Weekly roundup of news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands, First edition March 2012

AVIATION, TOURISM AND CONSERVATION NEWS from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.
A weekly roundup of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome



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First edition March 2012

East Africa News
QATAR AIRWAYS FIRST B787 NOW ON PRODUCTION LINE


Ahead of the inauguration of Qatar Airways latest route into Africa on the 21st of March to Kigali, via an extension from their daily Doha Entebbe flight, has news emerged that the airlines first B787 Dreamliner 5 of a total order of 60 such aircraft (firm orders and options combined) are to be delivered this year is now on the production line.
The forthcoming ITB in Berlin will be the launchpad to present the layout of the cabin to the assembled world of tourism and aviation through a specially designed stand, while the aircraft itself is due to be showcased in July at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK.
When the 5 new aircraft are integrated into the QR fleet from midyear onwards, the airlines passengers from Eastern Africa will be able to fly on the Dreamliner for the first time, depending on the destination they are travelling to beyond Doha. By then it is expected that Mombasa and Zanzibar flights will have commenced, as these two are amongst the additional destinations Qatar Airways has planned for 2012, making it 6 destinations in the wider region after Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Entebbe and Kigali.
Qatar Airways, the worlds only 5 star airline and winner of the Airline of the Year 2011 Skytrax award, has about 250 aircraft on order, worth some 50 billion US Dollars and the new mega airport in Doha is due to open either late this year or early next year, providing one of the most exciting transit experiences for modern day travelers, as the airline seeks to extend the 5 star service from the air to the ground in Doha too.
Watch this space and in particular for reports from the inaugural flight in just over 2 weeks to Kigali.

EAC TALKING UP TOURISM AHEAD OF ITB BUT WILL IT STICK
As the tourist boards and private sector participants start to make their way to Berlin for the worlds biggest tourism trade show, at least four of the EAC member countries have gone on record over their intent and purpose for 2012 and beyond, what new plans they have for their respective tourism sectors.
Back home in Uganda President Museveni had just launched a sustainable tourism initiative, while in London for the Somalia Conference Uganda is the largest contributor for the AMISOM force while the long promised tourism police unit was launched in Kampala last week by the Minister of Tourism Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu. Both events got ample press coverage and praise, but criticism too was being voiced by stakeholders, who blamed government for one off showcase events instead of giving the tourism board and ministry enough money to do their jobs, implementing the tourism policy and operationalising the tourism levy to help sustain the sector.
Said one regular source in an email response to questions asked: Our tourism policy was launched way back in 2005 or thereabout. Some elements of it have never been implemented up to now. I know that Rwanda for instance looked at our policy back then, took good issues on board and you can see where they stand as a sector. There government is not giving lip service but real support. UTB [the Uganda Tourism Board] live from hand in mouth, the ministry has no budget worth talking about and from the little a lot has been taken in fact to finance those electricity subsidy payments and other extravagant expenses made by government. The law provides for the introduction of a levy for tourism. From what I have gathered it is to help finance UTB, the hotel school, assist in the maintenance of cultural and heritage sites and so forth. Kenya had the training levy for so long and see where they have gone. Instead of all the time, when under pressure from the sector, coming up with a one off event for which there is never money to follow up, government should concentrate on finding the funds the sector needs. Remember CNN, there was never any follow up and the effects have long vaporated. They give some money for a big conference but then the event moves on and the spotlight goes with it. The tourism police is a good idea but was that not launched a while ago and failed to work? What has changed now that they think it will work this time? I think it is high time that we not only float good ideas but see them through and implement them. 2012 was supposed to be the Visit Uganda Year and we are turning 50 as a nation this year too. What do we have to show for it, what is government doing to build on these foundations.
Across in Kenya the mood was in comparison upbeat, with new arrival and revenue records under the belt of the industry for 2011 the sector is hopeful to do even better in 2012, although official growth forecasts are said to be flat, looking at maintaining the 2011 levels in view of the Eurozone crisis. The opening of new resorts at the coast, the expected boost for the Lamu region as a result of the new port and rail / road links being created and a number of additional safari properties setting new standards are all bound to reassure the sector of continued growth and keeping Kenya in the limelight. National airline Kenya Airways, also on the fast track to expand destinations and frequencies, is due to get more aircraft delivered in 2012 and more in years beyond, helping the tourism sector with more seats to more places than ever before and the growing interest of new airlines wishing to fly to Nairobi is evidence too of the confidence global players have in the future of Kenyas economic development.
In Tanzania the tourism industry is quietly confident that they will reap the benefits of their marketing efforts last year for the 50th anniversary of the mainlands independence from Britain and a strong trend for safari holidays which yield substantially higher revenues compared with the beach only packages which dilute Kenyas per tourist average spending. There however the tourism sector also hopes that excesses like TANAPAs extortionate practice of last year, when they held tourists literally hostage over disputes on fees with camps and safari lodges, will not be repeated nor will controversial environmental issues continue to cloud the future of the sector with such issues as the Serengeti Highway, a planned railway potentially touching the Serengeti too, Uranium mining in the Selous Game Reserve and the equally controversial creation of a new harbour in the middle of the Coelacanth habitat for which the Tanga Marine Reserve was created only a few years ago.
The shiniest prospects though are told by Rwanda, where new tourism activities and attractions were created and launched last year, like birding routes outside the protected areas and the hugely popular Congo Nile Trail which leads 227 kilometres along the shores of Lake Kivu through some of the most scenic parts of Rwanda, from Kamembe to Gisenyi. This trail offers access to the Nyungwe National Park, home of 13 species of primates, the only canopy walk in the entire East African region but also near Gishwati Forest, which sooner or later will also be made a national park, Rwandas fourth. Stakeholders are still concerned though over the rise in permit fees to see the prized mountain gorillas, which will from June 01 rise to 750 US Dollars per person, but a regular RDB source claimed that the extra money made from the permits will be spent on giving added protection to the gorillas, adding more important infrastructure to the parks and helping to finance a greater marketing and PR budget needed to keep Rwanda in the spotlight. Our projected revenues for 2011 were substantially exceeded. And later in 2012 new hotels and convention centres in Kigali will be opened which we have to promote to bring more visitors to Rwanda. MICE business is becoming very important to us and the new flights by Qatar Airways and then Turkish Airline will bring more seats, better connectivity. It is important not to sit back and rest on our laurels but to continue working hard, working with our colleagues in the sector, the airlines and with ICTP to promote our type of sustainable and environment friendly green tourism.
The fifth EAC member country, Burundi, has been notably quiet and unresponsive once again to enquiries made, inspite of having won the Best African Exhibitor Award at last years ITB, following four successive years of wins for Rwanda and one source in Bujumbura attributed this to the fact that the country is still Francophone, unlike Rwanda which has made English the first language of business and education and joined the Commonwealth.
Fodder for thought for the East African tourism boards and private sectors, how to meet and master the challenges ahead, for 2012 and the years beyond. Good luck to all though in Berlin and lets put East Africa as a region on the map, irrespective of our politicians failure to introduce a single visitor Visa for the region, as was promised last year.

