CAMPSITE RAIDED IN MASAI MARA CONSERVATION AREA
Reports are being received from Nairobi that shortly after 8 p.m. on Monday night a group of armed raiders, thought to have crossed the border from Tanzania into neighbouring Kenya, attacked a private tented camp put up for the night by long term Kenya residents on a local vacation. After first firing a salvo of shots into the camp, a previously never experienced method of robbery, they then raided the campsite and made away with valuables.
The campsite, normally used by and popular with East African residents and Kenyan campers is reportedly located on one of the conservancies in the so called Mara Triangle, below the Ololoolo escarpment and near the common border.
According to reliable sources two of the campers suffered gun shot wounds while one of the group was fatally wounded and succumbed not long afterwards to his injuries. According to a very reliable source in Nairobi this person in fact celebrated his 60th birthday that day. An aircraft of the Flying Doctor services has since then collected the injured and brought them to a leading Nairobi hospital for treatment where they are said to be in a serious but stable condition.
A combined team of Kenya Wildlife Services rangers and other security personnel stationed in the wider area was deployed just as soon as the information reached them, and this being a full moon night they immediately began tracking the criminals who reportedly fled in the direction of the border with Tanzania. Additional security teams were airlifted into the Masai Mara or dispatched from their observation points to join in the hunt for the gang, and it is understood that Tanzanian authorities too dispatched rangers and security forces to the area close to the incident on the Tanzanian side to also join in the search, hand in hand with their Kenyan counterparts.
This is a ‘first’ of its kind of such a brutal attack, never seen before, and as and when caught the culprits will be facing the death penalty when convicted. It is presently of no consolation to this correspondent that no foreign tourists were involved in the incident. The tragic loss of life and the injuries to the survivors are harrowing and shocking as it is and being East African residents does not make this any less serious than had it been foreign tourists.
The eTN East Africa team expresses their sorrow and sympathy and extends heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those affected by this senseless act of violence.
Archive for July, 2010
CAMPSITE RAIDED IN MASAI MARA CONSERVATION AREA
TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Fourth edition July 2010
GEO LODGES MIX ART AND SAFARI
The Uganda based GeoLodges, formerly known as ‘Inns of Uganda’ has recently started to promote local artists and art pieces through their ‘Art on Safari’ initiative. Presently about 90 art pieces are on display in the group’s four lodges, Nile Safari Lodge just outside Murchisons Falls National Park, the award winning RainForest Lodge in Mabira forests (between Kampala and Jinja), Jacana Safari Lodge on Lake Nyamusingire / Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Silverback Lodge just outside Bwindi Impenetrable Forest ‘Gorilla’ National Park. It is understood that the 5 chosen artists were involved in selecting their respective works to fit the particular location where they are now on display and a specially designed catalogue will give visitors to those lodges an idea what is on offer.
Guests staying at the lodges can purchase the art pieces, which are then packed and taken to Kampala before tourists taken them home as lasting souvenirs, in the process supporting the promotion of local arts.
The exhibition will initially run until end of September but may, depending on the success, become a regular feature.
UGANDA WILDLIFE AUTHORITY COMMENCES ‘MAILSHOT MARKETING’
UWA, the national body entrusted with the management of the country’s protected areas and wildlife conservation, has started to send out ‘mail shots’ via email, to showcase the abundance of birds, wildlife and highlight the amazing biodiversity of Uganda, rightly called the ‘Pearl of Africa’.
The first such ‘shot’ took aim at the over 1.000 species of birds found in Uganda, making it arguably the richest bird watching destination in Eastern Africa and the continent, and a potential magnet for ‘birders’ wanting to see this rich variety of migratory and resident birds across the country, not just in the national parks but also in the forests, which may yet hold hitherto undiscovered species.
For intending visitors but also for those just ‘browsing’, please visit www.ugandawildlife.org, or see the site of the Uganda Tourist Board via www.visituganda.com for more information on our many national parks and game reserves and join www.friendagorilla.org where you can make donations towards gorilla conservation from as little as 1 US Dollar, when you make friends on Facebook with one of the dozens of habituated gorillas across the two national parks Bwindi and Mgahinga, where those amazing creatures ‘live’.
SWISS COMPANY BUYS SHELL’S AFRICAN RETAIL NETWORK
While another fuel shortage has hit the Ugandan market in recent days – ostensibly caused by another ill thought out move by the Kenyan tax authority, now requiring electronic tagging of lorries carrying fuel for onward transport into the wider region – news broke that Shell had finally signed a deal with a buyer. Swiss company Vitol apparently led a consortium making the best bid, speculated to be in the region of up to 1.5 billion US Dollars, for which they will take over an extensive retail network in nearly two dozen countries in Africa where Shell has been market leader in the distribution of fuels, LPG and lubricants. Vitol’s consortium beat such companies like South Africa’s Engen, Libya’s Oilibya and Tamoil to the finishing tape, giving it a much larger global profile now and making it a serious stakeholder in global fuel distribution.
The aviation industry in particular will vest new hope in this development, as Shell has in recent years grossly neglected in particular the importation of AVGAS, the fuel needed for most light aircraft with traditional piston engines flying in the region. Especially the Kajjansi aviation companies had in recent months repeatedly run out of AVGAS again, requiring direct imports from Tanzania in drums, where such fuels were available in commercial quantities while in Kenya but especially Uganda the precious liquid regularly ran dry. Shell would not comment on allegations that they used these periodic ‘shortages’ to drive and keep the price of the commodity up but inside sources claim ‘it was too much hassle to bring in smaller quantities of this fuel type because of complicated logistics, including delivery by truck.
Shell’s local CEO had several years ago made a commitment to establish AVGAS fuel tanks and delivery mechanisms for the Kajjansi airfield, where the many of Uganda registered piston engined light aircraft are based, but eventually the company diddled along, changed goal posts and in the end all but abandoned the plans, breaking their promises. A former senior Shell executive in Uganda is said to have taken on the abandoned depot and with new owners of the retail network now known, this will surely be an issue the aviators will take up soon with the new management – and considering the lethargy of the former managers ‘tabula rasa’ will be an appealing option, i.e. install new senior management willing and able to keep promises and not welsh on commitments.
The question has also been raised of taxes due for the sale of Shell’s assets, considering government’s handling of the proposed sale of Heritage Uganda’s interests to new owners which just last weekend hit fresh hurdles, but no confirmation could be received if indeed tax demands will be made on Shell before they are allowed to ‘officially’ hand over and exit the market.
TRAGEDY STRIKES LAKE TRAVELLERS
Bad weather, combined with poor maintenance and the absence of life vests caused a major accident on Lake Victoria last Wednesday with over a dozen reported missing or drowned. The boat was enroute to the mainland from an island of the Ssese Island group, the lake’s major island formation in the Ugandan waters of Lake Victoria. Several NGO’s have in the past promoted safer travel on the lakes across Uganda by donating life vests to boat operators, on Lake Victoria, Lake Albert and Lake Kyoga, amongst others, and a renewed push for safety can now be expected that again so many people reportedly died in this single accident. Lake rescue efforts swung into action immediately the new broke and a number of people were rescued, holding on to wreckage. Sudden storms, sweeping in across the lake, the world’s second largest fresh water lake, are often responsible for capsizing boats. Condolences are expressed to the families and friends of those lost.
MORE DRAMA OVER NEW BUSOGA KING
In disregard of a standing court injunction have the Busoga Kingdom chiefs now apparently resolved to enthrone a new king regardless on or before the 20th of August, according to reports reaching this correspondent from Jinja. Two court orders are presently in place, first against the initial candidate who was elected by less than the required votes of chiefs, when several of them were absent in protest, and then against the current candidate, who was selected by 11 of the chiefs according to the kingdom’s own rules in October last year but then prevented by the Uganda High Court from taking office. Both cases are due to be heard in November this year and almost two years after the passing of the then ruling king still no succession is in place to the disappointment of many of the kingdom’s subjects. Some of them known to this correspondent have expressed their fear of marginalisation in the absence of a king on their throne, especially this being a pre-election year in Uganda where much depends on allegiances and support by traditional rulers, even if they are barred from main stream politics. Watch this space as the saga continues.
ICC INDICTMENT FOR BASHIR DIVIDED AU MEETING
The indictment by the International Criminal Court at The Hague of Khartoum’s regime leader Gen. Bashir has caused disagreements at the African Union Summit in Kampala as the supporting and opposing leaderships of various countries are at loggerheads over recommendations and a draft resolution. Bashir is indicted over alleged war crimes and alleged crimes against humanity and a wanted man in many countries, while nations with roguish attitudes towards such crimes have vowed not to arrest him, should opportunity present itself even if they have signed on to the ICC convention.
The AU has been discussing the general issue over warrants for sitting heads of state or government, with some supporting the notion of immunity while in office but others are equally clear stating that should such allegations emerge, visible for all as in the case of Darfur, immediate action must be taken to bring culprits to book and not let them be shielded by outdated notions of immunity, while they allegedly commit such crimes with impunity. There was also apprehension over the ICC’s reported plans to open an African liaison office in Addis Ababa, the official seat of the African Union head quarters, showing that little progress has been made to change the mindset of many African leaders over good governance, transparency and upholding international law, as they continue to defend such rogues in their midst and continue to grant them a refuge as the case in notorious criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam, wanted in Ethiopia while living in luxury in Harare / Zimbabwe courtesy of the equally notorious Robert Mugabe. Notably was the Sudan not represented at senior level but by their ambassador accredited to Uganda, in a clear sign that there was apprehension over the possibility of an arrest in Kampala should Bashir attend. Watch this space.
AU SUMMIT BACKS UGANDA
The African Union Summit in Munyonyo / Kampala has over the weekend backed President Museveni’s response to the terror attacks by Al Shabab militias from Somalia on Ugandan territory, and on Ugandan troops deployed in Mogadishu that the country will reply in kind and smoke the terrorists out of their hideouts in parts of Somalia not presently under control of the transitional federal government.
As indicated in previous editions the AU has also agreed to send more troops and give them a more robust mandate which allows them to attack militias spotted before first being fired upon, giving them the AU contingent a forward defence option.
Presently only troops from Uganda and Burundi are on the ground but more are expected shortly to join from Djibouti and Guinea – the latter’s troop detach already on the ground in Djibouti for final training and acclimatisation before deployment to Mogadishu. Troops strength, presently at a ceiling of 8.100, is expected to rise to 20.000 in due course and the summit is also due to remove restrictions which have so far banned countries neighbouring Somalia to deploy there under the AU mandate.
Meanwhile have the US Administration’s representatives arrived in Uganda too, in the form of the Attorney General and the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and former Ambassador in the region Mr. Johnnie Carson, to interact with the heads of state and delegation present and discuss security cooperation and other matters of mutual interest and concern. It is expected that the US will be making an aid package available towards the summit theme of health for African mothers and children, but also for security cooperation and the anti terrorism fight, where Africa has become another potential platform for Al Qaida and their devilish offspring’s across Africa, subject to improved governance and an intensified fight against the endemic corruption often seen across the continent. It is the latter however which has raised some tension between the US and key contributors to the AU mission in Somalia during specific discussions, when no concrete financial support commitments were made, something which was noted with disappointment that the US was seemingly shifting the financial aspects too to the relatively poorer African countries. From other sources it was learned that the AU was also pushing to elevate the Somalia mission to UN status to gain access to greater resources and the ability to deploy non African troop contingents to Somalia, where – and there was no disagreement over this – the threat of another theatre in the war on terror has grown exponentially in recent months. Watch this space.
GADAFFI’S GUARDS IN FIST FIGHTS AT SUMMIT VENUE
As seen before, during past state visits, the extra large contingent of the Libyan leader’s own security came to blows again with their Ugandan counterparts, this time however the Presidential Guard Brigade’s staff coming out victorious.
Summit rules, to which all attending countries had to sign up to, allowed the main entrance to the venue hall only to be used by the head of state and a strictly limited number of official personnel, including two minister’s at a time and their immediate aides … that notwithstanding, and notwithstanding the fact that South African President Jakob Zuma’s security details a few moments earlier fully complied with this rule, Gadaffi’s chaps tried it on again, like a few years ago during the last visit, and promptly got intercepted and pushed forcefully towards ‘their entrance’ but it took eventually the intervention of the widely respected Libyan Ambassador to Uganda to end the scuffle and send the umpteen security operatives to the place where they belonged. In a related development the local media also reported that the Libyan leader himself slapped an aide in public after apparently being led to a wrong venue for a meeting, and when he eventually arrive at the correct venue his personal guards again attempted pushing and shoving with Uganda presidential security staff … what an episode from the sidelines of the summit … security versus security instead of combining to stand in the way of an potential threats against their principals … ooops …
LITTLE ZAHRA BORN ON KENYA AIRWAYS PLANE
A flight from Dubai to Nairobi saw last minute excitement before landing when a woman passenger went into sudden labour prior to landing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the early hours of Monday. Taking her to hospital while mid air was clearly out of question and it was the cabin crew which swung into action, preparing a provisional ‘delivery room’ in one of the aisles, where they put blankets on the floor and then created a privacy by holding up and fastening blankets from the ceiling.
According to reports from Nairobi the plane was in its final descent into Nairobi when the delivery went ‘active’ and no sooner had the plane touched down was the baby girl then delivered on board of the aircraft. Upon opening of the doors mother and child were handed over to an ambulance while the other passengers gave the crew a standing ovation for their extraordinary efforts. It could not be ascertained however at the time of going to press how the mother had in fact managed to get through check in at her point of origin as airlines ordinarily are reluctant to accept passengers visibly in the last weeks of a pregnancy. Congratulations to both mother and child and to Kenya Airways for obviously training their staff well in first aid.
SOUTHERN SUN HOTELS TAKE OVER NAIROBI’S HOLIDAY INN
The former Mayfair Hotel, for the last couple of years known as the Holiday Inn Nairobi, is reportedly changing hands after an apparent sale by the current owners to South Africa’s leading hotel group Southern Sun. Effective 01st August, according to a source in Nairobi, will the new arrangement come into effect and the hotel will then change name to be known as the Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, bringing the ‘old’ name back into the public domain.
South Africa, already a key investor in East Africa in power, retailing and telecommunications, has been relatively slow to enter the mainstream hospitality market but this latest acquisition is bound to raise more speculation over further upcoming deals.
The Holiday Inn brand, often franchised out to individual operators, belongs to global hospitality giant Intercontinental Hotel Group, which owns and operates the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi and early this year opened a Crown Plaza Hotel, which – being another 4 star brand of the group – they manage in Nairobi on behalf of the ownership consortium.
PORINI’S OLARE OROK CONSERVANCY CONFIRMS RHINO SIGHTING
An adult eastern black rhino was spotted last week within the Olare Orok conservancy which adjoins the Masai Mara Game Reserve and has been established four years ago on former Masai community grazing land. The mature rhino is the first such sighting since Porini commenced operations in this area four years ago, and although lions, leopards, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, giraffe and a variety of plains game are regularly sighted, this gives hope that a small rhino population may be in the making here, as the area is well protected by wardens and game rangers to ensure game enjoys a trouble free environment.
Staff and guests at Olare Orok were excited, being able to see all ‘big five’ within the conservancy area and this will undoubtedly add to the unique attraction in choosing a safari stay at Olare Orok.
The picture above was availed from Porini’s Jake Grieves Cook, also Chairman of the Kenya Tourist Board, who is one of the pioneers in Kenya to establish and operate dedicated conservancies in close collaboration with local Masai communities, giving them far greater value for their traditional grazing land through employment in the camps, royalties paid to communities and support through one off projects, often co-underwritten by tourist visitors who remain in touch long after their initial visit.
MOMBASA PORT USED TO SHIP IVORY TO THAILAND
The Kenyan port of Mombasa has been identified as the point of shipment of illegal blood ivory, detected and confiscated in Thailand last week. Kenya Wildlife Service’s officers are assisting international police agencies in efforts to ascertain the actual source of the ivory, which is not thought to have originated from poaching in Kenya but may have been shipped through only. It is understood that DNA analysis will be used to ascertain from which country the tusks originated from and the detained cargo may eventually be returned to the authorities there for storage, although this process may take years to complete.
Airlines in Kenya, especially Kenya Airways, have in recent years substantially stepped up screening of cargo to prevent loading ivory and other prohibited goods like skins, partly of course for the reason of the security of their flights, but in the process also being able to detect such contraband. Shipments through the harbour however have not yet been subjected to similar scrutiny, and demands have promptly emerged to step up surveillance and monitoring there too to prevent the country coming into disrepute over any possible complicity in the prohibited trade of blood ivory. Harbour security in general also came under extra scrutiny in Mombasa and it can be expected that added measures are introduced in coming weeks to introduce new technology and manpower towards that end.
Several other captures were reported in Kenyan media in recent weeks when ‘transit’ ivory was confiscated at road block check points, manned by police and near borders also customs officials. Kenya is thought to have about 60 tons of ivory in store, most of it ‘legal’ but also substantial quantities of confiscated tusks, both from within and outside Kenya.
KENYA AIRWAYS TO CODESHARE WITH TAAG OF ANGOLA
The commencement of flight operations between Nairobi and Luanda, the capital of Angola, will apparently be code shared between TAAG, the national airline of Angola and the Kenyan flag carrier. Luanda will mark another milestone for the Pride of Africa as it will be their 50th destination, and the 41st in Africa, putting KQ on top of the rankings as far as continental connectivity is concerned. Flights will initially operate from Nairobi every Tuesday and Friday and subject to market acceptance and load factors more flights will be gradually introduced. The code share will also give TAAG added reach as their own passengers can via Nairobi fly to the Middle East, India and the Far and South East with Kenya Airways.
At the same time the source also confirmed that the first of the recently leased two new Embraer 190 will join the KQ fleet in early November with the second aircraft following shortly afterwards.
AIR BERLIN ADDING MOMBASA
Germany’s second largest airline has last week announced that they are pondering the addition of Mombasa to their long haul destinations, to be served from Germany’s capital city of Berlin. Other long haul destinations floated in the press announcement were Dubai in the UAE and Miami / Florida.
The airline operates both charters and scheduled services and it was not immediately clear if the flights to Mombasa would be all inclusive tour charters, a mix or purely scheduled flights, on which tour operators, travel agents and individual travellers could then buy their tickets.
