lot of time outside Hwange National park and thus in the poaching “hot spots”, we decided that all of them should be collared and happily Ester dealt with this. The collars not only give us a handle on each individual but also afford them some protection from snares and perilous roads.
The fighting with our resident dogs at the Rehab is something we have not expected and is cause for concern. However, for now, we have built a screen to present a visual and physical barrier that seems to be working, though it has not stopped the Kutanga from “visiting” every two or three days.
The dog news on the whole is rather encouraging. We have received sightings of a pack of 11, another pack of eight and a pack of two. Greg, Ester and Jealous have been making quite an effort to get collars on these dogs but all of their efforts have been frustrated so far. Ester and Jealous came closest when they actually saw the pack of 11 at a waterhole deep inside Hwange NP, called Secheche. Thus the pack has been named Secheche. Their territory is deep inside the pack however it is also close to the South East boundary, so collaring them is a high priority for us.
Our only real concern is for the Kanondo pack, which is just three dogs and hasn’t been seen in quite a while. Their territory is to the east of us in the Gwayi Conservancy, an area of intense poaching activity, which our APU patrol regularly.
Wilton and his Education Department team have completed a couple of very busy months, hosting
five schools during the period, including the Harare International School whom we were delighted to welcome back after a year’s absence. All of the camps went very well as usual, with the kids having the time of their lives. Well over 4,000 children have now attended our Children’s Bush Camp.
Wilton has added Dominic Nyathi to his team, tasking him with taking over the Conservation Clubs we established in 2008. Dominic has a lot of experience in teaching in the local area and is a well known figure. The Conservation Clubs is really an extension of the Bush Camp programme and aims
to work with the same kids in their communities, engaging them in hands-on activities that carry a conservation message such as clean up campaigns and tree planting.
As ever, we are tried and tested and it’s with the help of your tremendous support that we can achieve so much. On my recent trip to the USA I was reminded that you can never say thank you enough, and certainly I will never get tired of saying thank you to everyone who has helped make PDC what it is today.
Okavango Tourism Sites available
It seems that the Tawana Land Board in Maun has identified another 73 sights for tourism development.
With so many lodges and hotels in and around the Okavango, one wonders if this will be overdoing it a bit. We all know that Botswana’s tourism strategy has been successful in boosting their economy, but another 73 developments in this fragile eco-system may be too much. We wait …
(AND READERS TOO WILL WAIT TO SEE THE ‘EMPTY SPACES’ FILLED WITH PICTURES – WORDPRESS HAVE INDICATED THEY ARE WORKING ON A SOLUTION TO PERMIT UPLOADS OF WORD FILES WITH EMBEDDED PICTURES DIRECTLY WITHOUT THE EXTREMELY CUMBERSOME AND TIME CONSUMING SEPARATE UPLOADS OF EACH AND EVERY PICTURE … WE WAIT …)
TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Fourth edition November 2010
FLY 540 OFFERS NEW LOW FARE TO DAR ES SALAAM
Efforts by airlines to retain, regain or capture added market share got yet more intense last week when the regional low cost carrier offered an all inclusive fare between Entebbe and Dar es Salaam of 270 US Dollars, albeit with restrictions on changes of travel dates. This latest initiative to capture Ugandan traffic and routing it via the Fly 540 hub in Nairobi will rock the market again and most likely force an early response from Kenya Airways, also flying to Dar via Nairobi but most certainly from Air Uganda, which offers the only nonstop flights between the two airports. U7 flies 6 times a week to Dar on CRJ 200 aircraft, the same type used by Fly 540, while Kenya Airways ordinarily uses their B 737-300 or -700 aircraft, unless a rotation is scheduled for one of their Embraers.
The country manager of Fly 540 in Uganda, Ms. Jackie Arkle, confirmed that the fares will stay for the foreseeable future and might only be revised should taxes, regulatory fees or fuel prices suddenly rise.
No information was available about a similar deal to Zanzibar, again a route on which Fly 540 is in direct competition with Kenya Airways and Air Uganda but the airline is continuing to offer their return fare to Nairobi at USD 210, all inclusive, for select weekends, so bargain catchers watch out. Monitor this space for the latest aviation news updates from across Eastern Africa.
PRESIDENT OPENS CHOBE SAFARI LODGE
Northern Uganda was firmly put on the tourism map last week when none other then President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni formally opened he reconstructed Chobe Safari Lodge, located in the upper part of the Murchisons Falls National Park.
Emerging from his helicopter, after the dust swirls had settled, he walked the short distance to the lodge entrance in the company of tourism state minister Serapio Rukundo, where he was greeted by the Madhvani Group’ Directors and senior personnel, with Mayur Madhvani introducing the assembled guests.
The president had taken out time from his busy election campaign schedule to carry out this pleasant duty as head of state, and was not only warmly received by all present but visibly delighted, when he stepped out on the terrace beyond the reception to enjoy the grandiose views across the white waters of the River Nile and the extensive forests in the distance.
After unveiling the commemorative plaque next to the reception of the lodge he was then taken for a tour around the property, where he also jovially greeted the staff in the kitchen and back of house, before inspecting the ‘Presidential Villa’ for a one on one meeting with the owners.
In his address the president also blasted officials who were making life difficult for investors by not willingly and voluntarily implementing agreed investment incentives, which prompted applause from those in attendance including the Uganda Investment Authority’s CEO Prof. Dr. Maggie Kigozi and the UIA Chairperson Patrick Bitature.
Due to time pressure the president could not stay for the truly amazing lunch spread on offer but did promise to return at a later date to sample the hospitality of Chobe. It was learned from colleagues covering the election trail, that he did mention in afternoon campaign meetings that he had directed the tourism minister and tourism ministry permanent secretary to work with UWA to establish suitable park boundaries like trenches, deep ditches or even electric fences to protect the communities neighbouring the park from marauding elephant and other game habitually straying outside and ‘raiding’ the ‘shambas’, a local word for small scale farms, denying the people their food. He also announced the likely creation of as many as 13.000 new jobs by the Madhvani Group’s Kakira Sugar company, which was aiming at setting up a large scale sugar cane plantation and sugar factory on presently idle land, including working with several thousand independent outgrowers.
The lodge is the fourth operated by Marasa, the others being Mweya Safari Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park and the sister lodge in Murchisons Falls National Park some 90 KM down river, Paraa Safari Lodge, with the fourth facility in the Kenyan Masai Mara. It is understood from impeccable sources though that Marasa is bound to expand their portfolio in Kenya in coming months, eying both safari properties as well as a beach location. Visit www.chobelodgeuganda.com for more information about the ‘Gem on the Nile’ as the owners have dubbed their ‘youngest addition’ to the safari circuit in Uganda or google the parks and the lodges.
PRESIDENT DENOUNCES GREED, ENVY AND BREACH OF CONTRACT
A controversial letter in mid August by the board of the Uganda Wildlife Authority to the Madhvani Group’s Marasa Limited – the hospitality arm of the diverse industrial, agricultural and service concern in Uganda – cancelling the exclusion zone around their lodges as per the current, and entirely valid 30 year concession document, was thrown out by none other than the President, when he publicly directed that the letter be trashed. ‘This is not the way we do business in Africa, this is not the way we do business in Uganda’ he said, responding to the group’s request to intervene and ‘reverse the illegal action taken by the UWA board’.
The president went on to say that investors who came to the aid of Uganda during the hard years after the liberation war must never be told that they have served their purpose and can now be replaced, while also encouraging new investors to come to the country and invest in all sectors of the economy.
It is understood, as previously intimated here, that a vocal group of ‘also want to have the cake they did not bake’ had influence peddled members of the UWA board to arrive at the tilted, and potentially very expensive decision, which could have cost the wildlife body multi-millions of US Dollars in compensation, had Marasa not patiently waited for this opportunity and taken the matter to court immediately. Notable was the dismissed chairperson of UWA – he was sacked by court order last week for not being eligible and suitably qualified to hold the position – absent from the official lodge opening, and the wildlife body was only represented by the present Acting Executive Director and several UWA staff based in Murchisons Falls National Park, including the park warden and his senior officers. At least the sacked chairman was spared blushes and further public humiliation, had he had to face his president who was clearly upset and angry over the reported shenanigans. Said the president to the Madhvani directors in a biblical quote: ‘you have to forgive them because they do not know what they do’ – a damning indictment towards those who tried to ‘grab’ the wildlife authority and showing just how disgusted the president was with these recent developments.
The company had in the past been repeatedly accused by ‘those vocalists’ to ‘monopolise’ the park lodges if not the entire industry, a claim rubbished by facts alone considering the number of now available beds in and around the two parks where the group is actively involved (Queen Elizabeth and Murchisons Falls), leave alone the many other parks where they do not have a presence, and racial undertones were introduced with alarming regularity, considered by many to be an absolute disgrace for the country, but finally put to rest by a presidential directive. Overall result: A good day for the tourism industry in Uganda.
CONTROVERSY RELOADED, GOLF COURSE IN THE PARK 2.0
The grand opening last week of the Chobe Safari Lodge also brought about renewed controversy, when the Chief Executive of the Madhvani Group, Mr. Mayur Madhvani, again raised the issue of wanting to build a golf course in the park with President Museveni, this time in the neighbourhood of the just opened Chobe Lodge in the upper part of the Murchisons Falls National Park.
Several years ago a similar request, evenly brought to the President, was eventually defeated by a broad alliance of conservationists, then leading tourism stakeholders and the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s then chairman John Nagenda, who led a spirited fight, using candid language against the plans to turn the Mweya peninsula into a 18 hole golf course.
Although the group was later offered land outside the park near the Katwe village to construct a golf course of their own, and offers were extended to work hand in hand with the Kasese Golf Club and send their clients there by shuttle bus, nothing ever came of these counterproposals as it was ‘all or nothing’ for the developers, to either have a golf course on their door step or none at all. The Mweya peninsula’s narrow stretch of land connecting it to the main body of the park, is known for many animals moving in and migrating out from the peninsula, like elephant and buffalo, and a golf course, it was suggested then, would have impacted too heavily on these movement patterns, leave alone the impact of using imported alien grass species and the subsequent need to constantly fertilise and water the fairways and greens, with runoff water polluting the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward.
The latest attempt to have a golf course carved out of this time Murchisons Falls National Park will most likely also meet with equal resistance and it is understood that John Nagenda is already ‘marshalling his troops’. It was pointed out to this correspondent by sources close to UWA that there is apparently a golf course at Pakwach, which again could be used for a partnership between the Madhvani Group and the club, and guest wishing to play a round or two could easily be transported there by shuttle bus, instead of cutting large swathes of forest in the immediate vicinity of the lodge to create an 18 or even 27 hole course in a pristine wilderness area second to none in Uganda.
The next few weeks will also tell if tourism stakeholders and industry leaders do have the proverbial ‘cojones’ to stand up for what it is right and speak out against ‘golf in the park’ as was the case several years ago or if a weakened and fragmented opposition to the proposals will hand ‘victory’ to the intending developers. Watch this space for updates in coming weeks. Meanwhile let it also be on record that the opinion of this correspondent about golf in the park has not changed since the days of the Mweya proposals.
CROSS LAKE KAYAK EVENT TO PROMOTE SPORTS TOURISM
Kayaking has long been on the menu of activities by renowned adventure company ‘Nile River Explorers’ and has over the years attracted many visitors from abroad, at times with special airline promotions uplifting their sports equipment for free. The upper Nile valley below Jinja has gained a reputation of an all year, but for competitors from the Northern hemisphere especially a winter training ground.
Last week saw a cross lake kayaking expedition launched from the Source of the Nile in Jinja to the Kenyan lakeside city of Kisumu, in which Italian and local kayakers participated and the Uganda Tourist Board and the Ministry of Tourism was swift to commend and support the venture as an added attraction for tourism businesses to promote abroad and in the region.
ANOTHER SHIMONI LOOMING?
Following the disastrous decision some years ago to throw out the Shimoni Primary School pupils and teachers and uproot the Shimoni Teachers Training College from their premises in record time, to make way for an ‘investor’ who promised the build a 5 star hotel for the then upcoming Commonwealth Summit – that site still lies idle – has reportedly changed hands at least once since then. The principal owner of Kingdom Hotels, was the one who schmoozed his way into the corridors of power at the time, making lots of promises and delivering on not a single one, before eventually declaring that he ‘had lost interest’, a diplomatic way of admitting that the financial crisis of 2007/8 saw his cash flow get thinner and thinner and wanting to invest his remaining bucks rather elsewhere than in Uganda.
A related and equally sad saga evolved when the notorious Aya brothers, better known for their milling business and regular appearances in the local dailies over a range of allegations, were granted the land of the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation on Nakasero Hill, ostensibly to build another ‘CHOGM’ hotel to be managed by Hilton. Again, the UBC offices, buildings thought to be protected under the national monuments regulations, were literally overnight emptied of equipment and staff and knocked down into rubble.
The brothers made headlines, since then, when making unsustainable promises such as to build a floor a week, that they were going to employ 2.000 people when the hotel was finished (and train them on the job – how Hilton must have cringed over this utterance) and then constantly shifting deadline after deadline for the completion of the hotel more than three years after CHOGM came and went. A full mouthed statement made early this year, that the hotel would be finished by September, was again far from reality, a clear sign that investors in the hotel and lodge sector in Uganda ought to be thoroughly scrutinized over their financial clout and management experience elsewhere, instead of being given the country’s ‘family silver’ as if there was an endless supply of such.
A similar story broke this week when it was learned that the country’s main ivory tower, Makerere University, appears to have been stripped of a valuable piece of land they own, when another ‘investor’ in record time – it reportedly took all but 5 minutes to make out a lease and register the name change – tried to get his hands on another prime piece of Kampala real estate. When found out he too made his way into the corridors of power, obtained a directive to give him the land and leave him alone, as he was to create a 5 star hotel at the cost of 17 million US Dollars.
If memory serves right, Serena Hotels spent over 30 million US Dollars to completely rebuild and refurbish the then Nile Hotel, before reopening as the Kampala Serena Hotel – a genuine investment by any standards, but proposing to build a 5 star hotels, several years down the line with the risen cost of construction, at 17 million US Dollars can only be a fluke.
This latest saga, as was the Shimoni charade, will again be closely monitored to ascertain what if anything is going to happen on this site and what, if anything will be built there and to what standards. One thing for sure, the language of ‘luxury’ and ‘5star’ are some of the most misused or otherwise most misunderstood denominations for a hospitality business in these parts and for sure more stories will follow here in due course.
FLY 540 ADDS MERU NATIONAL PARK TO SAFARI CIRCUIT
An often overlooked but nevertheless true gem amongst Kenya’s national parks has now been put on ‘prime time’ with the opening of a new air route by Fly 540 last week.
The airline announced that effective 19th of November a flight will extend, three times a week, from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport via Nanyuki to Meru, operated on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday on the reliable and comfortable Cessna 208 Caravan equipment. The flights will leave Wilson at 3 p.m. and reach Meru at 4.15 p.m., before scheduled to land back at Wilson at 5.45 p.m.
Safari operators have already expressed their delight over the announcement, as they can now send tourists to the lodges and tented camps in the wider Meru Conservation Area by air, with airstrip transfers and game drives then provided by knowledgeable guides based in the respective safari properties.
Tourism sources have also commended the new route as ‘opening up of our lesser known but still very attractive parks to a wider group of travellers’ a sentiment full shared by this correspondent, who personally considers the wider Meru park and conservation area as a ‘prime piece of African wilderness real estate’. Visit www.fly540.com for more information on fares or to make bookings for their safari flights as well as their regional operations across the East African Community.
JETLINK TAKES KENYA AIRWAYS TO COURT
The battle for the skies over Kenya and Eastern Africa has taken another twist, following a sharp increase of the number of flights by Kenya Airways to Mombasa and sharply lowered fares across their domestic network, all ostensibly aimed at carving out a greater market share once again, much of which was lost in recent years to competitors on the domestic and partly even regional markets. Other private airlines had taken exception already some weeks ago, as reported here, when KQ had advertised to fill open positions, aimed directly at qualified staff working for other airlines, but could do little about it but gnash their teeth and fork out higher pay to retain their staff.
Now however it seems that Jetlink has obtained ‘evidence’ over allegations made against them by KQ and filed suit in the High Court in Nairobi, in which both the airline but also their Country Manager for Kenya were cited as respondents. It is understood that Jetlink will use both a recent email allegedly sent by the KQ manager as well as an internal memorandum from earlier in the year, claimed to originate from within Kenya Airways, to boost their case, which development will be closely monitored and reported about.
MORE DELAYS FOR B787 CUSTOMERS QUITE LIKELY NOW
The recent electrical fire on a B 787 ‘Dreamliner’ test aircraft has again thrown ‘spanners in the work’ at
Boeing, as testing has been broadly suspended for the time being until the source of the fire has been established and ruled out for the future. An announcement as to the likely further delays in delivering the aircraft to the launch customers is expected soon and will keep the East African airlines Kenya Airways and Ethiopian wondering, when exactly they will finally see this aircraft take to the skies in their own livery. Present consensus amongst aviation observers is a possible 6 – 12 months further delay before the first delivery to a commercial customer would be made, if true crashing indictment for the Boeing management which tried to make the world believe otherwise, as done on many previous occasions too, when one time line after the other fell like domino stones.
Kenya Airways’ board of directors is reported to be in the final evaluation stage considering an order for Airbus A330 aircraft, to fill the gap the continuous delays in the B787 production is causing them, which to a degree has already impacted on their plans for new long haul and inter-African routes and increased frequencies on their high density destinations in Europe and the Far East.