INTERNET TRAFFIC SERIOUSLY DISRUPTED AS CABLE CUT BY ANCHOR
Information is gradually spreading about the seriousness of the current disruptions of internet traffic and the time frame it may require to bring it back to life, after operators, one should say as usual, initially stonewalled and downplayed the extent and failed to reveal the reasons for the disruptions experienced as early as last weekend.
A ship dropping anchor, while waiting to get a berth assigned at the chronically overstretched port of Mombasa, reportedly cut the main cable of TEAMS short for The East African Marine Systems, which provides the bulk of data links to predominantly Kenya but also the hinterland countries of Uganda and Rwanda.
This latest development compounds an already difficult situation after EASSY The East African Submarine System, had experienced a cut of their cable off Djibouti, making extensive re-routing of data and voice traffic necessary. This now leaves the entire traffic jamming into the SEACOM cable network, the third such fibre optic link to the outside world from East Africa, causing substantially reduced speeds and network congestion in the entire region. While the cable repairs off Djibouti are due to be completed within days for the EASSY network the TEAMS cable repair may take as long as 3 weeks to accomplish. Until then, brace yourself for internet disruptions, slow speeds and delayed arrival of e-mails and data transmissions.

Uganda News
ANOTHER LAKE DISASTER STRIKES
Reports have reached Kampala that another lake boat has sunk in a storm on Lake Victoria on Friday night, but with conflicting figures being quoted as to the number of passengers on board the ill fated vessel.
Some media reports peg the numbers on the boat to as many as 60 while official sources are claiming there were only 14 on board, the latter however immediately questioned as already 14 bodies have been recovered and two sole survivors having been rescued from the waters, staying afloat by clinging on to empty jerricans.
Inspite of serious efforts in recent years to have free life jackets distributed by organization promoting safety measures when travelling on the lakes in Uganda, and generally greater inspections and better enforcement by authorities in regard of overloading of boats with cargo and passengers, there always seem to be cases where one or the other slip through this net and manage to sail of, at times meeting their fate when running into a sudden storm.
According to media reports now emerging in Kampala the boat was enroute from Senyi / Buikwe to Luwelo / Buvuma after nightfall and then encountered a major thunderstorm enroute, likely capsizing the vessel suddenly without passengers having an opportunity to prepare themselves when thrown overboard.
This is the latest in a long series of lake disasters involving traditional lake canoes, mainly recorded from Lake Victoria and Lake Albert, both of which are notorious for developing sudden storms for which ill trained boatmen in often massively overloaded vessels have no answers. Condolences are extended to the families and friends of those who perished and the others still missing.

Kenya News
LAPSSET LAUNCHED IN LAMU
Presidents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Gen. Salva Kiir of Southern Sudan were joined by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Menes Zenawi in the formal ground breaking ceremony yesterday at Lamu, jointly laying a foundation stone and committing their respective countries to one of the largest infrastructure project ever in Eastern Africa.
The new port in Lamu will according to plans be linked by a highway and a railway to Northern Kenya, before a branch is leading off towards Ethiopia while the main routes continue to Southern Sudan.
This will give Kenya a competitive advantage in trade with the two neighbouring countries, as it can offer not just a safe export route to a new sea port but also facilitate the sale of Kenyan manufactured goods to Southern Sudan and Ethiopia. Southern Sudan in addition has plans to construct an oil pipeline to Lamu from their production fields, to make the present pipeline which runs through hostile Northern Sudanese territory to Port Sudan redundant, further cementing ties with Kenya as close cooperation partners, and a signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two East African countries has turned the contractual negotiations over these plans on solid ground.
In their keynote addresses did Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki assured Lamu residents that their rights would be upheld and respected, including the issue of title deeds to those hitherto staying on ancestral land without the modern instruments of ownership in place, while Gen. Salva Kiir of Southern Sudan promised a long term and mutually beneficial partnership as his government continues to suffer of hostile intent and purpose from the regime in Khartoum, now set to be replaced as the main trading and route partners by Kenya.
In neighbouring Uganda though apprehension is growing over the establishment of these new road and rail links, as it will offer a geographically direct route between Kenya and Southern Sudan, making the current detour via Kampala in the long term redundant and giving Kenyan manufacturers a competitive advantage due to lower transportation costs for goods shipped to Southern Sudan. Presently Uganda is a key trading partner for Southern Sudans business community and while access from Kampala to Juba is shorter, easier access to broadly cheaper goods from Kenya will very likely impact on trade volumes once the new highway and railway are completed in a few years time. Uganda is also pursuing a different strategy for the oil and gas reserves, intending to process and refine locally and export value added white fuels into the region, while Southern Sudan seems set to export crude via the new port in Lamu.
The multi trillion Kenya Shilling project is set to kick off next week with the start of the first construction phase for the harbour, where it is understood an initial three cargo berths are to be created in addition to a state of the are crude oil loading terminal.
Tourism stakeholders are both optimistic as well as cautious over the Lamu developments and while some fear that the UNESCO World Heritage Status may in the medium term become unsustainable with the new developments springing up all over the Lamu area, others especially the stakeholders in Lamu itself are hoping for a boom in business. Said one regular source in a mail overnight: This is the start of a lot of improvements here in Lamu. We are due to get a good tarmac road to Malindi, linking us to Mombasa. Our aerodrome is going to be improved for even better services and maybe even to handle small jets. The inflow of visitors, delegations and expatriate workers will bring a lot of business for the hotels and resorts here, for transport, for guides. The only thing we are concerned about is that our environment is protected, because the mangrove forests and swamps and the old Lamu town are of critical importance. We need a clean environment to promote Lamu holidays and any pollution is going to be very bad for us, so my colleagues and I hope government listens to good advice from the environmental consultants.
It is expected that airlines already licensed to fly on the Nairobi to Lamu or the Mombasa / Malindi to Lamu routes will in due course add flights and use larger aircraft while new applications are expected to be filed with the Kenya Civil Aviation in due course to be ready when boom town Kenya goes underway.
Watch this space.