However, irrespective of this, the announcement has excited the Mombasa tourism trade and in particular the hotel and resort operators, who have already welcomed the idea of more flights between Germany and Mombasa, assisting to fill beds and reach their ambitious targets of the highest ever arrival numbers ever for Kenya in 2010.
NEW FERRY MISHAP RAISES FRESH CONCERNS
A recent early morning incident, involving one of the only recently commissioned new ferries for the Likoni channel crossing, has raised fresh concerns amongst ferry users. The docking on the island side reportedly failed for yet undisclosed reasons, either mechanical or through human error, and when the ferry was then carried off, after stalling, due to the currents and prevailing winds, it hit two moored ships before being stabilised. The old ferries were causing constant problems with breakdowns but there were also allegations, now being renewed, that skills by the staff operating and maintaining the ferries needed strengthening and improving through vigorous training, to ensure constant safe and secure operations.
This latest incident will add further pressure on government to finally go ahead and construct a new road and dam linking the Nairobi – Mombasa road and the international airport directly by road link to the south coast and reduce reliance on the ferry connection.
NEW LAKE VESSEL TO OPERATE OUT OF KISUMU
Last week saw the launch of a new cargo and passenger ship, which will from now on connect Kenya’s lakeside city of Kisumu with outlying islands and areas hard to reach by road. The capacity is said to be up to 200 passengers and 15 saloon cars, but less when lorries and busses are on board. The privately owned vessel is expected to easy trade and travel along the Lake Victoria shores on the Kenyan side of the lake and will be available not just for local area residents but tourists too, who can now do lake tours from and to Kisumu, returning the same day after completing a round trip. The construction and commissioning of the MV Suba Green Forest was undertaken by an NGO which is active in the area. No email or website details are available however at the time of going to press neither for the project itself nor for making bookings by any intending users of the new service.
GOMBE STREAM NATIONAL PARK TO EXPAND
Information was received from conservation sources in Arusha that government has approved the expansion of the Gombe Stream National Park from its present 33 square kilometres to nearly 60 square kilometres, almost doubling it in size. Gombe Stream is famous for its chimpanzee populations. The boundaries of the park will now push right to the shores of Lake Tanganyika, permitting the animals to migrate to the lake shores without leaving the protected area, in their search for food and water.
Gombe has been a park well known to ‘specialist’ clientele but due to the distance from the main centres not easily accessed by road, making journeys to the park using aircraft more expensive and thereby limiting market penetration. Yet, those who visited Gombe and the not too far off Mahale National Park, come back literally stunned by the scenery and their safari experience brought back from this remote corner of Tanzania.
The last major park to be expanded in Tanzania was the Lake Manyara National Park, which now fully surrounds the entire lake, again offering greater protection to the game, securing migration paths and a offering a wider area for visitors to see within the park.
ARUSHA – NAMANGA HIGHWAY WORKS ADVANCE
It was learned last week that the laying of tarmac on this stretch of one of East Africa’s busiest roads is now advancing, giving hope that the journey between Nairobi via Namanga to Arusha will in the future be easier, safer and faster. While crossing the border still inflicts at times trauma with travellers – unlike the times of the ‘old’ East African Community – when the internal ‘borders’ were only marked by road signs but not controls, at least the highway, when completed, will bring relief to transporters for cargo, bus operators and passenger cars, as they often arduous and certainly dusty journey will become more enjoyable.
As the ‘new’ EAC advances it is expected that eventually internal border controls will be abandoned again, making the region ‘One’ with border and customs checks only at international airports and external border points, a dream and vision of the founders of the East African nations decades ago but still to be attained once again by the present generations.
RWANDA SIGNS OPEN SKIES AGREEMENT
Information was received last week from Kigali, that Rwanda has on the sidelines of the ICAO ‘Air Services Negotiation Conference’ in Jamaica recently signed an open skies agreement with Singapore to facilitate the start of air services as and when demand has made flights feasible. Singapore Airlines presently only flies to Johannesburg / South Africa and Cairo / North Africa with passenger services although a cargo service has been launched to Nairobi / Kenya last year. It is there that the most likely added passenger service will come as the global economy recovers further and RwandAir could then conceivably code share the remaining sector between Nairobi and Kigali. Considering that Singapore Airlines is also a member of the global Star Alliance, and the close ties between RwandAir on one side and Brussels Airlines and Lufthansa on the other side – both Star members too – there are interesting constellations arising in the future, worth watching.
AIR SEYCHELLES MOVES SALES OFFICE IN VICTORIA
Last weekend saw the sales offices of Air Seychelles move to new premises, located next to Air France and Kenya Airways, creating a new ‘airline hub’ in the city of Victoria. Also in the same building are the sales offices of the archipelago’s main ferry company. Air Seychelles codeshares, and operates all flights between Mahe and Paris with Air France, and Air France / KLM are major shareholders in Kenya Airways and partners in the world’s third largest airline alliance ‘Sky Team’. While the flights between Nairobi, KQ’s hub, and Mahe are not yet codeshared between the two airlines, fresh scope is nevertheless arising out of the sales office move and speculation is now rife when, rather than if, the ties between Air Seychelles and Kenya Airways will further intensify. Watch this space for the most up to date news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean aviation sector.
SOUTH AFRCIAN TRAVEL AGENTS EXPERIENCE SEYCHELLES
The Seychelles Tourist Board, in conjunction with their private sector partners, invited a group of over 30 leading South African travel agents to the archipelago to show them what an island holiday in Seychelles is all about. Air Seychelles flies regularly to Johannesburg with B767 equipment and South Africa is the most important market for the islands from the African continent and part of twin centre holiday arrangements for tourists from further abroad. The South African travel agents visited restaurants, scenic sites and other attractions, hotels and resorts on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, to see the places they normally ‘sell’ but also newly opened and other resorts, before sitting down for a day long workshop at the new Ephelia Resort in Port Launay on Mahe, where they learned much there is to know about Seychelles tourism. The trip was reportedly co-sponsored by Thompson Holidays and Air Seychelles ‘Flying the Creole Spirit’.
SEYCHELLES TOURISM ACADEMY GETS VALIDATION VISIT
A number of lecturers from the Irish ‘Shannon College of Hospitality Management’ came to Mahe earlier in the week to validate results and review the implementation of a three year course jointly taught in both Ireland and the Seychelles. The lecturers will also be active in the class rooms, taking over some of the teaching duties, and their Seychellois counterparts are likely to learn a trick or two also sitting in the classes to observe teaching methods and the use of teaching aids. Students of the STA studying the course are eligible to continue in Ireland for their bachelor’s degree once completing the diploma studies at STA and attaining the minimum pass marks required to go for advanced studies.
It was also learned that lecturers from the Seychelles Tourism Academy will be posted to Shannon as understudies to advance their knowledge and skills before returning again to Mahe. Well done!
South Sudan News
EGYPT AIR TO START JUBA FLIGHTS
News from Juba confirmed over the weekend that Egypt Air, a member of the global Star Alliance, will commence flights between Cairo and Juba, via Khartoum, in early August. Information received indicates that initially two flights a week, on Wednesday and Friday, will route from Cairo via Khartoum to Juba before returning the same way back to Egypt.
The Egyptian government has offered the Southern government in Juba an aid package worth 300 million US Dollars to infrastructure projects but there have been concerns in the Southern political establishment over Egypts constant lobbying towards a vote against independence in January next year, more than likely to avoid having another country to deal with when it comes to negotiations over the Nile waters, already at deadlock with the East African water producer countries upstream.
The arrival of Egypt Air on the Juba aviation scene however has been broadly welcomed, as after Ethiopian and Kenya Airways this is the third major African airline now adding Juba to their Africa network. There were some resentments however expressed to this correspondent that the flight would have to route via Khartoum, which several of those spoken with coined ‘unsafe for us Southerners when travelling abroad … they could pick us off the flight any time and we rather go via Entebbe (with Air Uganda) or via Nairobi or Addis’ … Trust know whom …
POACHERS HELD FOR TRIAL
Reports from Juba speak of at least four poaching suspects now in custody, following a surveillance mission triggered by tips from local residents. The culprits were found in possession of game meat, at least one leopard skin and illegal firearms, when police and security forces swooped down on them. They are also suspects in other violent crimes but it was their alleged poaching which finally netted them.
The government in Juba has repeatedly in the past vowed to stamp out poaching while supporting the restoration of national parks to induce a start for adventure and expedition tourism, and the game rich parks like Boma are considered a future magnet for safari visitors to the Southern Sudan.
REFERENDUM FOR 09TH JANUARY 2011
Information was received from Juba last weekend that the date for the independence referendum has now been formally agreed between the Government of Southern Sudan, in short GOSS, and the regime in Khartoum. The 09th of January next year is the big day, when the Southern population can at last step up and decide on their own destiny, being able to throw off the shackles of regime colonisation, exploitation and discrimination. Negotiations on contentious issues between the two former protagonists will also begin on 27th of July, initially in Khartoum before moving to Juba, during which such crucial issues as water, oil – and its ownership – but also existing debts incurred by the regime, international treaties, monetary issues and common borders will be explored. A separate border commission is also in place already, and it is understood from sources in Juba that about 80 percent of the boundary lines between South and North have been resolved, with the remaining 20 percent however focusing on some of the most contentious areas, where the oil fields are located. Issues also remain to be resolved on the separate referenda for Abyei and the Nuba mountains, which could also determine the future of those parts of Sudan and give an independent Southern Sudan even greater ‘muscle’ in the future. Watch this space.
And today once again some material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ by Gill Staden:
Boat Cruise for School Children
On Friday I went on a cruise on the river with ten children from the secondary schools in Livingstone. This was a special treat for the best students. Before coming on the cruise they had been given a tour of some of the other operations in Livingstone. They had been to Batoka Sky to see the helicopters and microlights. They had been to Bushtracks to see the work that is done there, including the steam train.
The aim of the day out was to show the students what jobs there are available in tourism and to help them to understand the tourism industry.
We all boarded the African Princess for our cruise and I could see that this was definitely a day to remember for these students. We went up the river along the side of the game park while listening to the tour guide as he told us all about the river. And then, after a few speeches and the giving of certificates we all sat down to a sumptuous lunch. A great time was had by all. Thanks to Livingstone Adventures.
High Water in Lake Kariba
I was asked if I could get some photos of Lake Kariba with its high water. Karen from Eagles Rest was kind enough to send me some. First, here is one I took when I visited in 2009:
Now, here are Karen’s:
To see pictures of the floodgates open, see:
TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome Third edition July 2010 Uganda News NATIONAL MOURNING ENDS – AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT STARTS Monday saw the long awaited African Union Summit kick off with ministerial and panel of expert meetings, as the one week long period of national mourning came to an end. Security is very tight, as witnessed along the main road from the city to the Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo, which leads along the area where this correspondent resides. Traffic police and roaming police patrol vehicles have been supplemented by elite army units and the presidential protection detail is out in force at the venue and the wider surrounding area to prevent any mischief by enemies of the country who may wish to disrupt the proceedings. Hotels in Kampala have also put up the ‘no vacancy’ signs, as every available bed between Entebbe and Kampala has been taken up to the delight of hotel operators, who stand to reap big from this major continental conference over the next ten days. In view of the events of 7/11 the issue of Somalia has been pushed up the agenda and information received is that an initial 20.000 troops will be sent there as part of the African Union’s present peacekeeping contingent while requests will also be sent to the UN to make this a mission of their own. Uganda may send as many as another 2.000 troops at an early stage to boost numbers on the ground, following President Museveni’s angry reaction to the al-Shabab background of the suicide bombers. It was also learned that an additional 5.000 recruits will be taken in to strengthen the Uganda Police in coming months, giving them a greater ‘range’ for surveillance and security operations in the capital city, urban centres and across the entire country. While the official theme of the summit focuses on women issues and child health, a range of security related as well as economic and political issues are ranked high on the summit’s agenda. The continental meeting will last until the 29th of July with heads of state due to arrive progressively over the next few days’ time. No cancellations by any delegation were reported at the time of going to press over security concerns, as has been suggested in sections of the local and regional media, giving a firm sign of solidarity with Uganda, which the nation gratefully accepts. SUSPECTS NABBED IN 7/11 BOMBINGS Security operatives arrested several suspects and conspirators thought to be responsible for or connected to the bombings in Kampala during the World Cup Final last Sunday, and in the process secured vital evidence including at least one suicide ‘vest’ ready for use but also other explosives and material. The arrests were made in a Kampala suburb and while showing some of the recovered evidence to the media police was tight-lipped over the identity or suspected nationalities of those arrested, although one source described them as ‘from African countries, not speaking English’. It was also ascertained that forensic and counter terrorism experts from American and British agencies are now in country supporting the Ugandan investigating team in particular in sieving through evidence gathered at the sites and carry out forensic tests using the latest technology but also once more going over the blast sites hoping to discover more clues. Sadly, the death toll continued to rise and is now standing at 76, as two more of the seriously wounded persons succumbed to their injuries. It was also confirmed that a Sri Lankan national, working in Uganda, was amongst the victims. Meanwhile have voices emerged partly blaming lax venue security at the Kyadondo Rugby Ground, where several thousand people had gathered and crammed into the venue on the night to watch the World Cup final. At other usually crowded places in the city, and most notably the city’s hotels, security measures, including front gate body checks, have been stepped up, although the leading hotels had maintained this level of vigilance throughout, checking cars on entry and searching patrons when approaching the main lobbies, using handbag scanners and walk through devices to ascertain the absence of suspicious objects. Shopping centres too have stepped up security at entry points while citywide pre-summit security for the upcoming African Union meeting has been deployed already on a large scale. Condolences from world leaders have been flowing into Uganda, offering sympathy but also logistical and material help for the investigation, while individual expressions of sorrow have also reached this correspondent from readers of eTN round the world. All those messages are gratefully accepted. A national memorial service is planned for later in the week as many of the victims have been individually buried already by their grieving families and friends. UGANDA CONSIDERS MORE TROOPS FOR SOMALIA The African Union mission in Somalia, presently short of the envisaged 8.100 troops, may soon see another up to 2.000 Ugandan personnel arrive, according to the latest reports released in Kampala. In an act of absolute defiance to the terrorists and their godfathers, an army spokesperson has late last week announced that Uganda is capable and willing to send more troops should other African nations not contribute to make up the gap between troops estimates and those on the ground. Presently it is only Uganda and Burundi supporting the African Union’s peace keeping mission, but more countries have signalled, in the wake of the terror attacks, to send troops and material, while the forthcoming AU Summit in Kampala, due to start this week, is also though to consider a change of mandate to permit the AU forces to engage militias before being attacked. Presently they are only able to defend against attacks but cannot pre-empt them, a flaw which has cost many lives in Mogadishu as the contingent has to wait to be fire upon before being able to open fire themselves. The summit is also considering a further change of rules, which would permit countries with borders to Somalia to contribute troops, opening the way for Ethiopian forces to return under an AU mandate. President Museveni last week also vowed to take the fight to the terrorist bases in Somalia and in the process it is also hoped that the pirates’ nests also become a target of the AU troops to support the aims of the naval coalition at sea, to stop this menace. Pirate ransom has in the past, according to reliable sources, also found its way into the coffers of Islamic militant groups, allowing them to purchase supplies and making it necessary to combat both menaces at once with greater determination. One thing so is clear, Uganda, inspite of the terrorists atrocities committed on the 11th of July, will NOT be intimidated but continue to do all the country can within its limited resources to join the international community in the fight against terror. In a related development it was also announced to the media in Kampala that as many as 12 suspects are now in custody and are being interrogated, including one suspect nabbed in Kenya and immediately handed over to the Ugandan authorities. EASSY NOW ‘ON LINE’ Following the landing of the third fibre optic sea bed cable in Mombasa, and the linking up with the switch stations in Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, East Africa now has an added fall back in case of cable failures to maintain today’s required high speed and high capacity internet connections. EASSY has reportedly the largest capacity of all three systems, with some 1.4 terra byte per second transmission speed available and went ‘live’ last weekend. Following the second failure of SEACOM’s cable two weeks ago off the East African coastline – following only weeks after a major failure in the Mediterranean – most telecom companies had to go back to the more expensive and less ‘extensive’ satellite back up links, which reduced speeds and in some cases brought business relying on the net to a near standstill. Latest reports now speak of the repairs at least taking until the 22nd of July, well over two weeks since the component failure, and according to suffering ISP users this cannot be soon enough. The bomb blast in Kampala last week also severed the main fibre optic connection when a high voltage mast was damaged and the cable cut, and interrupted microwave transmissions between Uganda and Kenya, driving home the recognition that multiple fibre optic cable providers are really needed and that – like with aircraft instrumentation – redundancies are an absolute MUST HAVE in this day and age. The three cable operators have also indicated talks to agree on emergency measures for cross connectivity to reduce outages in the future. The arrival of EASSY, incidentally the first planned but now the last completed network cable, will arguably also increase pressure on the telecoms companies to once again lower their internet tariffs, which have remained higher than anticipated, hindering the faster and wider rollout of internet use in particular in rural Africa. Offers as low as 25.000 Uganda Shillings a month, or just over 10 US Dollars, are misleading as the permitted capacity is only 500 MB, a laughable restriction considering that this is the capacity used by many in a few days when regularly surfing the net for research or even simply using such applications as Facebook, Skype or site which update automatically every few minutes. EASSY will spread its wings across the ‘wired’ countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda and it is understood that Southern Sudan too wishes to link up via their nearest connection route in Uganda, to provide ‘independent’ access to the net and not having to depend on connections via Khartoum, for reasons often explained here. MTN LAUNCHES 3.5 G NETWORK UPGRADE Uganda’s leading mobile operator MTN has last week announced the arrival of new equipment to upgrade their present 2G network to a full 3.5G network status, which would put it in line with France’s Orange, the first to introduce the enhanced technology and currently offering the fastest connections. According to sources in the telecoms industry the upgrade will not result in tariff increases for these services, putting Orange under pressure to lift their capacity restrictions, which have generally been considered a ‘nuisance’ and tool to siphon added revenue from the market. MTN and UTL, the operator with the first full 3G network in Uganda, are offering unlimited ‘open’ connectivity irrespective of the size of the monthly downloads while some of the other operators limit this and are subsequently not as successful in their marketing strategy. Celtel/Zain/Bharti/Airtel, the company of many names, has also recently appeared with a 3G signal on the airwaves, a sign