Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region First edition July 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

First edition July 2010

 

Uganda News

KEY UGANDA ELECTION DATES SET

Uganda is now in pre-election mode after the electoral commission has announced the dates for aspiring candidates of parliamentary and civic seats, and for the presidential candidates, when they have to submit their nomination forms, according to the present laws and regulations governing the country’s elections.

Candidates need to hand in their forms on October 25th and 26th, an opportunity none of the aspirants will miss for campaign purposes, and the presidential, parliamentary and civic elections will then take place in February next year, between the 12th and the 01st of March.

Watch this space for upcoming additional announcements, but be assured that Uganda will be ‘open for business’ throughout the nomination and election process, which – going by experience – will not trouble foreign tourist visitors at all when they criss cross the country in search of our renowned wildlife while politicians also criss cross their constituencies in search of votes.

 

GOOGLE LAUNCHES KISWAHILI LANGUAGE VERSIONS

Gmail, Google Maps and Google Chrome – Google’s very own web browser – are now available in a Kiswahili language version according to reports received last week, making access to the internet for East African non English speakers possible at last. The launch of the Kiswahili language versions coincided with the official start of the East African Community’s Common Market, signifying that a united East Africa now can communicate in their most spoken ‘lingua franca’ when using a computer and connecting to the internet. Over 120 million people are thought to speak the language across the wider region. It is understood that Google’s translation service is also covering Kiswahili pages and documents, a development hailed across East Africa by academicians, teachers and the general user range of web based services.  

 

WAR OF WORDS CONTINUES OVER NILE WATERS

After the signing of the new protocol over the use of the Nile waters by so far five of the upstream ‘water producer’ countries Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia, which left Egypt and Khartoum Sudan out in the proverbial cold, have these two countries turned up the heat to force a change of heart with the powers that be of the riparian states. Congo DR and Burundi have already given indication that they too will sign the new protocol inspite of extensive diplomatic pressure on them, while the two opponents have vowed to make every effort to tear up the treaty.

News from Khartoum last week indicate that the regime has subsequently ‘suspended’ participation in the Nile Basin Initiative, citing ‘legal issues’ surrounding the signing of the new treaty while reports from the capitals of the signatories also give clear notice that ‘signed is signed, we will not ‘unsign’ because of this opposition’. One source in Kenya’s capital said to be close to these negotiations has in fact pointed out to this correspondent, that Egypt has failed to develop other sources of water like more progressively, like installing de-salination plants along the Red Sea or the Mediterranean and ‘living in the past’ as far as the 1929 and 1959 treaties were concerned. Those, the source said, ‘were forced upon us by the British colonialists who favoured their interests in Egypt over the Suez canal and for other reasons best known to themselves’.

It was also learned from Ugandan sources that another round of meetings would be held in Nairobi later in the year after the Addis Ababa meeting last week produced no progress and only deepened the rifts between the ‘producers’ and ‘consumers’.

In an interesting twist of events an Egyptian national was confirmed as the new CEO of the Nile Basis Initiative, this being part of the institution’s rotational principle, following in the footsteps of CEO’s from Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and Congo. Egypt was initially expected not to field a candidate over the massive disagreements with the other countries, but then apparently changed tune and insisted on the rotation for the top job to continue. It will be of interest to watch now if the Egyptian CEO will serve as Cairo’s ‘fifth column’ in the organisation to undermine the Eastern African countries’ stand and position, as has already been suspected by some of the more outspoken individuals in contact with this correspondent or if it will be ‘business as usual’ during his two year term of office.

Meanwhile is Cairo continuing its charm offensive with trade shows aimed for the East African countries, while major Egyptian investment conglomerates too are said to show renewed interest in buying into companies in Eastern Africa – all arguably as flanking measures to peddle influence with the ‘water producers’ and penetrate the united front shown when the new treaty was put up for signature. Watch this space.

 

COMMON MARKET NOW A REALITY, PROGRESS DISAPPOINTING FOR SOME SECTORS

The East African Community’s Common Market is now formally in full effect since 01st July, but already ‘old’ issues are being raised again which remain unresolved and are causing several economic groups to wonder what the ‘fanfare of change’ has been all about.

