TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome Second edition August 2010
I WISH A PEACEFUL AND BLESSED MONTH OF RAMADHAN TO ALL THE MUSLIM FAITHFUL AROUND THE GLOBE, AS THEY COMMENCE THEIR ANNUAL FAST
ERITREAN NATIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM TURNS UP IN ADELAIDE While playing in an East African football tournament in Nairobi last December, the Eritrean national side, underdogs on the pitch, nevertheless stole the headlines, when they reportedly walked out of the team’s hotel and went into hiding. The defection, accompanies by full mouthed denials from government mouthpieces in Asmara, however soon became fully evident, when they eventually sneaked from their well concealed hiding place to the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees office in Nairobi and were then granted refugee status, however then bussed by the Kenyan government to a remote camp where they awaited news of any country to accept them and grant them asylum, which was in the end taking nearly half a year. That measure, according to a source in Nairobi, was ‘necessary to protect them as someone could have come from ‘there’ and try to grab them’. The team now made yet more headlines when they turned up last weekend at a sports stadium in Adelaide / Southern Australia, as they were apparently given green light by the government in Canberra to settle ‘down under’. Several of them are said to be eyeing a new footballing career in their new adoptive country, and having played at national level are having good chances to secure contracts and make a decent living instead of those days in Eritrea, where according to Australian press reports they lived in daily fear for the freedom, liberty and lives and are worried that the rogue regime may take it out on their relatives and families, still living under the yoke of their ‘jailers’. Football association officials were also quoted in the regional Australian media to welcome their arrival and once all issues concerning their status and eligibility to play have been cleared – the Eritrean FA may still try to throw some spanners in the works – they would undoubtedly enrich the coming footballing seasons considerably with their skills. (Information tip off courtesy of a FB contact in Adelaide – thanks Margit)
NEW EAST AFRICA WEBSITE LAUNCHES In2Eastafrica is the name of the newest kid on the block in promoting travel to and across Eastern Africa, following its launch last week. After the sad demise of SafariWire a couple of months ago this seems an earnest and well prepared attempt to capture the attention of wannabe travellers as well as of advertisers making use of the new site, which features destination information, travel updates, details on economic issues related to the tourism industry across the region and a wealth of other useful details. The new site also features content drawn from this correspondent’s regular weekly articles and features and is available via www.in2eastafrica.net
TURKISH PROMOTES NEW US DESTINATIONS Information was received that Turkish Airlines will soon commence additional flights into the United States, offering convenient added onward connections from their current three East African destinations Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Entebbe via THY’s hub in Istanbul. It is understood that they will initially operate five weekly flights from Istanbul to Washington DC’s Dulles airport beginning in November this year and initially four flights a week to Los Angeles, the latter one planned to start however only in March 2011.
EMIRATES TRAVELLERS SOON TO BE DENIED USE OF BLACKBERRIES IN DUBAI TRANSIT Disconcerting news have broken last week that the United Arab Emirates and neighbouring Saudi Arabia would soon ban the use of Blackberry communications over unspecified concerns and fears over ‘security’. This however is generally seen as a ‘front’ for a lot of other reasons, although these countries are not willing to admit to such while hard pressed to deny suggestions posed to them by global media organisations. Investigative journalists are already on their case to dig up what is really going on behind the scenes and who exactly is pushing for these ‘prohibitions’, but for regular users of both Blackberry phones and Emirates the ban, when effective, will mean that while in transit in Dubai they will no longer be able to stay in touch the way they are used to in most global places where Blackberry has established a presence. This development comes not long