Archive for October, 2010

Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Fourth edition October 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Fourth edition October 2010

 

Uganda News

 

UWA SAGA RAGES ON

Senior Presidential Advisor John Nagenda, himself a former chairman of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, has last weekend in his regular Saturday column in the country’s leading newspaper ‘The New Vision’ once again used his pen to expose the going on’s at the instigation of the tourism minister and his hand picked ‘chairman’, adding pressure on government to intervene and rescue the institution. The World Bank and many other development partners are also said to be increasingly concerned over the safety of their funding already in UWA bank accounts and their overall past assistance, which in the case of the World Bank, through their PAMSU project, has reached tens of millions of US Dollars, all at risk should the institution collapse through the antics of the ‘chairman’ and his minister. And it should be mentioned here that in a contribution on my blog site (www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com), given the deserved contempt it deserved the ‘educated’ chairman, while rambling Latin phrases, asked me to apologize to him within 30 days – long since expired of course and in your dreams mate!

Here is the full text of John Nagenda’s column for the benefit of my readers, able to make up their own mind over this mindboggling saga and enjoy John’s comparison of the present UWA chair with Uganda’s most notorious dictator Idi Amin …

 

Mayhem continues unabated at UWA Friday, 22nd October, 2010

By John Nagenda
IF you thought there was a lull at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) games, think again. The staff experiences life which we thought gone with the fall of the bad old regimes, of Idi Amin Dada, and the second coming of Apollo Milton Obote. Indeed to call this “life”, is wrong usage: nightmare being more apt.

Minister Otafiire, of Trade, Industry and Tourism appointed as Chairman a monster daily devouring its own children in the form of Dr Muballe, whose earlier life calls for scrutiny. From eastern Uganda, he trained in medicine in Iraq (not a crime) from where he whizzed from place to place, hardly staying in each more than two years. Perhaps for advancement; perhaps a case of “the rolling stone that gathers no moss”; imagine such a one hitting you from a stiff precipice! It is what is happening at UWA.

Almost every day staffers bite the dust, totally illegally. I wrote around a month ago that UWA staff is terrified: look for a harsher word now. And all this happens in broad daylight in our New Uganda! “Where is Cabinet?” I asked then. Where indeed! Is it simply frightened of confronting one of its own, the General, and his thug, who have brought havoc and mayhem unfettered to UWA? Where will it stop? Will it stop? Are those in power capable, and willing, to stop it?

What this Odd Couple (Otafiire/Muballe) seem incapable of understanding is that there is a moral field in which Uganda should work. Shall Uganda wait until the last child is devoured, and then feebly beat its breast? I wonder if Minister Otafiire (for Muballe is ultimately only his unwieldy tool) might be beginning to experience bad nights. Supposing his nature has a better side, shouldn’t it worry that when UWA, which took so many years to build (and now at this rate hardly any time to destroy) is done for, he might deservedly be next to be swallowed? How does Otafiire hope to shovel this dirt from view, and at what cost to Uganda?

With modern information the world is a village, and many tourists are already cancelling Uganda.

This week saw the summary expulsion of Sam Mwandha, Director, Conservation, Olive Kyampaire, Partnership Coordinator, Eunice Mahoro Duuli, Director, Tourism Business Development, Joseph Tibaijuka, Director, Financial Services. They had been sent on leave pending the forensic audit haphazardly ordered by Chairman Muballe. They were kicked out, without a hearing, and no reason given for their termination, other than being told their “services are no longer required with immediate effect”. What power Muballe wields, but according to which constitution!

President Museveni says that it takes years to groom officials, and to simply terminate them without proper evidence and investigation is criminal. Probably Muballe never heard this, but surely Otafiire did. The above expelled have served, as I recall from my UWA chairmanship, for upwards of 10 years each. Later, Ivan Kakooza, Ag Director, Tourism and Business Development Services, Naboth Katongore, Procurement Manager, and Josephine Mayanja Nkangi, bright and highly educated daughter of my old friend, Gentleman J. Mayanja Nkangi, were also summarily given the boot.

Where on earth can UWA get replacements? Do they “grow on trees”? Muballe cares not, but the man who plucked him from God knows where, and why, should. Otafiire has given long and distinguished service to the Movement. Is he content to see mighty UWA assassinated this way? Incidentally, has he heard rumours in town that his man might be wanted by South Africa’s Medical Council for questioning? Over to our Leader of Government Business, [The] Right Honourable [Prime Minister] Apolo Nsibambi!

 

TOURISM MINISTER ABSENT FROM SERENA PARTY – THREATENS TO LEAVE NRM

After being beaten into a very very distant second position by incumbent NRM Secretary General Amama Mbabazi during the recent national elections for NRM party offices, not all was well with tourism minister Kahinda Otafiire. Embroiled in controversy, once again, over the developments at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the minister last week was found absent from a major event at the Kampala Serena Hotel, when the Serena Group CEO introduced the new General Manager and paid tribute to outgoing GM Killian Lugwe, who was at the helm of the hotel for the past 6 ¾ years.

Tongues were wagging why no senior representation from the ministry was visible only to learn the next day that Otafiire had reportedly threatened to leave the NRM and join another party, should his nomination as candidate in his constituency not be confirmed swiftly – the matter is under ‘petition’ by his party rival who claimed a range of inconsistencies and irregularities during the process. The man, who recently made headlines when he claimed he could be a ‘minister of crocodiles’ still seems to be in some distress over his loss at the party elections last month, and with the main election campaign now unfolding progressively towards the end February general election, further developments will be watched with keen interest.

 

AIR UGANDA STILL NOT GRANTED ‘SELF HANDLING STATUS’

Inspite of repeated representations to the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, to be granted the status of ‘self handling’, i.e. being able to look after their own planes when on the ground, U7 remains sequestered with ENHAS in Entebbe for their handling. The airline has in the past claimed that handling charges at Uganda’s main international airport are a multiple of what they have to pay for such services for instance in Nairobi, where a truly competitive environment now permits airlines to choose one of several competent handling companies, while in Entebbe the quasi monopoly of ENHAS seems well protected. Entebbe’s second handling agency DAS Handling, which looks after Kenya Airways following an alleged row several years ago between ‘the Pride of Africa’ and the owners of ENHAS, some of whom were also involved with a Ugandan registered airline trying to muscle into KQ’s market through political intervention and alleged threats over the withdrawal of ‘slots’, does not have many more clients on their register, leaving ENHAS to ‘rule’ Entebbe until the CAA will eventually either yield to Air Uganda’s request by matter of reason or through political instructions, or else eventually permit the establishment of a third concessionaire for airport handling.

At the next ‘Presidential Investors Round Table’ due for November this year the matter will undoubtedly be raised once again, and also the airline’s request to be granted ‘national carrier’ status for Uganda and be given similar support and incentives as RwandAir enjoys in neighbouring Rwanda.

U7 was on its inception warmly welcomed by the powers that be, very warmly in fact considering that the government backed Victoria International Airlines had just folded within a month of start up and taking government’s share capital down with them, but Air Uganda continues to wait for a number of ‘promises’ given to them, like self handling, to be implemented. What exactly are we waiting for to deliver on those commitments dear government?

 

USAID TO SUPPORT UGANDAN TOURISM SECTOR

The United States government, through their international development agency, has set aside some 6 million US Dollars to support conservation and tourism activities over the next five years in Uganda, commendable stepping into the breach left by grotesquely insufficient budget allocation by government to the sector, in particular towards marketing the country and supporting vocational training in the sector through the ‘orphaned’ Hotel and Tourism Training Institute in Jinja.

USAID in recent years has invested about 30 million US Dollars in conservation related projects across the country to promote biodiversity and protect or restore ecosystems thought to be of critical importance to nature and wildlife based tourism.

The programme however must also be taken with a grain of salt, as the professed aim  to promote more tourism to Uganda is often impacted by the US State Department’s anti travel advisories, against Uganda and other countries in the region.

Uganda’s biodiversity is rivalled by few other countries across the globe and with daily international air connections by leading international airlines has the capability to receive substantially more visitors, yet is poorly marketed abroad due to chronic lack of sufficient funding for the tourist board’s activities. It is therefore overall commendable that reportedly some of the funds now set aside will also be used in marketing support, mirroring similar efforts by the EU some years ago. Their ‘Uganda Sustainable Tourism Development Programme’ however has almost entirely evaporated due to lack of follow up by the responsible ministry and government at large, as was highlighted in the final report and programme analysis prepared for the EU by a team of consultants, and unless there is a major shift in emphasis towards supporting tourism and conservation with funds, and not just words, the country’s tourism potential may remain below par for some more time to come, benefitting our neighbours where tourism has indeed been given the high economic priority status the industry so much deserves. Watch this space.

 

FLOODS HIT THE CITY AGAIN

Torrential downpours over the last weekend have once again show the public how little the so called city fathers actually do, as far as maintenance and clearance of drainages is concerned.

Key traffic bottle neck ‘Clock Tower’, one of the few entry and exit points from the central business district and main route to the international airport in Entebbe, was reportedly flooded by a metre or more of water accumulating again, as drainages were either clogged by rubbish and mud or else – as often pointed out to city engineers – grossly under-dimensioned. Flooding at the ‘Clock Tower’ is especially dangerous for city residents as the fire brigade’s main facility is located there too and during periods of flooding also suffering problems of exiting, should they be called for deployment.

Other parts of the city suffered too, in particular areas where crucial natural drainages, i.e. wetlands and swamps, have been encroached with impunity in past years. It is here in particular that heavy rain triggers a prompt backlash by nature, when water levels rise as the drainage routes of old have been build over and cut off, leaving residents in such areas scrambling for safety every time the clouds open up, quite normal in fact for the city during the rainy season.

The mayor of Kampala made a further mess of things when he blamed ‘nature’ while rejecting blame from city residents while adding that ‘they should stop the blame game’ – a notion immediately rejected by political leaders from the affected city divisions who blamed the lack of drainage and poor maintenance.

In other parts of the city, regularly ‘visited by floods’, shop keepers and residents were reportedly seen putting their belongings and wares on to roof tops, covered by tarpaulins to avoid once more losing their possessions and livelihoods.

NEMA, the national environmental management authority, seems to sit on their hands as information provided to them about ongoing encroachment into drainage wetlands in the city’s ‘Konge Valley’ have falled on deaf ears, as developers are by day and night filling up the swamps with excavated soil and murram from building sites to ‘reclaim’ land for buildings. One is left to wonder what the wrath of mother nature will eventually look like as in the present pre-election period key government organs are seemingly doing little or nothing at all to carry out their institutional duty and protect the environment.

 

MT. ELGON WOES RE-EMERGE

Renewed troubles are brewing along the boundaries of Mt. Elgon National Park, with residents using the upcoming election period to ‘sell their votes for land’ as one regular source from the area has put it. Conflict between communities surrounding the park and the Uganda Wildlife Authority is flaring up at periodic intervals, fuelled by burgeoning populations but also unscrupulous politicians inciting residents to move into the park land for farming and to put up residences. In one case this had deadly consequences when several such villages inside the park were buried under a landslide allegedly trigger by poor farming methods when an entire hillside, weakened by prolonged rains and where trees had been cleared to grow food crops, came down killing hundreds at the time. Evacuations were swift then as were relocations of other such illegal villages but since then many have tried to return and resume residence.

With elections coming up in Uganda the matter will undoubtedly be politicised once more and votes will be promised for those promising land in turn, not an environmentally and ecologically sound ‘deal’ as Mt. Elgon is one of the nations water towers and further felling of trees and encroachment will only add to the fall out of climate change and global warming, which has already impacted on this and other areas of Uganda, most notably and visibly across the Rwenzori mountain range, where the ice caps are continuously shrinking endangering future water supply for an entire region. Watch this space.

 

Kenya News

ICE HOCKEY IN NAIROBI?

Sky News gave Kenya added exposure over the weekend when screening a piece about the emerging ice hockey sport in the Kenyan capital. It appears that an ice rink has attracted lovers of the game, few as they may still be in Kenya, and they now train and play apparently regularly taking over the rink from those seeking to train their skills of figure skating or just ‘normal recreational skating’ as it was put to this correspondent.

That all said, being in the ‘good news’ of a major global news channel is indeed GOOD NEWS for Kenya which this year is looking at record tourism arrivals and revenues, and every bit of help to expose the destination further is of course most welcome, especially when it is free.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS SHOCKS COMPETITORS WITH NEW MOMBASA FARES

No sooner had Kenya Airways matched the fares of their main competitors on the route between Nairobi and Mombasa [reported here last week], when they lowered their ‘off peak’ fares by over 20 percent, did they go one better with a ‘special fare’ of Kenya Shillings 7.999 return (depending on the fluctuating exchange rate about 100 US Dollars), inclusive of all taxes though subject to terms and conditions, a further drop of over 10 percent on their ‘off peak’ fares.

The recent acquisition of a second B737-300 from partner airline KLM and the upcoming delivery of their new Embraer 190’s has given the Kenyan flag carrier the ability to increase capacity on the coast route, and the introduction of renewed flights on Embraer 170 aircraft to Malindi from early December too will help them to recover marketshare from private sector competitors.

The airline announced last weekend that they will also increase, effective early November, their number of flights to Mombasa, offering added time slots and making it in particular for frequent flyer card holders attractive to use KQ’s services, given the greater flexibility of departure times.

The ‘other’ airlines operating on the route to Mombasa are said to be scratching their heads at present trying to strategize over their counter measures, but predictions are that they either lower their own fares to the level of Kenya Airways’ special offers or may have to go even below those levels in order to protect their own market share and ensure their survival in an increasingly competitive environment. Passenger numbers overall are expected to rise though at the expense of travelling by bus, as the attractive special fares are bound to have ‘budget’ travellers now increasingly opt for the air option again for the sake of greater speed and safer travel.

Said one airline analyst in Nairobi when the question was posed to him: ‘Kenya Airways can afford a price war because they make a lot more money from their regional, African and Intercontinental operations. On the domestic market this is only about 5 percent of their overall business but for the private airlines flying to Mombasa it is a make or break situation. For some of them it is most of their revenues and they will have to fight tooth and nail to survive now. If KQ keeps those fares beyond the pre Christmas period, it may change the entire market and some of the financially weaker airlines may have to sit down and talk cooperation, even merger, to create a bigger critical mass of passengers and revenues. Mergers can also improve on asset utilisation, since the ‘joint units’ could take poorly performing departure slots off the market and then fly with fuller planes. I would not want to be in the hot seats right now but observing from the side lines is one of the most interesting periods in Kenyan aviation I remember.’

Meanwhile, the return of KQ to Malindi is at least in part being attributed to the commencement in mid December of flights from Nairobi to Rome / Italy. Malindi is popular with Italian tourists and many investors from Italy have put up hotels and resorts in recent years, while individuals have also been buying holiday residences between Malindi and Watamu, two of Kenya’s renowned resort towns. Providing Italian tourists, flying with KQ from Rome to Kenya, with onward connections to Malindi, is a key requirement of keeping the entire ticket revenue ‘in house’ but these developments also made it possible for Kenya Airways to return ‘en force’ to the domestic market flying to Malindi – and going by the present battle for the skies on Kenya’s domestic routes to the coast, the fare announcements will be keenly awaited. Watch this space.

 

AS FLY 540 TURNS 4, TWO ‘HUBS’ BECOME REALITY

The regional low cost airline Fly 540 is turning four years old soon, having commenced flight operations between Nairobi and Mombasa with an ATR 42 aircraft in November 2006.

Now, four years down the line and growing from strength to strength with operation centres in Uganda and Tanzania, the ‘teething’ period has undoubtedly come to an end and Fly 540 is now Kenya’s leading domestic airline in terms of scheduled flights across the country to airports, aerodromes and airfields in locations, one would not immediately associate with regular flights but rather with the more costly version of air charters.

As a result, the airline has now opted for a two hub approach in Nairobi, when it moved all the safari operations to Wilson Airport, which is nearer to the city and the preferred choice for business trips to up country destinations and the national parks.

Regional flights by jet to Entebbe, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Mombasa and Malindi, but also to Eldoret and Kisumu, continue to take off from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to ensure easy connections for transit passengers, while those flying into Nairobi and then going on an ‘air safari’ need to take a road transfer from JKIA to Wilson.

At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport the fleet is ‘mixed’ between CRJ200 aircraft and ATR’s (both of the 42 and 72 types) while the safari flights from Wilson Airport are operated on both ATR’s and smaller twin engined ‘commuter’ planes like the Beechcraft 1900. Well done Fly 540, and undoubtedly the birthday cake will have your trademark ‘orange’ icing – Happy Landings and Happy Birthday …

 

NAIROBI SERENA HOTEL TO UNDERGO 30 MILLION US DOLLAR TRANSFORMATION

 Serena CEO Mahmud Janmohamed making the announcement, flanked by Mugo Maringa (left) and Killian Lugwe (right)

 

Serena Hotels has committed a massive 30+ million US Dollars towards the expansion and refurbishment of their flagship hotel Nairobi Serena, Group CEO M. Janmohamed announced last week while in Kampala. More funds were also committed, as reported elsewhere here, to the refurbishment of a recently ‘signed up’ hotel in Bujumbura as well as selected expansion of the group in areas of interest, mainly the safari sector. TPS East Africa recently expanded their share base creating the foundation for the ambitious plans, which include the proposed construction of three lodges in Uganda too, while also considering similar opportunities in Mozambique, where Serena operates the Polana Serena Hotel in Maputo, arguably the best hotel in the capital city.

Meanwhile has a major round of transfers of General Managers from the group’s city hotels and key resorts taken place, which saw long time ‘Kampalean’ Killian Lugwe take charge in Nairobi where he will oversee the upcoming work on the hotel, while experienced Mugo Maringa has moved to Kampala from Kigali, where he takes overall charge of the Kampala Serena and the Lake Victoria Serena in his capacity as country manager cum general manager. Watch this space as the vibrant tourism industry in the region eyes expansion and new opportunities, further opening up the region as a prime tourism destination – East Africa, one destination with many attractions.

 

BUSH ADVENTURES EXPANDS ‘BUSH CRAFT PROGRAMME’

Visitors going on safari with ‘Bush Adventures’ now have a wider range of options available, some dedicated for kids, some for entire families and some especially tailored for adults. Bush Adventures specialises in ‘bush craft programmes’ whereby Masai guides are teaching tourists, and locals by the way, skills to survive in the wilderness, make fire, prepare ‘weapons’ i.e. bows, arrows and spears, and generally how to read spoors and interpret what can be seen while in the bush on foot.

Family adventure programmes, cross country running training and other specialised ‘tours’ can be prepared to suit a client’s time frame and budget. Write to Laura Alessandrini via laura@bush-adventures.com for more details and information about this ‘off the beaten track’ holiday option in the Kenyan highlands.

 

FIX THOSE ROADS OR ELSE – KENYA GOVERNMENT TOLD

Drivers and management of leading tour operators have over the past weeks once again expressed their disgust with the state of the main road leading into the Masai Mara Game Reserve, which after heavy rains again saw vehicles stranded, unable to make their way through the mud.

Predictably has central government passed on the blame to the Narok County Council, the main financial beneficiary of hundreds of millions of Kenya Shillings from gate receipts by visitors to one of the country’s best known parks, but they too showed little interest in making emergency repairs until the drivers threatened to block the road to force immediate action.

The issue was and is being raised at regular intervals and the tourism minister did not respond to questions about this matter earlier in the year, when he conveniently ignored several attempts to respond to this correspondent. Sources also point out that the present set up of oversight of the reserve ought to be revisited, as should be the responsibility for the upkeep of the road. Said one regular contact: ‘when I hear we should fly visitors to and from the Mara it is almost cynical, an excuse not to do their jobs in repairing and maintaining this important road link. Not all visitors can afford air safaris, in fact most cannot, so are we to subsidise them? The repairs of our fleet is eating into our profit margins, for every trip to the Mara one expects to buy new shock absorbers or weld the exhaust again. The Narok guys just eat the money they get from the gates but how much do the put into infrastructure. It is high time they open their books and let the tourism industry from where they get their riches monitor them. Roads and bridges should always be kept motorable, regardless of the weather, and we don’t want to be told about ‘acts of God’ when the roads flood, it is simply negligence, ignorance and corruption, those officials should all be removed and prosecuted.’ Harsh words indeed but considering how long the problems were known and how little was done, not entirely unexpected. My advice, don’t kill the goose which lays the golden eggs …  

 

Tanzania News

CONTINUED FOREST RAPE TRIGGERS GOVERNMENT RESPONSE, AT LAST

Ongoing media and public attention to the illegal logging in Tanzania’s forests has finally prompted some more visible government reaction, when again several shipments of suspected ‘illegal logs’ were netted by security organs in Tanzania.