The aviation sector for instance, in particular Ugandan and Kenyan stakeholders, are claiming that non tariff barriers in particular in Tanzania have not been removed and that discrimination against airlines of other member states remain in place, treating them as ‘foreign airlines’ and compelling them to pay higher fees and delaying clearances while prohibiting landing in places not termed as international entry points. It is this latter issue which is raising the heat of the argument, as aviators have pointed out that within the spirit and letter of the East African Community protocols the territories ought to shed the ‘international’ descriptions and introduce ‘regional’ approaches.

Charter and domestic airline management this correspondent spoke with  in recent days were united in their call that in order to ‘put life’ into the EAC ALL non tariff barriers must be removed and flying from one memberstate to the other should be treated exactly the same way as air traffic within that member state is managed. Comments by a Tanzanian aviation official that ‘harmonization is needed first on so many levels including the issues of licences’ were dismissed outright by aviators from Uganda and Kenya, who were swift to point to CASSOA, the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency, which was formed by the EAC to deal exactly with these issues, then adding ‘the Tanzanians simply do not want competition and if they continue to treat us as ‘foreign’ we might have to take the matter to the East African court to get a ruling.

Meanwhile it was also learned that jubilations about the shelving of work permits were also premature, as only Kenya and Rwanda had at present a bilateral agreement in place towards this effect, while Ugandans, Burundians, Kenyans and Tanzanians wishing to work in the respective member states were still subject to a process of scrutiny, albeit according to the latest information now streamlined to get a decision within a month. Ordinary citizens however were seemingly unhappy about this situation, demanding to bring back the ‘old days of the first community’ when free movement was a reality. It is understood that Kenya and Uganda are discussing a similar arrangement as the one in place between Rwanda and Kenya, but from sources at the EAC headquarters in Arusha it was also learned that Tanzania apparently felt no sense of urgency to speed up such agreement, again lending credibility to the claims by the aviators that there is a clear sense of reluctance they experience when dealing with Tanzanian authorities.

In a surprise move did President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya then respond to the lamentations of the people of East Africa on the eve of the landmark day, when he announced unilaterally that Kenya would effective 01st of July no longer charge any fees for work permits for citizens from the East African Community member states, a development which will undoubtedly add pressure on the governments of the other countries to follow suit as speedily as possible.

Trade within East Africa however has greatly improved already since January this year between the member states, when the six month transition period towards the 01st of July began and all internal tariffs had been brought to zero. Investment flows too have shifted to within the East African Community with Kenya arguably the biggest investor now in neighbouring countries. Watch this space

 

Kenya News

KENYA AIRWAYS JOINS SKY TEAM AS FULL MEMBER

After a period of associate membership in the world’s third largest airline alliance – SKYTEAM – has KQ now been accepted as a full member, making it the first African airline to join the KLM and Air France led global alliance group. Benefits for the Kenya Airways faithful frequent fliers are expected to improve yet more with this step, one of the key factors by – in particular – business travellers to fly with the airline of their choice as opposed to another carrier offering less benefits and perks on the same routes.

This was announced by the airline’s CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni recently when he also confirmed that Kenya Airways would be the first continental airline to sign up to the African Union’s ‘make peace happen’ campaign. Kenya Airways will be supporting this initiative with logistical help and communications support to the AU head quarters and it is hoped that more airlines from Africa will be joining this worthwhile cause, with early indication that KQ’s main regional rival Ethiopian Airlines may follow too, with an announcement expected this week already.

 

MORE EMBRAERS FOR THE PRIDE OF AFRICA

Kenya Airways has last weekend confirmed that they have entered into an additional dry lease arrangement with an American leasing firm, to provide two Embraer E190 jets, due to arrive later in the year in Nairobi. The lease deal is according to a source ‘in the know’ to extend over a period of 8 years. The airline already owns three Embraer E170 and has just a few weeks ago leased two extra E170 from a Finnish carrier. The expected arrival of the two slightly larger Embraers E190 will help the airline to expand frequencies and network connections / destination in coming months, which at present are hampered by the lack of enough aircraft to be deployed to achieve those objectives faster. The two aircraft will be delivered in a two class configuration of business and economy.

