TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome First edition October 2010 Uganda News
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY TO ALL UGANDANS ON OCTOBER 09th
RHINO FUND TO HOLD MAIN ANNUAL FUNDRAISER
The Rhino Fund Uganda is organising their annual main fundraising activity the ‘Rhino Raft Race’ on the upper Nile, which last year raised about 10.000 US Dollars for the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The event will be held on October 23rd, starting at the Nile River Explorer’s ‘River Camp’ at 09.00 hrs sharp, and then extending across the Saturday. Team participation cost is set at 1 million Uganda Shillings or just under 500 US Dollars and the Rhino Fund team will be defending their ‘title’ they earned last year when coming first and leaving everyone in their wake. The ‘rafting’ will be restricted to grade 1 and grade 2 rapids only to take out any element of danger to younger teams and all equipment will be supplied by safety conscious ‘Nile River Explorers’ one of Jinja’s predominant rafting and adventure companies. For more information about the event write to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org, who can also make arrangements for accommodation at the ‘River Camp’ or provide details on other nearby accommodation or camping options. Food and drinks will be available at a very reasonable cost throughout the fun day at the Nile River Explorer’s base camp. Also visit www.rhinofund.org for more information on the objectives of the Rhino Fund Uganda and its operation on the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which is located en route to Murchisons Falls National Park about 175 kilometres outside Kampala.
KAMPALA CELEBRATES ‘OKTOBERFEST’ ONCE AGAIN AT SHERATON
As ‘usual’ will the Sheraton Kampala Hotel once again be the venue for the annual ‘Oktoberfest’ to be celebrated in Kampala between the 14th until the 16th of the month. German beers and ‘delicatessen’ will be featuring on the daily menu and promise to be a magnet for Kampala’s socialites. The festival will open daily from 6.30 pm until late and ‘authentic’ music will be played promising enough ‘umptata’ for aficionados of German food, drink and ‘Gemuetlichkeit’.
LATEST ‘THE EYE’ NOW OUT AND AVAILABLE
Another bumper edition of 140 pages of the bi-monthly ‘The Eye’ has earlier in the week hit the ‘market’, when the complimentary publication was distributed by the company’s couriers to hotel receptions, restaurants, travel agencies, airline offices, tourist attractions and other hot spots across Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja and other towns regularly frequented by tourist visitors. The Eye, together with sister publication EyeTrade has become a ‘must read, must have’ magazine for locals as well as visitors, as it provides a bi-monthly update on where to go, what to do, how to find services, addresses, phones and e-contacts of diplomatic missions and covering all and sundry, worth to know. The web edition is reportedly in its final stage of release too, now that the printed version has been distributed and can be found via www.theeye.co.ug
AKRIGHT PROJECTS INTRODUCES NATURE PARK
The 1.5 square miles large Akright housing project along the main road to Entebbe has set aside over 100 acres of land to create and maintain a nature park along some streams and ponds found on the sprawling property. The area, called ‘Alexander Park’, is home to a large number of birds but also small mammals and insects, which visitors can appreciate while walking amongst the tropical trees, which until some generations ago had covered the entire area between the capital Kampala and Entebbe. The owners are in the process of erecting a walk above the treetops, allowing visitors to see the trees at eye level and from above where the vegetation is lower than the walkway. Boating along the water canals and through the ponds is also in the planning. The area will undoubtedly become an oasis of peace and tranquillity when the various ‘estates’ have been fully created, for both residents as well as visitors from outside. The Akright Projects management is said to consider the award of a concession to a developer of a nature park and related infrastructure like a visitor centre, literature for visitors, a gift shop, restaurant and bar, some structures are already available and ready for occupation. Nearby is a golf course development, presently extending over 9 holes with a further 9 under work, but the owners are considering expanding into a 27 hole course to be able to run competitions while having members still able to play without their weekend fun being too much impacted on. Watch this space for future updates on this remarkable estate, housing and nature project.