It was also learned last week that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism was to form a special probe committee to deal with the matter and facilitate investigations across the country into logging practises depriving the nation of precious resources of tropical hard wood.

In this connection was further information unearthed that unscrupulous and most likely corrupt elements within the forestry department have allegedly conspired to sell off government forests to private sector groups at a fraction of the real value of such reserves, giving a clear indication of the scams presently going on while the politicians are on the campaign trails and paying little heed to what is going on in their ministries. Targeted are in particular teak plantations, and suspected ‘buyers’ and importers come from as far as China, the Gulf region, the South East but also from Turkey, which of late has shown a growing hunger for the resources of Africa under the cover of ‘promoting trade’.

It was also learned from a source in Dar es Salaam that export documents and licenses are often subject to forgeries, at times trying to make the wood look as ‘in transit’ from for instance the Congo DR or Zambia, while in fact the origin of the freshly felled trees could upon further scrutiny be placed into the territory of Tanzania.

As is incidentally the case with the greed and hunger for ivory and other animal products, so seem the tropical forests of Eastern Africa now become endangered too, with illegally felled trees exported to the usual suspect countries, who are ever keener to strip Africa of its natural resources and then walk away from us once those are depleted and we have served ‘the purpose’.

Colonialism has a new faces apparently and flora and fauna in Eastern Africa needs better protection at all levels if we are to survive and hand our children and grand children the abundant nature we received from our fore fathers.

 

APPLICATIONS FOR AIR SERVICE LICENCES UP

The TCAA has last week provided information, that the demand for air service licences, compared with 2009, has risen by more than a third in the recent past. More than half of the applications send to the Tanzania Civil Aviation licensing committee were for ‘new’ applications with the balance being for renewal of existing licenses already in place and operation.

However, like in Uganda, the aviation sector seems almost ‘stunted’ compared to the regular flow of new applications in Kenya, where the KCAA holds quarterly licensing hearings due to the interest by investors and air operators from outside Kenya to establish a base there, being the most vibrant aviation market in Eastern Africa. Still, every new application, as long as the applicants propose to use new state of the art equipment and make proper presentation about their planned maintenance, is welcome as – once the East African Community will fully open up again – aviation is a key sector to keep trade and visits flowing.

 

DISCOVER THE SELOUS WITH SERENA

The Selous, known by relatively few and yet the largest game reserve in Africa and probably the world, has always been a ‘magic name’ to this correspondent. Accessible largely by air, from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar or Arusha, tourists fly in to experience the remote and barely discovered wilderness ‘galore’, either while on game drive, guided walks or by boat on the Rufiji River.

A flight by twin engined aircraft from Dar es Salaam takes approximately 45 minutes and will deliver visitors to ‘Stiegler’s Airstrip’ from where Serena’s latest additions to the ‘family’ can be accessed.

In recent months Serena has opened the Mivumo River Lodge and the Selous Luxury Camp, both about half an hour’s drive from the airstrip and kept small to stay exclusive. 12 ultimately luxurious tents at the camp and equally 12 cottages at Mivumo keep the ‘crowds’ small and the daily safari experience intimate, private and secluded. No expense has been spared in these two ‘new babies’ in the Serena stable to combine the ultimate luxury in the rooms and public areas with their renowned hospitality and great food.

Serena’s own fleet of 4×4 vehicles and boats, based at these two locations, will take visitors on game drives and river journeys, and manned by their own well trained guides this too will provide for an experience of a life time.

The two new properties, besides a handful of other and longer established camps in the Selous, still hardly scratch the surface of what is to be discovered in the reserve, where according to reliable sources from Dar es Salaam the largest concentration of elephant can be found – no wonder considering the size of the Selous being greater than the entire Alpine country of Switzerland. 55.000 square kilometres of wilderness await discovery and, considering the regular and often massive sightings of animals and birds, one can easily spend an entire safari holiday in the Selous alone,  something especially recommended for repeat visitors to Eastern Africa who want to stay put and not move every other day to a new location just to ‘tick off’ the parks. The Selous is a gem of a park in its own right and Serena’s latest camp and lodge openings there have definitely put an even greater sheen on this exotic destination. Wilderness pure – hospitality at its best.

Visit www.serenahotels.com for more information or bookings.

 

ZANZIBAR ELECTIONS WILL HAVE ‘NO IMPACT ON TOURISM’

The upcoming elections on the islands making up Zanzibar are not expected to have any significant impact on the tourism industry, unlike at previous elections when emotions and passion was running high and beyond. A recent change in law as a result of a referendum will give the islands a ‘government of national unity’ to win or lose, the parties will form a government together, albeit with different ‘weight’ behind them when discussing issues on the cabinet table.

The referendum was conducted peacefully too, and the present election campaign, especially in previous election hotspot Pemba, has been going well too, giving rise to hope that next weekend’s general election will be conducted in a calm environment without giving tourists any hair raising experiences.

Outgoing Zanzibari president Amani Abeid Karume has in the meantime said his goodbyes to the institutions across Zanzibar while supporting his party’s chosen successor in his final campaign days. Watch this space.

 

BUSARA FESTIVAL PREPARATIONS GETTING INTO HIGH GEAR.

The next ‘Sauti za Busara’ music and culture festival, due to be held between February 09th to 13th next year, is getting into the ‘hot’ period of preparations, with the 100 day countdown coming into sight. The festival organizers have in their latest update once again provided loads of information for potential participants and visitors, and with the Tanzanian government now firmly in support of this best known Tanzanian culture and music event across the entire world record attendance is expected for the 2011 edition. Visit www.busaramusic.org for all the details, in particular the new feature which is an African music film programme, aimed to promote African films dedicated to culture and performing arts.

The recently sent newsletter has also revealed he provisional line up of music performers and groups during the 5 day festival as follows for the information of readers, and for those ‘going’ it is a line up of the best Africa has to offer:

   
Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou (Benin)  Blick Bassy (Cameroon)  Cheikh Lô (Senegal)  Otentikk Street Brothers (Mauritius)  Kassé Mady Diabaté (Mali)  Kwani Experience (South Africa)  Mlimani Park Orchestra (Tanzania)  Culture Musical Club (Zanzibar)  Mohamed Ilyas & Nyota Zameremeta (Zanzibar)  Maulidi ya Homu ya Mtendeni (Zanzibar)  Sukiafrica Sukiyaki Allstars (Various)  Yaaba Funk (UK)  Sousou & Maher Cissoko (Senegal / Sweden)  Sinachuki Kidumbak (Zanzibar)  Swahili Encounters Group (Various)  Les Frères Sissoko (Senegal)  GEATA (Ethiopia)  Djeli Moussa Diawara (Guinea)  Groove Lélé (Reunion)  NEWS Quartet (Various)  Vusa Mkhaya & Band (Various)  Nomakanjani Arts (Zambia)  Maureen Lupo Lilanda (Zambia)  Les Go de Kotéba (Cote d’Ivoire)  Djaaka (Mozambique)  Muthoni The Drummer Queen (Kenya)  100% live on stage – no playback!

 

 

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR GETS LUSAKA RIGHTS

It was learned over the weekend that the national airline of Rwanda has recently secured traffic rights between Kigali and Lusaka / Zambia and plans are underway from late this year to actually commence flights between the two countries.

Immediate priority right now however is to put final touches for RwandAir’s first ‘long distance’ flights out of Africa, when on November 03 the airline will launch their Kigali – Mombasa – Dubai route, using their B737-500 aircraft.

It could, due to the narrow timeframe available between receiving the information and going ‘to press’, not be ascertained if the Lusaka flights would be operated in conjunction with other destinations, i.e. if the flight might route through to Johannesburg, although details filtered back that a Zambian airline, also given traffic rights as a designated airline, could commence operations too under the bilateral air services agreement. Watch this space for updates.

 

CANADIANS NOW NEED VISA TO RWANDA

‘Free entry’ will shortly come to an end for Canadian visitors to Rwanda, according to a source in Kigali. No specific reasons were given for the move, and after more than two decades of ‘free entry’ Canadian citizens are now off the list of ‘preferred travellers’. Countries like Germany, the United States, Britain, South Africa, Sweden – amongst others – however continue to enjoy the privilege and substantial increases in visitor arrivals from these countries justify the measure.

The new rules come into effect on November 01st already but intending visitors from Canada can apply for Visa on line and hand over their printout at the Kigali International Airport on arrival, pay their US Dollars 60.- fee and get their clearance to enter Rwanda there and then.

Other nationalities may have to go through different processes of application and approvals and relevant Rwanda Immigration and tourism websites provide up to date information for intending visitors.

 

NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK TO BENEFIT FROM NEW ATTRACTIONS

The opening last week of Rwanda’s first ‘canopy walk’ at the Nyungwe National Park has rang in a period of intense work to create more infrastructure across the forest park, all aimed to attract a lot more visitors under the tourism diversification plan of the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation.

The park was only officially created in 2005 and started to feature in focused promotions and marketing activities from 2008 onwards, when plans became known that Dubai World was constructing the ‘Nyungwe Forest Lodge’, which has opened earlier in the year and provides top range accommodation for tourist visitors. A new interpretation and information centre for visitors is now also open and will allow tourists to learn more about the forest’s flora and fauna and appreciate efforts by Rwanda to maintain and where necessary restore the fragile ecosystems on which the country depends as water towers and tourism attractions. As part of Rwanda’s diversification drive for the tourism industry Nyungwe was a welcome addition to the range of attractions on offer for visitors, apart from tracking Mountain Gorillas of course, and bird watchers are a growing segment amongst visitors to see and hear a large number of birds, many of them endemic to Rwanda’s forests and lake shores. Estimates given by the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation are that visits to Nyungwe are likely to triple or quadruple over the coming two to three years from the present about 4.500 visitors per annum, which would be a substantial boost of course for the locally ‘grown’ guides, the local economy and the country at large.

 

Burundi News

SERENA TO INVEST IN BUJUMBURA

Information was received last week that Serena Hotels, headquartered in Nairobi but active all over the Eastern African region, including in Mozambique’s capital Maputo, has entered into a management and refurbishment contract for one of Bujumbura’s main hotels. The ‘Source of the Nile’ hotel presently features 146 rooms and suites and is due to an upgrade and overhaul, and probably some extensions in coming years. Serena was not yet able to give a precise figure of funds needed for the extensive works, but going by previous experiences in Kigali or Kampala, it will certainly run into multi millions of US Dollars.

Only recently has Serena floated shares on the Nairobi Stock Exchange to raise more capital, ostensibly aimed to retain the region’s top spot as leading hotel, resort and safari lodge company through constant product upgrades and expansion into hitherto ‘blank spots’ across the wider region. Watch this space for regular future updates about this exciting project which is putting Burundi finally on the Eastern African tourism map.

 

Seychelles News

SEYCHELLES LOOKING AT NEW ARRIVAL RECORD

By early August this year just under 100.000 visitors had come to the Seychelles giving rise to hope that the full year 2010 will see a new record established for tourist arrivals to the archipelago.

The 99.756 visitors recorded by early August constitute a 12 percent rise over 2009 figures and should the trend prevail, something not in doubt for informed observers of the Seychellois tourism scene, the country could see substantial economic benefits derived from the sector, like greater foreign exchange earnings and faster creation of new jobs, besides added domestic and foreign investment in the industry. Leading nationalities on the arrival statistics were once again France, followed by Italy and Germany while in percentage terms arrivals from Asia were up by a whopping 57 percent, followed by visitors from Africa which are up by 27 percent as a result of a focused campaign to attract more tourists from the continent. Tourism and fishing are the two mainstay economic activities for the Seychelles and when these sectors do well the entire country does well too.

 

DOES EMIRATES WANT MORE AFTER GOING DAILY TO MAHE

After getting their 7th flight between Dubai and Mahe sorted out two weeks ago, reportedly after political intervention, the national airline of Dubai reportedly wasted no time in setting their sights on to their next target in the Seychelles.

Information has emerged from well placed sources that the airline, now in its ‘silver jubilee year’, has expressed ‘dissatisfaction’ with the allegedly ‘poor’ ground handling services provided by Air Seychelles, the sole provider of such services at present. Such ‘complaints’ are often used to prepare the way to push ‘the door open’ and is ostensibly aimed to paving the way to either have the government in Mahe ‘encouraged’ to decide on a privatisation bid and / or a split of the ground handling from the main airline operation. The other scenario could be to ask sooner rather than later to form their own competing ground handling company after government would eventually lift the present monopoly.

The consequences for Air Seychelles could be stark, as it was incidentally the case in Uganda when the then national airline ‘Uganda Airlines’ found their ground handling division suddenly taken from them upon political intervention and literally overnight had to pay for ground handling instead of earning money from it on a daily basis. Starved of the substantial cash flow at the time the Ugandan national flag carrier went into an immediate financial downward spiral which ended eventually in its closure, as bidders during a last ditch privatisation effort all found it to their disadvantage that the profitable handling operation had been hived off from the airline before then seeking investors to ‘come up with the upkeep and survival money’.

Maintaining national airlines has some merit, especially for smaller countries depending on tourism to the extent the Seychelles does, but while global competition and markets cannot and should not be ignored, governments ought to be careful in leaving their national carrier financially exposed by splitting off profitable divisions or privatising such services too soon, when economic conditions are still fragile. Leaving the crucial component of air transport overwhelmingly in the hands of foreign airlines does have its challenges and shortcomings and a more holistic approach, considering all the pros and cons, is well advised before lasting damage – at times only emerging and seen after some years – comes home to roost.

Long term success for the archipelago’s tourism industry is hardly imaginable without a financially sound and operationally successful Air Seychelles but only time will tell to what extend this is appreciated in the circle of decision makers where ultimately the dice are rolled.

 

AIR SEYCHELLES AND AIR INDIA TO ‘CODE SHARE’\

Reports from Mahe confirm that Air Seychelles, aka HM and Air India have sealed a code share deal last week, which will see both airlines benefit from putting their respective flights numbers on the service between Chennai and Mahe, and vice versa.

HM will also be able to sell flights beyond Chennai into the domestic network of Air India, although no specifics were provided as yet which key cities this might involve, while AI passengers can fly via Mahe to Mauritius and South Africa, a swift and direct route to their final destination beyond the Seychelles.

What is however not yet confirmed is a previously raised question if AI would grant the Air Seychelles flight, which routes on from Chennai to Singapore before returning via India to Mahe, would also be a ‘code shared’ flight which would permit HM the opportunity to fill up the plane on this sector and make the route financially much more viable.

In related development it was also ascertained that the airline’s third B767-300 will be retrofitted with flat bed seats in business class in Singapore between November 08 and 18th, bringing the conversion programme to a conclusion. Watch this space to find out soon, right here.

  

CITY AND GUILD OF LONDON INSTITUTE ACCREDITS STA

The ‘City and Guild of London Institute’ last week signed a comprehensive agreement and Memorandum of Understanding with the Seychelles Tourism Academy, permitting STA to teach internationally recognised courses, and administer examinations according to the CTLI standards.

The cooperation agreement provides for hospitality management courses leading to Advanced Certificates and Diplomas, for hospitality programmes but also including one in ‘International Tourism’.

Advances Diploma and Degree courses will remain under the auspices of long term partner ‘Shannon College for Hotel Management’ which in turn is associated with the National University of Ireland.

Students at STA, and future prospective students, will have learned the new developments with anticipation as their qualifications at the end of their courses will be at a level of international recognition and provide young aspiring Seychellois with options to go abroad and work as expatriates, gain experience and exposure before returning home and assume senior positions in the country’s growing tourism industry.

STA Principal Flavien Joubert also welcomed the development, a further feather in his hat and that of the institution of course and sign of sustained efforts to make the Seychelles Tourism Academy an institution of excellence in the Indian Ocean region.

In a related development has the newly accredited Austrian Ambassador also assured the government of the Seychelles that Austria will continue to support vocational and tertiary training for the hospitality industry across the archipelago with relevant programmes under which Seychellois students will be identified, brought to Austria and undergo their training and courses there, before coming home to practise their ‘craft’ and newly acquired skills.

 

MORE HOSPITALITY OPERATORS JOIN CONSERVATION PROGRAMMES

It was learned during the week that several privately owned resorts and residences have committed themselves to becoming part of the government’s biodiversity programmes, which are presently being funded by UNDP and executed by government and leading environmental NGO’s working across the islands.

One of the aims of such programmes is to raise awareness amongst business operators and owners of the need to preserve the biodiversity and ecosystems near their places of operation, to keep the environment in its present pristine condition and encourage return visitors and new visitors from across the world to come to the Seychelles and enjoy ‘intact nature’, sadly lacking elsewhere nowadays in many parts of the globe.

The programme also includes a shift to energy conserving equipment used in the ‘back of house’ of hotels, resorts and residences, to reduce water and energy consumption while the use of solar equipment too is being encouraged, tapping into the daily sunshine for which the islands are also well known.

‘Paradise in action’ – thanks to UNDP and other development partners.

 

SEYCHELLES TOURIST BOARD GETS BANKERS INPUT

Bankers from across the Seychelles last week met with representatives of the Seychelles Tourist Board to discuss relevant issues concerning the roll out of the country’s tourism master plan. Also represented was the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, government representatives from relevant ministries and bodies, dealing with matters from investment promotion over regulatory aspects to conservation and fisheries issues – fishing being the second key component of the archipelago’s economy.

The bankers were thought to hold one of several keys to the economic growth of the islands by providing venture capital, working capital and overdrafts and ‘being on board’ was, according to a source at STB of ‘crucial importance for the future growth of the tourism and hospitality industry’.

STB, under the able leadership of Alain St. Ange, CEO and his team, has progressively embarked on a series of dedicated sessions with key stakeholders, not just in tourism but the economy at large, all aimed at producing consensus and design a viable and feasible long term approach to the challenges the Seychelles tourism sector has to meet to maintain its success story.

 

And in closing some selected material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, sent out by Gill Staden week after week – thanks my dear … 

Livingstone Emblem

The Coat of Arms for Livingstone has been repainted in front of the Council offices courtesy of Livingstone Adventures.  Looks very smart.  I am so glad that the Council decided to change it back to the original. 

There is one thing about history – you can’t change it.  Livingstone has a long history and we should be proud of it and … make use of it.  So many of our visitors come to see the historical side of Livingstone and this emblem is part of our history. 

From Robin Pope Safaris, Luangwa Valley

It’s not often that two 50th birthdays and a silver wedding anniversary all coincide but when they do it’s worth celebrating. This is what Elaine Booth and her husband Bill, both pilots for British Airways, thought when it happened to Elaine’s sister, Wendy and her husband. And to celebrate they treated them to a safari at Robin’s House in the Luangwa Valley. 

Whilst at Nkwali the group visited Kawaza School in order to deliver some books and it was this visit that inspired Wendy to think of ways to help. Shortly after returning home Wendy, a Business Manager at Elmtree School in the UK, contacted Project Luangwa about sponsoring a local child to attend school. Over the ensuing emails the relationship between Wendy and Project Luangwa deepened as discussions took place about twinning Elmtree with a school in the Luangwa Valley. 

Wendy then met William, who works for a book recycling organisation and, never one to miss an opportunity, she decided to collect children’s books and surplus classroom resources from Elmtree and the neighbouring schools to send to Project Luangwa for distribution at Kawaza.

 But how to get them to Zambia without it costing a fortune?  Well, Wendy is not shy of asking a favour or two . . . . . especially when it comes to her sister. Knowing Elaine and Bill’s love of South Luangwa – they married whilst on an RPS safari – Wendy asked them to take a suitcase or two on their regular flights to Lusaka.  

But the books still had to get from Lusaka to Mfuwe.  Robin Pope Safaris came to the rescue and arranged for Proflight to add the cases to their regular Mfuwe run whenever they had the space. At the beginning of September Bill brought out just one suitcase of exercise books and it proved a successful trial run.   

