TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Third edition June 2010
IN MEMORIAM JIM POWER
When the news reached me on Jim’s untimely passing last weekend, it was like a bolt of lightning striking me into my heart, so unexpected was the reality of his death. I was privileged to know Jim for the entire period he was serving as Secretary General of SKAL International, and he became a good friend and was my mentor, when I started the work to form SKAL Kampala in 1993 and led the club into formal acceptance by SKAL and then being chartered in 1994.
Ever since, Jim and I corresponded on many matters pertaining to SKAL and more, as our mutual interests spread well beyond just SKAL and we shared many common objectives.
Jim will be sorely missed, at the Secretariat of SKAL International in Torremolinos / Spain and throughout the SKAL fraternity around the world, where each and every club will have lost a dear fellow Skalleague. And to quote SKAL International Past President Tony Clegg Butt of the Nairobi SKAL Club ‘Jim was the glue which held SKAL together’ – I couldn’t agree more, Jim was the good soul of SKAL for umpteen years and a huge challenge will await whoever will step up and bring the SKAL ship back on even keel.
Rest in peace my friend, and until we meet again.
RHINO FUND UPDATE
It was learned last weekend that two of the three female rhinos presently at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary have started mating again and that management and staff of the RFU are monitoring the animals closely to determine if another round of pregnancies is going underway already.
Over the past year all three females have given birth to young rhino males, bringing the total number of the southern white rhinos at Ziwa to nine, and additional pregnancies would of course be most welcome.
It was also learned that the draft rhino management plans were submitted to the Uganda Wildlife Authority by the RFU’s Executive Director and a formal response is expected by the end of June.
Visitor numbers to the sanctuary meanwhile continue to rise, helping the Rhino Fund to gradually edge closer to financial self sustainability, which the RFU attempts to reach without charging entrance fees to the sanctuary but only levy a tracking fee on those visitors actually going into the bush with the rangers to track the rhinos and take close up photographs.
UWA EXCELS IN MOUNTAIN RESCUE
Last week put the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s rescue measures to the test, when a foreign tourist suffered a climbing accident when returning from one of the Rwenzori Mountain peaks. As soon as the situation was communicated to the base station and the park headquarters did the rescue mission swing into action, and within hours the injured climber was brought down from the mountain and delivered to the Kasese aerodrome for a medical evacuation flight to Kampala. Reportedly almost 60 staff were deployed from UWA and the Rwenzori Mountain Services which had arranged for the week long climb, an effort well worth not just from the viewpoint of the injured climber being safely evacuated but also as a general reassurance for future visitors to the park for hikes and intending climbers that the training of rescue staff in recent years has indeed taken hold and born fruit in this particular case. Well done UWA staff!
ANTHRAX TO BLAME FOR HIPPO DEATHS
A sizeable number of hippos were found dead over the last weekend by Uganda Wildlife Authority staff posted at Queen Elizabeth National Park. UWA’s veterinary services were promptly dispatched to the park to assess the situation and initial feedback is such that – although still awaiting the lab results for final confirmation – another Anthrax outbreak is the most likely cause. The park has in the past periodically suffered of Anthrax outbreaks – the last one about six years ago – as have many other parks in Eastern Africa, and the virus often goes dormant after an outbreak before re-emerging with a vengeance at time years later. According the UWA’s Executive Director Moses Mapesa the organisation was ‘well prepared’ and ‘had learned lessons from the last outbreak’ which explained the swift response by rangers and veterinarians. The carcasses of the nearly 30 hippos found so far will most likely be burnt in a pit before being buried as an added safety measure to avoid further spreads of the disease to other game or livestock.