that the battle for the wireless market is indeed heating up in Uganda. UTL too is thought to look at upgrade options for their network to bring it to the faster 3.5G standard while across the border in Kenya market leader Safaricom will start trials for their planned 4G network later in the year. With the arrival of the third fibre optic cable, and the resulting extra capacity of over 1.4 terra byte per second, a marketing offensive is now on the cards by all ISP’s in Uganda to tap into the growing potential of giving ‘mobility’ for web connections to more users as affordable prices. Watch this space. ELEPHANTS INVADE VILLAGES A group of elephants has invaded several homesteads and villages last week just outside Murchisons Falls National Park, in the process killing at least one person and injuring several others. Local area administration then alerted the Uganda Wildlife Authority, which immediately arranged to dispatch rangers and game wardens to intercept the animals and try drive them back into the park. It was learned that the elephants actually destroyed traditional houses in the process, a rare occurrence and subject to speculation now what may have prompted the rogue elephants to act in this fashion. Communities living near or next national parks, and communities along the traditional migration routes of elephant, often encounter groups or individuals straying from the park but rarely with such deadly consequences. Condolences to the family and friends of those affected. Kenya News MOMBASA HIT BY FREAK RAINSTORM A downpour of biblical proportions hit Mombasa, Kenya’s coastal city, last weekend, flooding sections of the city – a phenomenon considering that the city actually is built on an island connected to the mainland by the Makupa causeway, and being supposed to drain the water straight into the Indian Ocean. Some parts of the city were knee deep under water, gradually even displacing parked cars, and the ensuing floods did cause havoc for businesses at level ground, having hawkers and street vendors scramble to rescue their wares from being swept away. Traffic in and out of the city was also severely handicapped as few dared to ‘ride the waves’. The resulting water and flood damages are expected to be substantial and it was also learned that on the day all city tours and private visits to the city and Fort Jesus by tourists were reportedly abandoned at the time, as was the bazaar and main market closed, for both lack of business but also to secure property and stocks. ETHIOPIAN POWER PROJECT UNDER ADDED SCRUTINY BY KENYA The controversial Gibe III power project in Ethiopia is being subjected to an additional environmental impact study and audit of hitherto submitted reports. This fresh scrutiny is financed by the European Investment Bank, following persistent complaints by communities living around Lake Turkana, environmental watchdogs, international NGO’s and civic society in Kenya and abroad. Court action in Kenya is also pending from civic pressure groups representing the Turkana and other communities, who claimed they are likely to lose their livelihood should the project go ahead in its present format, putting the Kenya government on the back foot. Meanwhile has France signalled that they will be giving grants and loans worth 2 billion Kenya Shillings to support ‘green’ power which is presently under the final stages of planning for two wind power stations and a solar power station in the north of Kenya, where daily sunshine and strong winds will support the harvesting of renewable energy sources to the tune of nearly 1.000 MW upcoming capacity. Kenya has been seeking such support to expand their geothermal generating capacity but also introduce new wind and solar powered plants which would radically lower the country’s carbon footprint. Watch this space. KENYA AIRWAYS TO CODESHARE WITH INDIA’S JET AIRWAYS Information was received on Monday that KQ has signed an extensive code share deal with one of India’s leading private airline, Jet Airways, which will become effective at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday night. Kenya Airways is currently flying daily to Mumbai – formerly Bombay – and has been seeking to expand their presence in this important market for a while now. Jet Airways in turn has also been trying to add more African destinations beyond their present destination Johannesburg, but neither airline had until this point made much progress. The code share arrangement on the Nairobi to Mumbai route will however open up added destinations, which in India will be operated by Jet Airways, while Indian passengers can connect to the entire continent via Kenya Airways’ Nairobi hub, from where daily connections serve most destinations to Southern and Western African capitals. Frequent flyer benefits for holders of the respective airline cards will also be extended for ‘earning’ miles as will lounge access be part of the deal for frequent travellers. MORE DELAYS FOR B787 ORDERS? Information was received over the weekend that Boeing may have to push the delivery of their first B787 into next year, which could have a knock on effect also on orders placed by Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, both of which have a substantial number of the new generation wide bodied jet on order. The news were received with some incredulity by aviation sources in Nairobi and Addis it is understood, as the recent tests of the new airliner apparently went ahead smoothly, and Boeing giving no indication until now that other issues may further delay deliveries to airlines. If found correct the delivery timeframe of the aircraft to the two major airlines in the region, KQ and ET, could impact seriously on their ability to roll out network and frequency expansions and their planned fleet renewal programmes. Watch this space. KAA CONSIDERING SECOND RUNWAY FOR JKIA The Kenya Airports Authority has at last moved forward in their considerations for a second runway for Kenya’s main international airport, Jomo Kenyatta International in Nairobi. At peak hours the runway is almost fully utilised with take offs and landings, and any incident on the runway is presently shutting down East Africa’s main aviation gateway, leading to flight diversion, delays and cancellations of flights. The present ongoing upgrade and rehabilitation had left a second runway out of their scope to the chagrin of aviation experts, who have for years advocated for and demanded an alternative runway, but until a committee was formed last week to look seriously into this, KAA had taken no visible action. Of the other main airport in the region only Entebbe has a second, albeit shorter runway to facilitate emergency operations and with Nairobi being the ‘main’ gateway in the region, the expansion cannot come soon enough for airlines and passengers alike. The feasibility study will take several months to complete and aviation sources in regular contact with this correspondent claim a second runway could at the very earliest be in place by 2015, if a decision is taken swiftly and funding can be secured. ‘GROGAN’S CASTLE’ NOW OPEN FOR TOURIST BUSINESS The border area between Kenya and Tanzania along the lake Jipe and Chala is significant for wildlife, neighbouring parks and game reserves on both side of the border. However, war history buffs too recognize the names for the valiant campaign fought by Colonel Von Lettow-Vorbeck on behalf of Imperial Germany, which had control over their then East African colony Tanganyika. The colonel, a wily fox, gave his Britsh East African foes many a bloody nose and many places along the border still remind visitors of those long gone days. A new accommodation unit is now finally open, Grogan’s Castle, which is located about 120 km from the Kenyan township of Voi and a mere 20 km from the Tanzanian border. The house comfortably sleeps 6 in one master bedroom and two twin bedrooms, but is ‘self catered’, i.e. visitors need to bring their own food and drink supplies. Staff is at site however to cook and clean, when guests are out on safari or visiting some of the other sights. Being off the electricity mains a backup generator runs for five hours a day, but guests can against a surcharge add more hours – a fair deal considering the cost of fuel and the distance from the nearest filling station. A dirt airstrip of about 1.200 metres length leads almost up to ‘Grogan’s Castle’ permitting guests to fly in and a vehicle can be booked from the owners for transfers and game drives. The Lake Jipe gate of Kenya Wildlife Services is also nearby, only about a quarter of an hour’s drive, giving easy access to this remotest part of Tsavo West but anyone going ‘out for the day’ with a picnic lunch will be able to explore a wide area with almost no tourist traffic, being able to enjoy the wilderness and solitude ‘exclusively’. Grogan’s Castle does not have a website up and running as yet but can be found on Facebook via the following link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grogans-Castle/114022361963426?ref=search In a related development it was also learned that KWS was due to release details during the course of the week of new concession sites in the wider Tsavo and Chyulu Hills area, with some sources claiming at least a dozen new accommodation sites would be advertised for potential investors. The new sites will be located in Tsavo East, Tsavo West and the Chyulu conservation area, aimed to add beds to areas where more and more tourists are expected in coming years to experience the African wilderness. KENYA’S ARRIVAL MARK NEW RECORD The first six months of 2010 have seen tourist arrivals boosted by a remarkable 20+ percent, a huge boost for the country’s entire tourism industry and the country as a whole. The previous ‘record’ was established in 2007 before the global economic and financial crisis struck Kenya too, but just released figures show that a new peak has been set in 2010, awarding Kenya’s massive and determined marketing drive abroad in existing, new and emerging markets. This also is a sharpish reminder for other countries in the region which have been hesitant to spend money on their respective tourist boards, as the success in Kenya proves that it is money well spent. Tourism in Kenya is a key to economic prosperity, job creation and retention and both direct foreign but also domestic investments into the sector. The results are all the more remarkable considering that several global cruise lines have taken Mombasa port calls off their destination list due to piracy concerns in the Indian Ocean waters. Industry sources in touch with this correspondent have now however pointed out that future growth will largely depend on more direct air connections in particular from emerging markets which in turn will depend on the speedy conclusion of the expansion works at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, which is creaking at the joints having reached full saturation point. Watch this space. THAI AUTHORITIES CONFISCATE MORE EAST AFRICAN IVORY It was learned over the weekend, that Thai customs and security organs have once again intercepted a major shipment of blood ivory, reportedly destined for another country in the region and most likely China, according to present information. The shipment is thought to be worth well over a million US Dollar. Poaching has been a scourge for wildlife in Eastern and Southern Africa, and numbers at hand for rhinos and elephants killed for their tusks and horns are simply getting out of hand, belying weak attempts by government officials and wildlife managers that their anti poaching efforts were sufficient. In an article attached to this weekly report by Gill Staden from Livingstone / Zambia detailed figures are provided on rhino poaching in Southern Africa, revealing the full extent of the illicit demand for such products by South and Far Eastern countries, where more needs to be done now to strengthen legislation and enforcement. CITES is also called upon through a special petition to halt the trade in ivory for good and remove any clauses from existing agreements for one off sales and special applications, in order to fully criminalise the trade and possession of blood ivory on a global scale. Readers can also get acquainted with the subject on a wider basis by visiting relevant Facebook sites which promote conservation and speak up against the trade in wild animal products like teeth, hides and skins, besides rhino horns and ivory. Join up yourself to such petitions and sites to express your solidarity with the endangered African wildlife. Also call upon airlines flying from Eastern Africa to the South and Far East to step up their own vigilance and monitoring and check more robustly on air cargo’s in order to avoid such shipments even leaving the continent … how often do the Thais need to come to Africa’s rescue and confiscate such blood cargo before this lesson is learned. Also read this related article on the loss of wildlife over the past 40 or so years, in particular in the Masai Mara, where a UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) claims as much as 60 percent of the game has since disappeared … frightening prospects considering the plans of the Tanzanian government to build a major highway right across the migration routes of the big herds of wildebeest and zebras… http://www.nation.co.ke/News/Maasai%20Mara%20has%20lost%20half%20its%20animals%20%20/-/1056/960138/-/tmtmc1/-/index.html Tanzania News ARE MINING INTERESTS PUSHING FOR THE SERENGETI HIGHWAY? Information unearthed during the week is adding to the disquiet in conservation circles, as unsavoury connections are now beginning to emerge of the ‘god fathers’ of the hugely controversial project, big business backers and the political elite in the country. Tanzania has in past years climbed into the top of the African gold producers, now ranking a startling third already on the continent, and more concessions are waiting to be exploited. Several of those are in an area between the Serengeti and Lake Victoria, and the endpoint of the new highway at Musoma is intriguingly located in the exact same neighbourhood area, where such mining concessions owners are waiting to go ‘active’. Enroute to Musoma the planned road is taking a ‘right turn’ at Mto wa Mbu, leading along the escarpment, passing Mt. Ol Donyo Lengai, a presently active volcano, and then pass an area of another mining concession for soda ash, which India’s Tata Corporation wishes to exploit and which also met stiff resistance of conservationists and the tourism sector. Lake Natron is the only breeding ground for the East African flamingos, which come there annually to make nests of mud along the lake shores as few predators are able to withstand the hot and humid climate. Proponents of the project, in large part the same lot as the proponents of the highway project through the Serengeti, point to the soda ash plant across the border in Kenya, which was established decades ago and where breeding of flamingos, thought to have existed until the plant was established, is now all but absent due to the disturbances caused by the extraction of the mineral, the processing and the shipping, and the establishment of a sizeably human population needed to run the operation there. Planning for a major highway and bringing for the first time a direct road connection to two hitherto almost inaccessible areas, is bound to raise the speculation of back ground connections and will raise the stakes too for the tourism and conservation fraternities in both Kenya and Tanzania. Big mining concerns are not exactly knows to be using environmentally friendly methods when it comes to extracting minerals and in particular gold from the African continent but are equally used to run roughshod over environmental concerns. As a fitting example, the Niger delta in Nigeria is now one of the most polluted waterscapes and shorelines in the entire world, since for decades now the oil companies and government have stood by, apart from showing some pretence of mitigation and spill prevention, and let millions of spilled barrels of oil devastate entire stretches of these formerly rich, diverse but fragile ecosystems, now of course on their bio deathbed. Going by recent public comments made by ‘experts’, i.e. paid mouthpieces of BP, about the current Gulf of Mexico oil spill, who are claiming that within a few years there would be no side effect left, they are in total disregard of the massive scale of shore pollution already seen, the complex issue of crude oil still deep underwater and the still ongoing problems of the decades old Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Yet, we will surely also hear from equally unprincipled mouthpieces for the mining companies holding concessions in those areas, that neither the road, the extraction of soda ash, the extraction of other minerals and gold, nor the processing of gold – considered a highly toxic process – will do any harm to the Tanzanian environment nor displace the animals in the Serengeti. Many of these issues are swept under the carpet right now, this being an election year in Tanzania, and with easy funding beckoning on the horizon for those singing and dancing to the tune of big business, a re-election campaign surely looks almost certain to succeed when funded and ‘oiled’ by such windfalls. Elections are slated for 31st of October this year and while parliament was announced ‘dissolved’ by the president the official notice is only due for publication by August 01st, then providing for a three months election campaign. But how about telling people the truth during that campaign about this project, and other controversial ‘proposals’ across Tanzania – oh yes, I forgot we are dealing with politicians, a profession the late Ronald Reagan equated to the oldest profession without any hesitation. An environmental impact study for the hugely controversial highway routing must by law be carried out in Tanzania before a decision about it can be made, notwithstanding the fact that the same project was already shot down in flames by an EIA report some 14 years ago. Maybe the new EIA will do the same, but also maybe it will yield to the pressures of those who think that exploitation of every last inch of the earth in he name of progress and ‘prosperity’ justifies that we are destroying our environment, faster than ever before. The Serengeti is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but in the grand scheme of big money and big business this status is but a little nuisance, an obstacle to be elbowed aside so that billions can be made by a few – after all, future generations can still watch the ‘old films’ … The extinction of the North American bison herds comes to mind, as I close, and I am just wondering if the great herds of wildebeest and zebras will not long from now be condemned to near extinction too … but what the heck, as long as the ministers can get re-elected and keep their snouts in the feeding trough, that is after all the only thing which matters to them, or is it? Rwanda News RWANDA BEATS NEIGHBOURS IN INTERNET SPEEDS A recently published report sends out positive signals for visitors to Rwanda, wishing to stay connected to their home, businesses and friends around the world. Rwanda has according to a study released by the global industry leader in communications applications been ranked 87th worldwide and 3rd in Africa, for both uploads and downloads, way ahead of Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi and even Uganda, although the fibre optic cables have a longer distance to cover from the landing platforms in Mombasa. Rwanda has progressively developed an ITC backbone and made internet and phone use a government priority over the past few years, an investment now paying off very handsomely. Tourists will therefore not need to worry and phone and internet connectivity extends right into the Volcanoes national park way up the mountains, from where ‘live’ broadcasts and video streams can be sent when encountering the prized mountain gorillas, LESS any flashlights that is which are prohibited by park authorities to minimise disturbance for the animals. ELECTION CAMPAIGN FOR PRESIDENT UNDERWAY Tuesday saw the launch of the official campaign for the forthcoming presidential elections in Rwanda, in which four candidates are taking part. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that incumbent Paul Kagame will win handsomely. Potential visitors have been reassured that the campaign across the country will not interfere with tourist itineraries and such tours will suffer of no restrictions moving from place to place between Kigali and the key national parks. Visit http://www.rwandatourism.com for regular updates from Rwanda. Seychelles News NEW COAST GUARD BASE DONATED BY UAE The United Arab Emirates have given a 15 million US Dollar grant to the government of Seychelles to construct a new coast guard base dedicated to anti piracy missions, fully equipped with state of the art radar and surveillance systems and backed up by added relay stations across the archipelago. The UAE also pledged to give additional five patrol boats and a helicopter, used to carry out visual surveillance and identify any surface traffic approaching the Seychelles extensive waters, but also to offer close air support should this be required by the patrol boats. The two countries already have an existing defence cooperation in place but the latest support by the UAE will undoubtedly further raise readiness by the Seychellois coast guard and navy to deal even better with pirates daring to threaten the sea lanes within the 200 nautical mile economic exclusion zone around the islands. Bilateral ties between the UAE and the Seychelles have intensified in recent years and investment, in particular in the country’s hospitality industry have been significantly raised as a result of the warm and friendly relations. HELICOPTER SEYCHELLES GETS NEW ‘AGUSTA’ Last week saw the arrival of a brand new Agusta 109C helicopter, hot on the heels of news that Helicopter Seychelles and Zil Air were in merger talks aimed to streamline their respective operations and save cost by combining departments under one roof. Reportedly the ‘who is who’ in Seychelles aviation circles were at hand to witness the handover of the new heli to the company after it completed its epic journey from the UK over the past two weeks. Ordinarily such deliveries are made via ocean vessel but several factors came into play ultimately deciding to fly the new equipment directly into the Seychelles. At the handover ceremony the two companies also announced a timetable for their merger, starting already in August with a single reservations and operations department, before engineering and training then follows suit, after meeting regulatory requirements required to make such changes ‘legal’. Company administration, i.e. finance, human resources, sales and marketing will also come under one roof before the end of September in was learned. The company at the same time also announced plans to retire three of their present four Bell Jet Ranger helicopters, which have been in service for about 15 years now, and acquire new state of the art Eurocopter EC 120 models instead. This type of heli is already in use by Zil Air and reportedly popular with clients wanting a fast track transfer from the international airport to their resorts, especially when located on some of the more outlying islands. TAKE A BIT OF SEYCHELLES HOME Last week saw the official launch of the ‘Seychelles Gift Pack’ now available at the duty free shop of the international airport on Mahe but also selected locations across the islands. At a cost of Seychelles Rupees 1.495 the buyer will get a carved replica of the famous ‘coco de mer’, crafts, spices, teas, homemade jams, soaps and other ‘goodies’, all produced by Seychellois in the Seychelles. The idea found favour with the Seychelles Tourist Board whose CEO Alain St. Ange was at hand for the launch by the promoters of the new ‘souvenir product’. Next time anyone