A few weeks ago Elaine delivered her first consignment of three hernia-inducing bags of much needed books and stationery to Lusaka and the very next day Proflight transported them to Mfuwe. Just two days after it left Heathrow, Project Luangwa has been able to deliver the whole consignment to Kawaza School.”

Thanks Karen – together with Project Luangwa we would like thank British Airways, Elaine, Bill and the other BA pilots, Wendy, Elmtree School, William at GT-Recycling and Proflight themselves for coming together and making “Pilot Post” a reality.

 

 

Change of guard at the Kampala Serena Hotel

Breaking News

BREAKING NEWS

The Seychelles Tourist Board recognizes 25 travel writers and travel journalists worldwide as ‘Friends of Seychelles – Press’, amongst them eTurboNews Publisher Juergen Thomas Steinmetz and this correspondent for ‘consistent and extensive positive coverage of the Seychelles’ tourism industry, the archipelago’s conservation activities and special events’.

(In the picture below I am on an investigative visit to the Ugandan oil exploration sites inside Murchisons Falls National Park)

'Writer in action' - field trip

 


Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Third edition October 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome Third edition October 2010

Uganda News

UGANDA CIVIL AVIATION SETS DATE FOR NEXT LICENCING HEARING The long awaited and much overdue public hearing of new and renewal applications for the consideration of air service licence applications. It has become practice to administratively grant or deny new applications, depending on their merit while waiting to accumulate enough applications to warrant a public hearing. According to information availed to this correspondent the 16 listed applicants, 10 of which are ‘new’ and 6 of which are for the renewal of existing licenses, will be required to appear before the licensing committee of the Board of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority on the 25th of November, starting at 11 a.m. prior to which the committee will have a meeting in ‘camera’. Venue is the Imperial Royale Hotel in the heart of the city. What has already become apparent though, after the publication of application details, is the proposed use of relatively ‘old’ aircraft by applications, such as Fokker 27 and Fokker 50, DC 9-30 series aircraft, DC 8 and DC 10 cargo aircraft, which once granted would again make Africa a ‘dumping ground’ of ageing early generation ‘sky howlers’ by companies which clearly value cheap acquisitions over environmental concerns such as carbon and noise emissions. Amongst those seeking license renewals are such long standing companies like Eagle Air, Mission Aviation Fellowship, DHL Aviation (Kenya) and the Uganda Air Cargo Corporation, all of which are expected to pass with flying colours considering their records. In comparison Kenya for instance holds quarterly meetings as the demand for air service licenses there leads the entire region, while other member states of the East African Community hold their regular licensing hearings as and when demand so requires.

MONDAY 25TH FOR PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATIONS TO ELECTORAL COMMISSION

Uganda will take a giant step towards the general elections next year, when the Electoral Commission will receive formal nominations from various political organizations and from independent candidates vying for the position of president. The ruling NRM party will present their flag bearer and incumbent Yoweri Kaguta Museveni next Monday, 25th October at the national stadium in Namboole. After the ‘formal part’ with the EC has been concluded and the nomination been certified, the party faithful and followers are expected to move to the ceremonial parade ground in Kololo for a rally, and while the ‘official’ campaign is still months off all aspirants for elected offices are already busy travelling the country in search of votes. Prediction for the elections next year by this correspondent is once again: No Change …

KAMPALA SERENA GETS NEW GENERAL MANAGER

Killian Lugwe, who came to Kampala in early 2004 to lead the Serena team taking charge at the then Nile Hotel International, and subsequently oversaw the transformation and rebuilding of the ‘shoebox’ into the spectacular Kampala Serena Hotel – now a member of ‘Leading Hotels of the World’ – was given a ‘heroes send off’ by his CEO, staff, clients and the assembled corporate leadership from Uganda last Monday. After nearly 6 ¾ years in charge of Serena’s activities in Kampala, which also saw the acquisition under management of the Lake Victoria Serena Hotel on the shores of the lake , Killian was – in the words of his CEO Mahmud Janmohamed ‘promoted’ to take over the Nairobi Serena Hotel, for long the flagship of the group before the Kampala Serena came along, at least in the expressed opinion of the Kampala crowd attending the farewell party. While paying glowing tribute to Killian his CEO also announced that the Nairobi Serena would undergo substantial refurbishment and expansion over the next two years, and Killian was chosen to be at the helm of the hotel as a result of his ‘brilliant’ performance in Kampala. Taking over from Killian Lugwe is Mugo Maringa, who for the past three years managed the Kigali Serena Hotel, where in turn Charles Muya has taken over. In a further fresh appointment did former Kampala number two to Killian Lugwe, Mr. Tuva, take over the Mombasa Serena Beach Resort and Spa. From the sentiments voiced by those in attendance, like the Governor Bank of Uganda Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile, or leading business leaders Prof. James Mulwana (Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Thailand) and Prof. Gordon Wavamunno (Honorary Consul of Hungary) and many many others, it was clear that Killian had ‘shed’ the mantle of being a Kenyan ‘import’ and had become ‘one of ours’, a further testimony to his amicable nature and good standing in Kampala’s business circles in general and the hospitality industry in particular. From us it is Kwaheri ya Kuonana to Killian and his family and all the best wishes for the challenges ahead.

IBANDA GETS NEW AIRFIELD

As part of bilateral aid and in the context of intense security cooperation between the European Union, NATO and Uganda was last week an airfield near Ibanda, Western Uganda, completed and handed over to the beneficiaries. Nearby is a training facility established with the help and support of ‘friendly countries’ where troops, due to be deployed to Somalia as part of the African Union mission, are being acclimatised and trained before they are flown to the troubled region in the Horn of Africa. The airfield was deemed helpful, for this mission but also to open up the area to air traffic in general, which is also part of government’ objectives in promoting air transport and creating related infrastructure. Area residents enjoyed a ‘boom’ during construction by providing materials and labour and local leaders have expressed their satisfaction to have received this economic bonus.

CHOBE SAFARI LODGE TO BE OFFICIALLY OPENED BY PRESIDENT MUSEVENI

It was learned last week that the Chobe Safari Lodge’s official opening is now only a short time away, and will be conducted, according to impeccable sources, by none other than President Museveni himself. The lodge, destroyed by marauding units of the former dictatorships – sent packing by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s National Resistance Army when he captured power some 24 ½ years ago – was for a long a reminder of the troubled past Uganda had under various dictatorships and the restoration to its former glory, and in fact bettering the standards and facilities, will wipe the slate clean here too. Tourists are already staying at the lodge, as has this correspondent recently when inspecting the facilities and sampling food and services, and rave reviews are now being received, much focused on the location at the river, where guests can overlook some white water sections of the River Nile. However, accommodation standards too, as does the food, have attracted a number of very positive comments and after the official opening has been performed Chobe is set to become a key element in a circuit taking tourist visitors across the scenic parts of the country. The President, subject to confirmation at short notice, will likely fly into the lodge’s airstrip, which leads right on to the vehicle parking area for this sort of ‘pleasant duty’ he so often performs when inaugurating major new investments across the country. One hope though – that the owners in their official address make it clear that our government has to invest in tourism marketing and promotion in line with our neighbours Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, all of whom are spending vast sums of money on global marketing and have the results to show for …

NATIONAL BIRD COUNT WEEKEND ENDS

Last weekend saw once again a ‘national bird watching competition’ unfold across much of the country, where bird watchers, birding clubs and wildlife club members spent two days ‘hunting’ for birds with their binoculars and ears. Uganda has over 1.050 recorded species of resident and migratory birds on its register and is considered one of the world’s great bird watching destinations, yet less known than it should be amongst a growing community of ‘birders’ from around the world. There has been progress in promoting more such tourist visitors to come to the country predominantly for bird watching and they will undoubtedly be waiting for the count results to be released by main promoter ‘Nature Uganda’, which every year commemorates the event with nationwide activities. Bird watching, according to statistics available, is now a 6+ billion US Dollar business worldwide and Uganda can benefit too from its’ reputation as a leading birding destination in Africa by tapping into this specialised niche market.

BRUSSELS AIRLINES NOW OFFERS CODE SHARED FLIGHT TO ESTONIA

The Kampala office of SN has confirmed that effective end of October they will offer their passengers from East Africa’s destinations Entebbe, Nairobi, Kigali and Bujumbura, three times a week a code shared onwards flight, operated by Estonian Air, to Tallinn. Brussels Airlines recently signed the agreement with Estonian, sparing passengers heading to this Baltic country a detour via other airports from where to connect to Tallinn. Estonian, according to the information available from Kampala, will use a B737-500 on the route and Miles and More cardholders will be able to earn points on the route as well as they are able to enjoy lounge services in Tallinn in line with SN’s own policies. In a related development, and courtesy of Brussels Airlines, the airline is during the current ‘mussels season’ in Belgium flying fresh ‘supplies’ on their nonstop flights from Brussels to Entebbe, where the Belgium owned ‘Le Chateaux’ is once again features regular ‘mussels nights’ for their faithful clientele, dedicated to good cuisine and good company. For visitors to Kampala a ‘must visit’ restaurant, located near the US Embassy just outside the central business district. See http://www.qualitycuts.net for more details

PRESIDENT STOPS ILLEGAL SALE OF AVIATION SCHOOL LAND

Following a public outcry over the intended sale of land, belonging to Uganda’s premier public aviation school – also a ‘Centre of Excellence in the East African Community’ the president last week put a halt to any attempts to dispose of facilities, building and land of the institution. The aviation industry had raised the alarm first, prompting a public investigation into the dubious deals initiated by some shady individuals and were all pleased when the president stepped into the fray himself and pronounced a firm ‘NO’ to the deal. The aviation school recently received 6 new trainer aircraft and is set to get more new equipment, which will allow it to regain its standing as a major aviation college in the region. The runway, presently 1 mile long, is also due for expansion to allow the landing of larger planes in Soroti, where the school is located. Government has also reaffirmed plans to improve and create new aerodromes in strategic places across the country to enhance and promote aviation in Uganda. Pilots and aircraft technicians, as reported elsewhere by this correspondent, are in short supply and training young aviators will ensure the long term objective of keeping aviation in ‘national hands’ instead of having to constantly employ foreign pilots on a long term basis.

FIRST SECTION OF KABALE – KISORO ROAD COMPLETED

Last week saw the handover of the first section, approximately 50 kilometres long, of the road from Kabale to Kisoro from the contractors to the Ugandan government. The road, one of the most scenic in the country, will open up the tourism and farming areas around Kisoro to the rest of the country with much greater ease, as the ‘old’ murram road made travel by car difficult, to say the least. The new tarmac road will now allow Kisoro residents to ship their produce to the markets in Kabale, Mbarara and Kampala at reduced cost and greater speed, while tourist visitors, both local and from abroad, can drive to Kisoro and enjoy the often breathtaking scenery along the route, especially when seeing the distant volcanic mountains progressively coming nearer or when driving through the bamboo forests and alongside the rivers and wetlands which still make up much of this part of the country. The new road construction, after long and at times inexplicable delays, started in early 2008 but owing to the terrain and often adverse weather conditions, which caused repeated landslides and other damage to the new road bed, the handover of the new road was delayed until now. The remaining section of nearly the same length is due for completion and handover in late 2011 at which time the full rehabilitation and widening of the Kampala to Kabale highway should also be complete. Travel by road, which at times could take 14 or more hours between the capital and Kisoro – located in the border triangle with Rwanda and Congo Dr – will benefit from these developments and it is expected to reduce the time on the road to between 8 to 10 hours. Time to pack the car and visit that beautiful part of Uganda once again soon.

DATES ANNOUNCED FOR ANNUAL KAMPALA MARATHON

25.000 runners are expected at this latest edition of the annual Kampala Marathon, and the town will be painted in ‘Yello’ again with MTN, Uganda’s leading mobile telecom company, again being the main sponsor of the event. The Kampala Marathon has in recent years established itself as a star sporting attraction for Ugandans and runners from the region and beyond, and while Kenyan athletes have often taken the winners’ honours, this has not stopped Ugandans to try in ever larger numbers to capture victory. Start and finish will be at the Kololo ceremonial parade grounds and the races, several categories are again available, will all take place on Sunday 05th December from 8 a.m. The race will include shorter distances, half marathons, categories for men and women, group and corporate team participation and a wheelchair race too this year, all aimed at improving one’s health and raising funds for worthy causes. The route will be announced shortly by the organizers and will be cordoned off from regular traffic, undoubtedly leading to detours and delays for road users – their way out on that day, participate, leave the car in the garage and ‘run, run, run’ …

FRIEND A GORILLA ‘NEEDED AND VALUABLE’

Comments made by the embattled Chairman of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, who rubbished the ‘Friend a Gorilla’ campaign in recent statements, were generally dismissed by conservation stakeholders as ‘unsound’, ‘uninformed’ and ‘spoken in anger and ignorance’. Tourism Minister Kahinda Otafiire too tried to soften the impact of the ill timed and ill considered utterances when he, during a conservation dinner last week, praised the campaign for bringing attention to Uganda as a tourism destination and to the need to protect the gorillas and their fragile mountain environment. During a meeting of the Leadership for Conservation in Africa – Uganda Chapter it was also felt that the campaign, accessible via http://www.friendagorilla.org, was indeed valuable as a promotional tool, had raised the profile of gorilla conservation. Present at the LCA meeting was, amongst others, a past tourism minister, the current chairman of the Uganda Tourist Board, two past chairmen of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Mr. Moses Mapesa, a member of the Board of Directors of LCA in his personal capacity, while none of the present UWA brass did show their faces. Wonder why?!?

THY TAKES DELIVERY OF NEW B777

A source close to the Kampala office of Turkish Airlines confirmed that the first of 12 brand new B777-300ER was delivered to the airline recently and that several others will still join their fleet this year, while the remainder of the order was due for delivery in the first half of 2011. It is understood that the airline’s present B777 fleet is leased and the contracts will expire by the end of the year, when the newly delivered aircraft will have been integrated into operations. THY flies an A340 from Istanbul to Entebbe and then on to Dar es Salaam three times a week, and travellers from Eastern Africa – the airline also serves Nairobi – can expect to travel on the new B777’s to a range of long haul destinations on their connecting flights. The new Boeings will reportedly be configured in a two class set up with 309 economy class seats – including some 63 premium economy seats – and 28 ‘flat beds’ in business class. THY has in recent weeks made ‘spectacular’ offers for passengers travelling from Eastern Africa to Istanbul and beyond to European destinations, but also on their North America flights and the ‘established’ airlines in the region have been fighting a rear guard action with matching or near matching offers to retain their passengers, while the fight for market shares intensifies. Entebbe is presently served by international airlines like Brussels Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Emirates, South African Airways, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways and Turkish, giving access to their respective international networks via their home hubs, while Air Uganda, Precision Air and RwandAir offer flights to Uganda’s neighbouring countries of Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Southern Sudan.

Kenya News

KENYA AIRWAYS ANNOUNCES CODE SHARE WITH QUANTAS

Last weekend finally saw the public announcement going out, that Kenya Airways and Quantas have agreed on a code share arrangement, which will link Nairobi and Sydney, via KQ’s daily flights to Bangkok, with a one stop journey. Australia has in the past seen growing numbers of visitors come to Kenya and the East African region, but easy and affordable flight connections were difficult to source, so this latest addition of destinations by code share for KQ will undoubtedly assist in tapping further into this growing market. Travellers on business and leisure to Australia, coming from Eastern Africa or from across the continent and flying with Kenya Airways, will also sigh a breath of relief as connectivity for many matters a lot and can cut travelling time substantially while also seeing fares come down to more affordable levels. The arrangement will come into effect on November 15th and ticket sales are available with immediate effect already. Well done Pride of Africa!

KENYA AIRWAYS EXPANDS REGIONAL RECRUITMENT, AVOIDS STRIKE

A large advert in the print media early last week served notice to airlines in the region that Kenya Airways was on the recruitment prowl, as ‘the Pride of Africa’ sought new ways to add more, and already qualified staff to their ranks. Airline personnel in Eastern Africa, and the continent as a whole, have for years now been targeted by mainly Middle East carriers, luring them with huge packages and bonuses to become expatriates and work for them as pilots, cabin crew, aircraft technicians and in other specialised and important sections of flight operations. Kenya Airways countered this by progressively building up and expanding their own training academy where they teach new staff what they need to know, graduate them and of course also bond them to work with KQ for an agreed number of years, before being able to leave for ‘greener pastures’ without a substantial financial penalty. However, as recently mentioned in a related article, there is a shortage of in particular pilots now emerging and inspite of KQ’s in house training even of pilots, fleet expansion plans now require affirmative steps to man the new crafts when they eventually arrive in Nairobi from the manufacturers. While this move is understandable it has also raised the heat in relations between Kenya Airways and other airlines flying in Kenya and the region, who feel that by targeting their pilots, cabin crew and operations staff KQ was entering unchartered ‘waters’ and introducing a new wave of ‘staff poaching’ not seen before. While in the past staff did change ‘sides’ periodically, or applied for specific jobs being offered by one carrier while working for another, never before, according to a top manager of a private airline in Nairobi, has KQ so openly advertised for and targeted staff working for competitors, as done in their advert which in part read: ‘if you work for another East African airline and you feel the same way about flying as we do, then we would love to meet you’ [sic: for an interview]. The move is expected to drive up wages across the industry even faster now, as airlines faced with the loss of experienced captains and first officers, but also cabin crew, technicians and key sales, operations and IT staff will more than likely ‘sweeten the deals’ in order to retain them, or else risk having their fleet operate at reduced utilisation in the absence of enough crews to operate full schedules. A regular source close to Kenya Airways was stoical about the ‘emerging storm’ and said on condition of anonymity: ‘everyone in the industry knows, or should have known by now, that KQ is expanding, destinations, flight frequencies and the fleet. They have always entertained applications from qualified people working for other airlines, everyone in the industry does this, so why this is now suddenly becoming a big issue for some of the competitors I do not understand. They are recruiting also on the open market and may have absorbed some of KQ’S former staff into their ranks, so what is the issue here. Everyone knows Kenya Airways are expecting more aircraft and need more crews. KQ is the only airline in the EAC with an own training academy but the graduates from there are not enough for their future plans it seems so they are now actively recruiting from the open market. The competition can do the same of course and either jointly or individually start their own academies to produce future staff. Anyway, providing for more jobs should be a good thing for our economy, for even all of our neighbours, as Kenya Airways can now recruit from the entire region. This is not aimed to cripple some of the smaller airlines from those countries at all as some are now already making wild allegations, not at all.’ Meanwhile are negotiations ongoing now once again between Kenya Airways and the Aviation and Allied Workers Union, with key stakeholders like government, the Federation of Kenya Employers and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions of Kenya ‘shadowing’ the negotiations, helping where they can to avoid strike action, keep the airline flying and prevent potentially huge damage to the Kenyan economy in general and the tourism sector in particular. Watch this space for future updates from the Eastern African aviation scene.

KENYA AIRWAYS FIGHTS FOR MARKET SHARE ON MOMBASA ROUTE

In a surprise move, which caught privately owned airlines flying between Nairobi and Mombasa rather unaware, has Kenya Airways lowered their fares between the capital and the Indian Ocean city of Mombasa to a level previously only offered by low cost airlines. The fare of 9.499 Kenya Shillings and other attractive packages including a family fare for two adults and two children are likely to intensify the competition on domestic routes, as similar spectacular deals are expected when ‘the Pride of Africa’ returns to the Malindi route in a few weeks time. Travel agents and tour companies expressed their immediate delight with the new fare structure, saying it will allow them to put together attractive domestic tourism packages for Kenyans to visit the coast and flying with Kenya Airways, while some of the private airlines expressed thinly concealed anger and upset, that KQ would use its superior cash flow and market position to ‘muscle in on our market’ as one regular source to this correspondent from Nairobi put it. Said another: ‘at least they cannot compete with us for flights to our secondary Kenyan aerodromes where they lack the type of aircraft needed. Their jets can operate to the main airports but we are now covering a lot of other destinations across Kenya with scheduled flights and our main growth comes from there. We are also more flexible taking swift decisions on adding or reducing capacity on a route which gives us an advantage in the market and for passengers it is a lot more than just the fare, it is the departure and arrival time, punctuality and so on, so we are not too worried and KQ is not likely to continue for very long with their special offers.’ Several airlines fly from Nairobi to the coast, covering such destinations like Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa and Ukunda, often using medium sized turboprop aircraft for flights originating at Nairobi’s second major airport ‘Wilson’ to airfields unable to allow jets to land, i.e. Ukunda and Lamu. Others use state of the art CRJ aircraft like Fly540 and Jetlink on the routes to Mombasa and Malindi but Kenya Airways’ renewed attempt to recapture lost market share on the domestic market will serve notice of intent by the national flag carrier not to stand by idle and let the expanding market go entirely to their domestic rivals. It is understood that flight occupancies on the Mombasa route are lower than last year and KQ will undoubtedly try to reverse this trend by using special offers and ‘extra miles’ for holders of their frequent flyer loyalty cards. Watch this space.