KAMPALA AERO CLUB TO RECEIVE NEW ‘TRAINER’ AIRCRAFT
Sources in Kajjansi, the ‘safari airfield’ just outside Kampala en route to Entebbe, have confirmed that KAFTC – the Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre – is due to receive two additional ‘classic’ training aircraft for the use in their flight training division. A ‘Jungmeister’ and a ‘Stinson’ are due to arrive in July this year and it is hoped that the CAA’s licensing department will not put up too many hurdles for the registration in Uganda, as both types are said to be the first of their kind to go on the Ugandan registry.
Meanwhile, AVGAS continues to be available with limited supplies only, but at least there seems light at the end of the tunnel for the Kajjansi air operators, as former Shell executive Francis Olul appears set to take control of the depot, which according to other aviation sources might be finished by Shell – if true making good of a 4 year long promise to the aviation fraternity – before finally leaving Uganda after selling their retail business.
In a related development it was also learned that Capt. ‘Gad’ Gasatura, a ‘fixture’ in Uganda’s aviation sector and former member of the Board of Directors of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, has accepted the position as Chairman of the Board of KAFTC with immediate effect. Congrats ‘Gad’ and all the best in your new position. Watch this space for more updates on aviation developments in Uganda.
LAKE POLLUTION INCREASES
The World Bank funded ‘Nakivubo Channel’ which drains rainwater – and the associated rubbish, carelessly thrown away by many residents – directly from the city into the lake near the Luzira / Port Bell suburb, has been identified as a major source of pollution for the waters near the shores. Already when the channel was planned many years ago did critics point out that a ‘direct’ flow into the lake, instead of creating ‘branches’ which could assist filtration via the lake shore swamps, would bring industrial and domestic pollutants straight into the waters of the lake, and indeed, years afterwards the then much maligned voices of concern are proven right.
A recent inspection, only days after the World Environment Day, by the Minister of State for Water and other officials revealed the dire state of water quality, which in local media has been described as ‘dead’ in the immediate vicinity of the channel’s inlet to the lake.
What was of particular concern to the delegation is the fact that the national water company’s main water treatment plant in Gaba, which – as reported before – is now faced with rocketing cost to make water potable and filter out the pollutants and had to repeatedly relocate their main intake valves further out into the lake and into deeper water.
Wetlands and swamps, much encroached upon over the past two decades as the city expanded, are generally considered as vital filters before rain water reaches the lake proper, and the destruction of such wetlands is increasingly showing negative fallout. The loss of habitat for birds and other aquatic and wildlife along the lake shores has been significant and been accelerated in recent years and unless and until government and its responsible agencies react with all possible speed and allocate resources to reverse the pollution and wetland encroachment, the next generation will have a high price to pay for the omissions of today.
BUDGET READING CONFIRMS CUTS FOR TOURISM MINISTRY
The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has indeed suffered a major budget cut as already speculated about in earlier articles, when the Minister for Finance announced a reduction from last year’s allocation of 47.8 billion Uganda Shillings to 41.5 billion. This constitutes a 13+ percent slash and if adding inflationary trends of last year rises to about a 20 percent cut in real terms, a major challenge for an already stretched ministry, leaving hopes in tatters that dues for international organisations – some of them in arrears for many years – may be paid to give Uganda full access to services like from the UN’s World Tourism Organization UNWTO, from where Uganda could receive training and marketing support worth a substantial multiple of the actual dues paid.
Therefore, while in general the business community was satisfied with the draft (parliament must approve the budget to make it a ‘reality’) and in particular the absence of any major tax rises or new taxes, the tourism industry will be left to ponder how their line ministry will cope with the demands not just the tourism sector but at the same time the sister portfolios of trade and industry.
Across the border in Kenya the mood in comparison was a little more upbeat, as their tourist board was allocated some 650 million Kenya Shillings in addition to which a further 800 million Kenya Shillings were granted to the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation to help in financing new projects for the sector. This figure is up from last year by 600 million Kenya Shillings, underscoring the fact that government there has maybe began to understand the positive impact of tourism to the national economy, through investments, foreign exchange earnings and job retention and creation, and that the lobbying of the tourism industry proved to be effective in securing a greater share of the nearly 1 trillion Kenya Shillings overall budget.