AVIATORS REJECT WORLD BANK SUGGESTIONS
Regular aviation sources in Uganda, but also from Nairobi, have largely dismissed the core message of a World Bank study, which blamed the generally lower standards of aviation safety to the reluctance of African countries to ‘open up their airspaces to competition’. ‘Blaming accidents on the lack of competition smacks of a twisted sense of understanding such problems’ said one source from Kajjansi, where the airlines operating from there enjoy an excellent safety record for their past flight operations. Added the source: ‘de-regulation like in the US, from where the World Bank study seems to draw its inspiration, has not improved safety and in fact the regulator, the FAA there, is blamed for being too slow and too lenient with airlines when safety measures like Air Worthiness Directives are concerned and the timeframes they allow for implementation. As an airline, even small compared to the big boys, we go by the recommendations and directives of the manufacturers and the approved maintenance and operations manuals by our CAA. The World Bank should focus on creating capacity amongst African regulators to have more competent staff, assist in creating regional regulatory bodies and do away with national bodies where appropriate, like here in the East African Community and encourage investments in the maintenance sector across our region. It is a question of incentives for manufacturers and MRO’s to come here and set up, but is it not the same World Bank which is trying to stop African governments to intervene in strategic sectors and tell them NOT to give incentives?’ Said a source from Nairobi: ‘we know that across Africa safety standards are low and the continent has a lot of air accidents, but when you look at the main culprits, Congo, Sudan and a few others, when you take them away we suddenly look much better and are much closer to global averages. It is there the World Bank should concentrate instead of bedevilling the whole industry in Africa, and they should support ICAO and IATA in their endeavours instead of creating a whole new bureaucracy in parallel. ICAO and IATA, the latter through their IOSA certification process, have done a great deal already and are well placed to get African aviation in line with global parameters, but this so called study is just another example of how World Bank consultants draw wrong conclusions and make wrong recommendations.’ And yet another source added that ‘they should support our demands to remove non tariff barriers here in East Africa instead of lecturing us on Yamoussoukro or COMESA agreements, those are political declarations but without concrete steps for instance here in East Africa, we are still treated like foreign registered airlines when we fly some of our fellow East African countries, and they know it, we told them often, but they chose to demonise aviation in Africa and try to impose the US solutions of liberalisation and laissez faire which have not exactly succeeded very well there. Do they understand the economic realities of African airlines compared with their world competitors from the mid East, Europe and America? Is their demand to ‘open up’ not just a disguise to allow the global players into Africa and carve up the market between them and in the process destroy all the progress we made until now? I’d love to give some of those ‘consultants’ a piece of my mind and find out what sort of experts they are!’ Oooops…
EAST AFRICAN LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY ENDORSES NEW AVIATION LAW
While the East African legislators during their sitting in Bujumbura / Burundi recently endorsed the new aviation law under which CASSOA (Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency) was formed and is now operating, aviation sources from across the region, except from one country notorious for their protective attitude, have demanded that the EAC now immediately embark on removing non tariff barriers and move towards one integrated regulatory regime. Amongst the demands were calls to remove national regulators and incorporate their staff into a regional regulatory body, saving millions of dollars in the process by removing the duplicity or multiplicity of regulatory administration expenses across the region. ‘When we have obtained an Air Service License and attained our Air Operator Certificate by one of the regional regulators, the others should immediately and fully recognise this body of licences. Look at 540 Aviation for instance, they are forced to have a company in each EAC member state to operate smoothly because of duplicated requirements, that is not right. Neither is it right we from Uganda should have to pay fees for landing or be subject to getting clearances like a foreign airline for instance from South Africa, when we are in fact licensed within a member state. That level of blatant domestic protection measures must end immediately now if CASSOA is to succeed on a region wide basis.’ These sentiments have been expressed before but fallen on deaf ears until now with domestic and regional legislative bodies and suggestions like the ones made above have often been rejected by national regulators as ‘not feasible’ while they defend their existence and fiefdoms at the expense of integration in the aviation sector across the region. One regulator’s staff in fact said to proposals to charge one common fee for overflights for regional member airlines and one higher fee for foreign airlines crossing the East African airspace as ‘foolish’, claiming that ‘we will lose our revenue base for overflight charges if each country is to give up charging to a regional body’ without addressing the proposal that a common East African regulatory body would still charge for overflights and navigation fees based on flights in the region and receive payments from the airlines. Fodder for thought once again and any emerging news will feature here of course.