KENYA AIMS AT NEW TOURISM REVENUE RECORD

With the strike action against Kenya Airways now narrowly avoided the Kenyan tourism industry seems set to beat both arrival and revenue records this year, considering the uninterrupted arrival of visitors who are coming with KQ to Nairobi and Mombasa. Information received from sources in Nairobi indicates that the first half of 2010 saw a new half year record already, when data released by the Central Bank of Kenya and other relevant bodies pegged tourism revenues at 48.5 billion Kenya Shillings. Considering that the first half includes the traditional ‘low season’ which spans from the week after Easter until July, and that the second half of the year includes both ‘shoulder’ as well as ‘high season’, this may well mean that the hitherto unprecedented tourism revenues could reach, or even exceed the 100 billion mark for the first time. Should this indeed be the case, tourism as a sector could return to the top of the economic performers for Kenya, and being a rapid generator of new jobs as well as bringing in much needed foreign exchange, this can only be good news for East Africa’s biggest economy – as when Kenya does well the entire region tends to benefit from the trend. This latest information is also a vindication for tourism minister Najib Balala and his private sector counterparts, who lobbied relentlessly for the allocation of more funding to the tourism marketing body KTB, aimed to promote Kenya in new and emerging markets, like Eastern Europe and the Far and South East, but also rebranding Kenya as a destination in their existing markets of Europe and North America. The success of this strategy is best seen with arrivals from the Far East, where China now already has twice as many arrivals compared with Japan, i.e. over 20.000 visitors. Challenges remaining to fully explore these markets however are the lack of more direct airlinks between China and Japan, but also from the other ‘tiger economies’ to Kenya, something which can hopefully be resolved soon as visitor streams from the Far East to Kenya and the rest of Eastern Africa increase. Sections of government at the time of budget preparations had attempted to reduce the allocation of funds to the tourism ministry and the tourist board, claiming a shortage of available budget resources, but this huge success of KTB in conjunction with private sector stakeholders will underscore, that the more the country spends for marketing the better the financial results the sector can produce, and in the process pay back government via taxes and other means. The triumphant performance of Kenya is especially remarkable considering the anti travel advisories slapped against the country by ‘friendly countries’ like the US, where the State Department in particular is notorious to use such initially well intended publications to ostensibly ‘punish’ countries for one thing or another, but thankfully American travellers too have seen through the machinations and largely ignored such negative propaganda. This development across our borders may also be a timely reminder to the Ugandan government, which has been outright mean to its tourism marketing body UTB since its inception, that giving ‘good words’, i.e. paying lip service, is simply no longer acceptable and that government at last ought to follow through with the allocation of not just enough funding to the Ugandan marketing body but also enact the levy provisions in the Tourism Act, to generate sustainable funding for the sector and allow it to emulate our neighbours in promoting ‘The Pearl of Africa’ to the rest of the world. Watch this space.

NEW HIGHWAY TO MOMBASA SOUTH COAST A STEP NEARER

The planned construction start for the long awaited and most urgently needed ‘bypass’ from the Nairobi highway and the Moi International Airport in Mombasa to the ‘South Coast’ has finally come within reach, when government in Nairobi announced that all is now ready and set to advertise for tenders for the project. Once awarded, the construction could begin soon afterwards and is expected to last between two and three year. Presently commuters, arriving and departing tourists and visitors from upcountry destined for the beaches South of Mombasa are all compelled to travel through the city and use the notoriously unreliable ferries across the Likoni Channel, delaying journey times in particular during breakdowns by hours. The tourism industry at the Kenyan coast has for long demanded that this crucial road link be constructed but had to wait seemingly forever before the final decision to go ahead with the project was taken. The present government in Nairobi has of late embarked on a series of new infrastructural projects, including multi lane highways from Nairobi to Thika and Athi River, the construction of a major Nairobi bypass highway taking transit traffic out of the city centre, and the construction of a new harbour in Lamu and a brand new rail link from there all the way to Southern Sudan is also on the drawing boards of planners. The new Mombasa to the South Coast bypass highway will bring relief to many and is in the process expected to trigger a new economic boom for such townships as Ukunda and Diani which will see rapid developments in all areas of commerce, trade and industry once the new road – incidentally due to expand to the Tanzanian border at Lunga Lunga – is completed. Watch this space.

Tanzania News

TOURIST ARRIVALS TO GET BOOST FROM NEW FLIGHTS

The Swiss subsidiary ‘Edelweiss’ has just announced that they will be operating a weekly charter from Zurich to Kilimanjaro International Airport located between Arusha and Moshi in central Tanzania. The added tourist arrivals this is likely to generate will be good news for the safari sector in Tanzania, especially the Northern circuit, and lodge owners this correspondent spoke to this morning expressed their hope of even higher occupancies for their safari properties, while safari operators, at least those entrusted with handling the Edelweiss passengers, also voiced satisfaction over the new flight and the subsequently greater numbers of visitors. Arusha, while often termed the ‘safari capital of East Africa’ and springboard too for climbers intending to go up Kilimanjaro, has seen significantly less arrivals by air compared to Nairobi or Mombasa, where tour charters bring larger numbers of tourist visitors but the latest addition of a flight by Edelweiss gives hope that more airlines can be attracted to fly directly from overseas into JRO and give visitors easier access to the renowned safari parks like Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. Watch this space.

ILLEGAL LOGGING BECOMING FAST A MAJOR THREAT TO TANZANIA’S ECOSYSTEMS

Reports last week of an increase in illegal logging has unsettled environmentalists in Tanzania who expressed their concern over the ongoing wanton destruction of priceless forests and ecosystems by individual and corporate greed. Corrupt officials near forest reserves have also been blamed as a major factor in making a quick buck by cutting tropical hard wood trees, many of which are then labelled as ‘coming for a third country’ to conceal their origin and to facilitate exportation to the ever hungry markets of the Far and South East, where Africa’s resources are gobbled up at record speed. Tanzania does have a forestry policy but observers insist that enforcement and monitoring leaves a lot to be desired as insufficient budgetary resources are allocated for re-forestation, controls and enforcement. Tanzania is still blessed with large tracts of forests, but if anything to go by, the shrinkage due to illegal logging operations has in recent years accelerated and left many bare patches where previously continuous forests could be observed from the air. Conservationists have warned that this would at a short period of time impact on the water catchment areas the country depends on so much and also lead to the loss of biodiversity, wetlands and forest ranges, which could worsen the fall out of global warming even more for nearby residents. Watch this space. .

Rwanda News

RWANDA INCREASES FUEL RESERVES

The Rwandan government has moved swiftly to introduce plans for new expanded fuel storages across the country, following the lessons learned in the recent past when fuel shortages were caused by a number of reasons, much to do with the import and export regime in Kenya. The region depends largely on a regular flow of ‘white fuels’ from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa to the African hinterland nations and whenever the supply chain suffers disruptions, through repairs to the docking bay at the Mombasa port, breakdowns of pumping stations along the pipeline from Mombasa to Eldoret or bureaucratic interference by regulatory and tax bodies, the region swiftly encounters shortages and price hikes by dealers attempting to cash in on such developments. While in Uganda the national storage in Jinja is shrouded in mystery – but ostensibly NOT working – the Rwandans have taken prompt measures to add capacity to their existing depots to create a greater ‘cushion’ during the times of shortages and being able to keep the country ‘on the move’. Well done!

CONSERVATION HAS A PRICE

The Rwandan government has recently evicted a large group of ‘squatters’ found on an island on Lake Kivu, after evidence emerged of water contamination, a negative impact on fish breeding grounds and lack of organized living amongst them. According to reports received over 80 such squatters were picked up by enforcement personnel and relocated away from the lake to areas where they can have easy access to social services. Officials were quoted in the local media that provision of such services to the people was one aspect of their action but equally was the issue of the protection of the environment of concern to them which government policy has guaranteed to protect, at a cost albeit to those who have ignored laws and regulations it now seems. Other sources in Kigali also confirmed that small islands on Lake Kivu, would be kept free of human settlements to increase the protection of water and fish resources and add greater potential value to the growing tourism element making use of boats provided by the Rwanda Development Board and private investors as part of Rwanda’s diversification of tourism attractions. In a related development it was also learned that Rwanda has moved to protect some indigenous species of long horned cattle, which are progressively being replaced by higher yielding ‘hybrids’ better suited for the dairy and meat production. However, it is thought that conserving several herds of indigenous cattle will enhance the experience of visitors, when they come to the locations where the herds are being kept, but also for future generations of Rwandans who can learn about the culture and heritage of cattle keeping in the ‘old days. The presently two herds are kept in Eastern Rwanda and it is understood that more such ventures will soon be created in other locations.

KIGALI CITY PARK READVERTISED AS DUBAI WORLD LOSES OUT

The financial woes of Dubai World, which had to scale back their Rwandan project plans worth nearly 240 million US Dollar dramatically, has now led to one of their ‘offers’ being formally withdrawn by the Kigali City Council. KCC last week officially re-advertised the ‘city park’ for new developers to apply and make their presentations, following which a suitable partner would be selected to construct a top class hotel and adjoining championship quality golf course. This is according to reports from a source in Kigali the third time this project goes ‘on the market’ as the two previous developers all ran out of money or interest. With the present upswing in the global economy however, and the growing esteem Rwanda has gained internationally in recent years, it is thought that ‘third time lucky’ the project will now take off once offers have been received and reviewed.

CANOPY WALK IN NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK NOW ‘OPEN’

Last weekend saw the official launch of the Nyungwe Forest National Park canopy walk, a new attraction for visitors to this recently created national park in the South of Rwanda. The Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation, was the main driver for the establishment of the new attraction and this was recognized by those present, and the tour and safari operators in Kigali, many of whom were represented at the event of the launch. The newly created ‘tree tops walk’ is about 150 metres long and gives a great view into the treetops and foliage where birds and insects can be spotted with greater ease from a different ‘view point’. Together with the recently opened Nyungwe Forest Lodge this has put the park undoubtedly on the ‘map’ for visitors to ‘the land of a thousand hills’ which has in recent years actively promoted diversification away from being considered a ‘purely gorilla tracking destination’. Nyungwe is home to several hundred bird species, including endemic species found only there, and also ‘houses’ 13 species of primates, although not the mountain gorillas which are found only in the ‘Parc de Volcanoes’ at the border with Uganda and the Congo DR. A visitor centre has also been constructed and was officially inaugurated too, where added information can be given by the guides to visitors about the flora and fauna found in the park, when they come to hike over the tracks which have been opened in recent months. Visit http://www.rwandatourism.com for more information about this and the other national parks across Rwanda.

Ethiopia News

FIRST LADY CAPTAIN NOW FLYING FOR ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES

Last week saw information coming from Addis Ababa that Ethiopian Airlines, one of the oldest aviation companies on the continent, has at last appointed their first lady captain, Ms. Amsale Endegnanew. After serving as first officer and flying Boeing 737 and 767 aircraft she is now in command of a Bombardier Q400 aircraft which is used to serve on domestic routes across Ethiopia but can also be deployed on regional routes out of the airline’s Addis Ababa hub. Ms Amsale reportedly joined ET 10 years ago when ‘affirmative action’ brought in female ‘fliers’. According to one source the airline presently has a further 4 lady first officers and has plans to employ several more in the future. Ethiopian has recently become an applicant member of the global Star Alliance and having ‘ladies’ in the cockpit and in the left seat is another step forward in offering equal opportunities for women aspiring to become pilots. Well done.

Seychelles News

AIR SEYCHELLES TO OPERATE EUROPEAN FLIGHTS FOR AIR MOZAMBIQUE

Information provided last week to this correspondent by a regular source in Mahe confirmed that HM – or Air Seychelles as more widely known – has signed an initial two year contract with LAM Air Mozambique to operate on their behalf long haul flights from Maputo to Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. Air Seychelles will be deploying a B767 on the route, which will ‘ferry in’ to Maputo from the airline’s scheduled service between Mahe and Johannesburg, as a result of which departure times and days between South Africa and the Seychelles will also be revised when the service for LAM is due to start in April next year. It is understood that HM will provide the cockpit crew for the flights to Portugal and back to Maputo while the cabin crew will be ‘shared’ between specially trained LAM staff working alongside their Seychellois colleagues. Flight numbers will be those of LAM, as the flights will operate under the bilateral air services agreements in place between Mozambique and Portugal, and all sales will be conducted by LAM under their own a ‘flag’ too. The contract is a major ‘coup’ for Air Seychelles which is also operating flights between the UK and the Falkland Islands on behalf of the UK government, a clear indication that an innovative and creative thinking by management can provide for better aircraft utilisation, earning foreign exchange and securing and even expanding employment. Well done indeed and a shining example of how Africa can work together in the common interest, leaving the ‘traditional’ suppliers of aircraft leases trailing in their wake.

EMIRATES TO ADD ‘SEVENTH’ BEFORE END OF THE YEAR

The UAE’s award winning national airline Emirates has finally confirmed that they will go ‘daily’ between Dubai and Mahe within the next four weeks, when their long awaited 7th flight will start operations. This will be good news for the tourism industry of the archipelago, as daily connections with a major global carrier like Emirates will largely improve connectivity and give potential visitors travelling on EK daily options to fly into ‘paradise’ from more than 100 destinations around the world. For long the 7th flight has been subject to arguments within the Seychellois aviation establishment over the requested slots, i.e. arrival and departure times, when the airport operator in Mahe had cited capacity limitations, but it seems this issue has finally been addressed to the satisfaction of most, if not all, finally permitting Emirates to go ‘daily’. Usually well informed sources, on this occasion a little shy to go on record, attribute this decision to the intervention from ‘high up’ – and considering that the tourism portfolio is now directly under the Office of the President – this is not really surprising. The UAE and the Seychelles have in recent years substantially expanded their diplomatic and trade relations and investments from the UAE across the archipelago are said to have exponentially grown following closer relations between the two nations. The Seychelles depend entirely on regular air connections to bring tourists from around the world to the archipelago and with this added flight a new arrival record is likely to be achieved for the Seychelles already this year, before new records can be eyed for 2011 and beyond. It is also understood that other airlines from the Middle East are considering commencing flights to Mahe too in the not too distant future and news updates will be published here as and when the time is right to make such announcements.

AIR SEYCHELLES APPOINTS GSA IN SWEDEN

Scandinavia, though not on the immediate list of destinations by Air Seychelles, has suddenly come ‘nearer’ to the archipelago, when the Seychelles national airline appointed a new General Sales Agent in Stockholm / Sweden, tasked to sell tickets to the Seychelles via the regular flights originating from London, Paris, Milan and Rome. AVIAREPS will be representing HM in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, offering the market the opportunity to book flights with participating partner airlines like Air France and SAS and feeding / de-feeding into the HM flights from their key European airports. The company already has existing ties with HM which it represents too as GSA in such markets as the USA, Canada, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland where Air Seychelles does presently not fly to.

Mauritius News

EDELWEISS TO FLY CHARTER TO PT. LOUIS

The subsidiary company of Swiss has just announced that they are planning a once a week flight between Zurich / Switzerland and the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius for the forthcoming winter season. It could not be established if the Mauritian authorities have relaxed their attitude towards all inclusive tour charters some more, as in the past it was only scheduled airlines being permitted to fly to the island, but the fallout of the global economic crisis may well have triggered a change in mindset towards this policy, embracing any and all wanting to bring tourists to beaches of Mauritius. In any case, for Swiss travellers intent to spend their vacation in Mauritius this will be great news and undoubtedly making a holiday there more affordable.

Southern Sudan News

SUDANESE CURRENCY TAKES A BEATING OVER POLITICAL SQUABBLES

 The official currency of the Republic of the Sudan, the ‘Pound’ has lost in value again in recent days and weeks, as the political squabbling between the North and South intensified ahead of the independence referendum due for 09th January 2011. The Bank of Sudan in Khartoum has instituted unpopular measures, also affecting the semi autonomous region of the South Sudan, of limiting the allocation of foreign exchange over growing allegations that the earnings from oil exports are being grabbed by the regime in Khartoum and misused for purposes neither sanctioned by the world community nor in the slightest interest of the Southern establishment. The value of the Pound, officially kept at 2.37 versus one US Dollar, had sunk as low as 3.20 on the black market before slightly recovering last week again, when the Bank of Sudan under pressure released more hard currency to the South. Said one regular source in Juba, the capital of the Southern Sudan: ‘this is another nail in the coffin of unity. They are selling our oil, short change us on the proceeds and then keep the dollars and send us their worthless money. If they are still wondering why we will vote for independence next year, here is one of the many answers. We need our own country, our own currency and decide how to use our oil proceeds to develop the South, bring infrastructure like roads bridges, river transport, schools, hospitals etc to our people. The North has never seriously looked at the South as a part of the united Sudan to develop, they have only ever taken from us, occupied us, terrorised and enslaved us. When we are independent we will change their rules very quickly. We want tourists to come and see our parks, our animals, and them in the North don’t want visitors and yet they could show a lot of history along the Nile. Sources in Khartoum declined to comment on the currency slide, only adding: ‘it is a difficult time for the country, pray we can get through it’ without however going into details where the hard currency income was going and what the regime was actually buying with these funds. The Sudan Pound is expected to undergo further heavy fluctuations in coming weeks ahead of the referendum and may take an instant further massive slide when the South, as is commonly expected, votes for independence. Watch this space.

REGIONAL LEADERS FIRMLY SUPPORT INDEPENDENCE

Ahead of the independence referendum in January next year have regional leaders gone on record, and made it abundantly clear, that the Southern Sudan will ‘not stand alone’ should they vote for independence and then be threatened by the regime in Khartoum, which is suspected to try and overturn the result on the ballot by the use of force. Former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi has last week come out loud and clear in support of an independent Southern Sudan, saying in public what the government of the day at present may not wish to pronounce as yet. Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni too made it abundantly clear where his sympathy’s were rooted, when he made pertinent comments while recently in New York at the UN General Assembly but also later on when home again, that the Southern Sudan would be assisted to fend off any aggression against them. The President was in fact quoted that ‘Kampala would pay any price, including the flare up of the past insurgency’ which was long suspected to have been fuelled by the regime in Khartoum. Regime leader Bashir has in the recent past avoided visits to Kampala after sections of government had advocated for his arrest under an international ICC arrest warrant, where he stands accused of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. Strong words, but spoken with sincerity and the iron will to help the Southern Sudan become a new nation, should their people vote to become independent.

AND IN CLOSING today again some interesting material taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ – thanks for bringing news from ‘down south’ to us here in the east.

