KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE TRANSLOCATES 20 RHINOS TO RUMA NATIONAL PARK
(Picture courtesy of Kenya Wildlife Service)
Good news emerged from Kenya that KWS has last week successfully completed the relocation of 21 Eastern Black Rhinos to the Ruma National Park, formerly known as Lambwe Valley National Park when this correspondent still lived in Kenya and visited the area a few times.
Supported by the Wordwide Fund for Nature, or WWF, KWS brought the animals from two of Kenyas rhino sanctuaries, amongst them Solio, where incidentally the Rhino Fund Uganda got 6 of the Southern White Rhinos from we brought into the country during my chairmanship, 2 for UWEC in Entebbe and 4 for the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
Ruma National Park was only last year designated and equipped to become a dedicated rhino sanctuary and the arrival of 21 rhinos is seen as the biggest bonus to finally bring tourists to Western Kenyas many unexplored tourism attractions, both islands in Lake Victoria but also on land, where the rich cultural heritage of the Luo tribe has visitors much to offer and to show.
After acclimatizing to their new habitat and home it is hoped that the rhinos will soon start to mate and reproduce, now that a core breeding stock has been introduced to the park. Monitoring and security, at the perimeter but also around the animals, has been stepped up considerably since the arrival of the 21 to ensure that poaching is literally ruled out.
Visitors to the park can stay at one of the campsites or else use the KWS owned nearby Oribi Guest House, where a fully equipped kitchen supports self catering guests, though catering arrangements can be made if done so well in advance. The park is home to over 400 species of birds, resident and migratory, which makes it a preferred area for birdwatchers and the large number of other mammals, including the rare roan antilopes, oribis, hartebeest, impalas, reedbucks, buffalos, hyenas and leopard to name but a few, offer sightings to tourists without swarms of other vehicles around them, guaranteeing a superior safari experience.
Other options for visitors are to stay in the town of Homa Bay on Lake Victoria or further away in Kisumu. Notably, the park presently does not use the common Safaricard payment system so cash is required to enter Ruma.
Well done to KWS and all missing now are more visitors to see the new arrivals.
L ESPERANCES BIRAMBYE LODGE PROJECT TAKES SHAPE
(Victor Monroy surrounded by ‘his’ children at L Esperance)
One of the most remarkable orphanages I have ever seen, L Esperance at Kigarama in the highlands of South Eastern Rwanda along the Congo Nile Trail, is now set to embark on one of their income generating projects, the Birambye Eco Lodge, to be set up on a 3 hectares piece of land right on the shores of Lake Kivu.
Assisted by ICATIS, the International Centre for Appropriate Technology and Sustainability, sufficient funds have been raised to purchase the land needed to start the lodge and get all the titles and deeds unified. Once that has been accomplished the planning and licensing phase will go underway, with approvals sought from the relevant authorities including getting green light from the environmental watchdogs to begin construction.
Besides the staff at the orphanage, led by Victor Monroy, some 18 other individuals in their various capacities have been named as a support team, looking after certain aspects of the lodge project development and being already put in charge of various crucial components like windsurfing, boating, biking, hiking, environmentally friendly building and operating practices, but also to create links with the media, local regional and international. Close ties are also being sought with the Institute of National Museums and local universities to create win win situations between the lodge, existing institutions aimed at promoting culture and heritage tourism and the academia teaching relevant courses in tourism, hospitality and environmental protection.
The new lodge, when completed, will become a key link in the series of overnight stops along the Congo Nile Trail, much about which has been written here already and much more will come in the future as I intend to return to the trail later in the year for some hiking through Nyungwe Forest, across rural Rwanda and a return visit to my friends at L Esperance and the Bumba Base Camp of Father Patrick.
Visit www.lesperancerwanda.org or see more on Victors incredible vision for his orphaned children at www.victormonroytrust.org and of course about the lodge project at www.icatis.org/birambye
Contacts for all the 18 individuals are available on request and funding proposals and fund raising initiatives can be coordinated with Victor Monroy via email@example.com
Tourism as a tool to reduce poverty and sustain a community close up and hands on. Visitors are always welcome to L Esperance and to the Birambye Lodge site on Lake Kivu not too far from Kibuye, and this, according to Victor, is a standing invitation to everyone coming to The Land of a Thousand Hills for a visit. Watch this space.
GULF CARRIERS BIGGEST THREAT TO AFRICAN AVIATION
Two aviation sources have of late once again expressed their concern, that the onslaught of Gulf based airlines will eat into their traffic shares and reduce and dampen growth prospects for the future.
Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, the latter the erstwhile Pan African airline copied successfully by rival KQ, are rapidly expanding their network across the African continent, intent to connect every commercial and political capital with their hubs in Nairobi and Addis Ababa respectively. Going by figures available from Kenya Airways, Ethiopian in this regard is rather too shtumm in getting corporate information into the public domain, about 50 percent of all revenue is coming from African traffic, and expanding the network by the end of 2013 to all capitals, will only strengthen this trend.
Yet, Gulf giant Emirates is already flying to 22 destinations in Africa, the largest African network of any of the Gulf airlines, Qatar Airways is playing catch up and so is Bahrain based Gulf Air which will be the first to announce flights to Juba / Southern Sudan. Etihad will be the latest to join the throng when it arrives in Nairobi in April for their inaugural flight, and then there are the Gulfs LCCs. Air Arabia is already flying daily to Nairobi from Sharjah and Fly Dubai is reportedly eyeing a further expansion into Eastern Africa beyond their present destination Addis Ababa, as they get more of their ordered B737- 800 delivered.
We need to change the thinking of our governments if we are to survive on our own long term said a Nairobi based aviation source before continuing AFRAA has often made it plain that government support is crucial in promoting African aviation. But we also have to change perception. The continents leading airlines are as good and at times better than US airlines where service has been cut back to the bare bone. We in Africa, be it Kenya Airways or South African or Ethiopian, are full service airlines and none of them have resorted to the last resort and last ditch attempts to rob passengers via check in fees, baggage fees, fees for seats or talking of charging for the use of on board toilets. The African airline leaders have new fleets, have ground handling and lounge services which can hold their own and punctuality is good. Safety is good too with especially the Europeans eyeing them closely ready to pounce but they cannot find faults with them. But really our biggest issue are our own governments. They are happily granting traffic rights to the giants, and at the same time not giving us the tax breaks to level our cost structures compared to them. Our aviation ground facilities need to be boosted to cater for growing home airline fleets, maintenance facilities and all, sentiments heard often before and echoed here regularly.
With Qatar Airways planning to add Mombasa and Zanzibar to their growing list of destinations, they will pose an added challenge to retain and grow connecting traffic from those two airport via Nairobi and Addis Ethiopian flies scheduled services into Mombasa as presently the only foreign airline to do so for African carriers. Etihad only recently acquired a 40 percent stake in Air Seychelles and is rumoured to be seeking expansion through buying into more airlines, making some of the better African airlines targets for quasi takeovers, if not by them but surely by others. Will African government listen to the experts or in the hitherto practiced policy of laissez faire things happen and only then take notice how their own strategic assets have been hollowed out? Is the rush for oil, gas and minerals not a lesson already of how Africa is being exploited and will aviation soon be added to this list? Watch this space for future news.