These latest additions make Kenya Airways the largest Embraer operator in Africa and there is now speculation in aviation circles if Embraer – a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer – may consider designating the KQ maintenance base in Nairobi as their ‘preferred’ African MRO base and extend manufacturer support in terms of spare stores and technical support, so as to entice more African airlines to consider purchasing or leasing their aircraft range when renewing their respective fleets.

Meanwhile, in a related development, it was also confirmed that the delivery of the first state of the art B 787 ‘Dreamliner’ to Kenya Airways was not expected before 2013 but that additional deliveries of new generation B737’s were on schedule.

No comments were received however on a pending deal with Airbus to introduce A330 aircraft to the KQ fleet, as has long been speculated about and all eyes will be on the forthcoming Farnborough Aviation Fair, if an announcement may be made there.

 

MT. LONGONOT NATIONAL PARK VOLCANO ‘MAY GO ACTIVE’

It is a sight to behold when coming from Nairobi or Limuru and approaching the high cliffs of the Great African Rift Valley – Mt. Longonot rising from the floor of the surrounding valley and the neighbouring satellite transmission station named after the mountain.

Years ago a national park was created around the mountain to encourage more tourists to visit while in the area and it was probably this fact which had more ‘eyes from the skies’ look down at the mountain – long known to be a dormant volcano.

News taken from volcanologists’ blogs however now seem to tell a different, and altogether more sinister story, than the ‘official’ one on the park’s tourism attractions.

Satellite pictures taken over the past decade apparently indicate, that the mountain has ‘grown’ in elevation by several inches, a tell tale sign of increased volcanic activity well below the surface, caused by rising magma. There are no other signs at present, as a recent flight almost across the crater permitted me to see, such as steam or smoke but not far from the mountain is the geothermal power station located, which taps into the ‘deep heat’ of the earth’s crust to produce electricity. Feasibility studies have been completed, it is understood, to add power generating capacity to the station, and in fact build more elsewhere, but KENGEN – Kenya’s national power generating company – would be well advised to keep a close eye on Mt. Longonot and monitor any tremors, no matter how small, to stay on top of potential developments.

Not far across the border with Tanzania is Mr. Ol Donyo Lengai, an active volcano spewing ash over the past few years since it went active again – or rather became more active – and was the suspected source of several earthquakes and tremors some years ago, some of which were felt even in more distant parts of East Africa.

The Great African Rift Valley of course stems from a massive seismic event and hot springs and geysers along the valley floor are tourist attractions like in Lake Bogoria National Park in Kenya – yet an ever present reminder too of what lies deep beneath us, stirring uneasily as in a troubled sleep.

 

CHE SHALE TO HOLD ‘KITE SURF COMPETITION’

Saturday the 21st of August has been named as the ‘big day’ for kite surfers from Kenya, Eastern Africa and further abroad. It is said to be the ‘first’ of its kind in Kenya and the competition will run over a total of four days with events in various categories.

Freestyle, wave riding and racing are all part of the expected fun, for participants but probably even more for spectators. Che Shale is located beyond Malindi on the shores of the Indian Ocean and all proceeds have been pledged towards a conservation cause, the ‘Watamu Turtle Watch’ aimed to protecting turtles and their traditional breeding grounds along the Kenyan shores.

Visit www.cheshale.com for more details or write to cheshale@gmail.com to obtain registration forms and learn about the cost involved, accommodation available in the area and – for those not in the know – how to get there from Malindi airport and Malindi town.

 

Tanzania News

TOURIST VEHICLE IN FREAK ACCIDENT WITH  LIGHT AIRCRAFT

Information was received last week from Dar es Salaam that an overland tour truck carrying over 20 passengers mainly from Holland and Kenya was hit by a light trainer aircraft which attempted an emergency landing on a road after developing problems mid air.

The light aircraft was apparently on a training mission for the Tanzanian armed forces, said to be in good condition when taking off and an air accident investigation is now underway to determine what caused the unspecified problems in flight and if technical failures or human errors led to the tragedy, which cost the lives of the two occupants of the plane. On landing, according the sketchy reports, it seems to have hit the truck with one wing, causing it to spin and overturn, while none of the tourists were injured as they were all out of the truck on a break.