FLY 540 INTRODUCES ‘SINGLE TICKET THROUGH FARE’
As part of the changes and innovations by Fly 540, East Africa’s first true low cost airline, information was given that they will, with immediate effect, introduce structured ‘through fares’ for their destinations beyond and through Nairobi. For passengers from Entebbe this will apply to Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Arusha but also to Bujumbura, while passengers from there will also enjoy the same fares when travelling via the airline’s Nairobi hub to their final destination within the 540 network. This will be good news for travellers across the region, not only that it is an all inclusive fare without add on taxes, fuel surcharges or airport fees and secondly that the former practise of having to buy two tickets, one for each sector, is now a thing of the past too, making travel ‘smoother’. The cost of a ticket, all inclusive, for a return flight between Entebbe and Nairobi remains at USD 268, Mombasa return sells now at USD 296, Zanzibar and Dar sell at USD 428 and USD 362 respectively. Well done indeed and happy flying …
TELECOM ‘WARS’ JUST GOT FIERCER
Celtel/Zain’s new owners Bharti of India, soon to be trading in Uganda too as ‘Airtel’, has scored brownie points with subscribers once again, when they reacted to last week’s offer by Warid Telecom, which had lowered call charges per second to 5 Uganda Shillings, only to be outdone by Celtel/Zain with a 3 Uganda Shillings per second offer. What is remarkable though is the fact that the new offer is not only applicable to prepaid subscribers, who make up most of Uganda’s mobile telecoms users, but also to contract customers known as ‘post paid’, a market long neglected by the telecoms companies as special offers rarely applied to them inspite of paying a monthly basic subscription over and above the charges for calls made. International calls to select destinations have been pegged at 299 Uganda Shillings per minute, again offering the lowest charges presently available in the market. Market leaders MTN and UTL too reduced their tariffs in response to the ‘trigger offer’ by Warid but found themselves substantially outmanoeuvred by Celtel/Zain. Conventional wisdom has it that the market leaders are the most opposed to lowering ‘interconnection’ charges, applicable when subscribers from one network call another network, but this does not seem to have prevented other companies to lower their ‘across all network’ call charges to a level when only a massive increase in calls can then make the economics of the new tariffs work. It is expected that the next target for tariff reductions will be the data market, where since the arrival of three fibre optic cable networks in Uganda there is arguably a lot of room for lowering the current charges. As the telecoms companies, first in Kenya and now in Uganda, battle for market share and to retain their erstwhile subscribers, the customers will be the ones with better deals and lower charges while the finance departments and shareholders of the telecoms companies will be holding their breath in anticipation of lower profits and less dividends.
TOURISM NEEDS MARKETING FUNDING TO SUCCEED
The Chief Executive of Tourism Uganda, aka Uganda Tourist Board, Mr. Cuthbert Baguma, has on the occasion of the World Tourism Day once again decried the absence of ‘decent funding’ for the country’s premier tourism marketing and promotion body UTB. However, this situation is not new, having persisted for the past 15 years, with occasional ‘one off’ activism bursts, which however, due to the lack of sustained follow up, evaporated swiftly as the TV screens around the world showed other destinations and after delegates of ‘sponsored’ conferences left the country, turning their attention to the next destination. The new tourism law provides for the funding of several components of the sector, like promotion, training and related work, through a levy, but squabbles over the question who collects, who receives and who controls these funds have prevented the levy from being formally introduced. Even the ‘old’ laws creating the tourist board and the national hotel training institute in 1994 had provisions for such funding, but again, because of sustained arguments over the control and the collection points these opportunities were left idle, denying the Uganda Tourist Board and HTTI much needed funds for development, training and promotional activities at home, in the region and around the globe. This correspondent had several years ago already pegged the minimum annual budget at 1.5 million US Dollars, a figure which needs substantial improvement now considering the level of funding for instance for Uganda’s main competitors like Rwanda, Kenya or further abroad South Africa, which are funding wise in a different league altogether, and their successes speak volumes of course. Time to wake up and move from words to real funding for Uganda’s tourism promotions.
‘COMMUNITY DEMANDS’ CAUSE CONSTERNATION AMONGST TOUR FIRMS
Demands by community groups from outside Queen Elizabeth National Park that visiting tourists ‘should report to local community leaders’ caused both consternation as well as bemusement by safari operators, when the ‘news’ were reported in the local media earlier in the week. Reportedly the groups demanded that tourists ‘should come to the local authorities first’, immediately giving rise to suggestions that ulterior motives were at work, disguising an attempt to ‘make money from tourists’ – as one regular source from the safari sector put it – by any means. Such suspicions were given a further boost when it was learned that the same groups also demanded from the National Forest Authority the right to cultivate ‘bare patches’ in protected forests, prompting the same source to say: ‘it is clear there is no motive of conservation or in fact any good motivation other than trying to get their hands on tourists. Who knows what will be demanded of them should our drivers comply with such and bring tourists to local administrators. We pay park entrance for the visitors to UWA, have our licences from the Ministry of Tourism, so why should tourists ‘report’ somewhere else. And the group’s demand to be allowed to cultivate in forests shows they are not having an idea about conservation but are only interested in commercial gains’. Ooops…
FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE GETS BOOST FROM UN
United Nations agencies have last week committed some 36 million US Dollars towards Uganda’s fight against climate change, ahead of the globally celebrated World Tourism Day. Tourism to Uganda is largely based on nature, intact landscapes, biodiversity and a reputation for conservation measures, and while many challenges remain for the country, both old and new as frequently reported here, the added funding will assist in reaching some of the goals and targets the country has set itself. Uganda is reportedly the first country to tackle climate change hand in hand with relevant UN organizations and will serve as a pilot study for other countries hopefully joining the programme in coming months. Meanwhile has President Museveni also reiterated the need for sustainability and best environmental practise for investors in the tourism sector, as read out in his speech on the occasion of World Tourism Day by one of his cabinet ministers representing him on the day.