Game-Viewing from Ngepi Camp, Caprivi Strip

En route to Ngepi from Livingstone we passed through Bwabwata National Park. The heat haze was incredible – the road looking liquid in the distance. There were many signs along the road warning us of elephants running along at 80 km/h, but we didn’t see any. At the Kavango end of Bwabwata there are two sections of the park worth visiting – Mahango and Buffalo. Mahango is on the west of the Kavango, a small area which makes for a good morning or afternoon game viewing. We entered the park from the north and paid our entrance – two people and one vehicle – Nam$70 (±US$10) – and took the road into the sand away from the river. We saw quite a few herds of animals – wildebeest, zebra, kudu – all suffering in the heat. The borehole along this road was broken so there were fewer animals the further away from the river we went. We then went into the sand – deep sand and 4-wheel drive all the time over the sand ridge. Nothing to be seen here until we crossed the main road and entered the game route along the river. The road along the floodplain is where the animals were all happily munching on the grass and posing for the tourists … or not, as the case maybe. There are two spots worth mentioning along this route – a large baobab tree and a picnic site, Kwetche. Visitors are allowed to walk around, which is rather a plus, except when it is so hot … not much enthusiasm for a walk in the park with temperatures in the 40s. Suffering from the heat around midday we trundled back to Ngepi and had a couple of lazy hours and then headed out to Buffalo Core Area. To reach Buffalo, one goes back to Divundu, taking the road towards Kongola and then south after about 13 km; the entrance is 3 km along this road – payment is the same as that for Mahango. Within this area there are several abandoned South African Defence Force camps. Many soldiers were stationed here during the Angolan war, some people saying that the lack of animals in the area is attributed to their presence. Whatever the case, the animals are a bit thin on the ground … but it can only get better from now on. The Namibian government is investing in their parks – more protection, more facilities. The drive through this area is along the Kavango on a ridge which overlooks the floodplain with some great views into the distance. Heat haze upon heat haze and wobbly views of elephants and other animals, heads lowered as they trudged across the plain to the water. The floodplain supports a variety of game – elephants, buffalo, zebra, impala, lechwe, ostrich, mongoose, warthog and kudu. It was an enjoyable couple of hours in the park. The following morning we popped in to Popa for a quick look. Popa, or Popa Falls, is a set of rapids just south of Divundu. The area around the Falls has campsite and chalets and is run by the government. It cost us Nam$20 per person to go and have a look. To see the Falls properly one has to rock-hop over the rapids. Being a bit short of time and enthusiasm, we didn’t bother. Other people who had gone across said that it was a bit precarious with some wobbly rocks, anyway. I am told that the view on the opposite side of the river at N//goabaca Community Campsite is better … that is for next time …

Hwange National Park / by Clarissa Hughes

A recent visit to Hwange brought many pleasant surprises. Crossing from Botswana to Zimbabwe at Pandamatenga was hassle-free and quick. Just remember if you have a S.A. Registered car that you need to receive a form when leaving the Customs Union. It’s asked for when you return to S.A. The road in Zimbabwe to Robin’s Gate is pretty good. It’s a dirt road passable in a high clearance 2×4 in the dry months. It might get sticky in the wet season so checking with the authorities beforehand would be a good idea. Arriving at Robin’s Gate to a welcome of pure joy from the gatekeeper, Abiot Musema, made us realise how infrequently this gate has been used lately. Right then and there he radioed ahead to Robin’s and gave us suggestions as to where we should try and stay in the park. Not really knowing our way around we’d not made any reservations. It was already around 17h00 when we arrived at Robin’s Camp so we decided to overnight there. We were welcomed pleasantly and efficiently, and our onward reservations were made for the next day. The manager, Rhino (didn’t get his surname) went the extra mile by coming round after we’d settled in to check that everything was okay and warn us that hyena do sometimes get into the camp. We stayed in the campsite where although the ground is bare, the ablutions are clean, the water is hot and the staff are pleasant. An electric plug point meant that fridges could be charged too. Next day we moved onto the picnic site at Deteema Dam. These sites are game-viewing hides that you can book as an exclusive overnight campground at a reasonable rate. The ablutions are basic – flushing loos and a do-it-yourself bucket shower. During the day you need to be prepared for other visitors as they are permitted to use the sites for picnics. Fortunately we had no interruptions and had the place to ourselves for a blissful 24 hours. Rhino at Robin’s had warned us to “expect fireworks”. We sat and watched the show. Elephants by the tonne, giraffe, kudu, impala, one lone hippo and the antics of two persistent hamerkops kept us endlessly entertained. Lions roaring during the night added to the fizz. The following day we took a slow drive through to Jambile Pan on the eastern side of the park. All the other picnic sites were occupied. We were surprised at how fully booked the park was. There were lots of good sightings on the way, including leopard. Zimbabwean hospitality was apparent when we were invited by some locals at Shumba Pan to come in and have some tea and biccies and a natter. The gate-keeper at Main Camp made us smile at one of those lovely turns-of-phrase that most Africans are so good at. When we asked why we had to have a gate pass he explained that if we didn’t return in the time we indicated he would send someone out to look for us. “Not to arrest you. But to assist you!” he said with a broad white smile of pride. Thanks to a raft of involved organisations, including ZPWMA, the Friends of Hwange Trust and the Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe Organisation the wildlife populations have been maintained by donations of diesel to keep the pumps at the park’s waterholes going. The park’s finances are constrained. It is visible in the raggedy-edge tarmac and the empty shop shelves. However, this doesn’t detract from a visitor’s enjoyment. If anything it adds a wild flavour to the place. We came away with the impression that Hwange is a good illustration for the concept of human perseverance triumphing over adversity. We salute all the individuals involved in keeping this park going.

Tourism News from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region Second edition October 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Second edition October 2010

LUFTHANSA TEAM PROMOTES CODE SHARED FLIGHTS

A high powered team of Lufthansa German Airlines officials travelled across Eastern Africa last week to promote their code shared flights out of Addis Ababa into the region. Both Lufthansa and Ethiopian Airlines presently fly five times a week between Frankfurt and Addis, and under the code share arrangements now in place LH flight numbers are placed on a number of onwards flights from Addis to East African destinations like Entebbe, Kigali, Mombasa and others, operated by ET on their B737-800 aircraft.

The team, comprising the LH Commercial Director for East Africa Ulrich Link, the General Manager Ethiopia and East Africa Thorsten Windten and a dedicated sales and marketing representative based in Addis, visited travel agents, corporate clients and international organizations, giving a broad overview over their code shared services via Addis. Most important was the ‘seamless’ onward connection now available through a range of added Ethiopian Airlines flights, leaving to destinations across Eastern Africa after the late night arrival of the service from Frankfurt, while equally swift connections in Addis enroute to Frankfurt are, needless to say, also available.

The spanking new status of ET as applicant member of Star Alliance will be an added bonus for travellers on these flights, as the in flight services and ground handling by Ethiopian is matching those of Lufthansa flights. As the code shared services are taking hold in the market, and fed by the global Lufthansa network via their Frankfurt hub gain greater passenger numbers, there is speculation that the presently 10 flights a week the two carriers operate may eventually expand into a ‘double daily’ operation, which would give both morning and evening flights between the two cities, benefiting Ethiopian as the main East African partner airline operating the regional feeder operation.

Lufthansa and Ethiopian have a long standing and very close working relationship and their membership in Star Alliance, by far the global industry leader, will undoubtedly further strengthen ties and equally benefit both flag carriers.

In a related development the LH team also highlighted during their visit to Uganda and Rwanda their code shared flights with Brussels Airlines, which have seen passenger numbers boosted to the point of SN now flying 7 times a week into the East African region – four times each connecting Brussels with Entebbe and Kigali with the other flights route via Bujumbura and Nairobi. The only ‘missing link’ in the region for Brussels Airlines, Tanzania, is presently served by Swiss via Nairobi, also a member of the Lufthansa Group. Watch this space.

Uganda News

FORTRESS KAMPALA

The meetings last week in Kampala of the UN Security Council, the UN’s and other Western Security Chiefs, leading military brass of NATO countries and a MDG (Millennium Development Goals) review panel brought striking new features to Kampala, when motorists found some roads around the ‘hotel district’ near the Serena, Imperial Royale and Sheraton blocked off by military lorries, causing wide detours and substantial traffic jams during the rush hour periods.

Said one visiting business associate of this correspondent: ‘I knew you told me Kampala is safe but wow, I was not expecting this at all, we don’t have this level of security in Europe unless there is a big summit coming up, but I am not complaining.’

Guests at these hotels were allowed through in their cabs and limousines but only after identifying their purpose to the deployed security personnel and at the gates and entrances were still subjected to yet more checks, including their entire baggage, ostensibly to make sure no ‘mischief’ was able to enter, as one operative put it to this correspondent while at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel.

The high ranking UN and military visitors had come to Kampala to discuss the Somalia situation, amongst other issues on their agenda, with their Ugandan counterparts and President Museveni, since Uganda was the largest contributor of troops to the AU mission in Somalia which is currently being reviewed with the aim of strengthening the troops’ mandate and give them more robust rules of engagement beyond pure self defence. Uganda is also, until the end of the year, a rotating member of the UN Security Council and as such and important partner for the global powers that be. In addition, Uganda is presently training a further 900 troops for deployment to Somalia by November, supported by the EU, and the visiting military chiefs acquainted themselves, according to media reports, on site with the status of these preparation. Notably has Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni now also echoed a demand long voiced here by this correspondent, that Somalia must be subjected to a total air and sea embargo and blockade, to keep supplies from reaching the Islamic militants but also to keep the ocean terrorists, aka pirates, marooned at land, or else risk to be intercepted and even fired upon when attempting to sneak out on to the open ocean and trying to hijack ships.

The stepped up security in Kampala comes hot on the heels of reports that a group of German nationals were successfully targeted in an alleged Al Qaida training camp in Pakistan last week while another German national intent to joining the Somali terror group Al Shabab was nabbed at the Kenyan coast while trying to make his way across Kenya to the Somali border. This suspect was hunted for several days in a game of ‘hide and seek’ with Kenyan security personnel combing the coastal strip for him. It is understood that the individual was immediately deported back to Germany where he is expected to be charged with offenses related to terrorism.

Hence, as there is no way of telling any longer who is who, security was generally stepped up in Uganda to ensure visitors and locals alike are safe and the few rumblings about ‘excessive checks and paranoia’ at the check points are easier endured compared to ‘the other scenario’ Kampala experienced a few months ago.

 

FUEL SHORTAGES NOW HIT POWER GENERATION

The fuel crisis, though now gradually ebbing off again – with prices slowly reducing too from records highs in Kampala when a litre of petrol cost 3.500 Uganda Shillings – still has a significant impact on the economy as thermal power plants, running on diesel or heavy fuel oil, seem to have run low of reserves too, with some of them having to ‘ration’ their operating hours. This in turn promptly caused power to be rationed too and the notorious ‘load shedding’ came back, as did memories of the period of country wide darkness a few years ago when the low levels of the lake water caused a sharp reduction of generated power from the country’s only hydro electric dam.

However, authorities were swift in pointing out that these measures were temporary as fresh supplies of diesel and heavy fuel oil were expected in the country as the supply situation was progressively improving once again. One source from the regulatory authority was quoted in the local media that the ‘load shedding’ was not right because they had not received a report from the national power transmission company – prompting the public to ask what more of a report does one need other than seeing that the power is off?

Nevertheless, the power cuts were a sharp reminder of how dependent the country is on a regular flow of supplies from the Indian Ocean ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam for the import and export of commodities and how crucial it is to develop a suitable oil infrastructure in Uganda itself to shield the nation from future fuel crises. It was also a reminder that NOTHING had been done since the great shortages in early 2008, when the supply routes through Kenya had come to a halt, i.e. to refurbish and restock the national fuel storage tanks in Jinja, inspite of many good but equally obvious empty words and promises, from where the fuel companies could draw supplies to boost deliveries when other means fail.

In a related development it was also learned during the week that a quarter of a million energy saving bulbs, imported by government for free distribution to needy households upcountry, are apparently still in government stores as they have not been handed out as was planned at the height of the last major electricity crisis. Ooops…

 

FERRY STILL OUT OF SERVICE

The ministry of transport has last week posted a full page four colour advert in the local media, attempting to answer complaints from the public at large over the prolonged period to return the MV Kalangala into service, after withdrawing the vessel for a safety inspection and maintenance in August of this year. Island dwellers, traders and tourist visitors alike have since then been forced to use alternative modes of transport, often having to resort to what can best be described as ‘unsafe’ lake boats, lacking safety equipment and being operated by poorly trained crews. The full page advert attempted to explain to the public that as the vessel is owned by government, although concessioned out to a private sector operator, it was government which had to undertake major maintenance and repairs, and had to follow the provisions of the procurement law, which’ application caused these extraordinary delays in having the ship’s engines overhauled.

A new timeline now given speaks of end November to put the lake ferry back into service but the public has little confidence it appears that this date will be adhered to, demanding that government makes alternative arrangements to provide safe and reliable transportation from the Port Bell and Entebbe piers to the Ssese Islands. With the upcoming elections this will undoubtedly become a campaign issue and it will be interesting to see how the islanders can be appeased to ‘vote wisely’ when the day comes, considering the ongoing rows, accusations and counter accusations over the fate of the MV Kalangala. Watch this space.

 

KYANINGA LODGE OPENS NEAR FORT PORTAL

The new ‘Kyaninga’ Safari Lodge has ‘soft opened’ recently at a breathtaking location overlooking Lake Kyaninga not far from the Western Ugandan town of Fort Portal, and while outside the parks it is nevertheless set in a place worth visiting for tourists and locals and yet near enough to combine the trip with a safari proper to the Semliki Game Reserve, the Rwenzori Mountain National Park or even Queen Elizabeth National Park. Driving from Kampala is relatively easy via Mityana and Mubende on all tarmac, with some of the ‘old road’ sections between Kampala and Mubende nearing re-sealing and widening. Depending on ‘cruising speed’ the trip should take under 4 hours and allow ‘locals’ to leave the capital on Friday after lunch and spend a weekend there before driving ‘home’ on Sunday afternoon.

The eight thatched log cabins, or ‘cottages’ are built on elevated platforms into the slope down towards the lake and connected to the main buildings by via a walkway on stilts, providing a sweeping view across the crater lake and into the hills surrounding the lodge.

Hand built by the British owner Steve Williams, a furniture designer by profession and (apparently) a carpenter and builder by acquired skills, the new property is undoubtedly by a head or two above the finishing standards of other similar lodgings in upcountry Uganda and as such a welcome change for visitors from the capital or abroad.

Anyone liking the accommodation, and no doubt there will be many, to the extent that they would like to take one of the cabins back with them to Kampala, or wherever else they live in Uganda, they can actually order one to be custom designed and built for them, then delivered and put up in one’s garden or weekend ‘retreat’ property. Details are available via www.kyaningalodge.com, for those interested in visiting and staying at Kyaninga and for those wanting to ‘buy’, find relevant information via www.kyaningahomes.com

 

UGANDA RE-ELECTED TO ICAO COUNCIL

The aviation fraternity last week welcomed the news that Uganda was re-elected to the ICAO Council for another term of office, having first been elected in 2007. Out of a the total 161 delegates who voted the country garnered 143 ‘YES’, which put Uganda’s way ahead of the other African contenders Cameroon, Swaziland and Morocco. The current representative to ICAO, former Uganda Civil Aviation Authority Director for Airtransport and Regulatory Services Mr. Kabbs Twijuke, is considered as having been crucial to this success in the face of widespread competition and lobbying from other African ICAO member states for this prestigious and influential position. Well done Uganda, and well done Kabbs for this achievement.

 

FLY 540 LOWERS FARES, AGAIN

Information received from the Kampala office of Fly 540 confirms the buzz amongst travel agents and regular travellers to Nairobi that the fight for market share has just become a notch harsher and ‘specials’ are being put out by the airlines, and often superseded by yet better deals, just as soon as the ink on the promotional pamphlets has dried. Fly 540, which last week confirmed a fare of USD 268 return all inclusive has over the weekend lowered this to US Dollars 240, inclusive of all taxes and surcharges, applying pressure on their competitors Kenya Airways, which is facing renewed strike action if last ditch efforts to find a common basis with the Aviation and Allied Workers Union in Nairobi fail, but also vis a vis Air Uganda. The latter recently introduced a third daily flight between Entebbe and Nairobi, going one up on Fly 540 – KQ operates 4 daily flights between the two airports – but from usually reliable sources it was learned that the flight occupancy was still needing more ‘work’ to meet expectations at this moment in time and U7 too was considering dropping fares in order to get extra passengers into their seats.

Air Uganda, according to another source, has offered a range of ‘specials’ for their flights between Entebbe, Mombasa and Zanzibar, indicating that market conditions are ‘tough’ and unless passengers can be found, and kept, the struggle for not just market share but also for financial viability is a steep uphill journey. To lure more passengers on this route they are presently offering a companion rebate of 50 percent on their US Dollars 319 fare (terms and conditions apply) for the second ticket, making this deal slightly cheaper than Fly 540 if travelling ‘in pairs’ and cheaper still with their ‘family fare’ which goes for US Dollars 959 for two adults and two children.

Meanwhile it was also learned that Fly 540 had offered a special fare for weekend travellers from Uganda travelling to Nairobi for the African Cup of Nations qualifier at only US Dollars 210, to be also repeated again for the upcoming ‘half term’ holidays of local schools between 15th and 24th of October.

Uganda drew their match 0:0 with Kenya and presently tops their qualifying group to the joy of the ‘Cranes’ supporters who for long have waited to see Uganda return to the continental stages, leave alone of course making an appearance in a FIFA World Cup final for the first time ever.

Said one football fan traveller with 540 to this correspondent: ‘at 210 Dollars I could not refuse to fly with Fly 540 and instead of spending a hundred or so dollars more with others, that money saved I used for my tickets and transport in Nairobi. And they have a very good aircraft, very comfortable’.

 

KLM SUFFERS BIRD STRIKE ON TAKE OFF

The Amsterdam bound KLM flight on Sunday night was far from ‘normal’ when a bird was apparently sucked into one of the aircraft’s engines, prompting the crew to shut down the engine and continue the initial climb with one engine. Following procedures they then dumped fuel to reduce the aircraft’s weight to the maximum landing weight permitted before returning the aircraft to Entebbe, where as a precaution emergency services had been put on alert.

Twin engined jets are capable to operate safely with one engine shut down and cockpit crews, during their twice annual training in flight simulators, are specifically acquainted with such emergency procedures like continuing take offs with an engine shut down and returning a plane safely to the ground. A KLM source in Kampala also confirmed that a new engine would be flown into Entebbe at the earliest possible time to replace the damaged one before having the plane returned into service. The passengers, initially taken to Entebbe hotels to spend the rest of the night, were subsequently rebooked on other flights to Europe leaving the following morning and afternoon on Kenya Airways via Nairobi and other airlines with space on their flights out of Entebbe.

The local media, as often witnessed before in such cases, made a hash out of things, when making a totally unwarranted reference to the crash of a military flight some 18 months ago at Entebbe. This upset the local KLM office, where one source termed the media report as ‘unnecessarily sensational and causing alarm’, saying under cover of anonymity to this correspondent: ‘I agree, this is not a normal situation but it was something the cockpit crew are well trained to deal with. No passengers came to any harm during the event. Entebbe is unfortunately known for the potential of bird strikes, especially during the day when birds are more active and the airport management is operating measures to reduce the possibility of this happening. It is not so normal that it happens at night and we might have to look at this afresh now and discuss counter measures with the CAA’.

 

MOBILE PHONE TARIFF WARS CONTINUE

It did not take long, after Warid Telecom lowered its call tariff across all networks to Uganda Shillings 5/- per second, for others to follow suit. First out of the starting blocks, within a day of Warid’s announcement, was former Celtel, then Zain and now Bharti Airtel with a startling 3/- Shillings offer per second, compelling the remainder of the pack to also review their positions.

Consumers will be smiling all the way through their calls now that Orange has entered the fray too with a matching 3/- Shilling per second tariff and Warid, the company which triggered the ‘war of the airwaves’ has just bettered their own initial offer of five to three.

However, none can presently follow Orange’s special ‘deals’ where they offer a state of the art mobile phone, a USB ‘stick’ modem, airtime and surftime for 149.000/- Uganda Shillings while an Acer netbook, modem and surftime – minimal as it may be – now goes for 499.000/- Uganda Shillings. (1 US Dollar presently is worth about 2.250 Uganda Shillings)

Last to enter the fray was Uganda Telecom, which first hid its own 3/- per second call charge in a full page rambling advertorial, praising their services in the face of a prolonged network outage of their wireless 3G platform last week, and comments sourced by this correspondent must have made UTL’s management’s ears ring at 150 decibels, so were they ridiculed over their ‘scruffy and unprofessional’ advertorial, timed precisely to coincide with the second day of their outage.

As mentioned before, Ugandan consumers and visitors to Uganda can now take advantage of cheap local calls, international calls to many destinations at as little as 299/- Uganda Shillings per minute and purchase hardware like USB ‘stick’ modems, phones and even netbook and laptop computers at prices which should see a ‘run’ on the companies’ service centres and these items literally ‘flying off the shelves’. The ones most concerned however will be the mobile companies finance departments and shareholders, as they stare a substantial revenue reduction into the face with call tariffs now lowered by as much as 60 percent and more, while their marketing strategists will be hoping and praying that new customers and more calls will eventually make up for such shortfalls.