of you is holidaying on the archipelago, this surely is a ‘must buy’ on anyone’s list … LE MERIDIEN BARBARON HOSTS ANTI PIRACY SYMPOSIUM One of Mahe’s leading hotels has last week hosted over 50 experts from around the world for an anti piracy strategy meeting, and Seychellois president James Michel officially opened the meeting on 13th of July. The Seychelles, together with other Indian Ocean island nations is faced with a clear and present danger by the ocean terrorists vis a vis their main economic activities, tourism and fishing and has been one of the most proactive countries supporting the naval coalition based around the Horn of Africa and currently deployed into the Indian Ocean waters. All nations along the East African seaboard have suffered from the fallout of piracy, by loss of revenue in their harbours, increased insurance and security costs and, most notably in the tourism industry, a progressive move away from the Indian Ocean waters by cruise lines, keen to avoid any incident involving their passenger vessels. The two day meeting took stock of the current status of the naval coalitions’ work, discussed mandates, rules of engagement and other countermeasures to contain the ocean terror inflicted on the Indian Ocean sea lanes by lawless Somalis and after presenting the meeting resolutions to their organizations and home county governments more action and funding are expected to find their way into operational coffers. The Seychelles have of late substantially boosted their own involvement, besides regularly hosting naval vessels in Victoria, but – as president Michel pointed out – substantial cost to the treasury of the country. South Sudan News INDEPENDENCE IS THE MAIN OBJECTIVE With less than 6 months to go towards the scheduled referendum, in which the Southern Sudanese population can at last decide on their own destiny, more and more hints begin to emerge over the direction the campaign is set to take. While officially the SPLM, running the Southern government in Juba and being a coalition partner in Khartoum, is still guarded as to the position they will recommend and campaign for, individual senior members of the Juba administration have given their own opinions more openly, all of them for independence. Egypt has made overtures and promised economic aid worth up to 300 million US Dollars, thought to be inducing second thoughts amongst the ‘Southerners’ and the Khartoum regime too has cranked up project promises, having literally wasted the chance of build goodwill over the past five and a half years since the CPA – comprehensive peace agreement – was signed between the erstwhile foes. Few in the South however appear fooled by such last ditch efforts to ‘buy us’ as one regular source put it, adding ‘we will take projects and funding but will vote for freedom anyway when our time comes’. With the odds overwhelmingly in favour of an independence vote fears are also rising that the process may face disruption by elements infiltrated into the South and surveillance and patrols are being stepped up to prevent any such attempts. Meanwhile are expedition and adventure safari operators standing by to see this process completed to then apply for and get licences and permits for operations in the Southern Sudan’s national parks, which are presently being strengthened through bilateral assistance but are not as yet receiving significant visitors numbers. This is something the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism hopes to change, when the political processes towards independence have unfolded and been completed and they can present their natural attractions and the spectacle of the big migration of the white eared kobs between Boma National Park and the river Nile to prospective visitors. Watch this space. And again today, in closing, some material from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ by Gill Staden / Zambia: Zambia’s Leading Hotel – The Royal Livingstone Hotel – The Royal Livingstone Hotel in Livingstone has once again been crowned Best Hotel in Zambia. This is the result of the 2010 polls conducted by World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony in Johannesburg on Wednesday 7 July, attended by 1200 senior industry leaders. The winners were selected with the help of thousands of industry professionals worldwide who have been voting online. “Because of their global reach and reputation, World Travel Awards are unique and regularly referred to as the ‘Oscars’ of travel and tourism”, said Graham E. Cooke, Founder and President of World Travel Awards. The awards, established 17 years ago, are committed to raising the standards of customer service and overall business performance throughout the international industry. Situated near the Eastern Cataract of the Mighty Victoria Falls on the banks of the Zambezi River, The Royal Livingstone Hotel forms a spectacular sanctuary, surrounded by lush lawns, flora and fauna that make the hotel blend in well within the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. The hotel is home to a wide variety of animals, including Impalas, Zebras, Giraffes and others. It is popular for its diverse bird life owing to our environmental programme that aims to preserve and protect the natural habitat for a variety of local and migratory birds. The hotel is the location for viewing an African sunset from our renowned Sundeck, in addition to offering guests a chance to experience the best of Zambia, owing to its pristine location and superlative service. The Royal Livingstone Hotel is a member of the Sun International group that operates hotels and resorts around the world. Here guests can indeed experience “A Million Thrills. One Destination.” Feeding the starving animals in Lake Kariba This is an interesting email with details of getting food to the animals on the islands in Lake Kariba. The water has been so high that all the grazing has been flooded and the animals have had nothing to eat. So, rather than let them starve to death, the Zimbabwe community was mobilised to get bring food for them. STATUS REPORT Trucks Produtrade and Alro (collecting from Stuart Tippett in Marondera) load and must leave Harare by Tuesday 15th to Kariba Ferries Load Ian’s ferry on Wednesday 16th at 9am Depart for Bumi on Wednesday 16th when loading complete Unload at Bumi on Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th (Richard please liaise with Ferries and have team ready for unloading) Ferry returns to Kariba on Thursday 17th Truck One – Produtrade What we have is Nigel Philp’s Produtrade truck with 7 tonnes of wheat screenings and 3 tonnes of Randby’s Special Mix. This leaves +/- 20 tonnes of space on the truck – need to secure hay/mix for that please – put the word out please. Truck Two – Alro We also have Adrian’s Alro Truck and a full load of Hay from Stuart Tippett just past Marondera, we will contribute cash for fuel to Alro for the extra 180 km to fetch the hay from Stuart Tippett. Adrian, we will need poles and tarpaulins to keep the hay in. Stuart says bales are 15kg each – unlikely to have 30 tonnes due to size and likely outcome is 20 tonnes. These two loads should ensure that we are secure with food for the animals on Starvation Island for 6 weeks. The team at Bumi are also checking other islands nearby and assisting where they can. Thanks again to everyone – amazing support and we all appreciate the efforts. Glen Stutchbury The voracious illegal trade in wildlife continues … The latest statistics from CITES on known elephant and rhino poaching in Africa make for alarming reading. So far this year 124 black and white rhino have been poached in South Africa, five elephants were killed in four days in one park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 27 elephants killed in Chad. And, three weeks ago, 10 elephants were gunned down in one spot on the Zimbabwe border in Gonarezhou National Park. Ivory seizures have also reached a new high; 296 tusks were seized by the Thai authorities at Bangkok in April representing the deaths of at least 148 elephants and, in the same month, another 2,194kg of tusks were discovered at the port of Hai Phong in Vietnam. “This alarming but tiny snapshot of poaching and trafficking incidents from Africa hardens our resolve to continue our vital anti-poaching and park protection work on the continent,” says DSWF CEO, Melanie Shepherd. “This continuing abuse of Africa’s rich biodiversity and the ongoing, barbaric trade in ivory and rhino horn has to stop and DSWF wholeheartedly supports CITES praise for Interpol and those governments and agencies which have increased their enforcement efforts.” To breed or not to breed? An exciting development for PDC and the future of the painted dog Until recently, Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) – whose work DSWF has supported since 1995 – has been firmly against breeding from its Rehabilitation Facility dogs. However, a number of concerns about the genetic diversity of the wild populations and the viability of the pack-size of dogs released from PDC have caused the team to reconsider this stance. “Maintaining the genetic diversity of the wild dogs is a top priority particularly as research has highlighted physical deformities associated with population decline and inbreeding,” explains project director, Dr Greg Rasmussen. While the most significant threats to the dogs are still poaching with snares and traffic accidents data also shows that a pack size of between six and ten is critical for success, something that has to be taken into consideration when creating release packs. “Packs should be of at least seven and ideally 11-12 to allow for initial expected mortality,” says Greg. One of the issues faced by the PDC Rehabilitation Facility is that very often there are only two or three potential release candidates which creates the dilemma of whether to wait for more individuals to arrive or to release them as an under strength pack. Both options are far from ideal with experience proving that the older the dogs are at release the longer they take to learn to hunt which compromises the success of the release. “Having yearlings bred at the facility to add to the legitimate dogs would not only reduce the time for such dogs to remain in the facility, but also increase the release pack size. Resolving both of these factors would greatly enhance the success of any release,” adds Greg. With the Hwange National Park population under threat of collapse due to extensive poaching outside the park and collapse in both prey and environmental conditions inside the park it has been suggested that new areas – ideally fenced for additional populations (metapopulations) be created to house at least two or three release packs. PDC has now secured access to Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, which will be fenced to provide the first release site for any pups born at the Rehabilitation Facility in conjunction with any legitimate dogs that are in the facility. If this new proposal works then the conservation value of the PDC Rehabilitation Facility will be immeasurably enhanced. “This is an exciting development for PDC and for the future of the painted dog,” says Greg. The new packs will be monitored by PDC in collaboration with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Second edition July 2010
BRUSSELS AIRLINES ADDS 5TH A330-300 TO FLEET
As already indicated here several months ago – the airline at the time would not confirm or deny – SN has now taken delivery of a 5th leased Airbus A330-300 which will be deployed across a growing African network in coming days. It is understood that SN’s West African destinations like Accra, Lome, Cotonou and Ouagadougou will be served with the new aircraft. This is in addition to code shared flights with Germany’s Lufthansa, which are operated via of Frankfurt / Main but where travellers can ‘board’ in Brussels, albeit having to change planes in FRA. A regular source in Brussels also let it slip that SN was continuing to evaluate their presence in Eastern Africa, and that the acquisition of a 6th A 330 would likely benefit frequency and network expansion there, as for instance Tanzania is still not on SN’s map while other countries’ presently served are hoping for more flights as demand for business and leisure travel, but also for cargo uplift continues to grow again.
It was also learned that Brussels Airlines is again working on establishing a subsidiary company in the Congo, which could be up and running by mid / late next year, subject to receiving all regulatory approvals and raising the capital required for such a start up venture. Watch this space for regular aviation updates from the Eastern African region.
TWIN BOMBING HIT KAMPALA’S WORLD CUP REVELLERS
Three bombs at two venues went off towards the end of the world cup final on Sunday evening in Kampala, killing scores of people, with the latest reports of casualties standing at 74 dead and dozens more seriously injured now in hospitals. Ugandans, but also foreigners, at least 10 of them thought to be of Ethiopian and/or Eritrean origin, were amongst the many who perished in the blasts. It was one of the targets, the popular Ethiopian Village Restaurant in the suburb of Kabalagala – only kilometres distant from this correspondent’s residence – which immediately turned the focus of the unfolding investigation towards Islamic militants with Somali al-Shabab connections.
The Somali based criminals and terrorists have repeatedly in the past vowed to take ‘revenge’ against Uganda for sending troops to Somalia under an African Union mandate in support of the fragile national government. Only after last Friday’s ‘prayers’ did radical Islamic commanders in Somalia call for attacks on Uganda and Burundi – a country also having troops stationed there under AU mandate. Ethiopia too is of course a target as they initially invaded Somalia to squash the growing Islamic radical threat along their own borders, in an act of forward self defence, before eventually handing over to the African Union force. Uganda notably is a non permanent member of the US Security Council in New York and has supported courageous decision during her term of office aimed towards the global war on terrorism.
In the Ethiopian Village Restaurant, which featured world cup matches throughout the duration of the world cup, and hosted a record crowd last night for the world cup final, over a dozen people were killed instantly, several are said to have died later and many more were injured from the blast. Visitors to neighbouring pubs and other venues, also filled to the brim with football fans, immediately stampeded away and cleared the area which was then hermetically sealed off by police and security forces, attending to the injured and dead and they are now said to comb the site for forensic evidence. Support towards that end may come through ‘friendly’ agencies from where investigators and forensic experts are said to be enroute to Uganda already. Many of the injured were rushed to the nearby ‘International Hospital’ and other clinics by those who survived the blast and had the sense to act in a compassionate fashion.
The second bombing venue was at Kampala’s Kyadondo Rugby Club, which was even more populated and also featured matches on big screens. The rugby club is regularly frequented by dedicated large crowds of sports fans, both locals and expatriates, and there the death toll was more gruesome with reportedly nearly 50 dead and scores of injured who were rushed to all available hospitals and health centres across the city. Several thousand revellers were on this site, and reportedly here two bombs went off, with the second blast causing mass casualties as was clearly planned by the perpetrators of these vile crimes.
The African Union is due to hold its annual summit later in the month in Kampala from 19th until 29th of July and security had already been visibly stepped up in the run up to the continental meeting, and most world cup ‘watching venues’ had their own security in place, trying to prevent exactly such incidents.
There is much speculation now over how the bombs may have been smuggled into the venues, but it is clear that the bombers were using the mass crowds to conceal themselves before detonating the deadly devices.
While it is early and should not ordinarily be speculated over without hard evidence at hand, this correspondent’s own reaction still firmly points towards the Somalia connection and police and security organs are expected to vigorously comb the city seeking clues and suspects and re-screen recent arrivals into the country while keeping a close watch on everyone wanting to leave through regular border points and across open borders. It was understood by Tuesday morning that some suspects have been arrested already and are now assisting police in their extensive investigations.
Uganda is now in deep shock that the otherwise peaceful country has been attacked by cowardly terrorists and an official announcement was made on Monday by government about declaring ‘7 days of official national mourning’. Ugandan flags are, as a sign of respect and mourning, flying at half mast across the nation and at Ugandan missions and representations abroad. First reactions available to this correspondent from usually well informed sources with knowledge of security operations have also indicated in a first off the record reaction, that Uganda will maintain their troop presence in Somalia and will ‘under no circumstances’ be deterred by these tragic events, but ‘rather redouble our resolve’ to help bring peace to Somalia and defeat the enemies of peace hiding behind obscure and perverted ‘religious objectives’.
Uganda is now paying a heavy price for the courage and determination shown to bring peace to Somalia, besides having lost many valiant troops deployed there, but both piracy originating in Somalia’s lawless regions and the Islamic militant threat need to be firmly dealt with, now more so than before, to find and bring to justice those radicals and terrorists with total disregard to the sanctity of human life. It is by now also known that notorious al-Shabab commanders in Somalia have managed to communicate their delight with these attacks, as they consider Uganda their ‘enemy’, a further piece of circumstantial evidence towards the source of this heinous crime.
Meanwhile have fringe opposition politicians tried to make political capital out of this tragedy by calling for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from Somalia, a shameful act of self promotion and showing the moral decay and ethical bankruptcy of certain groups and individuals, now trying to exploit this situation for their own selfish ends.
In closing it is this correspondent’s hope that intending visitors to the country, who are booked on safaris, will not cancel their holiday plans and remain Uganda’s friends in this hour of tragedy and need. This correspondent and the entire eTN team, extend their heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and the Ugandan nation.
SEABED FIBRE OPTIC CABLE DAMAGE ‘KILLS INTERNET SPEEDS’
A reported damage to the Seacom cable, which connects East Africa with the rest of the world via various routes, has brought speeds back to 1G standards, as the traffic backup via satellite immediately overstretched the available bandwidth and capacities, causing a magnitude of transmission problems, from ordinary email with attachments to entire communication networks relying on high speed data transfers.
Most ISP’s in Kampala, in the best tradition of concealing and denying problems, were not giving their clients the true picture which could only be ascertained through sources in other countries, where the company had issued statements to the effect of repairs being underway off the Kenyan coast. Repairs may take a week or longer, according to those statements depending on the gravity of the technical failure and weather conditions at sea. Even the local media took several days to catch on, assess the gravity of the problem and then report on it last Friday, exposing the true extent of the failures.
The problems were reportedly felt across the entire Eastern Africa and were said to be especially bad in Dar es Salaam where ISP operators with links to the cable were however more forthcoming in informing the general public.
GADAFFI PLANS OWN PARTY AT AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT
News have emerged in the Ugandan media, that Libya’s regime leader Gadaffi is planning his own side show at the forthcoming African Union Summit in Kampala, which is due to be held between 19th and 29th of July. Hotels have reported that the Libyan embassy had tried to book hundreds of additional rooms for their own ‘invited guests’, raising eyebrows and ringing alarm bells amongst the political establishment in Uganda, what exactly Gadaffi, known to be eccentric, is up to.
Each delegation attending the summit will be given ‘free’ accommodation in three suites for the head of delegation and their party, but beyond this individual countries will have to make direct own arrangements, and pay for them, to get space in hotels, although the Ugandan foreign ministry has taken out ‘block bookings’ for the entire period to ‘allocate’ appropriate numbers of rooms when given final arrival details from the participant countries and key observer missions.
Hotels are said to be fully booked along the Entebbe – Kampala – Mukono corridor for the duration of the summit and ad hoc arrivals can expect a hard time to find space in leading hotels, unless confirmed, reconfirmed and paid for, and then still having to worry some …
Gadaffi’s embassy has also been hiring posh 4×4 vehicles for their invited guests, cleaning out the available market for hire cars but mystery still surrounds his plans and whom he intends to bring along and why. He in any case travels often with several aircraft full of guards and support staff and often ‘pitches tent’ in a pre-selected location where he holds his meetings in the ambience of an Arabian desert tent.
Kampala is awash with rumours about his possible plans to bring traditional leaders, chiefs, paramount chiefs and kings with him to further his own ambition to become the ‘king of kings’ in Africa and the Ugandan government will be careful on one side not to upset the powerful Gadaffi, whose investments in recent years in Uganda and Eastern Africa have sky rocketed, while keeping a keen watch on him and his plans, considering the sensitive relations between the Ugandan government and a few of their own traditional kingdoms trying to assert political influence in disregard of existing laws, which prohibit them from main stream political activities. Watch this space for more news from this exciting soap opera.
CITIZENS SUE NEMA AND CITY COUNCIL FOR FAILURE TO PROTECT WETLANDS
Three Ugandans have taken their disgust over the continued encroachment an destruction of vital wetlands to court, where they are now suing the Kampala City Council and the National Environmental Management Authority for failing to do their jobs properly.
The laws are in place but often either not enforced or enforced selectively, as is often alleged, in order to pursue ulterior motives and unknown agendas.
Details available indicated that since the time this correspondent arrived in Uganda in the early 1990’s almost 30 percent of wetlands have been encroached, built over, filled up with soil and murram or otherwise destroyed, when flower farms, residences, hotels and industries were built – in the process severely compromising the free flow of runoff water towards Lake Victoria. This has resulted in both flooding after heavy rains but also deprived the lake of the filtering function of swamps and wetlands, permitting pollutants to reach the lake waters untreated and now threatening fish breeding grounds. The same data show that the catchment area around Lake Victoria has reduced by over half over the same period, mainly attributed to the areas surrounding Entebbe and Kampala where pressure for more land continues to grow.