News came in last week that wild dogs, aka painted dogs or hunting dogs, were spotted after a long absence near the Porini Camp on their Selenkay Conservancy outside Amboseli National Park. The pack of the wild dogs will be a special attraction for visitors to the camp as they reportedly can only be spotted on the conservancy, not inside the park itself, giving Selenkay once more a competitive advantage, besides the privacy and superb hospitality guests there enjoy already. Meanwhile it was also learned that the Kenya Tourist Board, hand in hand with leading international tour operators and local hotel groups like Fairmont, is presently organising media trips for travel journalists to see Kenya’s many unique attractions and enlist the writer’s support to promote travel to East Africa’s leading tourism destination. Well done KTB, while others ‘sleep’ or have to squabble over funding! The latest newsletter of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located on the Laikipia plains near Nanyuki, has been published and can be obtained via email@example.com And to end this section, the Travel News Kenya October edition is now available on the web once again, the ONLY way to read this publication. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on the mailing list and get a wide range of articles, commentaries and travel updates covering Kenya from one end to the other.
AVIATION UNION ONCE AGAIN SHOWS ITS TRUE FACE
Kenya’s Aviation and Allied Workers Union, notorious for their contemptuous behaviour just over a year ago, when it ignored a court order and went ahead with industrial action against Kenya Airways, is once more in the bad press when news emerged earlier this week of yet another breach of agreement. Kenya Airways last year entered into an agreement with the union under the auspices of the country’s labour ministry and the trade union umbrella body, and to the letter implemented the payment obligations including a back dated increase in allowances for their crews. However, as if that were not enough, the union has now issued another strike threat if he back dating would not be extended by a further 15 months beyond the threshold agreed a year ago and already paid for. Aviation observers in Kenya are jittery over the prospects of more industrial action, which could likely expand across other airlines too, being already faced with staff shortages, in particular cockpit crew, for which wages according to one source have nearly doubled over the past few years. This however was market driven as simply not enough ‘fresh’ pilots are coming on the market at present and many have succumbed to the overtures of airlines based in the middle East, where ‘greener pastures’ await them upon signing contracts and becoming ‘expatriates’. Kenya Airways has been countering this move by offering comprehensive pilot training opportunities but then also ‘bonding’ the new graduates of their in house aviation academy, to allow at least the recovery of the substantial training cost over several years, while other airlines have been resorting to offering pilots from further abroad chances to fly, albeit at substantially increased cost. The airline has blamed these latest developments on disputes within the union hierarchy, where indeed some of the officials who signed the deal with KQ in August 2009 have since been replaced by a new breed of apparently economically inept but politically well trained agitators, portraying union behaviour and lines of thought in the worst tradition of the British trade unions before the ‘Iron Lady’ Baroness Thatcher confronted them head on in her days as the UK”s prime minister and pulled their poison fangs. Should the union not be reined in by their peers at COTU, the central organisation of trade unions in Kenya, undoubtedly the aviation sector would be appealing to government to look at improved legislation which would compel unions to adhere to signed agreements while still in force and make wild cat strikes less possible or even illegal, combined with a high and deterrent financial and personal cost for the promoters of such activities. Watch this space while we are monitoring events or sign up to this correspondent’s twitter account for breaking news updates via @whthome.
DELTA ADDS FURTHER SNUB TO KENYA
After the recent inaugural flight between Atlanta and Monrovia / Liberia, NOT extended as long planned to Nairobi for reasons of ‘security’, a misnomer behind which much is hidden these days, news are now emerging that the airline is planning more routes to Africa in early 2011. It was learned from a source in Nairobi closely monitoring Delta’s African network plans, that apparently Dakar and Luanda flights will be launched in January next year, while the fate of Nairobi continues to hang in the balance as American government sources allegedly continue to have their ‘thumbs down’ on applications to commence flights to East Africa. Said one regular source: ‘they [Delta] may only get clearance when the works at JKIA are completed. We keep hearing that the separation of arriving and departing passengers is a big issue for the Americans, but frankly if the European and big Middle East airlines can make it work, why not US airlines. We think there is more at work behind the scenes than logistical reasons or their obscure ‘security concerns’ which they have overcome in other destinations. For us as Kenyans the best way forward would be if Kenya Airways could start to fly to the US on their own to open the market but they do not have enough aircraft, guess why by the way, because Boeing has failed to deliver.’