Added allocations for road constructions, which will benefit the routes to and from the main game parks, was also applauded by the private sector. Tourism Minister Najib Balala however decried the overall reduction in his ministry’s budget by about 150 million Kenya Shillings during the formal launch of the Utalii coast campus and urged his colleague in the Ministry of Finance to review this decision in coming weeks, as the draft budget goes to parliament for debate.
CONSTRUCTION ON FORMER KINGDOM SITE TO COMMENCE ‘SHORTLY’
Sources from the local construction sector have given the clearest indication yet, that work on the Shimoni site – allocated several years ago to Kingdom Hotels and then abandoned – would start as early as next month, supported by the fact that since last week some level of earthworks could be seen taking place on site. However, there was also some understandable scepticism as the ‘start’ was in the past announced twice and the projected dates have passed without any visible sign of moving equipment and building supplies on to the site. The situation will be monitored closely however and as and when more evidence emerges of ‘serious’ work, updates will be filed. There is also speculation over which global hotel management company will be selected by the owners to run and market the property for them, but it is generally expected that they are going to select a ‘major player’ and not opt for any second rate organization. A swift survey by this correspondent in fact gave a rather clearer picture of the owner’s choice but this remain subject to formal confirmation before breaking the news.
REED EXHIBITIONS AND HOUSTON TRAVEL MARKETING ‘WORK’ EASTERN AFRICA
Fiona Chappell, the head of sales of Reed Travel Exhibitions and Mr. Derek Houston of www.houstonmarketing.co.za in South Africa, were in East Africa in recent days to promote in particular the group’s MICE exhibitions, but also the other portfolios of Reed – the best known of which is of course World Travel Market in London and the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. The world’s leading exhibition group currently has 7 dedicated ‘leisure and luxury’ events under their umbrella while a further 6 dedicated ‘MICE’ events are also covering the globe.
It is understood that after visiting all of the East African Community countries that tailored workshops will take place later in the year in the region to alert the tourism trade to the many new opportunities to market their destination and new products in the global market place
PRIDE OF AFRICA TO EXPAND ROUTES AGRESSIVELY IN 2010/11
The Kenyan national airline has announced recently that they have set their eyes on seven more routes for their 2010/11 financial year, after already launching very recently flights to the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba. Rome will follow soon, offering their faithful travellers another entry point into Europe before then turning their attention to yet more new routes. On the drawing board until the end of the year and into early 2011 are more African destinations like N’Djamena, Beira, Ouagadougou, Lome and Luanda, Jeddah / Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to where flights will resume after an absence of many years.
The network expansion will undoubtedly cement KQ’s leading position as a pan African carrier, connecting the continent through their Nairobi hub while the added routes beyond Africa speak of an improved climate for business and leisure travel and a growing demand for air cargo space once again.
Watch this space for the most up to date information on aviation news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region.
CHELI AND PEACOCK ADDS ANOTHER PROPERTY
One of Kenya’s leading upmarket safari and accommodation providers, also a multiple award winner in this year’s ‘The Good Safari Guide’ ceremony the night prior to the INDABA trade fair opening in South Africa, has just announced that another beach side property will join their ‘stable’ with immediate effect.
‘Alfajiri’ – a Kiswahili word – which translates into ‘Dawn’ in English, is a three private villa beach side property owned by Fabrizio Molinari, located on a cliff above the shiny white-sand beach of Diani south of Mombasa. The three villas are according to information received from C&P available for guests, the ‘Garden House’, the ‘Cliff House’ offering spectacular views of sun rises across the Indian Ocean and the ‘Beach Villa’, all built in traditional open air style and tastefully furnished with handcrafted ‘Lamu’ furniture and African artefacts and wall hangings. Needless to mention that each of the villas has its own swimming pool for utmost privacy and are fully staffed with housekeeping and kitchen personnel, a nanny if required and a personal ‘butler’ available to cater for a client’s every wish, helping to create truly a holiday of a lifetime for those daring to venture away from the ‘big’ resorts and beach hotels and finding themselves and their own style, in style.