Retrofitting their present ageing fleet of B767 aircraft would be another option for Kenya Airways, but unless Boeing comes forward and commits to pick up a major part of those bills, is not deemed the most likely of scenarios, as in any case the heavy use of these aircraft in recent years will also require extra costly added maintenance measures when the ageing aircraft directive deadlines begin to creep up on the fleet. KQ, as reported here, has discussed these issues with Boeing representatives but no conclusion was reached, or else none communicated to the media.
Ethiopian in the meantime is receiving yet more of their ordered B777 aircraft, keeping the impact of the B787 delays somewhat in check but aviation observers in the region are certain, that the problems at Boeing, for very long downplayed and belittled by the company, will beyond a doubt affect medium term expansion plans for the two leading airlines in the Eastern Africa region unless they can secure aircraft able to bridge the gap for a couple of years.
SAFARICOMS’ 4G PLANS PUT ON HOLD
The Kenyan government, in a surprise move last week, halted the individual development of a 4G network, otherwise known as Long Term Evolution Technology or in layman’s terms fourth generation network. Safaricom were the first out of the blocks to introduce a 3G network in Kenya and are presently already operating trials with 4G using the same bandwidth and getting ready to meet their own deadline for a general rollout of the hitherto fastest wireless broadband system in Kenya.
However, the Kenyan government has now apparently decided that the 4G network should become ‘universal and commonly owned’ to allow greater access to the service across the country, a decision which may not be in every operator’s own interest, especially not the market leaders, while the ‘lesser’ players will see a chance to muscle into a market without having to invest beyond their means. It was learned that the new network development would be free of the initial license fees which for the early introduction of the present 3G networks cost communications companies as much as 15 million and more US Dollars and raised a huge storm of disagreement when latecomers were asked to pay much less.
How the change of policy will affect the time frame of having 4G available in Kenya on a nationwide basis is now a matter of much speculation, while across the border in Uganda 4G, at least in select parts of Kampala, is now a reality already.
POACHING PERSISTS INSPITE OF LIPSERVICE TO THE CONTRARY
The arrest last week of a game warden and almost a dozen poachers around the Lukwati Forest Reserve once again underscored the need of not just greater vigilance but also the need to commit sufficient resources to permit law enforcement an even chance to prevent poaching and through show of force and numbers deter what seems to be commercial gangs plundering the Tanzanian natural resources.
A special operation was mounted by wardens and rangers from other parts of the country to prevent the leaking of the information to the culprits in advance, and subsequently many of them were nabbed with trophies, skins and firearms confiscated in the process, both inside the reserve and outside.
Tanzania had earlier in the year attempted to get special permission from the CITES Secretariat in Lusaka to put several tons of ivory on the international market as a one off sale, but was denied a permit when it became clear that not enough was being done to fight poaching across the country, amongst other reasons advanced by the opponents of the deal. Officials then were swift to decry the decision taken, vowed to lodge another application and generally denied accusations of doing little about the illegal trade of birds and animal products from or via Tanzania, yet available records of seizures of ivory abroad were trailed back to Tanzania as the exit point from Africa.
Considering the present upswing in Southern Africa of poaching operations, in near war like circumstances using helicopters, aircraft, communications systems and organised transportation, Eastern Africa better get ready to face this menace head on, should the temptation to such commercial poaching spread into our region and mobilise not just rangers and wardens but also enlist other law enforcement and security organs like special army units to be able to withstand the onslaught seen in Southern Africa this year.
Much of the illicit ivory and rhino horns, besides skins and trophies, are thought to find their way into the black and grey market in the Far and South East, where demand – following the economic recovery – appears to have rocketed and where the hunger and greed for ivory carvings seems to go on unhindered by authorities in the ‘consumer’ countries.
In a related development it was also learned over the weekend that the illegal cutting of tropical hardwood, with special reference to existing teak plantation, seems to be on the rise too, as allegedly corrupt officials appear to conspire with timber traders and exporters to clear wide areas of these diminishing forests are increased pace, again shipping the logs to the Far and South East, while Europe and North America have largely put a ban of these precious woods in place. Watch this space.
CLIMATE CHANGE ON EAC SUMMIT IN DECEMBER
Arusha will welcome the 12th ordinary summit of the heads of state of the East African Community in early December, at which time climate change will be on the agenda. The participants will discuss counter measures and mitigation mainly to achieve food security for the growing populations of the five member countries, which is closely linked to not just regular and sufficient rains but to a growing degree also to irrigation, yet with the icecaps of Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya and the Rwenzori Mountains shrinking this resource may over the space of the next 20 years almost completely vanish. Observers from international organizations concerned about the impact of climate change on the African continent in particular will be pleased to see this crucial issue raised at the head of state summit, giving some hope at least that the gravity of the problem has at last been recognised and is gradually being tackled.
PRESIDENT KIKWETE TO OPEN MT. MERU HOTEL ON 17TH DECEMBER
Fresh out of his re-election campaign and at the start of his second and final term of office under the Tanzanian constitution, will President Kikwete formally re-open the Mt. Meru Hotel in Arusha, which has undergone a full rehabilitation and refurbishment over the past several years.
The Mt. Meru was initially opened by the late President ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere as part of then Tanzania Lodges and Hotels, but has since changed hands and management repeatedly before the new owners spent about 35 billion Tanzania Shillings to return Arusha’s formerly leading hotel to the top of their class. Located next to Arusha’s main golf course and near to the International Conference Centre the hotel will undoubtedly once again play a major role to promote visits to Tanzania’s northern safari circuit as the by-line ‘safari capital of Eastern Africa’ springs from the reality that Arusha indeed is the springboard to see the national parks of Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti, or else spend time in the Arusha National Park or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It is expected that President Kikwete will comment on the highly controversial plans of constructing a highway across the migration paths of the Serengeti, especially as his recent fact-finding mission only got as far as Manyara and Ngorongoro before abruptly moving on to Dodoma for state duties.
The opposition against the controversial project has been growing in recent months, after the news of the plans were broken here and it is understood that intense consultations are ongoing to avoid a potential mega blunder by the Tanzanian government which could not just heavily impact on the migration but in a worst case scenario wipe it out altogether. Watch this space.
‘LOBBYISTS’ AGAINST SERENGETI HIGHWAY CHANGE TUNES
It could in the short time available since obtaining the information overnight not be ascertained, if or how several organisations previously totally opposed to the planned highway across the Serengeti migration routes arrived at their sudden change of heart, but several organisations were quoted yesterday as having given qualified support to the project.
While insisting that a full Environmental and Social Impact Assessment must be carried out by qualified consultants before a single grader moves, the undercurrent of their position has fundamentally changed when they did offer a different viewpoint, expressed on behalf of other organisation by a representative of SEPDA, or in long Serengeti Environmental Protection and Development Association.
Some sections of conservationists opposed to the highway immediately threw doubt on the research done by SEPDA, or their mandate, and raised questions – without present answers – as to who the backers, funders and Godfathers of SEPDA were and what, if any links, they had with government.
This is another twist in the tail of this story which has captivated NGO’s, conservation groups, organisations and individuals from across the world, all demanding in unison to spare the Serengeti the fate of destruction and obey the teachings of Tanzania’s founding father the late ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere, who was during his time throwing all the support behind conservation efforts spearheaded by the Frankfurt Zoological Society and many others. Watch this space.
SAFARI PLUS TO FLY KEMPINSKI CLIENTS TO KEMPINSKI RESORTS
News broke last weekend that Safari Plus, a locally registered ‘safari’ or charter airline, will start air operations in early 2011 with a Beechcraft 1900 and a King Air 350B. The associate company of Kempinski Hotels appears set to fly on a daily basis from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, where the global hotel group operates the Zamani Kempinski Resort before routing on to the Serengeti where the Bilila Kempinski Lodge is located. It was not made clear if existing airlines were initially considered for a partnership to operate on behalf of the group or if Kempinski wanted to have an ‘in house operation’ it could control 100 percent and where quality assurance was also under their control.
While learning about this development it was also ascertained that the visiting Vice President for Africa of Kempinski Hotels announced during his visit to Dar es Salaam that the group had plans to build another hotel in Arusha and a second resort in Zanzibar to cater for growing demand, although they did not mention plans to invest in other national parks or game reserves, where previously they were connected with the Selous for a potential new top of the range safari lodge. Watch this space.
TCAA DECRIES LOSS OF AIR TRAFFIC
The annual report by the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority showed a worrying trend for the year 2009, when a nearly 15 percent drop of aircraft movements was recorded from domestic, regional and international airlines flying into and around the country. Passenger numbers too had reduced by nearly 4 percent and cargo shipments by air too suffered substantially in the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis.
However, a source in Dar es Salaam has assured this correspondent that for the subsequent year 2010 the TCAA expects a recovery of the lost ‘ground’ and in fact hopes to achieve if not exceed pre-crisis levels, as interest by international and regional airlines has grown again.
That said, Ugandan aviators continue to demand equitable and fair treatment when flying to Tanzania, as far as access to ALL airfields is concerned but also for immediate issuance of clearances, if not to be given the so called ‘block clearances’ when ferrying passengers from Uganda to Tanzania on chartered flights.
The TCAA has long been accused to be the slowest to react to the political advances of the East African Community and to have erected substantial non tariff barriers aimed at keeping airlines registered in the other four member states of the EAC out of their skies.
RWANDAIR SET FOR BRAZZAVILLE FLIGHTS
Following a recent state visit by President Kagame to the Republic of Congo’s capital Brazzaville, agreement has also been reached to commence air operations between the two capital cities. It is understood that the planned flights between Kigali and Kinshasa may in fact be extended ‘across the river Congo’ into Brazzaville, when these flights are eventually launched, in order to combine the two destinations, as non stop ‘stand alone’ flights would arguably not be financially viable.
RwandAir also confirmed these developments late last week but was not able to give an anticipated date when the flights would be launched.
SWITCHING TRAFFIC TO THE ‘LEFT’ NOT ANY TIME SOON
It was learned over the weekend that efforts towards bringing Rwanda in line with the traffic ‘mode’ in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania – i.e. move it to the left, were not moving forward any time soon. A study undertaken by government consultants did apparently not give enough ‘benefits’ to the country out of the move inspite of apparently more pro’s than con’s were established when sourcing opinions and feedback from across Rwanda. Until such time therefore, that this question is resolved one way or another, it will be ‘careful careful’ for drivers from the other EAC countries when driving to Rwanda and they have to ‘switch sides’ at the border.
GORILLA RELOCATION TO CONGO UNDERWAY
Information was received from Kigali that a planned and long committed relocation of initially two, and later on several more mountain gorillas was being carried out on Tuesday, 23rd of November from Kiningi / Western Rwanda to the Eastern Congo, where according to a usually well informed source a sanctuary has been established. The gorillas came to Rwanda from the Eastern Congo several years ago after being injured and orphaned in poachers raids, as protection of the prized animals was ultimately better – and some say it still is – compared to the Congo, where the national park is beset with problems of militias roaming the parks, refugees periodically retreating into the forests to seek shelter when fighting breaks out and more rampant poaching in general as a result of many years to insecurity and warfare.
The relocation of a 9 year old female and a 6 year old partially disabled male will mark the start of the process of returning the animals to their ‘home country’, under the cooperation between the Rwanda Development Board, park management authorities from DRC and Uganda, the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration and partner NGOs like Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, International Gorilla Conservation Program, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund/Karisoke Research Center.
Six more such animals will be returned to the Congo in due course, after establishing that this initial relocation has been successful and did not harm or disturb the social behaviour of the first two in any way.
FRESH TROUBLES HALT TOURISM RECOVER
The outbreak of more violence and persistent rumours over a ‘coup d’ etat’ last week by sections of the armed forces have caused outright dismay in the country’s tourism fraternity, as ‘bad news’ were once again filling the TV screens across the globe.
While sources close to the current regime, also in power courtesy of a coup since March 2009, denied the reports and spoke of a limited mutiny, this is nevertheless another spanner in the works of the tourism promoters for Madagascar, who have seen tourist arrivals reduce to trickles when in fact the island’s natural attractions should drawn in a steady stream of visitors to see the national parks with the unique Lemurs or else enjoy the tropical beaches. A referendum was being held on the day to decide on the regime leader’s proposed change of the present age barrier for those running for the presidency, but with all opposition parties boycotting the vote, and three former presidents also denouncing the referendum, any outcome will have no legitimacy at all for the already widely discredited and shunned Rajoelina and his backers.
AFFORDABLE INTERNET FOR VISITORS BY KOKONET
Tourists coming to the archipelago can now finally enjoy affordable internet connections, since ‘Kokonet’ has introduced prepaid access cards to their network, which is available across the key ‘inner’ islands of the Seychelles, namely Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.
50 Rupees a day, less than 5 US Dollars, or 250 Rupees a week will give tourists the option to connect just for a day or a week, depending on the length of their stay, while being able to access the web through designated hotspots and in participating locations like Eden Island. Downloads according to a source from Victoria are unlimited, giving in particular business and tourist visitors who do not need monthly connections, excellent value for their money. Many hotels and resorts to also offer internet access to their guests, some via a chargeable service while others offer the connection for free. Global research has put free internet access in hotels and resorts into the top three demands by guests but this has yet to reach more hoteliers and hotel owners and operators, many of whom still consider the provision of these essential services an item to be billed for profit.
SPAT OVER TRAFFIC RIGHTS DOMINATES INTER ISLAND MEETING
A recent meeting of the Indian Ocean Economic Forum in Victoria produced some remarkable ‘spats’ between Air Austral and Air Seychelles, instead of making headway over the many pressing economic issues which beset small island states and Indian Ocean rim countries.
It is understood that tourism cooperation under the theme ‘Iles Vanille’ was to be discussed and endorsed but it was over air access to the Comoros islands that the waves really went high. Under disagreement were apparently traffic rights from Mahe to Mayotte, a French territory neighbouring the main Comoros islands, and it was a delegate from there lighting the fire when claiming that the French aviation authorities were denying Air Seychelles ‘fair access’ to the island, in the process permitting Air Austral to keep their fare levels high, while the introduction of the planned three flights per week from Paris via Mahe to Mayotte would make air travel considerably more affordable.
Air Seychelles reacted to the claims by confirming that they were up to now not granted certain traffic rights to Mayotte, suggesting in the process that this amounted to unfair protection by the French aviation licensing body. Air Austral then fired back claiming that they were happy with the current arrangements and anything else would eat into their profit margins – a thinly concealed admission that a back room arrangement must have been reached between the airline and the French aviation authority to keep competition off the route. Said one regular source in Mahe to this correspondent: ‘We are all talking about liberalisation of air traffic, and here in Seychelles the concessions made to foreign airlines have been massive, to the point of having to cut routes by Air Seychelles like to Frankfurt / Germany earlier this year. Gulf airlines have been uplifting traffic from there at way below the fares charged by our own airline, all in the interest of bringing more flights to Mahe and more visitors to our shores. BUT, as this example of protection by the French shows, we must never lose sight of the national interest overall, and having our own airline is very very important especially in times of crisis, when foreign airlines cut back immediately. I think our government has to find a balance between wanting more tourists to come and maintaining a profitable Air Seychelles, because they are the only real guarantee we have to stay connected to the world’. True words and fodder for thought.
FIDELIO TO SPONSOR SEYCHELLES TOURISM ACADEMY
It was learned over the last weekend that the STA has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with hotel software and solutions provider Fidelio. Students will benefit from the newly announced cooperation as Fidelio is reportedly for the next 24 months sponsoring hardware and software for Seychelles’ premier hotel and tourism training institution to allow students to learn already at the STA what awaits them at the workplace. Fidelio is a widely used system and many hotels, even if not using Fidelio outright, will use other providers’ software which operates along similar lines, permitting the graduates from STA to be quite conversant with the work tools they find when they enter employment.
STA also confirmed that a trainer will come to the institution next year to review the programme absorption and assist lecturers to make best use of the available support. Well done STA for continuing to explore all avenues available to improve the facilities and courses for the students.
SEYCHELLES SHOWS DETERMINATION IN FIGHT AGAINST OCEAN TERROR
The Seychelles navy and coastguard, supported by aerial assets provided to them by the naval coalition against piracy and operating out of Mahe, last week showed the proverbial ‘flag’ again and in a robust and determined action re-captured a hijacked vessel, rescued the hostages without harming any of them and arrested the Somali ocean terrorists. The latter were already produced in court where they are charged with a variety of offences in regard to ocean piracy and terrorism while all the abductees were safely returned to their families on the archipelago.
Seychelles is one of the few countries showing real determination to rid their waters of the Somali menace, not only because the country depends on fishing and tourism but from a deep commitment that the sea lanes across the extensive territorial waters of the Seychelles must be kept free for all ocean traffic and permit tourists to sail the islands while the fishermen go after their daily business in peace.
Both the country’s president James Michel and the responsible minister Joel Morgan were present to greet their fellow countrymen and express their delight and appreciation to the navy and coast guard personnel who once again stood up against the menace and defied it by a determined show of force. The ‘Topaz’ used for the operation was incidentally donated by India to the Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates have pledged 5 more ocean going vessels to secure the Seychellois waters against intruders and threats.
The message from the Seychelles is clear now: do not come into our waters as we are ready for you, will challenge you and capture you before putting you on trial. Anyone in Somalia listening yet ???
South Sudan News
SUDANESE POUND EFFECTIVELY DEVALUED
The Central Bank in Khartoum came to face the inevitable when owning up to the chronical shortages of foreign exchange which beset the country in recent months, after according to sources from Juba / Southern Sudan much of the hard currency earned through oil exports was squandered by the Northern regime through the alleged purchase of armaments to boost their war in Darfur and ‘get ready’ for ‘maybe another round in the South’.
