Archive for June, 2010

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Fifth Edition June 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Fifth edition June 2010

 

Uganda News

LAB REPORT CONFIRMS ANTHRAX IN HIPPPO DEATHS

As reported here recently a number of hippopotamus died in a remote part of Queen Elizabeth National Park, leaving open questions as to the actual cause of the deaths. The Uganda Wildlife Authority was swift in sealing off the area and burning the carcasses to prevent any further spread, an action well considered now that the lab reports confirmed Anthrax as the culprit.

Anthrax outbreaks across Eastern Africa are periodical, as the virus goes dormant and often hides in soil before going active again, often only after decades, for no apparent reason at all. In 2005 the same park experienced a much larger hippo death toll, and the lessons learned from then helped UWA and other governmental bodies to act swiftly, seal off the affected area after discovering the first dead animals and prevent a further spread into hippo populations nearer the main tourist areas. Again, well done UWA for the decisive action.

 

UNESCO PLANS TO CONTRIBUTE A MILLION DOLLARS TO KASUBI TOMB REBUILDING

While Ugandans from all walks of life continue to contribute generously to the fund established by the Buganda Kingdom towards the rebuilding of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Kasubi Tombs’, UNESCO too is seeking to contribute a million US Dollars towards the cause. The Ugandan government too has made contributions and commitments of further support to restore the site to its former glory, as the tombs have indeed over the years become a magnet for foreign and local visitors, learning about the rich cultural history of the kingdom or else paying their respect almost in pilgrimage style.

The commitment by UNESCO was made by the organization’s Director General Mrs. Irina Bokova, who was in Uganda last week for a continental conference which brought together over 40 countries from Africa at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel.

 

Kenya News

KENYA’S TOURISM SECTOR NOW ADDS GOLF TO LIST OF ATTRACTIONS

A number of championship golf courses across Kenya, several of them within or just outside the country’s capital city of Nairobi, has prompted added promotional activities to attract golfers from across the world to come to the country and play ‘safari golf’ on the many upcountry courses but also sample the world class courses like Muthaiga, Royal Windsor and other more recent additions even at the coast.

Golfing generates mega billions of US Dollars in revenue each year and many aficionados travel the globe to play a couple of rounds on a course they fancy, and are willing to pay a great deal of money for the privilege in not just green fees but their entire travel arrangements, tickets, accommodation, meals, transport and extras spent on location.

In Kenya several specialised operators have in the past been tapping into this market but it appears that the Kenya Tourist Board has adopted this niche as one of their target groups too, intensifying marketing efforts to promote and popularize golfing in Kenya alongside the more traditional vacation products like safaris, beach holidays and cultural travel. KTB and private sector tourism stakeholders have now brought a number of officials of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators into the country to show them a range of Kenyan golf courses and club facilities and get their input how best to put Kenya on the global golfing map, following Kenya’s success at the last International Golf Travel Market, where the country was declared ‘Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year 2009’. As expected, at the end of the visit to Kenya’s leading golf courses, has the CEO of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators Mr. Peter Walton heaped praise on his hosts and encouraged Kenya  to do more in terms of global promotion of the sport, saying also ‘golfers will get value for money here’. It was also learned that the courses visited were ‘audited’ and will receive grading marks which golf tourists can follow.

The established major Kenyan golf clubs like Nairobi’s Muthaiga, Royal Windsor and Karen have invested heavily in recent years to raise the level of facilities and add to the challenge of their courses and private investors have put up championship courses at the South coast of Mombasa already some years ago and are putting final touches on the much expected new ‘Vipingo Ridge’ golf course at the North coast of Mombasa, where also residential properties are being built for purchase by those wanting to spend more time in Kenya every year. It is such levels of investments, and the foresight in doing so, which has moved Kenya ahead of her East African competitors as few facilities of true international standards otherwise exist in the wider region as yet. Opportunities knock on many doors, but apparently only some open their doors to let them in!

 

KENYA SETS UP SPECIAL ANTI PIRACY COURT

Following further agreements between development partners, members of the international naval coalition against piracy and the Kenyan government has a new court been set up which will deal exclusively with nabbed ocean terrorists delivered to the judiciary system of this East African nation.

Earlier in the year had Kenya signalled that resources were simply not available to deal with a lot of added trials due to lack of personnel and already high pressure on their court system and that they would need to suspend trials if no dedicated funding could be made available.

This triggered immediate talks and a subsequent agreement between the Kenyan government in Nairobi and partner countries, and let to the establishment last week of a dedicated court dealing exclusively with the problem of piracy on the high seas off the Eastern African coast.

Kenya and the Seychelles are the only two countries at present with concluded, ongoing and upcoming trials against the pirates, who in the Seychelles are also facing terrorism charges besides ‘ordinary’ piracy, a move much welcomed by this correspondent who has long advocated for a tougher line against the menace. When looking at the fallout in economic terms to the East African economies one almost must be in favour of a naval blockade of the pirate havens in Somalia and to intercept any traffic from these hideouts looking like and acting like pirates – in fact, a change of the mandate and rules of engagement towards a self defence mode would be in order now, the moment motherships and skiffs are spotted, allowing the coalition vessels to engage the ocean terrorists on the high seas in a robust fashion, before then also permitting the coalition forces to do ‘hot pursuit’ on to land to prevent the further use of land based infrastructure supporting future piracy and terrorist missions. Watch this space.

 

MINISTER’S STATEMENT ANGERS TOURISM SECTOR

Kenya’s foreign minister stepped into the proverbial recently when appearing before a parliamentary committee and claiming ‘the reduction of Visa fees [done last year from 50 to 25 US Dollars for foreign visitors] lowered Kenya’s international prestige and reduced earnings from tourism’. Flabbergasted tourism stakeholders rushed their opinions to this correspondent, claiming the minister not only mis-spoke but displayed a complete lack of understanding and was out of order to make claims which could not be supported by fact.

The Minister for Tourism had advocated strongly at the time, when the world economic crisis had come home to roost and tourism arrivals were dropping fast, to lower Visa fees as part of a strategic package put together by the private and public sector to bring visitor numbers back up, and going by the arrival data available from KTB this approach has worked for them. The foreign minister’s statements that ‘Kenya is now levelled as a cheap destination’ and ‘we have lost out on high quality tourism’ too was met with bewilderment, as a series of new properties on the safari sector but also along Kenya’s beaches have in recent months been awarded international recognition for their quality, achieving ‘Best in Africa’ status, and staying in such properties can now easily reach between 500 to 1.500 US Dollars per day – not exactly lending credibility to the minister’s extraordinarily misleading statements that Kenya was ‘cheap’.

Tourism stakeholders in Nairobi and Mombasa were left scratching their heads over what may have prompted the minister’s outbursts, and one regular source added: ‘tourism is not a sector to play around with, the minister’s statement as plain and simple wrong, because lowering the Visa fees was part of creating a business environment to bring the tourists back. Government may have lost on the fees but the sector overall has more than made up for that loss in many multiples through taxes, retaining and creating new jobs in tourism and new investments. We are looking at a record year in terms of arrivals for 2010. Arrival numbers are up 30 percent and revenue is up by nearly 20 percent. Who gave the foreign minister such a briefing with no substance? Who knows, maybe he just shot off his mouth trying to gloss over some other problems he has elsewhere. But he must know, leave tourism alone, we have a competent minister ourselves and need no lectures from other ministers who know little or nothing about the tourism industry.’ Strong words, but undoubtedly well deserved. Meanwhile, tourist board and ministry of tourism sources remained diplomatically silent but it can be expected that the tourism minister will have a word with his colleague overseeing foreign affairs to give him some facts and figures and avoid future outbursts of this nature, which are, needless to point out, not helpful for Kenya’s international reputation abroad.

 

Tanzania News

FIRST MULTI STAGE BIKE RACE TAKES PLACE IN ARUSHA

 

The Arusha Cycling Club recently organised the first ever three day / four stage ‘Karibu Arusha’ cycling race from the municipality, bringing together 10 teams from across the country, comprising 57 riders. The event featured individual time trials, team time trials and the ‘open race’ from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area gate for which the men had to cover 330 kilometres including climbing the escarpment at Mto Wa Mbu and further up Ngorongoro. The ladies ‘only’ needed to do 220 kilometres, still a very considerable challenge for the participants and a source of pride for all the finishers.

Main sponsor of the event was Tanzania’s premier airline ‘Precision Air’, sponsoring logistics, prize money and other ‘goodies’ for the participants.

For more information and to monitor upcoming cycling events in and around Arusha / Tanzania, please visit www.arushacyclingclub.org

 

LAKE TANGANYIKA NEXT TARGET FOR OIL COMPANIES

Oil exploration in the waters of Lake Tanganyika has come a step closer when an Australian exploration firm won the bid to carry out test drilling and signed a Production Sharing Agreement, in short PSA with the Tanzanian government. Government sources were quoted to have pointed to the major oil finds in and around Lake Albert, which is shared between Uganda and Congo, claiming that the underlying factors in other Rift Valley lakes would make it very likely that natural gas and oil reserves may also be found in Lake Tanganyika and other lakes within the Great African Rift Valley.

However, great challenges await the oil exploration activities, as infrastructure near the lake is presently not up to scratch, while the lake itself is thought to be the second deepest in the world, posing technical problems to the exploration firm they have very likely not encountered before and which may require new technologies.

Meanwhile it was also learned that test drilling is now also being prepared in the Lake Edward area of Uganda, which would make it the second national park area after Murchisons Falls to go ‘active’ in the search for oil and gas. Dominion, a UK based oil exploration company, presently under a license extension for previous inactivity, must drill or risk losing their license and any investment made so far, and has reportedly yielded to this pressure and commenced work on site last week. The company reportedly also holds a concession across the lake’s common border in the Congo DR but has according to sources in Goma also not started any concrete work there. In a related development, once more underscoring Congo’s inability to live up to contractual commitments and exposing the regime again as one of ‘grab, cut and sell again’ was the Tullow licence across Lake Albert from their Ugandan license areas reportedly cancelled last week. Tullow, according to media reports, insists they have a valid license and given no cause for any cancellation, but the regime in Kinshasa is simply notorious for cancelling such concessions and licenses arbitrarily and at the whim of the moment – as done repeatedly in the past in particular with mineral concessions – and resell them to the highest bidders – and speculates this correspondent more than likely the ones with the fattest brown envelopes.

Concerns about drilling in lakes and near wetlands and protected areas have considerably risen in recent months following the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling and production platform. Visible daily on television are the ever increasing damages to US’ beaches and beach communities along the Gulf of Mexico, to fragile ecosystems, wetlands, protected areas, the fishing industry and the tourism sector along hundreds of kilometres and the prospect that hurricanes and ocean currents could carry the spill effect even further. This has opened up a fresh and agitated debate even here in East Africa over the pros and cons of oil exploration and production with calls getting louder to introduce added legislation and regulations to prevent such disasters and deal with any potential problems. Considering the technological might and available logistics in the United States and seeing how literally helpless they are in combating the growing spill, it can only be hoped that ALL precautions are taken here in East Africa and equipment is being positioned immediately, at the expense of the oil companies, capable of dealing with an extensive oil spill, to allow in a worst case scenario an instant response without having to waste days and possibly weeks waiting for equipment to arrive which would help to bring a problem under control.

Pictures available to this correspondent from the Niger Delta in Nigeria however speak a language free of any ambiguity and indicate what lax government regulations and oversight can result in – biologically dead wetlands, swamps, mangrove forests where no aquatic-, bird- and wildlife is now found and which has stripped the coastal communities living there of any opportunity for fishing to supplement their food sources, compelling many to leave as their livelihood has been spoilt beyond repair. Watch this space.

 

TANZANIAN DRIVER GUIDES CALL OF STRIKE – FOR NOW

Sources from Tanzania have confirmed that the planned strike by driver guides and tour guides will be called off for the time being, after other stakeholders prevailed upon the Tanzania Tour Guide Association, in short TTGA, to consider the damage to the industry, should they go ahead. TTGA had earlier in the year given notice to stakeholders like the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, the tour companies, the lodges and camps in their cross hairs and governmental departments that they intended to go on strike over ‘appalling conditions’ in some of the lodges and camps for drivers and guides.

One source in Arusha, known to this correspondent, added his own views: ‘conditions in some places are very bad. Often there are no mosquito nets, we have to share rooms, the bathrooms stink and the food is bad. We have told those managers to change things but we are told that either there is no money for ‘such things’ or we are told to shut up ‘or else’. At times clients ask why we are not fresh in the morning, and we have to be diplomatic. We are treated very well in some of the lodges, they have single rooms or twin rooms for us and offer good food and clean bathrooms, but there are some which just ignore us.’

A leading stakeholder in Dar es Salaam also commented, saying a strike could only ever be a very last resort, while appealing to the lodge and camp operators to attend to the welfare of the drivers and guides. He added: ‘a strike now would cripple our recovery after the global crisis. In fairness they (TTGA) gave a long notice but maybe some camps and lodges need more time, but I think they know now that if they do not change that they will be singled out and it will be bad for their business’.

Another guide in Arusha also sent his comments as follows: ‘you know, even when clients invite us in some places to eat with them, and they pay for it, management there makes our life difficult. They try to keep us out of the dining and the bar, and at times our clients must insist strongly to have a drink with us in the evening or sit down for lunch or supper. I am not saying this is pure racism, but some of the managers have an agenda of their own. I have been told many times to stay out of the dining after being invited by my clients, is their money for my meal not good? You see, we spend a lot of time with our clients, and when enough is enough we can tell them a place is not good. We have started to tell our companies to stop booking clients in some places because we sleep and eat badly there, but we will see’.

Adds this correspondent with the experience from his days in top management of some of Kenya’s leading safari companies that the lodges and camps in the cross hairs of the driver guides really ought to pull up their socks and improve these facilities, as a driver guide can make or break a safari experience by exposing such contempt towards their wellbeing … not something some of those otherwise fancied places would care to read subsequently on Facebook or TripAdvisor … at the same time all compliments to some of the lodges and camps which have excelled in providing good accommodation, facilities and meals to the driver guides and are therefore ‘favourites’ on the safari circuit.

 

ELECTRICITY PRICE INCREASE DEMAND SHOCKS HOTELIERS

The Tanzanian power company has earlier this week gone public with plans to raise electricity tariffs by a staggering 34 percent, prompting immediate responses from consumers, industry and also from hotel operators to reduce the increases to a more manageable level. Hotels, in particular those located along the Tanzanian beaches and in Dar es Salaam, depend on reliable electricity supplies to run their airconditioning plants and cold rooms, and one source in Dar has swiftly pointed out to this correspondent that ‘power bills are already at all time high and a major source of expense for us. Supply has been erratic and when we use our own back up generator it is even more costly. Now if bills are to go up by another third, we must raise tariffs ourselves because this cannot be absorbed. It is our guest who will pay a lot more and we worry about being competitive in the region. Kenya is bringing in a lot of green energy sources and Uganda has found oil, but we in Tanzania have to be able to compete, not only in quality but also by pricing’. It was also mentioned that the tourism sector ought to lobby for a more moderate increase in electricity prices and be present at the public hearings government intends to hold to get opinions from all walks of life before either approving or rejecting TANESCO’s application. 

 

SUMBAWANGA AERODROME IN URGENT NEED OF REPAIRS

The gateway airfield to the Katavi National Park and Lake Tanganyika is in urgent need of added repairs and upgrades, according to reports received from Dar es Salaam. While light single and twin engined aircraft can land at the strip, as they need a shorter take off and landing space, larger twin engined turboprop aircraft able to carry between 30 and 50 passengers are finding it difficult to land, especially in wet weather conditions, according to remarks attributed to the manager of the aerodrome.

The East African Community has in past years embarked on a programme for the member states to improve aviation facilities across the region to promote air transport to more remote areas, but Tanzania being the largest of the five member states has more airfields and aerodromes to look after than others. It is understood that the annual budget allocation to the aviation sector for field upgrades and maintenance have steadily improved, but a source at TCAA has indicated that the authority is following an agreed workplan according to which the various aerodromes are being targeted for improvements. The source also confirmed that Sumbawanga is on the ‘to do’ list and urged ‘those making noise now’ to be patient a little longer.

 

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR PRIVATISATION ‘WILL COME’

The Rwandan national airline is continuing to work towards achieving operational and financial status which will allow the government to rekindle the search for a partner airline. This information was given last week by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of RwandAir Mr. John Mirenge. The airline only very recently recruited a new CEO, Mr. Rene Janata, who previously held senior management positions with Germany’s Lufthansa – making it an interesting constellation when privatisation efforts go underway again after two years of relative inactivity.

Lufthansa now owns a major share of Brussels Airlines, and will soon decide to acquire a majority of the Belgian national airline’s shares and it was in fact SN which had put in a bid for RwandAir four years ago. This bid however was found wanting at the time, as the proposal was based on the introduction of BAE 146 aircraft, generally thought unsuitable for the operational altitudes of airports in the region with the added alleged sensitivity of the engines to dust and grit giving also giving cause of concern.

However, under the new constellation the bid could be renewed, giving the Lufthansa group a ‘base’ in the East African region through partnerairline SN. RwandAir now has two CRJ200 aircraft flying, incidentally purchased from Lufthansa inclusive of maintenance support at the Kigali home base, setting the stage for financial and operational savings and improvements required before the Rwandan government will renew the search for a choice partner. Watch this space for up to date news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean aviation scenes.

 

PAN AFRICAN FESTIVAL OF DANCE COMES TO RWANDA

Rwanda is hosting this year’s African Union dance festival, due to be held in the capital Kigali between July 24th to 31st. Created 12 years ago under the auspices of the African Union, aimed to bring together the rich cultures of the African continent in a single annual festival, the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism & Conservation will oversee the preparations. Dozens of dance groups, representing their own countries from across the continent, are expected to come to Rwanda and perform traditional African dances, but also show contemporary performances and ‘free style’ presentations. Alongside the dance festival will a number of cultural workshops take place in Kigali aimed to promote culture, art and in particular dance to the Rwandan youth and those attending the gathering from all over Africa.

 

KLM COMING TO KIGALI

By the end of October this year will KLM extend their present 5 weekly connections from Amsterdam to Entebbe on to Kigali / Rwanda, according to an aviation sources close to the carrier’s Kampala office. The airline will continue to use their Airbus A330-200 equipment on the route, which is operated in a two class configuration of Business and Economy. It could not be established by the time of going to press if the flight will then return nonstop from Kigali to Amsterdam or make another stop en route again in Entebbe, but going by the flight operations into East Africa by Brussels Airlines it is more than likely that a routing AMS – EBB – KGL – AMS will be on the cards. Tourism sources in Rwanda this correspondent spoke with earlier in the week expressed excitement about the prospect of having another major European airline fly into the country and provide much needed seats, besides the cargo space also available then for imports and exports. Airline sources were however guarded when asked about the prospect of eventually going daily, when the Kigali extension had taken root, but should traffic growth meet expectations, this will likely be the next announcement you can read here. Watch this space for further updates as and when available.

 

Southern Sudan News

BAHR EL JEBEL OFFERS MORE SOUTH SUDAN EXPEDITIONS

Following the recent publication of articles on Southern Sudan and its upcoming tourism opportunities, and mentioning the Bahr el Jebel expedition itinerary for a planned trip later this year to the region, demand has kicked in for more such unique safaris to one of the last unexplored parts of Eastern Africa. Destination for the two January 2011 expeditions by Bahr el Jebel will be the Boma National Park, located along the border with Ethiopia, where very large numbers of white eared kobs, tiangs and mongallas can be found, besides much other game and many bird species unique to this park.

The migration of these species from the Boma National Park to the Nile and back is thought second only to the great migration of the wildebeest and zebras from the low grass plains in the area between Ngorongoro and the Southern part of the Serengeti, but is still largely unknown to many, even in the East African tourism industry, leave alone further abroad – a well kept secret so far by those in the know and who have been there to witness the spectacle.

The expedition will be setting up camp at Pibor Post in a mobile tented camp, from where daily game drives will lead into the park proper, assisted by a single engine aircraft based at Pibor for the duration of the expedition which will relay GPS information from the air to guide the vehicles directly to the big herds. Participants in the expedition will be able to participate in these aerial surveys, adding ‘spice’ to the activities and offering the great views from above.

Visit www.bahr-el-jebel-safaris.com/The_Greatest_Migration_of_Mammals_in_the_World_.html for more detailed information and bookings.

 

NEW PUBLICATION COMING IN JUBA

Els de Temmerman, hitherto well known Editor in Chief of Uganda’s leading newspaper ‘The New Vision’, has left her job in Kampala and reportedly travelled to Juba last week, aiming to set up a newspaper in the Southern Sudanese capital. Els has a long affiliation with Uganda, in particular Northern Uganda, about which she wrote a book, and her departure for Juba will undoubtedly signal some serious project being underway. Els also co-owns the Cassia Lodge on Buziga Hill in Kampala with her husband Johan van Hecke, a former leading Belgian politician, but with the new project coming up will have to spend a lot more time in Juba from here onwards, to see the new media ‘baby’ through inception to reality. Good luck Els.

 

Seychelles News

SEYCHELLES SEEKS TO RESTORE AIRLINKS WITH TANZANIA

It was learned earlier in the week that efforts are underway to renew aviation links between Tanzania and the Seychelles, which were halted some time ago due to lack of suitable aircraft and a perceived lack of potential traffic potential between the two countries. However, Seychelles has taken their efforts for more tourist visitors to the East African countries in recent months, signing cooperation agreements and MoU’s, all aimed at stimulating travel. With Air Tanzania at present not capable of operating such flights in view of their lack of aircraft and operational and financial problems, the prime partner would be Tanzania’s Precision Air, but all parties are keeping this well under wraps at present. There is speculation that when more aircraft are delivered to Precision, the route may come under more active consideration, but for now it is Kenya Airways with their current two flights a week connecting East Africa with the archipelago.

 

 

And in closing here is some material taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ – always providing interesting insight into the happenings ‘further down south’ on our continent…

 

Friends of Hwange

Hwange National Park has no permanent water sources where the animals can drink.  All water sources are artificially filled using diesel-fuelled pumps.  It costs a lot to keep these pumps going for the sake of the animals.  Throughout all Zimbabwe’s dark years, Friends of Hwange has continued to bring fuel to the Park and to maintain the ancient pumps to keep the animals alive. 