after allegations emerged that Etisalat, the national communications operator, tried to install spyware in Blackberries last year, denied by the company, the regulator and government. It is not clear if the use of mobile communications via phones in flight, while travelling with Emirates, will also be affected, which would be a further detriment for travellers to use them as opposed to other airlines. The United Arab Emirates have in the recent past come under scrutiny and been accused of living in the past, over other issues also seen as archaic or, as one travel agent regularly selling tickets on Emirates put it ‘stone age’, although adding ‘their airline is ok’. Not long ago news emerged that hardliners were proposing to ban the use of alcohol when cooking or baking for an international and expatriate clientele in international class hotels, and when a number of travellers were dragged to court over allegations of ‘public kissing and indecent behaviour’ the long promoted liberal and open appeal by the UAE as a holiday destination took a serious knock. After speaking to several regular Emirates travellers and Kampala travel agents supporting Dubai’s price winning airline, their tenor was: ‘the place is losing some of its charm, duty free is no longer cheap, well sorted variety but not cheap unless you catch a promotional bargain, the global crisis exposed their financial card houses to the point of defaults and plenty of foreclosures, and these ongoing reports about arresting visitors over allegations of kissing or booze or wearing narrow bikinis don’t help either … maybe it is time to give them a reality check now that the gloss is off … the more such reports, especially now about the communications ban, reach the global market the more people will think twice … connections via Dubai to the East are excellent, but it is a detour when going to Europe or America and if I cannot get emails and work in transit, what the h..l … is that what they want, go fundamentalist like the Saudis, ever wondered why hardly a Western tourist goes there with their draconian stuff going on?’ Such were selected sentiments, repeated several times and NOT ONE giving a positive read on these issues. Therefore, should the UAE and KSA indeed go ahead with the Blackberry data transmission ban, which is undoubtedly their right to decide so as sovereign countries, they better also be prepared for the backlash of global public opinion, which may hit their tourism, real estate, aviation, financial and general business sectors hard, should a sustained and agitated campaign be mounted against them as ‘pay back’ and there will undoubtedly be a few, or more, out there with an axe to grind and ready to start a FB campaign. Watch this space.
And in a related piece of absolute dark humour I like to share this with you – makes you think about all this nonsense even harder… Life in Dubai after 1 year….. once UAE ID card in place An Expat calling Pizza Hut in Dubai Operator: ‘ Thank you for calling Pizza Hut . May I have your…’ Customer: ‘Salam Ale koum, can I order..’ Operator: ‘Can I have your UAE identity card number please, Sir?’ Customer: ‘ It’s eh…, hold…….. ..on….. .889861356102049 998-45-54610’ Operator: ‘OK… you’re… Mr Waleed from Syria and you’re calling from Flat #402, Al Maskaan Building, Bur Dubai. Your home number is 04-3661231 04-3661231, your office number is 04-8852302 04-8852302 & your mobile number is 050-2665667 050-2665667. Where has the delivery to take place Sir?’ Customer: ‘ Home! How did you get all my phone numbers? Operator: ‘ We are connected to the system Sir’ Customer: ‘May I order your Seafood Pizza…’ Operator : ‘That’s not a good idea Sir’ Customer: ‘How come?’ Operator :’According to our medical records – you went for your check up last week to Welcare Hospital & you have high blood pressure and even higher cholesterol level Sir’ Customer:’What? … What do you recommend then?’ Operator :’Try our Low Fat Hokkien Mee Pizza. You’ll like it’ Customer:’How do you know for sure?’ Operator :’You borrowed a book entitled ‘Popular Hokkien Dishes’ from the National Library in Deira, last week Sir’ Customer:’OK I give up… Give me three family size ones then, how much will that cost?’ Operator :’That should be enough for your family of 10, Sir. The total is Dirham 112.00′ Customer: ‘Can I pay by credit card?’ Operator :’I’m afraid you have to pay us cash, Sir. Your First Gulf credit card is over the limit and you owe Citibank Credit card another Dirham 3,720.55 since October. That’s not including the late payment charges on your housing loan to NBD, Sir.’ Customer: ‘I guess I have to run to the neighborhood ATM and withdraw some cash before your guy arrives’ Operator :’You can’t Sir. Based on the records, you’ve reached your daily limit on HSBC ATM withdrawal for today’ Customer: ‘Never mind just send the pizzas, I’ll have the cash ready. How long is it gonna take anyway?’ Operator : ‘About 45 minutes Sir, but if you can’t wait you can always come and collect it on your Honda Civic…’ Customer: ‘What!’ Operator :’According to the details in system ,your Honda Civic’s Registration ie Malkia is expiring in 23 days & your Gargash Insurance has already got expired last week….. Customer:’?? ??’ Operator :’Is there anything else Sir?’ Customer: ‘Nothing… by the way… aren’t you giving me those 3 free bottles of cola as advertised?’ Operator : ‘We normally would Sir, but based on your records you’re also diabetic…. … ‘ Customer:#$$ ^%&$@$% ^ tm kiere…..abe ytga…npiye! !!!!!!…… ……. . Operator :’Better watch your language Sir. Remember on 15th July 2008 on Dubai Hatta Road, when you wrongly overtook the BMW & you were convicted of using abusive language also on the policeman… ?’ Customer (fainted) Operator: hello hello, are you still there…. Well, they asked for it…
ENTEBBE TO BECOME NEW CODESHARE DESTINATION FOR CONTINENTAL Brussels Airlines and Continental – a leading US airline recently merged with United to create another global aviation giant – have signed a full code share agreement to cover flights between Newark / New York and Brussels but also for flight beyond on both sides of the Atlantic. Both carriers have been working closely together in the past but the formal agreement to code share will be a bonus for travellers of both airlines, as they can enjoy more perks and most important, more destinations. Entebbe, but also the other East African Brussels Airlines’ destinations like Nairobi, Kigali and Bujumbura will now appear in the Continental schedule and the flights will as before be operated by Brussels Airlines, now flying 6 times a week into the region and soon it is understood going daily between Europe’s capital city and East Africa. In addition Brussels Airlines will be able to offer initially 5 added destinations via EWR to such cities as Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Dallas / Ft. Worth and Cleveland while Continental will add 9 European cities and eight West Africa destinations served by SN to their schedule.
AUGUST / SEPTEMBER ‘THE EYE’ NOW OUT The latest edition of Uganda’s premier ‘insider guide’, THE visitor’s bible for where to go, where to eat, what to do and how to get around Uganda, is now again available on the web via www.theeye.co.ug. Printed copies are distributed only in country for FREE through selected outlets and the main hotels, but intending visitors can get their own preview on the internet and prepare themselves accordingly. The print version is also now focusing on the different towns outside Kampala and the main categories of information are now centred on the municipality, like Jinja, Kabale, Fort Portal, Mbarara and so on rather than having to sieve through the entire booklet. The Eye is a MUST READ publication for visitors to the country and information is updated every two months with the latest phone numbers, locations and data and current events.
FORMER UGANDAN PRESIDENT BINAISA PASSES AWAY At the ripe age of 90 did former Ugandan president Godfrey Binaisa pass away last Thursday 05th of August 2010. Godfrey Binaisa was notably the only surviving past head of state in Uganda and had lived for the past few years in Kampala, where he enjoyed the privileges of a former president as provided for by law. He served the country for 11 months after the overthrow of notorious dictator Idi Amin between June 1979 and May 1980 before being removed from office when he tried to send a powerful top army officer abroad as ambassador. He was then succeeded by a ‘presidential commission’ which remained in office until the rigged elections in 1981 returned the other notorious Ugandan dictator Milton Obote to power, leading to the liberation war which ended with Yoweri Kaguta Museveni taking office after defeating the enemies of a free Uganda. The late Binaisa was accorded a full state funeral according to governmental house sources and President Museveni himself led the nation in mourning. Sincere condolences to the family of the late Binaisa and may he now rest in eternal peace.