KENYA LAUNCHES NEW ELEPHANT STRATEGY
A regular conservation source in Nairobi confirmed that the long awaited 10 year plan of how the Kenya Wildlife Service intends to deal with elephant conservation over the next decade, has been released last weekend in the Kenyan capital. The Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Dr. Noah Wekesa officially presented the strategy document and was quoted to have said: The strategy provides a clear road map for the conservation and management of the elephant population in Kenya for the next 10 years. It outlines clear guidelines that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and other conservation partners will use to protect the flagship species particularly in key strategic locations, such as dispersal areas, migration corridors and in the human-elephant conflict hotspots.
The minister went on to say the documents also seeks to increase the number of elephants at an annual rate of three percent, which would increase the current population of about 37,000 to about 50,000 by 2021 before continuing to add: In order to sustain this rate of increase, renewed and sustained efforts by all stakeholders will be required given the challenges of poaching and slow demographic variables resulting in low population growth rate. The strategy provides a framework to measure efforts with specific timelines in order to achieve the dream of a secure future for elephants and their habitats.
According to the KWS Executive Director Dr. Julius Kipngetich the range land for elephants was spread over 70 percent of the country way back in the 1960s, i.e. 50 years ago, when Kenyas population was around 8 million compared to about 38 million today. He also said that the highly mobile nature of elephants has complicated traditional conservation efforts as the animals require large ranges: The rapid human population growth and settlements which are encroaching on habitat suitable for elephants has led to conflict. There are currently over 300,000 small arms in the wrong hands in Kenya and this is contributing to poaching. Some poachers have even resorted to using poison arrows in order for them to avoid detection by the game wardens. The current available land held by government can only accommodate 50,000 elephants in a sustainable way and so the next option could be utilize the area in northern Kenya after extensive consultations [with local communities and
the conservation fraternity]. KWSs current budget of 61 million U.S. dollars is not sufficient to cover all programmes of elephant conservation and other stakeholders will [have to] provide additional funding. We have identified that conservancies managed by locals will increase the incentives for communities to value elephants and in the process reduce human wildlife conflict.

The newly launched strategy has a ten year validity / life span and defines short and medium term conservation goals.According to data available from past KWS press releases Kenya lost 278 elephants to poachers in 2011 compared to 177 in 2010, underscoring the need to be proactive and creative to reduce poaching and the smuggling of blood ivory and rhino horn for that matter while implementing the new plans. Stakeholders in the tourism industry have generally welcomed the new plans though sections of the conservation fraternity have raised a number of issues vis a vis the proposed new Wildlife Bill, which concerned them enough to demand for, and get, another round of stakeholder consultations.
Well done in the meantime to KWS for their commendable foresight and vision to not only keep conservation issues on the national agenda but also present solutions to the pressing problems of wildlife / human conflict, which is generally expected to intensify as a growing population keeps pushing into parts of Kenya previously not used for human settlements, and in the process displacing wildlife. Watch this space.

SUN AFRICA HOTELS SET TO LAUNCH OWN BALLOON OPERATION


(Picture courtesy of Sun Africa Hotels)

Sun Africa Hotels has announced that they will launch their own balloon operation from their Keekorok Safari Lodge in April under the name Balloon Adventure now that the final test flights have been concluded by the manufacturers and the equipment is enroute to Kenya. Balloon Adventure more details about the company and its planned operations can be found via www.balloonadventure.co.ke will join a number of other companies offering early morning flights over the sprawling Masai Mara Game Reserve, where tourists can see the game from an airborne position, before completing the experience with a champagne breakfast at their landing site deep in the bush.
Sun Africa Hotels has also announced that their new luxurious Kiboko Camp on Lake Naivasha is on course for opening before the end of March this year. The new tented camp, located in a thorn tree forest at the lake shores, is a separate unit on the Lake Naivasha Country Clubs extensive estate, with its own reception, restaurant and bar, giving guests unrestricted and close up views over the lake from the terrace of their elevated tents. The opening of the new camp will take place alongside the opening of a new casino, which while privately owned and operated will be located at the Lake Naivasha Country Clubs main building. Next in line for a complete overhaul at the Lake Naivasha Country Club will be the swimming pool and Spa area, upon which completion the club is bound to become an even bigger attraction, not only for tourists from abroad but for expatriates and local visitors from the capital Nairobi, which is only just over 100 kilometres away. Expect more updates following a planned visit to the property over the coming weeks, so keep watching this space.

Tanzania News
FRANKFURT ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY REITERATES OPPOSITION TO SERENGETI HIGHWAY
A four day conservation workshop at the Seronera headquarters of the Serengeti National Park ended with both encouragement and praise for Tanzanias conservation efforts but also calls to stop any plans to build a highway across the parks sensitive migration routes. Frankfurt Zoological Societys Director Dr. Christoph Schenk was quoted by a source of having made special reference to the misguided highway plans, which could irrevocably destroy the habitat and migration patterns of the great herds, which annually migrate across hundreds of miles in search of fresh pasture. A global coalition formed nearly two years ago when news were broken here of the intention of the Tanzanian government to build a highway across the park, arguably to facilitate powerful mining interests alleged to have generously supported the ruling partys election campaign at the time, and while changing positions and statements have ever since dominated the headlines, the plans were never fully thrown out.
The World Bank and several governments have since offered to finance the feasibility study of an alternate Southern route around the park, benefitting a substantially greater population, but in a game of cat and mouse were such suggestions both shot down in flames as well as lukewarmly embraced by various officials in the Tanzanian government.
The Frankfurt Zoological Society has since the days of the late Prof. Dr. Grzimek supported the Serengeti, made globally known by Grzimeks books and TV series Serengeti must not die and the park and its administration have benefited from constant financial and logistical support by FZS.
In addition is the ecosystem of the Serengeti now under potential threat by a new proposed railway line connecting the Indian Ocean coast from the port of Tanga to Musoma on Lake Victoria, with the most direct and financially most affordable option leading right across the park, similar to the routing initially mapped out for the highway. While sections of Tanzanias politicians have denied any plans to cut the Serengeti apart by such a traffic axis, others have remained either shtumm on the subject or else vocally supported in particular the highway option, claiming opponents were agents of the West with the intention to keep Africa in bondage and poverty by denying the continent development. Watch this space as this sage is sure to rear its ugly head ever so often again in the future.