The same plaintiffs have also sued KCC over the council’s failure to repair potholes, citing several cases of damages to vehicles, a move surely liked by long suffering city residents who are at the mercy of hapless city fathers and whose constant complaints for ever fell on deaf ears.
US GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS TOURISM IN UGANDA
A USAID project unfolding in Uganda over the past months will be worth some 6 million US Dollars it was learned last week from sources close to the Uganda Tourist Board. In local currency this will translate into well over 12 billion Uganda Shillings and is aimed to promote Uganda’s biodiversity and attractions in the US market place, besides supporting initiatives in protecting crucial eco hotspots in the Albertine Rift, one of the branches of the Great African Rift Valley and promoting community involvement in the sector.
One of the envisaged added ‘products’ from the USAID project is supposed to focus on water based tourism, as Uganda is blessed by lakes and rivers, few of which are exploited or tapped into for tourism purposes as yet. Tourism, at least stake holders know this, has the capacity to generate additional jobs on the fast track while earning huge sums of foreign exchange for the country, last year estimated to have been over 700 million US Dollars from over 800.000 arrivals into the country. Government though has been keeping the sector on a short leash as far as budgetary allocations are concerned and in fact cut the budget for the Ministry of Tourism in real terms by about 20 percent, considering inflationary trends over the last 12 months, displaying a lack of understanding how to nurture the tourism industry while neighbouring countries are pouring record funds into facilitating marketing of their own destinations. Watch this space.
STAY PEACEFUL, REAP FROM TOURISM
This is the message sent across Kenya by tourism stakeholder, with an eye on the August referendum on a new constitution put before the Kenyan people to vote on. However, the country’s political elite is divided and two camps have emerged of almost equal strength, the ‘red’ NO campaign led by dissident government figures now threatened with the sack from cabinet and the ‘green’ YES campaign to which the majority of cabinet belong, no surprise considering that their jobs are on the line.
The referendum, expected to be hotly contested, will be a measure of maturity and can show the world that Kenya has indeed learned valuable lessons from the post election violence which threatened to sink the country into anarchy and had the tourism industry all but collapse – inspite of not a single tourist having come to harm in late 2007 and the first few weeks of 2008.
The Kenyan tourism sector is however reasonably confident that the two opposing camps will this time not resort to violence to change results and have professed their trust in due process. Much is at stake, as tourism has recovered since but at a high cost of working the global markets as intensely as never seen before, bringing record numbers of visitors to the country in the first 6 months of the year. Watch this space as updates, nearer to the referendum, will permit potential visitors to gain reassurance that indeed their travel plans can remain and need not be changed. Karibuni Kenya – Hakuna Matata …
STAKEHOLDERS NOW ACCUSE FOREIGN MINISTER OF HIDDEN AGENDA
Following reports here last week that tourism stakeholders in Kenya had taken issue with the incomprehensible statements made by the foreign minister in parliament, where he displayed a stark lack of knowledge how tourism works, they have now vowed to oppose any plans hatched by the foreign ministry to raise Visa fees in an underhand fashion and to advance their own agenda. Some sources, including very senior stakeholders in the sector, have openly said ‘irrational decisions should not be made without considering that the destination is still to fully recover’, referring to past years when the global economic and financial crisis and the post election violence of early 2008 wrecked arrival forecasts and threw the industry into turmoil. Other sources quoted several countries competing with Kenya, which allowed tourists into their countries ‘free of charge’ or charge less than what Kenya demands for a Visa while yet others said ‘let (foreign minister) Wetangula not solve his budget problems and ambitions at the expense of the tourism sector’.
The minister had incurred the wrath of tourism leaders when unjustifiably calling the country a ‘cheap destination’ and that halving the Visa charges last year as part of a recovery package ‘had lowered international esteem for Kenya’ and then reportedly needed to be talked to by his cabinet colleague from the tourism ministry to avoid further such lapses of judgement and making more such damaging and inflaming statements.
Kenya expects record arrivals this year and is looking at earnings in excess of one billion US Dollars from the tourism industry and captains of industry are loathing the idea that the recovery could be threatened and the hard earned progress in bringing Kenya back to ‘preferred destination status’ be halted or reversed. Watch this space.
PROPOSED PARK FEE RISES ‘THREATEN RECOVERY’
Tourism stakeholders in Kenya are preparing a second ‘battle’, when after vowing to advocate against a rise in Visa fees it became known that Kenya Wildlife Service too was eyeing a major increase in park entrance fees, which could reach 90 US Dollars a person a day in key parks during the high season.
KWS last week apparently broke their silence on their plans to raise fees and – when the plans were leaked to key stakeholders – rushed to the public to pre-empt negative publicity with their own media campaign.
In a proposed staggered increase over the next two years has KWS announced they were seeking a low and high season entrance fee, ranging for category one parks between 60 and 90 US Dollars a day, while some of the lesser visited parks would continue to attract lower fees of 50 US Dollars. However, under plans to ‘rebrand’ some of the parks these categories too may be revised in order to generate more income for those protected areas. Stakeholders have also expressed concern what such KWS increases may mean for parks managed by county councils, with an eye on the Masai Mara, which already charges at present 80 US Dollars per person per day. One usually reliable source did mention to this correspondent that the Narok county council has, behind closed doors, been toying with a 100 US Dollar charge, which if found correct – they are expected to tag on to the KWS move very soon – may sharply increase the cost of safaris to Kenya. Charges in neighbouring countries are still comparably lower but other competitive disadvantages keep the cost of photographic safaris there high too.
Tourism stakeholders are still reeling from accusations by the Kenyan foreign minister that the country has a ‘cheap’ reputation abroad, but while this may be true for some – but by no means all – beach holiday packages on inclusive tour charters, going on safari in Kenya is considered far from ‘cheap’ or ‘downmarket’ as the minister suggested recently. Attractive new award winning small safari properties have sprung up across Kenya in recent years, with some of the tariffs running up to 1.500 US Dollars per day, which are continuing to attract the rich and famous but also many ordinary folks, who at times save up for years at end to eventually afford their dream holiday, a ‘safari of a lifetime’. Watch this space to see how this pans out and if a compromise can be reached between tour and safari operators and KWS or if new tariffs are imposed on the industry regardless of these expressed concerns.
TOURING BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT VISITS KENYA AND TANZANIA
Following the premature exit of the Brazilian team from the recently concluded FIFA World Cup has their president Lula da Silva toured Eastern Africa on state visits – no longer being able to sit in the stadia and watch his national side. While in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam last week talks also focussed, besides trade cooperation, on aviation access between Brazil and East Africa, with Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport the most likely choice, should indeed air traffic be kick started again.
Until a few years ago Varig – the erstwhile international Brazilian airline – connected Nairobi to Brazil, but at present none of the ‘new’ carriers have even considered, according to reliable aviation sources in Nairobi, to fly to East Africa.
The visit by the Brazilian president also had added significance to the aviation sector as Kenya is presently the largest user of Embraer aircraft, which are of course produced in Brazil, operating three owned and two leased E170 jets and having just added two more E 190 jets through a lease arrangement via an American aircraft leasing company.
Visitors between the two countries presently can only connect via Johannesburg on the most direct route or otherwise have to go through European or other waypoints outside Africa.
PRECISION AIR PLANS IPO FOR LATE 2010
Tanzania’s premier privately owned airline Precision Air will issue an initial public offering of new shares later this year, aimed to increase the capitalization and bring institutional and private investors from Tanzania ‘on board’. Presently Kenya Airways holds 49 percent of the issued shares in the company and it is expected that – should the offer be taken up by the market as expected – this ratio may reduce to somewhere in the mid 30 percent margin. Kenya Airways itself is a publicly traded company on the East African stock and security exchanges and the ‘arrival’ on the stock market by Precision Air is another sign that airlines, well run airlines that is, can indeed make an economic success of their business inspite of challenging conditions, in country and in global terms.
Precision Air has in recent years embarked on a progressive fleet renewal and expansion, mainly using the French built ATR series but also added jet aircraft to offer destinations further abroad. The company has all but supplanted Air Tanzania as a de facto national airline, as ATCL is at the verge of going under, inspite of the occasional but half hearted efforts by government to keep the airline ‘afloat’. Precision is now flying a more extensive network than ATCL has ever done in the past, carries more passengers and operates more aircraft, offering the only ‘real’ choice for Tanzanians to reliably travel by air to the places they want to fly to.
Offering shares to the public will further underscore the standing Precision has achieved in recent years, respected by the aviation sector and appreciated to the point of being selected at Tanzania’s most respected company in past years. The company is now ‘airborne’ for over 16 years and has been a partner of Kenya Airways for the past 7 years, bringing mutual benefits for both companies. Jealous competitors and detractors on the political front have in the past however used the association with KQ to brand Precision a ‘Kenyan airline’, conveniently ignoring the fact that majority shares are held by a Tanzanian aviator and playing on cheap sentiments often used by the less successful to swing ‘a little something’ their way. Only a few days ago was the matter of ATCL’s revival again raised in parliament, but the comments made displayed an acute lack of understanding of the internal workings of the aviation industry, while the figures thrown around – over 500 million US Dollars were pegged for the revival of the erstwhile national carrier – frankly looked beyond government’s means and pockets. Other claims spoke of ‘tourism was suffering’ because of ATCL’s well near demise, again conveniently forgetting the growth of Precision Air and that they were carrying now more traffic than ATCL ever did before. But my oh my, I forgot, these same people are probably the ones calling Precision a ‘Kenyan airline’. My advice, buy some shares when Precision goes ‘public’ and then forever hold your peace as you can enjoy dividends from a private sector success story instead of depriving the nation of other services by opting for yet another rescue package for something clearly beyond rescue. Watch this space for future announcements of dates and details.
SAME OLD SENTIMENTS, SAME OLD FEARS
The onset of the East African Community Common Market has prompted old sentiments and fears to rear their ugly heads again amongst sections of Tanzanian tour and safari operators – but also amongst domestic and charter airlines ferrying tourists to the parks – that ‘the Kenyans are coming’ … this does not take into account the many years of preparation across Eastern Africa for the common market become a reality, and getting ready to compete on a region wide level, a stark reality for agribusinesses, manufacturers, banks, insurers and retail giants already. Investments across the region have gone up significantly with companies from EAC member states buying stakes or taking over companies to solidify their market position and take advantage of the now zero duty transactions when goods and services are ‘exported’ to other EAC countries [as long as rules of origin are met]. The tourism sector, as is the case with the aviation sector, however seems worst prepared of all major sectors and some stakeholders in Arusha are simply befuddled at present not being aware what impact the common market may bring for their companies and what options they have.
Non tariff barriers still exist, very much so in the aviation sector as recently revealed in another article, but also the safari operations sector and even the continued closure of the Bologonja border point for commercial traffic is rumoured to be entirely attributed to protecting Tanzanian safari business operators rather than, as publicly said, environmental concerns.
With the common market however now a reality, and non tariff barriers in the cross hairs of the EAC head quarters for progressive removals, it is only a matter of time now that true competition will unfold across the entire East Africa with companies being able to operate to any part of their neighbours’ countries – undoubtedly a bonus for consumers and tourists but also a challenge for those unprepared and still relying on and hoping for governmental protection. Watch upcoming reports on this subject as and when developments take place.
SERENGETI MUST NOT DIE
This ‘slogan’ coined by the late Prof. Dr. Grzimek is today more relevant than ever before, as one of the world’s best known transboundary ecosystems is under renewed threat. Poachers have in the past decimated animal populations but no threat so serious has even been seen to the integrity of the park and the annual migration of the wildebeest, zebras, other game and predators in their tow.
The million and a half of plains game MUST migrate to find food, and while early every year they congregate in the ‘low grass plains’ between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where the calcium content in the grass is high, aiding the final development of their foetuses before they give mass birth. When the young ones have grown stronger, the entire population then begins to move north in search of fresh pasture and eventually, once a year, end up crossing the border with Kenya every year in June / July as they enter the Masai Mara Game Reserve. There, for weeks at end, they sweep across the reserve like a giant natural lawn mower, feeding on high grass and gaining strength to commence their return journey by September / October, leaving but a few thousands behind who have become ‘resident’.
The proposed route of the highway, which when ready is expected to see hundreds of trucks thunder across the plains, is running almost parallel to the border and the impact of such a highway is thought to decimate the big herds to a few hundred thousands, some researchers claim as few as two hundred thousand, effectively killing off tourism and leading to the loss of predators too which depend on the great migration.
A government mouth piece has last week again tried to defend the undefendable, fending off questions why the road should not lead around the southern edge of the Serengeti, where it is understood it would serve a very substantially larger population, but like a well trained parrot the spokesperson could only repeat what his masters had drilled into him.
Leading global conservation NGO’s like AWF, WWF, the Frankfurt Zoo, zoos across the world and multilateral organisations like the World Bank have already expressed their most serious concern over these plans but – this being a pre election year – the government of Tanzania showed little concern so far to yield to the pressure and settle for the less controversial southern route. A full EIA is expected to be carrier out soon but going by precedence, when a project of such magnitude beckons, the results are often appearing to have been predetermined to serve the ends rather than letting fact speak.
Read these related links for more information and sign on to the petition pages via Facebook’s Stop the Serengeti Highway’ – the animals and future generations of humans will thank you undoubtedly.
HELICOPTER SERVICES EYE MERGER
The two licensed helicopter operations on the main island of Mahe, Helicopter Seychelles and Zil Air, have recently commenced discussions of a joint venture operation, which would make better use of resources and streamline administration and operation of both companies, aimed to improve bottom line performance for the shareholders of the two companies. The focus of the new company, which will bring the current resources of both under one management ‘roof’ will be service excellence and ‘safety first’, two key ingredients of a customer oriented business where demand – or the absence of it – still largely dictates terms and conditions. A new website will be launched when the upcoming venture goes ‘airborne’, but meanwhile can more information be accessed about helicopter services across the archipelago via www.helicopterseychelles.com and www.zilair.com – Happy Landings to the new outfit!
SEYCHELLES GETS ADDITIONAL MARINE PATROL VESSEL
The British government has supported the Seychellois anti piracy effort with a gift of another naval vessel, which was baptised ‘Fortune’ over the weekend. The extensive waters around the archipelago are posing a particular challenge to the Seychellois coast guard and navy and while aerial survey capacity has been boosted in the recent past, to guide vessels towards suspicious boats entering the archipelago’s waters, more capacity was needed on the surface.
The handover ceremony was attended by government officials, senior staff of the Seychelles security forces and diplomats accredited to the country, as well as officials from the naval coalition fighting Somali pirates, aka ocean terrorists and defending Seychellois territorial integrity. The 27 ton vessel can effectively patrol the ‘near’ side of the boundaries of the archipelago and the so called inner islands, which include Mahe, and will carry a crew of 7. The vessel will be equipped to respond to threats and then also alert other assets to engage, should this be necessary, in hot pursuit of intruders.
It is understood that the Seychelles government is using the friendly relations with other seafaring nations to procure more such naval assets to boost internal capacity of surveillance and defence of the waters of the 200 nautical mile economic exclusion zone.
The Seychelles are one of the few countries to decisively engage Somalia’s ocean terrorists at sea, and a few months ago rescuing a hijacked boat used as a mothership, subsequently arresting them and putting them on trial for piracy and terrorism at high seas. Keep up the good work!
NEW TOURISM BOARD CEO GIVES INTERVIEW TO ETN
eTN managed to catch up last week with Mr. Alan St. Ange, recently appointed Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourist Board, to get his perspective on tourism developments across the archipelago, and here are his response to eTN’s question:
Q: You have now been with STB for just over a year, tell us what challenges you found waiting for you back then in 2009
A St.Ange: When I was mandated to head the Marketing of Seychelles in March 2009, I found an organisation stuck a bit in the past with one or two strong personalities and allowing the known attributes of Seychelles to work by themselves to promote the islands. With the support of the Industry’s Private Sector, we moved to empower the Team in the Marketing Department of the Tourism Board, thus moving from having a strong personality to a strong Team. We then moved to reposition Seychelles to break the perception that we were but a destination for the rich and famous. We had to tell the world of the ‘Affordable Seychelles’ that Seychelles that offered a dream holiday with accommodation establishments for every budget, and this we did through a series of Press Conferences right round the world at the same time as we used our Unique Selling Points to help us showcase our islands. We then worked with our Tour Operators to get them to believe in our destination and bring that much needed confidence back.
Q: That sounds like a Mt. Everest to climb … how did you go about meeting these challenges, what new ideas did you bring to STB to recapture your traditional markets, to work new and emerging markets
A St.Ange: Yes it was a challenge, but one that the Industry’s Private Sector believed could be overcome if attacked from the concerted efforts by the Government and the Industry. The move by President James Michel to bring about this first in Africa, where the Government hands over the main pillar of its economy to the private sector paved the way to redress the shortfalls of the past. The Board of the Industry’s Private Sector under the Chairmanship of Louis D’Offay worked alongside the Tourism Board’s Marketing Department. Their CEO, Jenifer Sinon, supported my team’s new drive, and it was this new spirit of togetherness that helped Seychelles Tourism relaunch itself. Seychelles needed to knock on the doors of its traditional main markets, and it needed to open new markets. We knew that tourism was a people’s industry, and that it would be strong when the Team managing it was strong. Early, in the pace, we launched the target to have Seychellois sell Seychelles, because they do that with their heart. We then gave our main regions a Seychellois Director of Tourism to work alongside our Tour Operators, Travel Agents and the Press. We appointed Bernadette Willemin to Head Europe, David Germain for Africa and the Americas and Myrna Michel for Asia, Australasia inclusive of India. The rest we oversaw from our headoffice in Seychelles. We then looked at what we had as promotional collateral and revamped them to be more eye catching with pictures used because they would be selling Seychelles. We knew that we had one of the world’s prettiest islands, and we moved to let our pictures do the talking for us. We believed in the saying that ‘pictures speak a thousand words’, so we decided to let pictures of the world’s most beautiful islands speak to all our potential visitors.
This is what we used to help us move to offer new ideas and new partnerships including the launching of Regional twin centre packages with main land Africa and with our neighbouring islands destinations.