Foreign exchange bureaus were reportedly authorised to purchase and sell hard currency at a ‘premium’ effectively reflecting on the fallen value of the Sudanese Pound over the past year or so. However, banking industry observers called the margin of about 17 percent as ‘way below the current black market rates’ and immediately called – at least the Southern sources this correspondent was in touch with – for a total freeing of the dealings in hard currencies or else the introduction of a ‘realistic’ premium.
At the same time traders were hit with yet more regulations, as the Central Bank also instructed the commercial banks to ensure 100 percent financial cover for any letters of credit to be opened to guarantee import bills, which is a potentially dangerous development as import of goods could grind to a halt, should the Central Bank in Khartoum not yield to demands from the business community.
Meanwhile is the South counting down towards the January 09th referendum when the population will decide on their independence, something all sources in the South Sudan confirm as ‘inevitable and totally justified, considering the reactionary treatment accorded to us by the regime in Khartoum’. Watch this space.
And courtesy of Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ here are some very interesting articles about the migration of wild animals from Angola into Zambia, blissfully unaware that the two governments are still negotiating of how best to ‘permit’ this and another about the imminent launch of the ‘Southern Belle’ by Protea Hotels on Lake Kariba. Also included are details about the recent upswing in poaching along the Caprivi Strip in Namibia and the government of Botswana finally regulating the use of ‘green and eco…’ but prescribing guidelines – something we could well do with here in Uganda where owners habitually describe their properties as ‘green, ecofriendly’ and even luxurious, none of them arguably ever having seen true luxury …
Tourism Minister Signs Agreement
From the Times of Zambia
Minister of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources Catherine Namungala has said her ministry has formulated a unique policy of partnering with the Angolan government in facilitating the migration of 40,000 wild animals from that country to Zambia.
Namugala told journalists at a press briefing that the wild animals were expected to enter Zambia by March next year.
She said the initiative was a key product in the ministry because it was aimed at promoting the tourism industry in the country and abroad.
She said government had placed much emphasis on the tourism sector as one of the key driver in the economic prosperity of the country.
The Minister said her ministry would also document the migration of the animals to show case to the Zambian people and the world at large of Zambia’s tourism attractions.
I must say that I was rather confused about this strange article … so I read some of the comments below the article on the website:
While the two governments have been negotiating, the Gnu’s and Zebra’s have been happily migrating between the two countries for years unaware that there’s no deal yet. We know this because we have seen it on National Geographic. The minister should have put this differently.
Sloppy journalism…These 40,000 animals are patiently waiting on the Angolan border until they see this agreement?
As both these comments note, the wild animals in this article obviously refer to the wildebeest migration which occurs annually between Liuwa Plain and the surrounding areas – some of which is in Angola. The last information which I was given said that the wildebeest now number around 50,000. Many do migrate to Angola but some move within Zambia to the north; some are now preferring to stay within the sanctuary of the park.
The park is run by African Parks and they are doing a phenomenal job in such a remote area. More animals are being re-introduced. As you may have seen on the TV, Lady Liuwa was the single lioness in the park. African Parks has brought in two male lions from Kafue in the hopes that it can be the start of a new pride. They have also brought in eland which are happily settling down to their new home.
Liuwa Plain is one of my favourite parks. It is so remote and there is enough sky for anyone. Love it.
The wildebeest migration is on now. The wildebeest have moved from their dry season grounds to the vast Liuwa Plain to have their young and to feed on the new grass. They will move away again in March/April as the land starts to dry up.
Robin Pope runs fly-in safaris at various times of the year, otherwise it is left to self-drive enthusiasts. It is a two-day drive from Livingstone or from Lusaka. 4×4 is absolutely necessary and the park is only accessible in the dry season.
To reach Liuwa it is necessary to cross the Barotse Floodplain. Once upon a time the Government did try to construct a causeway across this vast area but it now lies in ruins and vehicles have to struggle through deep sand. Also, to reach Liuwa from Livingstone it is essential to use three ferries – two across the Zambezi and one across the Luanginga.
Personally, I don’t think that the park can take thousands of visitors. I do think, though, that if the government can reduce the cost of licensing and aviation fuel, fly-in safaris would become more affordable. If we want to increase tourism in Zambia, flying from one destination to another has to be more realistically priced. Only then will Zambia capitalise on its stunning tourist attractions.
Full steam ahead for the Southern Belle
The US$1 million-plus refurbishment of Protea Hotel’s latest project, the Southern Belle, has been completed. Bookings have now opened for the maiden Zambian voyage of the old steam-style boat, which was an institution in the waters of Lake Kariba on the Zimbabwe side for more than a decade.
Since the completion of her refurbishment, the Southern Belle, operated by Protea Hotels, has undergone lake trials, all of which have proven incredibly successful. The vessel’s first official voyage takes place on 1 December, and bookings have already begun to pour in, says the group.
“The renovation of the Southern Belle has been a lengthy process, and we’re absolutely thrilled that we’ve managed to execute it timeously and immaculately. Our first series of lake trials have been a great success, and we simply can’t wait to welcome visitors aboard in December,” said Mark O’Donnell, Chairman of Protea Hotels Zambia.
Renovations to the vessel have been extensive, but all 22 refurbished en-suite cabins have remained sympathetic to the design elements that make up a classic steam boat. Massive interior refurbishments have also taken place. All the original décor and furnishings have been stripped, and the old generators have been replaced with more energy-efficient alternatives, as well as solar energy water heating systems.
The newly completed Southern Belle also features a conference room for up to 40 people, a shop, restaurant and bar, and a top deck with bar and a swimming pool. All guests will be welcomed aboard the vessel at the newly completed base station, which features a thatched verandah as well as a secure parking facility.
The Southern Belle will operate from the base station in Manchinchi Bay near Siavonga on Lake Kariba. International guests can fly in to Lusaka International Airport.
O’Donnell said guests could charter the vessel for one to five nights, depending on group requirements. The Southern Belle would depart from the base station at noon and return at 10h00 on the final day.
|FRIENDS OF HWANGE TRUST|
|Saving Zimbabwe’s largest National Park
In partnership with Wildlife & Environment Zimbabwe and The National Parks & Wildlife Management Authority
Newsletter November 2010
Dear Friends of Hwange
Once again we are at the height of the dry season and water is at a premium in Hwange National Park. Four weeks ago the water levels in our pans were reasonably good, but the oppressive heat and rapid evaporation combined with the animals’ heightened thirst for water has lowered water levels in the pans. Towering thunderclouds threaten daily but to date only a few raindrops have fallen in the park. We await the forthcoming rains with much anticipation.
The past year has been a good one for FOH. We have been able to realise a number of goals since the beginning of the year and for this we extend grateful thanks to many donors and people who have contributed in cash and kind. The vehicle purchased for Gary earlier in the year is performing well. Funds from WEZ Matabeleland Branch, Zimbabwe Wildlife Fund (ZWF) Australia in addition to money raised at our March dinner/dance were used to purchase a near new Nissan Patrol. The vehicle’s reliability has made a huge difference to Gary being able to do his job efficiently.
We are at an advanced stage of achieving the installation of a solar unit to pump water at Kennedy 2 Pan. This is hugely exciting for FOH as it is our sincere hope that this project will mark the beginning of being able to provide sustainable and “green” water pumping systems at more pans in the future. For this first project we are hugely indebted to the British Embassy in Harare in addition to the ZWF who generously stepped in to assist us at the last minute.
During the past dry season we have managed to continuously pump all the pans we are responsible for. This has been done using our faithful Lister engines and we extend heartfelt thanks to Baker’s Inn, National Foods, Redan Petroleum, the ZWF as well as a Zimbabwe donor who wishes to remain anonymous for their most generous donations of money for the purchase of diesel. It must be said that without the commitment of Wayne Monks and his hard working ZWF committee in Australia, Friends of Hwange would have had a different story to tell. We cannot express enough how much we appreciate their contributions not only to our cause, but to numerous other wildlife organisations in Zimbabwe.
Our windmills have played a part in helping to keep our pans supplied with water, although we had to effect some repairs to the systems in July. Dave St Quintin held a successful Golf Day in Cape Town recently which raised a good sum of money, and we have also held several raffles to help boost our coffers. Locally, Johan Smit held a fun golf day at Sherwood Golf Course and raised some well appreciated funds. Dave Dell managed to raise a substantial sum at this year’s annual Kariba Invitation Tiger Fish Tournament with the sale of his Wildlife CDs and some colourful FOH T-shirts kindly sponsored by Fuchs Lubricants and printed at a reasonable price by Texcolour. We thank the KITFT committee at Kariba for affording us the opportunity of using their event to raise funds. We also extend thanks to Guy Patrikios of Lewisam Butchery in Avondale Harare, Glen Bruk-Jackson of Supreme Butchery in Chisipite Harare, Greg McDonald of Big Five Wines and John Gillon of the Hwange Conservation Society UK for their willingness to contribute to our cause. A huge thank you also to the Wildlife Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ) for their constant and unwavering support and in particular Colin Gillies, John Brebner and Pam Birch. We’d also like to express our sincere appreciation to Gary Cantle, FOH’s man in the park for his ongoing and tireless hard work under very difficult working conditions.
And lastly, as always, thanks to the many individuals who have given donations, big or small, over the last few months. Every bit helps.
That’s it from us for now. Have a wonderful festive season and try to make it to one of our many fantastic National Parks. Let’s hope the rains are kind to us so that next time you hear from us, Hwange is awash with green and with water resources to see us through well into next year.
Elephant Poaching in the Caprivi Strip
Miraculously, Namibia has escaped the alarming rise in rhino poaching seen in neighboring South Africa and Zimbabwe, but it seems the nation’s elephants are now being targeted for their ivory. Cedric Mundia, Game Warden for Caprivi Regional Service in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), spoke recently about an upsurge in organized elephant poaching in the Caprivi Area. His claim is backed by ten reported cases of the pachyderms being slaughtered for their ivory outside several game parks, as well as several other “commercial ivory poaching” incidents that have taken place in Mamili National Park, Mudumu Game Park, and Bwabwata National Park.
In the most recent of these events, an extremely large bull elephant was shot and killed just three kilometers from the village of Lizauli. It happened during a time when police and security presence was high, due to a visit to the area from the country’s president. According to the New Era, a junior induna, Simasiku Vincent Simasiku, reported hearing gunfire from the bush, and the large male was discovered dead on his knees the following day by a villager who was out collecting wood.
When rangers arrived at the scene they found only the tusk-less carcass and some spent rifle cartridges meters away. No meat had been cut from the animal, signifying that his killers were only after the ivory. Simasiku says there have been at least three other elephants poached in that area in recent times. Two were shot in a single incident, while a third was slaughtered alone.
In September, villagers found three gunned down elephant carcasses on the southern banks of the Zambezi River, all of them stripped of their ivory. AK-47 cartridges were found at the scene, and investigators believe it was the work of a poaching gang that crossed into Namibia from Zambia. Tragically, several calves were left orphaned as a result. The area where these three were slaughtered is located along an elephant migratory corridor that links to Botswana’s Chobe National Park, which holds one of the largest elephant populations in all of Africa.
In the wake of the blazing rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, the Namibian government issued a powerful statement in September, warning all poachers that their crimes would not be met lightly. The southwest African nation has some of the stiffest penalties in the continent for poaching protected species, with a strong history of arresting, prosecuting, and convicting offenders. Indeed, strict law enforcement and community action is key to curbing poaching and illegal wildlife trade. …
Botswana Introduces Ecotourism Certification
The Ecotourism Certification System is based on such standards as the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and Green Key. The voluntary program is open to all hotels, lodges, and tour operators regardless of their size and the 5 guiding principles of the Ecotourism Certification System are:
- 1. Minimizing negative social, cultural and environmental impacts
- 2. Maximizing the involvement in and the equitable distribution of economic benefits to host communities
- 3. Maximizing revenues for reinvestment in conservation
- 4. Educating visitors and locals as to the importance of conserving natural and cultural resources
- 5. Delivering a quality experience for tourists
The 3 certification levels are:
- Green: a basic entry level certification that reflects the mandatory environmental management systems criteria necessary for a tour operator to be considered for certification
- Green+: awarded to those tour operators who have met the mandatory criteria and have scored at least 22 more points toward other criteria
- Ecotourism: reflects the tour operator’s commitment to local communities in tourism development, nature conservation, environmental management and interpretation of the surrounding environment to guests
In the first round of eco-certification, nationwide (till end of 2009), 11 Lodges and Camps completed the self assessment forms and were audited by the Ecotourism Assessors. Out of the 11 lodges and camps that applied for eco-certification, 7 were certified whilst 4 did not qualify for eco-certification.
The seven camps certified at the different levels include
i) Ecotourism level: Little Vumbura Camp; Savuti Bush Camp, Zarafa Camp,
ii) Green+ level: Jao Camp; Kwetsani Camp,
iii) Green level: Nxai Pan Camp; Vumbura Plains Camp. Five (Little Vumbra Camp, Jao Camp, Vumbra Plains Camp, Kwetsanai Camp and Zarafa Camp) out of the seven lodges and camps that were eco-certified are located within the Okavango Delta, and constitutes about 8% of all tourism establishments in the Delta proper.
TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Third edition November 2010
IDD MUBARAK TO ALL THE MUSLIM FAITHFUL ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO PERFORMED THE HAJ PILGRIMAGE THIS YEAR
THE CHANDLERS ARE HOME – TIME TO END THIS MENACE ‘FROM HELL’ The Chandler couple, abducted by Somali ocean terrorists well over a year ago off their yacht in international waters, incidentally with a UK naval unit passively standing by and watching the capture, have finally been freed last weekend and since returned via Nairobi / Kenya to the UK. Their yearlong ordeal came to an end after reportedly ransom was paid through intermediaries, as neither special forces units nor the Somali government and local authorities were able to get them out of the hell hole Somalia has become over the years. While this troubling episode is now finally over with the safe return home of the Chandlers, the threat on the ocean off the Horn of Africa continues and has in fact spread and only recently was a record ransom paid to the ocean terrorists to free another ship, only encouraging them to try it again and again. Presently over 500 crew members of the 23 vessels known of to be still held are at the mercy of the terrorists, held in atrocious conditions often with water, food and medical supplies at the verge of running out. Meanwhile has Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni once again called for more troops to be injected into Somalia, saying what is long now an open ‘secret’ and has been repeatedly stated here too – it will have to be troops on the ground ending the insurgency and keeping Al Qaida out of Somalia and not naval forces. Uganda presently has already thousands of troops in Somalia under an African Union ‘peace keeping force’, a gross misnomer as there is no peace to keep at right now in Somalia, necessitating a bold change of the troop’s mission mandate and their rules of engagement. For months now have calls been made unsuccessfully to impose a complete sea and air embargo on Somalia’s lawless territory, and then robustly take down the pirate infrastructure on land, denying them access to the sea while effectively shutting down their retreats and safe havens on shore. It is a known fact that some of the ransom money has found its way into the Somali offspring of Al Qaida, Al Shabah, and there are more and more indications that there is a regular and increasing flow of those Islamic militants and terrorists between Yemen, located only a couple of miles across the narrow sea strait from Somalia. The latter is of course a failed state since the early 1990’s and has become a conducive breeding, training and assembly point for internationally wanted terrorists from where they plan and instigate acts of terror against the rest of the world. The freeing of the Chandlers should be a final wake up call to members of the naval coalition, which undoubtedly has done much good so far but not delivered safe passage to ocean traffic, to review their own commitments to the overall mission, and join Ugandan and Burundian troops on the ground to cleanse the country from all pirates and terrorists before helping the many innocent Somalis to elect a legitimate government which can then be supported under a ‘Somali Marshall Plan’ to rebuild the country from its present ruins and reclaim its place in the family of nations. Only a combined sea and air blockade, with the support of stronger troop levels under clear combat rules, can solve the problem of Somalia. Left only and entirely to ‘us proxies’ Uganda (and Burundi) will not very likely bring an early conclusion to piracy and terrorism nor bring peace to the county’s long suffering population. We in Uganda have already suffered twin bombings when Al Shabab hit the city on the eve of the World Cup final and only the extreme vigilance of our security forces, supported by such friendly organizations as the FBI, British and other security services, have prevented more such incidents. Airlines in Uganda were also warned last week to be extra vigilant, as Al Shabab threats again emerged against the aviation sector, and Uganda should not be left alone to shoulder the burden of a fight which has global dimensions, considering the limited resources we can muster and afford. Trade, shipping and relevant to the tourism industry the valuable cruise operations have all been affected along the Eastern African seaboard, from the Mozambique Channel across the Indian Ocean islands to the Gulf of Aden and beyond towards the Arabian Sea, evasion and protection measures driven transportation and insurance cost up, making imports and exports more expensive and yet not seeing the piracy, aka ocean terrorism problem brought under control. Until and unless their land bases and safe havens are being robustly and decisively cleansed of these elements, and Somalia at large be rid of any Al Qaida affiliates, this festering problem will not go away and in fact become worse, should the Islamic radicals begin to infiltrate their neighbours to create new fronts and new theatres of war as they have now started to threaten. Watch this space.
BREAKING NEWS CHOBE SAFARI LODGE OPENING FOR WEDNESDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER
Watch this space for the full report in next week’s edition, or the ‘live Twitter update’ from the site on the day.
HEAVY TRAFFIC TO USE BYPASS FROM END NOVEMBER
With the completion of the ‘northern bypass’ around the city relief is in sight for Kampala motorists, as heavy ‘through’ traffic must now use the half circle bypass highway when coming from the border with Kenya and are destined for Eastern Congo, Rwanda and Burundi and Southern Sudan. The trucks will be directed on to the new route by traffic wardens and traffic police, ensuring that only cargos destined for Kampala itself can enter the city, while all other heavy traffic will from the 25th November no longer be permitted to drive through an already congested city centre. This will also be good news for the long suffering Kampaleans vis a vis the ever increasing potholes in many parts of the city, some of which have now eaten their way across entire roads, leaving craters capable of swallowing up a small car. Central government has already committed a massive emergency road repair programme due to be rolled out in coming days and weeks, now that they have taken over the maintenance of all city roads from the hapless city council, which was in recent years more in the news over corruption allegations than for delivering essential services to the citizens of Uganda’s capital. Watch this space.