UGANDAN SAB MILLER SUBSIDIARY ACCUSED OF BEING UNSENSITIVE ON ENVIRONMENT The Rwenzori Bottling Company, a long time and in fact the first ever supplier of mineral water made in Uganda to the country and the region in plastic bottles, has now finally added 5 gallon bottles for water coolers, 15 or more years since the first coolers appeared on the local market. Yet, unlike all the other suppliers which offer bottles against a deposit, compelling customers to return their empties or lose as much as 9 US Dollars per water container, Rwenzori against professional advice by environmentalists has decided to go ahead and use ‘disposables’, which are thought to further litter the already under strain environment. Plastic bottles constitute a substantial component of waste disposal, and while some few efforts are being made to collect the bottles and re-process them, many simply end up thrown away or worse burned, with the gasses then emitted posing further risks to environment and human health. This is a startling development, considering the involvement of the global Coca Cola company and it is hoped that pressure, from consumers, NGO’s and the holding company in Atlanta will soon show results to have the ‘unfriendly’ bottles removed and substituted against what other mineral water companies use for the dispensers. In addition, the shrink wrappers used by this and many other companies to ‘seal’ the bottle tops and prevent contents from being polluted or adulterated, too are found flying all over the place, and the twist caps and bottles themselves have even been found in the hitherto still pristine environment of the country’s national parks as well as floating in rivers and lakes. It clearly is now time for the water industry – otherwise crucially important to deliver clean potable water to the population – to get together and find a way out of the plastic bottles by adding a deposit on them to compel a return or else find other means of safe water delivery without adding to environmental pollution – and no, the disclaimers do not hold ‘water’.
WILDLIFE AUTHORITY TOP MANAGEMENT SUSPENDED News broke overnight that the recently installed board of trustees has suspended the Executive Director of UWA Mr. Moses Mapesa together with the Director of Conservation Sam Mwandha to allow a ‘forensic audit’ to be conducted over a number of unspecified allegations made against the officers. An inside source overnight spoke of apparent issues over the handling of disciplinary matters, the new board chairman was not happy with. At least two other senior managers had recently resigned from the authority not long after the new board came into office. The Uganda Wildlife Authority, a statutory body under the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has been benefitting from major World Bank funding over the past 15 years to turn the financial page towards long term self sustainability, and great progress has indeed been made in recent years. Controversial issues were considered to be hunting, where a long time ‘pilot project’ of late seems to have been expanded to other parts of the country, without having taken the route to discuss the implications of the pilot study first with stakeholders, something UWA has repeatedly denied but no records were ever availed of the alleged public consultations. One website promoting hunting has recently mentioned that their trips to Uganda were ‘suspended for the time being’ giving the first indication that not all may be well in this regard. Moses Mapesa in particular had in past years – he served with UWA in various capacities from its inception before becoming Executive Director some years ago – build a solid professional reputation and served on many international panels and bodies dealing with conservation. Watch this space as the saga unfolds.
FUEL PRICES GO UP – AGAIN Alongside low supplies to the market for all white fuel products, including AVGAS once again, have prices quietly crept up too over the past week, with some petrol stations now charging a whopping 3.000 Uganda Shillings per litre of petrol, while paraffin, used in many rural and even urban households, now costs as much as 2.000 Uganda Shillings a litre. The rise in fuel prices has already resulted in a hike in cross country transport fares, and although the value of the Shilling versus the US Dollar has marginally improved last week, rising international crude oil prices, added cost for shipments to Mombasa through pirate infested waters and – some say artificially – low supplies resulted in the commodity prices to go up. Safari operators sampled yesterday were saying they had sufficient supplies in stock to operate all their safaris without any problems and as they quote safari rates in foreign currency also did not anticipate any sudden price hikes for their services. Good to know.
ADAMSON MEMORIAL GATHERING SCHEDULED FOR MERU The Meru Conservation Area, which also includes the Kora National Park, will be the venue from 19th of August for a broad gathering of conservationists honouring the memory of the late George Adamson. Made immortally famous across the globe through the film ‘Born Free’, the late George and his late wife Joy were engaged in pioneer efforts to train and release lions back into the wild after being born in captivity or brought up from early stages in captivity. ‘Born Free’, starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, has since its initial release in 1966 become an adventure and wildlife ‘classic’ and raised awareness towards wildlife conservation and the huge efforts undertaken by the couple. Joy herself lived for many years also on Lake Naivasha, where her home ‘Elsamare’ is now a conservation and education centre and a magnet for visitors from around the world. Both George and Joy were murdered, George by ‘shiftas’ attempting to rob visitors arriving in his camp on that fateful day of 20th of August 1989, when he true to his nature rushed towards the scene of the gun shots to bring relief and help, only to get shot himself in the process. His wife Joy was murdered in her ‘Shaba’ camp on 03rd January 1980 by a member of her staff, shocking her friends and the global conservation fraternity, but it was George’s death which brought the era of ‘Born Free’ finally to an abrupt end. Conservationists, friends of the late couple and members of the tourism fraternity are set to visit Meru between the 19th and 22nd of August – a organized trip is available from Nairobi as per attached – to honour and commemorate the work the Adamson’s have done in their lifetime and celebrate their devotion to conservation. George’s book ‘My Pride and Joy’ and the dozen books written by Joy herself also gained global acclaim and are still much in demands by tourist visitors coming to see the very sights of those long gone days.