TURTLE CONSERVATION GETS A BOOST IN ZANZIBAR


(Picture of a Hawksbill turtle courtesy of http://www.ioseaturtles.org/species_overview.php)

Information was received overnight that another batch of 25 tagged sea turtles has been released into the ocean off Zanzibar by the Mnarani Marine Aquarium. This brings the total number reared and released to over 170 since the programme commenced a few years ago.
The locally publicized release is now an annual event but lacks greater exposure as well as funding, the latter much needed in order to allow the aquarium, which also serves as a research centre, to increase its output and help to have the critically endangered species survive in the ocean. The aquariums public relations staff appealed to residents of the area, in particular fishermen, to help this cause by bringing in newly hatched turtles, few of which actually survive in the wild due to predatory birds and fish, so that they can be reared to a adolescence before being tagged and released into their natural habitat with a greater chance of survival. Normally grown sea turtles, a minute fraction of those hatching from the sandy beaches, take often decades to mature and mate before females then return to their own birth places to lay eggs on the beach, which are incubated by the sun heating up the sand.
Thumbs up to this remarkable and privately funded initiative which surely deserves more support and assistance to help in preserving sea turtles for future generations.

Rwanda News
HOTEL MANAGERS BLAME OWNERS FOR POOR SERVICES
A group of managers of hotels in Musanze / Ruhengeri have stood up to their bosses when they denounced them for being responsible for the lack of top quality services, as tourist visitors expect to find when coming to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda or else visit the other national parks or lakes.
Only last week did the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Department threaten to expose hotels and restaurants with continued poor service levels, by naming and shaming them, while at the same time also embarking on solutions such as added and intensified training to provide skills to staff already in the workplace.
Managers, though not yet organized in a separate trade association, have used the presentation by RDB last week to speak out why in their opinion owners are at least partly responsible for lower standards, pointing to the employment of unqualified relatives and in laws at the expense of properly trained staff, while at the same time payingpeanuts to those who trained in such institutions like Kenyas Utalii College.
Said a regular reader of this correspondents articles and columns in an overnight mail: Some of our owners do not understand what hotel keeping is all about. They look at it as a way to make a lot of money but fail to employ professionals to design and build their hotels, and then fail more when they employ cheaply paid staff brought in without training. They need to consider maintenance budgets to keep their property in top shape and have to invest in training of the staff to give the best possible services. Within the East African Community our standards in comparison need to be lifted up so that we can be at level with Kenya, which leads the region in the employment of professionals on all levels. The Kenyans are also the most advanced in using management companies with a lot of expertise while in Rwanda, and I think also often in Uganda, the owners prefer to do their own thing even if they have no clue of the specific requirements to operate and manage a hotel successfully long term. We as managers are happy with RDB to raise the issue with owners and proprietors and if they succeed the quality of service in Rwanda is bound to rise.
True words here and no doubt with RDBs Rica Rwigamba and her team do all they can to make certain that regular training opportunities are availed to the sector to make Rwanda the regional number one destinations in terms of quality and attractions. Watch this space.