For more information visit www.chelipeacock.com – enjoy what you find there as it tickles the taste buds of every safari aficionado, including yours truly.
POLITICAL VIOLENCE TAKES SEVERAL LIVES IN NAIROBI
A rally against the new draft constitution in Nairobi’s ‘Uhuru Park’ in the very centre of the city ended in tragedy, when reportedly 5 people were killed instantly and over 70 injured in two explosions.
The rally, jointly organized by political opponents of the new draft constitution and religious leaders was duly licensed by authorities, was very well attended and proceeded peacefully until the first blast struck and according to reports from Nairobi a second blast occurred not long afterwards.
The violent end to this rally brought up instant memories of the nasty post election violence, when ethnic groups and political opponents settled scores in the streets over allegedly stolen election results, a matter now receiving due attention by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where indictments are expected to be filed soon against key ringleaders, whose bloody handiwork cost well over a thousand lives at the time.
The new draft constitution has met with resistance in political quarters, including government ministers, but also across civil society and the religious leadership of the country, setting the stage for a hardly fought referendum due to be held later in the year. Yet, both sides agree that the country is in urgent need of a new constitution while they disagree over a number of issues where the ‘no camp’ has demanded amendments to the draft, something the proponents have rejected because of ‘time’.
It was pointed out to this correspondent that no tourists had come to harm although the venue was close to several high class tourist hotels.
Tourism sources in Kenya also played down the incident, tragic as it was, saying that the recovery of the sector would not be unduly affected by the blast, but the same sources were cautious when asked about the potential for more such incidents in the run up to the referendum and what impact that could have on the just revived tourism industry for Kenya. Watch this space.
NEW TOURISM COLLEGE FOR KENYAN COAST
The recently read annual budget appears to have also set aside as much as 300 million Kenya Shillings, to commence construction of a new campus of the Kenya Utalii College in Vipingo / Mombasa. Already last year did Kenya’s tourism minister Najib Balala announce that a 60 acre piece of land has been given for the purpose, but no progress could be made in the absence of funds for further work.
Tourism is one of Kenya’s leading foreign exchange earners and provides jobs for hundreds of thousands of Kenyans directly and indirectly, but training additional manpower has been a major obstacle for the sector, as the main campus of Utalii in Nairobi is constantly oversubscribed and has not spare capacities left.
The establishment of a new campus at the coast, besides the country’s game and national parks the most important tourism attraction, has seen coast tourism stakeholders elated by the prospect of having a training facility of Utalii’s standing on their doorstep, where young people can learn the skills to make a career in the sector while others already working can now receive refresher courses to add to their knowledge already attained in the work place of through earlier studies. Well done!
MIGRATION NEARS SERENGETI – MASAI MARA BORDER
Information was received over the last weekend from sources in both the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, that the annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest and zebras is nearing the boundaries between the shared border transcending ecosystem. A leading tour operator just back from the Mara sent added details that the crossing into the Masai Mara could be less than two weeks away, at which stage the animals will then cross by their thousands per hour in search of pasture, giving tourist visitors one of the great wildlife experiences as the animals have to cross the river where crocodiles and other predators lie in wait. The lush grass has grown across the entire Masai Mara in recent months supported by more than sufficient rains and the wildebeest and zebras are traditionally moving like a giant ‘lawn mower’ across the park before returning to Tanzania’s Serengeti by September or October.
Kenya is meanwhile preparing for the influx of tens of thousands of tourists who come every year to this East African country to witness this greatest wildlife spectacle anywhere on the globe, immortalised also by Alan Root’s award winning film ‘The Year of the Wildebeest’. The recommendation of this correspondent: ‘anyone who can afford to visit the Masai Mara at this time of the year, don’t miss it – it is an experience of a lifetime’.