NEW NILE BRIDGE TO OPEN IN 2016
Information was given last week by the Ministry of Works and Transport, that the new bridge across the Nile in Jinja, worth 109 million US Dollars and largely financed by the Government of Japan, is expected to be ready by 2016. Construction start was given as 2012, with the time until then needed to finalise the purchase and compensation for land and advertise for international tenders before selecting a main contractor. The new bridge is expected to ease the flow of traffic across the Nile, presently the only lifeline connecting the East of the country to the central part of Uganda, and crucially important as an import and export axis between the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa and the hinterland countries of Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Congo, Southern Sudan, often even Western Tanzania and of course Uganda itself. A railway bridge near the ‘old’ bridge across the Owens Falls hydroelectric dam is not capable to be converted for road traffic and is also expected to be upgraded when the rehabilitation of the main railway and conversion into the internationally accepted ‘standard gauge’ goes underway. The ‘old bridge’, once the new one is operational, will be rehabilitated and used as a standby facility though not open for ‘general traffic’ at that time.
MARKETING BONANZA FOR AIRTEL BRANDING
November 23rd has been named as the ‘launch day’ for an extensive re-branding campaign, during which Celtel then Zain will finally become Bharti ‘Airtel’, reflecting the new Indian based owners. Some 15 African countries, including neighbouring Kenya, will see the name Zain disappear from bill boards, media advertisements and TV commercials in a flurry of activity, as marketers hit the roads, markets, bus stations and public places while print and electronic media will smile all the way to the bank at least until the end of the year, if not well into 2011. The rebranding from Celtel to Zain in 2008 reportedly cost some 40 million US Dollars but this campaign may reach the 100 million US Dollar mark, as the battle for subscribers, pre- and post-paid will only intensify some more. Main rival MTN has already lowered their call tariffs to 5 ‘favourite’ numbers from 3 to 2 Uganda Shillings, bringing the per minute charges down to 120 Uganda Shillings, but observers generally expect that Kenyan tariff levels may be reached, should Bharti – a company with over a hundred million subscribers and deep pockets bursting at the seams from the monthly cash flow – decide that they would wish to copy what they did in Kenya a few weeks ago, where tariffs are now as low as 81 Uganda Shillings per minute to the delight of the subscribers and companies having accounts with them. Here in Uganda meanwhile has market leader introduced a rather selective tariff of 1 Shilling per second, making it 60 Shillings per minute, but available only to subscribers buying a 3-pack of SIM cards – how more deceptive can advertising get one wonders and how much more desperate will phone companies get as the tariff wars hot up in coming weeks. Customers have meanwhile held back with purchasing new handsets as they expect the mobile phone companies to offer them at throw away prices when the battle commences on the 23rd of this month, so watch this space for upcoming news.
KENYA TOURIST BOARD TO ATTEND GLOBAL GOLF TOURISM FAIR
The KTB is partnering with several private sector companies to promote golfing holidays to Kenya, when attending one of the world’s leading golf tourism trade fairs this week in Spain. A private sector group, the Kenya Golf Marketing Alliance has driven the agenda so far to make Kenya a country renowned around the world for both its championship class golf courses but also for ‘safari golfing’. Tourism marketing strategists feel that a large number of existing and upcoming golf courses across the country, combined with wildlife safaris and fabulous beaches, will allow Kenya to tap into a market worth billions of US Dollars annually when bringing golfers from around the world to the country. Airlines are known to value the business of golfers to an extent that many are transporting golf bags without extra charge, giving the right incentive to the golfing aficionados to travel the globe in search of new countries and new courses. Well done Kenya!
MALINDI SPA GETS GLOBAL RECOGNITION
The ‘Lion in the Sun’ Spa in Malindi has caught the eye of the highflier Tatler magazine, which in their latest edition pronounced the Spa – little known outside the circle of ‘insiders’ – as the best in the world. The award, at times compared to the movie industry ‘Oscar’, will be sweet news to former F1 Renault team principal Flavio Briatore, who owns this complex and other properties in Malindi but also to the Spa’s management company. The resort town, an hour and a half drive north of Mombasa, is a much sought after vacation place for in particular Italian tourists and many of those have over the years acquired properties in and around Malindi, making the municipality their second home. The award will also be a shot in the arm of Kenya Airways for their upcoming relaunch of nonstop flights between Nairobi and Rome, and their onward domestic connection between Nairobi and Malindi, as ‘the rich and famous’ inevitably will be drawing other tourists to Malindi to rub shoulders with them, either for real in some of the fancy restaurants, bars and nightclubs or else simply ‘by having been there too’. So while the owners will undoubtedly benefit from the Tatler’s accolade and award, so will Kenya’s entire tourism industry, allowing it to shed the unjust image of a ‘cheap destination’ and being able to show to the world that top quality operations and facilities, in the Spa sector but also the safari and resort sectors, are available for those with deep pockets and the desire for an exotic vacation.
KENYA AIRWAYS GOES ‘SHUTTLE’ TO MOMBASA
The competitive environment on the domestic Kenyan market was turned up a few notches last week when Kenya Airways launched their ‘shuttle’ service between Nairobi and Mombasa. Passengers can choose from as many as 10 daily flights between the two cities at some of the lowest fares on the market at present and the crew on the aircraft and staff at the check in also wear a distinct new uniform, signalling intent by the national flag carrier to take back market share previously lost to private airlines like Fly540, Jetlink, Air Kenya and SafariLink on flights to the coast. The expanding market however is thought to be leaving a growing ‘cake’ to be shared amongst the air operators and none of those presently flying to the coastal destinations of Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa and Ukunda are expected to reduce services or pull out altogether, just as long as the market conditions and demand are on the upswing.
INDUSTRIAL COURT RULES IN FAVOUR OF BANNING STRIKE
The management of Kenya Airways welcomed a ruling last Friday by Kenya’s Industrial Court, which prohibited the Aviation and Allied Workers Union from calling a strike, and ordered them to return to negotiations with Kenya Airways on the core issues of their disagreements. This was a new order, superseding one given much earlier when a strike was imminent, and this order will reportedly stand until the main case has been heard and been determined. Said the judge in his ruling: ‘the union had developed a consistent habit of using strikes as a panacea for real or perceived disputes and it was therefore necessary to restrain [them] from engaging further in this reckless and destructive mode…’ The union last year in August ignored a court order and went ahead with a strike which eventually cost the airline some 600+ million Kenya Shillings, causing a huge impact on the financial results for that financial year but should the radical union leadership once more resort to such illegal practises it is expected that they will be jailed this time for contempt of court and the union’s assets frozen to permit for compensation, should the case arise.
KENYA AIRWAYS SPONSORS CLASSIC SAFARI WITH 16 MILLION
Last week saw the formal announcement that Kenya Airways has renewed their sponsorship deal with the Classic Safari Rally for the years 2011 to 2015, which brings the ‘golden oldies’, both cars and drivers like Bjorn Waldegaard back to their erstwhile racing grounds in Kenya and the region. However, Classic Safari Rally racing director Surinder Thatthi immediately put his foot into the proverbial, when he decried having to leave Rwanda out of the rally for November 2011, as the hugely controversial planned highway across the Serengeti would not be ready. Thatthi was speaking either out of total ignorance over the global opposition to this highway routing across the path of the great migration or else spoke fully informed with diabolical precision against these conservation efforts, causing immediate condemnation from conservationists and NGO’s working to change the highway routing to the Southern end of the Serengeti ecosystem. Any suggestion, that a track or road through a national park should be used for racing are questionable anyway to start with, and this misstep should be clarified on as soon as possible by more senior staff at the ‘Classic Safari Rally’ headquarters and also from Kenya Airways, the latter in particular for having been hugely supportive of conservation efforts in the past and having generally a good track record for turning the ‘Pride of Africa’ green. Thatthi also upset Ugandan rally enthusiasts when he flatly ruled out a return of the event to the ‘Pearl of Africa’ citing a dense population which would make it ‘difficult’, earning him immediate acid comments from the rallying community in Uganda and turning him instantly into a ‘persona non grata’. Meanwhile it was confirmed that several former ‘East African Safari Rally’ winners, word champions and local rallying legends have confirmed their participation for the November 2011 event, to which about 60 entries are expected. Watch this space for updates.
AIRPORT INVESTMENTS ALSO TARGET CARGO
Information was received last week that the Kenyan government, already investing in upgrades and expansion of the main airports in Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu, will not only target passenger operations, i.e. terminals and parking, but also add more facilities for cargo handling. It was noted in the press release that exports of agricultural and horticultural goods, but also of fresh chilled fish fillets and crustacean are making big contributions to the national economy in terms of employment and foreign exchange earnings and required state of the art cooling, storing and processing equipment and buildings, if the trend was to continue. Meanwhile it was also confirmed that the privately owned Swissport Cargo Terminal, built at a cost of nearly 1 billion Kenya Shillings, is now operational and can transact up to 150.000 tons of cargo annually in accordance with international handling and hygiene regulations and standards, the latter of particular importance for the certification process when exporting fresh produce and chilled fish.
EAST AFRICAN TOURIST BOARD CEO’S AT WTM
The heads of the tourist boards from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, who were in London for the just concluded World Travel Market, have met the media during their tourism trade fair attendance. Kenya in particular was in a bullish mood, looking at new all time spending and arrival records from the tourism industry, but Mr. Muriithi Ndegwa did add a grain of salt to his general optimism, when asking his home government for greater funding of marketing activities for the country. He pegged optimum funding allocations to the 2 billion Kenya Shillings mark – 1 US Dollar currently exchanges to about 77 Kenya Shillings – in order to effectively cover the entire globe with promotional activities in existing, emerging and new market places. In contrast did the Rwandan participants applaud their governments’ spending and allocation of budgets, also expressing confidence that 2010 would be another record breaking year for the tourism industry, especially with more activities and options now available across the country for visitors. These were given as aviary tourism, lake tourism, cultural tourism and a variety of new ‘products’ like the Nyungwe Canopy Walk recently inaugurated. Uganda however again seems to have drawn the short straws when comparing tourism marketing budgetary allocations, with the least funding granted by government and unlike for instance Kenya also still awaiting to operationalise the tourism levy, which could assist in meeting at least some of the recurrent and development expenditure. Here it is hoped that after the next elections government makes good of decade long promises to facilitate the Uganda Tourist Board in such a way, that they can at last hold their own when promoting the country abroad and not remain the ‘poor cousin’ in comparison with Kenya and Rwanda.
EDELWEISS CHARTER TO KILIMANJARO PERMITTED TO CARRY CARGO
The planned winter season charters of Swiss’ subsidiary Edelweiss to Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro International Airport near Arusha will, according to information received from there, be able to carry cargo, space permitting of course, during its round trip between JRO and Zurich. Marketing of the cargo service will be undertaken by Swiss World Cargo, adding financial strength to the seasonal operation and offering added capacity for the export of flowers and fresh produce to the farmers in the Arusha region. It is also understood that similar arrangements have been put into place for the Edelweiss charter from Zurich to Pt. Louis in Mauritius, a marked departure from the olden days when inclusive tour charters were only permitted to carry passengers from the point of origin to the destination and back. Commercial sense has prevailed!
MT. MERU HOTEL IN ARUSHA REOPENING
December 17th has been provisionally set for the re-opening of the Mt. Meru Hotel in Arusha after well over a two years of closure for rebuilding and refurbishments. The multi million US Dollars project, a source spoke of expenditure of over 24 million US$, was long in coming and the re-opening will add much needed hotel bed capacity in Arusha, which is generally considered as the ‘safari capital of East Africa’ and springboard for such diverse activities as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or Mt. Meru to visiting the Northern parks of Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. Arusha is also known to be the seat of the East African Community headquarters and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Rwanda genocide, making the municipality a centre for meetings, conferences and conventions and bringing in a constant stream of business visitors and tourists from which the local labour and agricultural market benefits well. Congrats on the achievement and when next in Arusha an ‘on site’ evaluation of the facilities and services will follow.
FROM FUEL TO WATER – SHORTAGES LIST GROWS
Hotels and residents along the coastal stretch between Dar es Salaam and Bagamoyo have been warned that water will be in short supply for the near and medium future as a result of largely grown populations in the area. Water needs were according to a source in Dar es Salaam pegged at 450 million litres of water per day, while production hardly reaches 300 million litres of water per day, a shortfall of about one third of overall requirements. While hotels and beach resorts may get a level of priority, manufacturing too is demanding a growing share of the precious liquid while households are most likely the hardest hit in the equation of who gets what and when. Infrastructural development in the utilities sectors remains a major challenge, in Tanzania but also across the entire region, where roads, rail, water, electricity, health and education are cornerstones of public services and parastatal companies yet often undercapitalized and hence unable to perform to the expectation of the populate. After the recent fuel shortage this is another matter of concern to Tanzanians and hotel and resort operators of how best to cope in periods of short supplies and the new government, due to be appointed anytime soon after the elections of 31st October will have their hands full to make good of the many pre-election promises made, including the provision of water. Watch this space.
FORMER GERMAN ‘WARSHIP’ TO BE MADE A MUSEUM
The arguably oldest ship on the Tanzanian registry is to be turned into a museum, going by reports received from regular sources in Arusha. MV Liemba, formerly named ‘The Graf von Goetzen’, was originally built in Germany in 1913, before being shipped to the then German colony ‘Tanganyika’, where it was upon the outbreak of World War I deployed as a warship, before the crew scuttled it in 1916 to avoid capture by the British expeditionary forces. The ship was however later on salvaged, repaired and renamed MV Liemba, when she returned to service in 1927 with a capacity of about 200 tons of cargo and up to 600 passengers. The plans to turn the vessel into a floating museum and cruiseliner are aimed to attract more tourist visitors to Lake Tanganyika and the owners and regional authorities in Kigoma are reportedly discussing the project with German counterparts regarding funding and logistical support. Tanzania has many well known attractions for visiting tourists but lake tourism, both on Lake Victoria and other lakes like Tanganyika have not really been tapped into, opening a whole new spectrum of investment opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to take a calculated risk by opening up hitherto undiscovered – by tourism that is – parts of Tanzania.
WILDLIFE BODIES OVERCOME NATIONAL SQUABBLES TO COOPERATE
The wildlife bodies of Tanzania and Kenya have set aside a range of differences smouldering between the two East African neighbours over a range of issues and decided to cooperate on a joint wildlife census now unfolding in the greater Amboseli / Kilimanjaro national parks area. TANAPA and KWS partnered with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the Amboseli Trust for Elephant (ATE) and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) to establish the latest game numbers in the border transcending ecosystems between Amboseli on the Kenyan side and the greater Kilimanjaro park area on the Tanzanian side, a positive development of East African cooperation compared to the ‘usual’ bickering over border posts, cross border tourist traffic and the continued denial for airlines from other EAC member states to be treated equitably when applying for permits to fly into Tanzania’s national parks. Once census results have been released details will feature here.
RWANDA IS SO MUCH MORE THAN ‘JUST GORILLAS’
Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of tourism and conservation within the Rwanda Development Board, during her visit to the World Travel Market in London last week made it plain to stand visitors and the media, that Rwanda had a lot more to offer than ‘just gorillas’. While admittedly Rwanda is still best known for the tracking of the rare mountain gorillas in the ‘Parc de Volcanoes’ in the West of the country along the common borders with Uganda and the Congo DR, RDB has in recent years made a determined efforts to opening up new areas and attractions, to offer visitors a wider range of tourism products. The effort has largely paid off with more and more visitors coming to Rwanda and spending more time in the country, in the process pushing the tourism sector to the top of the economic performance list. A canopy walk at Nyungwe Forest National Park, said to be the first in any of East Africa’s rain forests, the expansion of tracks and viewing points in this particular park, the partnership with ‘African Parks’ which is now managing the Akagera National Park and investing over 20 million US Dollars there to improve infrastructure, but also the introduction of suitable boats to take tourists on trips along the shores of Lake Kivu, have all made an immediate impact on the tourist itineraries now offered to visitors, keeping Rwanda at the cutting edge of the East African tourism sectors. It was also ascertained that the average stay in country has now gradually moved towards the 6 day intermediate target, and with the recent start of KLM flights, operating from Amsterdam via Entebbe to Kigali five times a week, more and more tourists are expected to visit ‘the land of a thousand hills’.
ANOTHER AIRCRASH, MORE CASUALTIES
A Soviet era Antonov 24 turboprop aircraft, owned and operated by Tarco Air of Sudan, crashed mid last week while landing on an airstrip in Darfur. The accident which happened in reportedly good weather conditions in the early afternoon, is yet another tragedy for Sudan’s troubled aviation industry, which still permits the use of Soviet Union era very aged aircraft, which are literally ‘dumped’ on the African continent as more and more countries elsewhere not just severely restrict their use but outright banned them from their skies, even for overflights. This latest tragedy cost several lives amongst the 36 passengers and crew on board, and some reports speak of as many as 6 dead. Eye witnesses are quoted as saying that upon a ‘hard’ touchdown one or more of the aircraft’s tyres burst, before it then split in pieces with one section catching fire, destroying that part of the stricken craft. An air accident investigation by the Sudanese aviation authority is now underway and while one has to traditionally wait for the formal report to be submitted, the early conclusion by aviation observers is already now that the time is finally ripe to ban such aircraft and convert the fleets of Sudanese airlines to modern turboprops and jet aircraft, well maintained and operated by competent crew undergoing regular training cycles as internationally required. Meanwhile we convey our condolences to the families and friends of those who perished and were injured in the crash.