South Sudan News
QUO VADIS SOUTHERN SUDAN
We knew it would not be easy but we had hoped it would not be so difficult for us. The regime in Khartoum is the main cause for these hard times now, they first blocked our trade and what we used to buy from Khartoum and ship up the Nile and then they started hostilities in the areas due for their own referendum or consultations. They have driven tens of thousands off their land and these poor people had to run to Southern Sudan for their safety and ever here Khartoum bombed them in UN camps. And then they started stealing our oil, blackmailing us for a big cut for using the pipeline to Port Sudan, so then in the end our government just had to stop pumping oil until we can export through Kenya or otherwise Khartoum can be reasonable
was the emailed comment from a regular high ranking source in Juba when discussing the economic woes of his newly independent country with him. The world Cross Roads comes to mind as the forced austerity directives from Jubas government are set to bite deep and hard, cutting back to the proverbial bone and then some more, to make ends meet.
In 2010, well before independence finally came knocking, the Southern government relied to between 97 and 98 percent on oil related revenues and last year, according to figures which could not be independently verified, the countrys revenue was just under 2 billion US Dollars.
The decree, stopping all the oil companies from pumping and shipping via the Khartoum controlled pipeline, has taken approximately 400.000 barrels of oil out of the market, probably slightly more as an ongoing audit into the pre-closure production appears to have unearthed a racket whereby more crude was pumped and shipped compared to the figures provided by the companies to government, as in particular additional non documented wells were found to exist. That oil was probably the first to be stolen as it bypassed the records in the South but was still sold by the North as their own, while at a later stage then the regime in Khartoum ruthlessly and quite openly diverted the pumped oil as their own, prompting first and outcry, then sharp protests and eventually the complete shutdown of oil production in the South, which previously accounted under a united Sudan for as much as 80 percent of the production.
The government is now racing against the clock to a seek alternate sources of tax and fees revenues, but building a pipeline some 2.000 kilometres long over at times geographically and climatically challenging terrain will take years to accomplish and cost billions of US Dollars. Early suggestions, soon after the CPA was signed in January of 2005, were to look at animal ranching, agriculture and agroprocessing but those ventures have not taken off in a commercially significant way due to the absence of larger scale foreign investments those having trouble to make sense of the often muddled land ownerships and laws governing the ownership of land, of a lack of incentives vis a vis investments, repatriation of funds, payment for foreign source loans and as and when payment of dividends, as a strict foreign exchange control system is now in place to deal with the lack of hard currency.
Tourism too was mooted for some time as a saviour, to attract investments, create jobs, earn foreign exchange but the Khartoum regime fueled internal strife in the South through proxy militias and disguised bandits, making even the most hardened adventure tourists think twice about ending up in a dicey situation. Equally are laws and regulations for the sector still largely absent, making investments a gamble which may pay off for anything tented and mobile but not for bricks and mortar construction.
The assault by such means from Khartoum however does not end here as they are now sending back hundreds of thousands of more Southerners who lived in the North, as they are no longer considered citizens of the North Sudan and many of whom have been denied residents rights and permits to work. That stream of willfully displaced people too will add more headaches and concerns to the Southern leadership in the state governments and the central government, as they will require jobs, housing and social services, which are already overstretched as it is. Inflation has depleted the purchasing power of households, running for some time in the 50+ percent region, causing the government to send out delegations in search of budget support, loans and grants the question being what the long term cost of it will be for the young nation.
East Africa is now challenged by Southern Sudans worsening economic and security situation to contemplate how best to assist them, as they have already filed for membership to the East African Community and would be most keen to see their East African neighbours stand by them shoulder to shoulder, should Khartoum finally go hot on them as has been speculated over, since the Bashir regime has to either create a foreign adventure or else be pushed aside from more radical elements within. The signing of the LAPSSET memorandum of understanding and the joint laying of the foundation stones for the new port, from which a highway, railway and pipeline is to connect the Kenyan coast to Southern Sudan and Ethiopia for that matter was an opportunity for the heads of state and government present, Kenyas Mwai Kibaki, Southern Sudans Salva Kiir and Ethiopias Menes Zenawi, to strategize over their reaction, possible joint measures and seeking international support for defending Southern Sudans rights, but it was not even officially acknowledged that this issue was on the meeting agenda when the three met in private. Now we only have hope left but the enthusiasm over independence has vanished, most of it anyway, because life has become so hard that people almost wish the slave masters in Khartoum would continue to feel us crumbs, this being better than not having anything else to feed on. We count on our friends to get the message out how desperate the situation has become and how we now need immediate help with food, medicines and to build infrastructure, schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and have NGOs come here to assist.
In closing, instead of having a stable and prosperous Southern Sudan bordering Uganda and Kenya, the scenario of a failed state is now being openly discussed on line and in the media, not a prospect either neighbour would in the least fancy, while Khartoum, living also on borrowed time, is raring to take the spoils and repatriate the oil wells and oil wealth, given the slightest chance. Hot stuff in more than one way and with significant ramifications for the entire region down to the Horn of Africa. Watch this space.

Mauritius News
PLANETARIUM PLANNED FOR MAURITIUS
Information was received from Mauritius that funding has been secured to construct and equip a planetarium on the island, supposedly the first in this part of the world, which when complete will be open for research but also local and tourist visitors interested to see the stars of the Southern Hemisphere.
The new facility is to be put up on the grounds of the existing Rajiv Ghandi Science Centre on Mauritius, as after all the funds were given as a grant by India.
The planetarium will be able to have up to 120 visitors come inside at a go and two stakeholders in the tourism sector have already expressly stated their support for the project to this correspondent, saying in unison that such an added attraction will be good for Mauritius tourism by drawing in more visitors.
It is also understood that now that the funding has been secured, final plans are being put together before a public tender for the construction and equipment will be issued, hoping that construction can start still within 2012 with a completion date of approximately 18 months.
Meanwhile have media representatives and visitors to the Seychelles and La Reunion hosted Carnival International de Victoria raised the question with their 15 colleagues who came from fellow Vanilla Island Mauritius why no official delegation from the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority was present in Victoria for the event, which saw an entire charter plane from La Reunion bring in the largest foreign delegation for the event. Notably did the Mauritius press representatives shrug off the question, throwing up their hands as if to say Who the heck knows why before then letting it be known off the record that their opinion of the MTPA was not exactly the best. Perhaps next year in 2013 when the Seychelles Tourism Board CEO Alain St. Ange has already indicated that the festival will have three co-hosts instead of two, and maybe as many as 5 but will Mauritius be amongst them? Watch this space.

Seychelles News


SEYCHELLES GOES GREENER
While on the Creole island paradise of the Seychelles to cover the Carnival International de Victoria for eTurboNews, opportunity arose to also see the site chosen to construct the Seychelles first windpowered electricity plant. Mentioned here a few months ago, when the initial MoUs and contracts were signed between the Seychelles government and MASDAR, the Abu Dhabi based company also taking the lead to build the worlds first zero carbon emission city outside the UAEs capital city, the foundation stone was laid last week and construction is now underway in earnest.
Two locations were selected by engineers, suitable to constant generating activity and blessed by strong winds, at Ile de Port, where the brief ceremony took place and where 3 of the initial 8 turbines will be locate and at Ile de Romanville where the remaining 5 units will be placed.
Generating capacity will be 11 MW, feeding into the national grid, adding a further 11 percent production into the system, although more such renewable sources of energy are to be put into place under an ambitious plan to make the Seychelles one of the first countries in the world to eventually go green altogether.
The project is funded by the government of Abu Dhabis Fund for Development, further strengthening the already very close ties between the two countries, which only recently manifested itself when Etihad, Abu Dhabis national airline, came to the rescue of Air Seychelles with the acquisition of 40 percent of the shares, in partnership with the government of Seychelles.
The archipelagos growing reputation around the world as one of the most ecofriendly destinations more than half of the Seychelles territory has been set aside for conservation will be substantially strengthened with the new power plant, as it will save at least 2 million litres of fuel to be burned in thermal plants currently used around the islands to provide electricity. Watch this space.