Golf Day
There is a fundraising golf day being held at Sherwood Golf Club in Harare on Saturday the 17th July. If you would like to enter individually or a team, please see us at the craft fair or email us at foh@strachans.co.zw or call Dave Dell on +263-712 630152 or call Johan Smit on +263-915 403002. All welcome.

Walks in Hwange
Due to cancellations, there are still a few spaces left for the fundraising ‘Walks in Hwange’ in August this year. This is a unique opportunity for a leisurely walking with Professional Guides and comfortable camping trip in the Hwange wilderness. Please email foh@strachans.co.zw or call Dave Dell on +263-712 630152 for more information on this ‘Once in a lifetime’ opportunity.

If you would like to hold a fundraising activity in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact us at foh@strachans.co.zw. Every cent helps to prevent animal suffering.

 

Caprivi Magazine and Map

I have copies of a magazine and a map which have been produced by the Caprivi Promotional Project.  The magazine has some interesting articles on Caprivi history, environment and conservation.  The map has all the parks and lodges on it with some other useful information. 

The magazine is K35,000, the map K25,000.  Let me know if you would like either or both and I can drop them off in town. 

[write to Gill via gill@livingstonian.com for information how to get this publication from her]

Protea Hotels – comment by Colin Bell of Wilderness Safaris in Hotel & Restaurant – June 2010 

I have read the opinion in the May issue of Hotel and Restaurant about the “Hysterical Campaign” against Protea Hotels’ proposed development along the Lower Zambezi as well as Protea’s press release published on-line as to why they had withdrawn the project.

Both of these articles give a one-sided view to Protea Hotels’ plan to develop a 144-bed hotel along the banks of the Zambezi River directly opposite Mana Pools.  There is however, a very different story once one gets past the PR put out by Protea.

You state that this development would have brought tourists to the country, would have created jobs, etc.  Unfortunately it appears that you have not been told the true situation on the ground.

Contrary to your view, I believe that if this development had gone ahead there would have been a nett loss of jobs in the region in the medium- and long term; foreign tourists would have been put off travelling to the country and the region (especially now that Zimbabwe is on the comeback trail) and a World Heritage Site would have been irreparably damaged. 

In hindsight, Protea should be extremely grateful that there was that muted outcry that caused them to reflect and withdraw.  If they had gone ahead, I believe that Protea would have felt the full effect of the biggest-ever consumer and trade boycott in Africa travel history and their brand would have been immeasurably damaged.

The campaign had just started gathering a head of steam and this was not merely a campaign being led by a few 4×4 drivers and Nimbys as Hotel and Restaurant states.  This campaign would have led to a full-scale travel industry boycott of all of Protea’s properties by travel people and the public right around the world, such as the level of disgust held by a wide range of people in the know.

The brief background to this development is that Protea’s Zambian partners had acquired the rights to a small piece of land on the banks of the Zambezi river just upstream from the Lower Zambezi National Park – but within the GMA of the area.  There are many lodges on both sides of this site.  This incidentally was one of only two areas along the Zambian side of the Zambezi River where Maloney’s monkeys can be found.  The Protea site is located at the point where the Zambezi Valley/Mana Pools is at its narrowest and where this development would have had the most negative impacts on both sides of the river.

Protea had planned to squeeze in a massive 144-bed hotel onto this site.

They had convinced (bullied??) the local authorities to give the go ahead for the development – ignoring local stakeholder opinions, management plans and casting a blind eye to the fact that this scale of development in a place like the Lower Zambezi was inappropriate and an eyesore (see the attached picture of the design of the lodge.  There would have been four blocks of these I believe on one small site).

Protea’s rationale was that this project would create 100 long-term jobs, and had local support, etc, etc.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

  1. The Lower Zambezi is already overcrowded.  There are already too  many lodges along the Zambian side of the river; too many boats; too many aircraft and the game drive roads are far too limited for the number of beds as the floodplain on the Zambian side of the river is extremely limited in breadth – unlike that on the Zimbabwean side.  If this development had gone ahead, one of Africa’s most beautiful parks would have been irreparably destroyed.
  2.  Average annual occupancies at the properties all along the river are already low and this development would have started the process that could have killed the Lower Zambezi as a destination.  Guests and the travel trade have a wide choice of destinations throughout Africa to choose from and tend to keep away from those destinations that are crowded with crass developments.  Zimbabwe’s resurgence as a destination is already threatening Zambia and there is no need for Zambia to antagonise or alienate the market and encourage business to move back to the south bank of the Zambezi.  This development would have been that catalyst.
  3.  The management plan for the area had already put a stop to further developments of this magnitude.
  4.  Protea state that local people had supported this development.  Their press and EIA conveniently omitted the letter of objection from a local community. 
  5.  Protea state that this development would have created 100 jobs, but they ignore the fact that many other local lodges would have had their occupancies negatively impacted and some would have gone insolvent if this hotel had gone ahead.
  6.  Hotel & Restaurant mentions that foreign tourists would be attracted to the region if this development had gone ahead.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  Foreign tour operators don’t book massive hotels built inappropriately in sensitive areas.  The travel industry had already created a lobby group that would have banned business to this development if it had gone ahead and that ban would have been extended to all of Protea’s hotels.

I could go on and on.

Sadly Protea chose to ignore the advice to develop on a location further upstream where there is a perfect site for a hotel of this magnitude near the town of Chirundu.  This location has easy road access from Lusaka and would have been perfectly suited for their target market without impacting on the spirit of the Lower Zambezi.  Protea chose to use their local stakeholders muscle within Zambia to steamroll this development past the authorities.  Fortunately the power of the market is much stronger than they anticipated. 

My concern is that the tourism industry is a double-edged sword and we as an industry and Hotel & Restaurant as part of the respected and responsible media need to ensure that what we promote will translate to something positive on the ground for both the environment and for local people as well as the shareholders.

This development, if it had gone ahead would have been a destroyer for all.  There are few wild places left and our generation needs to ensure that we leave a legacy for future generations and not be driven purely for profit for today. 

The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate and the tourism cannot create its own sub-prime crisis that leaves nothing to future generations. 

Another side of the story …

As stated above, the plans for the development of the hotel have been shelved.  However the statement below, which was first published in Zambia, indicates that the people of the area near the proposed development are in favour of it.

“I am compelled to issue this statement in light of the distorted negative publicity about this project portrayed by foreign media especially in Zimbabwe and South Africa to the extent that my position on this project has been totally misrepresented.

“I was saddened to read in a South African newspaper dated 19th March 2010 the insinuation that 12 of 15 traditional leaders in Chiawa had allegedly signed a document opposing the building in Lower Zambezi – Chiyaba chiefdom.  This article is a complete fabrication and total misrepresentation.

“My firm position on the Protea hotel project in Chiawa is that it is welcome as long as it is done in compliance to Zambian law, especially the Environmental and Pollution Control Act. 

“The project is being undertaken on a private property held on leasehold and it is not customary land.

“Consequently, as chieftainess I have no jurisdiction on the matter.  It is patently wrong to suggest that as a chiefdom we should reject a project of this nature when the majority of my subjects are wallowing in hunger and poverty.  Therefore I am encouraging the promoters of the project to proceed with it.”

The statement, which has been edited slightly for legal reasons and to enhance clarity was signed: Yours in traditional leadership, Her Royal Highness Chieftainess Chiyaba.  Chiyaba Chiefdom – Chiawa.

Zambia Visas reduced … for some … for a short while …

18 June 2010

GOVERNMENT has with effect from today reduced Visa fees for holders of the South Africa FIFA 2010 World Cup event, VISA to enable many entries into Zambia to sample the country’s tourist attractions.

The reduction does not, however, apply to nationals who are not holders of the South Africa FIFA 2010 World Cup event, VISA.

Home Affairs Minister Mkhondo Lungu announced at a media briefing yesterday all nationals who were holders of the FIFA 2010 World Cup event would be issued with visas at points of entry at a reduced fee of $25.

The minister said the reduction would end on July 31, 2010.

As a matter of interest … when the team from the Ministry of Tourism visited Livingstone a few weeks ago to tell us all about the work they had been doing, we discussed visas.  When I mentioned that, as a British citizen, I did not pay a visa into Botswana, Namibia or South Africa, they all seemed surprised.  I think our tourism experts need to do a bit of homework …

If we are ever going to compete with our neighbours who have much better facilities and are cheaper to reach by air, we need to reduce our costs … roadshows around Europe will not help if we continue to be expensive. 

 

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Fourth Edition June 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Fourth edition June 2010

 

UNITED COMMENCES ACCRA FLIGHTS – NO EAST AFRICA CONNECTION IN SIGHT

Last weekend saw the first ever United Airlines service commence between Washington’s Dulles Airport and Accra / Ghana, using B767 equipment. The announcement was met with interest in East African aviation circles too, where flights by Delta to Nairobi, via a West African waypoint, are also still expected but have not yet materialised, having been halted by US authorities on the eve of the inaugural flight last year due to security concerns.

Aviation sources in East Africa cite the continued absence of Cat 1 certification by the American FAA as one of the major reasons, as for instance in Nairobi the traffic flow of arriving and departing passengers still meets, while Cat 1 status requires a strict separation of the two groups.

No details could be obtained from the Uganda CAA as to why the international airport in Entebbe was not yet Cat 1 cleared, as the passenger separation has long been in place there and even though added security provisions were introduced in recent years, these approvals still seem as long off as ever before.

Until therefore the FAA and other US authorities eventually clear flights to Eastern Africa, the presently nearest direct US flight connections leave from Addis Ababa, Cairo and Johannesburg, remaining the envy of the Eastern African airports.

Meanwhile, in a related development, has the European Investment Bank EIB offered a grant towards the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport rehabilitation and expansion project of some 5 million Euros or nearly 500 million Kenya Shillings at present rates. The grant, which is not part of a major loan by the EIB for the project, appears aimed to assist in reducing operational disruptions during the upcoming works on the main Terminals 1, 2 and 3. A fourth terminal is also due to be added at JKIA, and once work is complete Cat 1 status will then more likely become a reality.

 

Uganda News

FIRST CELTEL, THEN ZAIN, NOW AIRTEL

The telecoms battle in Uganda – presently 7 mobile operators are licensed and competing for market share – is set to intensify yet again now that the takeover of Zain’s Africa operation by India’s Bharti has been completed. Already are the print and electronic media salivating over the upcoming advertising campaigns to introduce the company’s new name ‘Airtel’ to the market and in the process the local phone users will more than likely benefit through special offers and a range of ‘goodies’ normally spread out after a takeover and bringing a new corporate identity to Uganda. One of the major tasks ahead for the new owners will be the change from their present 2G network to a state of the art 3G or 3G+ network, which all their leading competitors have in recent months rolled out or even a brand new 4G network, which would be an industry first for Uganda. Data traffic, besides the traditional voice traffic, is expected to grow exponentionally in coming years, as the internet penetration in the country grows and subscribers purchase their own modems to stay ‘connected’ 24/7. Watch this space for upcoming announcements of interest in particular to visitors coming to ‘the pearl of Africa’ who want to make calls in country with affordable rates.

In reaction to this development has Uganda Telecom re-launched their solar powered handset, selling for 60.000 Uganda Shillings BUT with free call credit of 1.000 Uganda Shillings for a whole year, reducing the actual cost of the handset to a mere 8.000/- Shillings or less than 4 US Dollars. This set is of particular value to rural subscribers in areas where electricity is not easily available, as owners of such phones can use the daily dose of sunlight to keep their phone batteries charged.

Other mobile operators are presently still playing down the entry of Bharti into the Ugandan, and in fact African market – they did buy the entire Africa network of Zain – but their market strength, being the largest mobile operator in India, will permit them to spend added resources to carve out a greater market share, through promotional gimmicks and lower call rates, taking the battle to their main competitors MTN, UTL, Orange and Warid in particular in rural areas of the country, where phone services penetration is still very low compared with the city and urban centres.

Meanwhile though criticism is getting louder and more intense as plans emerged to sack a number of Kenyan and Ugandan managers in favour of ‘importing’ staff from India – a move described by the Bharti Airtel CEO as ‘introducing our DNA into the African operation’ while the affected East African nationals are calling it discrimination and smacking of racism, in particular as, according to regional media reports, the replacement ratio of senior and other management is said to be about 80 percent … Watch this space.

 

HERITAGE OIL TAKES UGANDAN GOVERNMENT TO ARBITRATION

Uganda’s first oil exploration company in over 60 years, and the one with presently the biggest finds of oil deposits in the Albertine Graben, has reportedly served notice to the Ugandan government to invoke an arbitration process under the terms of their Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with Uganda, following a growing dispute with the Ugandan tax authority, which had laid a pre-emptive claim of over 400 million US Dollars against Heritage, when their proposed sale of assets in Uganda is going through. Heritage’s preferred buyer was Italian state oil corporation ENI, but partners Tullow Oil at the very last moment had invoked their first right of refusal and stated they would wish to buy Heritage’s Ugandan interests. However, in the absence of ready cash their deal was structured around finding potent and cash rich partners first, a situation which caused disquiet in Ugandan governmental and business circles, leading to a delay by the Ugandan government to give final approval for the deal.

Matters then complicated further when tax demands were floated in public, and a press release available to this correspondent indicates that a London based arbitration panel will be convened to look into this situation and assess if there is any validity to such claims. This panel will be convened under UNCITRAL rules ( United Nations Commission for International Trade Law), and according to usually well informed sources the Ugandan government is not entirely keen to see this process unfold, as many international arbitration rulings in the past have gone against unsustainable government positions. Negotiations are ongoing therefore and a high level delegation from Heritage Oil in the UK was in Uganda very recently before then issuing their public notice of intent to seek an arbitration ruling.

Heritage cites a number of precedents, in Uganda and elsewhere, whereby no such tax was levied before and sources close to the company were swift in blaming the tax authority for trying to use this potential windfall to make up for shortfalls in their annual collections, caused by sliding shilling values on the international currency markets and the fallout of the global economic and financial crisis of the past few years.

Heritage came to Uganda in 1997, when few if any were interested in oil exploration, and took a considerable risk in drilling, as all initial wells were ‘dry’ before striking the black gold in their three Kingfisher wells near Lake Albert. Since then a multitude of new application was received by the Ugandan government for exploration and eventual production, but so far all early production timelines were missed by the various oil companies and talk has it that this may now be a further two or more years away, as the necessary infrastructure for production and processing first needs to be created.

It is here that the Ugandan government finds itself in a bind, as Italian oil giant ENI had put an offer on the table, when discussing the buyout of Heritage and presenting their long term proposals to the Ugandan government, to invest a staggering 14 billion US Dollars in Uganda, and the Italian government’s backing of the deal was at the time also assured. ENI has also let it be known that they would be willing to pay the taxes the Ugandan government demands – rightly or wrongly it should be added, arbitration will decide on this issue – should the government give them the ‘nod’ to purchase Heritage’s interests.

Hence I invoke the saying ‘it is not over until the fat lady sings’ – no pun intended towards the Italians’ love for opera – and it is worth watching this space for upcoming news in future editions.

 

ISO INTRODUCTING CARBON FOOTPRINT TEMPLATE

The Uganda National Bureau of Standards, in cooperation with the International Standards Organization, in short ISO, the Swedish Bureau of Standards and SIDA, the Swedish International Development Agency has last week launched information  for interested parties, of how to establish a carbon footprint for industries, service providers and households.

The new initiative will undoubtedly assist the business community and civil society to retain a largely ‘green’ profile for Uganda, if followed by all concerned that is, and will be providing the required details on how best to reduce or counter green house gas emissions and mitigate the impact of economic and domestic activities on the environment.

The new standards will give guidance in regard of different types of activities contributing to emissions, and to what extent, and assist to quantify and measure performance against given targets.

Once fully implemented it will make the attributes ‘green’ and ‘ecofriendly’ a much more closely monitored declarations, and pretenders will be caught with greater ease, after hitherto often misleading consumers and clients with ‘green’ and ‘ecofriendly’ claims bare of reality.

 

SAFE WATER COMES TO LAKE SHORE POPULATION AT LAKE ALBERT

Travelling across the country, and the region as a whole, is one of this correspondent’s favourite pastimes and also of course an occupational necessity in order to capture events, see new developments and write about it (or not write about it when the experience is not up to scratch as is often the case). Last week opportunity arose to fly with a group of other journalists to the shores of Lake Albert to witness the inauguration of ‘safe water supplies’ to the nearly 6.000 residents in six fishing villages near the Heritage Kingfisher 3 well. In the past all the villages had to fetch water from the lake shores, as the springs from the escarpment were far away, leading to a range of health problems associated with bilharzia and other water borne diseases. When Heritage Oil first came to the area to do the test drilling of their now famous Kingfisher wells, the local communities discussed with them a range of options, how Heritage could assist them in improving their daily lives. It was just over three years ago when I visited the (then proposed) initial drilling site for the first time as Heritage started out to prepare the location, but the villages upon this repeat visit presented a much improved picture by any standards.

 

 

(aerial view across the escarpment towards the plains along the Lake Albert shores a few minutes before landing)

 

Our flight from Kajjansi to the Masika airfield in the Cessna Caravan took just about one hour, ably piloted (again) by Capt. Russell Barnes, and although mostly at a relatively low flight level of 8.500 ft was smooth with a good view inspite of the rising haze in the distance.

 

 

(‘final’ approach into the Masika airfield – on the right corner of the picture is the Heritage ‘Buhuka Camp’)

 

Landing on the grass strip was in Capt. Russell’s best tradition and within minutes we were driven the short distance to the Heritage camp near the lake shores, which is managed for them by MSL Logistics, a locally incorporated company contracted to run a number of such camps for the Heritage drilling and well sites. The senior staff mess, which also doubles as a meeting room, provided us with beverages and snacks – and satellite news broadcasts of course – but the rest of the facilities for ‘ordinary’ workers too presented itself in a clean and functional state and the landscaping rounded up the impression very favourably – Ugandan hospitality, even if not aimed at the tourist market, from its best side.

 

  

(aerial and ground view of the Heritage ‘Buhuka’ camp on the shores of Lake Albert)

 

After the inevitable briefing of do’s and don’ts, and the day’s programme, it was back in the vehicles to first visit the nearby Kingfisher 3 well. I was particularly keen to see the level of site restoration since the drilling was carried out in 2008, and how the site now looked. Under the EIA terms agreed with NEMA and government Heritage restored this, and other test drilling sites to their initial state, and again I was impressed that the vegetation appeared even richer around the well house than further away and outside the fenced area, which marked the initial drilling site. In an earlier article I had commended the efforts of Heritage when restoring their test well sites in Murchisons Falls National Park, recently seen again after the rainy season, and no longer distinguishable from the surrounding area, so well has the replanted vegetation taken root – also to the delight of game which seems to congregate around such sites slightly more than further away. With this latest visual experience of site restoration I can now soundly agree that this commitment and obligation was fully discharged by Heritage, leaving nothing to be desired at this stage as the pictures well document.

 

 

(the restored site of the Kingfisher 3 well, lush, green and no sign – other than the well house – of any previous activity)

 

From there a visit to a Heritage built school was on the programme, named after the late Carl Nefdt, who was killed by marauding Congolese soldiers who at the time made it their day’s business to harass, arrest and even shoot at Ugandan fishermen and oil company personnel collecting data, while clearly in the Ugandan waters of Lake Albert (the Congolese regime still has to own up to this murder, leave alone pay compensation or bring the culprits to justice). This school now features 8 teachers’ houses and 7 new class rooms, while the original buildings are due for renovation according to a Heritage source in coming months. This school has since it was inaugurated by Heritage doubled the number of pupils to over 700, and instead of offering only primary 1 to 4 education now takes the pupils all the way to primary 7 and the primary leaving exams, which determine if a child can move on to secondary school level. Rainwater is harvested from the school roofs in big tanks to be used for sanitation, making it a safer and more hygienic environment for the kids to study.

 

 

(the Heritage built ‘Carl Nefdt Memorial School)

 

The penultimate item for the day’s visit was to not just see, but climb up to the water catchment and the 63.000 litres tank, from where gravity then feeds piped fresh and clean water, originating from a waterfall on the escarpment, to the six villages below. Several people remained below but this correspondent could not resist the steep climb and then enjoyed the resulting stunning views across the plains below and the lake beyond, as the pictures amply demonstrate.

 

 

(a view from the water tank across the plains towards the lake, and the vehicles waiting far below)

 

Heritage has spent, without any production in sight as yet, about a billion Uganda Shillings on the various projects in this area alone, for boreholes, the school construction, related expenses for school equipment, hundreds of mosquito nets, construction of proper latrines, anti HIV/AIDS campaigns and finally the gravity fed fresh water scheme, and the wish list by the communities has not yet been exhausted, as they – in a very friendly manner – asked for a small bridge over what must be a rushing river during the rains and support for a better community health centre.

 

  

(the waterfall and the high elevation water tank)

 

The inauguration ceremony was attended by a very large crowd from the surrounding villages and graced by the presence of the Minister of State for Mineral Development in the Ministry of Energy, and other local leaders, all of whom were overjoyed by the prospect of having piped, fresh and clean water which can be drank from any of the 24 available taps without having to boil it first – as the water quality certificate obtained confirmed. The pipes from the tank down to the plains extend over 14 kilometres to the 5 villages now benefitting from the project, and more taps are likely to be added in due course to make water collection for the residents of the area even easier.

 

 

(jubilant scenes as the water started to gush out of the tap)

 

After the ceremony it was a rush against time as threatening rain clouds came moving in over the escarpment, but  we beat the rain by quite some distance and took off back to Kajjansi again as below us the rain then swept into the airstrip.

 

 

(very final approach back into the Kajjansi field outside Kampala and some of the facilities at the Kampala Aero Club, i.e. the pool side, available for members and passengers, and the new lounge)

 

Corporate social responsibility, and transparent interaction with the media are exemplary here and should Heritage indeed leave Uganda, the other oil companies will have a mammoth task ahead of them to emulate such examples and copy such behaviour especially considering the pending questions to them about their state of preparedness for oil spills in the light of the ongoing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and the absolutely appalling experience in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, where extensive areas have been made uninhabitable and destroyed the swamp and wetland ecosystems probably for generations to come. Here comprehensive answers are clearly needed and the ongoing deafening silence experienced from some of the other oil companies, including Tullow, are mindboggling and only lend credibility to outspoken critics that these firms have really something to hide. Best international practise and technology must be employed from here on, irrespective of the cost, to avoid similar disasters here in Uganda when oil production eventually starts. In the meantime, blessed are those with Heritage Oil near their communities.