HM FINALLY STARTS CHENNAI FLIGHTS
Information was received last week that the Indian civil aviation authorities have finally granted the operating permit and approved the schedule for the Air Seychelles operated flight between Mahe and Chennai. The operation is code shared with Air India, and yet does it appear have rival airlines, ostensibly not happy with Air India’s access to the Seychelles and beyond, thrown spanners into the works of having the paper work approved in time. Air Seychelles confirmed again, that instead of the mandatory 60 day application period they actually presented, i.e. hand delivered, the dossier 100 days in advance and were vigorously following up on the progress of their application, but were thwarted by allegedly individuals in league with competitors. This may also be the reason that the airline has not made progress to operate the Chennai – Singapore leg as a codeshared operation with Air India up to now, which would vastly improve the financials of the service, operated once a week from Mahe, leaving on Monday night. It is understood though that no stone will be left unturned to unearth and expose the reasons for the delays, which cost HM dearly in compensation for already booked and ticketed passengers and is entirely blamed on ‘office politics’ in India’s civil aviation department. Watch this space.
SUPERINFORMATION HIGHWAY HEADING TO SEYCHELLES
The archipelago has finally made progress to be connected to the global fibre optic grid, when the participating parties, Government of Seychelles, Cable and Wireless and Bharti Airtel signed the Memorandum of Understanding and contracts to have a seabed cable installed between Tanzania and the islands. The main attraction for operators is the vastly increased bandwidth available and exponentially faster speeds compared to the present satellite up and downloads, which should also impact on lower tariffs for voice calls and data transmissions. The contract was befittingly signed at the Seychelles Tourism Academy, the country’s premier tourism and hospitality training institution, as tourism will be one of the greatest beneficiaries of the link, once it is completed. Fears of work disruptions by Somali pirates were also dismissed by insiders in Mahe, who assured this correspondent that units of the Tanzanian navy, the international naval coalition and of the Seychelles coast guard and navy will be deployed alongside the vessel from which the cable is laid to ensure timely delivery of the project without any problems. Main contractor is French communications company Alcatel-Lucent which has an excellent track record for such projects. Well done indeed.
CARNIVAL PROGRAMME NOW AVAILABLE
The Seychelles Tourist Board has just published the final programme for the first ever ‘Seychelles Carnival’ due for the period of March 04th till 06th next year. See the details below and book early, as air seats and hotel space will surely be limited if not soon sold out over that period of time …
MORE REWARDS FOR SEYCHELLOIS RESORTS
Last week saw more praise being heaped on two resorts in the Seychelles, when the island of Cousine was named as winner by the ‘World Travel Awards’. Cousine’s resort and the island in general was voted ‘best’ by the over 180.000 participants from around the globe in the WTA’s annual survey in recognition of the island’s environmental protection measures and also for the 5 star services at the resort, said to be in ‘balance with nature’. The island is well known for the large numbers of birds visiting annually as ‘migrants’ but also for the rich biodiversity the owners of Cousine have pledged to protect and preserve at all cost. Already three years ago did the island capture headlines when named the Indian Ocean’s leading ecotourism destination. Meanwhile did the ‘Coco de Mer Hotel’ and ‘Black Parrot Suites’ on the island of Praslin also get global recognition when they got the newcomer of the year award at the World Travel Market for their market success within Expedia Travel’s portfolio.
South Sudan News
IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS GET TRAINING
Juba based immigration staff last week completed a two week course and intense training workshop, aimed at improved customer care and public relations. The training agenda also included a variety of detection measures in regard of forged and fraudulent travel documents, managerial and leadership skills, to equip them with knowledge to serve the presently still semi-autonomous but after the January referendum hopefully independent Southern government to the best of their ability. Complaints and observations by travellers and airport staff, but also from traders and travellers crossing into the Southern Sudan by road from Kenya and Uganda, were taken into account when preparing the teaching materials and case studies, all aimed to bring the standards of immigration to the level of the other countries in the East African Community, which the Southern Sudan intends to join after becoming Africa’s youngest nation in 2011. This correspondent’s next visit will obviously tell what, if any lessons have indeed been learned.
AND as in most editions, here is some useful material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ produced by Gill Staden – gratefully acknowledged! Readers can see that the challenges and problems further down south are quite the same as we experience here in Eastern Africa – short term fixes for cash and other considerations as opposed to long term sustainable solutions, hunting, mining, road construction – both Gill and I could go on and on, so please lend your good office and standing to support conservation or our grandchildren will inherit a wrecked environment from us …
An Historical Guide to Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town
I have got some more copies of An Historical Guide to Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town. If anyone would like a copy it is: US$7 (wholesale, 20 or more) US$10 (retail) To check it out: I have got modern and opened a Facebook page (with a little help from a friend)! How classy is that! http://www.facebook.com/pages/An-Historical-Guide-to-Livingstone-and-Victoria-Falls-Town/100793596659157 or else write to firstname.lastname@example.org I assume that you can click on the link and the page will open. If not, don’t ask me … ask an expert. I suppose I will get into this Facebook craze, but I don’t want to try just now …
Congratulations to Sun International, Livingstone
The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa organises the Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards. This is their 9th year of recognising companies in the tourism industry for their commitment to sustained responsible practice in their operations in terms of their natural, social and economic environments. Again this year, Sun International, Falls Resort, was recognised, this time being the overall winner, selected from the six category winners. The judges applauded the property’s outstanding understanding of the interdependence of all aspects of an effective environmental management system and its excellent social involvement and economic programmes. Also: In the category Best social involvement programme the group winner is Sun International Zambia – The Falls Resort … In the category Best practice – economic impact the group winner is Sun International Zambia – The Falls Resort … Sun International Zambia – The Falls Resort also walked away as the group winner in the category Best overall environmental management system.
… Hwange National Park
Hunting in the Park
I have received a report that alleges that the government of Zimbabwe is to allow hunting in Hwange National Park. In a bid to raise money for the upkeep of the Parks, the government must feel that this is a ‘quick fix’. The effects of this decision, though, will be long-lasting. I cannot imagine photographic tourists, while sitting quietly at a hide enjoying the view, appreciating a hunter coming along and taking a pot-shot at an elephant. The animals, of course, will also come to think that the Parks are no longer a safe haven. Most parks are bordered by hunting areas, surely that is enough space. Hunting in a National Park is no different from canned hunting … but we know that there are people in this world that partake of this ‘sport’. This is a real slap in the face of Friends of Hwange and Wildlife & Environment Zimbabwe who have all worked tirelessly to keep the pumps running to bring water to the surface so that the animals do not die from lack of water. It has been an ongoing task to raise funds for diesel and pump repair since 2005. Mining in the Park We have also received a report that there is mining going on in the park. It started off in a Rhino Intensive Protection Zone on the border with the Hwange National Park, near Bumboosi. Large tracts of land have been cleared and open-pit mining has been taking place. All the waste water from the mine is being pumped into nearby streams which are fed from springs, causing pollution of the water. The area is a total mess. Now, it would seem that the miners are moving into the park to continue their search for coal, with more land being cleared for the purpose. On the map: A – Chawato Spring, outside HNP but immediately adjacent to the boundary. B – within HNP adjacent to Sinamatella-Bumboosie Road.
A VERY HOT OCTOBER IN KARIBA
Derek Adamson from Marineland reports: “There has been screeds written and discussed about October being ‘suicide month’ in Kariba, and recent history has tended to disprove this, but October 2010 was a real HOT ONE ! The relentless daily temperatures were in the high 30’s and we even went to +40 degrees on a few days. As expected, this ‘heat wave’ was finally broken on the last day of October with a violent thunderstorm, with gusts of extremely high winds that brought down trees on to power lines, ripped roofs from houses and collapsed many other structures in Nyamhunga. Large areas of Kariba were without electricity for days. Fortunately the storm came from a direction that didn’t affect boats in the Marineland harbour. With the extremely hot weather during the month, it’s not surprising that the lake has dropped dramatically: 2.14 meters to 485.3m since the high water level reached in early June this year. On Wednesday 13th October there was a death from an elephant attack at Elephant Point in the Matusadona National Park. A visitor on a houseboat, despite an instruction from the boat Captain not to do so, went ashore to take photos of a breeding herd of elephants, and was subsequently charged and killed by a cow elephant. Most bush savvy people know that at this time of year, when there is very little food and with temperatures every day near 40 degrees, the elephants get highly stressed and unpredictable. Breaking National Parks regulations by going ashore on the Matusadona shoreline from a houseboat, has to be an invitation for such a disaster. Marineland was called upon to assist with heavy plant in the recovery of a 5 tonne truck that went over the edge of the main road above our harbour. It was only stopped from going all the way down the hill by a few good strong trees. This was a second hand Japanese import on its way to Zambia, but the surprising thing was that there were no other vehicles involved, and when we asked the driver what happened, he admitted that he was so enthralled with the view of Marineland, that he just drove off the road and over the side. To say the least, we are proud of the marina and the way it looks, but we’re really impressed that it would have such a dramatic effect on some people !!!!!”
ZIMBABWEAN LODGE PROPOSALS IN MANA POOLS: A NEW CONTROVERSY
Less than a year after international outrage at Protea Hotels seeking to develop a 72-bed conference facility on the banks of the Zambezi River right opposite Mana Pools National Park and World Heritage Site, the cash-strapped Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has asked stakeholders to ratify 4 new 24-bed lodge developments for Mana Pools – three of these along the eco-sensitive river frontage and one inland. Conservationists and lovers of Mana Pools as a wilderness Park are up in arms at the proposals – for several reasons: A recently-completed Park Management Plan, carefully negotiated and agreed between the Zimbabwe Parks Authority and relevant stakeholders, specifically advised AGAINST any new Park developments along the Zambezi river shoreline in Mana Pools because of the small size and very ecologically-sensitive nature of the Zambezi alluvial terraces known as “the Mana floodplain”. It did, however, allow for small developments at selected sites inland. The Management Plan acknowledges that Mana Pools is important for the unique low-volume, high wilderness tourism experience it offers visitors, and advises that these values should be maintained into the future. Critics of the proposed developments believe that increasing tourism bed-nights along the Zambezi river frontage by an effective 72 people per night would bring associated impacts which would seriously erode the very values that the industry sends its clients to enjoy. New developments in the already impacted “floodplain” area would, they believe, “kill the goose that lays the golden egg”. The Management Plan remains unsigned by the relevant Government Ministry, despite having been completed 18 months ago: a fact which has called into question Zimbabwe’s true commitment to proper and accountable planning procedures for National Parks and globally significant areas like UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is well known that the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority is short of money to manage its Estate. The recent proposals have drawn criticism that the Authority is seeking short-term quick-fix solutions to its financial crisis at the expense of the long-term future and sustainability of the country’s magnificent wild areas. Zimbabweans are being made to look foolish in objecting to Zambian developments opposite Mana Pools on the grounds of unacceptable tourism impacts while effectively increasing tourism impacts on their own side of the Zambezi River.
TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Second edition November 2010
CONSERVATIONISTS CELEBRATE HUNTING SUSPENSION
Information came into the public domain over the weekend that UWA has yielded to long lasting pressure on their decision to permit sports hunting in Uganda, a very controversial subject amongst the conservation fraternity in the country. A pilot project, introduced several years ago outside the Lake Mburo National Park, was arguably never discussed with stakeholders in the open public domain, and while noises were made in the past that ‘consultations were held’ this was neither substantiated by providing meeting records and participant lists nor in fact known about by many of the concerned partners of UWA in the private sector.
Opponents of hunting have long demanded that first a full stock taking ought to be undertaken, to establish the game numbers across the country and provide acceptable data on what game, if any, can be hunted. Calls for stricter sanctions too were repeatedly made in public, especially when it became known that hunting trip promoters had included the endangered Sitatunga gazelle in their brochures and adverts, inspite of this particular wetland gazelle being on the CITES annex.
UWA, now leaderless – see related articles – has at last owned up to the need to carry out a game count and survey, admitting that concerns have existed all along over the sustainability of hunting in view of reducing game numbers in some parts of the country both outside and inside protected areas.
Other shortfalls often cited but equally often ignored were the lack of a strong regulatory regime, alleged legal loopholes and the alleged absence of constant monitoring of what was going on in ‘hunting areas and concessions’, which often left the hunting companies to do what they liked without ever being cited, warned or stopped from any activities which were not in line with other existing laws and regulations. A regular source at UWA was not willing to discuss legal or financial implications of the decision and only conceded under the cover of anonymity that discussions with the hunting companies were ‘ongoing’ and aimed to ‘find a resolution in the best interest of wildlife conservation’.
Conserving for Generations – after all this is the slogan of UWA and should be first and foremost on the mind of the authority’s decision makers, ALWAYS.
Tell tale signs emerged last weekend when Warid Telecom opened the door to further tariff cuts, having initiated the current price wars with their 5/- Uganda Shillings offer some weeks ago, before Celtel / Zain then pulled one over the entire industry by aggressively promoting a 3/- Uganda Shillings tariff per second, something most other operators now followed. However, across the border in Kenya the lowest call rate is standing at about the equivalent of 81/- Uganda Shillings at present, leaving considerable room for yet more marketing stunts – all expected to kick in when Celtel / Zain rebrands to Bharti Airtel in due course.
Meanwhile has the Uganda Shillings fallen to a low of 2.300 Uganda Shillings versus one US Dollar, before the Bank of Uganda briefly intervened last week to halt a more rapid slide of the local currency. However, the continued weakness of the US Dollar, attributed in part to repatriation of financial investments ahead of the February 2011 elections, will also impact on the cost of fuels. While the prices per litre of petrol have come down for an average high of 3.500 Uganda Shillings a few weeks ago to just over 3.050 Shillings in average, this is expected to reverse again in coming weeks should the international spot market price for crude oil remain high and the shilling slide further.
International airlines flying to Entebbe have also given ‘early warning’ that their fuel surcharges will be reviewed upwards as a result of persistently high crude oil prices, which means that the ‘net fares’ advertised by airlines will see yet higher ‘add ons’ again and some intending travellers from Uganda to foreign lands will have to dig deeper in their pockets to find enough Shillings to pay for this all.
That all said, the higher ‘yield’ for their hard currency Dollars and Euros will keep the ‘on site costs’ for visiting tourist in check, something which should benefit and encourage greater spending in the destination. Watch this space.
COURT THROWS OUT UWA BOARD – AGREES WITH MAPESA’S SUIT
The High Court has last weekend ruled in favour of a suit brought by the UWA Executive Director Mr. Moses Mapesa, and his co-plaintiffs, and ordered that the Board of the Uganda Wildlife Authority was illegally constituted, as alleged by Mapesa and his ‘fellow sufferers’ and wider sections from stakeholders and the public at large.
Those taken to court were, besides government in general (the Attorney General is always the first respondent in suits against government or its institutions), also the Minister in particular and the named five board members as co-respondents, namely Mr. Boysier Muballe (Chairperson), Jacob Oulanyah, Tibasiima Ruranga, Gloria Androa and Masokoyi Wasswa.
In the ruling court said it was ‘plain that the appointment is tainted with illegality’, confirming what critics of the minister’s action and the overwhelming majority of conservationists, NGO’s, tourism stakeholders and observers have said all along. While the option for an appeal exist, loud counsel has already been given in the media to accept the ruling and that the minister now appoint a new board of trustees for UWA, in line with the relevant qualifications and background demanded by the Wildlife Act.
The same sentiments were also expressed last week by the parliamentary committee on tourism, which equally blasted the minister and the, now surely former chairman of UWA for their ridiculous actions, including wild threats of suing by the latter. Muballe became swiftly notorious in conservation circles when he demanded a multiplying of his emoluments as chairperson, and when blocked by the UWA management ran to the minister for redress. It is understood from sources close to UWA that the sitting allowances for the chairperson, and his cronies on the board, have in past months dug deep into the cash flow of the organization, redirecting funds meant for conservation to be spent on luxurious allowances of all sorts and shapes, inspite of denials by the former chairperson that he was not after the money. In addition the former chairperson regularly caused laughter for parting with Latin proverbs aimed as verbal missiles against his perceived enemies, tempting this correspondent to retort, following the court ruling: ‘Quod Erat Demonstrandum’.
Both gentlemen, minister and former chairperson, now have the proverbial egg all over their faces and the minister’s woes have just worsened, after being beaten into a distant second in the recent NRM party elections in his quest for the post of party secretary general, following which he went as far as threatening to leave the ruling party. Watch this space and in the meantime read the latest comments from the Uganda media via
PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON TOURISM TAKES AIM AT MINISTER
Members of the parliamentary committee on tourism, trade and industry have taken aim at the minister, and by proxy at the chairman of UWA, over the so called ‘forensic audit report’ hastily concocted by Ernest & Young. The MP’s took exception to the fact that a private audit firm was contracted by the board, reportedly in conflict with relevant legislation governing procurement, while pointing out that it was the Auditor General’s office which was to conduct audits of public institutions. Several MP’s were also quoted with comments over throwing the report out altogether, while the media quoted some of them as claiming the sweeping sackings of senior management of UWA was part of a wider scheme to ‘swindle’ the organisation.
MP’s also reportedly dismissed the ‘probe committee’ instituted by the tourism minister, with one member of the committee under assurance of anonymity telling this correspondent it was a ‘Kangaroo court put in place for a pre-determined outcome’. Immediate former board chairman and respected senior member of the legal fraternity Andrew Kasirye also appeared before the committee to give his testimony while several of the ‘sacked management’ team were also called into attendance to answer questions of MP’s.