Q: What support did you get for all these innovations and activities, from government, from private sector, from corporate bodies like Air Seychelles, other airlines flying to Mahe, the ferry company, The Seychelles Island Foundation, Nature Seychelles, Seychelles National Parks etc
A St.Ange: Support for the Tourism Industry surpassed everything previously seen in Seychelles. The Government moved every barrier to support our relaunch drive. The President of the Republic, Mr James Michel personally addressed the opening ceremony of the 2010 Tourism Marketing Meeting in January. This was itself a first for Seychelles to see the Head of State move to address the Industry and present his government’s vision at such a public forum. The Private Sector’s support was also so needed to consolidate the Tourism Board’s new found successes. Initially they supported financially, then they brought to us their own respective services to support our marketing campaigns. We benefited with complimentary accommodation, transfers etc for our visiting Press, Travel Agents and Tour Operators. But the private sector also worked hard on the Marketing Board, the corporate body that oversees our new marketing drive. They also participate, and continue to participate with the Tourism Board at key Tourism Trade Fairs the world over. Without their support and participation, we could not and would not have been present at so many tourism trade fairs in the four corners of the world. Air Seychelles and other airlines flying to Seychelles have all worked with the Tourism Board to support the efforts of the marketing of Seychelles. For example we benefit from a block number of seats from Air Seychelles for our marketing and sales needs. They also offer the Tourism Board staff and the private sector stakeholders specially reduced airfares for attending trade fairs or workshops etc. This type of support is much needed and we are presently appealing to other airlines to also come forward, because the more we are supported in our drive, the more we can support their own commercial efforts. The same can be said for our fast Inter Island Ferries. Both ‘Cat Cocos’ on their Mahe to Praslin run, and ‘Cat Roses’ on their Praslin to La Digue run have been so supportive and provided us with complimentary tickets for our marketing needs. For the Bodies managing our marine and terrestrial national parks here we discussed at length and we are happy with some and less happy with others. We have always said that if we do not get visiting Press and Tour Operators to see these natural assets and attractions, these respective organisations will be the losers in the long term, because the Tourism Board will not be paying entrance fees at these facilities only for them to get more publicity out of our efforts if they do not equitably share in the expense. We have told these operators over and over again, that when they are not seen anymore, and when they are not spoken about everywhere, they will be moved out of the main tourism runs, and they will be the ones to suffer financially. New attractions are always being introduced and we shall work and push those who are supportive of the Seychelles marketing drive.
One partner that we owe a lot to for our successes is the Press, both local and international. The local media kept the industry informed of Tourism Board’s actions, and the people of Seychelles were, on their part, kept informed on the new developments in their country’s main industry. This has given us a positive momentum, and this has helped us rally the country behind our efforts, unite behind our new drive. The foreign press, including your very own e-Turbo News have visited Seychelles in great numbers, and as we have always said that Seychelles has nothing to hide. Visiting press have become true Ambassadors for Seychelles when they return to their own base countries. This has also brought Seychelles into the limelight because it was that visibility we were after and that is what we get from all our press friends around the world.
Q: Sounds very impressive indeed, a strong coalition all in support of tourism … how then did you end your first year in charge, in terms of arrivals and in terms of revenues – the latter quite important as surely you had to make concessions on pricing
A St.Ange: The restructured Seychelles Tourism Board ended its first year of operation on a high. A forecast of minus 25% in visitor arrival numbers on the 2008 figures had been spoken about and predicted. The final results from the new structure at the Tourism Board, and from its revised marketing drive brought this drop in visitor arrival numbers to a small minus of just under 1% over the 2008 figures. Important to place on record is that by the month of March 2009, at the time the Tourism Board’s restructuring by President James Michel was announced, Seychelles had been experiencing an 18% drop in its visitor arrival numbers. In terms of revenue Seychelles as well has been affected because we are dependent on tourists coming mainly from countries today being affected by economic difficulties. We had to relook at our costs to bring down our packages for a Seychelles Holiday. We finished 2009 with a drop in revenue, but one that was not as drastic that it could have been had we not redressed the visitor arrival numbers.
Q: Earlier this year STB started appointing tourism ambassadors, recently you added some more – how is this initiative paying off for the Seychelles to have ‘your own’ involved in marketing abroad
A St.Ange: The Seychelles Tourism Ambassadors program was an initiative to get our people empowered to work for Seychelles anywhere in the world they were now living and working. We initiated a program known as ‘Once a Seychellois…always a Seychellois’ and we have rallied some 98 Seychellois in 27 countries so far to defend our country’s tourism industry. How is that initiative paying off you ask, well we at STB were overtaken by their enthusiasm, commitment and ability. Most have today moved ‘mountains’ and are working hard for their country. We see articles in newspapers from as far as Michigan in the USA and in Nantes in France about Seychelles following interviews with our Tourism Ambassadors. We see tourism workshops from as far as Perth in Australia, in La Reunion, in Cape Town in South Africa, in Kampala in Uganda and in different cities in Tanzania. We have seen many such positive involvements from our Tourism Ambassadors, and we have seen new drives in different USA Cities, in the UK, in France etc. Most of the 90 plus accredited Tourism Ambassadors are on the move and Seychelles is benefiting. Earlier we spoke about tourism being a people’s industry, this Tourism Ambassador’s program is working because of that fundamental principle.
Q: you also redrew the ‘map’ of responsibilities for your STB staff dealing with overseas markets – explain what rationale you used to geographically restructure sales and marketing focus
A St.Ange: We assessed our Staff and we re-evaluated our markets based on their existing or potential importance. After appointing three Tourism Directors to cover Europe, Africa & the Americas and Asia & Australasia we looked at our work distributions at headoffice to better coordinate the work in each of our markets. We today have a structure that reflects the markets we have, and in place we have capable marketing executives at work to further develop these markets. We can say that ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’ and our marketing style and approach is working because the visitor arrival numbers is showing positive growth.
Q: what new products are you working on besides the ‘traditional’ sun and sand, fishing, sailing. There seems untapped potential as far as the terrestrial national park on Mahe is concerned – any plans for that?
A St.Ange: After our January marketing meeting we knew we had to bring out our niche markets. Seychelles is more than the ‘sun, sea and sand’ holiday even though we know that we have the best in this holiday category. As we continue to win ‘best beach’ awards because we simply have the world’s best beaches. We have the clearest and cleanest turquoise blue seas because, with our small population of only eighty six thousand we do not know pollution and yes, we have sun year round and have NO Winter, which has given us the tag line of ‘the land of perpetual summer’. These great attributes are yet surpassed by other attractions which make Seychelles unique. We know that we have been shy in telling the world all the assets of our country. This is why we coined recently “From the Big Five… to the Best Five”. This followed the Big Five Marketing Campaign for Africa and it reaffirmed our twin centre drive with Africa that says that after an African safari photographing the Big Five a short flight away takes you to the Best Five of the World:- 1. the Diversity of Islands because Seychelles offers two island destinations, the only mid ocean granitic islands and a large group of very tropical coral islands, 2. the best white sandy beaches, 3. the land of perpetual summer with no winter, no cyclones etc, 4. the clear turquoise blue seas offering unrivalled swimming and home of a living aquarium, & 5. the diversity of our people, because Seychelles has a unique blend of people called ‘Seychellois’ where colour plays no part in daily life. Seychelles lives the rainbow nation appeal launched by South Africa.
Over and above that we have uniqueness in nature from our magical largest nut of the world, the ‘Coco de Mer’, to the largest colony of Giant Tortoises, to the world’s smallest frog, to the Gentle Giant, the Whale Shark. We are a haven for ornithologist with many endemic birds, a paradise for fishing enthusiasts both big game fishing experts and bone fishing specialists, walks in tropical forests right up to the 3000 feet summit of our highest mountain, the Morne Seychellois, to our food, the result of a unique blend of people, etc.
But above all Seychelles is what it is, picturesque. We remain one destination when you land you say that the pictures do not do justice to the natural beauty of the islands, unlike so many other destinations you cannot but say after landing that the country does not do justice to the pictures you had seen.
Q: How important is Air Seychelles to the marketing campaigns of STB … there were some public arguments over foreign airlines, their landing slots at Mahe … and Air Seychelles had to drop Frankfurt as a route stop due to aggressive pricing by other airlines trying to pick up traffic via their hubs … yet in times of economic crisis it is only Air Seychelles you can really rely on to continue flying …
A St.Ange: Our country’s national airline, Air Seychelles, has a special place in the heart of every Seychellois. We are all proud of it and we all want to see it consolidate its operation. Air Seychelles was conceived to be the insurance of the country’s tourism industry. That mission is so important and we need to ensure it can remain so. They are very supportive of our Marketing Drive and they have their place in all our activities.
As a country, we protect our national airline, [but] we also need to see more openness to air access to ensure we have tourists numbers arriving from the four corners of the world. Seychelles needs to diversify its markets to keep us progressing even when a main market closes down as was the case during this year’s ‘ash crisis’. This is why the tourism industry as a whole, and the Tourism Board, are open to the idea of more flights serving Seychelles. We need air access, because as a small mid ocean country, we shall become the ideal destination when we are accessible from everywhere at anytime. Daily flights by Emirates was supported by us, because it gave us the possibility of saying ‘land at any day in Seychelles by Emirates from anywhere in the world’. The same support we offer to Air Seychelles for their Paris connection, because they are the only airline we have that offers a direct ‘nonstop’ service between Seychelles and French capital.
Q: You were recently elevated from Director of Tourism Marketing to Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Tourist Board, and got a new board chairman too … how do you rate this move by government (still to be confirmed by parliament it is understood) towards your work to promote the islands, and the partnership between government and private sector. Was this not a demand made by SHTA earlier in the year during the marketing conference, when President Michel presided over the opening?
A St.Ange: My promotion to the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Tourism Board was a positive step for me personally. It was, I believe a recognition on how I successfully led the Country’s Marketing Team, and for the success we have achieved for Seychelles. In that recent restructure the Seychelles Tourism Board also got a new Chairman in the person of Mr Barry Faure, the Secretary of State in the President’s Office and the country’s President, Mr James Michel has kept the tourism portfolio under his own responsibility. This showed the importance being accorded to the Seychelles tourism industry.
This move will send the positive to the trade that their industry is receiving the personal attention of the Head of State. A positive trade works closer with their Tourism Board and the marketing of Seychelles can only benefit as a result. My appointment as CEO of the Tourism Board will help consolidate the existing partnership between the government and the private sector because it was the trade that initially moved to have me appointed to head the marketing of the islands. Today it is their man who has been promoted to head the Tourism Board and that move by the Government will reassure the private sector. The demand of the private sector was not for me to be appointed as the Industry’s CEO, they were after giving more autonomy to the Marketing Department of the Tourism Board to keep bureaucracy out of selling Seychelles. Today we can work to keep buereaucracy out of the administration of the tourism industry and bring about a lean and efficient tourism administration.
Q: Jobs for Seychellois … an understandable slogan … how is the Seychelles Tourism Academy coping with the demand for well trained citizens, refresher courses for staff already working, in view of ever more resorts and hotels being built and opened. Can they deliver the numbers of skilled personnel the hospitality industry needs or will the Seychelles remain an importer of labour for some time to come
A St.Ange: Training our young Seychellois is an important part of the work of the Tourism Board because we need to have our people in positions in the hospitality trade. Seychellois must benefit from their industry and capable Seychellois must be introduced to this fun industry. We also need our people in the forefront of our hotels otherwise our visitors will not know which country they are in upon check-in. We have to remain realistic that we are but a small country with a very small population so we will always need foreign employees to supplement our shortfalls. But we need to be training and training to ensure that our people have an equal chance to be employed in the industry that remains the pillar of the country’s economy.
Q: Some man made island developments, like Eden Island, have now neared completion … how do such new concepts of owned apartments, residences and villas fit into promoting the Seychelles abroad and are there more such developments coming up
A St.Ange: Villa Developments are a new niche that was previously untapped. They will need to be managed and adequate legislation looked at to ensure they do not become just de facto hotels because of owners renting them on to friends and the country benefits nothing from it as licensed hotels lose potential clients. It is a fine line we have to walk, but a walk we need to take because we want to see these developments consolidate themselves, but not at the detriment of existing businesses. They would need to be licensed and then pay their appropriate taxes if they want to develop a rental business.
This is needed to help move forward with this concept of owned apartments, residences and villas.
Do they fit into our promotion you ask, yes they do. Every good property fits in and these villa developments can play a part in the ‘affordable Seychelles’ promotion. But to have such an immediate increase in available rooms in our accommodation block will push us to look for increased airline seats to Seychelles. We need to work fast to grow the tourism cake so that every establishment can get their required share of the business and the key in growing the tourism cake, is air access. This is why the Seychelles Tourism Board will be working hard to bring to Seychelles more flights and also flights from new countries.
Q: how many new resorts are presently under construction across the archipelago – and where do your reach saturation point … after all resources are finite, water, locations, supplies, skilled labour … tell us about the ceiling you have set on maximum arrival numbers of – what I understand – are about twice as many as presently visiting per year …
A St.Ange: Today we have a number of Seychellois small establishments on the drawing board and under construction, but we also have a couple of known branded hotel resorts coming up. As these get ready for opening, yes the Tourism Board with the various authorities responsible for the different government services need to ensure that needed services are adequately supplied. It is not just approving hotels for construction but working in close collaboration with the different government bodies to ensure we are ready and able as a country to provide the required services and these include sufficient airline seats serving Seychelles.
Today we have visitor arrival numbers that have reached about the double of our population. This sounds a lot, but we have a very small population (86000), and tourism, the main industry we have, needs to be developed, managed and consolidated to remain the viable industry needed for years to come. This is why the protection of our environment is so important and why we have to include this aspect in our development strategies.
Q: when you reach this ceiling, will demand and supply be simply regulated over pricing mechanisms … after all, from that point onward there will only be refurbishments, maybe complete re-buildings at sites already occupied by hotels and resorts but NO MORE additional beds …
A St.Ange: Seychelles will look and relook at its target in visitor arrival numbers. Seychelles will need to ensure that our accommodation network is continuously upgraded so that we do not have a ‘bad apple in our basket’ that rots the whole basket. More hotels, that will suit Seychelles and hotels that will help open up more of our islands, today still uninhabited, are needed and are welcomed. Pricing in Seychelles is crucial and will always remain so. We are a destination know as a dream destination, but we cannot just take it for granted and price ourselves out of the market because we are not delivering value for money. We are lucky because we are one of the few destinations able to offer personalised tourism because of the number of tourists we welcome. We are not a mass market tourism destination and will never be so, this will keep our destination as one that will be sought after for years to come, but we need to be us, Seychellois.
Q: There are elections coming up soon, do you expect this to have any influence on the performance of the tourism industry
A St.Ange: Elections are trying moments in any tourism destinations. Seychelles is very politicised, but everyone in Seychelles is aware, and everyone remains conscious that our country depends on tourism and I do not believe that anyone will try to do any campaigning that will disrupt the tourism growth we are today experiencing. I have always appealed for not politicising our tourism industry. If we continue to leave politics out of tourism we should ride the next election wave whenever that arrives.
Q: on a more personal basis, what is your industry back ground in tourism, what were you doing before you were joining STB
A St.Ange: I have had a long career in the tourism industry of my country. I studied hotel management in Germany and Tourism Management in France and I have worked in hotels and resorts in Seychelles, Channel Islands and Australia. In the early 1980s I was in the Government employment and was then the Assistant Director of Tourism.
I have also been very involved in the industry’s Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association holding various positions including that of Chairman and Vice Chairman, the latter position I was only re-elected to earlier this year. I have also had a political involvement in the development of the Seychelles. In 1979 I was elected as Member of the People’s Assembly to represent the La Digue Island Constituency and in 2002 I was again elected a Member of the National Assembly to represent the Bel Air Constituency, this time on the island of Mahe.
Q: have you had any vacation since you started, and if so, where would you spend your time off
A St.Ange: Not since I took office at the Tourism Board in March 2009. I have not had the time to take a break. It was the first year and so much needed to be done. Later on this year, after we have completed the reorganisation of the Seychelles Tourism Board, I intend to take a break and join my wife to be with my two daughters who are residing in Queensland, Australia.
Q: any renewed political ambitions when you hand over the baton of leadership in a couple of years?
A St.Ange: Politics if done well is a calling to help your people. The call to participate often happens when one least expects. There are different ways in which you can also help your people. Today I have been mandated to consolidate the tourism industry of Seychelles, the industry that remains the pillar of the Seychelles economy. It is a responsibility I intend to discharge with the help and support of my core team at the Tourism Board. Do I have any political ambition you ask, well I can tell you that I have been there and done that. Very early in age I was already in our country’s parliament, a seat I regained in 2002. I love politics and believed I was a good Member of Parliament representing the two constituencies were I was elected from. For the future, I need to do what is on my plate first.
Q: What legacy do you want to leave behind for STB, for Seychelles Tourism over all…
A St.Ange: This question is often raised at the Tourism Board by my core team. I am hoping to be instrumental to build a team that will do Seychelles proud by being the ones who delivered on the mandate given to us. The legacy is to have a team that is empowered to deliver and that will be strong to continue to deliver way after I am gone. For the country’s tourism industry, I wish to be part of manoeuvring to get Seychellois to claim ownership of their tourism industry. This is so important if we are to have a long lasting tourism industry. We need to get Seychellois involved at all levels of the Seychelles tourism industry.
I am saying that as much as the country needs foreign investments for our continued development, for a healthier future of Seychelles we also need get more of our people involved in the industry. We also need side industries developed and these reserved for Seychellois nationals. We need to work to bring amendments to encourage our young people to get directly involved in the tourism industry by making it easy for them. This would ensure that the whole country stands behind the Seychelles tourism industry. This would be the best and most rewarding legacy I could leave behind for the Seychelles Tourism.
Thank you for your time – we, eTurboNews, were speaking with Mr. Alain St. Ange, Chief Executive Officer at the Seychelles Tourist Board
And in closing again some material taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ – enjoy and thanks Gill for your untiring efforts to publicise material from ‘further down south’ …
Elephant Orphanage, Kafue National Park
The first of May marked Batoka’s official 2nd birthday! His age has been estimated mostly through analysis of his dentition but also by looking at his tusk and general body development. Since his arrival at the EOP in November Batoka has constantly progressed in his physical repair and development, as well as in his relationship with the other ele’s.