TURKISH AIRLINES COMMENCES OPERATIONS
The inaugural flight took place earlier in the week between Istanbul and Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport, the first time a Turkish commercial aircraft touched down in Tanzania. The maiden flight brought a large number of politicians, tour and travel operators and media to Dar, where they were greeted by a delegation from the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Tourism, staff from the Tanzania Tourist Board and member of the private sector, besides the local press and television stations on site to witness the event. It is understood that the airline presently offers an introductory fare of only 440 US Dollars between Dar and Istanbul, and added offers into the rest of the THY network too are on sale, connecting Tanzanians into more than 120 destinations around the world, including the US.
Sources close to Turkish Airlines have also confirmed that they will target ‘transit traffic’ from their West and East European destinations, but also from Asia and the US to fly via Istanbul to Dar es Salaam, and that the fares would reflect the cost advantage THY has over their nearest competitors. While business and leisure traffic from Turkey to East Africa is expected to grow, it is the transit traffic component which will more than likely make the route a success, and members of the Tanzanian tourism private sector also expressed their delight to have more seats at affordable fares bringing more tourist visitors to Tanzania’s beaches and game parks. The airline will initially operate their flights three times a week but has already hinted at upping the frequencies when loadfactors have reached the forecast figures. Happy Landings THY, and until operations start to Entebbe too in due course.
ANTI SERENGETI HIGHWAY COALITION TAKES TO THE NET
As recently reported here the Tanzanian government appears set to build a highway through the Serengeti to Lake Victoria, claiming this to be the most direct and therefore most affordable route. While no one argues that the population along the lake – and outside the national park – is in need to get a road connecting them to the rest of the country, opponents of the planned highway are pointing out that an alternate route is possible, albeit longer and therefore more costly, but preserving the UNESCO World Heritage status of the Serengeti, which – should the road construction go ahead – would almost inevitably be withdrawn.
Tourism circles in the region are slowly catching on to the plans and are starting a concerted campaign of action, to prevent the development. This, according to two senior sources in Dar es Salaam and Arusha, and another source in Nairobi, will include providing detailed information on the likely impact of the highway on the population of elephant, wildebeest and zebras, which migrate regularly through the area, but also resident populations of predators. The potential loss of revenue for the country through lesser tourist numbers and the resulting negative global publicity could be massive and funding from donors, development partners and through individual donations could dry up. There are also growing concerns on the possible impact of the highway on the annual migration between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara across the border in Kenya, likely also resulting in disastrous fallout for tourism activities there. Visit the following site on Facebook to get more information and join the growing ranks of opponents of this particular highway routing. www.facebook.com/pages/STOP-THE-SERENGETI-HIGHWAY/125601617471610?v=wall
In a related development was information obtained that a study on the impact of livestock on the Grumeti and Ikorongo game reserves, adjoining the Serengeti National Park will be completed soon, and will then assist to address the conflict between human settlements and activities on the prized wildlife, which draws in so many visitors and earns the country so much foreign exchange.
The prolonged drought in recent years, which only broke at the very end of 2009, has undoubtedly contributed towards a more lenient approach towards cattle and goat herds being driven into the protected areas as they were searching for pasture and water, but with the drought now over it is equally time to restore the balance and ensure that livestock is kept away from parks and reserves. In particular the Grumeti and Ikorongo areas now also have upmarket tourist accommodation and the owners will also be seeking governmental assurances and protection to ensure the cattle herds are kept away.
It is understood that similar studies are underway also in other parts of Tanzania, aimed to alleviate similar conflicts between traditional herdsmen and wildlife managers and tourism operators, a sign that the potential severity of this problem has reached senior governmental levels and that some action is being taken to protect and preserve the country’s wildlife and biodiversity.