KENYA SHOWS MATURITY AT THE POLLS The harsh lessons taught after the last general elections showed results, when Kenyans last Wednesday went to the polls for the first time since those ill fated days to cast their vote over a new proposed constitution. Final results from Nairobi indicate that a two third majority voted in favour of constitutional reform while a mere on third of the voters rejected the draft. The new constitution, following this overwhelming endorsement by Kenyans, is due to be enacted soon, and although even proponents in the ‘yes camp’ admit that there are flaws in the draft framework, these can be resolved as Kenya moves on under the new supreme law, the first major constitutional reform ever since independence in 1963. What is most noteworthy though was the maturity shown at the polling stations and when counting the ballots, as nowhere across the country were any serious incidents recorded. Kenyans lived for weeks in fear after the last general elections and government was well prepared this time through a visible security forces presence in known political hot spots, ultimately not necessary as none of the two camps showed any appetite to once again resort to violence in order to ‘change’ results. The losing ‘no’ camp has already let it be known that they will respect the verdict by voters, although accusing the ‘yes’ camp to have used state resources to tilt the results in their favour, but the clear two third majority was clear enough and was not likely influenced by ‘dishing out favours’ as alleged by the defeated opponents of the new draft constitution. These developments are good news for the Kenyan tourism industry and were also greeted with relief by the hinterland countries which depend heavily on the constant flow of supplies from the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa by rail and road. Senior tourism stakeholders were jubilant and welcomed the final results with relief, saying this was positive news for the sector and helpful to once more portraying Kenya as a desirable destination with a conducive peaceful environment for foreign tourists. Well done Kenya and now for better times ahead.
NEW KENYA CONSTITUTION TAKES EFFECT ON 27TH AUGUST The administration in Kenya has set Friday, 27th August as the day when the new constitution will be signed into effect by President Mwai Kibaki during a grand ceremony in Nairobi. The day is expected to be announced as a public holiday, giving Kenyans a ‘long weekend’ to celebrate the onset of a new period in their so far chequered history, which after the death of the founder president and ‘father of the nation’ Jomo Kenyatta, saw a coup attempt on August 01st 1981, then descended into a one party and literal police state before the onset of multi party politics – under severe pressure from foreign countries – then opened the political spectrum. Yet, pre election violence during those early days from 1992 onwards maintained oppression and it was only when former president Daniel arap Moi had to leave office, having completed his permitted two terms of office, that the scenario of local politics began to reshape. However, corruption scandals kept rocking President Kibaki’s first government and in 2005 a first attempt to introduce a new constitution ‘bounced’ following widespread bickering in government and across society. The post election violence, following the end December 2007 general elections, then saw Kenya descend into a state of near anarchy, rocking the country and the region. The intervention of former UN supremo Kofi Annan eventually helped to establish a coalition government, the first ever in post independence Kenya, and their promise on taking office, to draft a new constitution and take it to the voters, was last week finally fulfilled, offering the assurance of better days ahead. A number of foreign dignitaries, including heads of state from the region, are expected to witness the momentous occasion when President Kibaki will affix his signature and presidential seal on the new constitution. More than two thirds of voters have endorsed the new supreme law in a referendum last week, which – although hotly contested in the run up – unfolded in a mature and peaceful manner. This appears to have disappointed some global media organizations which had dispatched large teams to cover any potential outbreak of violence, only to then sit on their hands and witness how well voting and counting went. Once the new constitution is formally brought into effect the President, Vice President, Speaker of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of Parliament will then once again take a formal oath of office under the new constitution following which all member of parliament too will have to be sworn in afresh. Parliament will then fast track a number of new laws to operationalise the new constitution, said to be about 50 and all drafted already by the Kenyan Attorney General’s office in anticipation of the big day. One of the major changes will be the option of dual nationality for Kenyans, the introduction of a second legislative chamber, the abolition of the post of Prime Minister and changes in the appointment of members of the judiciary, all aimed at giving more power to the legislature and trimming the previous almost absolute powers of the presidency. All the best wishes to Kenya and her people and peace and prosperity for the future.