In a related development was the CEO of market leader MTN quoted to have called for a reduction in the number of companies operating in Uganda, claiming it would improve competition and make the remaining companies more viable. This was reportedly said while trying hard to stick to their substantially higher tariffs and attempting to hold the ‘dam’ with one hand while all the competitors have already been swept along and have to make do with lower tariffs. So my advice to the MTN CEO: Dream on my dear man and bit the bullet of a free market, as after all it was the ‘newcomers’ who brought tariffs and rates down to the benefit of consumers, whose interest you clearly do not have in mind. Watch this space.

 

4X4 CHIMP CHALLENGE ON 16TH OCTOBER

The ‘On Course Training Ground’, Uganda’s main training range for off road and 4×4 driving, will be the venue this weekend for the annual ‘Chimp Challenge’, aimed to raise funds for conservation of the species in Uganda. Beneficiary will be the ‘Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Conservation Trust’, which owns and operates the Ngamba Island chimpanzee refuge. The event is expected to draw large crowds to watch the competitors race the course and show their off road skills, and spectators will be quietly hoping for muddy conditions to make it even more fun, at least for the onlookers through probably not for crews stuck axle deep in the quagmire. Past years have seen substantial amounts of money raised and the main sponsors, amongst many others, are Kenya Airways, Wild Frontiers, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, Nalubale Rafting, Red Chilli Hideaway as well as a number of banks, car tyre and spare part companies and many others from a wide cross section of manufacturing, services and trade in Uganda.

 

MILLET FARMERS GET A BOOST

When news broke last week that President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has taken to drinking large quantities of millet porridge in an apparent change of diet, supermarkets in Kampala and the rest of the country recorded an immediate rise in demand by consumers, apparently wanting to try out the diet for themselves and attempting to figure out the secret of ‘millet diet’. This will undoubtedly put a smile on farmers who grow millet cashing in on the extra demand.

An occasional opposition contact made this correspondent laugh when he in all seriousness suggested ‘this is only for electioneering by the president, he wants to boost millet farmers and then claim the credit for it’, showing how warped some people’s thinking is with anything to do with government in general and President Museveni in particular … diet as an election tool ?!? Get real man, even I eat once in a while some millet bread and for sure I am not canvassing for votes …

 

Kenya News

KENYA AIRWAYS ONCE AGAIN FACED WITH STRIKE ACTION

The Aviation and Allied Workers Union has announced another  imminent strike action against Kenya’s national airline from the middle of this week, prompting concerns by the country’s tourism industry over the likely impact on the sector and the national economy. Last year the union ignored a court order and went ahead with strike action, which reportedly cost KQ a whopping 600+ million Kenya Shillings. Economic recovery of the country in general and of the airline in particular was slow in coming after the post election violence in early 2008, combined with the fallout of the global economic and financial crisis but is now fully underway with the tourism industry especially looking at a new tourism arrival record for 2010.

Vacationers, business and conference visitors are streaming back into Kenya at a record pace but this may all be in danger should the union go ahead with the strike call. Government intervention has been demanded by the airline and the tourism industry to prevent what could be highly damaging industrial action and for the union to return to the negotiating table, but being recognised as one of the more militant and radical unions under the umbrella body COTU – the Kenyan ‘Central Organization of Trade Unions’ this may not succeed.

It is understood that Kenya Airways’ management is making logistical arrangements to minimise the impact of a potential strike while at the same time attempting for more talks, but going by last year’s record this may not be successful considering the hard line taken by the union, smacking of classic blackmail tactics.

Travellers booked with Kenya Airways on flights from Wednesday this week onwards, both to and from Nairobi, should therefore consult the nearest offices of the airline or their preferred travel agents and  should monitor announcements made on the Kenya Airways website via www.kenya-airways.com to be on the safe side. eTN will monitor the situation too and update readers as and when more details and news are available.

And in a breaking news development has the Industrial Court in Nairobi blocked the planned strike, while COTU has also urged the AAWU to halt any action and sit down with Kenya Airways to resolve any issues through negotiations. It was learned overnight that Kenya Airways consented to have a ‘moderator’ appointed by government and have the talks conducted in the presence of the Federation of Kenya Employers and COTU, the Central Organization of Trade Unions of Kenya.

However, it must be pointed out that AAWU last year ignored a court order and went on strike anyway and the situation will be closely monitored by all concerned, as this time, according to information from Nairobi, officials of the Aviation and Allied Workers Union may be jailed for contempt of court should they go ahead with industrial action as of Wednesday this week.

Kenya Airways is due to release a statement later in the day which, as soon as available, will also be posted here.

 

FIRST TENTED CAMP TO OPEN IN NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK

Visitors to Nairobi ordinarily expect to stay in some of the city’s posh hotels, try a ‘home stay’ in some of the converted residences in Karen or Langata or else only change flights, from international to the safari circuit and ‘get the heck out of Dodge’ as the saying goes amongst travellers from a certain part of the world.

Canvas accommodation is associated with the game parks, the ‘safari proper’ and few would expect to be treated to canvas accommodation within sight of the city’s skyscrapers, and yet here it comes.

The Nairobi National Park until now had no accommodation available ‘inside’ although a few nearby establishments were available for a comfy stay and easy access into the park area. However, now a new tented camp development is nearing ‘soft opening’ (imminent I am told) ahead of the ‘official’ opening expected in early December this year. The ‘Nairobi Tented Camp’ is set along some riverine forest, depending on traffic (which can add a few more at least to the first gate into the park) some 30 minutes from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and offers 8 twin, self contained tents. Views from the mess and bar tent as well as from the ‘terrace’ of one’s own extend into the park and give a general idea what to expect from a game drive, often rich in sightings and yet with the city as a backdrop creating a reminder how close ‘civilisation’ has come to this last natural enclave near East Africa’s biggest city. Visit www.nairobitentedcamp.com for a complete overview of setting and services or follow the ‘new kid on the block’ via Twitter or Facebook for regular updates. Bookings via reservations@nairobitentedcamp.com

 

KENYA AIRWAYS TO RESUME MALINDI FLIGHTS

The ‘pride of Africa’ will return to Malindi at last when they finally resume flight operations in December this year, using – according to usually reliable information – one of their new Embraer jets for the route. No schedule details are available yet but it is thought that KQ will operate initially a once a day service. This is  likely to expand to double daily in the run up to the festive season of Christmas and New Year to cater for the added passenger numbers before returning to a once a day service once the ‘rush’ is over a few days into 2011. The resumption of this important domestic route to the Kenyan coast’s second major resort area is undoubtedly going to boost KQ’s market share in the process, which on the domestic scene had suffered a setback as flights from Nairobi to Kisumu and Malindi had been halted during repair, maintenance and expansion works.

Watch this space for further announcements as and when details become available.

 

Tanzania News

ATR SNUBS EAST AFRICA – FOR NOW

The French aircraft manufacturer ATR has now reportedly decided to turn down overtures from Eastern Africa for the establishment of a training base for the African continent and according to reports from Johannesburg decided to create this facility in South Africa, inspite of several airlines in East Africa like Fly540 and Precision Air flying various ATR models as their workhorse fleet aircraft. Precision in fact just took delivery of their 7th brand new ATR72-500 a few weeks ago with ATR representatives present at the ceremony, and there was growing speculation that a pilot training and simulator facility could be established in either Tanzania or Kenya, but alas, that was apparently not to be.

It was learned that the newly established ATR training centre in South Africa will provide courses for all current ATR models of the various ATR42 and ATR72 makes.

No reasons could be ascertained what prompted ATR to opt for South Africa but there is some level of hope left that a full ATR maintenance base with manufacturer support could still be established somewhere in Eastern Africa to ‘spread’ their presence out a little more, ‘reward’ their East African customers and create capacity in this part of Africa too, and much in demand jobs for technicians and engineers in the process. Watch this space.

 

MWANZA TO SPEND ALMOST 20 MILLION ON TOURISM PROMOTION

The Mwanza municipality and some of the neighbours has committed nearly 20 million Tanzania Shillings to promote their area more aggressively in Tanzania, aimed to attract more visitors coming to spend time on the shores of Lake Victoria. Located on Africa’s largest lake and being a potential springboard into the Serengeti and other parks Mwanza is still largely unexplored by visitors, leave alone foreign tourists, who often have little idea about the location of the municipality nor added facts about nearby attractions.

The funds set aside will undoubtedly go a long way in making Mwanza better known in Tanzania, the region and the wider world and it is hoped that the initiative will bear fruits in months and years to come, and more funding will follow to sustain this ‘promotional drive’.

Tourism board sources too have welcomed the novel approach by Mwanza and said: ‘we welcome this, it helps us promote our country better with more information and we hope that more parts of the country come forward and put together a tourism promotion for their area also’.

 

BALLOON SAFARIS SUSPENSION LIFTED

Following the start of the air accident investigation by the Tanzanian CAA it is understood that the initial suspension of balloon flights across the Serengeti National Park has been lifted. Information received from Arusha indicates that the initial measure to curtail operations until some clarity about the cause of the accident had been established, was lifted and the remaining balloons are operating ‘normally’ again. The accident, regretted though it is, was the first in over 20 years of balloon operations out of the Seronera area in the heart of the Serengeti. There are also some indications emerging now that the cause of the accident may be attributed to sudden strong winds rather than lack of fuel (LPG) as has been alleged by a former employee of the company, something the management of Serengeti Balloon Safaris immediately and strongly rejected.

Balloon safaris normally take off before sunrise and are back on the ground before 8 a.m. latest to avoid the build up of wind currents associated with the warming of the ground once the sun is up, a development best avoided according to pilots in particular during the difficult phase of landing the crafts.

With this information update now at hand readers can be availed the latest facts.

 

Rwanda News

TREEPLANTING HIGH ON THE NATIONAL AGENDA

It was learned from sources in Kigali that the government has cleared the planting of over 40 million new trees across the ‘land of a thousand hills’ during the national tree planting week, due to commence in early November. Rwanda has in the past excelled in efforts to re-afforest sections of the country where continuous forests had in the past been decimated, by creating a ‘new’ forest belt aimed to improve water catchment, better the micro climate in that part of the country and restore biodiversity, while counting on increased tourism will help pay for the efforts long term.

Rwanda intends to increase forest cover from the present 21 percent to about 30 percent by 2020 and deliberate measures are being taken to in particular use indigenous hard wood and other tropical  trees found in medium and high altitude rain forests, including bamboo, for which alone over 2.500 hectares have been set aside for replanting.

The source also confirmed that the exercise will continue beyond the annual ‘tree planting week’ in early November, using the entire rainy season across the country to have every district make an extra effort to meet targets set for them by the central government in Kigali.

 

Southern Sudan News

UN SECURITY COUNCIL VISITS SUDAN

The UN Security Council last week visited the Sudan on a fact finding mission, in the process snubbing regime leader Bashir while in Khartoum, who is indicted by the ICC’ indicted and a wanted man on the run. The visit was deemed important for in particular the South of the country, which is on countdown towards their independence referendum due to be held on 09th January next year amidst growing threats, intimidation and verbal broadsides from leading regime figures in the North. It was here in particular that interaction by the UN Security Council members was seen as very important to understand the position of the SPLM, which forms the government in the Southern Sudan, in regard of the various logistical hurdles placed in the way of a smooth referendum by the Khartoum regime. In fact the SPLM led government in Juba requested to deploy UN peace keeping troops along the present demarcation lines between South and North to avoid armed conflict before, during and after the referendum period, prompting angry outcries and outright threats again from the regime in Khartoum. Regime leader and ICC wanted Bashir in fact unleashed broadsides against the Southern leadership at the Arab League Summit last week, accusing them to be in violation of the 2005 CPA and warning the South of unspecified consequences, hardly concealing references of renewed war and again showing his true face when he spoke in anger ruling out any consent from his regime to deploy UN contingents ahead of the January referendum.

Inspite of all eyes now on the independence referendum, work however is going on as planned with the restoration of protected areas in Southern Sudan, which after independence could form one of the backbones of economic advance by attracting investments in the hospitality sector inside and outside the present 6 national parks and 7 game reserves. As seen with Southern Sudan’s East African neighbours this should allow them to progressively bring in sizeable numbers of tourist visitors to see the great migration of the white eared kobs between Boma National Park – located along the border with Ethiopia – and the River Nile via the Badingilo National Park,  and also explore other attractions, including the famous ‘Sudd’, itself not yet a park but expected to be raised to this status after independence.

Current, and besides Boma and Badingilo, fully fledged national parks are Dinder, Southern, Shambe and Lantoto while the 7 game reserves are Kidepo, Chelkou, Tokar, Rahad, Ashana, Bengangai and Fanyikango Island – plenty to explore for adventurers and intrepid travellers when the South has become Africa’s youngest nation in early 2011 and is fully open for ‘business’ after being rid of the yoke of oppression by the Khartoum regime and its paranoia to keep tourists out of the country. Watch this space for regular updates from Southern Sudan as the semi independent region is marching towards self determination.

 

Seychelles News

INDIA’S SPICEJET GIVEN PERMISSION TO FLY TO MAHE

From information received out of Seychelles aviation circles it appears that India’s SpiceJet has received permission to fly at least once a week between Mumbai and Mahe. Only a few weeks ago did Air Seychelles announce that they will commence flights between Mahe and Mumbai which then route on to Singapore, and the addition of an Indian airline may be part of the intergovernmental BASA – bilateral air services agreement – under which air transport between India and the Seychelles is regulated.

No information could be confirmed however when such flights would commence, how many flights per week would be operated and what aircraft SpiceJet would use, arguably their B737NG’ which they are using across their present network. SpiceJet is a typical LCC airline and it remains to be seen what impact their added flights would have on arrival numbers to the Seychelles, which up to now are only being served by full service airlines.

 

DESROCHES ISLAND RESORT FEATURES IN ‘FORBES MAGAZINE’

The Forbes Magazine’s latest edition has included the Desroches Island Resort as one of the world’s top ten ‘most remote resorts’, an accolade well earned, considering the distance metre from the ‘main island’ of Mahe of the archipelago reading some 130 nautical miles.

Desroches is world famous for its ‘fly fishing’ along the beaches and lagoons and the resort is not just remote but also of the highest reputation for standards, food and service, holding its own amongst the otherwise many other famous resorts across the islands of the Seychelles.

Desroches can be reached by air via helicopter or fixed wing aircraft, or by boat – or personal yacht, whatever applies to the respective visitors to this unique resort. For more information visit the island’s web site via www.desroches-island.com which shows a complete overview of the resort and the activities on this extraordinary island.

 

AIR SEYCHELLES SHOWS OFF MEDICAL TRANSPORT OPTION, INTRODUCES FLAT BEDS

The Seychelles national airline has last week shown publicly for the first time the ‘medical suite’ available for evacuation airlifts of seriously ill or injured patients, which include facilities for accompanying nurses and doctors as well as medical equipment required during flight. The ‘facility’ is available on one of the airline’s B767’s presently used on a regular charter operation between the UK and the Falkland Islands, which Air Seychelles flies on behalf of the UK government.

At the same time all B767’s have been receiving an upgraded ‘flat bed’ business class which was also launched last week, matching the front cabin product of other airlines flying to Mahe but most importantly offering far greater comforts for ‘Pearl Class’ passengers on the routes to and from Paris, London, Rome and Milan. The product will eventually also be introduced on the flights to Singapore, which now route via Mumbai in India.

The installation of the 24 state of the art seats necessitated the removal of one row of seats in the economy class cabin but the ‘loss’ of revenue there will, according to an airline source, be made up by improved sales of the premium class product which now allows Air Seychelles to meet the higher expectations of passengers used to travel upfront.

 

CONDE NAST INCLUDES 4 SEYCHELLES RESORTS IN TOP 20

Following the success of Desroches Island in the Forbes Magazine last week, Conde Nast has done even better for the archipelago when naming four resorts in their ‘top twenty’ for Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Middle Eastern region.

Denis Island Resort came an impressive third for this Conde Nast ‘region’ and was overall awarded the 11th place worldwide, making it the highest rated resort of the Seychelles, according to the gospel of Conde Nast that is.

In the regional ratings Cousine Island Resort came 15th, closely followed by North Island Resort in 16th place and Fregate Island Resort came a respectable 18th. Considering that the regional ratings covered such illustrious destinations like Botswana, South Africa, the entire Indian Ocean including the Maledives (one of their resorts came overall winner this year), Sri Lanka, Mauritius, La Reunion as well as the Middle East, having scored so highly is not just a credit to the Seychelles but also a resounding vote of confidence in their tourism sectors’ unending efforts to improve the quality of its hospitality industry. Well done, small country but BIG scores.

Visit www.seychelles.com for comprehensive information on all the archipelago’s licensed resorts, hotels and restaurants as well as details on DMC’s, the national carrier Air Seychelles and everything else there is to know about turning a visit to the ‘time of your life’.

 

And today as most weeks some interesting ‘stuff’ from The Livingstone Weekly, compiled by Gill Staden:

 

 

Ngepi Camp, Caprivi ‘Strip’, Namibia

 

We were hot, bothered and tired when we took the dirt road down to Ngepi Camp on the Kavango River.  I had also just had an altercation with the lady at the petrol station in Divundu about allowing her friends to push in the queue.  Driving down the sandy road thinking that I desperately needed a beer to cheer me up, the first Ngepi sign came into view.  A bit further down the road and another one appeared out of the darkness … and so it went on along the road … and they really raised my spirits – I knew Ngepi was going to be a good place to stay … but I still needed that beer.

Arriving at Ngepi we parked the car and headed to the bar for an ice-cold drink, a quick sign-in to our tree house then off down the tracks to find our spot.  The tree house, fortunately, was not a house in a tree – it was a house around a tree – the three steps up to the deck were quite painless, carrying the bags and then … back to the bar for another beer and to the restaurant on a deck overlooking the river for a meal. 

Meals at Ngepi are pots of tasty food where everyone eats what is prepared – no point being fussy here – it is just good honest food – eat and be happy.  We were happy, relaxed and ready to retire and then face another day …

The following day was an expedition to Mahango National Park.  Then after a midday break while the sun belted down and sapped all our energy we read, dozed and recuperated for our trek to Buffalo Core area of Bwabwata National Park.  A tour around the park brought us back to the lodge for another couple of beers and meal. 

Both evenings at Ngepi were busy.  It is mid-range market which caters for overland trucks, campers and self-drive tourists, to mad twitchers who come to tick off, photograph and enjoy the amazing birdlife which I am reliably told meets 560 species – the highest number of species in our region around the Victoria Falls. 

Certainly the birds were ever present – not only was the early morning bird commotion above average, they seemed to be chirping, flitting and doing birdy things all day.  There were old and young men with cameras and big lenses trudging out through the bush with Christoff the bird guide.  Christoff told me about the unusual sightings he had seen during the day.  I can’t remember them, but they sounded impressive.

Other people went on boats or makoras on the river; some took the rubber canoe ride through some rapids.  Some swam in the cage in the river which is the camp’s pool.  And, although there were so many activities on offer, some preferred to sit in the shade of the riverine trees and read a book. 

All in all, a great place to stay with lots going on.  Being on the Kavango River it is en route to/from the Okavango, Etosha and Victoria Falls. 

Reaching Ngepi from Livingstone is quite a trek but easily manageable in a day.  Take the road to Sesheke and cross the border into Namibia (an easy border crossing).  From Katima Mulilo, take the road west to Kongola (110 km) where you cross the Kwando River and enter Bwabwata National Park.  This park stretches for 200 km and there is rarely much to see except at either end on the Kwando and Kavango rivers.  There is no water in between so animals don’t tend to tarry in the mid-section.  On reaching Divundu cross the Kavango River and take a south road towards the Botswana border – you will see the sign to Ngepi after about 10 km.

 

CONSULTATION

 THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY http://www.zamsoc.org

The Zambezi Society is a non-profit, non-governmental, membership organisation working to promote the conservation and environmentally sound management of the Zambezi River and its basin for the benefit of wilderness, wildlife and people.