RWANDAIR FARES TO SOUTH AFRICA SHAME COMPETITION
While a number of carriers from Eastern Africa to Johannesburg have raised their fares to take advantage of the soccer crowds wanting to go and see some of the FIFA World Cup matches live, the Rwandan national airline has just put a 500 US Dollars return fare on the market, inclusive of all taxes and surcharges, and valid from their East African destinations Nairobi and Entebbe via Kigali on their flights on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Bookings can be made via travel agents or directly with the airline office. It is understood that this special offer, called B500, is marketed on the occasion of the first B737-500 joining the RwandAir fleet last week. Well done!
ETHIOPIAN TO EXPAND IN AFRICA THROUGH PARTNERSHIPS
As reported before, Ethiopian Airlines is intensifying their own efforts in the ‘battle for the African skies’ and with the launch earlier this year of a partner airline based in Lome a first step was taken to capture additional market share in West Africa, by launching new airlines supported by both capital and management expertise. Unconfirmed reports from Addis indicate that following this ‘first’ ET is apparently thinking about doing the same thing in other parts of West Africa, and even considering investing in existing airlines with ‘promise’ of a viable future, should initial exploratory discussions allow to move towards formal negotiations.
Meanwhile has ET also confirmed that they are due for delivery of their first B777-200LR in the third quarter of this year, with an additional four such aircraft joining the Ethiopian fleet between then and the middle of next year. In regard of their 10 pending B787 orders the airline is confident that the envisaged date of July 2011 can be met by Boeing, after long delays repeatedly reported about here.
Once the new wide body fleet is in operation it will replace some of the ageing B767 models presently in use, but also create capacity for more destinations in the US and the Far and South East, an area also eyed by the airline – as does incidentally Kenya Airways too.
No firm joining date however could be obtained when ET will become a formal applicant airline to join the global Star Alliance, other than reaffirming what is already public knowledge, that Star is indeed the preferred choice of Ethiopian and that discussions are at an advanced stage. Watch this space.
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY SPURS MORE CONSERVATION ACTIVITIES
The United Nations Environment Programme, in short known as UNEP, in conjunction with other agencies and Seychellois conservation bodies like the Seychelles Island Foundation recently held a one week workshop and training session for improved coastal zone management and the management of the shore lines, aimed to combat the fall out of climate change.
Governmental agencies personnel, non-governmental organisations’ staff, community leaders and civil society members participated in the event to learn about how to prevent shore degradation and how best to attempt restoration of already affected areas along the beaches near their places of residence.
The Seychelles are one of the ‘greenest’ countries on the globe and have placed great emphasis on the protection of their environment, which is the key to the two main economic activities across the archipelago – fishing and tourism.
HELICOPTER SEYCHELLES ADDS FIRE FIGHTING EQUIPMENT
It was learned over the last weekend that the archipelago’s premier helicopter service was given brand new equipment, which will enable the use of the choppers in fire fighting and supporting the territorial fire brigade with aerial dousing of fires.
Notably, the ‘bucket’ worth over 5.000 US Dollars was donated by the Seychelles Island Foundation as part of their work during the World Biodiversity Week, with an eye on extinguishing natural forest fires but also of course assisting in the fighting of fires in buildings. SIF’s Chief Executive Officer Frauke Fleischer-Dogley was at hand to deliver the donation to the airline in the presence of government officials, who were shortly afterwards treated to a demonstration flight during which the use of the equipment was shown.
Tourism sources too applauded the initiative as in the words of one regular source: ‘should ever a remote resort catch fire, we can now expect an immediate response by air before the fire brigade even arrives. This is excellent news for our industry as safety of our guests will benefit long term.’ Adds this correspondent ‘well done’ and thanks to the Seychelles Island Foundation and in particular to Frauke, who was interviewed some months ago by eTN’s Executive Talk – available through the archives via www.eturbonews.com
Southern Sudan News
BAHR EL JEBEL SAFARIS ANNOUNCE EXPEDITION DATES
There have been many questions in the past over reports on the state of tourism to the Southern Sudan and how best to visit the parks already restored by the Government of Southern Sudan over the past five years, since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Kenya in early 2005.