 

Kenya News

SOUTH AFRICAN SPECIALITY OPERATOR TEAMS UP WITH KENYAN COUNTERPART

Peace of Eden Self Discovery Wildlife Eco Tours and Team Building has in their latest newsletter announced a planned cooperation with Kenya based Bush Adventures (www.bush-adventures.com) when for the first time they will take a self discovery and team building exercise beyond the Southern African region and head for Eastern Africa where participants will learn bush craft from their Masai guides.

Write to info@peace-of-eden.co.za for more information and to get their regular newsletter with exciting and very different safari itineraries and activities or visit www.peace-of-eden.co.za for the full range of details of this and other safaris they arrange, including to the bushmen of the Kalahari.

 

MORE GREEN ENERGY FOR KENYA

The Kenya power generating company KENGEN has last week announced their own plans to add more ‘green’ power into the national grid, when plans for an additional 280 MW geothermal production facility were made public. Geothermal capacity for Kenya alone is estimated to be near 2.000 MW when fully tapped into, but presently only just over 200 MW are being produced.

This announcement comes shortly after earlier information was confirmed that two wind power plants in the Marsabit and Turkana areas of Kenya were given the green light by financiers, which – when complete – will produce over 600 MW of green electricity, generated from renewable resources.

The latest announcement by KENGEN, which is already now in the pre-qualification stage for contractors, brings the total amount of ‘new green’ energy to nearly 900 MW, which Kenya can expect to generate in coming years over and above their present hydro and thermal production. Financing partners were confirmed to be the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank, besides a range of private equity firms lined up to put a loan package together.

The added ‘green’ capacities are also thought by some observers to reduce Kenya’s urgent need to participate in or then purchase much power from the controversial GIBE 4 project in Ethiopia, which according to  environmental and conservation sources in Nairobi may have a severe impact on the water inflow to Lake Turkana, something the Kenyans are said to rather avoid than having to deal with the environmental and social impact and fallout, this new project across the border may pose to their own communities in the North of the country.

That said, interest in the entire East African region has increased in the technology of wind power, solar and geothermal electricity production, which of course not only reduces a country’s carbon footprint but also preserves other resources which can be dedicated to other uses.

 

KAA BLAMES CITY DUMP SITE FOR BIRD THREAT TO AIRCRAFT

An increased threat level for landing and departing aircraft by birds, and complaints by the affected airlines, has prompted the Kenya Airport Authority to resort to added activities in scaring birds away from the main runway of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Groups of workers have also been deployed further afield to the breeding grounds of Marabou storks and other bird species considered of particular threat to air traffic in and out of the airport. Meanwhile though the KAA has blamed the location of the main city rubbish dump between the Nairobi National Park and the airport for an increase in bird flocks, as they ‘commute’ to scavenge for food sources.

Departing and arriving aircraft do face a major threat to their safety by birds and several bird strikes were recorded in past years, not only in Nairobi  but also the world famous incident when the pilots landed their disabled plan on the Hudson River in New York after colliding with a flock of geese which were sucked into the engines. Luckily, in the New York incident as well as in Nairobi no passengers came to harm but the risk is considered high and constant vigilance is required to keep birds away from the flight paths.

Meanwhile has the presentation of the report of the parliamentary committee on transport raised arguments in the house as several MP’s critizised the committee for their findings while others defended the impartiality of the report and supported the recommendation of a fresh recruitment exercise for the position of the KAA CEO, claiming the entire exercise was skewed in favour of the ‘wish list candidate’ propped up by the former post holder, the now retired George Muhoho. Watch this space.

 

Tanzania News

KEMPINSKI  DAR ES SALAAM MAKES FIVE STAR RATING

The recently concluded rating exercise in Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam has now reached the stage of releasing the initial results to the tourism trade and general public, and it appears from information received from regular sources in Dar es Salaam, that the Kempinski Kilimanjaro Hotel has made it – as was expected – into the very top bracket of the city’s business hotels. Others which were awarded the coveted 5 star status, which allows them to put up a plaque at the hotel entrance and feature it in brochures and advertising, were the Moevenpick Royal Palm and the Sea Cliff Hotel.

Others however were reportedly putting on a brave face when they only attained four stars, amongst them the Southern Sun Dar es Salaam, the Protea Hotel and the Golden Tulip Hotel amongst many others and there has been some talk about appeals to be launched to have the ratings reviewed as permitted under the relevant regulations and laws.

Added information provided speaks of a total of 66 hotels being rated by the technical expert team and were awarded between 5 and 1 stars, while a further 33 missed the ‘cut’ altogether and will have to meet further criteria and improve upon their facilities to be reconsidered for a star rating. Those affected however are allowed to continue operations albeit without any rating attached to them at this time. Congrats to the top performers and good luck next time for those who missed out or ‘underperformed’ – here is your challenge to strive towards better standards and service.

 

Zanzibar News

SAUTI ZA BUSARA FESTIVAL GETS READY FOR 2011

Performers from across the African continent, and beyond, are invited by the organizers of East Africa’s premier music, art and culture festival, Sauti Za Busara, to send in their applications for consideration as soon as possible, to be assured of a place in next year’s edition in Zanzibar.

Interested parties should visit the festival website and download the application form and then return it at the very latest by 31st July this year. (www.busaramusic.org/callforartists/index.php)

The vetting committee will then sit in August to decide who will get one of the much desired spots to present a live performance during the five days and nights the festival is running. Applicants should note that selected performers will received financial assistance for Visa, travel, accommodation and subsistence while in Zanzibar and that the key performers can also expect support for sponsoring deals, in addition to the general support granted to all performers. Successful applications will be notified by end of September at the latest to allow enough time to prepare for their presence in Zanzibar between 09th and 13th of February next year.

Notably has also Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete stepped forward this year in offering his support and throwing his weight behind the festival, which he pronounced: ‘a very important initiative’, a true statement as this festival has grown from a small ‘local’ festival to a continental cultural ‘must participate’ event known across the globe. He then went on to say that Sauti Za Busara ‘provides a great opportunity for both locals and visitors of different walks of life to meet and exchange ideas and appreciate the uniqueness, the wealth and diversity of the music from our region. In so doing the festival contributes to us building intercultural understanding and friendship’.

Make note in your travel diary for next year’s event, book your flights and accommodation early as, going by the experience of recent years, hotels and resorts tend to be sold out over that period of time and several last minute wannabe visitors ended up disappointed when they failed to either secure flights or accommodation at the very last moment. For those who do manage to come it is however ‘welcome to Zanzibar and welcome to the United Republic of Tanzania’.

Sponsors, donors and organizations or companies wishing to be associated with the festival are encouraged to write to them via busara@zanlink.com to obtain all the various options of how to get involved and what exposure they can expect in return.

 

ZANZIBARI TOURISM MINISTER DEFENDS NEW ‘JETTIES’

The growing number of newly constructed jetties, aimed to promote water sports from various locations across the island, has now received ministerial support, when the Zanzibar tourism minister Samia Hassan came out in open support of such ventures. Other members of the Zanzibari assembly had critizised such projects as unproductive and alleged violation of environmental requirements but the minister rejected both notions firmly, leaving those raising the questions with egg all over their faces.

Jetties, especially those near beach resorts, are regularly used to moor sailing and fishing boats and attract tourist visitors to participate in such activities, benefiting local staff with employment. The minister also assured the assembly that all environmental norms were met and no project of this nature started without all approvals in place.

 

Southern Sudan News

 

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY SUPPORTS PROTECTED AREA DEVELOPMENT

The Boma – Jonglei area of the Southern Sudan, which includes the Boma National Park and the Badingilo National Park and forms one of the largest, if not the largest savannah ecosystem across the entire East Africa, has been ‘targeted’ by the Wildlife Conservation Society for a holistic approach in regard of protection, in conjunction with their partners USAID and the Government of Southern Sudan – GOSS. A cross section of governmental and NGO representatives met two weeks ago in Juba to discuss the way forward in safeguarding the future of the two parks and the area in between, which is crucial to the continued existence of the large herds of white eared kobs and other gazelles, which according to latest reports – following aerial and ground surveys – is now pegged rather above the one million mark that previously thought in the region of 800.000 animals. Other species, besides the white eared kobs, found within the area are the Tiang, the Mongalla gazelles and reedbuck, but also include elephant, giraffe, eland, oryx, buffalo and the endemic but endangered antelope species Nile Lechwe. Wildlife found also includes a number of predators, including the relatively rare ‘hunting’ or ‘painted dogs’, hyenas and lions, in addition to which many bird species both resident and migratory are making the two parks and connecting savannah one of the last to be discovered natural wildlife spectacles on earth, yet hitherto only known to ‘those in the know’ like this correspondent.

In view of growing threats to the wildlife populations through poaching, but also converting the land to agricultural use, the workshop debated options for a new zoning approach, which would grant the wildlife the best chances to survival and the sustainable non consumptive use through tourism without denying the local communities the use of their land either, for both farming as well as ranching, one of the major community activities in the Southern Sudan by pastoralists.

Wildlife based tourism is thought to be one of the major upcoming economic activities for the Southern Sudan, and while many components still need to be put into place, and then operationalised, the political will was clearly expressed in the workshop when the Undersecretary – elsewhere known to be Permanent Secretary – in the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism. Professor Frazer Tong stated: “Wildlife conservation and protected area management can contribute directly and indirectly to improving security, creating economic opportunities, and conservation of the great natural savannah and wetland ecosystem and cultural heritage of our region.  The Boma-Jonglei land-use planning process now can reconcile and balance competing needs to optimize development opportunities and ensure conservation of our tremendous wildlife and habitat areas forming the basis for wise natural resource use and development of the ecotourism sector.” 

Participants from other ministries echoed these sentiments and made equally strong statements, giving hope that the work of Wildlife Conservation Society and USAID will bear fruits in coming years, when – following the referendum for independence due in January 2011 – they hopefully have paved the way for many more tourist visitors to come and see the very last unexplored and unexploited parks and game reserves in East Africa, not yet overrun and overdeveloped and offering the ‘real thing’ in safari experience.

 

PRESIDENT KIIR ANNOUNCES NEW CABINET FOR SOUTHERN SUDAN

The long awaited new cabinet list for the Government of Southern Sudan, in short GoSS, is now available after the President of the semi-autonomous region, Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit has on Monday announced his new line up of ministers. The cabinet will commence work immediately and is expected the be a major force as the region moves towards the independence referendum due in January 2011.

Notably, the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism was given to the National Congress Party, which is in power in the North of the country, but they were slow to react in nominating their choice for the post, which was in the last cabinet held by Hon. Mrs. Agnes Lukudu, also of the NCP. No information was available if she would be returned to the position by her party, so watch this space in the next edition.

 

Madagascar News

NATIVE BIRD EXTINCT

Birdlife International, a leading global organisation, has last week confirmed, according to a source in Antananarivo, that one of the native ‘grebe’ species, the Alaotra grebe, has been officially declared extinct, as no sightings have taken place or other evidence of the species’ survival have been found in many years. It was also mentioned in the information that the disappearance of this particular bird is largely due to human activities as the bird, when diving for fish, often got entangled in the ever increasing nets used by fishermen in Lake Alaotra, one of the largest lakes on this Indian Ocean island.

The islands regime, in place after a coup, has also been strongly critizised over the large scale felling of tropical hardwood and exotic trees which are being exported, often illegally to South and Far Eastern countries which readily ‘absorb’ such illicit cargo at the expense of the environment in Madagascar, where this activity is starting to threaten fragile ecosystems and constantly encroaches on the habitat of their best known wildlife, the lemurs.

Periodic outbreaks of political violence however, and sanctions by the African Union and other countries, have brought the flow of tourists however to a low level, hitting the economy of the island hard.

 

Seychelles News

AIR SEYCHELLES INTRODUCES SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS

It was learned over the weekend that the Seychellois national airline has embarked on a service improvement programme, which also includes on board announcements in Creole, they key national language besides English and French. Additionally the airline has changed their amenity bag for business class passengers, offering more ‘local’ content to promote Seychelles’ own products. Catering too has been ‘upped’ with added snacks available on the flights sectors between Rome and Milan in Italy and the final destination London Heathrow and Gatwick.

Entertainment on board too was targeted with film viewing devices now available for hire in economy class, from which a range of additional films can be accessed, over and above the inflight entertainment programme available in the cabin.

The airline also announced at the same time the creation of special year round Seychellois citizen fares aimed to make travel for ordinary Seychellois more affordable. On the domestic network the airline launched ‘off peak’ fares for periods of the day with lesser demand, promoting increased use of air travel  between the islands on the Air Seychelles network. ‘The Creole Spirit’ is definitely flying high!

 

ANNUAL FRENCH ROADSHOW A SOUND SUCCESS

Last week saw the annual Seychelles Tourist Board ‘road show’ underway, criss crossing French cities in search of more clients visiting the archipelago’s islands for a vacation of a lifetime. About a dozen leading hoteliers, representing such outstanding properties as Banyan Tree, Le Meridien, the Hilton Northolme and others were joined by DMC staff and members of the French STB office and tourism ambassadors to make the most out of the week long promotion in one of Seychelles main European markets.

Also ‘on board’ were Air Seychelles and Air France, whose code shared flights are operated by Air Seychelles on their behalf, but reportedly the inter island ferry company too came along to actively promote island hopping. The road show covered Paris, Marseilles, Nice, the Principality of Monaco and Bordeaux, amongst other cities. According to information sent by participants, interest levels were high and the team was confident to increase arrival numbers from France during the current year, also supported by upcoming fam trips for travel agents and the travel media.

 

And in closing once more some interesting material taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’:

The Parrotfish Run – a family affair

At this time of year, millions of fish from the floodplains get caught up in the main stream of the Zambezi and swim downstream for miles.  When they pass through the rapids, the fishing baskets wait throughout the night.  In the mornings the jubilant fishermen go out in their makoras to empty the baskets and prepare for the next night’s catch. 

Royal Chundu offered to take me out onto the river to see what happens so I took a ride out there early one cold morning.  Taking a motorised ‘rubber duck’ we set off into the rapids near Royal Chundu to check the fishermen and their catch for that day.  Our first section of river was upstream through a channel.  The water was running so fast that we hardly made headway.  To understand the strength of the fishermen in the makoras, you have to believe that they were overtaking us!

Getting into the main channel the river was extremely choppy, waves splashing over the sides of the boat.  The mist lay thick on the river; the birds were watching the water from above in the treetops.  It was very cold … and now I had wet feet.  Holding on the sides of the dinghy I felt quite relaxed but knew that I could not have been in a makora – those things are made for experts, even sitting in them is a skill.

We made our way over to a channel to see the baskets being taken out of the river.  The fishermen tie a strong rope between two poles and, on this, they secure their baskets.  One by one the baskets are removed and put into the makora.  When they boat is full of baskets, they are taken to an island and emptied.

We followed them onto the island to have a look.  The baskets were emptied into the bottom of the makora, some fish still wriggling.  The fish were all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the parrotfish was clearly seen from its bright red and yellow patches. 

We found tigerfish, barbel, yellow fish, minnows, churchills, bottlefish, bulldogs and robbers, as well as the parrotfish.  What strange names these fish have.  I am not a fisherman so it was all new to me.  I just looked on in awe that there are so many different kinds of fish in the river.  According to the books there are over 60 species along this stretch of the Zambezi. 

Having watched them load up their boats and leave for the mainland we headed home too, getting wet again but looking forward to a hot cup of coffee … and to dry out the socks and shoes …

Over coffee we discussed the habits of the parrotfish, which still leaves me confused.  But this is what we decided with some logical reasoning.  I am quite happy to be told that I am wrong so please let me know.

Millions of parrotfish come down the river at this time of year – between June and August.  They are bottom-feeders and not strong swimmers like the tigerfish.  They do not return upstream later in the year – as the salmon does, for example.  So, the fish go downstream and stay there.  Many parrotfish remain in the papyrus beds upstream and it is these that breed the following year.  The ones that go downstream either find new breeding grounds or don’t breed. 

I decided that the fish must get caught up in the whirl of water as it leaves the floodplains and rushes downstream.  What did confuse us is that the fish only seem to come downstream on dark nights, when there is no moon.  They also like it when it is cold.  I can’t work out why this could be.  Has anyone got any ideas?

The fishermen all use locally-made baskets.  The main structure is made out of reeds which are tied together with rope made from the palm tree leaves.  The basket is given strength around the top rim by using branches from the mopane tree.  It is all very ingenious.  Of course, too, their method of catching the fish using baskets is totally sustainable as they catch only a small proportion of those that pass through the channels.  Let us hope that the future does not bode ill for the fish and big commercial netting operations do not take over. 

Each channel is owned by a separate family – this is decided between themselves and it never creates any infighting.  The bounty is good for them all.  On the mainland, during the next few months, the villages set up their stalls – they sell everything from the fish to sweet potatoes, from toothpaste to second-hand clothes.  For two months everyone has fun – we saw the drum of chibuku being carried to the river’s edge as we left. 

Most of the fish is dried, but the parrotfish is special in that it is a source of cooking fat which can last the year through, if it is processed properly.  The fish is cut open and in the belly is a lump of fat.  A pot is put on the fire with reeds across the rim and the fat is laid on the reeds.  As the pot gets hot, the fat melts and drips into the pot below.  SK, our guide, said that his father collects about 20 litres of oil this way and he uses it all year for his cooking. 

As soon as the parrotfish run starts the news spreads to Livingstone.  The taxis start to arrive to buy the dried fish and take it back to the market.  We met one taxi, a complete wreck of a car, being pushed along the rocky road – it did eventually get started but one wonders for how long. 

This to me is what Africa is about.  It is a completely sustainable harvest – the people have been doing it for generations.  It is fun for all and of great economic value to the villagers there.  Let’s hope it stays that way. 

 

Booking Campsites in Botswana’s National Parks

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks in Botswana have handed over the booking of the campsites in National Parks to private companies.  According to the information I have received, no-one will be allowed to pay at the entrance to any park or enter without a prior booking. 

This is very sad news for many of us in the region who, on a whim, think that they would like to take a few days off and visit one of the parks in Botswana. 

Mapula Lodge and Kwalate Safaris are now responsible for handling the bookings for campsites.  I cannot find a website for Kwalate Safaris which is handling Ihaha, South Gate and Xakanaxa campsites in Moremi.  On the Mapula Lodge website, there is no mention of how to book Linyanti Campsite in Chobe. 

If you want help in unravelling this problem, it is best to contact Maun 4×4 Self Drive, via http://maunselfdrive4x4.webs.com/dwnpreservations.htm

They will help where they can.

From Zimbabwe Situation

Zimbabwe: Government Ditches Wildlife Trade Deal

Zimbabwe Independent.   Bernard Mpofu.   17 June 2010

GOVERNMENT has aborted a wildlife trade deal with the secretive Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) amid widespread condemnation from pressure groups, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.

Sources close to the development said the planned shipment of US$23 000 worth of wildlife to the DPRK in a deal conservationists termed President Robert Mugabe’s “Noah’s Ark”. It has been blocked after local and international natural resources campaigners criticised the destined living conditions of the animals at Pyongyang Zoo.

Pressure groups had protested against the deal saying the Asian country did not have a secure habitat for the game after the Parks and Wildlife Authority made public its intention to export the animals to Pyongyang.

North Korea had ordered several species, including elephant, giraffe, jackal, zebra, catfish, civet, blue monkey and spotted hyena.

Parks and Wildlife Authority spokesperson, Caroline Washaya-Moyo, yesterday could not confirm or deny the cancellation of the deal.

“We are not in a position to issue a statement as of now,” she said.

But sources said the deal fell through after scientists sent to Hwange National Park concluded that the animals would not be able to adjust to new conditions.

The sources said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now been tasked with formally informing the DPRK of Zimbabwe’s decision to cancel the deal.

Apart from the DPRK deal, the wildlife authority said it was considering applications from five other countries willing to buy Zimbabwe’s wildlife.

Johnny Rodrigues, chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce, a local natural resources watchdog, said the animals would have succumbed to DPRK conditions had the deal gone ahead.

“These animals belong to Zimbabweans. North Korea has a low track record of looking after animals and we can’t have our animals living in cages,” Rodrigues said. “We should be working on a plan to improve our tourism and we have such a plan. We cannot export the beauty of our country to other countries. What will future generations have if we export our heritage?”

Conservationists also say Zimbabwe cannot export game at a time when poaching is rampant.

A report released in February by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species claimed the involvement of Zimbabwean security forces in the killing of 200 rhinos in the past two years.

 

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Third Edition June 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Third edition June 2010

 

IN MEMORIAM JIM POWER

When the news reached me on Jim’s untimely passing last weekend, it was like a bolt of lightning striking me into my heart, so unexpected was the reality of his death. I was privileged to know Jim for the entire period he was serving as Secretary General of SKAL International, and he became a good friend and was my mentor, when I started the work to form SKAL Kampala in 1993 and led the club into formal acceptance by SKAL and then being chartered in 1994.

Ever since, Jim and I corresponded on many matters pertaining to SKAL and more, as our mutual interests spread well beyond just SKAL and we shared many common objectives.

Jim will be sorely missed, at the Secretariat of SKAL International in Torremolinos / Spain and throughout the SKAL fraternity around the world, where each and every club will have lost a dear fellow Skalleague. And to quote SKAL International Past President Tony Clegg Butt of the Nairobi SKAL Club ‘Jim was the glue which held SKAL together’ – I couldn’t agree more, Jim was the good soul of SKAL for umpteen years and a huge challenge will await whoever will step up and bring the SKAL ship back on even keel.

Rest in peace my friend, and until we meet again.

 

Uganda News

RHINO FUND UPDATE

It was learned last weekend that two of the three female rhinos presently at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary have started mating again and that management and staff of the RFU are monitoring the animals closely to determine if another round of pregnancies is going underway already.

Over the past year all three females have given birth to young rhino males, bringing the total number of the southern white rhinos at Ziwa to nine, and additional pregnancies would of course be most welcome.

It was also learned that the draft rhino management plans were submitted to the Uganda Wildlife Authority by the RFU’s Executive Director and a formal response is expected by the end of June.