On his arrival to EOP Batoka was very skinny, with nearly all his ribs showing and his hips and shoulders significantly protruding. His skin was very thin and patchy – just rubbing himself against a tree would cause his skin to rip and bleed! Due to the malnourishment before his rescue his body had used all his energy just to stay alive, and there was nothing extra remaining to further his growth or condition.
Now after 6 months of life at EOP – where he hungrily drinks 2L milk formula (containing specialised minerals and fats) every three hours and spends all day browsing and grazing in the lush vegetation of KNP – Batoka has gained much weight, condition and even growth!
In the first couple of months here Batoka’s body set to repair itself, then a growth spurt began and he is now visibly bigger all over (he has grown from 119cm to 124cm high at the shoulder). His skin is now much thicker all over his body and the hairs dispersed throughout the body are growing stronger and thicker. It is fantastic to see this change in his physical appearance, though what I find equally as compelling is how he now interacts with the other ele’s. RM
Although Chodoba, Chamilandu and Tafika were all interested and friendly to Batoka on his arrival, he did not respond so well to them. It seemed that after a month of isolation (on an island in the Zambezi
River) Batoka felt totally dejected and very sorry for himself – he always had a sad look on his face and initially would not join in to play with the other ele’s – he just focused all his attention on eating.
But things have slowly changed – as Batoka has grown in confidence and security at EOP, he has become more boisterous and playful with the others and it now seems he is really a part of the family. As they are let out of their stables in the early mornings (their most active and excitable time) all the ele’s can be seen play-fighting and dust bathing together – with Batoka really taking part in all the activity.
We are sure that as time goes on his relationship with the others will grow from strength to strength…
Tafika may be the smallest of the EOP herd, but he is by far the cheekiest and makes up for his size by being the biggest personality! Tafika craves to be the centre of attention, whether that is with the other ele’s or his Keepers, he has to be involved if he thinks something is going on. In the early mornings he is the first to initiate a fight! Albeit a play-fight, he will run up to whoever is standing closest and proceed to ram them with his head!
His Keepers stand back to laugh, as little Tafika is even so bold as to challenge Chodoba! Chodoba (now a
hefty 5½ years old) has learnt to have a great deal of patience since Tafika ‘Arrived’ at EOP, and usually suffers quite a lot of bashes to his body before he finally slaps Tafika smartly with his trunk, an inaudible
“Enough’s enough!” However as he takes a moment to dust bath, Tafika will inevitably be there to catch him while he’s down!
FLOODGATES TO CLOSE
WILD ZAMBEZI is informed that The Zambezi River Authority willclose the three floodgates of Kariba Dam on Monday 12th July 2010.
Although this will bring an end to the dramatic spectacle ofwater powering out of the vast 128-metre-high wall of concrete, sending spray up into the Kariba Gorge, it will bring relief to people and animals downstream, where the Zambezi River is the highest it has been for decades. Many settlements and riverside safari camps on both sides of the river have been inundated this season and animals have been stranded on islands, desperately waiting for the floods to abate.
BUFFALO CRISIS ON THE ZAMBEZI RIVER
First Starvation Island… now the Zambezi River. Emergency rescue efforts are now underway by conservationists to save hundreds of grazing animals including herds of buffalo, waterbuck and impala stranded and starving on islands in the middle of the fast-flowing and flooded Zambezi River downstream of Kariba Dam offshore of Mana Pools.
With three of the dam’s floodgates still open and the river its highest in decades, animals trapped on islands dare not brave the strong currents to swim back to the mainland. But the river levels will not go down until the floodgates close. Having cropped the available grass down to the ground, most of them are now too weak to move. Some have perished already. But an alarm was raised and help came quickly.
In response to an emergency appeal put out by The Zambezi Society, assistance came in the form of donations of fuel, transport, hay and other animal foodstuffs. A team of volunteers moved swiftly to get everything up to Mana Pools where National Parks deployed two boats to transport the food to the islands. It took some time for the animals to recognise this strange substance as food, but latest reports say that they have started eating.
The rescue effort will continue until the end of July, by which time the Kariba floodgates should be closed, the river levels should have gone down and the animals should be strong enough to swim.
Anyone wishing to contribute to this rescue effort should contact the Zambezi Society offices in Harare: see this link: The Zambezi Society
Online donations can be made through the Zambezi Society’s partners in the UK (Save the Rhino International) at this link:http://www.savetherhino.org/eTargetSRINM/site/568/default.aspx (select Zimbabwe-Zambezi Society as a Project and Buffalo crisis (Zamsoc) as the Sub-Project).
TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
First edition July 2010
KEY UGANDA ELECTION DATES SET
Uganda is now in pre-election mode after the electoral commission has announced the dates for aspiring candidates of parliamentary and civic seats, and for the presidential candidates, when they have to submit their nomination forms, according to the present laws and regulations governing the country’s elections.
Candidates need to hand in their forms on October 25th and 26th, an opportunity none of the aspirants will miss for campaign purposes, and the presidential, parliamentary and civic elections will then take place in February next year, between the 12th and the 01st of March.
Watch this space for upcoming additional announcements, but be assured that Uganda will be ‘open for business’ throughout the nomination and election process, which – going by experience – will not trouble foreign tourist visitors at all when they criss cross the country in search of our renowned wildlife while politicians also criss cross their constituencies in search of votes.
GOOGLE LAUNCHES KISWAHILI LANGUAGE VERSIONS
Gmail, Google Maps and Google Chrome – Google’s very own web browser – are now available in a Kiswahili language version according to reports received last week, making access to the internet for East African non English speakers possible at last. The launch of the Kiswahili language versions coincided with the official start of the East African Community’s Common Market, signifying that a united East Africa now can communicate in their most spoken ‘lingua franca’ when using a computer and connecting to the internet. Over 120 million people are thought to speak the language across the wider region. It is understood that Google’s translation service is also covering Kiswahili pages and documents, a development hailed across East Africa by academicians, teachers and the general user range of web based services.
WAR OF WORDS CONTINUES OVER NILE WATERS
After the signing of the new protocol over the use of the Nile waters by so far five of the upstream ‘water producer’ countries Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia, which left Egypt and Khartoum Sudan out in the proverbial cold, have these two countries turned up the heat to force a change of heart with the powers that be of the riparian states. Congo DR and Burundi have already given indication that they too will sign the new protocol inspite of extensive diplomatic pressure on them, while the two opponents have vowed to make every effort to tear up the treaty.
News from Khartoum last week indicate that the regime has subsequently ‘suspended’ participation in the Nile Basin Initiative, citing ‘legal issues’ surrounding the signing of the new treaty while reports from the capitals of the signatories also give clear notice that ‘signed is signed, we will not ‘unsign’ because of this opposition’. One source in Kenya’s capital said to be close to these negotiations has in fact pointed out to this correspondent, that Egypt has failed to develop other sources of water like more progressively, like installing de-salination plants along the Red Sea or the Mediterranean and ‘living in the past’ as far as the 1929 and 1959 treaties were concerned. Those, the source said, ‘were forced upon us by the British colonialists who favoured their interests in Egypt over the Suez canal and for other reasons best known to themselves’.
It was also learned from Ugandan sources that another round of meetings would be held in Nairobi later in the year after the Addis Ababa meeting last week produced no progress and only deepened the rifts between the ‘producers’ and ‘consumers’.
In an interesting twist of events an Egyptian national was confirmed as the new CEO of the Nile Basis Initiative, this being part of the institution’s rotational principle, following in the footsteps of CEO’s from Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Congo. Egypt was initially expected not to field a candidate over the massive disagreements with the other countries, but then apparently changed tune and insisted on the rotation for the top job to continue. It will be of interest to watch now if the Egyptian CEO will serve as Cairo’s ‘fifth column’ in the organisation to undermine the Eastern African countries’ stand and position, as has already been suspected by some of the more outspoken individuals in contact with this correspondent or if it will be ‘business as usual’ during his two year term of office.
Meanwhile is Cairo continuing its charm offensive with trade shows aimed for the East African countries, while major Egyptian investment conglomerates too are said to show renewed interest in buying into companies in Eastern Africa – all arguably as flanking measures to peddle influence with the ‘water producers’ and penetrate the united front shown when the new treaty was put up for signature. Watch this space.
COMMON MARKET NOW A REALITY, PROGRESS DISAPPOINTING FOR SOME SECTORS
The East African Community’s Common Market is now formally in full effect since 01st July, but already ‘old’ issues are being raised again which remain unresolved and are causing several economic groups to wonder what the ‘fanfare of change’ has been all about.
The aviation sector for instance, in particular Ugandan and Kenyan stakeholders, are claiming that non tariff barriers in particular in Tanzania have not been removed and that discrimination against airlines of other member states remain in place, treating them as ‘foreign airlines’ and compelling them to pay higher fees and delaying clearances while prohibiting landing in places not termed as international entry points. It is this latter issue which is raising the heat of the argument, as aviators have pointed out that within the spirit and letter of the East African Community protocols the territories ought to shed the ‘international’ descriptions and introduce ‘regional’ approaches.
Charter and domestic airline management this correspondent spoke with in recent days were united in their call that in order to ‘put life’ into the EAC ALL non tariff barriers must be removed and flying from one memberstate to the other should be treated exactly the same way as air traffic within that member state is managed. Comments by a Tanzanian aviation official that ‘harmonization is needed first on so many levels including the issues of licences’ were dismissed outright by aviators from Uganda and Kenya, who were swift to point to CASSOA, the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency, which was formed by the EAC to deal exactly with these issues, then adding ‘the Tanzanians simply do not want competition and if they continue to treat us as ‘foreign’ we might have to take the matter to the East African court to get a ruling.
Meanwhile it was also learned that jubilations about the shelving of work permits were also premature, as only Kenya and Rwanda had at present a bilateral agreement in place towards this effect, while Ugandans, Burundians, Kenyans and Tanzanians wishing to work in the respective member states were still subject to a process of scrutiny, albeit according to the latest information now streamlined to get a decision within a month. Ordinary citizens however were seemingly unhappy about this situation, demanding to bring back the ‘old days of the first community’ when free movement was a reality. It is understood that Kenya and Uganda are discussing a similar arrangement as the one in place between Rwanda and Kenya, but from sources at the EAC headquarters in Arusha it was also learned that Tanzania apparently felt no sense of urgency to speed up such agreement, again lending credibility to the claims by the aviators that there is a clear sense of reluctance they experience when dealing with Tanzanian authorities.
In a surprise move did President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya then respond to the lamentations of the people of East Africa on the eve of the landmark day, when he announced unilaterally that Kenya would effective 01st of July no longer charge any fees for work permits for citizens from the East African Community member states, a development which will undoubtedly add pressure on the governments of the other countries to follow suit as speedily as possible.
Trade within East Africa however has greatly improved already since January this year between the member states, when the six month transition period towards the 01st of July began and all internal tariffs had been brought to zero. Investment flows too have shifted to within the East African Community with Kenya arguably the biggest investor now in neighbouring countries. Watch this space
KENYA AIRWAYS JOINS SKY TEAM AS FULL MEMBER
After a period of associate membership in the world’s third largest airline alliance – SKYTEAM – has KQ now been accepted as a full member, making it the first African airline to join the KLM and Air France led global alliance group. Benefits for the Kenya Airways faithful frequent fliers are expected to improve yet more with this step, one of the key factors by – in particular – business travellers to fly with the airline of their choice as opposed to another carrier offering less benefits and perks on the same routes.
This was announced by the airline’s CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni recently when he also confirmed that Kenya Airways would be the first continental airline to sign up to the African Union’s ‘make peace happen’ campaign. Kenya Airways will be supporting this initiative with logistical help and communications support to the AU head quarters and it is hoped that more airlines from Africa will be joining this worthwhile cause, with early indication that KQ’s main regional rival Ethiopian Airlines may follow too, with an announcement expected this week already.
MORE EMBRAERS FOR THE PRIDE OF AFRICA
Kenya Airways has last weekend confirmed that they have entered into an additional dry lease arrangement with an American leasing firm, to provide two Embraer E190 jets, due to arrive later in the year in Nairobi. The lease deal is according to a source ‘in the know’ to extend over a period of 8 years. The airline already owns three Embraer E170 and has just a few weeks ago leased two extra E170 from a Finnish carrier. The expected arrival of the two slightly larger Embraers E190 will help the airline to expand frequencies and network connections / destination in coming months, which at present are hampered by the lack of enough aircraft to be deployed to achieve those objectives faster. The two aircraft will be delivered in a two class configuration of business and economy.
These latest additions make Kenya Airways the largest Embraer operator in Africa and there is now speculation in aviation circles if Embraer – a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer – may consider designating the KQ maintenance base in Nairobi as their ‘preferred’ African MRO base and extend manufacturer support in terms of spare stores and technical support, so as to entice more African airlines to consider purchasing or leasing their aircraft range when renewing their respective fleets.
Meanwhile, in a related development, it was also confirmed that the delivery of the first state of the art B 787 ‘Dreamliner’ to Kenya Airways was not expected before 2013 but that additional deliveries of new generation B737’s were on schedule.
No comments were received however on a pending deal with Airbus to introduce A330 aircraft to the KQ fleet, as has long been speculated about and all eyes will be on the forthcoming Farnborough Aviation Fair, if an announcement may be made there.
MT. LONGONOT NATIONAL PARK VOLCANO ‘MAY GO ACTIVE’
It is a sight to behold when coming from Nairobi or Limuru and approaching the high cliffs of the Great African Rift Valley – Mt. Longonot rising from the floor of the surrounding valley and the neighbouring satellite transmission station named after the mountain.
Years ago a national park was created around the mountain to encourage more tourists to visit while in the area and it was probably this fact which had more ‘eyes from the skies’ look down at the mountain – long known to be a dormant volcano.
News taken from volcanologists’ blogs however now seem to tell a different, and altogether more sinister story, than the ‘official’ one on the park’s tourism attractions.
Satellite pictures taken over the past decade apparently indicate, that the mountain has ‘grown’ in elevation by several inches, a tell tale sign of increased volcanic activity well below the surface, caused by rising magma. There are no other signs at present, as a recent flight almost across the crater permitted me to see, such as steam or smoke but not far from the mountain is the geothermal power station located, which taps into the ‘deep heat’ of the earth’s crust to produce electricity. Feasibility studies have been completed, it is understood, to add power generating capacity to the station, and in fact build more elsewhere, but KENGEN – Kenya’s national power generating company – would be well advised to keep a close eye on Mt. Longonot and monitor any tremors, no matter how small, to stay on top of potential developments.
Not far across the border with Tanzania is Mr. Ol Donyo Lengai, an active volcano spewing ash over the past few years since it went active again – or rather became more active – and was the suspected source of several earthquakes and tremors some years ago, some of which were felt even in more distant parts of East Africa.
The Great African Rift Valley of course stems from a massive seismic event and hot springs and geysers along the valley floor are tourist attractions like in Lake Bogoria National Park in Kenya – yet an ever present reminder too of what lies deep beneath us, stirring uneasily as in a troubled sleep.
CHE SHALE TO HOLD ‘KITE SURF COMPETITION’
Saturday the 21st of August has been named as the ‘big day’ for kite surfers from Kenya, Eastern Africa and further abroad. It is said to be the ‘first’ of its kind in Kenya and the competition will run over a total of four days with events in various categories.
Freestyle, wave riding and racing are all part of the expected fun, for participants but probably even more for spectators. Che Shale is located beyond Malindi on the shores of the Indian Ocean and all proceeds have been pledged towards a conservation cause, the ‘Watamu Turtle Watch’ aimed to protecting turtles and their traditional breeding grounds along the Kenyan shores.
Visit www.cheshale.com for more details or write to email@example.com to obtain registration forms and learn about the cost involved, accommodation available in the area and – for those not in the know – how to get there from Malindi airport and Malindi town.
TOURIST VEHICLE IN FREAK ACCIDENT WITH LIGHT AIRCRAFT
Information was received last week from Dar es Salaam that an overland tour truck carrying over 20 passengers mainly from Holland and Kenya was hit by a light trainer aircraft which attempted an emergency landing on a road after developing problems mid air.
The light aircraft was apparently on a training mission for the Tanzanian armed forces, said to be in good condition when taking off and an air accident investigation is now underway to determine what caused the unspecified problems in flight and if technical failures or human errors led to the tragedy, which cost the lives of the two occupants of the plane. On landing, according the sketchy reports, it seems to have hit the truck with one wing, causing it to spin and overturn, while none of the tourists were injured as they were all out of the truck on a break.
SERENGETI HIGHWAY PLANS RAISE MORE CONTROVERSY
Predictably has a government minister waded into the debate last week, when the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism – supposed to protect ecosystems – claimed the new road routing was a ‘must’ as it stemmed from a campaign promise made by incumbent president Kikwete during his election campaign five years ago. Claiming ‘government is obliged to build the road’ the minister conveniently ignored the option of a routing around the Serengeti, and stubbornly defended the undefendable, when expert opinions, including from the highly respected Frankfurt Zoological Society, condemned the routing as the most severe threat ever to the Serengeti / Masai Mara border transcending ecosystem. She was then quoted in the Tanzanian media to have said verbatim: ‘Those criticising the road construction know nothing about what we’ve planned… We’re all keen to preserve our natural resources…We’ll never compromise on that’, yet ignoring advice from experts from around the world to the contrary.
It was the late Prof. Dr. Grzimek who in the 1950’s and 1960’s made the Serengeti world famous with his TV serialisation of his book ‘Serengeti must not die’, and the FZS has in fact been a constant major donor to TANAPA and the Tanzanian government to maintain the biodiversity of the Serengeti.
Global NGO’s, wildlife conservation bodies, development partners and donors, besides thousands of former visitors to the park, have mobilised now and are bound to exert pressure also on the World Bank – which had previously denied loans already for this road as a result of a devastating EIA – and other multilateral bodies whose goodwill Tanzania urgently needs, to prevail upon the responsible government departments to route the highway around the park instead of through it via some of the most crucial migration routes of the big herds.
The negative publicity comes hot on the heels of Tanzania also suffering a major blow to plans to sell of dozens of tons of ivory stocks, when the last CITES meeting in Doha refused the Tanzanian application – following which official sources in Dar es Salaam started to blame all and sundry for this development without absorbing the main lesson from it, that ivory sales in past years have ALWAYS resulted in intensified poaching – a crime for which Tanzania is also relatively ill prepared to fight, as is the transit of illicit ivory, birds, reptiles and other animals through Tanzania due to lax enforcement.