Read more about his unsavoury saga via this link:
PRESIDENT’S CAMPAIGN ‘RAP SONG’ SELLING AS RING TONE
Selling like hot cakes comes to mind when hearing the success story of incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s campaign song, released just ahead of the main election campaign kicking off.
Celtel / Zain and soon to be Bharti Airtel were first out of the starting blocks in securing the ‘rights’ of the song and then offering it as a ring tone, which NRM supporters can download to their phones, and enjoy the tunes – while annoying supporters of other candidates nearby – whenever their phone rings. That not being enough, FM stations across the country too are airing the song repeatedly every day on their programmes and it is understood that even in night clubs and discos ‘Another Rap’ is getting the crowds into wild dance moves, to the delight of the NRM party strategists and the dismay of the opposition.
Splendid election gimmick and for sure the other parties will now scratch their heads, considering that the ring tone is being downloaded at record pace across the country, just as soon as the news broke on Sunday morning. Well done Mzee!
PARLIAMENT FINALLY PASSES LAW TO ALLOW GOVERNMENT TAKE OVER CAPITAL CITY
Last week also saw the law passed in parliament which will allow the central government to take over the capital city and hopefully bring an end to the shambolic services the city fathers provided to long suffering citizens. It is understood though that the inclusion into the new metropolitan area of the Entebbe and Mukono corridors has been taken out of the final bill, and that and elected Mayor and councillors will also be retained. Kampaleans are now awaiting the consent signature of the president and will then look forward to seeing potholes being fixed and rubbish being collected on a regular basis from across the city, while also hoping for better related services like clinics and health centres.
Only over the weekend did upset residents put up banana plants in ‘mega potholes’ signalling their distaste with the city administration and making a very public gesture to the new ‘masters’ coming to the city of what is expected of them
What was however retained is the creation of a metropolitan planning authority which will jointly plan and likely oversee the execution of physical and traffic features including the Entebbe to Kampala and the Kampala to Mukono corridors, in order to provide long term solutions and improvements to an area now home to as many as 4+ million people.
FLY 540 SCHEDULE REVISION FOR ENTEBBE
It was ascertained last week that under the new winter schedule just in effect Fly 540 will now operate 12 weekly flights between Entebbe and Nairobi, with Tuesday and Sunday having one flight each, subject to an early review in accordance with demand, while on all other days there will be both an early morning and late evening flight operated between Entebbe and Nairobi.
All flights will be using the airline’s CRJ200 aircraft, which has the fastest flying time between the two cities.
In a related development it was also learned that many of the ATR aircraft previously operated in Kenya and across the Eastern African skies have now been relocated to the ‘new’ Fly 540 countries in Southern and Western Africa, where they will form the fleet backbone for the time being, while in Eastern Africa, likely caused by increasing competitive pressure, the CRJ’s will be the ‘workhorse aircraft’, supplemented where needed by Bombardier Dash 8’s and B1900’s. And when I say watch this space it is not an empty phrase as it is here that you can read the most up to date news from the Eastern African aviation scene.
TURKISH AIRLINES OFFERS TRAVELLERS YET MORE US DESTINATIONS
The Kampala office of THY has confirmed that the airline has now launched nonstop flights from Istanbul to Washington DC, with convenient connections for travellers from Uganda, and in fact from the other East African destinations like Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. While presently only 4 frequencies per week are operated, this will be rising to daily flights once more of the expected B777 aircraft are delivered to Turkish.
At the same time the source also informed that the airline will serve New York during the next summer schedule with double daily flights while they will increase flights to Los Angeles and Chicago to daily departures. Several other US destinations are in the final stages of planning and details would be release in due course when relevant announcements could be made.
Some of the more established airlines, in particular those not yet flying daily to Entebbe (after being asked by travel agents, travellers and government for years to introduce more flights), have in the meantime and ‘off the record’ expressed their concerns over the fares THY was offering across the East African markets, claiming such levels could not be viable in the longer term, although several of the ‘complainants’ had also indicated they would match the fares in order to protect their own market share. Information received from THY however tells a different story, as the airline claims to have a substantially lower cost base in Turkey compared to other ‘more established’ airlines, and that this cost advantage is being passed on to their customers.
Tourism stakeholders meanwhile expressed their satisfaction that the ‘new airlines’ coming to Entebbe were offering attractive fares for visitor flying to Uganda and one regular source said: ‘if they offer good service and affordable fares they can find new traffic for Uganda, people who would not otherwise have considered visiting us here because of the high cost of air fares by established airlines. Therefore we are happy to see such new airlines bringing more tourists from their own sales and marketing efforts. We believe there can be a growing market out there for us in Uganda, and if Kenya can establish a new arrival record this year, so should we. All we have to do is stop this eternal bickering and politicking, have government give our tourist board enough funds and we can work hand in hand with such partners to promote the ‘Pearl of Africa’ as good as we can’.
WTM RECEIVES RECORD SIZED KENYAN DELEGATION
This year’s 31st edition of the World Travel Market in London has welcomed the largest ever Kenyan business delegation to the tourism trade fair where a new stand and renewed focus on the country’s varied attractions has been boosted by the best ever arrival and revenue figures in the country’s history.
2010 is expected to break all previous records handsomely and for 2011 first talk has began to emerge of the urgent need to open new air routes and increase frequencies and where possible aircraft sizes on routes with already heavy traffic, in order to satisfy the expected rise in demand of East Africa’s leading tourism destination. This applies in particular to the new and emerging destinations in the former Eastern Bloc and the Far and South East, where in particular more direct flights from India and China could bring more visitors to Kenya and the rest of East Africa. Kenya Airways is now flying daily with B777 aircraft to China but is restricted in flying to more Chinese airports by the lack of equipment, caused by the extraordinary delay in deliveries of the ordered B787, leaving airline executives strategizing with increase urgency of how to address this situation.
It is also expected that potential investors in the hotel, lodge and resort sector will be trekking to Kenya in coming weeks, with the added interest spurred by reports that shortages of accommodation, over the traditional peak season but also for much of the rest of the year, may need to be addressed, again to cater for the expected larger number of visitors to Kenya’s beaches, safari parks, the capital city for conferences and meetings and the hitherto undiscovered parts of the country. The ‘MICE’ market for in particular Nairobi has grown in leaps and bounds in recent months and more city hotels are expected to open in 2011, but at the same time many parts of Western and Northern Kenya still are short of quality accommodation which is a prerequisite in attracting tourists into those parts of the country.
TREETOPS OPENS FOR KIDS
November 27th was set aside for one of the very rare occasions, when the world famous Treetops – immortalised by then Princess Elizabeth climbing up for a night of game viewing and coming down as Queen, after her father passed away that night – will allow children on to the premises. Normally kids are ‘banned’ to ensure absolute quiet for the visitors, who sit perched up high up and enjoy a parade of forest animals come by the watering hole and salt lick at night under flood light, yet bolting off from the slightest of noises made on the viewing terraces above them.
However, every once in a while does Treetops open up for a ‘family night’ visit and the 27th of November is likely to be sold out quickly, since such special treats are much in demand amongst Kenyan expatriates and local families. Treetops is owned and managed by Aberdare Hotels, which also owns the Outspan – Treetops’ base hotel in Nyeri / Central Kenya – and the Shimba Hills Lodge in Kwale District at the Kenyan coast.
FLY 540 RELEASES NEW WINTER SCHEDULE, ADDS UKUNDA
Information from Fly540 in Kenya has drawn attention to the new winter schedule, effective from 05th November until initially 31st March 2011. Slight changes of flying times have been observed, arguably due to the change of aircraft from turboprop to jet on some routes, while frequencies and traffic days too underwent some revisions. Visit www.fly540.com for more information about the destinations and fares of East Africa’s first true low cost airline.
Meanwhile it was also announced, that the airline will be adding daily flights between Nairobi and Ukunda / Diani Beach, south of Mombasa, following the likes of SafariLink and Air Kenya, which have been operating two flights a day each, following risen demand for non-stop flights to the ‘South Coast’, avoiding the hassle of road transfers and having to cross the notoriously unreliable Likoni ferry. Fly 540 will use one of their Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft for the operation, which is capable at landing on the Ukunda airfield.
Subsequently it was also learned that following the introduction of direct flights from Nairobi to the South Coast more and more visitors from upcountry are now booking hotels and resorts along the beaches south of Mombasa to the delight of hotel operators, being able at last to avoid the problematic ferry crossing and drive through the Mombasa city centre from the Moi International Airport in Mombasa, all carving out hours from the ‘beach time’.
Fly 540 will be the first airline offering scheduled flights between Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the Ukunda airfield – the two other airlines mentioned fly out of Wilson Airport – and launch fares and departure / arrival times are due to be announced shortly.
JETLINK SPREADS WINGS
One of Kenya’s major private airlines, Jetlink, in the news last week for commencing daily flights between Nairobi and Tanzania’s lakeside municipality Mwanza – via Kisumu – is reportedly spreading their wings even further now. Information was received that the airline has filed for traffic rights with Eritrea for nonstop flights between Nairobi and Asmara. The airline already flies double daily into Juba with some flights going on to Khartoum, and indications are that Dar es Salaam too may be a destination to be added in the region.
Within Kenya Jetlink serves Mombasa as many as six times a day while also flying to Eldoret and Kisumu. The airline however was not commenting about speculations over the imminent arrival of yet another CRJ aircraft to join their fleet before the end of November.
KENYA AIRWAYS FLIES BACK INTO PROFITS
Information received last week from Nairobi speaks of a 67 percent profit rise of the Kenyan flag carrier for the first half of this financial year, indicating a firm return to pre global economic and financial crisis days. Much of the better financial performance, compared to last year, is attributed to higher load factors, especially in the network across Africa, where KQ is presently the leading airline in Africa, albeit by the narrowest of margins, when it comes to connecting the continent out of their Nairobi hub. Sharply risen overhead however prevented a fuller financial impact as overheads have substantially risen over the past years as a result of higher – and arguably still rising – staff cost.
In December the airline will add Rome back to their network and subsequently also offer connecting flights to Malindi again and more destinations are reportedly being finalised and should be announced soon.
The decision making process about the pending fleet upgrade and renewal is also nearing its end it was learned from the same source and a tight vote on the board is expected opt for either the Airbus A330 – potentially opening the door to a later decision for the A350 – or else seek substantive concessions from Boeing to try and recover the higher operating costs of the airline’s B767. Those aircraft were due to be substituted with a large order of B787, but the extraordinary delays in getting this aircraft into the skies and into production have delayed Kenya Airway’s fleet renewal plans. Watch this space to find out first when KQ has decided on Airbus versus Boeing.
LOOMING FUEL SHORTAGE IN TANZANIA TOO NOW
Information last weekend described a worrying trend of a looming fuel shortage in Tanzania, due to few new supplies being landed and processed in Dar es Salaam’s port. Like in other Eastern African countries the procurement of fuel was recently reviewed and led to more or less avoidable shortages, as companies tried to adjust to the new rules and regulations.
Other sources however also confirmed that fresh supplies were being offloaded from early this week with priority, which included measures to halt for the time being the discharge of edible oils, until the domestic fuel market had enough supplies again to keep traffic flowing.
The development was still watched with some incredulity though by observers in Kenya where the oil sector underwent similar problems in recent weeks as no lessons were apparently learned when implementing the new measures. Watch this space.
KIGALI BOOSTS AVIATION SECURITY
Reports were received that about 150 personnel underwent a three week intensive training course in Kigali and graduated earlier in the week, after learning new details about aviation security, including passenger and cargo screening procedures. The session was financially supported by the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, the Rwanda Development Board, the Department for Immigration and other partners from the private sector.
Amongst the topics taught were also customer care and relations, but also up to date details on relevant legislation and regulations covering importation of goods, duty free allowances, prohibited imports as well as methods to detect falsified and forged travel documents.
All graduates were immediately deployed back to their respective positions in airport security, customs, immigration and other jobs at the international airport and visitors to the ‘land of a thousand hills’ can look forward to a yet more professional and friendly welcome on arrival and processing on departure.
DENY, DENY BUT WHERE IS THE PROOF
The head of the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature, Mr. Cosmas Wilungula, last week tried to put a brave face to growing pressure on the Congolese government and park authorities over reports that indeed the Northern White rhino species has been wiped out.
The last free roaming herd of this subspecies was located in the Garamba national park in the East of the country, bordering the Southern Sudan. Rescue efforts, with aircraft engines literally ready to spool up, were halted when the then Congolese minister in charge of the wildlife sector suddenly and inexplicable decided that the Congo was able to look after the animals and protect them, forcing international NGO’s to abort their planned capture and relocation to Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy at the time.
Not much later was the park taken over by Ugandan rebels, pushed out of Northern Uganda, and then the Southern Sudan, by coordinated efforts between the UPDF and the SPLA. Those rebels, left for long untouched by inept and corrupt Congolese officials and military, are alleged to have slaughtered elephant and the Northern White rhinos to sell the trophies in order to purchase supplies.
The Ugandan armed forces eventually, in a cross border operation, drove the rebels out of their stronghold in Congo too, but since then all efforts to find signs of surviving Northern White’s have failed on the ground and from the air.
Mr. Cosmas Wilungula during a press statement last week finally made a public appearance over the ‘missing’ Northern White’s, predictably denying that the subspecies has been wiped out and trying to reassure the global conservation fraternity that ‘the animal species is no longer visible, but the search for them is scheduled to begin soon and end in the course of this year’.
Ardent critics of Congo’s conservation commitment and administration immediately retorted in various media asking what he hoped to achieve in the few remaining weeks of the year, why the search then had not started long ago and what evidence there was, if any at all, to suggest that these rare rhinos would still be alive, but no answers have been received to that effect.
Incidentally, all efforts over the past two years to spot the Northern White rhino, or any other rhino form the air has failed to produce results and feedback from the ground of individuals and groups visiting the area also reported no sightings, spoors or other signs of the near extinct species. Congo oh Congo!
CORAL STRAND HOTEL IN THE BAD BOOKS
The authorities on Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles, have reacted swiftly when information was leaked to them that the Coral Strand Hotel, already under the spotlight over persistent reports of poor performance, was in violation of environmental regulations and causing ocean water pollution.
Officers were dispatched from a variety of government bodies to ascertain the situation before then citing the hotel management for their irresponsible behaviour.
It was also learned that in case of any repeat of causing water pollution the hotel may be taken to court and / or their operating licenses withdrawn until full compliance with environmental guidelines, regulations and laws can be guaranteed. Well done to the watchdogs ensuring to keep the archipelago ‘green’.
In a related development it was also confirmed that the government is continuing to encourage hotels to install desalination plants to produce their own potable water and it is understood that financial incentives for such investments are being considered.
AIR SEYCHELLES ADDS CAPACITY TO ITALY
Following the announcement that the third flight to the UK, which due to lack of slots was forced to use London Gatwick instead of London Heathrow, thereby increasing operational costs and made marketing more challenging, was being scrapped effective mid February 2011 – Air Seychelles is awaiting the allocation of a third weekly Heathrow slot to resume the added UK flight at some time in the future – the airline reacted swiftly to address concerns about capacity on flights to the United Kingdom.
The ‘through’ flights which presently route via Italy, will according to sources in Mahe be given extra seats for the final destination UK, while more capacity will also be offered for the Italian destinations of Rome and Milan, likely through an added Monday flight routing Mahe – Rome FCO – Milan – Rome FCO – Mahe.
The UK, as is France and Italy, are key producer markets for the Seychelles tourism industry and the presence of Air Seychelles with non-stop and direct flights to Rome, Milan, Paris and London are considered to be inextricably linked to the success of the archipelago to not just maintain arrivals from these countries but in fact expand market share some more. Watch this space.
SPECULATION OVER WITHELD TRAFFIC RIGHTS FOR HM
Air Seychelles’ planned inaugural flight to Chennai, en route to Singapore, was delayed until further notice, when it emerged that the airline had not been given traffic rights in time.
Although the application, according to reliable sources in Mahe, was filed 100 days in advance – instead of the mandatory 60 days – and staff and local contacts in India were relentlessly chasing the application’s progress in the weeks leading up to the 01st of November, the approvals did not come forth.
Suggestions have promptly circulated in aviation circles that rival airlines were trying to use their influence, with other suggestions not being so ‘innocent’, said to be worried over or opposed to Air Seychelles’ code share arrangements with another Indian carrier, which would boost ‘new routes’ for both of them beyond Chennai and Mahe.
It was learned that diplomatic pressure is now being exerted on India by the Seychelles to approve the flight immediately under the bilateral air services agreement or else risk a fall out on the otherwise cordial and friendly relations between the two countries. It was also learned that no stone will be left unturned to establish who was individually and / or collectively responsible for the delay of formally granting traffic rights at the Indian government department and what inducements if any might have ‘led to the decision being held back’.
And in closing today some information taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ – always acknowledge with many thanks:
From Kanga Bush Camp, Mana Pools
Kanga was opened to the public early this year after we had completed building the camp in March. I have had the privilege of working at Kanga from the early stages. The area tends to grow on one; the surrounding bush is extremely thick, especially at the end of the rainy season. …
Speaking of predators let’s not forget Africa’s Painted Dog they have killed twice in the pan itself in the last two weeks, both times they killed Impala (no wonder they are referred to as Africa’s Mac Donald’s!). Leopard use the pan as a territorial boundary, I have seen 3 different Leopards here from the comfort of the lounge deck no less, Hyena serenade you to sleep along with the muted, rumbling roar of lion. …
There are many things that will probably stick in my mind more than anything else so far from this season; the amazing bird life, a herd of 300 + buffalo moving into the pan bathed in the moonlight, when I checked in the morning they had drunk such a lot that the pan had visibly lost water! A female Leopard hunting along the pan edge and the tangible fear in the pan’s inhabitants as they bolted away. Walking into a pride of lions, realizing that there were more than I first thought, I moved towards a fallen tree only to have a female lion fall out of it, I do not know who’s dignity was more hurt, the lion’s or mine! .Of course let’s not forget seeing the thirteen dogs that are now regular visitors. As the game has settled down and accepted us as permanent partners, each day holds its new wonders.
TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
First edition November 2010
AUTUMN EDITION OF ‘AFRICA TRAVEL’ NOW AVAILABLE
The latest ‘Travel Africa’ magazine, the autumn edition, reached me over the weekend and was as usual again providing a wealth of information from across the continent. The magazine is available vis a vis an ‘e-version’ too but nothing beats being able to leaf through it, go back and forth and in particular see the many commercial adverts, often of new places, which show the confidence of investors in the hospitality and tourism industries across Eastern and Southern Africa. Visit http://www.travelafricamag.com for more details or to sign up for a subscription … and no, I do not earn commissions from this recommendation but want to propagate wider access to the wilderness areas of Africa as shown in Africa Travel and the sister magazines ‘Travel Namibia’, ‘Travel Zambia’ and ‘Travel Zimbabwe’.
UWA SAGA BOILS ON
The unsavoury events at the Uganda Wildlife Authority seem to fester on, and those ‘daring to comment’ are regular recipients of Latin bywords, probably looked up on Google and revealing the hollow minds behind these utterances. Meanwhile has John Nagenda, Senior Presidential Advisor and former Chairman of the Uganda Wildlife Authority also taken issue with the present breed of masters there in his latest Saturday column, published in the country’s leading newspaper The New Vision: We must revisit, once again, the cesspit at luckless Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), in order to bring you up to date with what is happening. Failing to catch up will be only because of the lightning speed at which UWA is being dragged through the mud. Why the monotony of ever going back to this same subject? Because then at least nobody will ever feign ignorance of it, least of all Government. I always recall returning, again and again, to another subject: the selling of the Uganda Commercial Bank. We questioned the method of its selling, the dubious breaking of rules, some of them from the World Bank. And finally we queried the amount we received from the buyers. And we all failed—poor old Uganda robbed again. Should this not entice us to zip our lips, since the struggle is so often non-availing? Never! At UWA, we must re-walk the same plank. By now all the original directors are out. And still the carnage continues. This week Mark Kamanzi was confirmed Acting Executive Director. These new fellows don’t do things by halves! His fame hitherto was as owner of Fat Boys, a bar in Bugolobi. Absolutely under no circumstances does he qualify for ED. Line Minister Rukundo enjoys much time on his hands since everyone now goes straight to Maj. Gen. Otafiire. The Board budget is already depleted since, because of endless, highly rewarded meetings. You, and hopefully the Auditor General, will want to know what happens to the Fixed Deposit account. Quoting the National Anthem: “Oh Uganda, the Land of Freedom, we lay our future in thy hands!” Shall we find it there?
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION CELEBRATE 50 YEARS
A fly past by the Kampala Aeroclub’s Jungmeister ‘double decker’, showing off some acrobatic flying with Capt. Howard on the ‘stick’, crowned the 50th anniversary celebrations of the formation of the Air Traffic Controllers Association here in Uganda, where the ‘locals’ too made merry on the occasion. The Ugandan ATC’s on the day also helped cleaning up nearby beaches, planted trees and donated fishing nets and dozens of life vests to fishermen going after the trade in the shallow bays surrounding the Entebbe International Airport, who gratefully received the gifts from their ‘neighbours’. On the same day did the Civil Aviation Authority also launch the inaugural edition of the Eng. Zephaniah Baliddawa Air Traffic Management Awards. Eng. Baliddawa is not only an aviation veteran in his own right but has also for the past several years been the capable and highly respected Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Civil Aviation Authority. Recipients were the Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre in Kajjansi, Mission Aviation Fellowship – also based in Kajjansi – and Air Uganda, while Kenya Airways was selected from amongst the international airlines flying to Entebbe.
ENTEBBE AIRPORT NOW BANS ‘DROP OFF’ AT DEPARTURE TERMINAL
The decision, under the pretext of ‘security’, to ban drop offs of passengers and baggage at the departure (upper) level of the Entebbe International Airport, has prompted angry exchanges between passengers and security operatives and letters to the editors of local media. Departing passengers are now required to use the main car park, chaotic by all appearances during the ‘rush hours’ when several flights arrive and depart almost at once, and they have to brave heavy downpours or stinging sunshine while seeking trolleys and then push their baggage towards the upper departure levels. Elevator space proved totally insufficient for the purpose and when reaching staircases, passengers who are alone and travel with for instance two suitcases and hand baggage have been observed to have to leave bags at the bottom of stairs, make it half way up, then return to fetch the balance of their bags, before they reach the upper level, hoping that none of their belongings disappear ‘en route’. Acid comments were heard about the ‘b… …t arrangements’ which according to one passenger this correspondent spoke with during a recent visit to the airport, were ‘pulled out of somewhere by someone trying to justify his or her existence’ without giving any consideration to passenger needs, the logistics of reaching the terminal or taking into account weather conditions. Business owners at the airport too have complained that their revenues were suffering because of ever more stringent measures which are in effect keeping casual visitors away from the airport, while passengers, losing much time on the way to make their check in, also had less opportunity to spend money on food, drinks and last minute souvenirs while rushing to their departure gates. A statement released by the CAA pointed out that disabled passengers would be allowed access to the upper departure level by car, but failed to mention the hardship and hassle one has to go through to achieve this, while not making any materially valuable comments about the challenges passengers now have to ‘navigate the hurdles’ before reaching the terminal. This correspondent’s advice: consult and think first before rushing into activism … before adding: you have clearly not learned any lessons from past such hasty decisions which needed prompt revisiting and revision to make them work …
MORE WAITING FOR LAKE TRAVELLERS
As predicted recently here, the repairs of MV Kalangala is taking longer than the Ministry of Works and Transport initially admitted and the earliest the ship cum ferry will go back into services is now thought to be in mid December. The ministry, following persistent complaints by regular travellers to and from the islands, and traders going after their daily business there, needed to publish a revised timeline, and is facing acid criticism from those who ‘told them so’ and were then reminded to mind their own business, as the ministry bureaucrats’ claimed to know what they were doing. Safe lake transport is critically important across the lakes of Uganda, in particular on Lake Victoria, where sudden storms often ambush travellers in small boats, which lack safety equipment or well trained crews, costing lives in the process. The introduction of the ship cum ferry some years ago brought relief to many residents of the Ssese Islands group as well as to weekend tourist visitors from the city, and the extraordinarily long process of overhauling the ship’s engines and completing safety inspections, the latter incidentally to be carried out across the lake in Mwanza / Tanzania, was an immediate bone of contention for the public, for many of whom the ministry’s performance in general is under constant scrutiny. This correspondent’s best guess for service resumption: before Christmas …
LOCAL AIR OPERATORS BLAME SHELL FOR AVGAS WOES
Anger and frustration has now taken over the relations between Shell Uganda, the sole supplier of AVGAS in the country, and the air operators in Entebbe and Kajjansi, using single and twin ‘piston engined’ aircraft for charter flights. Information has also been unearthed that the recently established AVGAS tank facility in Kajjansi, able to hold 40.000 litres, designed and initially built by Shell and then taken over by a former Shell executive who now operates the facility as his own business, is showing a serious design fault, as some 6.000 litres of the precious liquid cannot be pumped out of the tank since the ‘suction inlet’ has been placed too high, adding to the frustration of those depending on this type of fuel. To add financial injury to insult has Shell, without providing any information or acceptable explanation, raised the prices of AVGAS from the agreed US Dollars 2.08 per litre to US Dollars 2.25 per litre in September, charged retrospectively as assured by several charter companies, although after threat of legal action and other measures Shell, effective 01st November, reduced the price to its previous level again. Air operators vowed not to pay the ‘surcharge’ as it lacked in contract and was unilateral and arbitrary. It was also learned from aviation sources in Kenya, that during the period in question the prices in Nairobi and Mombasa DID NOT change, nor did they in Tanzania, where another international oil company delivers AVGAS to the various airports, aerodromes and airfields. Details received from Tanzania for instance also confirmed that Shell Uganda engages in what can well near be described as extortion with their pricing, and allegations have long been made that every time the protests of air operators become too vocal and intense, AVGAS runs out altogether, almost as in dishing out punishment but at the same time crippling the aviation industry which continues to use a sizeable number of ‘light’ aircraft to fly tourists and business travellers to often remote airstrips where larger aircraft cannot land or are too expensive for only a handful of passengers. The cost of AVGAS in Dar es Salaam was quoted, for the period in question as costing per litre US Dollars 1.5013, Zanzibar quoted US Dollars 1.5127, Arusha Municipal Aerodrome quoted US Dollars 1.6098 and the more remote Dodoma and Tabora quoted US Dollars 1.6257 and 1.6478 respectively. In further comparison, a litre of AVGAS at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport last week cost a mere US Dollars 1.75 per litre, a difference until the end of October of 50 US cents. The difference in pricing is evident and with the cost of a tanker load from Kenya to Kampala given at a whopping 18.500 US Dollars it is becoming increasingly clear that Shell is pursuing an agenda of their own and while making soothing remarks when taken to task let their action speak a much harsher language. Of late air operators have reviewed the concession agreements Shell has with the Civil Aviation Authority to provide aviation fuels to the airline industry with a view to establish if the CAA could sanction Shell for ‘gross misconduct’ or for ‘failing to supply’ whenever AVGAS runs out, but the outcome of this and other parallel initiatives still remains to be seen. Meanwhile though, Shell has maintained its ugly image as a multinational corporate Gorgons at its worst!
UWA SIGNS ACCORD WITH PARK NEIGHBOURS
Communities living along sections of the Queen Elizabeth National Park boundaries have reason to jubilate as UWA last week signed an accord with them governing access into the park. There, as was the case for time immemorial, the communities are allowed to fetch dead wood, cut tall grass for thatching of their homesteads and collect medicinal plants, along strict guidelines about quantities to be ‘harvested’ to ensure sustainability and prevent ‘commercial’ extraction. This is the second time the respective communities have obtained a written contract and agreement with UWA and critics were told that the deal is aimed towards empowering poor communities depending on subsistence ‘collections’ from areas near the park boundaries. Educational programmes will also reinforce the message of conservation towards the communities to support the agreement through better understanding and co-owning protection measures taken by the wildlife authority personnel in the field. Well done!
MT. ELGON NATIONAL PARK SUFFERS FRESH ENCROACHMENTS
Disturbing reports emerged last week that aspiring politicians, either seeking re-election or vying for office for the first time, have again allegedly incited communities living near the Mt. Elgon National Park boundaries and seemingly encourage a number of them to invade the park and claim land. It was not long ago that prolonged rains swept villages away, created near steep hills which were tilled without safeguards, killing hundreds in the process and prompting hasty evacuations of other illegal squatters from the park area for their own protection. However, with memories seemingly so short, a fresh wave of park invasions is now expected during the election campaign, as few politicians hunting for votes will dare to tell the people the bitter truth, which is that the park boundaries must stand, illegal farming inside the park is dangerous and that they must desist from squatting in the park only to face eviction, at times at high cost to their property and health, at a later stage. Some politicians are alleged to have led a campaign to destroy boundary markers and fence posts erected at high cost by UWA and investigations are underway to establish the facts in the ongoing ‘battle for land’ around the Mt. Elgon National Park. Visitors numbers, which had reduced considerably after the widely reported landslides, remain below expectations and forecasts, partly because the tourism fraternity is also still concerned over the safety of tourists, which may be caught in the ‘cross fire’ should violence break out over the intrusions between UWA rangers and squatters. Yet, the unique mountain ecosystem, shared with neighbouring Kenya, holds special attractions for visitors and communities nearby should help to attract tourists to the park, from which they could benefit in many ways, instead of creation conflict scenarios which keep foreign visitors and their money away. Watch this space.
PEACE CORPS NUMBERS SWELL TO 156 IN UGANDA
Last week a further 45 member of the Peace Corps were sworn in before the American Ambassador, after coming to Uganda to ‘do good’ in rural communities across the country. This brings the total number of peace corps volunteers based in Uganda to over 150. Most of the new members will serve in health centres, in education projects and related fields while a few will fill posts to do with environmental protection and projects. Thanks to the young Americans who devote some of the best years of their life to helping out here in Africa.
MIGRATION STILL ON – REPORTS TO THE CONTRARY ‘PURE MALICE’
A report published last week in regional media and picked up without second thought by international media soon afterwards, that the migration of the wildebeest this year into the Mara was ‘inexplicably and abruptly cut short’ was rejected by leading tourism stakeholders from Kenya as ‘pure malice’ and ‘wishful thinking’, while others claimed the ill timed misinformation in sections of the media was simply lacking facts from the ground and were peddled by someone who may never have been there in the first place. Fact is that the migration this year arrived relatively early starting from mid to end June, when the first columns of the big herds began to cross the Mara river and started to spread out over the traditional grazing grounds. This was well documented with regular reports on relevant Facebook sites like ‘Mara Triangle’ and confirmed by a range of other sources, but also reported here by this correspondent at the time. Up to now, large numbers of wildebeest and zebra remain in the Masai Mara and are expected to start their long trek to the low grass plains between the Serengeti and Ngorongoro soon, where they will eventually give birth to the next generation before resuming their endless migration circle back North again. Sources in Nairobi were somewhat bewildered what prompted these reports and where they originated from, besides the known author who has since gone shtumm over the issue, but ulterior motives are suggested, allegedly having to do with the highly controversial plans to build a highway across the migration route in the Tanzanian Serengeti along the common border with Kenya. This however could not be independently confirmed, although rumours are abound amongst Kenyan safari operators and other tourism stakeholders. Ugandan travellers who last week had been to the Masai Mara, also confirmed that they saw ‘huge numbers of wildebeest’ while on game drives across the reserve as part of their air safari. Besides the annual migration the Masai Mara however is rich in game sightings throughout the year as many personal experiences can attest to, although the ‘migration’ is undoubtedly the biggest season of the year in terms of visitor arrivals and game numbers.
LAMU FESTIVAL FOR NOVEMBER 22 – 24
The annual Lamu Cultural Festival this year will take place between the 22nd and 24th of November. Main attraction will again be Swahili music and poetry performances by leading artists in these ‘crafts’, while visitors from near and far can also enjoy the spectacle of donkey races, properly jockeyed of course, or watch the traditional sailing vessels – the dhows – holding regattas off shore. A Swahili food festival will also be held in hotels across Lamu town and the resorts on nearby beaches and islands, while at the museum a major exhibition will be featuring the crossing of continents, and what pivotal role Lamu played a hundred and more years ago. More information is available from the Kenya Tourist Board, and as space on flights and in hotels and resorts is limited, early bookings are strongly recommended.
NOW JETLINK LAUNCHES MWANZA FLIGHTS TOO
One of Kenya’s leading private airlines has announced that effective 15th November they will commence direct flights from Nairobi to Tanzania’s Lake Victoria municipality of Mwanza. The airline’s CEO Capt. Elly Aluvale announced the new route last week in Nairobi. The new flights to Mwanza via Kisumu, Kenya’s main lakeside city are leaving Nairobi at noon daily and will return from Mwanza via Kisumu at 3 pm every day, according to the details provided by Jetlink. The service will be operated with CRJ200 equipment, giving notice of ‘intent’ to Precision Air using an ATR aircraft on the route but also to Fly540, which combine their Mwanza flights with Bujumbura / Burundi four times a week. The aviation sector in Eastern Africa has in recent weeks suddenly ‘sprung to life’ with fare wars bringing tariffs to the lowest levels seen in almost a decade and wider choices as more airlines are now flying to the common but also the less common destinations, both domestic as well as regionally. Jetlink has in recent years moved progressively towards a Bombardier CRJ200 fleet, phasing out the ‘old’ fuel guzzlers like the DC9, and has in the process expanded their ‘reach’ across Kenya but also into the region, where they offer for instance two daily flights from Nairobi to the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba. No better time than now to take to the skies and fly places rather than take busses or drive.
‘GENERAL AVIATION’ BUSINESS SHOWS GROWTH
Phoenix aviation last week took delivery of another Cessna Citation twin jet in executive configuration, following the expansion of the market in recent months. Demand for air transport has been rising again alongside with Kenya’s economic and tourism recovery and Phoenix, already operating a range of twin business jets and turbo prop aircraft, has taken prompt advantage to add another top of the range aircraft to their fleet. Phoenix operates out of Wilson Airport where it also maintains a fully licensed MRO or maintenance base where the company services their own fleet and undertakes contract work for Cessna operators from the entire region.
KENYA BUZZ ‘JAZZED UP’ SOME MORE
The weekly editions of ‘Kenya Buzz’ have changed appearance in recent weeks and looks ‘jazzier and cooler’ in many ways. Kenya Buzz gives regular overviews of what’s on and where to go by ‘e’ and subscriptions are free for recipients from near and far. Write to email@example.com to be included in the mailing list and find out a lot of ‘secrets’ about Kenya normally only known by the ‘locals’ – giving valuable hints for intending visitors to the country.