Visitor numbers to the sanctuary meanwhile continue to rise, helping the Rhino Fund to gradually edge closer to financial self sustainability, which the RFU attempts to reach without charging entrance fees to the sanctuary but only levy a tracking fee on those visitors actually going into the bush with the rangers to track the rhinos and take close up photographs.

Visit www.rhinofund.org for more information and how you can support rhino conservation and re-introduction in Uganda or write to RFU’s Executive Director via angie@rhinofund.org

 

UWA EXCELS IN MOUNTAIN RESCUE

Last week put the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s rescue measures to the test, when a foreign tourist suffered a climbing accident when returning from one of the Rwenzori Mountain peaks. As soon as the situation was communicated to the base station and the park headquarters did the rescue mission swing into action, and within hours the injured climber was brought down from the mountain and delivered to the Kasese aerodrome for a medical evacuation flight to Kampala. Reportedly almost 60 staff were deployed from UWA and the Rwenzori Mountain Services which had arranged for the week long climb, an effort well worth not just from the viewpoint of the injured climber being safely evacuated but also as a  general reassurance for future visitors to the park for hikes and intending climbers that the training of rescue staff in recent years has indeed taken hold and born fruit in this particular case. Well done UWA staff!

 

ANTHRAX TO BLAME FOR HIPPO DEATHS

A sizeable number of hippos were found dead over the last weekend by Uganda Wildlife Authority staff posted at Queen Elizabeth National Park. UWA’s veterinary services were promptly dispatched to the park to assess the situation and initial feedback is such that – although still awaiting the lab results for final confirmation – another Anthrax outbreak is the most likely cause. The park has in the past periodically suffered of Anthrax outbreaks – the last one about six years ago – as have many other parks in Eastern Africa, and the virus often goes dormant after an outbreak before re-emerging with a vengeance at time years later. According the UWA’s Executive Director Moses Mapesa the organisation was ‘well prepared’ and ‘had learned lessons from the last outbreak’ which explained the swift response by rangers and veterinarians. The carcasses of the nearly 30 hippos found so far will most likely be burnt in a pit before being buried as an added safety measure to avoid further spreads of the disease to other game or livestock.

 

KAMPALA AERO CLUB TO RECEIVE NEW ‘TRAINER’ AIRCRAFT

Sources in Kajjansi, the ‘safari airfield’ just outside Kampala en route to Entebbe, have confirmed that KAFTC – the Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre – is due to receive two additional ‘classic’ training aircraft for the use in their flight training division. A ‘Jungmeister’ and a ‘Stinson’ are due to arrive in July this year and it is hoped that the CAA’s licensing department will not put up too many hurdles for the registration in Uganda, as both types are said to be the first of their kind to go on the Ugandan registry.

Meanwhile, AVGAS continues to be available with limited supplies only, but at least there seems light at the end of the tunnel for the Kajjansi air operators, as former Shell executive Francis Olul appears set to take control of the depot, which according to other aviation sources might be finished by Shell –  if true making good of a 4 year long promise to the aviation fraternity – before finally leaving Uganda after selling their retail business.

In a related development it was also learned that Capt. ‘Gad’ Gasatura, a ‘fixture’ in Uganda’s aviation sector and former member of the Board of Directors of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, has accepted the position as Chairman of the Board of KAFTC with immediate effect. Congrats ‘Gad’ and all the best in your new position. Watch this space for more updates on aviation developments in Uganda.

 

LAKE POLLUTION INCREASES

The World Bank funded ‘Nakivubo Channel’ which drains rainwater – and the associated rubbish, carelessly thrown away by many residents – directly from the city into the lake near the Luzira / Port Bell suburb, has been identified as a major source of pollution for the waters near the shores. Already when the channel was planned many years ago did critics point out that a ‘direct’ flow into the lake, instead of creating ‘branches’ which could assist filtration via the lake shore swamps, would bring industrial and domestic pollutants straight into the waters of the lake, and indeed, years afterwards the then much maligned voices of concern are proven right.

A recent inspection, only days after the World Environment Day, by the Minister of State for Water and other officials revealed the dire state of water quality, which in local media has been described as ‘dead’ in the immediate vicinity of the channel’s inlet to the lake.

What was of particular concern to the delegation is the fact that the national water company’s main water treatment plant in Gaba, which – as reported before – is now faced with rocketing cost to make water potable and filter out the pollutants and had to repeatedly relocate their main intake valves further out into the lake and into deeper water.

Wetlands and swamps, much encroached upon over the past two decades as the city expanded, are generally considered as vital filters before rain water reaches the lake proper, and the destruction of such wetlands is increasingly showing negative fallout. The loss of habitat for birds and other aquatic and wildlife along the lake shores has been significant and been accelerated in recent years and unless and until government and its responsible agencies react with all possible speed and allocate resources to reverse the pollution and wetland encroachment, the next generation will have a high price to pay for the omissions of today.

 

BUDGET READING CONFIRMS CUTS FOR TOURISM MINISTRY

The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has indeed suffered a major budget cut as already speculated about in earlier articles, when the Minister for Finance announced a reduction from last year’s allocation of 47.8 billion Uganda Shillings to 41.5 billion. This constitutes a 13+ percent slash and if adding inflationary trends of last year rises to about a 20 percent cut in real terms, a major challenge for an already stretched ministry, leaving hopes in tatters that dues for international organisations – some of them in arrears for many years – may be paid to give Uganda full access to services like from the UN’s World Tourism Organization UNWTO, from where Uganda could receive training and marketing support worth a substantial multiple of the actual dues paid.

Therefore, while in general the business community was satisfied with the draft (parliament must approve the budget to make it a ‘reality’) and in particular the absence of any major tax rises or new taxes, the tourism industry will be left to ponder how their line ministry will cope with the demands not just the tourism sector but at the same time the sister portfolios of trade and industry.

Across the border in Kenya the mood in comparison was a little more upbeat, as their tourist board was allocated some 650 million Kenya Shillings in addition to which a further 800 million Kenya Shillings were granted to the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation to help in financing new projects for the sector. This figure is up from last year by 600 million Kenya Shillings, underscoring the fact that government there has maybe began to understand the positive impact of tourism to the national economy, through investments, foreign exchange earnings and job retention and creation, and that the lobbying of the tourism industry proved to be effective in securing a greater share of the nearly 1 trillion Kenya Shillings overall budget.

Added allocations for road constructions, which will benefit the routes to and from the main game parks, was also applauded by the private sector. Tourism Minister Najib Balala however decried the overall reduction in his ministry’s budget by about 150 million Kenya Shillings during the formal launch of the Utalii coast campus and urged his colleague in the Ministry of Finance to review this decision in coming weeks, as the draft budget goes to parliament for debate.

 

CONSTRUCTION ON FORMER KINGDOM SITE TO COMMENCE ‘SHORTLY’

Sources from the local construction sector have given the clearest indication yet, that work on the Shimoni site – allocated several years ago to Kingdom Hotels and then abandoned – would start as early as next month, supported by the fact that since last week some level of earthworks could be seen taking place on site. However, there was also some understandable scepticism as the ‘start’ was in the past announced twice and the projected dates have passed without any visible sign of moving equipment and building supplies on to the site. The situation will be monitored closely however and as and when more evidence emerges of ‘serious’ work, updates will be filed. There is also speculation over which global hotel management company will be selected by the owners to run and market the property for them, but it is generally expected that they are going to select a ‘major player’ and not opt for any second rate organization. A swift survey by this correspondent in fact gave a rather clearer picture of the owner’s choice but this remain subject to formal confirmation before breaking the news.

 

REED EXHIBITIONS AND HOUSTON TRAVEL MARKETING ‘WORK’ EASTERN AFRICA

Fiona Chappell, the head of sales of Reed Travel Exhibitions and Mr. Derek Houston of www.houstonmarketing.co.za in South Africa, were in East Africa in recent days to promote in particular the group’s MICE exhibitions, but also the other portfolios of Reed – the best known of which is of course World Travel Market in London and the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. The world’s leading exhibition group currently has 7 dedicated ‘leisure and luxury’ events under their umbrella while a further 6 dedicated ‘MICE’ events are also covering the globe.

It is understood that after visiting all of the East African Community countries that tailored workshops will take place later in the year in the region to alert the tourism trade to the many new opportunities to market their destination and new products in the global market place

 

Kenya News

PRIDE OF AFRICA TO EXPAND ROUTES AGRESSIVELY IN 2010/11

The Kenyan national airline has announced recently that they have set their eyes on seven more routes for their 2010/11 financial year, after already launching very recently flights to the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba. Rome will follow soon, offering their faithful travellers another entry point into Europe before then turning their attention to yet more new routes. On the drawing board until the end of the year and into early 2011 are more African destinations like N’Djamena, Beira, Ouagadougou, Lome and Luanda, Jeddah / Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to where flights will resume after an absence of many years.

The network expansion will undoubtedly cement KQ’s leading position as a pan African carrier, connecting the continent through their Nairobi hub while the added routes beyond Africa speak of an improved climate for business and leisure travel and a growing demand for air cargo space once again.

Watch this space for the most up to date information on aviation news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region.

 

CHELI AND PEACOCK ADDS ANOTHER PROPERTY

One of Kenya’s leading upmarket safari and accommodation providers, also a multiple award winner in this year’s ‘The Good Safari Guide’ ceremony the night prior to the INDABA trade fair opening in South Africa, has just announced that another beach side property will join their ‘stable’ with immediate effect.

‘Alfajiri’ – a Kiswahili word – which translates into ‘Dawn’ in English, is a three private villa beach side property owned by Fabrizio Molinari, located on a cliff above the shiny white-sand beach of Diani south of Mombasa. The three villas are according to information received from C&P available for guests, the ‘Garden House’, the ‘Cliff House’ offering spectacular views of sun rises across the Indian Ocean and the ‘Beach Villa’, all built in traditional open air style and tastefully furnished with handcrafted ‘Lamu’ furniture and African artefacts and wall hangings. Needless to mention that each of the villas has its own swimming pool for utmost privacy and are fully staffed with housekeeping and kitchen personnel, a nanny if required and a personal ‘butler’ available to cater for a client’s every wish, helping to create truly a holiday of a lifetime for those daring to venture away from the ‘big’ resorts and beach hotels and finding themselves and their own style, in style.

For more information visit www.chelipeacock.com – enjoy what you find there as it tickles the taste buds of every safari aficionado, including yours truly.

 

POLITICAL VIOLENCE TAKES SEVERAL LIVES IN NAIROBI

A rally against the new draft constitution in Nairobi’s ‘Uhuru Park’ in the very centre of the city ended in tragedy, when reportedly 5 people were killed instantly and over 70 injured in two explosions.

The rally, jointly organized by political opponents of the new draft constitution and religious leaders was duly licensed by authorities, was very well attended and proceeded peacefully until the first blast struck and according to reports from Nairobi a second blast occurred not long afterwards.

The violent end to this rally brought up instant memories of the nasty post election violence, when ethnic groups and political opponents settled scores in the streets over allegedly stolen election results, a matter now receiving due attention by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where indictments are expected to be filed soon against key ringleaders, whose bloody handiwork cost well over a thousand lives at the time.

The new draft constitution has met with resistance in political quarters, including government ministers, but also across civil society and the religious leadership of the country, setting the stage for a hardly fought referendum due to be held later in the year. Yet, both sides agree that the country is in urgent need of a new constitution while they disagree over a number of issues where the ‘no camp’ has demanded amendments to the draft, something the proponents have rejected because of ‘time’.

It was pointed out to this correspondent that no tourists had come to harm although the venue was close to several high class tourist hotels.

Tourism sources in Kenya also played down the incident, tragic as it was, saying that the recovery of the sector would not be unduly affected by the blast, but the same sources were cautious when asked about the potential for more such incidents in the run up to the referendum and what impact that could have on the just revived tourism industry for Kenya. Watch this space.

 

NEW TOURISM COLLEGE FOR KENYAN COAST

The recently read annual budget appears to have also set aside as much as 300 million Kenya Shillings, to commence construction of a new campus of the Kenya Utalii College in Vipingo / Mombasa. Already last year did Kenya’s tourism minister Najib Balala announce that a 60 acre piece of land has been given for the purpose, but no progress could be made in the absence of funds for further work.

Tourism is one of Kenya’s leading foreign exchange earners and provides jobs for hundreds of thousands of Kenyans directly and indirectly, but training additional manpower has been a major obstacle for the sector, as the main campus of Utalii in Nairobi is constantly oversubscribed and has not spare capacities left.

The establishment of a new campus at the coast, besides the country’s game and national parks the most important tourism attraction, has seen coast tourism stakeholders elated by the prospect of having a training facility of Utalii’s standing on their doorstep, where young people can learn the skills to make a career in the sector while others already working can now receive refresher courses to add to their knowledge already attained in the work place of through earlier studies. Well done!

 

MIGRATION NEARS SERENGETI – MASAI MARA BORDER

Information was received over the last weekend from sources in both the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, that the annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest and zebras is nearing the boundaries between the shared border transcending ecosystem. A leading tour operator just back from the Mara sent added details that the crossing into the Masai Mara could be less than two weeks away, at which stage the animals will then cross by their thousands per hour in search of pasture, giving tourist visitors one of the great wildlife experiences as the animals have to cross the river where crocodiles and other predators lie in wait. The lush grass has grown across the entire Masai Mara in recent months supported by more than sufficient rains and the wildebeest and zebras are traditionally moving like a giant ‘lawn mower’ across the park before returning to Tanzania’s Serengeti by September or October.

Kenya is meanwhile preparing for the influx of tens of thousands of tourists who come every year to this East African country to witness this greatest wildlife spectacle anywhere on the globe, immortalised also by Alan Root’s award winning film ‘The Year of the Wildebeest’. The recommendation of this correspondent: ‘anyone who can afford to visit the Masai Mara at this time of the year, don’t miss it – it is an experience of a lifetime’.

 

Tanzania News

TURKISH AIRLINES COMMENCES OPERATIONS

The inaugural flight took place earlier in the week between Istanbul and Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport, the first time a Turkish commercial aircraft touched down in Tanzania. The maiden flight brought a large number of politicians, tour and travel operators and media to Dar, where they were greeted by a delegation from the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Tourism, staff from the Tanzania Tourist Board and member of the private sector, besides the local press and television stations on site to witness the event. It is understood that the airline presently offers an introductory fare of only 440 US Dollars between Dar and Istanbul, and added offers into the rest of the THY network too are on sale, connecting Tanzanians into more than 120 destinations around the world, including the US.

Sources close to Turkish Airlines have also confirmed that they will target ‘transit traffic’ from their West and East European destinations, but also from Asia and the US to fly via Istanbul to Dar es Salaam, and that the fares would reflect the cost advantage THY has over their nearest competitors. While business and leisure traffic from Turkey to East Africa is expected to grow, it is the transit traffic component which will more than likely make the route a success, and members of the Tanzanian tourism private sector also expressed their delight to have more seats at affordable fares bringing more tourist visitors to Tanzania’s beaches and game parks. The airline will initially operate their flights three times a week but has already hinted at upping the frequencies when loadfactors have reached the forecast figures. Happy Landings THY, and until operations start to Entebbe too in due course.

 

ANTI SERENGETI HIGHWAY COALITION TAKES TO THE NET

As recently reported here the Tanzanian government appears set to build a highway through the Serengeti to Lake Victoria, claiming this to be the most direct and therefore most affordable route. While no one argues that the population along the lake – and outside the national park – is in need to get a road connecting them to the rest of the country, opponents of the planned highway are pointing out that an alternate route is possible, albeit longer and therefore more costly, but preserving the UNESCO World Heritage status of the Serengeti, which – should the road construction go ahead – would almost inevitably be withdrawn.

Tourism circles in the region are slowly catching on to the plans and are starting a concerted campaign of action, to prevent the development. This, according to two senior sources in Dar es Salaam and Arusha, and another source in Nairobi, will include providing detailed information on the likely impact of the highway on the population of elephant, wildebeest and zebras, which migrate regularly through the area, but also resident populations of predators. The potential loss of revenue for the country through lesser tourist numbers and the resulting negative global publicity could be massive and funding from donors, development partners and through individual donations could dry up. There are also growing concerns on the possible impact of the highway on the annual migration between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara across the border in Kenya, likely also resulting in disastrous fallout for tourism activities there. Visit the following site on Facebook to get more information and join the growing ranks of opponents of this particular highway routing. www.facebook.com/pages/STOP-THE-SERENGETI-HIGHWAY/125601617471610?v=wall

In a related development was information obtained that a study on the impact of livestock on the Grumeti and Ikorongo game reserves, adjoining the Serengeti National Park will be completed soon, and will then assist to address the conflict between human settlements and activities on the prized wildlife, which draws in so many visitors and earns the country so much foreign exchange.

The prolonged drought in recent years, which only broke at the very end of 2009, has undoubtedly contributed towards a more lenient approach towards cattle and goat herds being driven into the protected areas as they were searching for pasture and water, but with the drought now over it is equally time to restore the balance and ensure that livestock is kept away from parks and reserves. In particular the Grumeti and Ikorongo areas now also have upmarket tourist accommodation and the owners will also be seeking governmental assurances and protection to ensure the cattle herds are kept away.

It is understood that similar studies are underway also in other parts of Tanzania, aimed to alleviate similar conflicts between traditional herdsmen and wildlife managers and tourism operators, a sign that the potential severity of this problem has reached senior governmental levels and that some action is being taken to protect and preserve the country’s wildlife and biodiversity.

 

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR FARES TO SOUTH AFRICA SHAME COMPETITION

 

While a number of carriers from Eastern Africa to Johannesburg have raised their fares to take advantage of the soccer crowds wanting to go and see some of the FIFA World Cup matches live, the Rwandan national airline has just put a 500 US Dollars return fare on the market, inclusive of all taxes and surcharges, and valid from their East African destinations Nairobi and Entebbe via Kigali on their flights on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Bookings can be made via travel agents or directly with the airline office. It is understood that this special offer, called B500, is marketed on the occasion of the first B737-500 joining the RwandAir fleet last week. Well done!

 

Ethiopia News

ETHIOPIAN TO EXPAND IN AFRICA THROUGH PARTNERSHIPS

As reported before, Ethiopian Airlines is intensifying their own efforts in the ‘battle for the African skies’ and with the launch earlier this year of a partner airline based in Lome a first step was taken to capture additional market share in West Africa, by launching new airlines supported by both capital and management expertise. Unconfirmed reports from Addis indicate that following this ‘first’ ET is apparently thinking about doing the same thing in other parts of West Africa, and even considering investing in existing airlines with ‘promise’ of a viable future, should initial exploratory discussions allow to move towards formal negotiations.

Meanwhile has ET also confirmed that they are due for delivery of their first B777-200LR in the third quarter of this year, with an additional four such aircraft joining the Ethiopian fleet between then and the middle of next year. In regard of their 10 pending B787 orders the airline is confident that the envisaged date of July 2011 can be met by Boeing, after long delays repeatedly reported about here.

Once the new wide body fleet is in operation it will replace some of the ageing B767 models presently in use, but also create capacity for more destinations in the US and the Far and South East, an area also eyed by the airline – as does incidentally Kenya Airways too.

No firm joining date however could be obtained when ET will become a formal applicant airline to join the global Star Alliance, other than reaffirming what is already public knowledge, that Star is indeed the preferred choice of Ethiopian and that discussions are at an advanced stage. Watch this space.

 

Seychelles News

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY SPURS MORE CONSERVATION ACTIVITIES

The United Nations Environment Programme, in short known as UNEP, in conjunction with other agencies and Seychellois conservation bodies like the Seychelles Island Foundation recently held a one week workshop and training session for improved coastal zone management and the management of the shore lines, aimed to combat the fall out of climate change.

Governmental agencies personnel, non-governmental organisations’ staff, community leaders and civil society members participated in the event to learn about how to prevent shore degradation and how best to attempt restoration of already affected areas along the beaches near their places of residence.

The Seychelles are one of the ‘greenest’ countries on the globe and have placed great emphasis on the protection of their environment, which is the key to the two main economic activities across the archipelago – fishing and tourism.

 

HELICOPTER SEYCHELLES ADDS FIRE FIGHTING EQUIPMENT

It was learned over the last weekend that the archipelago’s premier helicopter service was given brand new equipment, which will enable the use of the choppers in fire fighting and supporting the territorial fire brigade with aerial dousing of fires.

Notably, the ‘bucket’ worth over 5.000 US Dollars was donated by the Seychelles Island Foundation as part of their work during the World Biodiversity Week, with an eye on extinguishing natural forest fires but also of course assisting in the fighting of fires in buildings. SIF’s Chief Executive Officer Frauke Fleischer-Dogley was at hand to deliver the donation to the airline in the presence of government officials, who were shortly afterwards treated to a demonstration flight during which the use of the equipment was shown.

Tourism sources too applauded the initiative as in the words of one regular source: ‘should ever a remote resort catch fire, we can now expect an immediate response by air before the fire brigade even arrives. This is excellent news for our industry as safety of our guests will benefit long term.’ Adds this correspondent ‘well done’ and thanks to the Seychelles Island Foundation and in particular to Frauke, who was interviewed some months ago by eTN’s Executive Talk – available through the archives via www.eturbonews.com

 

Southern Sudan News

BAHR EL JEBEL SAFARIS ANNOUNCE EXPEDITION DATES

There have been many questions in the past over reports on the state of tourism to the Southern Sudan and how best to visit the parks already restored by the Government of Southern Sudan over the past five years, since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Kenya in early 2005.

Mexico and Uganda based Bahr el Jebel Safaris, which operate regular safaris in Northern Uganda towards the border with the Southern Sudan, have just provided the dates for their 2010 Southern Sudan expedition, which will take participants between 30th September till 10th October to the Nimule National Park along the Nile River and the Boma National Park located along the border with Ethiopia. It is there that an annual migration can be seen of as many as 800.000 white eared kobs, an antelope species resident in this part of Eastern Africa. The expedition will also include a visit to the Kidepo Valley National Park in the North Eastern border triangle between Uganda, Southern Sudan and Kenya. Visit www.bahr-el-jebel-safaris.com for more information and bookings.

 

SUDANESE POUND KEEPS SLIDING

The worsening economic outlook for the Sudan has led to a progressive devaluation on the financial markets of the Sudanese Pound. Originally worth 2 SP against one US Dollar the ‘black’ market has driven the rate down to below 2.75 last week, while the ‘official’ rate remains at an unrealistic 2.35 – at which however there are hardly any US Dollars available.