WORLD ROUTES CONFERENCE AFRICA OPTS FOR SEYCHELLES VENUE
While on the Seychelles for the Carnival International de Victoria news broke that the organizers of the World Routes Conferences have selected Victoria as the host city for the 2012 Routes Africa Conference, to be held in July in the Seychellois capital city. A large number of African airlines, airlines flying to Africa, Civil Aviation Authorities and tourism organizations from across the continent are expected to assemble in the Seychelles for the event, which has been brought to the country through the tireless efforts of STBs Deputy CEO Elsia Grandcourt, who with her bid beat the competition to capture the meeting for Victoria. Only last year did Seychelles Tourism Board CEO Alain St. Ange, who is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority, speak in Berlin at the World Routes Conference, arguably setting the ball rolling to having the Seychelles capture the Africa event for 2012.
According to a source at the Seychelles Tourism Board more than 300 delegates are expected to come to Mahe for the continental meeting and preparations are already in high gear inspite of the still ongoing Carnival Festival to ensure the conference will go on without a single hitch.
Meanwhile will a big delegation from the Seychelles depart between Sunday and Tuesday for the upcoming ITB in Berlin to promote the islands as the most sought after holiday and honeymoon destination in the world. Watch this space.

2013 CARNIVAL TO BECOME A THREESOME


(The Notting Hill Samba Dancers kicking off the show in the heart of Victoria)

The inaugural edition of the mother of all carnivals the Carnaval de Carnivals in Victoria last year was solely the affair of the Seychelles, but the second, larger, bigger and better edition turned out to be a joint venture between Seychelles and La Reunion, after the two tourist boards decided to co-host the event.
When the show went on the road last night with a grand opening in the centre of Victoria, witnessed by President James Michel, his counterpart from La Reunion Mr. Didier Robert, UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai and a number of other dignitaries, it set the ball rolling for three days of fun and partying as local spectators, tourists from abroad and over 350 passengers of the Costa Allegra crammed into the area around Victorias famous clock tower to witness the occasion.
The UNWTO Secretary General applauded the cooperation between the two Vanilla Islands as ground breaking and visionary, and in particular the invited guests sat up and took notice, when later on Seychelles tourism chief guru Alain St. Ange announced that discussions were already at an advanced stage to have a threesome in 2013, with another country coming on board to co-host the high profile event.
The publicity given across the past 12 months to the first edition of the carnival and this years large contingent of regional and international media organizations reporting from Mahe, has undoubtedly spurred added interest to join the bandwagon and become part of the event, which next year will be held in early February.
Said a source close to STB but not wishing to be named: We at STB have invested heavily last year to launch the first ever carnival in Africa. It became a success overnight and we put all doubts to rest if it was the right thing to to. This year La Reunion is co- hosting and the event is bigger and better and got even more publicity. It is a success story already and we are confident that for next year and beyond we will be getting more partners to co-host, more sponsors and more publicity, which is extending to our co-hosts also. It is almost like an avalanche now, got its own momentum and will become a signature event across the Indian Ocean islands and for Africa. We are so proud that our small country has again made a big impact in the world of tourism.
Other stakeholders in the local tourism industry commented that the main island of Mahe was literally sold out as a result of the carnival festival and that the positive media coverage was hopefully mitigating the fallout of the Eurozone crisis which according to one regular source was causing some concern in tourism circles on the archipelago.
Expect more reports from Mahe as the carnival festival continues until Sunday night.

KEMPINSKI SEYCHELLES RESORT NOW OFFICIALLY OPEN


Global luxury hotel giant Kempinski has today launched the latest addition to their collection, when the Kempinski Seychelles Resort was officially opened for business.
While already for some weeks in a soft opening phase the tape was only cut today and a grand opening party was held by management for guests, including a sizeable contingent of the global media who came to the island to cover the second edition of the Carnival International de Victoria, which is jointly hosted by La Reunion and the Seychelles. In fact the Seychellois Who is Who were present at the event, which was strictly by invitation only and befitting the occasion did it snow food and rain drinks, from the very finest the acclaimed chefs of the luxury hotel group could produce, caviar and champagne included.
The 150 suites and elegant rooms are needless to say meeting guests expectations, raised high by the mere mention of the name Kempinski, as does the location on Baie Lazare, where the resort is embedded in a secluded corner of the bay, overlooked by massive granite rock formations. Set on an astonishing 63 hectares of land the new resort will undoubtedly live up to its billing and the opening party tonight set the tone and raised the threshold of what tourists can now take for granted in terms of luxuries, facilities and amenities, and then some more.
Fireworks proved to be one of the highlights of the night, illuminating the ocean, the beach, the lush tropical forest and the mountains behind the resort as the assembled guests broke into spontaneous applause, only to rise to a crescendo when several groups of dancers came on stage performing a preview of what the forthcoming carnival festival will hold in store for visitors.
Kempinskis CEO Reto Wittwer was of course present at the launch as was the President Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean Ulrich Ekhardt and Regional Public Relations Director Lashley Pulsipher found herself swamped by the media representatives with never ending questions. With this latest addition Kempinski now got 72 5star hotels, residences and resorts in their stable.
General Manager Pierre Stacher said to the guests: Tonight is a celebration of Kempinskis debut in the Indian Ocean region and Baie Lazare in the Seychelles is the perfect setting for this stunning property. This resort combines the rich natural beauty of the Seychelles with Kempinskis signature European luxury. In the spirit of Carnival, a melting pot of cultures, we are delighted to have hosted so many people from around the world to help us commemorate this special occasion.
Also present for the launch was the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization Mr. Taleb Rifai, the Chairman of the Seychelles Tourism Board Barry Faure, the CEOs of the Seychelles Tourism Board Alain St. Ange and his La Reunion counterpart Pascal Viroleau and the CEO of the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association Raymond St. Ange plus nearly 80 international media representatives from around the world including eTN publisher Thomas Steinmetz, who is also Chairman of the International Council of Tourism Partners.
Seychelles, Truly Another World.