 

SERENGETI HIGHWAY PLANS RAISE MORE CONTROVERSY

Predictably has a government minister waded into the debate last week, when the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism – supposed to protect ecosystems – claimed the new road routing was a ‘must’ as it stemmed from a campaign promise made by incumbent president Kikwete during his election campaign five years ago. Claiming ‘government is obliged to build the road’ the minister conveniently ignored the option of a routing around the Serengeti, and stubbornly defended the undefendable, when expert opinions, including from the highly respected Frankfurt Zoological Society, condemned the routing as the most severe threat ever to the Serengeti / Masai Mara border transcending ecosystem. She was then quoted in the Tanzanian media to have said verbatim: ‘Those criticising the road construction know nothing about what we’ve planned… We’re all keen to preserve our natural resources…We’ll never compromise on that’, yet ignoring advice from experts from around the world to the contrary.

It was the late Prof. Dr. Grzimek who in the 1950’s and 1960’s made the Serengeti world famous with his TV serialisation of his book ‘Serengeti must not die’, and the FZS has in fact been a constant major donor to TANAPA and the Tanzanian government to maintain the biodiversity of the Serengeti.

Global NGO’s, wildlife conservation bodies, development partners and donors, besides thousands of former visitors to the park, have mobilised now and are bound to exert pressure also on the World Bank – which had previously denied loans already for this road as a result of a devastating EIA –  and other multilateral bodies whose goodwill Tanzania urgently needs, to prevail upon the responsible government departments to route the highway around the park instead of through it via some of the most crucial migration routes of the big herds.

The negative publicity comes hot on the heels of Tanzania also suffering a major blow to plans to sell of dozens of tons of ivory stocks, when the last CITES meeting in Doha refused the Tanzanian application – following which official sources in Dar es Salaam started to blame all and sundry for this development without absorbing the main lesson from it, that ivory sales in past years have ALWAYS resulted in intensified poaching – a crime for which Tanzania is also relatively ill prepared to fight, as is the transit of illicit ivory, birds, reptiles and other animals through Tanzania due to lax enforcement.

Sources close to wildlife conservation in Tanzania, including some based at the East African Wildlife College in Mweka outside Moshi, have quietly indicated to this correspondent that they too think their government is wrong, but also pointed out that this being a pre-election year in Tanzania, much – maybe far too much – is being uttered in public by politicians and aspirants to seek votes without donning the  proverbial ‘thinking caps’ first, suggesting that much nonsense is being said and unsustainable promises being made. Watch this space in coming weeks for more reports and follow the main debate on Facebook and related blog sites, where you too can voice your opinion, sign up to petitions and make your opposition known.

 

AIRLINE ALLIANCE TO RESCUE LOSERS

As Air Tanzania is facing a stiff uphill struggle to survive, with creditors snapping on their heels, private sector airlines gobbling up their former market share and uncertainty over a strategic investor who never came, it appears that the Tanzanian government – also short of cash to pour into the airline with nothing to show for so far – has apparently been in contact with the Zimbabwean government to seek a joint solution for their ailing national carriers.

Zimbabwe, under sanctions from a number of western countries, had an economic roller coaster ride in past years and as the coalition government is still to make an impression on investors and the sanction league countries, the national airline based in Harare too has struggled.

However, industry observers doubt if the ‘alliance of losers’ as one regular source dubbed the plan, could indeed make a difference and provide a way forward. An aviation veteran with good insight into Air Tanzania’s struggles in fact said: ‘I don’t think this is really serious. We are coming up for elections here in Tanzania and government is not likely to condemn ATCL to closure. If we did not have elections next year, they might now pull the plug because every measure has failed and Precision has stepped into the gaps ATCL left in the market. Can our national airline still survive? I consider it more and more unlikely and the strategic investors government sought have also pulled away from the idea. ATCL has too much ‘baggage’, staff and union issues to consider for an investor.’

Not good news for sure

 

Rwanda News

NEW ‘BOSS’ FOR THE RWANDA NATIONAL MUSEUM

Mr. Alphonse Umulisa took office last week following his appointment by government and is now at the helm of the institute of national museums in Kigali, replacing long serving Prof. Celestin Kanimba. The Minister for Culture and Sports also used his presence, to at the same time, when introducing the new Director General, launch the recently appointed Board of Directors of the institution. The Board of 7 members is headed by Dr. Ivan Twagirishema and notably is Ms. Rica Rwigamba on the team, who is also in charge of tourism and conservation within the structure of the Rwanda Development Board. The institute of national museums oversees presently 7 facilities across the country, all of which receive growing visitors numbers as a result of promoting culture and history to visiting tourists, whose travel itineraries then regularly include museum and national monument sites visits.