KENYA AIRWAYS SPONSORS ‘MASAI MARATHON’
November 20th will be the day when runners from Kenya, the region and further abroad will assemble outside the Masai Mara to run a marathon in aid of conservation measures. Kenya Airways has been confirmed as the main event sponsor, and while other corporate bodies are expected to assist too with funding, materials and logistical support, the event will be known as the ‘Kenya Airways Masai Mara Marathon’. Start and finish will be just outside the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, where the better off competitors can stay, subject to space that is, and the runners will cover a 21 km loop. There will however be a ‘marathon village’ where participants can stay at a very affordable fee, using standards camping tents, while more luxurious temporary accommodation will also be set up. Showers and washrooms will also be available for those bringing their own equipment. Various races will be run, for the ‘professionals’ as well as those in various stages of fitness, some covering the entire circuit while others will be restricted to lesser distances. Watch this space.
HIGHLAND GAMES – KENYA STYLE (reproduced here with kind permission by Kuki Gallmann) The grounds were prepared, the grass cut and cut again, hundreds flags -and new trousers-were churned out in the pedal machine by taylor Kariuki Gitau; many tents were erected in case it may rain, water brought, food brought, tracks were drawn out on the plain and the disconcerted impala moved out to the side of the field. Sport consultants worked daily on the fields alongside our exceptional ground team. Toby then gave the sport shoes, and Bianca painted the boards, and I got the tshirst printed out:blue on black, with Amani for Peace printed below our logo.And Sveva came back again from UK to work with trainer Walter and Victor to build up The POKOT YOUTH PEACE TEAM, ever day for six weeks. And the people came-in their thousands. Pokot and Njemps, Turkana and Samburu, Tugen and Nandi, Kikuyu and Borana, the Masaai cricket players for Il Polei. This despite a tribal fight just the day before , between Samburu and Turkana at Rumuruti:communities and tribals have recognised this Sports for Peace event as one of the really unique occasions to meet and solve issues:the athmosphere was just amazing. We had over 1200 entries to the athletics games and many spectators, estimated to be about 4000. The highlight of the event was the initial amazing performance of the Pokot Youth Peace team led by Kopus-the poacher who was given a chance.I had promised him that one day he would perform in front of envoys guests and a huge crowd.As I stood to clap, emotion almost overwhelmed me. The promise was kept. See him below gleaming with his grandmother:all boys families were invited, transported and fed by us. Next step will be to register their group and to have them perform for a fee, further afield. Nairobi as well. Rains were kept at bay..just for the day..it rained all around us and magic worked when a circle of sunshine just over the game fields allowed the athletes to compete until dark! We are grateful to all that helped make this possible. With blessings Kuki, Sveva and the Team of The Laikipia Highlands Games 2010 From Laikipia Nature Conservancy / September 20th 2010
BALLOON CRASH PROMPTS FLIGHT BAN BY TCAA and SENAPA
The Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority has now slapped a temporary ban on balloon operations in the Serengeti, the only place in Tanzania where ballooning is currently possible on a commercial scale, following the crash last weekend which sadly cost the lives of two and seriously injured 8 others when the basket hit the ground hard. The ban was replicated also by the management of the Serengeti National Park which had concessioned the balloon operations normally taking off outside the Seronera Safari Lodge. It appears from information at hand that the gas used to propel the burners, which keep the ‘envelope’ inflated with hot air and hence afloat, may have run out and this subsequently prompted a heated exchange in private and public between the company’s management and a former pilot. Allegations were made by said former pilot, that the company ‘habitually’ operated balloons with minimum gas supplies on board, a situation which according to the former pilot he had pointed out on many occasions including more vigorously after some flights had to be ended early as gas supplies were running out too soon. Some of the criticism centres around the alleged practise to load only 4 instead of the possible 6 gas bottles, subsequently limiting flight operations should the pilots insist on the safe and required ‘reserves’ on board, a measure common for fixed wing and rotor craft, all of which MUST carry a minimum fuel reserve on landing which is part of the post flight reporting requirements. The company, Serengeti Balloon Safaris, in turn labelled their former pilot as a disgruntled ex-employee who was dismissed without however commenting specifically on the allegations of operating outside the permitted limits, nor was ready to give the true reasons why the former pilot eventually left the company, either on his own or by termination. Balloon operations were initially started in Eastern Africa from the Keekorok Safari Lodge in the Masai Mara in the late 70’s by Kenya Balloon Safaris, before the concept was copied across the Masai Mara and in other parks and game reserves. It is recalled here that world renowned wildlife film producer Alan Root was in fact the first to ever fly ‘commercial’ balloons in Kenya when pursuing filming from ‘above’ without the use of the much faster aircraft otherwise common in those days, and that his experiences with ballooning was in fact the trigger to this now much in demand tourism activity. Few accidents were recorded in Kenya over the past 40 plus years, a sign that safe operations under KCAA regulations are the rule. This correspondent has flown twice in the past with SBS while visiting the Serengeti and on both occasions, being aviation literate, had long chats with the pilots before and after the flight, with no indication that those two had any concerns over their equipment or their fuel loads on board, as incidentally was also the case on the many occasions when flying on balloons in Kenya over the decades. It remains to be seen, what results and causes the TCAA air accident investigation panel will unearth when the now ongoing enquiry has interviewed the survivors, ground personnel, eye witnesses and the company’s officials amongst others. Watch this space.