Sources close to wildlife conservation in Tanzania, including some based at the East African Wildlife College in Mweka outside Moshi, have quietly indicated to this correspondent that they too think their government is wrong, but also pointed out that this being a pre-election year in Tanzania, much – maybe far too much – is being uttered in public by politicians and aspirants to seek votes without donning the proverbial ‘thinking caps’ first, suggesting that much nonsense is being said and unsustainable promises being made. Watch this space in coming weeks for more reports and follow the main debate on Facebook and related blog sites, where you too can voice your opinion, sign up to petitions and make your opposition known.
AIRLINE ALLIANCE TO RESCUE LOSERS
As Air Tanzania is facing a stiff uphill struggle to survive, with creditors snapping on their heels, private sector airlines gobbling up their former market share and uncertainty over a strategic investor who never came, it appears that the Tanzanian government – also short of cash to pour into the airline with nothing to show for so far – has apparently been in contact with the Zimbabwean government to seek a joint solution for their ailing national carriers.
Zimbabwe, under sanctions from a number of western countries, had an economic roller coaster ride in past years and as the coalition government is still to make an impression on investors and the sanction league countries, the national airline based in Harare too has struggled.
However, industry observers doubt if the ‘alliance of losers’ as one regular source dubbed the plan, could indeed make a difference and provide a way forward. An aviation veteran with good insight into Air Tanzania’s struggles in fact said: ‘I don’t think this is really serious. We are coming up for elections here in Tanzania and government is not likely to condemn ATCL to closure. If we did not have elections next year, they might now pull the plug because every measure has failed and Precision has stepped into the gaps ATCL left in the market. Can our national airline still survive? I consider it more and more unlikely and the strategic investors government sought have also pulled away from the idea. ATCL has too much ‘baggage’, staff and union issues to consider for an investor.’
Not good news for sure
NEW ‘BOSS’ FOR THE RWANDA NATIONAL MUSEUM
Mr. Alphonse Umulisa took office last week following his appointment by government and is now at the helm of the institute of national museums in Kigali, replacing long serving Prof. Celestin Kanimba. The Minister for Culture and Sports also used his presence, to at the same time, when introducing the new Director General, launch the recently appointed Board of Directors of the institution. The Board of 7 members is headed by Dr. Ivan Twagirishema and notably is Ms. Rica Rwigamba on the team, who is also in charge of tourism and conservation within the structure of the Rwanda Development Board. The institute of national museums oversees presently 7 facilities across the country, all of which receive growing visitors numbers as a result of promoting culture and history to visiting tourists, whose travel itineraries then regularly include museum and national monument sites visits.
Southern Sudan News
SOUTH SUDAN GOVERNMENT HANDS POST REFERENDUM ISSUES TO AFRICAN UNION
It was confirmed last week by sources in Juba, that the remaining issues on post independence referendum agreements, or rather disagreements between the government of the semi autonomous region of the Southern Sudan and the regime in Khartoum, will be resolved with the help of the African Unions’ ‘High Implementation Panel on Sudan’, to which the two protagonists have referred their positions.
The forthcoming referendum, widely expected to lead to South Sudan’s independence from an oppressive regime in Khartoum, is due in January next year and a range of issues remain unresolved, like how to ‘distribute and share’ foreign debts, assets, oil wells, water from the river Nile, amongst other equally contentious areas. The involvement of the AU gives some hope that a post referendum separation can be achieved peacefully, since the AU could even introduce a peace keeping force along the new frontier, but for now it appears that both sides are publicly pronouncing peaceful intent, which in the case of the regime in Khartoum however needs to be carefully monitored considering their past record in the South and their current activities in Darfur.
The AU is a guarantor of the CPA – comprehensive peace agreement – signed in early 2005 and it is understood that discussions between the three parties will commence in early July, but – considering the time left until the referendum – may not be concluded in time for the possible independence, potentially leaving ‘explosive’ issues on the table and then to be resolved between sovereign states.
Meanwhile have several hundred South Sudanese youth held a peaceful demonstration in Kampala FOR independence, denouncing the Khartoum regime’s oppression, sponsorship of unrest and the continued imposition of Sharia law. The organisers, who addressed the group at their liaison office in Nakasero promised to hold similar marches on every 09th day of every month until January 2011, when the referendum is due to take place, under which the Southern population can vote to secede from the North. Watch this space.
AIR SEYCHELLES EVACUATES ACCIDENT VICTIMS
In a remarkably fast and yet well coordinated action did Air Seychelles last week hold their scheduled flight from Praslin to Mahe, when news broke that a bus with students had crashed, leaving several of them severely injured.
The airline immediately ‘converted’ their scheduled flight from the Praslin aerodrome into a ‘medivac operation’, after telling booked passengers of the circumstances. The airlifted students were then from the Mahe International Airport rushed to the archipelago’s main hospital, where they managed to receive adequate care, while some of the more severely injured were airlifted abroad for further treatment.
According to our usual source from within Air Seychelles, the news broke to them just after 3 p.m. and then used all available short haul aircraft to evacuate 23 students, before resuming ‘normal’ operations afterwards. It was learned in the process that each of the airline’s Twin Otter aircraft were used to carry 4 stretcher patients each, something not done before elsewhere and underscoring the airline’s technical ability to convert their short haul fleet at a moment’s notice into an evacuation flight. Other short haul aircraft available at Mahe were reportedly also drafted in by Air Seychelles to meet the number of flights required for the evacuation.
This extraordinary gesture will remain long in the memory of those affected by the accident, and their families and is a strong pointer towards maintaining Air Seychelles ‘status’ as the leading domestic airline, as a private airline may not have been able to respond like the national airline did, considering the use of resources required for such a rescue mission.
Well done Capt. Savy and all the staff involved for being true to ‘Flying the Creole Spirit’ – much more than a simple slogan it turned out but a life saver indeed when helping fellow Seychellois was needed, unbureaucratically and fast.
TOURIST BOARD AND PRIVATE SECTOR HOLD JOINT BRIEFINGS
The Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, in conjunction with the Seychelles Tourist Board, has recently held two meetings to brief tourism stakeholders and members on the islands of Praslin and La Digue. These meetings take place reportedly every few months but it was the first such meeting since the STB was re-organized and Mr. Alain St. Ange appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of STB while the Chairman of the Board, as long suspected and repeatedly intimated in this correspondent’s past articles, was also replaced by a new face.
The stakeholders and captains of the tourism industry had ample opportunity to discuss matters arising in their day to day work and also look at ways and means to improve cooperation between all partners, public and private, with the aim to bring extra visitors’ numbers to the archipelago from abroad.
High on the agenda was how to better market the ‘other’ islands besides Mahe and it is understood that added connectivity by ferry and by air are being looked upon to ensure tourists can criss cross the various ‘inner islands’ with greater ease – helping to ‘spread’ their spending more equitably over the various islands, some of which now depend almost entirely on tourism for jobs and revenues accrued from the running of hotels, resorts, restaurants and attractions.
Visit www.seychelles.com, the official Seychelles Tourist Board website, and www.news.shta.sc, your link to the tourism private sector association, for more information and / or who to subscribe to their regular news broadcasts with updates from the Seychelles.
WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS PROCLAIM VICTORIA HARBOUR ‘BEST’
The recently held World Travel Awards were handing top honours to the port of Victoria on the Seychelles’ main island Mahe, when handing them their recognition as ‘best cruise port’ in the Indian Ocean area. The port authority was thus given ‘their fair dues’ for all the hard work they have been putting in, promoting cruise tourism to the archipelago and bringing other Indian Ocean islands and port authorities on board, when ‘selling’ Indian Ocean cruises at major international cruise tourism trade shows and providing information about the security situation in their waters. Well done indeed, considering the competition out there for the top spot …
VISITORS TO GET NEW PHONE INFORMATION SERVICES
A UK developed technology, now used by Leisure and Business Guide, is due to launch a new service for visitors to the archipelago in August, aimed to provide swift and accurate information to tourists, but also the local population, on a variety of topics, like Google Maps, restaurant and resort locations, attractions and much more. The application will be available reportedly on BlackBerry phones, IPhones and selected other models which are browser enabled. The Seychelles Tourist Board has applauded the move and praised the entrepreneurial spirit to launch such a state of the art data service. One word of caution though … roaming services on the archipelago are not ‘universal’ as this correspondent had to find out the hard way, but local Sim cards are available from the shops and sales outlets of several mobile operators now serving the Seychelles, most notably Cable & Wireless.
SEYCHELLES CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY UPGRADES ‘TRACKING’ CAPABILITIES
The SCAA has last weekend commissioned state of the art tracking systems, aimed to improve the monitoring capacity of air traffic control in the extensive airspace surrounding the archipelago. It was also to the day 39 years ago that the international airport on Mahe opened its ‘doors’ or rather runways to the first commercial flight landing on the island, at the time ringing in a new era for the Seychelles and triggering the tourism boom witnessed since then.
The new equipment was funded, according to a regular aviation source from Mahe, by ‘internally generated income’ of the SCAA and hence bought in cash without any foreign or local bank loans involved. ATC staff were ahead of the launch given extensive training on the new equipment and inbound planes to the international airport can now be given ‘direct’ routes which help to save fuel instead of following rigid air traffic corridors before starting their descend into Mahe. Added the source: ‘we are in fact very proud today and all the staff working with the new technology are Seychellois who have trained in recent years and now taken over these very important functions’ – congrats for this affirmative action programme and to the SCAA for moving with the times.
And in closing today again some travel reports and other interesting material taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ with grateful acknowledgment:
The Zambezi Traveller
A new tourist information newsletter has been started by Frances Jackson and Teddy Brightman in Victoria Falls Town. It covers all the towns along the Zambezi River. There are loads of articles from Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Kasane, Katima Mulilo and Kariba. A very interesting read.
The newspaper is given out free at all major tourist places – airports, hotels, etc. 25,000 copies are being printed every three months.
If you would like to contact Frances either for advertising or for articles: firstname.lastname@example.org
Game Viewing at Somalisa
Continuing the story of our stay at Somalisa, Hwange National Park
We stayed at Somalisa for two nights. During the day Dardley took us out into the park to see what we could see. And it was pretty spectacular game viewing. Nearby Somalisa is Ngweshla pan and this was the attraction for large herds of elephant and buffalo. All around the pan is grassland where zebra, kudu, impala, ostrich and wildebeest grazed happily with a watchful eye open for the odd predator.
On the second day we found a pride of lion – four females and eight cubs. They were relaxing in the shade of some trees until we came along and unwittingly disturbed them. They then wandered off across the plain into the woodland away from the annoyance of us people.
We also found a young leopard near to the camp. She was feeding off a rather old carcass which had become very smelly but she didn’t seem to mind. We found her there three times. With the stench that the carcass was putting out it was a surprise that hyena had not been down to munch it – there were plenty hyena in the area – we had seen them and heard them during the night.
On the second evening we had a very special hour or so by Ngweshla Pan. We had stopped for sundowners and were happily chatting as the sun disappeared below the horizon. A herd of elephants came down to drink – there must have been at least 100 of them on the opposite side of the pan. One of them decided to play the fool and got into the middle of the pan, splashed the water with his trunk, rolled over in the water and generally had a lot of fun.
On the side of the pan we watched a hippo which had a couple of oxpeckers on his back picking off ticks when suddenly he decided to plunge back into the water. He then rolled over on his back with his legs in the air sticking out of the water. It was the oddest spectacle, something which none of us had ever seen before. He was obviously scratching his back and seemed to be having a great time.
Finally a jackal wandered close to the car, not bothering about us at all. He jumped into a bunch of grass looking for something to eat; he then came out and did a poo, had a scratch and then wandered off across the plain.
Another notable sighting on our drives around the park was a troop of baboons playing on a fallen tree. Baboons, although common in all our parks, can provide hours of entertainment when they are at play in the bush. This troop had baboons of all ages, the youngsters posing nicely for a photo.
One of the birds I love to see in the bush is the secretary bird, with his sticky-up feathers on his head. We were not disappointed as we found one all fluffed up in the cold of the morning.
Thinking about the cold, it was the cold that dominated our stay. It was freezing. Going out on an open safari vehicle was a case of wrapping up as warmly as possible. The sun may have been shining but it was definitely cold out there. Even Dardley had his fleecy-lined coat on … with sunglasses perched on his cap …
The Zambezi International Regatta returns to Livingstone for the running of the fourth Oxford v Cambridge v South African Universities boat races at the Zambezi Boat Club in September 2010. The event has been held previously in 1904, 1905 and 1907. The last occasion included Brown University from the USA.
|The first regatta – 1905. Winners of the coxed fours. Left to right: G. Hill (stroke), Bruce-Miller (3), Colonel Carden (judge), H E Scott (cox), K B Fairburn (bow), J Saunders (2)|
|1910. The World Professional Sculling Championships. The 4 man Mukoro race.|
This year is the Centenary of the World Professional Sculling Championships held on the Zambezi River. The event in 1910 was hosted by the British South Africa Company to ensure that the development of Central Africa included the sports world as well. They put up a purse of £1,000 to the winner. Richard Arnst (NZ) and Ernest Barry (Eng) the two top professional rowers of their day competed in the race which was won by the New Zealander (funnily enough sponsored by the city of Sydney). In the 2004 regatta Ernest Barry’s nephew rowed an exhibition race on the Zambezi, and his great-nephew rowed for the Cambridge crew.
|2004. National 2 man Mukoro race|
|Left to right – Rhodes, Cambridge, Rand Afrikaans, Oxford|
It is planned to bring the crews back again in 19 – 26 September 2010 to compete for various trophies on Saturday 25 September between 0900 hours and 1500 hours (the rafting event will be held in the gorges between rapids 1 and 7 on Tuesday 21 September). Viewing of the races will be done from the Zambezi boat club and VIPs and sponsors will be entertained on board the luxurious African Queen, African Princess and Lady Livingstone launches.
|A unique event in rowing world – heavy traffic on the river|
|The 1910 World Championship Course – with The Victoria Falls just around the bend!
The crews have already been put together and they are looking forward to the competition which has gained international recognition. In the past we have had Olympic Gold Medallists (Luka Grubor, Andrew Lindsay in Sydney, Ed Coode in Athens for Great Britain and Jake Wetzel in Beijing for Canada) and reigning World Champions and Gold Medallists in Beijing (Peter Reed, Andrew Triggs-Hodge [GB]) and Olympic Silver Medallists (Colin Smith [born in Zimbabwe]Josh West, Matt Langridge and Acer Nethercott in Beijing) rowing in the crews. This year we have Kieran West (gold in Sydney) amongst others coming along to row.
|2004. National Mukoro winners|
|1910 – Ernest Barry (Eng) and Dick Arnst (NZ)|
We would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to assist in helping run the event on a voluntary basis especially people with safety boats and we are also looking for sponsors to help with running costs to ensure that the centenary is carried out in style. There will be a number of events which need local competitors to take part:
Single kayak race
Double kayak race mens
Double kayak race ladies
Double kayak race mixed doubles
Raft race – sprint- crews of 7
Please get hold of Peter Jones at the River Club or the committee of the Livingstone Tourism Association if you need any further information. It will be a great week celebrating the diversity of Zambia’s sporting history.
Protea Hotel, Lower Zambezi
I feel that we have rather overdone Protea, but the stories keep coming. Here is a letter stating that the Chiawa Community is not happy with the development on that particular site, preferring it to be moved further west.
Project Update May / June 2010
Jun 29, 2010
Our fears were confirmed when Greg and Ester walked into the den site. There was no sign of life. The Kutanga pack had moved 25 km away two days before this, something they would never do if they still had pups, which is why we checked the den site. We had seen the alpha female “Ester” mating in April and watched her closely during the weeks of her pregnancy, Jealous often expressing concern that she “looked a bit thin.” We calculated her due date and received confirmation of the den site via the GPS collar fitted onto Bulls Eye, one of the males in the pack. During the period May 31st to June 7th the GPS collar on Bulls Eye confirmed that he and thus the pack returned to the same place each day and by doing so he gave away the position of the den site.
The pups were born on May 31st. We were obviously excited and eagerly awaiting the day when we would be able to see the pups. Jealous saw the pack hunting in the Hwange Main Camp area on June 8th, which is roughly 10 km in a straight line from the den site. The alpha female was with the pack and he knew immediately that something was wrong. The pups were only a week old, she should have been with them! We monitored them over the next couple of days as they hunted many kilometres from the den, trying to remain positive, as the female was not with them. Then one evening she was there, they had killed a kudu and looked very full. We have learnt over the years that during denning season the pack eat quickly and waste no time in rushing straight back to the den to feed the pups and/or any adults left on “pup guarding” duty. We sat in silence, rather despondent, watching the pack playing, they had no desire to go anywhere and as night closed in quickly around us, we drove home. Early the following morning we located the pack again and followed them on their 25 km trek.
[Ester and Jealous fitted the new GPS collar on Bulls Eye]
We have of course speculated over the fate of the pups. The distances the pack have been covering and continue to cover each day to find enough food are probably the best indicator of what happened. Much of Greg’s Doctoral Thesis concentrated on the cost of hunting in terms of energy used. It’s our belief that the alpha female was not getting enough food and though she carried the pregnancy full term, we believe that the pups born would have been very weak and she was unable to suckle them due to her own malnourishment, so they died. Our concerns over the state of the Hwange ecosystem have been growing and growing. Suitable prey species for the dogs have declined dramatically over the last 30 years and we are seeing the evidence of this now on a daily basis. Packs are covering more than 12 km a day hunting, when even in the late 1990s the average was only 6 km. Put simply, the energy they spend on such hunts may not be replenished by what they catch, which is obviously not a sustainable situation. We have already stepped up our lobbying of National Parks Management, urging them to implement changes in the face of the growing evidence and this situation is driving our new position on how we use our Rehabilitation Facility.
Against such a bleak backdrop, our Children’s Bush Camp continues to bring a ray of sunshine and a smile to our faces. After the School’s Easter Holidays, we opened up again for a busy month, with the children from Dopota, Mabale and Dete Primary Schools all enjoying their week-long camp. The signs of the Bush Camp’s success continue to come in with children being ever eager to learn. Wilton finds that the children are more excited than ever and so well prepared when he visits them the day before they are due to attend the camp, one chilled from Dopota asking if she could stay for two weeks not one, though she has never even seen the camp before!! Wilton has also added a new quiz to the curriculum, which is more fun for the children and challenges them and their teachers to really focus on the lessons taught so that they score the highest marks possible