Mexico and Uganda based Bahr el Jebel Safaris, which operate regular safaris in Northern Uganda towards the border with the Southern Sudan, have just provided the dates for their 2010 Southern Sudan expedition, which will take participants between 30th September till 10th October to the Nimule National Park along the Nile River and the Boma National Park located along the border with Ethiopia. It is there that an annual migration can be seen of as many as 800.000 white eared kobs, an antelope species resident in this part of Eastern Africa. The expedition will also include a visit to the Kidepo Valley National Park in the North Eastern border triangle between Uganda, Southern Sudan and Kenya. Visit www.bahr-el-jebel-safaris.com for more information and bookings.
SUDANESE POUND KEEPS SLIDING
The worsening economic outlook for the Sudan has led to a progressive devaluation on the financial markets of the Sudanese Pound. Originally worth 2 SP against one US Dollar the ‘black’ market has driven the rate down to below 2.75 last week, while the ‘official’ rate remains at an unrealistic 2.35 – at which however there are hardly any US Dollars available.
The Sudanese Central Bank has raised reserve requirements of banks from 8 to 11 percent, trying to stem the tide by soaking up liquidity, but a recent consulting visit to Juba revealed the full extent of the hard currency ‘shortage’ when all and sundry asked to be rather paid or tipped in US Dollars rather than in Sudanese Pounds. The ‘shortage’ was also attributed by Southern Sudanese administrators and business people to the fact that the Central Bank of Sudan was no longer remitting hard currency to the South and it was alleged that this was part of a ploy to continue the political domination of the South by ‘starving’ them of foreign exchange and making their purchases from abroad, mostly consumer goods from Uganda and Kenya, more difficult and more expensive. .
It was also noticed that on exit from Juba fines of 45 US Dollars are now levied on all foreign passport holders at the airport, who have not followed the registration requirements while in Juba, NO matter how long the stay was, i.e. even a day visit now requires visitors to spend precious time, or have someone do the registration for them. Roads within Juba have visibly improved however, and more work is in progress, although the stalled work on a new airport terminal still has the site ‘dormant’ until the legal wrangles have been resolved.
And in closing today again some material taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, with interesting stories and accompanying pictures from ‘further down south’ … especially moving this week is the story of the ‘Musango’ bull elephant, but read for yourself:
Art Exhibition at Sun International
On Saturday evening Sun International opened an Art Exhibition which is being held at the Royal and at Zambezi Sun. Sue Brink, the organiser, has brought together some major artists from Zambia and around the region. It was amazing to see it all put together and a real ‘first’ for Livingstone.
Many of the artists were there too all chatting and talking about their work.
Agnes and Lawrence Yombe had several works being displayed and Agnes was very pleased to have already sold one of her pieces. Larry Norton from Victoria Falls had brought some of his beautiful wildlife paintings. Francois D’Elbee displayed his photographs, one of which was quickly snapped up by Joanne.
Eva Middleton and Tamryn Pohl, great friends, happily talked about their paintings of wildlife. Rory McDougal, Vic Guhrs, Clare Mateke, Chansa Chishimba were all there with their works. It was a veritable who’s who in the Zambian art world.
I got so caught up in chatting that I forgot to take loads of photographs! But it is OK, I will be going back and take more later. There are also some other photographers and painters who are due to join the exhibition in the weeks to come, so there will be a lot more to see.
The Exhibition is running until the end of July. There are works at both the Royal and Zambezi Sun, so do take time to go down and have a look.
An Ancient Island Forest
I was staying at Royal Chundu near Livingstone. The evening was spent around a roaring fire listening to the sound of the water and the crackling of the logs. I listened to all the stories of building the lodge and the plans for its future. The meal was five-star – it always amazes me how our chefs manage to produce such great meals right out in the bush, but they do.