HALF OF COSTA ALLEGRA PASSENGERS OPT TO JOIN SEYCHELLES CARNIVAL
It was learned overnight that when the disabled Costa Allegra will be towed into Victoria Harbour later today, more than half of the passengers will remain on the archipelago for a couple of days, courtesy of Costa Cruises, which has flown a team of staffers to Mahe for the arrival of their vessel. They will receive their passengers when they come off the Costa Allegra and assist them to overcome the traumatic experience they underwent since the engine room fire a few days ago. With no electricity available on board air condition units were off and the normal comforts one expects on a cruiseliner of this size gave way to heat, humidity, lack of fresh water and food and the uncertainty of reaching port safely.
371 cruise passengers will be enjoying a few days of rest and recreation on the Creole paradise islands of the Seychelles, staying in a number of top rated hotels on Mahe, Praslin, La Digue, Cerf and Silhouette islands while the remaining 251 guests will only transit and fly home immediately on flights booked for them out of Mahes international airport. Those who remain will have the opportunity to participate in the Carnaval de Carnivals in Victoria between Friday and Sunday this week, or else just enjoy sun, sand and the excellent cuisine the islands are famous for.
The CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, issued the following statement when asked about, what has been described as immediate and exemplary assistance by the Seychelles authorities when receiving the first distress call. Alain St. Ange said that security and safety of the passengers was a top priority for the authorities: This is why we worked hard to bring this unforeseen incident in our waters to a close as fast as was possible. The passengers on board are now set to be on firm ground on Thursday and the 371 guests staying on for a holiday in Seychelles will all be invited to join in the three days of festivities of the Carnival International de Victoria which be officially opened on Friday this week
Seychelles, truly Another World.

SEYCHELLES TO GET MINISTRY OF TOURISM AND CULTURE
A long practice in the Seychelles seems to be coming to an end, whereby the portfolio of tourism was held at top level of government, for several years by the former Vice President H.E. Joseph Belmont until his retirement from public service and then over the past almost two years by H.E. President James Michel himself.
The Office of the President has now announced plans in Victoria that an imminent cabinet reshuffle is in the making and that a new Ministry of Tourism and Culture is to be created.
More details are expected to be sourced while on the Seychelles in coming days, but for now it is clear that tourism is now going to have an own cabinet minister overseeing the industry, perhaps a recognition of the immense progress and strides the sector has made in past years.
Key in this success story is the close partnership between the private and public sector in the Seychelles, with the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association on one side and the Seychelles Tourism Board on the other side, working hand in hand to keep the vital flow of tourist visitors up and growing. STB has under the leadership of Alain St. Ange over the past years made certain that little Seychelles has established a big global profile and increased the destinations visibility across the globe as one of the most desirable holiday, and in particular honeymoon destinations anywhere. Ably assisted by his deputy Elsia Grandcourt, a team of source market based Marketing Directors and Tourism Ambassadors have Alain and his team at their Bel Ombre offices put the Seychelles on the global map and reeled in awards after awards while establishing new arrival records year after year since taking charge.
Watch this space to see upcoming announcements as and when news break in Victoria as to who will become the new Minister of Tourism and Culture, overseeing Brand Seychelles grow from strength to strength.

COSTA ALLEGRA ADRIFT IN SEYCHELLES WATERS

The Seychelles coast guard is presently mounting a support and rescue operation for Italian cruiseliner Costa Allegra, a ship from the same operators as the recently sunk Costa Concordia, which reportedly got disabled at sea after successfully fighting a fire in the engine room.
The incident happened near the Seychellois atoll of Alphonse Island, some 250 miles off the main island of Mahe. It is understood that ocean going tugs have been dispatched from Victoria harbour to assist the vessel and take her to the nearest port for repairs, and that the Seychelles armed forces air-wing is flying patrol over the area to assist the ships now racing towards the Costa Allegra to find the cruiseliner without delay.
Fears over a possible pirate attack on the disabled ship have been immediately dismissed by Seychelles authorities which have extensive monitoring and surveillance assets in place to prevent any such incidents and one source wishing not to be identified said late last evening: The Seychelles maritime authorities and our coast guard and air wing are on top of things. A full mission is underway to bring the cruiseliner to port for repairs. Port Victoria has the facilities to deal with such issues and the Seychelles will extend all assistance and support to bring this incident, which happened in our territorial waters, to a positive conclusion.
The Costa Allegra reportedly sailed late last week from Mauritius and was enroute to Egypt before returning to Italy, when the fire broke out in the engine room. The fire cut the engine power, causing the ship to float in the ocean current. According to reports from Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, there are more than 600 passengers aboard and a crew of over 400 and there are no reports of any injuries to passengers. As this report is going to press there is no clear indication when the Costa Allegra will be expected in Victoria port, so watch this space for updates.
AND in closing today, as on most weeks, some material from The Livingstone Weekly, courtesy of Gill Staden:

Ban Ki-Moon visits Livingstone

Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, visited Zambia last week and part of his tour was to come to Livingstone to see the Victoria Falls and to open the new One-Stop Shop. The One-Stop Shop has desks for many government departments and it is hoped that it will encourage business, especially investment, in Livingstone.

Ban Ki-Moon, in his speech, said that in his home country of South Korea they had similar offices and that they had helped the business community. He congratulated the Zambian government on the initiative.
Ban Ki-Moon also came to Zambia to offer support in our co-hosting of the UNWTO Assembly meeting in August 2013. He emphasised that in the run-up to the meeting we should consider the environment; Zambia should work towards a green economy.

Gill Comment: When I popped into the One-Stop shop the other week there was only one desk occupied by a lady from the Ministry of the Environment. She told me that there were still problems with who was going to occupy the offices some departments wanting more desks; some people being slow to move. I really hope this has been sorted out. A building is one thing; the people who occupy it are much more important. One of the biggest problems in Zambia is difficulty of doing business. Livingstones economy has been stagnant for many years and this One-Stop Shop should be a catalyst for improvement but, as I said, it all depends on the people who occupy that building.

FORMER MINISTER OF SOUTHERN PROVINCE MAKES AMENDS BY PLANTING 100 TREES

The former Minister of Southern Province, Miles Sampa, who upset many members of the Livingstone Community by cutting down some big trees at the Ministerial House, has tried to make amends by planting 100 trees. The Livingstone Branch of the Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia (WECSZ) had written to the Minister expressing concern about the cutting of the trees. Not long after receiving the letter, the

Minister got in touch with the Chairman, Benjamin Mibenge, and said he had acquired 100 trees and was going to plant them at the Ministerial House to make up for the ones he had cut. Later, the Minister met with a few members of the Society and explained his reasons for cutting the trees, which include his concern about snakes, concern that some of the trees were old and might fall, and his desire to create a view of the Victoria Falls from the house.