CONSULTATION: OCTOBER 2010 

MANA POOLS WORLD HERITAGE SITE:

ZIMPARKS AUTHORITY PROPOSES NEW TOURISM DEVELOPMENTS

Zimbabwe’s Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) has asked The Zambezi Society and other stakeholders to ratify its proposals for the following:

  • three new semi-permanent” 24-bed lodge tourism development sites along the Zambezi River frontage of the Mana Pools National Park and World Heritage Site,
  • one new “semi-permanent” 24-bed lodge tourism development at the Ruchomechi Research Station inland within the Park
  • one new tented camp operators’ site as a replacement for one being displaced by a river frontage lodge development site above

The map below shows existing tourism development camps, lodges and sites along the Zambezi River within Mana Pools in Zimbabwe and also on the opposite (Zambian) bank of the river, as well as the four proposed riverside development locations which are marked (very approximately) with red symbols.  Ruckomechi Research Station (the site of an inland development proposal) lies adjacent to the Ruckomechi River in the south-eastern section of the Mana Pools National Park and is off this map.

 These development proposals have been announced after preparation of a 10-year Management Plan for Mana Pools, which included negotiations with all the stakeholders, including the Society itself, and are not included in the Plan. Completed some 18 months ago, this Plan remains unsigned by Zimbabwe’s Minister of Environment.  However, at a meeting held on 20th September 2010, the ZPWMA informed stakeholders that if the above proposals are ratified, the Mana Pools Management Plan will be signed by the Minister and no further developments will be allowed to take place in the Park for a 10-year period.

In the Plan, Guiding Principles for Tourism are stated as follows:

1. Wilderness qualities will be maintained
2. Tourism away from the river will be encouraged
3. Camping and low impacted tented camps will be promoted
4. Unescorted walking will continue to be permitted
5. Citizen and educational access will be promoted
6. ZPWMA accommodation will be competitive
7. Linkages with appropriate communal areas will be encouraged
8. Exclusive use areas will be discouraged

During the management planning process, stakeholders agreed that further developments along the Zambezi River frontage at Mana Pools would be likely to increase tourism pressure to a level which could damage the very fragile ecosystem of the Mana Pools alluvial terraces known as the “floodplain” and diminish the wilderness and wildlife experience currently enjoyed by visitors to the Park.   The Plan recommended, therefore, that there should be no further developments in the Zambezi riverside/floodplain zone of the Park and that only small (12-bed) semi-permanent developments should be encouraged at identified sites inland.

No mention of these four new proposed sites was made by the Authority or any of the developers during several stakeholder consultations for the Management Plan.  Indeed, although the possibility of one new riverside tourism site was discussed during stakeholder meetings, it was subsequently firmly rejected by the Authority’s own planning department on the grounds that there were “already too many developments along the Zambezi River in Mana Pools”.

We are informed by the Parks Authority that one of these proposed riverside development sites is a Joint Venture initiative between The Zimbabwe Parks Authority and Wilderness Safaris (an existing Mana Pools Tour Operator).  The Authority would not name the proposed recipients of the other sites, but made it clear that the tenders have already been awarded.  We await details.  We are also told that the sites will be leased for a maximum 25-year period (renewable every 5 years) and a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be required for each development before construction commences.

The Zambezi Society has written to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority informing them that we cannot respond to their request until we have consulted with our members.  We have further stated:

“…We would …suggest that it is now necessary to re-examine the Park Plan in light of the potential impacts these new proposals might have on the environment of Mana Pools National Park and on the tourism experience of visitors to the Park.

In fact, we would go further to state that the Mana Pools Management Planning process should now be revisited as part of a wider, more comprehensive planning process for the entire Mana Pools/Sapi/Chewore complex which constitutes the UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We believe that this would provide for more flexibility and creativity in developing future, long-term, sustainable tourism solutions and opportunities along the Zambezi River and throughout the World Heritage Site.

With the permission of the Parks Authority, The Zambezi Society would be happy to seek funding sources for such an exercise, which would include a provision for reinforcing the planning capacity of the Authority.”

The Zambezi Society urges its members and associates to respond to this CONSULTATION by sending us your comments/opinions on these development proposals.

PLEASE RESPOND TO US BY E-MAIL to zambezi@mweb.co.zw  

ALL RESPONSES TO BE RECEIVED BY 31ST OCTOBER 2010 

INFORMED COMMENTS/OPINIONS CAN BE POSTED ON THE INTERNET VIA THE FACEBOOK GROUPS

THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY  and/or

SAVE MANA POOLS

 

Tourism News from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region First edition October 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome First edition October 2010 Uganda News

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO ALL UGANDANS ON OCTOBER 09th

RHINO FUND TO HOLD MAIN ANNUAL FUNDRAISER

The Rhino Fund Uganda is organising their annual main fundraising activity the ‘Rhino Raft Race’ on the upper Nile, which last year raised about 10.000 US Dollars for the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The event will be held on October 23rd, starting at the Nile River Explorer’s ‘River Camp’ at 09.00 hrs sharp, and then extending across the Saturday. Team participation cost is set at 1 million Uganda Shillings or just under 500 US Dollars and the Rhino Fund team will be defending their ‘title’ they earned last year when coming first and leaving everyone in their wake. The ‘rafting’ will be restricted to grade 1 and grade 2 rapids only to take out any element of danger to younger teams and all equipment will be supplied by safety conscious ‘Nile River Explorers’ one of Jinja’s predominant rafting and adventure companies. For more information about the event write to angie@rhinofund.org or to leslie@raftafrica.com, who can also make arrangements for accommodation at the ‘River Camp’ or provide details on other nearby accommodation or camping options. Food and drinks will be available at a very reasonable cost throughout the fun day at the Nile River Explorer’s base camp. Also visit http://www.rhinofund.org for more information on the objectives of the Rhino Fund Uganda and its operation on the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which is located en route to Murchisons Falls National Park about 175 kilometres outside Kampala.

KAMPALA CELEBRATES ‘OKTOBERFEST’ ONCE AGAIN AT SHERATON

As ‘usual’ will the Sheraton Kampala Hotel once again be the venue for the annual ‘Oktoberfest’ to be celebrated in Kampala between the 14th until the 16th of the month. German beers and ‘delicatessen’ will be featuring on the daily menu and promise to be a magnet for Kampala’s socialites. The festival will open daily from 6.30 pm until late and ‘authentic’ music will be played promising enough ‘umptata’ for aficionados of German food, drink and ‘Gemuetlichkeit’.

LATEST ‘THE EYE’ NOW OUT AND AVAILABLE

Another bumper edition of 140 pages of the bi-monthly ‘The Eye’ has earlier in the week hit the ‘market’, when the complimentary publication was distributed by the company’s couriers to hotel receptions, restaurants, travel agencies, airline offices, tourist attractions and other hot spots across Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja and other towns regularly frequented by tourist visitors. The Eye, together with sister publication EyeTrade has become a ‘must read, must have’ magazine for locals as well as visitors, as it provides a bi-monthly update on where to go, what to do, how to find services, addresses, phones and e-contacts of diplomatic missions and covering all and sundry, worth to know. The web edition is reportedly in its final stage of release too, now that the printed version has been distributed and can be found via www.theeye.co.ug

AKRIGHT PROJECTS INTRODUCES NATURE PARK

The 1.5 square miles large Akright housing project along the main road to Entebbe has set aside over 100 acres of land to create and maintain a nature park along some streams and ponds found on the sprawling property. The area, called ‘Alexander Park’, is home to a large number of birds but also small mammals and insects, which visitors can appreciate while walking amongst the tropical trees, which until some generations ago had covered the entire area between the capital Kampala and Entebbe. The owners are in the process of erecting a walk above the treetops, allowing visitors to see the trees at eye level and from above where the vegetation is lower than the walkway. Boating along the water canals and through the ponds is also in the planning. The area will undoubtedly become an oasis of peace and tranquillity when the various ‘estates’ have been fully created, for both residents as well as visitors from outside. The Akright Projects management is said to consider the award of a concession to a developer of a nature park and related infrastructure like a visitor centre, literature for visitors, a gift shop, restaurant and bar, some structures are already available and ready for occupation. Nearby is a golf course development, presently extending over 9 holes with a further 9 under work, but the owners are considering expanding into a 27 hole course to be able to run competitions while having members still able to play without their weekend fun being too much impacted on. Watch this space for future updates on this remarkable estate, housing and nature project.

AVIATORS REJECT WORLD BANK SUGGESTIONS

Regular aviation sources in Uganda, but also from Nairobi, have largely dismissed the core message of a World Bank study, which blamed the generally lower standards of aviation safety to the reluctance of African countries to ‘open up their airspaces to competition’. ‘Blaming accidents on the lack of competition smacks of a twisted sense of understanding such problems’ said one source from Kajjansi, where the airlines operating from there enjoy an excellent safety record for their past flight operations. Added the source: ‘de-regulation like in the US, from where the World Bank study seems to draw its inspiration, has not improved safety and in fact the regulator, the FAA there, is blamed for being too slow and too lenient with airlines when safety measures like Air Worthiness Directives are concerned and the timeframes they allow for implementation. As an airline, even small compared to the big boys, we go by the recommendations and directives of the manufacturers and the approved maintenance and operations manuals by our CAA. The World Bank should focus on creating capacity amongst African regulators to have more competent staff, assist in creating regional regulatory bodies and do away with national bodies where appropriate, like here in the East African Community and encourage investments in the maintenance sector across our region. It is a question of incentives for manufacturers and MRO’s to come here and set up, but is it not the same World Bank which is trying to stop African governments to intervene in strategic sectors and tell them NOT to give incentives?’ Said a source from Nairobi: ‘we know that across Africa safety standards are low and the continent has a lot of air accidents, but when you look at the main culprits, Congo, Sudan and a few others, when you take them away we suddenly look much better and are much closer to global averages. It is there the World Bank should concentrate instead of bedevilling the whole industry in Africa, and they should support ICAO and IATA in their endeavours instead of creating a whole new bureaucracy in parallel. ICAO and IATA, the latter through their IOSA certification process, have done a great deal already and are well placed to get African aviation in line with global parameters, but this so called study is just another example of how World Bank consultants draw wrong conclusions and make wrong recommendations.’ And yet another source added that ‘they should support our demands to remove non tariff barriers here in East Africa instead of lecturing us on Yamoussoukro or COMESA agreements, those are political declarations but without concrete steps for instance here in East Africa, we are still treated like foreign registered airlines when we fly some of our fellow East African countries, and they know it, we told them often, but they chose to demonise aviation in Africa and try to impose the US solutions of liberalisation and laissez faire which have not exactly succeeded very well there. Do they understand the economic realities of African airlines compared with their world competitors from the mid East, Europe and America? Is their demand to ‘open up’ not just a disguise to allow the global players into Africa and carve up the market between them and in the process destroy all the progress we made until now? I’d love to give some of those ‘consultants’ a piece of my mind and find out what sort of experts they are!’ Oooops…

EAST AFRICAN LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY ENDORSES NEW AVIATION LAW

While the East African legislators during their sitting in Bujumbura / Burundi recently endorsed the new aviation law under which CASSOA (Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency) was formed and is now operating, aviation sources from across the region, except from one country notorious for their protective attitude, have demanded that the EAC now immediately embark on removing non tariff barriers and move towards one integrated regulatory regime. Amongst the demands were calls to remove national regulators and incorporate their staff into a regional regulatory body, saving millions of dollars in the process by removing the duplicity or multiplicity of regulatory administration expenses across the region. ‘When we have obtained an Air Service License and attained our Air Operator Certificate by one of the regional regulators, the others should immediately and fully recognise this body of licences. Look at 540 Aviation for instance, they are forced to have a company in each EAC member state to operate smoothly because of duplicated requirements, that is not right. Neither is it right we from Uganda should have to pay fees for landing or be subject to getting clearances like a foreign airline for instance from South Africa, when we are in fact licensed within a member state. That level of blatant domestic protection measures must end immediately now if CASSOA is to succeed on a region wide basis.’ These sentiments have been expressed before but fallen on deaf ears until now with domestic and regional legislative bodies and suggestions like the ones made above have often been rejected by national regulators as ‘not feasible’ while they defend their existence and fiefdoms at the expense of integration in the aviation sector across the region. One regulator’s staff in fact said to proposals to charge one common fee for overflights for regional member airlines and one higher fee for foreign airlines crossing the East African airspace as ‘foolish’, claiming that ‘we will lose our revenue base for overflight charges if each country is to give up charging to a regional body’ without addressing the proposal that a common East African regulatory body would still charge for overflights and navigation fees based on flights in the region and receive payments from the airlines. Fodder for thought once again and any emerging news will feature here of course.

FLY 540 INTRODUCES ‘SINGLE TICKET THROUGH FARE’

As part of the changes and innovations by Fly 540, East Africa’s first true low cost airline, information was given that they will, with immediate effect, introduce structured ‘through fares’ for their destinations beyond and through Nairobi. For passengers from Entebbe this will apply to Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Arusha but also to Bujumbura, while passengers from there will also enjoy the same fares when travelling via the airline’s Nairobi hub to their final destination within the 540 network. This will be good news for travellers across the region, not only that it is an all inclusive fare without add on taxes, fuel surcharges or airport fees and secondly that the former practise of having to buy two tickets, one for each sector, is now a thing of the past too, making travel ‘smoother’. The cost of a ticket, all inclusive, for a return flight between Entebbe and Nairobi remains at USD 268, Mombasa return sells now at USD 296, Zanzibar and Dar sell at USD 428 and USD 362 respectively. Well done indeed and happy flying …

TELECOM ‘WARS’ JUST GOT FIERCER

Celtel/Zain’s new owners Bharti of India, soon to be trading in Uganda too as ‘Airtel’, has scored brownie points with subscribers once again, when they reacted to last week’s offer by Warid Telecom, which had lowered call charges per second to 5 Uganda Shillings, only to be outdone by Celtel/Zain with a 3 Uganda Shillings per second offer. What is remarkable though is the fact that the new offer is not only applicable to prepaid subscribers, who make up most of Uganda’s mobile telecoms users, but also to contract customers known as ‘post paid’, a market long neglected by the telecoms companies as special offers rarely applied to them inspite of paying a monthly basic subscription over and above the charges for calls made. International calls to select destinations have been pegged at 299 Uganda Shillings per minute, again offering the lowest charges presently available in the market. Market leaders MTN and UTL too reduced their tariffs in response to the ‘trigger offer’ by Warid but found themselves substantially outmanoeuvred by Celtel/Zain. Conventional wisdom has it that the market leaders are the most opposed to lowering ‘interconnection’ charges, applicable when subscribers from one network call another network, but this does not seem to have prevented other companies to lower their ‘across all network’ call charges to a level when only a massive increase in calls can then make the economics of the new tariffs work. It is expected that the next target for tariff reductions will be the data market, where since the arrival of three fibre optic cable networks in Uganda there is arguably a lot of room for lowering the current charges. As the telecoms companies, first in Kenya and now in Uganda, battle for market share and to retain their erstwhile subscribers, the customers will be the ones with better deals and lower charges while the finance departments and shareholders of the telecoms companies will be holding their breath in anticipation of lower profits and less dividends.

TOURISM NEEDS MARKETING FUNDING TO SUCCEED

The Chief Executive of Tourism Uganda, aka Uganda Tourist Board, Mr. Cuthbert Baguma, has on the occasion of the World Tourism Day once again decried the absence of ‘decent funding’ for the country’s premier tourism marketing and promotion body UTB. However, this situation is not new, having persisted for the past 15 years, with occasional ‘one off’ activism bursts, which however, due to the lack of sustained follow up, evaporated swiftly as the TV screens around the world showed other destinations and after delegates of ‘sponsored’ conferences left the country, turning their attention to the next destination. The new tourism law provides for the funding of several components of the sector, like promotion, training and related work, through a levy, but squabbles over the question who collects, who receives and who controls these funds have prevented the levy from being formally introduced. Even the ‘old’ laws creating the tourist board and the national hotel training institute in 1994 had provisions for such funding, but again, because of sustained arguments over the control and the collection points these opportunities were left idle, denying the Uganda Tourist Board and HTTI much needed funds for development, training and promotional activities at home, in the region and around the globe. This correspondent had several years ago already pegged the minimum annual budget at 1.5 million US Dollars, a figure which needs substantial improvement now considering the level of funding for instance for Uganda’s main competitors like Rwanda, Kenya or further abroad South Africa, which are funding wise in a different league altogether, and their successes speak volumes of course. Time to wake up and move from words to real funding for Uganda’s tourism promotions.

‘COMMUNITY DEMANDS’ CAUSE CONSTERNATION AMONGST TOUR FIRMS

 Demands by community groups from outside Queen Elizabeth National Park that visiting tourists ‘should report to local community leaders’ caused both consternation as well as bemusement by safari operators, when the ‘news’ were reported in the local media earlier in the week. Reportedly the groups demanded that tourists ‘should come to the local authorities first’, immediately giving rise to suggestions that ulterior motives were at work, disguising an attempt to ‘make money from tourists’ – as one regular source from the safari sector put it – by any means. Such suspicions were given a further boost when it was learned that the same groups also demanded from the National Forest Authority the right to cultivate ‘bare patches’ in protected forests, prompting the same source to say: ‘it is clear there is no motive of conservation or in fact any good motivation other than trying to get their hands on tourists. Who knows what will be demanded of them should our drivers comply with such and bring tourists to local administrators. We pay park entrance for the visitors to UWA, have our licences from the Ministry of Tourism, so why should tourists ‘report’ somewhere else. And the group’s demand to be allowed to cultivate in forests shows they are not having an idea about conservation but are only interested in commercial gains’. Ooops…

FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE GETS BOOST FROM UN

United Nations agencies have last week committed some 36 million US Dollars towards Uganda’s fight against climate change, ahead of the globally celebrated World Tourism Day. Tourism to Uganda is largely based on nature, intact landscapes, biodiversity and a reputation for conservation measures, and while many challenges remain for the country, both old and new as frequently reported here, the added funding will assist in reaching some of the goals and targets the country has set itself. Uganda is reportedly the first country to tackle climate change hand in hand with relevant UN organizations and will serve as a pilot study for other countries hopefully joining the programme in coming months. Meanwhile has President Museveni also reiterated the need for sustainability and best environmental practise for investors in the tourism sector, as read out in his speech on the occasion of World Tourism Day by one of his cabinet ministers representing him on the day.

Kenya News

KENYA TIDBITS

News came in last week that wild dogs, aka painted dogs or hunting dogs, were spotted after a long absence near the Porini Camp on their Selenkay Conservancy outside Amboseli National Park. The pack of the wild dogs will be a special attraction for visitors to the camp as they reportedly can only be spotted on the conservancy, not inside the park itself, giving Selenkay once more a competitive advantage, besides the privacy and superb hospitality guests there enjoy already. Meanwhile it was also learned that the Kenya Tourist Board, hand in hand with leading international tour operators and local hotel groups like Fairmont, is presently organising media trips for travel journalists to see Kenya’s many unique attractions and enlist the writer’s support to promote travel to East Africa’s leading tourism destination. Well done KTB, while others ‘sleep’ or have to squabble over funding! The latest newsletter of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located on the Laikipia plains near Nanyuki, has been published and can be obtained via info@olpejetaconservancy.org And to end this section, the Travel News Kenya October edition is now available on the web once again, the ONLY way to read this publication. Write to tony@triad.co.ke to be put on the mailing list and get a wide range of articles, commentaries and travel updates covering Kenya from one end to the other.