FORMER PRIME MINISTER GIVES HIS CONSTITUENTS A PROPER WIND UP
In his fight to become re-elected has veteran politician Edward Lowassa taken to making ‘intriguing’ statements to his constituents, a measure of his apparent desperation to garner enough votes to keep him ‘in the job’ for another term, being faced with an opponent for the first time. The former Prime Minister last weekend hit out at critics of the ‘killer road’ across the Serengeti, still using the terminology ‘tarmac’, and telling the assembled crowds that the value of people was not comparable with the value of animals, which need no social services or welfare while humans do. He vowed to team up with supporters of the road project to make sure the tarmac road was constructed irrespective of its impact on the migration patterns of the big wildebeest and zebra herds, before adding that he was ready for a ‘showdown with environmental and conservation groups’. In typical sycophant fashion the former prime minister accused opponents of the routing of the road of having only the welfare of animals in mind and neglecting the needs of humans, in particular his constituents, winding up the sentiments by claiming that the proposed road would have no impact on the animals but open up the area for commerce and trade. He was also quoted as having said that environmentalists and conservationists generally value animals more than the Tanzanian people, a claim hard to sustain considering the support development partners and donors have extended to a large number of projects benefitting the region’s inhabitants alongside also caring for the conservation of the parks and biodiversity, something clearly lost on this politician.
HOTEL OWNER’S WIFE DISAPPEARS WITH CASH
Drama ensued in Arusha last week when the wife of the owner of several hotels reportedly disappeared with wads of cash taken from one of her husband’s businesses, in the process allegedly beating up some female staff whom she suspected to have had affairs with her life partner. Venue of the drama was the Impala Hotel in the centre of Arusha, from where allegedly over 100 million Tanzania Shillings disappeared in local and foreign currency. While the police was looking for the combative lady her husband played down the incident, calling it a ‘misunderstanding’. Mr. Mrema owns such well known properties like the Impala Hotel, the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge enroute between Arusha and the international airport, but also the Naura Springs Hotel, besides being in real estate developments. No word was received if the wife had meanwhile been nabbed or the money recovered, leaving the husband with both injured pride and short of cash.
CONGO DR SIGNS UP FOR NEW AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL EQUIPMENT
The Congo DR transport ministry has last week, according to reports from Kinshasa, awarded a new turnkey project to install a new air traffic control and management system across the sprawling country. It is understood that the latest European technology will be introduced and installed in key centres across the country while staff of the Congolese air traffic control will undergo training on the use and maintenance of the new system. No timeframe was available at the time to going to press about the period of time needed to deliver, install and operationalise the entire system but is thought to take several months at least, considering the geographical distances for instance between Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Goma and the other chosen locations for the new equipment.
FRENCH MAY BECOME ADDED OFFICIAL EAC LANGUAGE
The EAC has for the first time last week conceded the possibility to make French another ‘official’ language of the East African Community, besides English and Kiswahili. This development is attributed to the lobbying of Burundi, which unlike Rwanda has so far failed to embrace English as a major medium of communications, leaving Burundian business people ‘outside’ the main languages and making it difficult to do business with the rest of the EAC, where English and Kiswahili are commonly spoken. Rwanda has some time ago made English the main medium of teaching in schools and educational institutions and has successfully pushed French into a shrinking position, before also then officially joining the Anglophone Commonwealth of Nations last year. The language move has already raised questions as to why French should be added as a business language across the entire regional English speaking block, and while teaching French as a foreign language was common already at least in secondary schools, this should not make it a ‘must’ for the EAC only to employ interpreters and translators for every word spoken or printed in the future of the East African Community, as one regular source in Arusha at the EAC head office put it. He added ‘the treaty dictates English as main language and Kiswahili as second and any change would have to be discussed, agreed and ratified by member states first to become effective’. It is expected that the matter will receive attention in discussions in the future when legislators and officials meet in Arusha but by general consensus at present considered unlikely to succeed in the near future. Watch this space.