ZANZIBAR’S INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT EXPANDED, RENAMED The recently expanded runway of the spice island’s international airport was officially opened last week. The rehabilitation and extension of the airport’s single runway now permits larger wide bodied airplanes to land, as operations into Zanzibar were hitherto restricted to smaller aircraft like the B737, the Bombardier CRJ and larger turboprop planes being able to land and take off. At the opening ceremony it was also announced to change the current name ‘Kisauni’ to ‘Abeid Karume International Airport’ in recognition of the first president of Zanzibar. The tourism sector of Zanzibar expressed satisfaction over the completion of the work at the airport and are now busy lobbying international tour operators and airlines to fly either nonstop or via another airport in the region to Zanzibar, so that tourists can reach the island from Europe and elsewhere without having to change planes enroute. Zanzibar only last week underwent a referendum to create a government of national unity between ruling party and the opposition, to end constant political arguments and prevent the periodic outbreak of violence prior and after elections, which had in the past led to unfavourable anti travel advisories.
NEW FOSSILE FIND IN SOUTH WESTERN TANZANIA New skeleton remains were found in the south west of Tanzania in a recent ‘dig’, which unearthed a creature with similarities to both ancient crocodiles as well as cat like features. A team from several Ohio based universities was on site and assisted by scientists from both South Africa and Tanzania and they have now revealed details of this creature, thought to be 100 million years old when this part of Africa apparently supported different reptiles and animals no longer found today. Information sent to this correspondent from Arusha also speaks about the teeth found being of an unusual shape, compared with ‘normal’ crocodiles. This latest find underscored Tanzania’s standing for prehistoric finds, of both early man as well as the creatures which roamed the region in those long gone days.
PEACE PREVAILS IN RWANDA’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 10th August 2010 As suggested by this correspondent in several articles leading up to the presidential elections in Rwanda, it was indeed the case as the ‘land of a thousand hills’ went to the polls on Monday 09th of August that voting took place in a secure and peaceful fashion right across the country. President Kagame, although by the time of going to press no ‘official’ results were available, was in a runaway lead over his challengers and is likely to be declared the winner later today, following which he will lead Rwanda for his second term of 7 years, once the formal swearing in ceremony has taken place. Tourism sources expressed their immediate delight that all went well and that none of the thousands of tourist visitors had their itineraries disturbed or were in any way affected by the elections. Said one regular source in Kigali in an overnight telephone conversation: ‘Things went very well here in Kigali, but we also asked visitors coming back to Kigali today from the Parc de Volcanoes where they tracked gorillas. They confirmed there was nothing which could have disturbed them or upset them, and they commented favourably on the organisation and orderly conduct at polling stations they saw from their vehicles as they returned to the capital. The new Rwanda stands for peace, reconciliation and to live in harmony with each other and this policy paid us off very handsomely in tourism over the past years. The sector just grew phenomenally beyond expectations. Rwanda is not risking economic prosperity through political squabbles, I am very happy that we now have this continuity at the top and can go on with firm leadership for the next seven years.’ Congratulations to President Paul Kagame and the people of Rwanda, well done indeed.
GULF AIR COMES TO ADDIS Information received from the Ethiopian capital speaks of Gulf Air to commence a five times a week service between their home base in Bahrain to Addis Ababa. Flights are due to start in December this year and are part of Gulf’s apparent plans to expand their Africa network once again. Sadly the airline did withdraw a number of years ago from Entebbe but their addition of Addis will open the option for them to eventually, depending on load factors, to continue these flights to other destinations in Eastern or Central Africa. Watch this space.