AVIATION UNION ONCE AGAIN SHOWS ITS TRUE FACE

Kenya’s Aviation and Allied Workers Union, notorious for their contemptuous behaviour just over a year ago, when it ignored a court order and went ahead with industrial action against Kenya Airways, is once more in the bad press when news emerged earlier this week of yet another breach of agreement. Kenya Airways last year entered into an agreement with the union under the auspices of the country’s labour ministry and the trade union umbrella body, and to the letter implemented the payment obligations including a back dated increase in allowances for their crews. However, as if that were not enough, the union has now issued another strike threat if he back dating would not be extended by a further 15 months beyond the threshold agreed a year ago and already paid for. Aviation observers in Kenya are jittery over the prospects of more industrial action, which could likely expand across other airlines too, being already faced with staff shortages, in particular cockpit crew, for which wages according to one source have nearly doubled over the past few years. This however was market driven as simply not enough ‘fresh’ pilots are coming on the market at present and many have succumbed to the overtures of airlines based in the middle East, where ‘greener pastures’ await them upon signing contracts and becoming ‘expatriates’. Kenya Airways has been countering this move by offering comprehensive pilot training opportunities but then also ‘bonding’ the new graduates of their in house aviation academy, to allow at least the recovery of the substantial training cost over several years, while other airlines have been resorting to offering pilots from further abroad chances to fly, albeit at substantially increased cost. The airline has blamed these latest developments on disputes within the union hierarchy, where indeed some of the officials who signed the deal with KQ in August 2009 have since been replaced by a new breed of apparently economically inept but politically well trained agitators, portraying union behaviour and lines of thought in the worst tradition of the British trade unions before the ‘Iron Lady’ Baroness Thatcher confronted them head on in her days as the UK”s prime minister and pulled their poison fangs. Should the union not be reined in by their peers at COTU, the central organisation of trade unions in Kenya, undoubtedly the aviation sector would be appealing to government to look at improved legislation which would compel unions to adhere to signed agreements while still in force and make wild cat strikes less possible or even illegal, combined with a high and deterrent financial and personal cost for the promoters of such activities. Watch this space while we are monitoring events or sign up to this correspondent’s twitter account for breaking news updates via @whthome.

DELTA ADDS FURTHER SNUB TO KENYA

After the recent inaugural flight between Atlanta and Monrovia / Liberia, NOT extended as long planned to Nairobi for reasons of ‘security’, a misnomer behind which much is hidden these days, news are now emerging that the airline is planning more routes to Africa in early 2011. It was learned from a source in Nairobi closely monitoring Delta’s African network plans, that apparently Dakar and Luanda flights will be launched in January next year, while the fate of Nairobi continues to hang in the balance as American government sources allegedly continue to have their ‘thumbs down’ on applications to commence flights to East Africa. Said one regular source: ‘they [Delta] may only get clearance when the works at JKIA are completed. We keep hearing that the separation of arriving and departing passengers is a big issue for the Americans, but frankly if the European and big Middle East airlines can make it work, why not US airlines. We think there is more at work behind the scenes than logistical reasons or their obscure ‘security concerns’ which they have overcome in other destinations. For us as Kenyans the best way forward would be if Kenya Airways could start to fly to the US on their own to open the market but they do not have enough aircraft, guess why by the way, because Boeing has failed to deliver.’

KENYA AIRWAYS SPONSORS ‘MASAI MARATHON’

November 20th will be the day when runners from Kenya, the region and further abroad will assemble outside the Masai Mara to run a marathon in aid of conservation measures. Kenya Airways has been confirmed as the main event sponsor, and while other corporate bodies are expected to assist too with funding, materials and logistical support, the event will be known as the ‘Kenya Airways Masai Mara Marathon’. Start and finish will be just outside the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, where the better off competitors can stay, subject to space that is, and the runners will cover a 21 km loop. There will however be a ‘marathon village’ where participants can stay at a very affordable fee, using standards camping tents, while more luxurious temporary accommodation will also be set up. Showers and washrooms will also be available for those bringing their own equipment. Various races will be run, for the ‘professionals’ as well as those in various stages of fitness, some covering the entire circuit while others will be restricted to lesser distances. Watch this space.

HIGHLAND GAMES – KENYA STYLE (reproduced here with kind permission by Kuki Gallmann) The grounds were prepared, the grass cut and cut again, hundreds flags -and new trousers-were churned out in the pedal machine by taylor Kariuki Gitau; many tents were erected in case it may rain, water brought, food brought, tracks were drawn out on the plain and the disconcerted impala moved out to the side of the field. Sport consultants worked daily on the fields alongside our exceptional ground team. Toby then gave the sport shoes, and Bianca painted the boards, and I got the tshirst printed out:blue on black, with Amani for Peace printed below our logo.And Sveva came back again from UK to work with trainer Walter and Victor to build up The POKOT YOUTH PEACE TEAM, ever day for six weeks. And the people came-in their thousands. Pokot and Njemps, Turkana and Samburu, Tugen and Nandi, Kikuyu and Borana, the Masaai cricket players for Il Polei. This despite a tribal fight just the day before , between Samburu and Turkana at Rumuruti:communities and tribals have recognised this Sports for Peace event as one of the really unique occasions to meet and solve issues:the athmosphere was just amazing. We had over 1200 entries to the athletics games and many spectators, estimated to be about 4000. The highlight of the event was the initial amazing performance of the Pokot Youth Peace team led by Kopus-the poacher who was given a chance.I had promised him that one day he would perform in front of envoys guests and a huge crowd.As I stood to clap, emotion almost overwhelmed me. The promise was kept. See him below gleaming with his grandmother:all boys families were invited, transported and fed by us. Next step will be to register their group and to have them perform for a fee, further afield. Nairobi as well. Rains were kept at bay..just for the day..it rained all around us and magic worked when a circle of sunshine just over the game fields allowed the athletes to compete until dark! We are grateful to all that helped make this possible. With blessings Kuki, Sveva and the Team of The Laikipia Highlands Games 2010 From Laikipia Nature Conservancy / September 20th 2010

Tanzania News

BALLOON CRASH PROMPTS FLIGHT BAN BY TCAA and SENAPA

The Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority has now slapped a temporary ban on balloon operations in the Serengeti, the only place in Tanzania where ballooning is currently possible on a commercial scale, following the crash last weekend which sadly cost the lives of two and seriously injured 8 others when the basket hit the ground hard. The ban was replicated also by the management of the Serengeti National Park which had concessioned the balloon operations normally taking off outside the Seronera Safari Lodge. It appears from information at hand that the gas used to propel the burners, which keep the ‘envelope’ inflated with hot air and hence afloat, may have run out and this subsequently prompted a heated exchange in private and public between the company’s management and a former pilot. Allegations were made by said former pilot, that the company ‘habitually’ operated balloons with minimum gas supplies on board, a situation which according to the former pilot he had pointed out on many occasions including more vigorously after some flights had to be ended early as gas supplies were running out too soon. Some of the criticism centres around the alleged practise to load only 4 instead of the possible 6 gas bottles, subsequently limiting flight operations should the pilots insist on the safe and required ‘reserves’ on board, a measure common for fixed wing and rotor craft, all of which MUST carry a minimum fuel reserve on landing which is part of the post flight reporting requirements. The company, Serengeti Balloon Safaris, in turn labelled their former pilot as a disgruntled ex-employee who was dismissed without however commenting specifically on the allegations of operating outside the permitted limits, nor was ready to give the true reasons why the former pilot eventually left the company, either on his own or by termination. Balloon operations were initially started in Eastern Africa from the Keekorok Safari Lodge in the Masai Mara in the late 70’s by Kenya Balloon Safaris, before the concept was copied across the Masai Mara and in other parks and game reserves. It is recalled here that world renowned wildlife film producer Alan Root was in fact the first to ever fly ‘commercial’ balloons in Kenya when pursuing filming from ‘above’ without the use of the much faster aircraft otherwise common in those days, and that his experiences with ballooning was in fact the trigger to this now much in demand tourism activity. Few accidents were recorded in Kenya over the past 40 plus years, a sign that safe operations under KCAA regulations are the rule. This correspondent has flown twice in the past with SBS while visiting the Serengeti and on both occasions, being aviation literate, had long chats with the pilots before and after the flight, with no indication that those two had any concerns over their equipment or their fuel loads on board, as incidentally was also the case on the many occasions when flying on balloons in Kenya over the decades. It remains to be seen, what results and causes the TCAA air accident investigation panel will unearth when the now ongoing enquiry has interviewed the survivors, ground personnel, eye witnesses and the company’s officials amongst others. Watch this space.

 FORMER PRIME MINISTER GIVES HIS CONSTITUENTS A PROPER WIND UP

 In his fight to become re-elected has veteran politician Edward Lowassa taken to making ‘intriguing’ statements to his constituents, a measure of his apparent desperation to garner enough votes to keep him ‘in the job’ for another term, being faced with an opponent for the first time. The former Prime Minister last weekend hit out at critics of the ‘killer road’ across the Serengeti, still using the terminology ‘tarmac’, and telling the assembled crowds that the value of people was not comparable with the value of animals, which need no social services or welfare while humans do. He vowed to team up with supporters of the road project to make sure the tarmac road was constructed irrespective of its impact on the migration patterns of the big wildebeest and zebra herds, before adding that he was ready for a ‘showdown with environmental and conservation groups’. In typical sycophant fashion the former prime minister accused opponents of the routing of the road of having only the welfare of animals in mind and neglecting the needs of humans, in particular his constituents, winding up the sentiments by claiming that the proposed road would have no impact on the animals but open up the area for commerce and trade. He was also quoted as having said that environmentalists and conservationists generally value animals more than the Tanzanian people, a claim hard to sustain considering the support development partners and donors have extended to a large number of projects benefitting the region’s inhabitants alongside also caring for the conservation of the parks and biodiversity, something clearly lost on this politician.

 HOTEL OWNER’S WIFE DISAPPEARS WITH CASH

Drama ensued in Arusha last week when the wife of the owner of several hotels reportedly disappeared with wads of cash taken from one of her husband’s businesses, in the process allegedly beating up some female staff whom she suspected to have had affairs with her life partner. Venue of the drama was the Impala Hotel in the centre of Arusha, from where allegedly over 100 million Tanzania Shillings disappeared in local and foreign currency. While the police was looking for the combative lady her husband played down the incident, calling it a ‘misunderstanding’. Mr. Mrema owns such well known properties like the Impala Hotel, the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge enroute between Arusha and the international airport, but also the Naura Springs Hotel, besides being in real estate developments. No word was received if the wife had meanwhile been nabbed or the money recovered, leaving the husband with both injured pride and short of cash.

Congo News

CONGO DR SIGNS UP FOR NEW AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL EQUIPMENT

The Congo DR transport ministry has last week, according to reports from Kinshasa, awarded a new turnkey project to install a new air traffic control and management system across the sprawling country. It is understood that the latest European technology will be introduced and installed in key centres across the country while staff of the Congolese air traffic control will undergo training on the use and maintenance of the new system. No timeframe was available at the time to going to press about the period of time needed to deliver, install and operationalise the entire system but is thought to take several months at least, considering the geographical distances for instance between Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Goma and the other chosen locations for the new equipment.

Burundi News

FRENCH MAY BECOME ADDED OFFICIAL EAC LANGUAGE

The EAC has for the first time last week conceded the possibility to make French another ‘official’ language of the East African Community, besides English and Kiswahili. This development is attributed to the lobbying of Burundi, which unlike Rwanda has so far failed to embrace English as a major medium of communications, leaving Burundian business people ‘outside’ the main languages and making it difficult to do business with the rest of the EAC, where English and Kiswahili are commonly spoken. Rwanda has some time ago made English the main medium of teaching in schools and educational institutions and has successfully pushed French into a shrinking position, before also then officially joining the Anglophone Commonwealth of Nations last year. The language move has already raised questions as to why French should be added as a business language across the entire regional English speaking block, and while teaching French as a foreign language was common already at least in secondary schools, this should not make it a ‘must’ for the EAC only to employ interpreters and translators for every word spoken or printed in the future of the East African Community, as one regular source in Arusha at the EAC head office put it. He added ‘the treaty dictates English as main language and Kiswahili as second and any change would have to be discussed, agreed and ratified by member states first to become effective’. It is expected that the matter will receive attention in discussions in the future when legislators and officials meet in Arusha but by general consensus at present considered unlikely to succeed in the near future. Watch this space.

Seychelles News

STB GETS NEW DEPUTY CEO

The Seychelles Tourist Board, as part of the ongoing reorganization of the institution, has earlier in the week seen the appointment of an official deputy to Mr. Alain St. Ange as provided for under the revised statute. Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt was formally appointed by President James Michel who is now personally overseeing the tourism portfolio, signalling the growing importance of the sector to the entire country. Mrs. Grandcourt can look back at an illustrious career in the tourism industry since the early 1990’s and has generally received ‘rave reviews’ when her appointment became public knowledge, acknowledging the added ‘oomph’ she is expected to bring to STB’s operations and top management. Congratulations to Elsia on this important appointment and all the best for your future at the tourist board.

SUBIOS ONCE AGAIN A ‘BIG SUCCESS’

The ‘Sub Indian Ocean Seychelles’ film and photography festival took place last weekend and was termed by leading tourism sources as a ‘big success’ once again. The annual festival brings together a global community of film makers and photographers attempting to capture the sights of the underwater marine parks around the archipelago and by doing so documenting not only the conservation efforts of the country and its many NGO’s but also portray the Seychelles as the unique tourism destination it has been for decades and continues to be. Held since 1989 the annual festival is one of the main showcase events in the Seychelles, besides others like the annual regatta, the newly launched ‘carnival’ and culture and heritage events during which the rich history of the islands is featured through art, song and dance. This year’s festival theme – ‘Seychelles, seas of a thousand species’ – lived up to the expectations of visitors and organizers, and having concluded the 22nd edition in style focus can now turn to the 2011 event. Meanwhile was news received about expanded ‘local’ participation in the September 17 – 19 ‘Clean up the World’ event, which centred around the archipelago’s two World Heritage sites, the Aldabra atoll and the Vallee de Mai on the island of Praslin. The lead organizer, the Seychelles Island Foundation, has expressed satisfaction about their support from local communities and visitors for the event around the Vallee de Mai where the clean up went hand in hand with tree planting and other conservation activities, while the staff on Aldabra engaged in the collection of flotsam and landed debris from the atoll’ pristine untouched beaches. Visit http://www.seychelles.com or http://www.sif.sc for more information on the archipelago’s remarkable efforts to maintain biodiversity and protect their island and ocean environment.

TOURISM EXHIBITION IN VICTORIA EXCITES VISITORS

President James Michel officially opened this comprehensive exhibition earlier this week in his dual capacity as President of the Seychelles and also holding the Tourism portfolio, alongside the various activities and celebrations linked to the UNWTO’s World Tourism Day. The unique showcase offered both citizens as well as foreign visitors the opportunity to see the various attractions the archipelago has developed over the decades for tourism and the leisure of the Seychellois’ but also highlighted the concerted efforts to preserve, protect and enhance biodiversity and the fragile underwater ecosystems, on which so much for the country’s two leading economic sectors – tourism and fishing – depends. ‘On board’ with the Seychelles Tourist Board were regular partners Air Seychelles but also Fregate Island and governmental departments with links to tourism as well as a range of supporters from the private sector keen on seeing the archipelago’s tourism industry given greater exposure. Small country maybe, but for sure big efforts and big successes … well done!

And in closing today once more a few tidbits from further down south, courtesy of The Livingstone Weekly by Gill Staden:

Luangwa Valley Robin Pope Safaris Nkwali The animal sightings have been fantastic. Lots is going around camp, elephants are visiting the Nkwali lagoon almost daily and guests can enjoy some game viewing from the cool of the pool which is definitely a bonus. As for Luangwa Safari House it currently spends its days surrounded by elephants as they rush down to the lagoon in front of the house to cool down in the muddy water. Some 5 weeks ago a young male bush buck had been chased into the lagoon by baboons and found itself stuck in the mud – I helped it out and took it across to see Matt from Zambian Carnivore Programme as there were some bad wounds on its side and its tail had been unfortunately bitten off! After 10 minutes and some terribly attractive blue antiseptic spray later it was taken into a lovely thicket with lots of other bush buck and released. Very excitedly it was spotted last Wednesday happy, healthy and healed with its mum. For more stories from Luangwa Valley, visit: http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/its-monday/mon-2010/mon-20100927/

Incredible Photos From Flatdogs, Luangwa Flatdogs guests were on their way back into camp after a lovely morning drive and saw this mother and baby elephant taking a drink. This was on the Flatdogs access road on the way back from the park. Anyway, they just thought what a great shot it was to get the pair together. Suddenly the water erupted and the elephant pulled its trunk out with the croc attached! The mother fought to get rid of the croc on its trunk, which it finally did and in the process knocked over the baby! An amazing sequence of shots. The next day another game drive was watching a big male ele drinking in the same water hole and it happened again. Sadly no photos this time!

ZIMBABWE CONSERVATION TASK FORCE Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force 22nd September 2010

INVASION OF DENLYNIAN AND TAMARI WILDLIFE FARM It is now 10 years since the implementation of the Land Reform Programme and the very few game farms we have left, are still being invaded. I recently paid a visit to Denlynian and Tamari Wildlife Farm in the Beit Bridge area, after receiving reports that this property was invaded by a group calling themselves “Zhove Conservancy Co-operative.” The members of this group include Police, Army, Civil Servants, Rural Council Employees, War Vets and ZANU PF activists. The invaders have spent the past 10 years vandalising the properties and slaughtering the wildlife which was previously quite abundant. They have been especially targeting zebra and eland. The eland population has dropped from 973 to 374 – a loss of 560 animals and the zebra population has fallen from 871 to 163 – a loss of 708 animals. The invaders have slaughtered 300 zebra for their skins in the past 2 months alone. The owners of the properties checked with the Deeds Registry and found that there is no such organization as the Zhove Conservancy Co-operative registered. They took legal action against the invaders and the courts ruled that the invaders be evicted but this has been ignored and the police are reluctant to assist. In addition to the decimation of the wildlife, the invaders have also burnt approximately 200 hectares of trees, most of which have been standing for the past 300 years. No Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out and they are creating an ecological disaster. The game farms are situated in a low rainfall area which is only suitable for wildlife and the ecosystem there is now so fragile that if the land is tilled, the soil will end up in the river. 7km of 16 strand game fencing has been stolen to make wire snares – making a total of 112 km of wire. All that remains of the game fencing are the bare poles. We have just received an update that 7 animals were killed last weekend, comprising eland, impala and wildebeest and the slaughter is continuing as we speak. DESNARING OF A BUFFALO BULL Thanks to the donations we received of M99, a wire snare was removed from a buffalo bull on Dett Vlei recently. Esther van der Meer of Painted Dog Conservation was alerted to the fact that a buffalo bull was wandering around with a copper wire snare around its neck. Esther, with the assistance of her husband and Peter Blinston darted the animal and successfully removed the snare. ELEPHANTS PERISH IN FIRE Ten elephants were burned to death during a bush fire at Derbyshire Ranch in Shangani, Matabeleland South Province. It is alleged that widespread bush fires have engulfed much of Zimbabwe and most of them are started deliberately, mainly by hunters to clear the bushes. In the past few weeks, ten people have also died as a result of the bush fires. ELEPHANTS KILLED BY POACHERS Three weeks ago, 13 elephants were killed by a gang of poachers in the Hurungwe Safari area. National Parks have recovered 8 of the tuskless carcasses and are still searching for the remaining five. On the 10th September, Hurungwe and Guruve Police arrested the gang of 9 poachers after they tried to evade the police at a road block. Upon searching their vehicle, the police found 25 tusks, elephant tails, an unlicenced rifle and machetes. In March, 10 elephant carcasses were found in Gonarezhou National Park and it is believed that international poachers were behind the crime. SUSPECTED RHINO POACHERS ARRESTED 7 suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the Chiredzi area recently and a 303 rifle fitted with a silencer, telescopic sight and a carbine was recovered. The suspects consisted of 3 South Africans and 4 Zimbabweans. The latest poaching activities in the Save Valley Conservancy resulted in the death of a rhino, leaving its calf badly wounded by gunshots. National Parks have deployed a team that is currently on high alert following the heightened poaching activities.

Savuti Channel, Chobe National Park, Botswana Gavin Blair Safaris The Savuti Channel, now flowing for the first time in 29 years, has from my perspective changed the whole atmosphere of the area. No longer do I see the elephants and worry about the condition and the functionality of the man made waterholes, and when I see the impalas I no longer think of how these same waterholes had become such a zone of fear for them, as the impalas and other animals now no longer need to come into such regular contact and potential conflict with the lions at these controlled water points – the result being that the wildlife is back to being spontaneous, and free to roam the wilderness without any dependence at all on man. It may take a year or more for the animals to fully adapt to the new water and associated lush feeding grounds, but for me the Savuti area is once again so much more alive and vibrant. Gavin and Majorie Blair continue their stories of safaris in Chobe National Park. To read the full article, go to: http://www.gavinblairsafaris.com/newsletter/year2010/july2010.html

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