 

Southern Sudan News

SOUTH SUDAN GOVERNMENT HANDS POST REFERENDUM ISSUES TO AFRICAN UNION

It was confirmed last week by sources in Juba, that the remaining issues on post independence referendum agreements, or rather disagreements between the government of the semi autonomous region of the Southern Sudan and the regime in Khartoum, will be resolved with the help of the African Unions’ ‘High Implementation Panel on Sudan’, to which the two protagonists have referred their positions.

The forthcoming referendum, widely expected to lead to South Sudan’s independence from an oppressive regime in Khartoum, is due in January next year and a range of issues remain unresolved, like how to ‘distribute and share’ foreign debts, assets, oil wells, water from the river Nile, amongst other equally contentious areas. The involvement of the AU gives some hope that a post referendum separation can be achieved peacefully, since the AU could even introduce a peace keeping force along the new frontier, but for now it appears that both sides are publicly pronouncing peaceful intent, which in the case of the regime in Khartoum however needs to be carefully monitored considering their past record in the South and their current activities in Darfur.

The AU is a guarantor of the CPA – comprehensive peace agreement – signed in early 2005 and it is understood that discussions between the three parties will commence in early July, but – considering the time left until the referendum – may not be concluded in time for the possible independence, potentially leaving ‘explosive’ issues on the table and then to be resolved between sovereign states.

Meanwhile have several hundred South Sudanese youth held a peaceful demonstration in Kampala FOR independence, denouncing the Khartoum regime’s oppression, sponsorship of unrest and the continued imposition of Sharia law. The organisers, who addressed the group at their liaison office in Nakasero promised to hold similar marches on every 09th day of every month until January 2011, when the referendum is due to take place, under which the Southern population can vote to secede from the North. Watch this space.

 

Seychelles News

AIR SEYCHELLES EVACUATES ACCIDENT VICTIMS

In a remarkably fast and yet well coordinated action did Air Seychelles last week hold their scheduled flight from Praslin to Mahe, when news broke that a bus with students had crashed, leaving several of them severely injured.

The airline immediately ‘converted’ their scheduled flight from the Praslin aerodrome into a ‘medivac operation’, after telling booked passengers of the circumstances. The airlifted students were then from the Mahe International Airport rushed to the archipelago’s main hospital, where they managed to receive adequate care, while some of the more severely injured were airlifted abroad for further treatment.

According to our usual source from within Air Seychelles, the news broke to them just after 3 p.m. and then used all available short haul aircraft to evacuate 23 students, before resuming ‘normal’ operations afterwards. It was learned in the process that each of the airline’s Twin Otter aircraft were used to carry 4 stretcher patients each, something not done before elsewhere and underscoring the airline’s technical ability to convert their short haul fleet at a moment’s notice into an evacuation flight. Other short haul aircraft available at Mahe were reportedly also drafted in by Air Seychelles to meet the number of flights required for the evacuation.

This extraordinary gesture will remain long in the memory of those affected by the accident, and their families and is a strong pointer towards maintaining Air Seychelles ‘status’ as the leading domestic airline, as a private airline may not have been able to respond like the national airline did, considering the use of resources required for such a rescue mission.

Well done Capt. Savy and all the staff involved for being true to ‘Flying the Creole Spirit’ – much more than a simple slogan it turned out but a life saver indeed when helping fellow Seychellois was needed, unbureaucratically and fast.

 

TOURIST BOARD AND PRIVATE SECTOR HOLD JOINT BRIEFINGS

The Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association, in conjunction with the Seychelles Tourist Board, has recently held two meetings to brief tourism stakeholders and members on the islands of Praslin and La Digue. These meetings take place reportedly every few months but it was the first such meeting since the STB was re-organized and Mr. Alain St. Ange appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of STB while the Chairman of the Board, as long suspected and repeatedly intimated in this correspondent’s past articles, was also replaced by a new face.