The Sudanese Central Bank has raised reserve requirements of banks from 8 to 11 percent, trying to stem the tide by soaking up liquidity, but a recent consulting visit to Juba revealed the full extent of the hard currency ‘shortage’ when all and sundry asked to be rather paid or tipped in US Dollars rather than in Sudanese Pounds. The ‘shortage’ was also attributed by Southern Sudanese administrators and business people to the fact that the Central Bank of Sudan was no longer remitting hard currency to the South and it was alleged that this was part of a ploy to continue the political domination of the South by ‘starving’ them of foreign exchange and making their purchases from abroad, mostly consumer goods from Uganda and Kenya, more difficult and more expensive. .

It was also noticed that on exit from Juba fines of 45 US Dollars are now levied on all foreign passport holders at the airport, who have not followed the registration requirements while in Juba, NO matter how long the stay was, i.e. even a day visit now requires visitors to spend precious time, or have someone do the registration for them. Roads within Juba have visibly improved however, and more work is in progress, although the stalled work on a new airport terminal still has the site ‘dormant’ until the legal wrangles have been resolved.

 

 

And in closing today again some material taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, with interesting stories and accompanying pictures from ‘further down south’ … especially moving this week is the story of the ‘Musango’ bull elephant, but read for yourself:

 

Art Exhibition at Sun International

On Saturday evening Sun International opened an Art Exhibition which is being held at the Royal and at Zambezi Sun.  Sue Brink, the organiser, has brought together some major artists from Zambia and around the region.  It was amazing to see it all put together and a real ‘first’ for Livingstone. 

Many of the artists were there too all chatting and talking about their work. 

Agnes and Lawrence Yombe had several works being displayed and Agnes was very pleased to have already sold one of her pieces.  Larry Norton from Victoria Falls had brought some of his beautiful wildlife paintings.  Francois D’Elbee displayed his photographs, one of which was quickly snapped up by Joanne. 

Eva Middleton and Tamryn Pohl, great friends, happily talked about their paintings of wildlife.  Rory McDougal, Vic Guhrs, Clare Mateke, Chansa Chishimba were all there with their works.  It was a veritable who’s who in the Zambian art world. 

I got so caught up in chatting that I forgot to take loads of photographs!  But it is OK, I will be going back and take more later.  There are also some other photographers and painters who are due to join the exhibition in the weeks to come, so there will be a lot more to see. 

The Exhibition is running until the end of July.  There are works at both the Royal and Zambezi Sun, so do take time to go down and have a look. 

An Ancient Island Forest

I was staying at Royal Chundu near Livingstone.  The evening was spent around a roaring fire listening to the sound of the water and the crackling of the logs.  I listened to all the stories of building the lodge and the plans for its future.  The meal was five-star – it always amazes me how our chefs manage to produce such great meals right out in the bush, but they do. 

That evening I slept like a log in my room with all the doors open to the river.  I was woken to a cacophony of bird noises as the light started to seep through the trees.  It was a cloudy morning – dull and cold.  I decided against having a bath in the tub on the veranda and ventured into the shower; clad myself in woollies and trainers and set out for the walk that we had planned the evening before.

The island is about a kilometre long; never has it been used for any form of human habitation.  It is completely untouched except for the walkways which have been carved through the undergrowth and some hippo tracks.  It was eerie to walk through such primeval tall trees – baobabs, jackalberries, and commiphoras, with date palms fringing the island banks.  We found some python creepers climbing around the trees and a fig tree having found a roothold on an ancient pod mahogany, a tree which in years to come will be completely strangled by the roots of the fig. 

We walked steadily through the woodland, generating some much needed warmth on such a cold morning.  The birds, though, seemed to have completely given up their morning tunes and I could imagine them huddled in a cosy spot deep in the undergrowth hoping that the sun would come out and warm them up.

Returning to the lodge I went back to my room and sat on the balcony for a while.  Some wire-tailed swallows were darting in and out of the buildings and swooping over the water in search of insects.  They came onto my balcony to keep me company for a while. 

Breakfast was out on the windy deck.  Lots of fruit and yoghurt, followed by sausage, bacon, eggs and waffles, all swilled down with copious cups of tea.  The sun still did not want to come out from behind the clouds, so, still wrapped up in winter woollies, I boarded the boat for the mainland and home. 

I had a walk around the main lodge which has eight rooms, all in the same luxurious style as the island.  The unpredictable Zambezi River had done a bit of damage to the main lodge deck – it had been swamped, but repairs and clean-up were in process!  We marvelled at the three years of high water we had had – almost unknown.  But this is Africa, and we take what we get and are grateful for it. 

The lodge is all set up for conferences and those addicted to watching rugby on the TV.  Fortunately there are no TVs in the room but an upstairs area has been kitted out with all the modern technology, including computers, for those guests who have to be in contact with the outside world. 

By about midday I was on my way home and back to reality, but later the following week I went back to find out all about parrot fish – a story which will be told another time. 

 

The killing of such a great Tusker is made more tragic by the fact that these living monuments are so rare, and I am appalled that he was shot by a hunter whose fraternity is one of the main custodians of such magnificent animals and our wildlife heritage.”  

Musango Bull Elephant

There are two pictures here. The one is a painting of the “Musango” Bull Elephant by well known artist Larry

Norton, and the other is a photograph taken by Garth Thompson, one of Africa’s best known professional guides.

Two facts emerge from these pictures. The first is the extraordinary beauty and size of this elephant and the second is that it is so patently obvious that this is a gentle creature, allowing anybody to approach it closely.

 Musango is also wearing a clearly visible satellite tracking collar. Indeed, Roger Parry having been given authority by National Parks to dart this elephant, was able to easily get within a few meters of it before firing the dart.

This elephant was estimated to have another 15-20 years of life ahead of it.

He is now dead.

He was shot around the 23rd of May, 2010 by a professional hunting organization in the Omay North area, adjacent to Lake Kariba. This hunter did nothing illegal, according to existing law within Zimbabwe. It is not illegal to shoot a collared animal (unless specially protected by the minister). But the international and local reaction to the ethical and moral issues involved in this incident has been overwhelming.

Accordingly the aim of this petition is twofold;

1. To request the authorities, once the Minister has given special protection status to any animal, to take immediate and proactive steps to inform all hunters and hunting institutions of such protected status. The Musango Bull was regarded by many as part of Zimbabwe’s national heritage, and is now gone.

2. To get the ZPHA to define their own ethical and moral standards in relation to collared animals, and specifically this elephant, and to fully investigate, with independent observers, in situ the killing of the Musango Bull.

How to support? E-mail a letter to musangobull@yahoo.com

 