NEW 10 YEAR ENVIRONMENT PLAN LAUNCHED Late last week saw the launch of the Seychelles’ new environmental protection plan preparations during a one day workshop and meeting at the International Conference Centre in the heart of Victoria. Participants from government, private sector and crucially from conservation NGS’s had the opportunity to discuss the new plan’s contents and objectives in details and then strategized over the implementation of it during the coming decade. The last 10 year plan was reportedly completed with a ‘done’ ratio of over 85 percent, leaving the challenge for the next period to do better than that when it comes to the protection of marine and terrestrial biodiversity and staying ‘green’, hugely important for the country’s tourism and fishing industry. Added attention under the new framework will also be paid to monitoring of climate change and the development of mitigative measures, improved forest husbandry and agricultural farming methods but also aiming at improving public health. Combating intrusive and alien species on land and in the sea too are a focus of the discussions, which will be ongoing till October when the new plan will be formally launched after obtaining cabinet approval. When complete the next 10 year plan will be the third put in place and advocates for best environmental practise in the archipelago are rightly proud of seeing this as a core part of government’s commitment towards maintaining growth subject to protecting the ‘green’ element long term. Meanwhile, and in a related development, are a group of Australian researchers in the country to carry out studies on early colonisation and human settlements across the archipelago, which is expected to throw more light on the ancient days of these islands and help clarify when mankind first stepped into this tropical ‘Garden of Eden’. In a related development has President James Michel formally opened the new ‘Silhouette Island National Park’ for visitors last weekend, in a ceremony attended by the archipelago’s tourism and conservation fraternity and government officials. The island is the third largest of the ‘inner’ part of the archipelago and over 90 percent of its land has been made part of the new protected area. Seychelles now is not far away from its objective to have half of its territory declared protected, and the present count reportedly stands just over 47 percent, making it the global leader in environmental protection measures and underscoring its status as one of the globe’s greenest tourism destinations.
MAHE AIRPORT PARKING / APPROACH MODIFIED It was learned that last weekend a new ‘regime’ came into place at the Mahe International Airport. Passengers to be dropped off for their flight now have a straight approach route, no longer via the parking areas and in another change vehicles of the touring companies are now also found in a separate area where their passengers will now board without interference from other traffic. This has according to one regular source been a long standing issue and had now finally been resolved to the satisfaction of all airport users.
South Sudan News
ALREADY SEARCHING FOR A NATIONAL ANTHEM With the independence referendum now less than 5 months away, a range of activities are already unfolding in the Southern Sudan, clearly in anticipation of the vote being overwhelmingly in favour of becoming an independent country. News from Juba, the Southern Sudan’s capital city, speak of earnest efforts to have a national anthem composed as various educational and other institutions have commenced an exercise aimed to producing a compelling piece fit to reflect the aspirations and heritage of Southern Sudan. A new flag, and related symbols too are said to be in the making, all under the guidance of the ‘2011 Taskforce’ which is overseeing these activities ahead of the vote on 09th January next year. This information lends more and more credibility to suggestions, that while the Southern leadership – still in a coalition government with the regime in Khartoum – has not yet officially taken a formal and public position of their recommendation on how to vote, they are privately in total favour of independence, no surprise considering the brutal oppression, exploitation and long war waged against the South by Khartoum’s regime soldiers and allied militias, which only came to an end in January 2005 when the CPA – comprehensive peace agreement – was signed between the erstwhile foes. Regular contact and visits to the Southern Sudan also affirm the overwhelming desire by the Southern people to finally be able to determine their own destiny and take their rightful place amongst the Eastern African nations.