The stakeholders and captains of the tourism industry had ample opportunity to discuss matters arising in their day to day work and also look at ways and means to improve cooperation between all partners, public and private, with the aim to bring extra visitors’ numbers to the archipelago from abroad.

High on the agenda was how to better market the ‘other’ islands besides Mahe and it is understood that added connectivity by ferry and by air are being looked upon to ensure tourists can criss cross the various ‘inner islands’ with greater ease – helping to ‘spread’ their spending more equitably over the various islands, some of which now depend almost entirely on tourism for jobs and revenues accrued from the running of hotels, resorts, restaurants and attractions.

Visit www.seychelles.com, the official Seychelles Tourist Board website, and www.news.shta.sc, your link to the tourism private sector association, for more information and / or who to subscribe to their regular news broadcasts with updates from the Seychelles.

 

WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS PROCLAIM VICTORIA HARBOUR ‘BEST’

The recently held World Travel Awards were handing top honours to the port of Victoria on the Seychelles’ main island Mahe, when handing them their recognition as ‘best cruise port’ in the Indian Ocean area. The port authority was thus given ‘their fair dues’ for all the hard work they have been putting in, promoting cruise tourism to the archipelago and bringing other Indian Ocean islands and port authorities on board, when ‘selling’ Indian Ocean cruises at major international cruise tourism trade shows and providing information about the security situation in their waters. Well done indeed, considering the competition out there for the top spot …

 

VISITORS TO GET NEW PHONE INFORMATION SERVICES

A UK developed technology, now used by Leisure and Business Guide, is due to launch a new service for visitors to the archipelago in August, aimed to provide swift and accurate information to tourists, but also the local population, on a variety of topics, like Google Maps, restaurant and resort locations, attractions and much more. The application will be available reportedly on BlackBerry phones, IPhones and selected other models which are browser enabled. The Seychelles Tourist Board has applauded the move and praised the entrepreneurial spirit to launch such a state of the art data service. One word of caution though … roaming services on the archipelago are not ‘universal’ as this correspondent had to find out the hard way, but local Sim cards are available from the shops and sales outlets of several mobile operators now serving the Seychelles, most notably Cable & Wireless.

 

SEYCHELLES CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY UPGRADES ‘TRACKING’ CAPABILITIES

The SCAA has last weekend commissioned state of the art tracking systems, aimed to improve the monitoring capacity of air traffic control in the extensive airspace surrounding the archipelago. It was also to the day 39 years ago that the international airport on Mahe opened its ‘doors’ or rather runways to the first commercial flight landing on the island, at the time ringing in a new era for the Seychelles and triggering the tourism boom witnessed since then.

The new equipment was funded, according to a regular aviation source from Mahe, by ‘internally generated income’ of the SCAA and hence bought in cash without any foreign or local bank loans involved. ATC staff were ahead of the launch given extensive training on the new equipment and inbound planes to the international airport can now be given ‘direct’ routes which help to save fuel instead of following rigid air traffic corridors before starting their descend into Mahe. Added the source: ‘we are in fact very proud today and all the staff working with the new technology are Seychellois who have trained in recent years and now taken over these very important functions’ – congrats for this affirmative action programme and to the SCAA for moving with the times.

 

And in closing today again some travel reports and other interesting material taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ with grateful acknowledgment:
The Zambezi Traveller

A new tourist information newsletter has been started by Frances Jackson and Teddy Brightman in Victoria Falls Town.  It covers all the towns along the Zambezi River.  There are loads of articles from Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Kasane, Katima Mulilo and Kariba.  A very interesting read. 

The newspaper is given out free at all major tourist places – airports, hotels, etc.  25,000 copies are being printed every three months. 

If you would like to contact Frances either for advertising or for articles: fjackson@iwayafrica.com  

Game Viewing at Somalisa

Continuing the story of our stay at Somalisa, Hwange National Park

We stayed at Somalisa for two nights.  During the day Dardley took us out into the park to see what we could see.  And it was pretty spectacular game viewing.  Nearby Somalisa is Ngweshla pan and this was the attraction for large herds of elephant and buffalo.  All around the pan is grassland where zebra, kudu, impala, ostrich and wildebeest grazed happily with a watchful eye open for the odd predator. 