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report Second Edition June 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome Second edition June 2010 BIG BROTHER COMES INTO THE CABIN Information received from Lufthansa sources speaks of the development of a new surveillance system in commercial aircraft, developed by Lufthansa Technik, which is part of the Lufthansa Group. The new system will become available on the market in early 2011 when a launch customer will have it installed in the first of their aircraft before other customers can then also order the system. It is understood that more than a dozen cameras will be monitoring the access to the cockpit, the passenger cabin but also the cargo holds, giving the pilots an detailed overview of ‘what is happening behind and below’. It is not presently confirmed if air marshals deployed on mainly United States airlines, but also on aircraft of several other nations, will be able to ‘peep’ into the camera feed, but once the technology is available and installed it is likely that constant monitoring of this sort will also become available for security staff deployed on board and not just the pilots, so that all concerned with the safety of that particular flight will be constantly aware of movements of passengers in the cabin and possible events in the cargo compartment. And ending tongue in cheek, applicants or aspirants for the ‘mile high club’ beware when this latest gadget will begin to appear, as ‘big brother’ will be watching… Uganda News HAPPY HERO’S DAY ON THE 09TH JUNE TO ALL UGANDANS, AS WE REMEMBER ONCE AGAIN THOSE WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES TO ENSURE FREEDOM AND LIBERTY WERE RESTORED WHEN THE DICTATORSHIPS OF OLD WERE DEFEATED BY THE NRA IN 1986. EAST AFRICA’S FINANCIAL BUDGET READING ON THURSDAY 10TH JUNE 2010 All five ministers of finance will read the annual budget speech to the respective parliaments on Thursday this week, 10th of June, as has become practice across the entire East African Community. Details about the proposed budgetary allocations for the tourism sectors in each of the member states of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi will be in next week’s column. Watch this space. BULAGO ISLAND LODGE REBUILDING ON COURSE It was learned over the weekend that the rebuilding and upgrading of the Bulago Island Lodge, now under the management of Wild Places Africa and The Uganda Safari Company, is well on course. 6 brand new shore side cottages are in an advanced stage of construction, as are modifications to the original main building and public areas. Some of the existing ‘old’ cottages are being re-modelled as ‘family rooms’ and a new larger pool will add to the attraction in particular for families with children coming to stay on Bulago once again when they reopen later this year. The ‘twin storey’ cottage, a favourite of visitors under the previous management, is being converted into a Spa where treatment programmes similar to those available at the Emin Pasha Hotel will be introduced when the ‘new’ Bulago Island Lodge opens its doors again. Bulago Island Lodge can be reached within minutes after takeoff from the Kajjansi airfield outside Kampala, and the landing strip on Bulago leads right to the ‘back’ of the main buildings of the lodge. Alternatively boat transport from various landing sites is available for visitors, with this journey taking between 45 and 60 minutes. Bulago is the latest addition in the ‘collection’ of Wild Places’ Ugandan properties which include the Emin Pasha Hotel in Kampala’s fashionable Nakasero suburb, the Semliki Safari Lodge, the Apoka Safari Lodge and the award winning Clouds Safari Lodge. Watch this space for the announcement of the proposed re-opening date. SHERATON TO SCREEN ALL FIFA WORLD CUP MATCHES Football fans will have the comforts of the Sheraton surrounding them when the World Cup kicks off in earnest as the hotel has announced it will screen all matches. This is the first of the ‘big’ hotels making such an announcement and as often the Sheraton is leading the pack once again from the front. A cover charge of 15.000 Uganda Shillings, about 7 US Dollars, redeemable for drinks and food, will be the only barrier between soccer lovers and the big screens especially installed at the hotel’s garden side ‘Lion Centre’ where the management has opened a dedicated ‘FIFA World Cup viewing centre’ for Kampaleans and visitors. It is expected that hotels, resorts and even restaurants across the city, and in fact across the country, will put up large screen TV’s on their premises to cash in on the event by attracting customers into their establishments, who in the process then also eat and drink while watching the action on the pitch. Meanwhile has Ugandan power company UMEME poured cold water on the expectations of soccer fans, by announcing that power supplies may be falling short over the period of the FIFA World Cup and the so called ‘load shedding’ may increase, leaving TV’s blacked out during matches – shame on them and all the more a reason to then see the matches at the Sheraton. This correspondent was considering for a while actually flying to South Africa for the Germany matches but the cuckoo land pricing soon put an end to this and a new big screen TV will now provide all the action needed at home without being ripped off by airlines and hotels trying to make the proverbial once in a lifetime ‘killing’, although news from down south are that ‘surprise surprise’ hotel rooms are now being sold at discounts due to less visitors from overseas than initially expected while FIFA was still trying to sell tickets which were, arguably as a result of their pricing, not being taken up by overseas visitors. And whoever thought down there that price does not matter, it DOES, but this is a recognition which might come just a shade too late… ICC MEETING IN KAMPALA REJECTS OPPOSITION CLAIMS The ongoing global meeting at the Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo / Kampala has brought former UN supremo Kofi Annan into the country, together with the current UN chief Ban Ki Moon, the president of the International Criminal Court and the ICC’s chief prosecutor Ocampo. It was the latter who publicly rejected demands by a section of the Ugandan opposition to have Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni investigated for war crimes when fighting the long lasting northern insurgency by rebels, who have since then been pushed out of the country bringing peace, economic and social development to the affected areas. The key rebel leaders, also declared as terrorists by the UN, are wanted by ICC international arrest warrants for their crimes against humanity and war crimes but no arrests have been carried out as yet, while several of them are in any case said to have died in the meantime. A section of the media also took an undeserved dig at the incumbent president, shielding behind the international meeting, when publishing what is widely considered as ‘doctored’ opinion polls, portraying public support for Uganda’s longest serving leader at ‘record lows’, a conclusion not shared by either the political establishment nor this correspondent. The same applies for members of the political opposition who are reported to have said the president has lost touch with reality after the annual ‘state of the nation’ address in parliament last week. It was there that President Museveni gave a glowing outlook for national development and economic performance – the economy is expected to grow again by over 8 percent – in view of the discovery of substantial deposits of crude oil, while highlighting the achievements of government in the past. Amongst those were key corner stone data, like the increase in primary pupils from 3 million in 1997 to over 8 million now, the abolishing of examination fees for Ugandan primary and secondary students, an increase in phone ownership from less than 60.000 in 1992 to now over 12 million Ugandans, completion of key road projects and ongoing work on other highways, the provision of thermal power stations ahead of the commissioning of the new Bujagali hydro electric plant next year and economic growth of nearly 8.5 percent over the past 12 months. The Ugandan parliament has now entered its fifth and final session ahead of the upcoming general elections due early next year, when President Museveni and his ruling NRM party are again expected to carry the day. Meanwhile has news reached from Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, that political activists based in Khartoum were denied travel permission to fly to Uganda and attend the ICC meetings, not a surprise considering that regime leader Bashir is on the ICC’s wanted list. The Southern Sudan based activists however were present in Munyonyo and some from Khartoum are also said to have made their way to the meeting venue by first travelling to Juba from where no travel restrictions can be imposed by the regime. SLIDING SHILLING GIVES BETTER VALUE FOR TOURIST’S LOCAL EXPENSES The ongoing slide of the Uganda Shilling, now trading below the psychologically important 2.250 mark versus the US Dollar, is helping tourists to get more value locally for their Euros, Pounds and Dollars, as they can purchase ‘more’ with the same amount of their own currency. Expenses ‘in destination’ are often a factor, in making the decision to come to a country or in the final assessment how enjoyable a holiday was and if a visitor got ‘value for money’. In turn however Ugandans are bracing themselves for a rise in prices of imported goods, including fuels, as more shillings are now needed to purchase hard currency. Across the border in Kenya their shilling too has been sliding and over the last weekend reached a 5 year low, breaking through the important 80 barrier, lowering the cost for local purchases for tourists but in turn making life for ordinary Kenyans more expensive. One’s joy may be the other one’s agony. EMIRATES’ SPECIAL OFFERS AID DEMAND The local office of Emirates has now put special offers on the market for travellers to Dubai – obviously over the forthcoming ‘hot’ months – whereby two children up to the age of 16 can fly free with their parents, and in addition get free ‘bed, meals and entry’ as long as the parents purchase one of these fabulous offers from the Emirates office in Kampala or their preferred travel agent. This ‘coup’ will undoubtedly spur a round of similar offers from such airlines as Kenya Airways or Ethiopian both of which also fly daily to Dubai via their respective hubs in Nairobi and Addis Ababa. Several expatriate travellers this correspondent spoke with welcomed the offer, in particular as they do not need to pay any Visa fees for Dubai on the strength of their nationality, and one commented: ‘this is cheaper than going to Zanzibar for a beach holiday, considering we have to pay 200 US Dollars for our Visa there. Why can’t East Africa waive this for expats living in one of the EAC member countries?’ Meanwhile though, Ugandans too can take advantage of the Emirates offers and they will be able to obtain their Visa through the airline at minimal hassle and affordable cost. CITY COUNCIL GETS SERIOUS ABOUT NOISE POLLUTION The Kampala City Council, in conjunction with the National Environmental Management Authority, has of late become more active in combating noises from entertainment spots across the city. After media adverts and warnings apparently bore no fruits over a dozen culprits have since been taken to court, where in case of repeated complaints they can face not only fines and imprisonment but a shutdown of the concerned businesses. Kampala residents have in the past often complained but little was done, except in the immediate neighbourhood of prominent citizens, but this latest action by KCC and NEMA staff gives hope that city dwellers will in the future be able to sleep more peacefully and no longer get disturbed at night by discos and rowdy nightclub crowds running riot into the wee hours of the night. Well done – for a change – to KCC and to NEMA’s enforcement units. CITY SECURITY GETS A BOOSTS The Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, has over the weekend announced that in order to boost security within Uganda’s capital city a new squad has been formed, which will patrol the city 24 / 7 on motorcycles. The new unit started work already last weekend after receiving 300 new motorcycles and training how to use them and carry out their duties. While some residents dismissed this as a publicity stunt and linked it to the upcoming election period, the majority of those this correspondent spoke with expressed relief that more police would be on the streets, able to help with traffic congestions or in the immediate area where police presence could be required to stem petty crime or chase down offenders. In particular some regular sources from within the tourism industry expressed their delight, saying that this measure would make the city safer for tourist visitors, and locals of course, and boost tourists’ shopping expeditions into the main trading areas of town while encouraging them to walking in the city. It was also announced by the President recently, during his state of the nation address, that the Ugandan police force would be increased by 4.000 new officers to cater for the growing demand on the force’s manpower and cater for ‘loss’ of personnel through retirement or voluntary departure. ROGUE HIPPO GETS DESTROYED A marauding hippo, which was resident near the shores of Lake Victoria at Munyonyo, outside Kampala, has last weekend been shot by rangers of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, after all other measures to , chase off, contain and / or relocate the animal failed. The beast stood accused to have killed at least two people out on the lake fishing and at least one domestic animal and following intensifying complaints to UWA their staff swung into action and proceeded on site to investigate. Tranquilizing, trapping and relocating was the first choice but found too difficult to achieve and subsequently the killer hippo had to be put down, to the relief of nearby communities living along the lake shores and making a living from fishing. There has also been some apprehension within the Munyonyo establishment when the first news of a human death emerged in the local media and through the neighbourhood grapevine, as fears grew that the rogue animal may cause damage to the resort or injure visiting guests. It is understood that the Uganda Police had explicitly cleared the action, as it was being taken near villages. It is however, and I say this out of experience, always advisable along the lake shores to be careful when walking or bird watching, as it can never be predicted where another hippo may emerge, or in a worst case scenario a crocodile, from the waters in search of pasture or prey. Hippos in particular are known to attack without warning when feeling disturbed or threatened and in particular when they are with young ones. Kenya News SAFARILINK PREPS FOR HIGH SEASON Following hot on the heels of Fly 540 expanding their ‘safari’ network in Kenya has SafariLink, one of Wilson Airport’s leading ‘safari airlines’ reacted and also posted new routes and added flights to the tourism trade. Most notable is the addition of Migori right at the border with Tanzania, where camp operators from the Serengeti are able to pick up their passengers from the airstrip and then take them to their camp or lodge via the immigration and border point nearby at Isebania. This will be an ‘add on’ sector for flights between Wilson Airport and the Masai Mara, permitting tourists the quickest access to the Serengeti and a combined visit between the two parks, without having to fly via Nairobi to Arusha (JRO), or driving all the way across the border in Namanga or else using the poorly maintained road from the top of the Olooloolo escarpment to the Tanzanian border. This flight will commence on 01st July and initially run until 31st of October, subject to review after assessing demand and uptake of the new offer. The other new service, also effective 01st July, is an afternoon flight to Tsavo, the Chyulu Hills and Amboseli. This new departure will allow passengers on the morning flights from Northern Kenya, i.e. Samburu, Lewa Downs and Nanyuki and the flights from the Masai Mara into Wilson an easy connection to other key national parks after having lunch at one of the many venues now available at Wilson Airport, including the Aero Club of East Africa, where they can not only have a good and fast lunch but also see pictures on display of long gone aviation days. The Tsavo destination is going to be the Voi airstrip, which is owned and operated by Kenya Wildlife Services (inside the Tsavo East park) and from where passengers can be picked by camp / lodge transport from as far as Taita Hills lodges or Ngulia / Kilaguni in Tsavo West, offering a game or scenic drive enroute. The Chyulu destination airstrip will be at ‘Ol Donyo Wuas’. In Amboseli the main airfield in the centre of the park will be used to drop and pick up passengers as usual for the morning flights. For all the ‘new’ sectors a minimum of 2 passengers booked and ticketed are required and the airline has pointed out that there may be differences in flight arrivals and departures as a result of flying into only one strip, several or all of them. More information can be obtained via the Safarilink website or by writing directly to Anu Vohora, Director of Sales and Marketing via anu(at)safarilink.com KENYA AIRWAYS TO ADD ROME As the economic recovery takes further hold in Kenya and the region, the ‘Pride of Africa’ has just announced that they will commence flights to Rome again, a destination dropped long ago when the cooperation with KLM started. At the time, the route was no longer considered viable but passengers often complained that in order to get to Italy they first had to fly an extra 2 hours north, only to then overfly their country again enroute to Kenya and the same again on the way home. The Italian capital will be the most southerly entry point for Kenya Airways into Europe and tap once more into the lucrative Italian holiday market for Kenya, but also add capacity for air cargo between the two countries without having to trans ship it first via other European waypoints. The information was given by the airline’s CEO Titus Naikuni after announcing to the shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting that the carrier had returned to profit after facing two difficult years, caused by the global financial and economic crisis but also strike action, which impacted heavily on the bottom line last year as overheads rose as a consequence by almost 30 percent. The airline posted a pre tax profit of over 2.5 billion Kenya Shillings, compared to a loss of well over 5 billion Kenya Shillings for the last financial year. Management also confirmed that the recent ‘ash cloud’ stoppages of flights into Europe will have an impact on the annual financial performance but no details were given just how much it did cost the airline – although the damage to the Kenyan economy in regard of lost passenger transport revenues, export of flowers, fresh produce and chilled fish was last month pegged at over 3 billion Kenya Shillings overall. Kenya Airways at last also confirmed that they were indeed in touch with Airbus discussing the purchase of several A 330 aircraft to bridge the gap until the newly developed and long delayed Boeing 787 will become available, which – considering that major shareholder KLM / Air France already flies these models for several years in their fleet – will constitute no problem to integrate an Airbus model into the hitherto almost exclusive Boeing fleet. A final decision will be made in the second half of 2010 and of course reported here. KENYA BUZZ NOW INCORPORATES TWITTER AND FACEBOOK LINKS The premier Kenyan e-Guide has now added links on Facebook and Twitter for their readership, to stay informed at an instant when new broadcasts are mailed. FB users too can befriend the page and receive a regular news update as and when a new item is posted on the Kenya Buzz website. Go with the times, go ‘e’ is obviously the catchword and every news, PR and marketing organization not yet linked with these two key social media will have to review their publicity approach to increase visibility in the global market place or else risk sliding into oblivion sooner or later. Well done Alix and team, keep it up. LET’S GO OPENS NEW ‘SHOP’ AT FORMER TN PREMISES It was learnt last week that one of Kenya’s leading travel agencies has now set up shop in the posh Muthaiga suburb of Nairobi at the offices formerly occupied by TN – Travel News and Lifestyle, once the region’s premier travel magazine before merging with the South African EAM owned ‘Twende’ and eventually seeing the merged operation going under after losing several key staff and failing to learn how the local market in Nairobi ‘worked’. Let’s Go Travel at the opening also, together with Tony Clegg Butt, expressed their intent to start an e-magazine befittingly called ‘travel news’, featuring amongst other things Tony’s ‘Miscellaneous Ramblings’ previously published in TN / Twende and immensely popular with their readership, in which the former TN publisher every month either praised or lamented over his encounters in restaurants, hotels, with airlines and the trials and tribulations of a frequent traveller. Watch this space for upcoming announcements, as and when this happens. Let’s Go Travel is owned by Alan Dixson, son of the late Bill Dixson of Bruce Safaris fame, who in his days was quite an individual in Kenya’s tourism circles. The new branch office of Let’s Go Travel is reportedly a partnership between Tony Clegg Butt and Alan Dixson, putting Tony – who has been ‘privatising’ since leaving the Twende operation in July last year – firmly back into the tourism frame. FERRIES ARRIVE IN MOMBASA There were scenes of jubilation and relief amongst commuters and tourism operators last Thursday when the two new ferries were delivered to the port of Mombasa from Germany, after months and months of delays caused by a variety of issues over investigations into procurement and payments, a situation which cost the past ferry company management their jobs. The presently used ferries have long exceeded their natural life span and suffered of frequent breakdowns, and when the two new ferries have been put into full service, trials are already underway supported by a team of experts from the German wharf where they were built, at least one of the ‘old ones’ is expected to undergo a full overhaul to then serve at peak periods and as back up during maintenance periods. Others of the present ferries are due to be relocated to a new crossing point after repairs and major maintenance, which in itself should also bring some relief to the tens of thousands of people crossing into the city every day. Tourism staff contacted at the coast expressed their relief that a new era is now being rung in and a more reliable service can be offered between the city of Mombasa – itself an island – and the southern mainland where many of the beach resorts are located. The same sources however also stressed their ongoing demands for a road link which would connect the main highway from Nairobi and the Mombasa International Airport with the ‘South Coast’, as that was the only long term solution to ensure easy transportation, while the ferries could then serve primarily commuters in and out of the city. Other tourism sources in Kenya also demanded that the city of Mombasa, in particular those parts where tourists regularly pass through on their way from the airport to their beach resorts, must be ‘spruced up’ so that the holiday experience is not impaired by the at times and at present often unsightly state of repairs of roads and buildings along the way. ANCIENT ‘MAILBOX’ TREE BECOMES NATIONAL MONUMENT The ‘Mugumo’ tree used by the Kenyan Mau Mau movement as a mailbox to safely exchange messages during their days of liberation struggle, has last week been declared a national monument in Kenya. Located inside the Aberdare National Park the Kenya Wildlife Service is now set to create a path towards the tree so that visitors, both locals and from overseas, can reach the location and pay tribute at the site to the ingenuity developed by the Kenyan freedom fighters who prior to independence took on the might of the British colonial administration in their struggle for independence. Visitors presently need to walk a distance to the location with a guide but a motorable track is due to be opened soon to allow greater access to the site. KWS TO ‘TAG’ EASTERN BLACK RHINOS The Kenya Wildlife Service is currently embarking on a tagging and marking exercise of the eastern black rhino species, commencing in the Masai Mara game reserve. The marking will use a technique of making unique cuts in the animal’s ears, which allows trackers and rangers to identify the particular animal with greater ease when observing them in the wild. Electronic tags will also be fitted on the animals, an exercise partly funded by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which also assist the colleagues of KWS across the border in the Serengeti to learn more about the migratory patterns and range of the rhinos in the transboundary ecosystem. 50 years ago more than 60.000 eastern black rhinos roamed the African wilderness, a figure reduced to less than 4.300 at present, a clear signal for the challenges ahead for conservationists to preserve the species for future generations. On the occasion of the World Environment Day last Saturday KWS also released details on their work for other endangered species like the Roan antelope, the red colobus, cheetahs and Gravy zebras, amongst others, while a number of bird species were also singled out as being near extinction. Poaching continues to be the greatest danger wildlife managers are faced with but diseases like Anthrax have also decimated animal populations in the past and are suspected to be the main reason for the sharp fall in Gravy zebra numbers in the North of Kenya and neighbouring Ethiopia. MORE GREEN POWER GETS FINANCIAL NOD The planned wind power project in the Marsabit area of Kenya has just received a major ‘shot in the arm’ when the US based Exim Bank has confirmed that they have signed a loan agreement together with other financiers to make the new ‘green’ power plant of a projected 300 MW a reality by late 2012. The company is also said to put up a second solar powered plant of 50 MW nearby, which will add together with the planned Turkana wind power plant almost 700 MW into Kenya’s national grid, enough to cater for growth in electricity consumption by industry and domestic consumers, and leaving some to spare for bringing electricity into rural areas in order to reduce the consumption of firewood and charcoal – as long as the monthly bills are affordable for the rural folks. Construction of the required transmission lines is according to reports from Nairobi due to start already before the end of this year to be ready to ‘feed’ the newly generated electricity to the nation. The ‘green’ energy production will also improve on Kenya’s carbon footprint and assist in marketing the country as an ecofriendly tourism destination. Watch this space for further news updates as and when they become available. Tanzania News TANZANIA TOURIST BOARD SEEKS TO EXPLORE NEW NICHE MARKET It was learned last week that added efforts will be made by the TTB to promoting ‘Diaspora’ travel overseas amongst people of African descent, who have an interest to explore not only their own roots but generally get acquainted with the rich history of the African continent and its varied cultures. Remarks attributed to the Minister of Tourism who was speaking on the subject while on a tour upcountry, were also providing figures – which could not be independently confirmed before going to press – that the tourism sector in Tanzania contributed to over a quarter of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and contributed up to 17.5 percent of Gross National Product (GDP). The Tanzania Tourist Board, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and other governmental bodies, has for a while now been beefing up the access to and the appearances of monuments and ancient ruins, especially those related to the slave trade, but has also started to spruce up archaeological sites across the country, where visitors can learn about early mankind’s way of life. PEMBA ISLAND GETS ‘MAINS POWER’ The Indian Ocean island of Pemba off the Tanzanian mainland has last week been connected to the national power grid through an underwater cable – similar to the arrangement for Zanzibar – and the cost for hotels and resorts on the island to use power can now come down considerably. The general impact on the islands economy and households is thought to be immense and in particular the tourism industry now seems set to expand further and may in coming years see a boom of new resorts being opened up, now that affordable power is available. Zanzibar has become one of East Africa’s most sought after and ‘en vogue’ destinations, supported by a range of very posh and upmarket resorts, while ‘affordable’ accommodation however is also available for visitors on a budget. Pemba in turn has lagged behind these developments, a past trend most likely influenced by the need to run costly diesel generators for power generation, but with this disadvantage now removed the island can start to catch up with the more advanced neighbour and begin to sustainably exploit the dramatic beach and reef setting for tourism purposes. Watch this space. Rwanda News CONSERVATION CONFERENCE KICKS OF KWITA IZINA WEEK A biodiversity meeting, convened by the Rwandan government in conjunction with UNEP – the United National Environment Programme – took place last week in Kigali, bringing together a range of experts from the region and from around the globe. The UN is also celebrating the global World Environment Day in Rwanda this year under the theme: Many species, one planet, one future and speakers at the conference made repeated reference to this event, and the annual Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony which took place last Saturday in Kinigi at the foot of the famous volcanic mountains. Rwanda’s economy depends on tourism to the country, and past years have seen steady improvements in arrivals, longer stays and greater spending