That evening I slept like a log in my room with all the doors open to the river. I was woken to a cacophony of bird noises as the light started to seep through the trees. It was a cloudy morning – dull and cold. I decided against having a bath in the tub on the veranda and ventured into the shower; clad myself in woollies and trainers and set out for the walk that we had planned the evening before.
The island is about a kilometre long; never has it been used for any form of human habitation. It is completely untouched except for the walkways which have been carved through the undergrowth and some hippo tracks. It was eerie to walk through such primeval tall trees – baobabs, jackalberries, and commiphoras, with date palms fringing the island banks. We found some python creepers climbing around the trees and a fig tree having found a roothold on an ancient pod mahogany, a tree which in years to come will be completely strangled by the roots of the fig.
We walked steadily through the woodland, generating some much needed warmth on such a cold morning. The birds, though, seemed to have completely given up their morning tunes and I could imagine them huddled in a cosy spot deep in the undergrowth hoping that the sun would come out and warm them up.
Returning to the lodge I went back to my room and sat on the balcony for a while. Some wire-tailed swallows were darting in and out of the buildings and swooping over the water in search of insects. They came onto my balcony to keep me company for a while.
Breakfast was out on the windy deck. Lots of fruit and yoghurt, followed by sausage, bacon, eggs and waffles, all swilled down with copious cups of tea. The sun still did not want to come out from behind the clouds, so, still wrapped up in winter woollies, I boarded the boat for the mainland and home.
I had a walk around the main lodge which has eight rooms, all in the same luxurious style as the island. The unpredictable Zambezi River had done a bit of damage to the main lodge deck – it had been swamped, but repairs and clean-up were in process! We marvelled at the three years of high water we had had – almost unknown. But this is Africa, and we take what we get and are grateful for it.
The lodge is all set up for conferences and those addicted to watching rugby on the TV. Fortunately there are no TVs in the room but an upstairs area has been kitted out with all the modern technology, including computers, for those guests who have to be in contact with the outside world.
By about midday I was on my way home and back to reality, but later the following week I went back to find out all about parrot fish – a story which will be told another time.
|“The killing of such a great Tusker is made more tragic by the fact that these living monuments are so rare, and I am appalled that he was shot by a hunter whose fraternity is one of the main custodians of such magnificent animals and our wildlife heritage.”|
Musango Bull Elephant
There are two pictures here. The one is a painting of the “Musango” Bull Elephant by well known artist Larry
Norton, and the other is a photograph taken by Garth Thompson, one of Africa’s best known professional guides.
Two facts emerge from these pictures. The first is the extraordinary beauty and size of this elephant and the second is that it is so patently obvious that this is a gentle creature, allowing anybody to approach it closely.
Musango is also wearing a clearly visible satellite tracking collar. Indeed, Roger Parry having been given authority by National Parks to dart this elephant, was able to easily get within a few meters of it before firing the dart.
This elephant was estimated to have another 15-20 years of life ahead of it.
He is now dead.
He was shot around the 23rd of May, 2010 by a professional hunting organization in the Omay North area, adjacent to Lake Kariba. This hunter did nothing illegal, according to existing law within Zimbabwe. It is not illegal to shoot a collared animal (unless specially protected by the minister). But the international and local reaction to the ethical and moral issues involved in this incident has been overwhelming.
Accordingly the aim of this petition is twofold;
1. To request the authorities, once the Minister has given special protection status to any animal, to take immediate and proactive steps to inform all hunters and hunting institutions of such protected status. The Musango Bull was regarded by many as part of Zimbabwe’s national heritage, and is now gone.
2. To get the ZPHA to define their own ethical and moral standards in relation to collared animals, and specifically this elephant, and to fully investigate, with independent observers, in situ the killing of the Musango Bull.
How to support? E-mail a letter to email@example.com