On the second day we found a pride of lion – four females and eight cubs.  They were relaxing in the shade of some trees until we came along and unwittingly disturbed them.  They then wandered off across the plain into the woodland away from the annoyance of us people. 

We also found a young leopard near to the camp.  She was feeding off a rather old carcass which had become very smelly but she didn’t seem to mind.  We found her there three times.  With the stench that the carcass was putting out it was a surprise that hyena had not been down to munch it – there were plenty hyena in the area – we had seen them and heard them during the night.

On the second evening we had a very special hour or so by Ngweshla Pan.  We had stopped for sundowners and were happily chatting as the sun disappeared below the horizon.  A herd of elephants came down to drink – there must have been at least 100 of them on the opposite side of the pan.  One of them decided to play the fool and got into the middle of the pan, splashed the water with his trunk, rolled over in the water and generally had a lot of fun. 

On the side of the pan we watched a hippo which had a couple of oxpeckers on his back picking off ticks when suddenly he decided to plunge back into the water.  He then rolled over on his back with his legs in the air sticking out of the water.  It was the oddest spectacle, something which none of us had ever seen before.  He was obviously scratching his back and seemed to be having a great time. 

Finally a jackal wandered close to the car, not bothering about us at all.  He jumped into a bunch of grass looking for something to eat; he then came out and did a poo, had a scratch and then wandered off across the plain. 

Another notable sighting on our drives around the park was a troop of baboons playing on a fallen tree.  Baboons, although common in all our parks, can provide hours of entertainment when they are at play in the bush.  This troop had baboons of all ages, the youngsters posing nicely for a photo. 

One of the birds I love to see in the bush is the secretary bird, with his sticky-up feathers on his head.  We were not disappointed as we found one all fluffed up in the cold of the morning. 

Thinking about the cold, it was the cold that dominated our stay.  It was freezing.  Going out on an open safari vehicle was a case of wrapping up as warmly as possible.  The sun may have been shining but it was definitely cold out there.  Even Dardley had his fleecy-lined coat on … with sunglasses perched on his cap …

 

 

The Zambezi  International Regatta returns to Livingstone for the running of the fourth Oxford v Cambridge v South African Universities boat races at the Zambezi Boat Club in September 2010. The event has been held previously in 1904, 1905 and 1907. The last occasion included Brown University from the USA.

The first regatta – 1905. Winners of the coxed fours.               Left to right: G. Hill (stroke), Bruce-Miller (3), Colonel Carden (judge), H E Scott (cox), K B Fairburn (bow), J Saunders (2)
1910. The World Professional Sculling Championships. The 4 man Mukoro race.        

                

This year is the Centenary of the World Professional Sculling Championships held on the Zambezi River. The event in 1910 was hosted by the British South Africa Company to ensure that the development of Central Africa included the sports world as well. They put up a purse of £1,000 to the winner. Richard Arnst (NZ) and Ernest Barry (Eng) the two top professional rowers of their day competed in the race which was won by the New Zealander (funnily enough sponsored by the city of Sydney). In the 2004 regatta Ernest Barry’s nephew rowed an exhibition race on the Zambezi, and his great-nephew rowed for the Cambridge crew.

2004. National 2 man Mukoro race                                                                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left to right – Rhodes, Cambridge, Rand Afrikaans, Oxford

 

It is planned to bring the crews back again in 19 – 26 September 2010 to compete for various trophies on Saturday 25 September between 0900 hours and 1500 hours (the rafting event will be held in the gorges between rapids 1 and 7 on Tuesday 21 September). Viewing of the races will be done from the Zambezi boat club and VIPs and sponsors will be entertained on board the luxurious African Queen, African Princess and Lady Livingstone launches.

A unique event in rowing world – heavy traffic on the river   
The 1910 World Championship Course – with The Victoria Falls just around the bend!

 

The crews have already been put together and they are looking forward to the competition which has gained international recognition. In the past we have had Olympic Gold Medallists (Luka Grubor, Andrew Lindsay in Sydney, Ed Coode in Athens for Great Britain and Jake  Wetzel in Beijing for Canada) and reigning World Champions and Gold Medallists in Beijing (Peter Reed, Andrew Triggs-Hodge [GB]) and Olympic Silver Medallists (Colin Smith [born in Zimbabwe]Josh West, Matt Langridge and Acer Nethercott in Beijing) rowing in the crews. This year we have Kieran West (gold in Sydney) amongst others coming along to row.