TOURISM BUSINESS COUNCIL TO MAP OUT NEW STRATEGIES
The Kenyan Ministry of Tourism has launched their latest initiative, the rebranding of the Kenya Coast, in conjunction with the Tourist Trust Fund, the Kenya Tourist Board and their private sector partners under the auspices of the Kenya Tourism Federation. A Tourism Business Council, serving as primary consultative and implementation platform will be formed and is to be headed by the Chief Executive of Serena Hotels, Mahmud Jan Mohamed. The council is set to meet twice a year and will be drawing support and assistance from the National Economic and Social Council. Key proposals for consideration on the agenda include the long awaited ‘Mombasa by pass’ – reported about here repeatedly in recent weeks – improvements to the roads and other infrastructure in Mombasa and the beautification of the main ‘through fares’ across the coastal city to make a better impression on visiting tourists. Adds this correspondent: a laudable initiative from which other East African countries could well take a leaf from, i.e. developing hand in hand instead of being busy pulling things down while seeking one’s own glory…
PLANNING FOR RAIL LINK FROM CITY TO AIRPORT COMPLETE
The major planning stage for a railway link between the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the city / business district of Nairobi has now been completed, it was learned from well placed sources in Nairobi last week. Travel to and from the airport, previously during rush hour but now almost across the entire day, has become a slow moving process owing to an ever growing ‘population’ of vehicles, and even after the so called Nairobi bypasses have been completed, travel by road to and from the airport are expected to be hampered by too much traffic. It is understood that funding is now being sourced to begin the tendering process and once a contractor has been selected, work could go underway swiftly. Completion of the entire project could take anywhere between 9 to 12 months and would undoubtedly improve the appeal of Nairobi for anyone arriving by air at JKIA. It is also understood that government is taking another serious look at mass transportation for Nairobeans relying on public transport to get to work or for children going to school and further stretches of new railroads are reportedly forming the core of their considerations, together with the introduction of affordable and working bus services into the city centre.
NEW TOURISM ATTRACTION IN ZANZIBAR
Visitors to the ‘spice island’ can now take advantage of a new feature available to them from the international airport, aimed to show them their resort and the rest of the island from the air. A ‘microlight’ operation has been set up and can take one passenger at a time into the skies over Zanzibar, for anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour, depending how ‘deep’ one’s pockets are. It is understood that depending on the season passengers can also see
dolphin and whale shoals offshore, subject to some luck of course, although the main thrust is to get tourists ‘up in the air’ to see the island and its attractions, and their beach resort, from this unique ‘perspective’.
THE BIRDS RETURN
Reports are abound from the ‘northern safari circuit’ but also from the rest of Tanzania, that sightings of migratory birds from Europe and Asia have of late increased, signalling the ‘return of the birds’ from their summer dwellings in the Northern hemisphere. Many parts of Tanzania, but also the entire East Africa, will see the influx of birders from near and far to seek out the ‘migrants’ while resting for a while in wetlands and other places before completing their journey either further South or staying put, and trying to identify ‘rings’ on the birds to report to the international birding groups and societies. Sadly here in Uganda, major bird resting places, like for instance Lutembe – a Ramsar site, have in recent years suffered of encroachment and pollution caused allegedly by the run off from flower farms located too near the Lake Victoria shores, decimating arrivals there, and the growing threat to wetlands and ecosystems across Eastern Africa does not bode well for the long term survival of migratory bird species depending on flying to and from warmer climes depending on their season. Meanwhile though, this year’s bird migration still seems relatively intact but all hands are needed on deck of conservationists and ecologists to ensure that these natural phenomena have a long term future.
CHOP AND CHANGE AT THE HELM OF RWANDAIR CONTINUES
Information was received that Mr. Rene Janata has been replaced as Chief Executive Officer of RwandAir, with Chairman of the Board of Directors John Mirenge returning to the helm for a second time. The only information available so far was that Mr. Janata would be ‘reassigned’, without going into the reasons or what future functions would be handed to him. This is the fourth CEO RwandAir now had over the past three years, when in rapid succession CEO’s and Acting CEO’s came through the door and left again, or were ‘reassigned’ as it was elegantly put to this correspondent. The airline underwent a substantial revival in recent months, has taken delivery of two B737-500 aircraft on lease from GECAS before they will be replaced with owned brand new B737-800 models by the end of 2011, and has widened their network with new flights to Mombasa and Dubai but also more frequencies and more destinations across the region. Staff normally in touch with this correspondent remained guarded over their own reading of the situation, leaving the door open to yet more speculation as to the why’s and how’s behind this latest change at the helm. Watch this space for the most up to date information from the aviation industry across Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
RWANDAIR’S LAUNCHES DUBAI WITH 500 USD FARE
The flights by RwandAir to Dubai from Kigali, via Mombasa, will for the time being be sold from as low as US Dollars 500 per person return, all inclusive in economy class and from 737 US Dollars in business class and this fare is also valid, according to an airline source, for passengers joining from Bujumbura and the domestic Rwandan destinations of Kamembe. No information could be obtained, probably due to the weekend, if the fares would also apply for passengers from Entebbe, Nairobi, Kilimanjaro and RwandAir’s other East African destinations. The aircraft used will be a leased B737-500, due to be substituted in a year’s time when two brand new B737-800 will join the fleet. On a different note, KLM has last Sunday night operated their inaugural flight into Kigali’s Kanombe International Airport, opening a new chapter of connectivity by air to the rest of the world for Rwanda. KLM will now operate 5 weekly flights from Amsterdam to Kigali with a stop en route in Entebbe / Uganda, ostensibly to improve load factors. This mirrors the long standing and successful concept of Brussels Airlines, which now operates daily between Brussels and Eastern Africa, all flights being ‘triangular’ with two airports being served by each flight. Flights between Kigali and Brussels on SN are codeshared with RwandAir and the two will undoubtedly be well prepared for the entry of archrival KLM.
RDF LOBBIES FOR MORE AIRSTRIPS
The tourism industry got a valuable lobbying ally earlier in the week when the Rwandan Defence Forces put their weight behind pending requests to construct more helipads’, airstrips and aerodromes across the ‘land of a thousand hills’. The RDF’s main aim was to be able to organize rescue missions in case of natural disasters, which would greatly benefit from improved aerial capabilities, while the tourism sector of course sees added aviation facilities as another way to attract more tourists and have them travel the country with ease and in comfort by flying to some of the national parks and game reserves. Rwanda presently has one international airport and five airfields, some of them in urgent need for rehabilitation and modernization, which is considered insufficient considering the topography of the country.
RWANDA RECEIVED ‘GREEN GLOBE AWARD’
The ‘land of a thousand hills’ last week received global recognition for their sustained efforts to protect the environment and restore encroached and depleted forests and wetlands, when the country was handed the prestigious ‘Green Globe Award’ for the ‘Rugezi-Bulera-Ruhondo wetland’. The announcement was made in Japan during a global meeting of the World Wetland Network. Rwanda has environmental protection high on the national agenda and been in the good news often in past months for the efforts and work done in conjunction with affected communities. Said one tourism operator in Kigali to this correspondent: ‘wildlife and nature based tourism is our bread and butter here in Rwanda. The high priority government gives to the sector is backed up by good policies and implementation measures and we are confident that we are on the right track. And because communities benefit from eco tourism, they support our measures to protect the environment, after all, it helps them too.’ The wetland in question has seen a remarkable recovery from its previous sorry state and a number of rare birds, animals and reptiles have already made their home there again. Nature walk accompanied by local guides can now attract tourist again and the country can showcase their efforts in its ‘Sunday best’. This seems in stark contrast with Uganda, where NEMA is ignoring information and particulars about wetland encroachment with apparent apathy and well near abrogation of its mandate to protect our environment. NEMA has often been critizised in the past for being selective, almost biased in their measures taken and even letters to the editor have, in regard to the nearby Kongo valley wetland, not yielded any visible response, leave alone that emails to them go habitually unanswered. Hence it is bouquets for Rwanda’s environmental watchdog and mega barbs for our own NEMA.
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES GRADUATES MORE STAFF
On the expansion trail Ethiopian Airlines has last week graduated over 100 new staff, trained in their own aviation academy in Addis Ababa. The reportedly 115 students, after successful completion of their respective courses, are now being deployed across the airline’s offices in administrative, sales and operational functions aimed to support a growing network and a growing fleet without the need to bring expatriates ‘on board’. Ethiopian, once THE Pan African airline – a successful concept now copied by other carriers too – is still regarded as a prime example of how African aviation can match the achievements of their international rivals and their training academy for pilots or for instance their maintenance base in Addis are examples of what can be achieved in Africa inspite of often adverse other conditions. Well done.
SEYCHELLES DISCUSS CLIMATE CHANGE WITH OTHER ISLAND AND ARCTIC COUNTRIES
The University of Seychelles on the main island of Mahe was the venue for a number of participants from abroad and within, in a meeting aimed to find common ground over common problems. On the agenda was climate change and rising sea levels, a major threat to small island states and the arctic states, all of which are equally affected by the fall out of global warming. Participants came from as far as Alaska, Canada and St. Lucia, preparing a strategy and presentations for the forthcoming ‘Climate Summit’ at the end of November / early December in Cancun Mexico, where the failed discussions and agreements of the Copenhagen Summit of last year will enter the next round. It is expected that small island countries will make an energetic push towards a global agreement to reign in the emission of green house gasses to ‘safe their own survival’ and working hand in hand as a group will undoubtedly increase the chances of success.
REEF PROTECTION GETS ADDED ATTENTION
As a further sign of the Seychelles drive to maintain and restore their environment, has Nature Seychelles launched a new project to deal with damages to some of their reef formations. The US government, through USAID, has set aside over half a million US Dollars for the project which will record and monitor ‘bleaching’ of reefs and other damage and develop mitigating measures of how to best restore the reefs and corals to their original state. Increasing temperatures of the sea, and rising sea levels, are considered as the main threats for coral reefs, and with the Seychelles depending so greatly, in fact entirely on their intact ocean environment for their fishing industry and where tourists from around the world come for holidays and diving, much energy and funding is now being devoted to ‘do the right thing’ and prevent where possible any damages while restoring where necessary any previous negative impact. The project by Nature Seychelles will run for a three year period. In a related development was Nature Seychelles also handed a donation from the UK, comprising high quality binoculars for the monitoring of birdlife across the archipelago, where several critically endangered and endemic species have their habitat like the Seychelles flycatcher. In other news it was also learned that conservationists and communities joined hands last week to restore beach vegetation as a measure to protect the shores from further erosion, and planted trees along ‘endangered’ stretches of beaches. Participants came from schools but ‘ordinary’ citizens and community leaders too turned up to take care of their immediate neighbourhoods under the project called ‘Sandwatch’.
GST TO RISE BY 2 PERCENT
The recent announcement by the government in Mahe, that the Goods and Services Tax is to rise from the present 10 to 12 percent, came not entirely unexpected by the tourism industry, which has to pay this tax from its transactions. Yet, several stakeholders promptly contacted this correspondent to voice their concern, that this may be somewhat premature and that recover of the sector should first progress some more before levying new additional tax percentages on the various segments of the tourism industry. However, other sources voiced a different opinion, claiming ‘as long as some of that money comes back to the tourist board for promotion abroad we can live with it’. Visitors hence need to brace themselves for a two percent increase on the cost of hotel accommodation, meals, drinks and excursions. The rate was reduced to 10 percent in 2008 at the height of the global economic and financial crisis as a support measure to make tourism to the Seychelles more affordable, but with a new arrival and spending record now visible on the horizon for 2010, economists clearly thought the time was right to bring the tax back up to its previous levels. The measure is in place since November 01st.
ST. ANNE RESORT SIGNS UNION DEAL
The Seychelles Transport and General Workers Union has welcomed the signing of a deal with the St. Anne Resort last week as ‘ground breaking’, putting other hotels and resorts across the archipelago also on notice that they will be seeking to negotiate collective bargaining agreements for their membership. Both the hotel management and the union have praise the maturity of the negotiation teams to achieve a result and stakeholders in the hospitality industry are now reportedly consulting about the impact of this agreement and are strategizing over the way forward for other hospitality businesses not yet in talks with the union representatives.
AND IN CLOSING AGAIN … material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, generated week after week by Gill Staden who lives at the Victoria Falls in Livingstone and is a frequent traveller across her region. In fact, it seems that ‘their problems and challenges’ are not any different from our own here in Eastern Africa!
Development in the Victoria Falls Rainforest It seems that some people are not happy with the latest development in Victoria Falls Town. Inside the Rainforest a bar, restaurant and curio shop have been constructed/renovated. Namo Chuma from Environmental Africa has written to Mr Banda, District Environmental Officer, Environmental Management Agency, Hwange, stating that, in his opinion, the development should be removed. Here are some of his arguments: Further to the Public Meeting that was held on Tuesday 19th October 2010 in the Victoria Falls Municipality Boardroom, with regards to the new development s (merchandise shop, restaurant, bar and kitchen) in the Victoria Falls Rainforest, we respectfully request that the following action be taken: That the certificate issued by EMA for this development be cancelled with immediate effect. This development is illegal on the grounds of the existing legislation in the Environmental Management Agency Act 13/2002, 5/2004 (s.23), 6/2005 (s.28) ……. The Environmental Impact Assessment report and process is flawed for the following reasons: The description of the project in the EIA report and the actual development on the ground are not the same The project was misrepresented to the public, being presented as an UPGRADE of existing facilities, not NEW infrastructural developments. The restaurant, kitchen and bar are new infrastructures which requires a new plan and development permit. This is not in line with the guidelines stated in the Joint Management Plan of 2007 which was submitted to UNESCO by the Zimbabwean and Zambian governments. No proper scientific environmental assessment studies were undertaken No socio-economic assessment was carried out The Environmental Management Plan is totally lacking in dealing with day to day environmental management issues. For example the existing sewerage system had been condemned by the District Environmental Health Officer in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. In the EIA report, she recommended that because of the increased number of people in the area at any one time the existing facilities would not support this and should be increased. This was not done and the current situation with the new development is giving the developers challenges in terms of sewerage waste disposal. There is no reference to Victoria Falls being a World Heritage Site and national monument, which is governed by national and international regulations aside to the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The analysis of the legal framework in the EIA is very inadequate. No consultation was undertaken with relevant key stakeholders like the Joint World Heritage Site Management Committee, UNESCO, National Museums & Monuments of Zimbabwe, Traditional Leaders in the surrounding community. No local chief was consulted on this during the EIA. No adequate public participation process was undertaken in the EIA except for 11 stakeholders who were selected by the Consultant, 4 of which were from National Parks & Wildlife, leaving 7 ‘independent’ respondents. This cannot be taken as fair representation of a local population of 65,000 people. No person from the surrounding rural communities including Chiefs were consulted. …… The Victoria Falls was declared a World Heritage Site in 1989 and is bound by the national and international regulations of UNESCO World Heritage Commission which were not observed in this development. The Zimbabwean and Zambian Governments developed and adopted a Joint Victoria Falls Mosi Oa Tunya World Heritage Site Management Plan in 2007. In the document, the core zone is stated as a high ecologically sensitive zone and states: ‘Prohibited Facilities – No further infrastructural developments except those under permitted facilities.’ A new restaurant, kitchen and bar are therefore not permissible developments in the Victoria Falls Rainforest. The establishment of a curio and merchandise shop directly impacts the economic and social development of the more than 1000 curio vendors who are members of the local community. These poor Zimbabweans are earning a living through selling curios outside the rainforest and at Busy island. Allowing one operate to monopolise the selling of curios in the rainforest which is the heart of the tourism industry in Victoria Falls is going to impact negatively on their livelihoods. Therefore, this certificate must be cancelled as it violates the environmental rights and principles of environmental management in terms of the Environmental Management Act. With reference to the presentation made by Mr K T Chipunza, Chief Curator and Victoria Falls World Heritage Site Coordinator, during the public meeting on the 19th October 2010, he stated and quoted directly from the relevant sections of the Museums and Monument Act highlighting that many provisions of the Act governing national museums and monuments have been violated with this development in the Victoria Falls Rainforest, which is the number one monument in Zimbabwe. Moreover, the Joint World Heritage Site Management Plan already in place since July 2007 to June 2012 clearly states ‘there should be a complete moratorium on the construction and development of all tourism infrastructure, facilities or services within the World Heritage Property’. The Joint World Heritage Site Management Plan also clearly states under Prohibited Facilities – ‘No further infrastructural developments except those under permitted facilities’. A restaurant, bar and kitchen are not listed under permitted facilities. The Rainforest and its surrounding environs have been kept sacred by the local traditional people for many centuries. Rainmaking ceremonies have been conducted at the boiling pot and to start selling beer in there will be an insult to the culture of the local traditions of the area. At a public meeting which you attended to discuss the issue on 19 October 2010 all the more than 100 representatives of the Victoria Falls and Hwange Rural community present at the meeting unanimously agreed that the project should be stopped with immediate effect. We therefore, call upon your highly esteemed office to cancel this certificate with immediate effect on the basis of all of the above so that our generation and generations that will come after us will continue to enjoy this undisturbed number one monument in the country. Save the Rhinos Message from Kim Steinberg I am a single mother living in Natal North Coast. I am a struggling artist and photographer. In June I took this photograph of a black rhino in Namibia this year. The photograph has received many positive comments from the photographic and art community. I have been moved by the upsurge in rhino poaching over the past 5 years and felt I would like to contribute something towards the putting an end to this senseless massacre. I approached World Wildlife Fund and they are now supporting this effort. The attached photograph is to be printed on stretched artists’ canvas A0 size and sold to raise necessary funds. As well as the canvas original a limited number of signed and numbered prints of the photo (42cm X 30cm) are available for sale at R200 each. All proceeds after printing costs will be donated to Rhino Anti-Poaching. If anyone would like to purchase an A3 print or make a bid on the printed canvas original (A0 1189cm x 841cm) this can be made direct to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . It would make a fantastic centre piece in someone’s home or game lodge and the prints would make great Christmas presents whilst saving a species. I personally challenge everyone to purchase one print. It is a small price to pay for funds that will go a long way to supplying anti-poaching units with even the simplest things like radios, batteries for torches, rain coats, binoculars etc. which they are desperately short of at the moment. Thank you kindly, KIMSTEINBERG ART&PHOTOGRAPHY