And in closing today again some interesting material received from ‘down south’ courtesy of busy bee writer Gill Staden from Livingstone / Zambia
No Room at the Inn We arrived at White Horse Inn after a long day of watching mad cyclists, looking forward to a good night’s sleep. The previous nights we had slept on Chilo Lodge veranda and been very cold; the following night we had put up the tent in the grounds of a polo club near Chipinge; and the night before three of us had shared a room in a hotel in Chimanimani. White Horse Inn is along a quiet road in The Bvumba. The roads are twisty and either side the trees tower above. Streams trickle down from the mountains. A stunning spot. I ambled into the hotel to ask the receptionist what room we were in only to be told that they were fully booked and there was no space. This was rather disappointing, to say the least. I really could not imagine putting up the tent in the car park. After a short while our dilemma was sorted out and we were given a resident’s lounge to sleep in – we had bedding and mattresses so it wasn’t a train smash. We carted in our bags and bedding and sorted out a make-shift bed. We were just grateful that the owner allowed us to use the rooms. White Horse Inn was a house before David Graham bought it about 30 years ago. It has 12 rooms, all furnished in an olde worlde fashion. In the bar there was a roaring log fire so we settled down to warm up and to drink a few beers. Dinner was excellent. I had bream, the others had trout and oxtail. The night’s sleep was fine, even though it was on the floor. We let the cyclists go off on their fourth day of peddling while we had a shower in a now-empty room. Then I had a walk around the grounds. The gardens are very mature with huge trees, some tree ferns and even a rose garden. I wished I could have stayed another night just to sit in them for a while. So, if you are ever near Mutare and need a place to stay, try the White Horse Inn. You will love it. Email: email@example.com
From Peter Jones, River Club 1954. Alfred Hitchcock, the great film Director, with his wife and Harry Sossen, owner of the Capitol Theatre, outside the Livingstone airport 2010. John Landau (Director of Avatar and Titanic etc) with his wife, Julie. Same spot. Same tree!
Hwange Ride Hwange National Park is undoubtedly one of the world’s truly great wildlife sanctuaries. Situated in the North West of Zimbabwe it contains some of the world’s largest concentrations of wildlife on the African continent. Before being proclaimed a game reserve in 1928, wildlife in this vast wilderness was virtually hunted out, with its only human inhabitants being a few bands of San or Bushman Hunter Gatherers, who had learnt to exist in this harsh environment and commercial poachers who had all but eliminated the last remaining wildlife. However it was soon realised that to encourage and increase the wildlife population in an area where rainfall is unreliable, a programme had to be established to guarantee continuity of reliable surface water during the long hot dry seasons, resulting in the first borehole being sunk in the mid 1930s. So successful has this programme been that today Hwange boasts in excess of 50 pumped water points throughout the park, so guaranteeing that this life-giving commodity is available all year round to wildlife The Matabeleland branch of Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe have been privileged to have been involved in this game water supply programme for the past 20 years and have been supported in their efforts by numerous people and organizations locally and externally. In continuing this ongoing assistance the 23rd of July saw an array of some 60 cyclists arrive at the park clutching off road cycles, these amateurs were not racing for yellow jerseys or glory, their goal was more noble, ensuring the supply of water for the parks wildlife. They were there to take part in the sponsored Hwange Adventure, now dubbed “PUMPING LEGS FOR WATER ” Life during the harsh dry season in this part of Africa can be difficult for both man and beast and when the boreholes dry up, parks staff often have no means of providing water for the vast herds of elephant, buffalo, and the other game that abounds in the park. The economic crisis in Zimbabwe has led to serious shortages of resources needed to preserve infrastructure, especially the crucial maintenance of important water sources. These Wildlife and cycling enthusiasts, ranging between 12 and 65 years of age were committed to completing a two day 100km ride. It was not a race, just a means to demonstrate support to a worthy cause. High class endurance athletes cycled alongside novices and youngsters encouraging and supporting all towards the finish. Under normal circumstances, cycling is prohibited in the park and large areas are cordoned off to the general public, however, in this case, broadminded authorities facilitated the roll of the general public by offering these cyclists the opportunity to cycle in the park and providing them with game guards and escorts A considerable amount was raised and while perhaps not much in terms of a national conservation budget, enough to pump water for the coming dry season to satisfy the mega herbivores and other wild life. Conservation is an expensive business and when things go wrong, I feel we all have a responsibility and a roll to play. Colin Gillies Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe Matabeleland Branch