by visitors, all of whom come to enjoy the rich biodiversity of the ‘land of a thousand hills’. While gorilla tracking remains the number one touristic activity in the country, making the country visible around the globe and earning them award after award, the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation has been diversifying their product range and added new attractions in recent years, to widen the appeal for overseas visitors. Notably the MICE sector has excelled with new facilities being commissioned in past months and new projects now taking off, aimed at adding yet more conference and meeting facilities as well as more top of the range rooms in Kigali. Participants in the conference also participated in some field work when planting trees at a formerly degraded wetland area not far from Kigali, which is currently under restoration by the local community and government, having recognised the importance of intact wetlands as a source of water and key element for the local microclimates across the country. GORILLA REPORT RAISES QUESTIONS A report released by the American Journal for Primatology, coinciding with the Rwandan Kwita Izina celebrations and conservation conference in Kigali last week, was met with a degree of doubt and scepticism by both park management as well as the tourism trade. Some of the recommendations in particular caught the eye of experts, such as expansion of the ‘safe distance’ from presently about 7 metres to a staggering 18 metres, and for tourist visitors to be compelled to wear face masks to prevent transmission of communicable diseases to the gentle giants. Having tracked gorillas many times, this correspondent can tell from experience that seeing the animals from that distance would be ultimately more difficult, taking good pictures even more difficult and the entire fabric of gorilla tracking could change, unless solutions are discussed and permanent measures agreed between conservationists, park authorities and the tourism industry. It is however known that all three park management authorities spend considerable resources for the monitoring the habituated groups open for visits by tourists, collect added data from groups ‘set aside for research’ and from encounters by their wardens, rangers and trackers with groups not habituated at all, and that these data are shared and undergoing constant review to ensure that this precious resource can be sustained for good. Mountain gorillas are found in their natural habitat in Rwanda, the Congo DR and Uganda across the Virunga mountain range, and an estimated 800 or so of the animals live under close supervision and around the clock protection by rangers and trackers. Sections of the report also suggested that regular visits in close range by as many as 8 tourists – the limit imposed on group size in all three countries – was impacting on the social behaviour of the mountain gorillas, giving the national park managers in Rwanda, Congo DR and Uganda fodder for thought, when studying and discussing the findings of the study, comparing it with their own research results and observations and finding a way forward. Gorilla tracking is key to the tourism sectors in Rwanda and Uganda, while relatively few visitors are making their way across the borders into the Congo, which still suffers from the long fallout of civil war and insurgencies in precisely the area where the gorillas are found. Subsequent security concerns have kept larger numbers of visitors away from the Congolese park, and it is therefore often overland truck tours and back packers who do their tracking there when available permits in Uganda and Rwanda are sold out during the peak season. The most common crossing point for this activity is the border to the Congo near Kisoro, itself a spring board to the two nearby gorilla parks on Uganda soil. Uganda records the largest number of mountain gorillas in the two national parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga, with Rwanda a close second in terms of numbers found in the ‘Parc de Volcanoes’, while surveillance and counts in Congo DR have of late been stepped up to ascertain the exact number of the gorilla groups, and their respective family members, found there. On the occasion of the World Environment Day it was also once again stressed that the cooperation between the wildlife management organisations in the three countries sharing the Virunga range is on course and that a draft treaty has been worked out in a series of meetings, the latest in Kigali just a short while ago, which is being presented to the respective national governments for the process of ratification. The gorilla project secretariat is located in Kigali from where conservation, monitoring and research efforts are being coordinated and notably the secretariat is headed by Dr. Arthur Mugisha, who is a former Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and then Regional Director for Flora and Fauna International, before moving to Rwanda. RWANDA AND TANZANIA TO COOPERATE IN TOURISM During the just concluded Karibu Tourism Trade Fair in Arusha / Tanzania have the delegations of Rwanda and Tanzania met and commenced discussions towards a formal Memorandum of Understanding which will in the future guide the cooperation in tourism matters between the two countries. Both of the East African neighbours are gifted with many natural attractions, thought to complement each other rather than compete with each other, a good foundation for future cooperation on marketing the two destinations. Participating tour and safari operators from Rwanda welcomed the announcement as it will widen their own scope of putting attractive regional packages together for the benefit of their overseas clientele. RWANDAIR RECEIVES FIRST OF THEIR LEASED B737-500 Early this week did the first of two leased Boeing 737-500 models arrive to join the Rwandan national airline’s fleet, in a low key ceremony at the international airport in Kigali. The two aircraft are leased from GECAS, a leading aircraft leasing company, and will remain with RwandAir until their ordered B 737-800 new generation Boeings arrive next year. The second of these aircraft will join the fleet reportedly in August. The new aircraft will be deployed on the route to Johannesburg to meet increased demand for the duration of the FIFA World Cup but will also fly the newly established connection to Kinshasa in the Congo DR. Watch this space for updates in coming editions when RwandAir is expected to shed some more light on their planned route and network expansion ahead of the delivery of their second B737. Southern Sudan News NEW GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT DUE THIS WEEK Southern Sudanese president Gen. Salva Kiir has last Friday announced that the current caretaker government will be formally dissolved and that a new government, following elections last month, is due to be announced later in the week. Of particular interest to this correspondent will be the appointment of a Minister for Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, who will then head the semi autonomous’ territory efforts to restore national parks and attract tourist visitors until the independence referendum due in January next year. Watch this space. Seychelles News PLANTATION CLUB NO MORE The ‘Plantation Club’, which dates back some decades and once was a shining resort synonymous with the upswing of tourism to the archipelago, but then subsequently ‘sold’ on a government directive over two years ago to the disdain of many in the tourism industry who continue to think that this action overstepped the mark, was last week ‘razed’ to the ground to make way for new developments. Observers were quick to point out to this correspondent that contrary to common practice, which would include selling all movable and still usable items like equipment, machinery and furnishings, this was not done as even these items were condemned for destruction. Wrote one regular source: ‘Seychellois people could have bought some of this inventory. Normally there is an auction or people can make bids for one item or many. Much of what has been destroyed could have been still useful for others, who cannot afford new items. But maybe this was the last stroke of vengeance in dealing with the former owners who were dispossessed at the time to wipe them from memory. At least now things have changed in how government does things, but this will remain a black mark against our tourism industry private sector’. NEW BILATERAL AIR SERVICES AGREEMENT WITH INDIA IN THE MAKING Information received from Victoria / Mahe indicates that negotiations will commence later this week between the civil aviation authorities of the Seychelles and of India for a new bilateral air services agreement (BASA), paving the way to begin commercial air operations between the two countries. This follows hot on the heels of a state visit by Seychellois president James Michel to India during which he was accompanies by a business delegation. India has long standing trade links with the Seychelles and is also a member of the naval coalition patrolling and policing the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Seychelles has been at the forefront of combating ocean terrorism inflicted on the shipping trade by Somali pirates. Regular flights between India and the archipelago are thought to benefit business, trade as well as tourism and give the Seychelles greater exposure in the global market. WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY IN THE SEYCHELLES The UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Valle de Mai on the island of Praslin was the location where the country celebrated the global world environment day this year, highlighting the importance of biodiversity and recognising the contributions of tourism to the national economy in general and the contributions this park makes in particular to the work of the Seychelles Island Foundation as far out as the Alhambra atoll. It was learned over the weekend that visitors to the Vallee de Mai national park, home of the fabled ‘coco de mer’, were given commemorative calendars to remind them until next year’s celebrations of the need to maintain biodiversity and look after one’s environment. The Vallee de Mai is the most visited single attraction across the archipelago and nearly half of all visitors to the Seychelles take a day trip, some in fact staying for longer on Praslin, to see the forest, the ‘coco de mer’ and the birdlife found in this park. AND this week quite a bit of material from ‘down south’ in Zambia, provided courtesy of the indefatigable Gill Staden, who lives in Livingstone at the Victoria Falls. Especially enthralling is the story of the lion raid on a bush camp, a reminder of the ever present danger posed by wildlife when going ‘bush’ … more so for us old hands who continue to think that such is not happening to us, simply because we survived all sorts of wilderness encounters until this point … all the best for a speedy recovery to Andre Van Rooyen through this medium. Royal Chundu I was invited to see the completely rebuilt Royal Chundu Lodge near Livingstone. When the email came asking me to drive to the harbour, I was a bit confused – Royal Chundu, I thought, was on the mainland. Anyhow, I did as I was told and arrived, with a bit of help from a member of staff, at the waterlogged harbour car park. I left my car in the capable hands of the member of staff to be driven to a less waterlogged spot and then I boarded a boat. This is going to be fun, I thought … where on earth were we off to? I found out then that Royal Chundu has not only rebuilt the main lodge, but has built a brand new one on an island in the middle of the Zambezi River. The island lodge, where I was to stay, only has 4 luxury rooms so it is very exclusive. I was met on the jetty by Hugh and Bev, the owners, and taken to the main deck for afternoon tea and a chat. The deck is at the end of the island overlooking the river and the Matetsi Safari Area in Zimbabwe, so it is surrounded by bush and water. The island is one of many in this area and is normally edged by rapids. With the water being so high, the rapids had disappeared, instead we were surrounded by fast flowing Zambezi water, full of detritus from higher upstream – branches, reeds and lumps of papyrus. The river has been high this year and I could see where the water had reached into the lodge. Fortunately, the builders had been clever and all the decks and rooms were above the water level – some good planning went on there. But underneath many of the decks the water lapped against the foundations. I was then taken to my room … oh, my goodness me … it was lovely. No expense spared on the building or the interiors. The room opened all along the front to a deck over the river. I could spend a week here, I thought, just watching the world go by. We then went on a boat for a cruise along the river. This stretch of the river is very quiet. We saw one other boat from Matetsi Water Lodge in Zimbabwe; they were also enjoying this beautiful stretch of the river. It made me think how daft all these man-made borders are – it would have been so nice to go over to Matetsi and say hello … but we would have been breaking the law! When are we going to find a way of getting around this situation so that we can promote tourism between our two countries??? I digress … The Matetsi area is a safari area; it used to be for hunting but is now purely photographic. We had a chance of seeing quite a bit of game but the bush is still full of waterholes so there was no need for the animals to come down to the river to drink. We did see some impala, and there were plenty of hippo in the water. The sun set in truly African style in a ball of red fire. It dipped below the horizon and we watched the ‘after-sun’ colours of the sky. It was time to head back to the lodge before it was really dark. It was cold too … More next week … Ministry of Tourism During the week, a group of officials from the Ministry of Tourism took time out to come to Livingstone for a press briefing. I assume that they had other meetings because I can’t imagine that they came all this way to talk to the press. They brought along with them the trophies that had been won by Zambian companies at Indaba: Best Safari Guiding Team in Africa – Robin Pope. Norman Carr and Chiawa Camp were also finalists. Best Safari House in Africa – Luangwa House. Chongwe River House was also a finalist. Best New Safari Property in Africa – Toka Leya Camp (Wilderness Safaris) was a finalist Best Safari Accommodation Group in Africa – Robin Pope and Sanctuary Retreats were finalists Best Safari Property in Africa – Chiawa Camp, Chongwe River Camp, Sausage Tree Camp, Tafika Lodge, Tena Tena and Tongabezi were all finalists. They also told us about their European Roadshow when they had gone to London, Paris, Berlin and Madrid. They said that the trip was successful and they hoped now to undertake more roadshows to United States and South Africa. In order to encourage tourists to visit Zambia during the World Cup they had set up a stand at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg during the event. Destination Zambia. This book is a glossy production which gives contact details for the lodges in Zambia. It certainly is very stylish and is to be distributed through ZNTB outlets. Unfortunately, as was pointed out by one of the owners of Taita Falcon, their contact details were wrong in the book. And, having a quick glance through, I found another glaring error. That is the problem with the preparation of books – one has to have good editing. I am sure they will get it right, though. At question time, we gleaned the following information: The World Heritage Status for the Victoria Falls was ‘safe’ we were told because the rather overdue report had finally been submitted to UNESCO. Sichango Road was being looked into but we had to understand that these things take time (10 years?). The Livingstone-Zimba road should be finished by the next rainy season. Some of the Ministry officials had actually driven down to Livingstone (although some had also flown), and told us that only 42 km remained to be done. This confused me a bit because I had come down the road two weeks ago and there seemed to me that there was a lot more than 42 km to be completed … maybe some more had just been completed. Lochinvar National Park. I asked what was being done about the Park which was an absolute disgrace. They said that it was a ‘Birders Paradise’ and that they were sure ZAWA had it in hand. Actually, I don’t think they knew much about it. There is nowhere to stay in Lochinvar unless you take a tent and put it up in the bush so I am sure they hadn’t managed to visit it recently to see the problem for themselves. Protea in Lower Zambezi This has been circulated: A meeting was held on 20 May 2010 at Chiawa, called by the Lusaka Province Planning Authority apparently with the backing of the President’s office and involving the local Chieftainess, Environmental Council of Zambia, Ministry of Tourism, Environment and National Resources and the Zambia Tourist Board and of course Protea …Hotels. Local operators were invited and allowed to have their say but it was made very clear that despite what Protea Hotels had clearly stated previously the project has not been cancelled, only “temporarily withdrawn”. In fact they have every intention of proceeding and while they apparently said they were prepared to discuss size and design the location is non-negotiable. Lillian’s Lovebirds There is concern over the ‘disappearance of Lillian’s lovebirds from their normal range in Lower Zambezi. Emails are being sent around trying to establish what has happened: From Rod On the lovebird issue, 15 years ago I used to see flocks regularly near the confluence of the Mwambashi (Musangashi) River with the Zambezi but have not seen them here for at least ten years now. However on the brighter side I was at Ana Tree camp at the Mushika confluence where there is much more Mopani two days ago and the guide there (Wilfred) told me that he sees small flocks almost daily. I will try to spend some time down there and report back. From Grant This ties in with my own experiences. 10 years ago and back I used to see flocks coming off the ground etc on what we call “Escape” route – the area between Sausage Tree and Chif channel, but now nothing. However flocks are found regularly in the mopani woodland around Kulefu airstrip. If anyone has any other information on Lillian lovebird sightings please email Rory on: bedrockrory@gmail.com Turbo Charge Lion Attack at Tashinga – The Facts It was mid morning on a Sunday when the TurboCharge fleet of sixteen boats arrived at the Tashinga National Park at the mouth of the Ume River. We were greeted by the sight of a magnificent bull elephant in the camp calmly feeding himself. Our first mooring spot was too exposed to potential weather so we moved around the corner into a bay where the sight of previously buried garbage floating on the bank was very off putting. The water had come up to such a high level that previous garbage pits were now under water. Within minutes a gang of Turbochargers were collecting the rubbish and storing it in dustbin bags. There was no sign of any other people. We relaxed and marvelled at the tranquillity of the place and of how wonderful the campsite must have been in its day. There were ablution blocks that were still working and were clean and there were various campsites within the area. After a few hours of entertaining ourselves three of us decided to set out on foot and try and find some national parks staff. From the camp to the offices is about a kilometre and a half. Walking the road without protection makes the road seem a lot longer. Very fresh tracks are everywhere. You enter the Parks offices via the workshops where various recent model 4×4 ‘s are in various states of disrepair. One cruiser was parked against a rock and we assume this means it was a runner. At the office we found the Wildlife Manager who offered to send the camp supervisor down to the camp and book us in. We specifically asked him if there were any ‘problem’ animals that we should be concerned about and were assured that there was nothing to worry about. We returned to camp via the same road, not as worried about animals as before. The camp supervisor duly arrived in his Sunday clothes and took our order for firewood. The boilers were lit and everyone was into the showers quickly. We had permission to have one big bonfire in a central place and we collected a big tree to help. During the rest of the afternoon some guys went off fishing, some played scrabble and some even had a few beers. Firewood arrived and the four cooking teams started preparations for the evening meal. The sunset was as spectacular as one could wish for. It is beyond my command of the English language to describe the colours of red and pink that were exploding out of the clouds. A Parks member arrived with a weapon stating that he was here to protect us and could he also have a drink pointing to the beer in my hand. Beer denied! It was Andre Van Rooyen and Rich Elman Brown’s turn to cook and it was a superb meal. We all ate well and there was enough left over for breakfast. We adjourned to the big bonfire. The other cooking teams had cooked on the highest part of the camp site and had had a good loud party. Slowly but surely everyone either gravitated towards the fire or to bed. It was in the back of everyone’s mind that we were in a wild habitat and that the fast rising lake was restricting the open ground that normally surrounded the camp. Cooking areas were packed up well and the thought of hyenas was never far away. The various campsites consisted generally of one or two asbestos ‘A Frame’ huts and a concrete slab. Four people could sleep in or on each. Eight guys chose to occupy the site closest to the water. This had two ‘A Frames’ and a slab, all within touching distance of each other. One even had a back wall. At about midnight there were four of us left at the fire. All the sites had people sleeping in them and all were within a forty meter radius. Mike and I decided to call it a night and grabbed our bed packs and toured the area. Our first choice was the camp by the water but we felt it was too crowded. The moon was as bright as daylight and we wandered from spot to spot before returning to the fire to join Bruce and Justin. Just before four o’clock in the morning an elephant broke down a tree. In the still of the night it sounded very close and the majority of the camp was instantly awake. Down at the crowded camp close to the water, Dave and Rich turned on some music and chatted. Andre was in the next hut less than one meter away. Ben was at his boat having a cigarette on his own. Lance got out of bed to relieve his bladder shining his hunting torch at his target but not into the close bush. Unbeknown to an of them, a lioness and her three adult cubs had crawled down the thick bush line and were just meters away. The bright moon had just dropped below the horizon and the night was at its darkest. Andre was asleep with his head against the back wall of the ‘A Frame’. He felt a weight on his body and in his slumber thought he was at home and that his dog had climbed on his bed. He rolled over to tell his dog off when he saw the lion open her mouth and close it on his head. H started shouting. Andre is a big man of about 100kgs. The lioness slapped him through his air mattress and then proceeded to slap his body against the roof of the hut two or three times with his head in her mouth. Andre was convinced she was going to break his neck. Unable to break his neck in the confined space she then dragged him off still holding his head in her mouth. Lance Nesbitt was the first hero. Still getting into his sleeping bag less than four meters away he heard Andre scream and immediately knew what was happening and what to do. His torch was still in hand and he shone it straight at the retreating lioness who was already two meters away from the ‘A frame’ next to an anthill. By advancing and shining his torch on the lioness and screaming at the top of his voice, he stopped the lioness. When Lance was joined spontaneously by Dean Kendall and Bobo Gibbons, also with torches and loud voices, she dropped Andre and grudgingly walked away a meter before stopping and turning back. Very nearby were her three almost full grown cubs. Had she dragged Andre one or two meters closer to the others, the situation might have been far more serious. The brave screaming and cussing from Lance, Bobo and Dean was joined by more voices and more screaming. The four lions reluctantly retreated another ten meters and then squatted down in the light bush. I had grabbed my air horn from the boat. The combination of this unfamiliar very loud noise and many torches and advancing, shouting humans encouraged the four lions to wander off. They were in no hurry and on their way towards the thick bush they walked within ten meters of John and Alex Lucas who were sleeping in the most isolated of the ‘A Frames’. Their father, Lex, was shouting for his boys but they did not want to shout back in case it attracted any attention from the lions. When we thought the lions had gone Dean stated that we were very lucky that it was only an hour and a half to daybreak and that it would be very unlikely that the lions would return. It has taken me longer to write the account of the incident than the actual time this part of the attack and rescue took. When I got to Andre he had crawled back the two meters to the ‘A Frame’ and was vomiting. His face was a mess but the bleeding was not extensive. At this point there was every reason to panic but the most amazing scene unfolded. First aid kits came out of most boats. Andre was made comfortable. Hugh Roberts calmly asserted control and administered a drip. Alex Lucas sat with Andre and monitored his shock. Hugh assessed the damage and cleaned up the wounds as best he could. Andre remained conscious throughout but did not talk much. Those who could not help congregated to the big fire and a head count was taken. Rich found Andre’s medical aid card and on one particular spot at Tashinga, Jeff managed to use his South African phone to get a signal from Zambia and phone for rescue. It is an extremely anxious time trying to explain to someone in Harare at four thirty in the morning where Tashinga is and the state of the emergency. It was Hugh Roberts’ calming influence that prevented emotions running high. It was agreed to casavac Andre at first light to Bumi Hills which was only twenty minutes away by boat. Radio communications were limited but we thought that Bumi were aware of our forthcoming arrival. Later I was told that one of the boats had managed to get hold of the Tashinga Parks (two kilometres away) who said they would send an e-mail to Bumi! We prepared my boat for the trip but just before we were going to move Andre, I asked for another boat as it was not safe to go in only one. Arthur had his ready in seconds and it was decided his decking was more suitable to carry Andre. Five hundred meters off shore, Arthur’s boat stopped. He quickly corrected a loose fuel connection and it gave us the opportunity to imagine how badly things could go wrong if the rescue boat had been on its own and had broken down. At Bumi I was blowing my air horn as we entered the harbour and a manager (Ian Smith) saw through his binoculars a drip being held up in the boat and knew there was an emergency. Bumi was not expecting us. Mike and Jeff decided to run up to the hotel and were met by a vehicle near the top. Lying in the boat, Andre was shivering from shock but the early morning sun was beginning to rise. With his head covered in bandages, he calmly and bravely stated ‘ I cannot see and I cannot feel my feet and that disturbs me’. A true masterpiece of understatement for us. The staff at Bumi were magnificent. We loaded Andre onto a cruiser and took him straight to the airstrip. There we tried to make Andre as comfortable as possible. Anticipating a two hour wait, there was not much we could do. Hugh Roberts changed the dressing and eventually the drip. Andre was in a great deal of pain and Mike, Jeff, Arthur, Rich and I took it in turns to care for him – all under the calm leadership of Hugh Roberts. We had a chance to check Andre’s back. Where the lioness had slapped him through his air mattress was an intense bruise in the almost perfect shape of a lion’s paw. The mattress had merely prevented her claws from ripping into Andre’s flesh. Waiting for the plane was very difficult. We later learned that it had spent nearly half an hour on the runway in Harare waiting for clearance. On hearing the plane, the Bumi staff quickly drove up and down the runway to clear the many animals. The very impressive MARS air rescue ambulance taxied close to us and the professionals took over. Andre was carried on the mattress to the plane where he got out and walked. At the last minute he suddenly refused to get into the plane but there were enough of us to get him those last few meters. It took the doctor and nurse about half an hour to stabilise him and prepare him for take-off. The plane took off and Andre was in safe hands. There was nothing more we could do. Hugh Roberts could sigh and rest against the vehicle. I wanted to sit in a corner and cry. We are told that Andre was suggesting to the pilot how he should be flying the plane – the morphine had obviously kicked in! Family and friends were waiting for him in Bulawayo. From being attacked by a lion at the remoteness of the Ume river to being hospitalised in Bulawayo in less than eight hours is praiseworthy and we need to thank all medical staff and pilots involved. We went up to the hotel to make some phone calls and then returned to the fleet. Some National Parks staff had wandered down mid morning stating that they had heard the noise and was there anything they could do? Had I been there my reply would not have been polite. Andre is currently in hospital in Johannesburg. Sadly he has lost his left eye but his life is no longer in danger. His wife Clare is with him whilst their three sons remain in Bulawayo to get on with their schooling. Friends have been amazing in their support for the family. Our most grateful thanks and respect to the heroes who chased off the lions and those who rescued Andre afterwards. To Andre, we wish you a complete and speedy recovery. We salute your bravery. Rob Nixon

Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report First edition June 2010

News from ‘Uganda – Gifted by Nature’ and the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome First edition June 2010 Uganda News TRAVELTALKRADIO DISCUSSES WILDLIFE QUESTIONS The San Francisco bay area (previously San Diego) based TravelTalkRadio (www.traveltalkradio.com) last week spoke with this correspondent about several of his recent articles related to wildlife conservation in Eastern Africa. Discussed was, amongst others, the sad case of five poisoned lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park, blamed on illegal herders constantly trying to push their cattle into the park, but also other issues from the region. Topics included the Kwita Izina festival in Rwanda, where newly born mountain gorilla babies are ‘named’ and the relocation of 32 eastern black rhinos from South Africa to Tanzania, which were received by none other than President Kikwete. TravelTalkRadio, and their sister station dealing with business travel are both often featuring tourism issues from Eastern Africa and their weekly newsletter is regularly reproducing material from this correspondent. Write to them, via their website, to subscribe to their free newsletter. eTurboNews cooperates closely with TTR and eTN’s publisher Juergen Thomas Steinmetz is a regular guest on the weekly talk shows. Details of live transmissions and archived sessions are available from the website. Go Listen! CAA TO IMPROVE KIDEPO AIRFIELD Information was received from the Civil Aviation Authority that work has been put out to tender for bids to re-gravel the CAA owned and operated field in the Kidepo Valley National Park. Flying into the remote park, which is located in the border triangle between Uganda, Kenya and the Southern Sudan is the easiest way to reach, and the safest for that matter. Visitors to the park, considered by this correspondent as one of the most scenic in Eastern Africa, normally stay at the Apoka Safari Lodge, owned and operated by Wildplaces Africa and The Uganda Safari Company, which also offers packages including air transport from the Kajjansi aerodrome to Kidepo. The CAA owns and manages a number of upcountry aerodromes and airfields, some of them even located inside the national parks like the Pakuba airfield in Murchisons Falls National Park, to promote air travel and avoid the often tiring and lengthy journeys by road. Tenders for upgrading and maintenance are also expected to be invited soon for these other fields like Arua, Masindi, Pakuba, Mbarara, Kisoro, Kasese, Jinja, Tororo, Lira, Moroto, Soroti and Gulu, some of which are tarmacked while others are under all weather gravel surface. Meanwhile in a related development have aviation sources confirmed that Shell has once again run out of AVGAS and lubricants, lending more credence to suggestions that they no longer bother about this important fuel segment, having made their decision to sell of their retail business in Eastern Africa and Uganda. Shame on Shell leaving once again operators of light aircraft literally stranded, once their own storage has run dry. MARTYRS DAY TO PROMOTE TOURISM The annual ‘Martyr’s Day’ religious holiday in Uganda will be used to promote tourism to Uganda, has the Uganda Tourist Board announced just ahead of the 03rd of June, when the celebrations will take place just outside Kampala. Every year large groups of pilgrims are coming to the country, some of them walking from across the region for weeks, to attend the commemoration of the killing of the Christian faithful by one of the former Kings of Buganda. Visitors are regularly coming from West Africa but also from Europe to pray at the shrine, which was erected as a standing memorial for the 45 Catholic and Anglican Christians, who were burned to death at the time when they would not denounce their believes and eventually declared saints. Information about the event are available from the Uganda Tourist Board via utb@starcom.co.ug or through the board’s website via http://www.visituganda.com TOURISM UGANDA ASKS FOR 22 BILLION SHILLINGS BUDGET The Uganda Tourist Board has ahead of the reading of the annual government budget in mid June asked for a 10 million US Dollars fund allocation, to more effectively ‘sell’ the country abroad and attract more tourist visitors. UTB, or Tourism Uganda as it is known of late, has drawn up an action plan to penetrate new and emerging markets while also ‘working’ existing tourist markets for Uganda and has put a price tag of about 10 million US Dollars on their intended activities for next year. While Uganda has recorded a steady growth in arrival numbers between 2000 and 2007, the last two years were difficult for the tourism sector as a result of the global economic and financial crisis and numbers did reduce, a trend UTB now seeks to reverse to the upwards again. Industry observers are divided over the timing of the budgetary demands, and although some mention was made during the Presidential Investors Round Table meeting last week, it is unlikely that the budget, which by now is largely ‘ready’, will tweak funds towards tourism at the expense of other sectors of the economy which are in equal need of government support. Budgeting normally starts as early as September each year and then culminates in the reading of the draft budget by the Ministers for Finance in June each year on the same day across the entire East African Community member states. The current demand is therefore thought to rather serve notice to government of future intent to get greater funding, but as reported in an earlier edition indications are that the overall funding for the Ministry of Tourism Trade and Industry may in fact reduce by about 20 percent for the next financial year, according to information available from usually well informed sources. Meanwhile all the best to Cuthbert Baguma, the new UTB Chief Executive and his team in their endeavours to promote our beautiful country. UWA INVITES BIDS FOR JOINT VENTURE ACCOMMODATION DEVELOPMENTS The Uganda Wildlife Authority has last week advertised for expressions of interest via international tender of joint ventures to construct, re-construct and / or rehabilitate accommodation facilities and sites presently owned by them. Amongst the opportunities is the destroyed Grand Katarum Lodge in Kidepo Valley National Park which has been an inoperative ruin for the past 30 plus years, while other projects are named as two sites in Lake Mburo National Park, Rwonyo and Kigarama and a site in Semliki National Park near the hot springs. Further opportunities have been advertised in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, inside the national park, as well as new facilities in both the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park and the central park area. Murchisons Falls National Park too has been earmarked for a new lodge, prompting this correspondent to point out that the derelict Pakuba Lodge is still awaiting reconstruction for the past 15 years, where several wannabe concessionaires tried their luck and failed so far. The Wildlife Authority has also pointed out though that lodge developments in Murchisons and Queen will have to take place in accordance with the approved management plans, which are available for purchase as well as in soft copy from UWA. With international bidding going underway it can be expected that the ‘greed and envy crowd’ will become vocal again in coming weeks and months, should they not be successful to put together bids which might find favour with UWA’s board or comply with bid requirements as to financial and operational capacity, and their now legendary lamenting and public showmanship may well delay projects by international consortia as they might once again attempt to reap where they did not sow. International investors therefore ought to beware of those characters and contract first class legal representation in Kampala to deal with such elements, should it become necessary. For more information regarding terms and conditions, bid documents and deadlines for submission of bids contact info@ugandawildlife.org or visit http://www.ugandawildlife.org Watch this space. NEW ROUTE OPENED UP TO RWENZORI PEAKS Following the recent opening of a deep and several metre wide crevice, which cuts across the tradition ascend route to the Margherita peak (5.109 metres above sea level) was another route scouted by guides and UWA staff located in the national park, to avoid a loss of revenue by pre-booked climbers, who come from across the world to hike and climb the ‘mountains of the moon’ as the range is also known. The ‘rip’ in the glacier is attributed to generally rising temperatures under the climate change phenomenon and it is understood that the Uganda Wildlife Authority is working on other contingency plans to climb the various peaks, should other glaciers and ice fields shrink further or ‘rip’ apart. For more information visit http://www.ugandawildlife.org or write to info@ugandawildlife.org VISA FEES TO US GO UP – AGAIN Anger and frustration is marking the publication of news that an application for a VISA to the United States is set to go up again effective 04th of June, with some categories now costing nearly 400 US Dollars. Undisclosed sources from the American Embassy quoted in the local media spoke of the sharply risen cost of processing VISA, meeting the latest security standards and being machine readable, a notion swiftly rejected by travel professionals who often assist their clients buying tickets from their agencies in accessing the now mandatory ‘on line applications’ for travellers. This, it was learned from usually well informed and closely involved sources, made a particular impact on aged travellers from upcountry, who in the past for instance travelled with their family to witness graduation ceremonies, as ‘villagers’ – often in the past part of such travelling parties, do not have easy access to web facilities nor find the funds easily to pay, in addition to ticket and accommodation cost, for the new VISA fees. The travel agency staff contacted by this correspondent in fact suggested that the massive increase in fees was mainly aimed at subsidising the American budget deficit, with VISA fees identified as a source of income rather than to just cover the cost of processing them as it was initially meant to be. Calls have subsequently emerged to raise fees in turn for American citizens coming to Uganda, who in stark contrast only have to present a filled landing card, pay what is often describes as a pure ‘entrance fee’ of US Dollars 50 and are then admitted into the country, WITHOUT the 40+ percent rejection rate Ugandans suffer when applying for entry to the United States. That however also drew criticism from other sources in the tourism industry, one of whom said: ‘we need visitors from abroad more than they need us, that is clear, so our fellow Ugandans wanting to travel to the US just have to cough up the extra money. I go there at times to promote tourism and yes now it costs me even more than before. But this is a power game, we need them more than they need us nowadays, so we have no options but to pay and yes, in comparison they pay peanuts to get their documents stamped at the airport. They don’t even need to apply in advance, which to be honest is violating the reciprocity requirements under diplomatic agreements. But then there is a Kiswahili saying of ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ and here it is so true. But between me and you, it smacks of discrimination and exploitation and they know it here at the American embassy.’ Friendly relations indeed when the poorer pay more than the richer, ehhh? ICC MEETS IN KAMPALA The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, this week commenced a global meeting in Kampala’s lakeside resort and conference centre of Munyonyo, which sprang into global prominence for holding the 2007 Commonwealth Summit there. Predictably the meeting attracted protests from the regime in Khartoum, where the recent sham elections in the North put a man wanted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity back into the presidency. Rightly ignored though, the meeting went ahead anyway, offering an international platform to discuss all matters concerning the court, its future directions, policies and briefs and how to go about ‘business’. Said one ICC staffer this correspondent spoke with during a pre-conference visit to Munyonyo: ‘we decided on holding this meeting in Uganda for several reasons. One are the excellent facilities here in Uganda’s capital at the Lake Victoria and very good connections by air to bring in about 2.000 delegates from the whole world. Second is the significance of holding this conference in a part of Africa ICC has interest in [the ICC has indicted Khartoum’s regime leader Bashir and is preparing indictments for a number of ‘senior’ Kenyans alleged to have masterminded the post election violence after the disputed elections at the end of 2007]. And it was in this regard that one statement in particular, emerging from the conference, caught this correspondent’s eye, when the ICC’s chief prosecutor Louis Ocampo declared that ‘election thieves and perpetrators of election violence will face the court and behaviour like this will in the future be a ticket to The Hague and not a ticket into a cabinet’. AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT ON COURSE FOR JULY 19 – 27 Confirmation has been received from sources close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the continental summit of the African Union will indeed take place in July as planned, and that funding has been secured from the Ministry of Finance. However, sources in the local media also speculated over the reasons for the shift of the preparation centre to the Office of the Prime Minister and hence away from any of those ministries and individuals alleged to have ‘stolen’ CHOGM funds or misappropriated them in the run up of the 2007 Commonwealth Summit, which if true would be an added indictment of the principal’s opinion of those put in the bad books of the parliamentary public accounts committee. Intending visitors to Uganda over the period of the summit are advised to secure hotel bookings immediately but certainly before arrival in Uganda, ditto for flight reservations, as the Entebbe – Kampala – Mukono corridor will see the fully booked signs go up soon, considering the influx of top level delegations comprising heads of state, heads of government, ministerial delegations, international observers from multilateral agencies and organization and of course the media train in tow. The present series of conferences and large scale meetings will be a shot in the arm of the local hospitality industry and the erstwhile critics of expanding hotel and meeting facilities for CHOGM in 2007 have predictably gone silent, now that conference after conference has come to the country as a result of the investments undertaken by the private sector at the time. MBARARA BYPASS ROAD IN THE MAKING The south western township of Mbarara, where the main highway from Kampala branches into two directions, straight on to Kabale and the Rwanda border and ‘side ways’ to Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kasese and the Congo border, will breathe a sigh of relief after news broke last week that a major by pass was to be constructed to route heavy cargo trucks and through traffic destined for ‘beyond’ around the municipality in coming years. The measure is part of the ongoing reconstruction and modernization of the country’s road network, especially those highways which are part of the intra Africa infrastructure linking the Indian Ocean seaport of Mombasa to the African hinterland. The overall cost is estimated at current prices to be in the region of 250 million US Dollars and while the Uganda government will make major contributions towards the construction the largest financial share will come from the European Union, a major development partner in the roll out of new infrastructure. Work is due to start in late 2010 after completion of the ongoing tender process. Watch this space for future updates. Kenya News HAPPY ‘MADARAKA DAY’ TO ALL KENYANS – commemorating the day when they attained internal self administration ahead of full independence in 1963. OL PEJETA NEWS UPDATE The Northern White Rhinos, donated by the Czech government in December last year, have now started to roam freely on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy after being ‘released’ from their smaller ‘bomas’ into the wider area. The four rare rhinos are now joining the other hundred plus Eastern Black and Southern White coexisting on the sprawling estate, and latest information has it that two of the Northern White females have been separated from the other two to encourage breeding. Richard Vigne, CEO of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, has made it clear that they will be breeding ‘hybrids’ for a while before sufficient numbers will then permit to ‘cross them back’ towards nearly pure Northern White. The four, another four remained in the Czech Republic for being too old to breed, are thought to be the last hope to ever restore a Northern White population, as the last herd in the wild was wiped out by Ugandan rebels in Eastern Congo, where an incompetent and arrogant minister some years ago halted the translocation from the Garamba National Park to Ol Pejeta at the last moment, condemning these rarest of rhinos to almost certain extinction. Three of them are shown below and please note that their horns have been ‘taken off’ to protect the animals from any attempt to poach them. In other news it was also confirmed that following some more births the number of cheetahs on the conservancy has also risen to 33, a remarkable development as cheetahs in the wild are also considered endangered due to threats to their habitat and hunting patterns. Finally, Ol Pejeta has also announced the availability of ‘Pelican House’ on the estate, sleeping six visitors comfortably in three bedrooms. The ‘classic’ up country cottage can be booked through the Conservancy office at info@olpejetaconservancy.org and proceeds from rent income will be dedicated to a large portion to community development programmes. While it is mainly for ‘self catering’ staff is available to assist in the daily housekeeping chores. Visit http://www.olpejetaconservancy.org for more information on the work done on the estate and how to support conservation programmes. FLY 540 ‘GOES SAFARI’ Information received this morning indicates that Kenya’s – and the region’s – first true low cost carrier Fly 540 will from the 10th of June onwards begin scheduled operations to a number of Kenya’s safari parks from Wilson Airport. New destinations, the airline has for a while now been flying to the Masai Mara already, will be Samburu, Nanyuki and Lewa Downs on the Northern circuit but also Amboseli, all popular tourist destinations across Kenya. The start of new flights, which will be operated depending on demand with a B1900, a Dash 8 or the larger ATR, indicates that Kenya has now truly emerged from the downturn in tourism fortunes in 2008 and part of 2009 and the added seats will according to information from Nairobi be ‘snapped up’ quickly by an expanding safari market and the growing demand for air safaris in the upmarket bracket. Fly 540 Tanzania is already connecting passengers arriving from their daily Nairobi service from Kilimanjaro International – located between Arusha and Moshi – to the parks of Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti on a scheduled basis and the addition of scheduled services to the Kenyan national parks will only add to the appeal to fly to an ever increasing number of domestic and regional destinations with the LCC. It is also understood that new plans for the Ugandan operation of Fly 540 are also at an advanced stage but not yet ready to be shared with the public, and the competition, upon which Fly 540 intends to spring some major surprises in the not too distant future. Watch this space. WINDPOWER PLANT TO ‘EARN’ CARBON CREDITS As reported previously here, a proposed wind power plant in the Turkana region of Northern Kenya is in an advanced stage of planning and, when ready, will feed about 300 MW of green energy into the national grid. It is now also understood that the power plant will earn carbon credits worth over 10 million Euros per annum, an added bonus for the investors into the project, and little wonder that a second such plant is already under consideration to also be built in Northern Kenya, where remote arid areas with often strong winds provide the right ‘environment’ to used wind power to generate electricity. The African Development Bank is reportedly setting aside some 55 billion Kenya Shillings to co-finance wind power projects in Kenya, which may eventually be able to add a third of the national power production into the grid system. Under the financing packages made available by the ADB are also separate elements for community improvements like piped water, health centres and educational facilities, aimed to win the support of local tribesmen and reward them for giving land use rights for the wind power plants. READ KENYA BUZZ FOR THE ANSWERS This correspondent often receives enquiries about vacations in the region and in particular about ‘budget holidays’ across East Africa and in particular in Kenya along the beaches. Such are of course available and self catering properties, including some right at the beach and many more not far from the beaches, can be sourced from local travel agents or be found in the weekly edition of ‘Kenya Buzz’. The website http://www.kenyabuzz.com or their weekly news bulletin, regularly feature such properties, many of them with staff taking care of cooking and cleaning, a real alternative to a resort holiday and the preferred method of having a vacation at the beach, or near the beach, for many expatriates and residents. It is therefore recommended to subscribe, for free, to the weekly ‘Buzz’ edition via alix@kenyabuzz.com and receive updated information on a regular basis about what is going on, and where to go and stay in Kenya. For similar information about Uganda and Rwanda visit http://www.theeye.co.ug or http://www.theeye.co.rw where a range of stay options is available from the listings in the guide booklet. Tanzania News HOTEL RATING REVEALS DEFICIENCIES The ongoing exercise to grade and rate hotels in Tanzania has stunned some industry observers, when preliminary results started to filter into the public domain to the consternation of stakeholders. Figures sent in from a source in Dar es Salaam indicate that only two third of the over 200 hotels and resorts captured in the exercise met the required and anticipated standards, while the remaining third left many open questions for the evaluation teams visiting the properties. The information was also confirmed when the formal appeals body was launched, which owners of hotels and resorts can go to if they feel they were not given a fair assessment by the inspectors, with added confirmation that the ‘failure’ rate was unacceptable and that owners must improve their standards or else risk to lose out in the star rating or else face shut downs, if serious problems persist. The new ‘tourist appeal authority’ has commenced work reportedly already, as grading and rating is now moving to upcountry areas where also safari lodges and tented camps will be visited and assessed. POACHING SOILS OUR IMAGE ABROAD A senior TANAPA official last week lamented the impact of poaching on the country’s international reputation, saying that unless the problem was dealt with decisively and firmly, the country’s standing abroad might be impacted upon. Already during the Doha CITES Conference in March this year did Tanzania meet firm resistance against their request to sell ivory stocks, when an earlier report compiled for the CITES Secretariat in Lusaka pinned Tanzania down for lack of political will to fight poaching, lack of improved legislation and lack of resources for the anti poaching operations by TANAPA and other law enforcement agencies. Tanzania has also often been linked as a way- and transit point for blood ivory and even life game, bird and reptiles exports originating in other countries due to the lax enforcement. It must be said though, in all fairness, that several consignments of such booty were in the past confiscated due to the vigilance of individual customs and security personnel at the Dar es Salaam airport, and a number of suspects, including Chinese nationals, have been arrested and taken to court. However, it is also thought that substantially more needs to be done, both within Tanzania as well as in the wider region, to bring poaching under control and stem the hunger for ivory and animal products in particular in the Far and Middle Eastern ‘consumer countries’, where spiralling demand drives poaching across Africa. Watch this space. Ethiopia News ETHIOPIAN ADDS POINTE NOIRE The ‘battle for the African skies’ is ongoing, as not long after Kenya Airways added Juba to their African destination network – incidentally for some time already in the ET schedule – has Ethiopian now announced a new thrice weekly service to Pointe Noir in West Africa. Information received from Addis Ababa indicates that the airline will be using a B767 for the operation, providing both passenger and cargo space, the latter considered increasingly important for the transportation of palletised cargo, another hotly contested business segment. Ethiopian was the erstwhile ‘pan African airline’, connecting the continent via Addis when no other airline was taking these routes very seriously and most were looking to European destinations, and a large number of African countries granted ET in fact 5th freedom rights in support of their efforts. However, over the past 10 to 15 years other airlines, notably Kenya Airways, have also embraced a growing African network to feed traffic into their Middle and Far Eastern destinations from across the continent, and ET has seen KQ in fact overtake them, by albeit a narrow margin, in terms of numbers of African airports served. Watch this space. Rwanda News TOURISM RECEIPTS IMPROVE Ahead of the annual celebrations of the gorilla naming ‘Kwita Izina’ later this week have figures been released by the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation, speaking of a 5 percent increase in revenues during the first quarter of 2010 compared to last year of 2009. The improved figures are attributed to sustained marketing of Rwanda as a destination and the introduction of new products for the tourism industry on one side and the added visitors coming to the ‘land of a thousand hills’ for conferences and meeting, now that new facilities are available for MICE organizers. Leisure visitors to Rwanda compared to last year went up by about 25 percent while overall arrivals increased by 8 percent for the first quarter of 2010. Sources from Kigali generally felt that 2010 could become another record setting year. RWANDAIR SIGNS CODESHARE WITH AIR UGANDA The Rwandan national airline has effective 01st June signed a full codeshare agreement with Air Uganda for the route between Kigali and Entebbe. It is understood that each carrier will operate ONE daily flight between the two airports, U7 in the morning while WB will continue to operate the evening service, permitting passengers to do ‘one day trips’ from now on. Both flights use the Bombardier CRJ200, offering equal comfort and speed. The agreement covers both full fares as well as promotional fares on the route and flights can be booked on line, through the airline offices in Kampala and Kigali or the commonly used CRS’s’ Seychelles News SEYCHELLES PROMOTION REACHES KAMPALA The Seychelles Tourist Board Director for Africa and the Americas and other staff from the Seychelles Tourist Board were in Kampala earlier in the week to promote holidays on the archipelago to the Ugandan resident and expatriate community. Assisted by their Seychelles Tourism Ambassador for Uganda, Ms. Pearl Hoareau, who is also the Managing Director of the Uganda Travel Bureau, one of Kampala’s leading travel agencies and American Express representatives, Mr. David Germain, Ms. Sharon Rosalie – who oversees tourism sales in Eastern Africa – and Ms. Marsha Parcou presented some 30 travel agency staffers with a great variety of information during a workshop organized at the Kampala Serena Hotel, before then departing to Arusha, via Dar es Salaam, where the Seychelles will for the first time ever be formally represented at the East African region’s premier travel trade show, the ‘Karibu Fair’. Also with the tourism board staff was Ms. Hilda Camille from Mason’s Travel, one of the leading DMC’s headquartered in Mahe / Seychelles but represented across the key islands of the archipelago. (from left to right Mr. David Germain, Ms. Pearl Hoareau, Ms. Sharon Rosalie, Ms. Marsha Parcou and Ms Hilda Camille during the press conference for the Ugandan media) Initial feedback from workshop participants was encouraging and many – obviously those not regularly reading eTN – admitted that they had never heard of ‘Affordable Seychelles’ before, where guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments owned and operated by Seychellois citizens were available to provide holidays on a budget and yet giving visitors everything all else the archipelago is rightly to proud of. This includes but is not restricted to marine and terrestrial national parks, pristine underwater reefs teeming with fish and marine life, birds galore, island scenery reminiscent of paradise on earth, and last but not least a friendly people aiming to make everyone’s holiday dreams come true, be it on a big or a smaller budget. It was also highlighted that both countries, Uganda and the Seychelles, had Ramsar sites and UNESCO World Heritage sites to their name which visitors may wish to see during a combined safari and beach holiday in the two destinations. Tourist traffic from Africa to the Seychelles presently is up by 27 percent compared to a year ago, giving the continent percentage wise the highest increase of any market around the world, and underscoring that the message ‘Affordable Seychelles’ is indeed working well. Kenya Airways currently flies twice a week from Nairobi to Mahe – calls for a third flight were repeated once again during the workshop – and connects conveniently both ways to Entebbe. Wannabe visitors should note that a current yellow fever certificate will be demanded from travellers arriving from any point in East Africa at the Mahe International Airport but that NO VISA are required provided that a firm hotel booking and return ticket can be produced at the immigration desks at the airport on arrival. The Seychelles also has a no tolerance policy in regard of drugs, irrespective whether the quantities are for personal use or trafficking. Stand Warned, but that said, law abiding travellers do enjoy your visit. STA GRADUATES MORE STUDENTS The Seychelles Tourism Academy has last week graduated another 177 Seychellois citizens, trained over the past months and years in a number of different hospitality and tourism courses. The new graduates, all of whom are expected to be absorbed into employment by new resorts and hotels, were certified by not only the STA but also the London City & Guilds Institute with which STA closely cooperates. The ceremony was graced by the presence of the Seychelles Vice President, who also serves as Minister for Tourism Mr. Joseph Belmont and a number of tourism stakeholders from Mahe and other islands. The Seychelles have a policy of affirmative action towards the employment of citizens in positions where expatriate labour can be substituted with locally sourced personnel and the Seychelles Tourism Academy, as well as in house training programmes have contributed greatly to providing more skilled labour in recent years. Well done to the new graduates and of course the STA – keep up the good work. PORTS OF INDIAN OCEAN HOLDS MEETING IN SEYCHELLES The association of Indian Ocean ports last week held its annual general meeting in Beau Vallon Bay with participants from the Seychelles, Mauritius, Mayotte, Madagascar, La Reunion and newly admitted Comoros Islands. The meeting focused mainly on a new strategy to attract cruise tourism to this part of the Indian Ocean but also to attract private yachts to sail the waters between the various islands. In view of this several initiatives were discussed during the meeting aimed at forming a joint promotional and sales force to attend international tourism trade shows, in particular those dedicated to cruise tourism, where an opportunity existed to not only attract new as well as repeat business but also pass out information about the security situation in the Indian Ocean. The area was in the past hard hit by ocean terrorists, who however failed to capture any passenger liner so far and ‘only’ managed to hijack cargo vessels traversing these waters. In this regard closer cooperation between the affected islands was also requested by the participants, when they urged their individual governments to work hand in hand with the international naval coalition to bring piracy under control and make the sea lanes safe again. The meeting followed hot on the heels of a major European Union initiated global conference in Victoria / Mahe, on the security of the sea lanes, focused of course on bringing the Somali ocean terrorists to justice and eliminating the menace, which has become a severe economic and security threat to Indian Ocean shore and island countries from Kenya to Mozambique, from the Comoros to Madagascar and from the Seychelles deep into the waters of the Indian subcontinent. Watch this space. EDEN ISLAND DEVELOPERS ‘ADOPT’ SCENIC VIEW POINT As part of the company’s community involvement have they recently ‘adopted’ a scenic view point and will now upgrade and landscape the location, from where a great view across parts of Mahe and the Indian Ocean is available to tourists and local visitors. The company, once work is completed, will also continue to maintain it, in terms of cleaning and ongoing landscaping work, to ensure the location ‘shines’ when visitors arrive there and take their memento pictures. Information sent to this correspondent also speak of improving the existing facilities by placing more benches, tables and waste containers across the site and in addition erecting an informative notice board with explanations about the locations which can be seen from the view point. Needless to say, Eden Island, a man made development which includes a marina and leisure facilities, is also visible. (www.edenisland.sc) AND in closing today again some material – and some phantastic pictures – taken from the ‘Livingstone Weekly’, faithfully produced by Gill Staden inspite of the obstacles put in her way by the Zambian power company ZESCO which has been cutting power supplies time and again (as does UMEME in Uganda by the way) – thanks Gill for the indefatigable spirit and do keep up your good work in the face of adversity as all ‘old hands’ in Africa do … Kariba, Siavonga and Home There are several harbours in Kariba Town. Two I will mention because I visited them. Firstly Andorra Harbour is the place where the Kariba Ferry starts. Kariba Ferry takes people and vehicles from Kariba Town to Mlibizi far up the Lake towards Victoria Falls. The journey takes 22 hours, I am told, and it is a stress-free way of getting vehicles and people from one end of the Lake to the other. I also found Kariba Houseboats at Andorra. This company is just revitalizing its boats which are large houseboats used for groups, usually overlanders. While visiting Caribbea Bay Hotel, I found Marineland, at their harbour. Marineland hires out boats – speed boats and houseboats. The houseboats are family-sized to large-sized. All houseboats can come along with crew – for driving the thing and for cooking and cleaning. Marineland also does the transfers from Kariba Town to Spurwing Island, Bumi Hills Lodge and to Musango Lodge. That evening I sat chatting in the bar at Cutty Sark with some very odd folk. One was a man who was now working in vermiculture (that’s worms). He told me and the barman, Mike, how he had been arrested for treason; the army with troops and helicopters arriving on his property one day. He was escorted to Chikurubi where he spent 60 days at Bob’s pleasure and then was released without charge. I don’t know whether it was the whiskey or the stint in Chikurubi maximum prison that unhinged him, but he was definitely not a happy chappie that evening. Then the large Town Engineer arrived in his suit and told Mike that he was starving and needed food very quickly … and a brandy on ice. The brandy came quickly, as did the next one; he had to wait a bit for his food. In the meantime he told us all the water problems he was having in Kariba Town; telling us about illegal connections and people not wanting to pay their bills … it all sounded so familiar. Finally his food arrived and he sat down at a table to wolf it down … I left for my room. The morning arrived and, after a disappointing breakfast, I headed out to see if I could find more accommodation. I was looking for Kariba Breezes. I failed. It is, I was told, under reconstruction. With that I drove down to the dam wall and the border crossing to Zambia. The border crossing was easy except that I was a bit confused with the Zimbabwe side insisting that I needed to show the Interpol Clearance for my car. I had never done that before. That is the problem with our borders – the rules change all the time. I got a rubber stamp for that and was allowed to proceed. The dam has three gates open at the wall and the water was pouring out into the gorge below, sending up sprays and making rainbows. Very pretty. I just feel sorry for Lower Zambezi and Mana Pools National Parks downstream – they must be quite flooded now. I wonder, too, what effect this having far downstream in Mozambique. Right, now I was in Zambia and heading to Siavonga. First I went to some absolutely awful lodges – the first one had the TV blaring; the second one had Zambian music booming. The music-blaring one had a rather unfortunate swimming pool – the waves were lapping all around and into it. I then went to Lake Kariba Inns and Manchinchi Bay. Both hotels cater for the conference market. At Kariba Inns I walked into the reception and the lady was on the phone; I walked around for a while to take a look and came back to the reception. The lady was still on the phone. She looked very smart but I felt she liked her phone too much so I left her to get on with it. I didn’t even take one photograph. Manchinchi Bay was further around the Lake shore and there I found John who took me for a tour. Both Kariba Inn and Manchinchi Bay are clean, big and expensive … they lacked character. I knew they would be like that. I didn’t go to Eagles Rest, just around from Manchinchi Bay. I have been to Eagles Rest before and that is where I always stay when I am in Siavonga. It is also the only place I would recommend. I wanted to get home to Livingstone that day and it was about 550 km from Siavonga – a long drive. I headed out onto the road up the Escarpment towards the main Chirundu-Lusaka Road. It had windy bits, but it was, basically, in fairly good condition. After about 60 km I came onto the main road and joined the trucks as they plied their way up the escarpment to their destinations of Lusaka, Copperbelt and further afield into the Congo. The road has been fixed, even that gaping gash that suddenly appeared a few months ago. It is wide in places to allow for overtaking, which was definitely needed when I came up behind three ‘abnormal loads’ bearing equipment, I assume, for the mines. What scared me most were all the rocks which litter the road. Trucks often break down going up the steep hills and they use rocks to put behind the wheels. Of course, when the truck gets going again, the rocks remain. Anyway, all went well and I turned south on the road to Livingstone. Between the turnoff and Mazabuka the road was rather potholed – could do with a bit of repair. But from Mazabuka to Zimba it was good. At Zimba, of course I met up with our new Chinese road to Livingstone. I think about 10 km of it was useable and fast. And then I came upon deviation, bad road, deviation, bad road, deviation … How long has this company been working on this road? Two years, I think, and it is still nowhere near complete. What’s up? I think we will have to put this road nearer Lusaka and then Lusaka-ites can experience what it is like to have a road access in such a state … maybe then something will be done. VICTORIA FALLS ANTI POACHING UNIT NEEDS YOU! – [Durban, 26th May 2010] This year’s Indaba Travel Trade Show held in Durban from the 8th to the 11th May proved that anyone can raise the much needed funds for the Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit. SATIB Risk Solutions chose VFAPU as the conservation effort and their fundraising efforts yielded a very healthy ZAR34 600 injection into the conservation organization. As many are becoming aware, the poaching situation in Zimbabwe is dire as a result of bush-meat trade and commercial poaching. VFAPU founder, Charles Brightman of Discover Safaris says that, “The end to poaching in Victoria Falls would depend on the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe improving. Until such time, we will continue in our efforts to deter poaching in our region by patrolling our 50 square kilometer operational area on a daily basis. We are out there 7 days a week and our presence is being felt. The fact that we removed 394 snares and apprehended 436 poachers in 2009 makes us feel that we are definitely making a difference.” This unit has been actively working against poaching in the Victoria Falls region of Zimbabwe for the last decade and, in that time, they have removed and destroyed over 19 000 wire snares in the bush. The unit has also darted and treated over 120 mammals injured by snares. Brightman is a local safari operator and conservationist, who together with the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge established the VFAPU in January 1999. The unit works in close co-operation and with the support of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. This collaborative effort serves as a good example of what can be achieved by working together. Having started with just 3 scouts, the unit now employs 18 permanent and extremely dedicated scouts. While the main objective of the unit is to remove snares and apprehend poachers, the unit is also heavily involved in spreading the conservation message to communities in the area. Brightman says, “Whilst there have been some more losses of a number of species of wildlife in recent weeks, there have also been some very successful operations. A total of 8 poachers were arrested and 2 of them have already been sentenced to 18 months in prison whilst the rest of them await their sentence in remand. We have successfully darted and treated an injured buffalo cow and released her back into the wild. So far this year, we have removed 112 snares from the bush and have darted 15 mammals.” VFAPU is a cause that is close to the heart of Brian Courtenay, the founder of SATIB Risk Solutions and continued support of VFAPU is central to the company’s conservation efforts. In 2010, SATIB undertook to partner with VFAPU to raise the US$80 000 needed for the unit’s ongoing operations. SATIB designed and sponsored the printing of a hard-hitting A5 brochure, which highlights in graphic detail the horror of poaching. Together with a pledge form in the brochure, SATIB has also sponsored 500 metal cast lapel badges for the unit to sell for ZAR100 each as part of their fund raising drive at Indaba 2010. To date, 246 badges have been sold, raising ZAR24 600 for VFAPU. A painting by Larry Norton was also auctioned at the annual SATIB Indaba Joe Cool’s party and SATIB Botswana’s Seamus O’Neill snapped up the painting for ZAR10 000. Courtenay says, “There is no denying that subsistence and commercial poaching have taken a massive toll on Zimbabwe’s wildlife populations. It is a harsh reality we cannot hide from. However we have to continue to make a stand. It is only with the support of various stakeholders such as corporate companies, lodges and hotels that this unit has been able to achieve the success it has.” Brightman adds, “The general situation on the ground would be far worse if the unit was not able to conduct its anti poaching operations. The support the VFAPU receives is so important because it means we are able to continue this vital work.” If you would like to find out how to contribute to the Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit and their invaluable work, please contact Charles Brightman on +263 13 45821 or +263 11 209 144 or cat@mweb.co.zw.

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