2004. National Mukoro winners
1910 – Ernest Barry (Eng) and Dick Arnst (NZ)  

                           We would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to assist in helping run the event on a voluntary basis especially people with safety  boats and we are also looking for sponsors to help with running costs to ensure that the centenary is carried out in style. There will be a number of events which need local competitors to take part:

Mukoro race

Single kayak race

Double kayak race mens

Double kayak race ladies

Double kayak race mixed doubles

Raft race – sprint- crews of 7

Please get hold of Peter Jones at the River Club or the committee of the Livingstone Tourism Association if you need any further information. It will be a great week celebrating the diversity of Zambia’s sporting history.

Protea Hotel, Lower Zambezi
I feel that we have rather overdone Protea, but the stories keep coming.  Here is a letter stating that the Chiawa Community is not happy with the development on that particular site, preferring it to be moved further west. 
 

 

 

Project Update May / June 2010

Jun 29, 2010

Our fears were confirmed when Greg and Ester walked into the den site. There was no sign of life. The Kutanga pack had moved 25 km away two days before this, something they would never do if they still had pups, which is why we checked the den site. We had seen the alpha female “Ester” mating in April and watched her closely during the weeks of her pregnancy, Jealous often expressing concern that she “looked a bit thin.” We calculated her due date and received confirmation of the den site via the GPS collar fitted onto Bulls Eye, one of the males in the pack. During the period May 31st to June 7th the GPS collar on Bulls Eye confirmed that he and thus the pack returned to the same place each day and by doing so he gave away the position of the den site.

 

The pups were born on May 31st. We were obviously excited and eagerly awaiting the day when we would be able to see the pups.  Jealous saw the pack hunting in the Hwange Main Camp area on June 8th, which is roughly 10 km in a straight line from the den site. The alpha female was with the pack and he knew immediately that something was wrong. The pups were only a week old, she should have been with them! We monitored them over the next couple of days as they hunted many kilometres from the den, trying to remain positive, as the female was not with them. Then one evening she was there, they had killed a kudu and looked very full. We have learnt over the years that during denning season the pack eat quickly and waste no time in rushing straight back to the den to feed the pups and/or any adults left on “pup guarding” duty. We sat in silence, rather despondent, watching the pack playing, they had no desire to go anywhere and as night closed in quickly around us, we drove home. Early the following morning we located the pack again and followed them on their 25 km trek.

[Ester and Jealous fitted the new GPS collar on Bulls Eye]

We have of course speculated over the fate of the pups. The distances the pack have been covering and continue to cover each day to find enough food are probably the best indicator of what happened. Much of Greg’s Doctoral Thesis concentrated on the cost of hunting in terms of energy used. It’s our belief that the alpha female was not getting enough food and though she carried the pregnancy full term, we believe that the pups born would have been very weak and she was unable to suckle them due to her own malnourishment, so they died. Our concerns over the state of the Hwange ecosystem have been growing and growing. Suitable prey species for the dogs have declined dramatically over the last 30 years and we are seeing the evidence of this now on a daily basis. Packs are covering more than 12 km a day hunting, when even in the late 1990s the average was only 6 km.  Put simply, the energy they spend on such hunts may not be replenished by what they catch, which is obviously not a sustainable situation. We have already stepped up our lobbying of National Parks Management, urging them to implement changes in the face of the growing evidence and this situation is driving our new position on how we use our Rehabilitation Facility.

 Against such a bleak backdrop, our Children’s Bush Camp continues to bring a ray of sunshine and a smile to our faces. After the School’s Easter Holidays, we opened up again for a busy month, with the children from Dopota, Mabale and Dete Primary Schools all enjoying their week-long camp. The signs of the Bush Camp’s success continue to come in with children being ever eager to learn. Wilton finds that the children are more excited than ever and so well prepared when he visits them the day before they are due to attend the camp, one chilled from Dopota asking if she could stay for two weeks not one, though she has never even seen the camp before!! Wilton has also added a new quiz to the curriculum, which is more fun for the children and challenges them and their teachers to really focus on the lessons taught so that they score the highest marks possible

 

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