STB GETS NEW DEPUTY CEO
The Seychelles Tourist Board, as part of the ongoing reorganization of the institution, has earlier in the week seen the appointment of an official deputy to Mr. Alain St. Ange as provided for under the revised statute. Mrs. Elsia Grandcourt was formally appointed by President James Michel who is now personally overseeing the tourism portfolio, signalling the growing importance of the sector to the entire country. Mrs. Grandcourt can look back at an illustrious career in the tourism industry since the early 1990’s and has generally received ‘rave reviews’ when her appointment became public knowledge, acknowledging the added ‘oomph’ she is expected to bring to STB’s operations and top management. Congratulations to Elsia on this important appointment and all the best for your future at the tourist board.
SUBIOS ONCE AGAIN A ‘BIG SUCCESS’
The ‘Sub Indian Ocean Seychelles’ film and photography festival took place last weekend and was termed by leading tourism sources as a ‘big success’ once again. The annual festival brings together a global community of film makers and photographers attempting to capture the sights of the underwater marine parks around the archipelago and by doing so documenting not only the conservation efforts of the country and its many NGO’s but also portray the Seychelles as the unique tourism destination it has been for decades and continues to be. Held since 1989 the annual festival is one of the main showcase events in the Seychelles, besides others like the annual regatta, the newly launched ‘carnival’ and culture and heritage events during which the rich history of the islands is featured through art, song and dance. This year’s festival theme – ‘Seychelles, seas of a thousand species’ – lived up to the expectations of visitors and organizers, and having concluded the 22nd edition in style focus can now turn to the 2011 event. Meanwhile was news received about expanded ‘local’ participation in the September 17 – 19 ‘Clean up the World’ event, which centred around the archipelago’s two World Heritage sites, the Aldabra atoll and the Vallee de Mai on the island of Praslin. The lead organizer, the Seychelles Island Foundation, has expressed satisfaction about their support from local communities and visitors for the event around the Vallee de Mai where the clean up went hand in hand with tree planting and other conservation activities, while the staff on Aldabra engaged in the collection of flotsam and landed debris from the atoll’ pristine untouched beaches. Visit www.seychelles.com or www.sif.sc for more information on the archipelago’s remarkable efforts to maintain biodiversity and protect their island and ocean environment.
TOURISM EXHIBITION IN VICTORIA EXCITES VISITORS
President James Michel officially opened this comprehensive exhibition earlier this week in his dual capacity as President of the Seychelles and also holding the Tourism portfolio, alongside the various activities and celebrations linked to the UNWTO’s World Tourism Day. The unique showcase offered both citizens as well as foreign visitors the opportunity to see the various attractions the archipelago has developed over the decades for tourism and the leisure of the Seychellois’ but also highlighted the concerted efforts to preserve, protect and enhance biodiversity and the fragile underwater ecosystems, on which so much for the country’s two leading economic sectors – tourism and fishing – depends. ‘On board’ with the Seychelles Tourist Board were regular partners Air Seychelles but also Fregate Island and governmental departments with links to tourism as well as a range of supporters from the private sector keen on seeing the archipelago’s tourism industry given greater exposure. Small country maybe, but for sure big efforts and big successes … well done!
And in closing today once more a few tidbits from further down south, courtesy of The Livingstone Weekly by Gill Staden:
Luangwa Valley Robin Pope Safaris Nkwali The animal sightings have been fantastic. Lots is going around camp, elephants are visiting the Nkwali lagoon almost daily and guests can enjoy some game viewing from the cool of the pool which is definitely a bonus. As for Luangwa Safari House it currently spends its days surrounded by elephants as they rush down to the lagoon in front of the house to cool down in the muddy water. Some 5 weeks ago a young male bush buck had been chased into the lagoon by baboons and found itself stuck in the mud – I helped it out and took it across to see Matt from Zambian Carnivore Programme as there were some bad wounds on its side and its tail had been unfortunately bitten off! After 10 minutes and some terribly attractive blue antiseptic spray later it was taken into a lovely thicket with lots of other bush buck and released. Very excitedly it was spotted last Wednesday happy, healthy and healed with its mum. For more stories from Luangwa Valley, visit: http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/its-monday/mon-2010/mon-20100927/
Incredible Photos From Flatdogs, Luangwa Flatdogs guests were on their way back into camp after a lovely morning drive and saw this mother and baby elephant taking a drink. This was on the Flatdogs access road on the way back from the park. Anyway, they just thought what a great shot it was to get the pair together. Suddenly the water erupted and the elephant pulled its trunk out with the croc attached! The mother fought to get rid of the croc on its trunk, which it finally did and in the process knocked over the baby! An amazing sequence of shots. The next day another game drive was watching a big male ele drinking in the same water hole and it happened again. Sadly no photos this time!
ZIMBABWE CONSERVATION TASK FORCE Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force 22nd September 2010
INVASION OF DENLYNIAN AND TAMARI WILDLIFE FARM It is now 10 years since the implementation of the Land Reform Programme and the very few game farms we have left, are still being invaded. I recently paid a visit to Denlynian and Tamari Wildlife Farm in the Beit Bridge area, after receiving reports that this property was invaded by a group calling themselves “Zhove Conservancy Co-operative.” The members of this group include Police, Army, Civil Servants, Rural Council Employees, War Vets and ZANU PF activists. The invaders have spent the past 10 years vandalising the properties and slaughtering the wildlife which was previously quite abundant. They have been especially targeting zebra and eland. The eland population has dropped from 973 to 374 – a loss of 560 animals and the zebra population has fallen from 871 to 163 – a loss of 708 animals. The invaders have slaughtered 300 zebra for their skins in the past 2 months alone. The owners of the properties checked with the Deeds Registry and found that there is no such organization as the Zhove Conservancy Co-operative registered. They took legal action against the invaders and the courts ruled that the invaders be evicted but this has been ignored and the police are reluctant to assist. In addition to the decimation of the wildlife, the invaders have also burnt approximately 200 hectares of trees, most of which have been standing for the past 300 years. No Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out and they are creating an ecological disaster. The game farms are situated in a low rainfall area which is only suitable for wildlife and the ecosystem there is now so fragile that if the land is tilled, the soil will end up in the river. 7km of 16 strand game fencing has been stolen to make wire snares – making a total of 112 km of wire. All that remains of the game fencing are the bare poles. We have just received an update that 7 animals were killed last weekend, comprising eland, impala and wildebeest and the slaughter is continuing as we speak. DESNARING OF A BUFFALO BULL Thanks to the donations we received of M99, a wire snare was removed from a buffalo bull on Dett Vlei recently. Esther van der Meer of Painted Dog Conservation was alerted to the fact that a buffalo bull was wandering around with a copper wire snare around its neck. Esther, with the assistance of her husband and Peter Blinston darted the animal and successfully removed the snare. ELEPHANTS PERISH IN FIRE Ten elephants were burned to death during a bush fire at Derbyshire Ranch in Shangani, Matabeleland South Province. It is alleged that widespread bush fires have engulfed much of Zimbabwe and most of them are started deliberately, mainly by hunters to clear the bushes. In the past few weeks, ten people have also died as a result of the bush fires. ELEPHANTS KILLED BY POACHERS Three weeks ago, 13 elephants were killed by a gang of poachers in the Hurungwe Safari area. National Parks have recovered 8 of the tuskless carcasses and are still searching for the remaining five. On the 10th September, Hurungwe and Guruve Police arrested the gang of 9 poachers after they tried to evade the police at a road block. Upon searching their vehicle, the police found 25 tusks, elephant tails, an unlicenced rifle and machetes. In March, 10 elephant carcasses were found in Gonarezhou National Park and it is believed that international poachers were behind the crime. SUSPECTED RHINO POACHERS ARRESTED 7 suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the Chiredzi area recently and a 303 rifle fitted with a silencer, telescopic sight and a carbine was recovered. The suspects consisted of 3 South Africans and 4 Zimbabweans. The latest poaching activities in the Save Valley Conservancy resulted in the death of a rhino, leaving its calf badly wounded by gunshots. National Parks have deployed a team that is currently on high alert following the heightened poaching activities.
Savuti Channel, Chobe National Park, Botswana Gavin Blair Safaris The Savuti Channel, now flowing for the first time in 29 years, has from my perspective changed the whole atmosphere of the area. No longer do I see the elephants and worry about the condition and the functionality of the man made waterholes, and when I see the impalas I no longer think of how these same waterholes had become such a zone of fear for them, as the impalas and other animals now no longer need to come into such regular contact and potential conflict with the lions at these controlled water points – the result being that the wildlife is back to being spontaneous, and free to roam the wilderness without any dependence at all on man. It may take a year or more for the animals to fully adapt to the new water and associated lush feeding grounds, but for me the Savuti area is once again so much more alive and vibrant. Gavin and Majorie Blair continue their stories of safaris in Chobe National Park. To read the full article, go to: http://www.gavinblairsafaris.com/newsletter/year2010/july2010.html