However, he said he now realised that perhaps he should not have done such a thing, and he had not realised how much his action would upset the Livingstone community. He said maybe what he should have done was just to prune the trees. So he said he now wanted to make amends and had purchased 100 tree seedlings which he wished to plant at the same premises and would give the Wildlife Society funds to pay someone to look after them.

Members of the WECSZ were a bit concerned that all the new trees planted were exotic, not indigenous Zambian trees. So they offered to donate some indigenous trees to add to the others. The Minister was quite agreeable to this idea, although this would have to be arranged through Cabinet Office and the City Council.

On 4th March 2012 the Minister invited members of the Wildlife Society and the press to a ceremony where he handed over the trees which had been planted, and also handed over a cheque of K3 million to the WECSZ. He said this was to pay a gardener to water and care for the trees. This would be arranged through Cabinet Office and he said he would keep coming to check on the trees to see how they were doing.

The Permanent Secretary for Southern Province, Ms Inutu Suba, congratulated the Minister for his action and for the example he was setting to other politicians. Mr Mibenge thanked him for his gesture. He said that people were normally encouraged to plant two trees for every one cut, but he said the minister had gone much further by planting 100 trees. He said he hoped that wherever the Minister was posted he would continue to be concerned about the environment.

The Minister then cut the ribbon surrounding the new Extra Miles Orchard, which he had planted with guava, pawpaw and other fruit trees. Some of the other trees had been planted along the driveways.

The WECSZ hopes to continue working with the authorities to replace some of the old indigenous trees at the residence, with proper planning so that they would not cause any problems in future. It is also hoped that the trees that have been planted will be looked after properly and survive for years to come.

Clare Mateke
Secretary, Livingstone Branch, Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia

Gill Comment: Our new Minister of Southern Province is Obvious Mwaliteta, Kafue Member of Parliament.

Livingstone to Nata Lodge First Part of my Travel Story

I left Livingstone on Thursday 16th February to cross to Victoria Falls Town. I was using a Hemingways 4×4 and had, I thought, all the right documents. On reaching the Zim side of the border the Customs lady was not happy; the letter of authority for me to drive the car did not have the company logo on it. She also mentioned that the letter was from Peter Hemingway and not from Hemingways Limited and how did she know that Peter Hemingway was the owner of Hemingways? I sort-of said to her that it was pretty obvious, but she would not agree. She had a discussion with one of her colleagues in the local language and I heard the word discretion I dont suppose there is an equivalent word in the local language which was why it popped up in English. Eventually the decision was made by my Customs lady and she told me that I needed a CVG.
Whats that?
You have to get a clearing agent and they must get a CVG Customs Vehicle Guarantee. We have to make sure that you do not disappear with the vehicle in Zimbabwe.

A clearing agent was found quickly (of course?) and wrote out a piece of paper which cost me another US$30, making my total for crossing the border US$85. I thought that this was a pretty heavy amount but knew that Zambia can charge over US$100 when they feel inclined Finally I was allowed to leave

I spent the night at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge with friends. Josh and I set off for Kazungula around 9am on our journey to Nata Lodge, Botswana. The Kazungula road was quiet; we only saw some ground hornbill for a bit of entertainment. The Kazungula border was painless; the Botswana side costing P120 (US$17) quite a difference from US$85.

Kazungula now has a start of a shopping centre so there was no need to go into Kasane. We got some breakfast at Bimbos, filled up with fuel and bought a Botswana Sim card for the phone. Then we headed south towards Nata.

The road to Pandamatenga was still the old road but was fine to drive. We saw a few lone elephant bulls along the road and a large monitor lizard which escaped my camera because, at that point, the camera battery decided to go flat.

Pandamatenga is the centre of a farming community. Just north of the town there are enormous fields of crops it is quite a spectacle to drive through this flat landscape with fields stretching for miles.

After Pandamatenga we came to the road works. I think it has to be over 2 years that the Botswana government has been working on this stretch of road and very little of it has been completed. So it was a case of driving on the new road, driving on a diversion and driving on the old road it seemed to take a long time.

Eventually we reached Nata, passing straight through to Nata Lodge about 15 km south. Arriving at the lodge we booked in and enquired about a drive onto Sua Pan. They didnt have one going that day so we decided to try it out ourselves. I was not looking forward to this the pan would be wet. Anyhow, after dumping our bags in our chalet we headed for Nata Bird Sanctuary a few kilometres further south.

It cost us P125 (US$18) for the two of us and the vehicle to enter the Sanctuary. We asked the lady at the office if it was safe to drive and she told us to keep to the main tracks, not to go onto the grass, and we could get as far as the hide beside the pan. Off we went.

The first puddles were quite tame and we sauntered through without too much of a problem. Then we came to a bigger one and I drove through quite nervously. The next puddle was large and we could see some vehicles in the distance so, with my heart in my mouth, I started to drive. We got through with a bit of slipping and sliding to arrive at the next dry spot quite close to the vehicles we had seen they were stuck

There was a Jenman overland truck and another lorry which had been called to extricate the stricken Jenman vehicle. It too had got bogged down. That was enough for me: This is as far as we go, I said. We watched the men trying to put poles under the vehicles; listened as they revved the engines trying to get out. No use. I knew we couldnt help although we did give a bit of advice (?) and said that they should reduce the pressure in the tyres it might help.

We left them and drove back through the puddles and just sat for a while with a beer on the road. We were not going to reach the pan and would not see the birds flamingoes and pelicans. But at least we were not up to our axles in mud and could look forward to the rest of our holiday.

We went back to Nata Lodge for dinner under the stars. There was a group of very sad-looking tourists at one table and I wondered if they had anything to do with the stricken truck on the pan.

In the morning there was a beautiful sunrise through the palm trees. I sat and had tea on the veranda of the chalet and enjoyed it and the birds which were constantly rummaging through the bushes by the chalet picking at the fruit.

The rooms at Nata Lodge are spacious with everything you need especially the kettle, teabags and coffee. The shower is outside, so morning ablutions are done under the sun. The veranda is a private place to sit and relax with a book or, for me, my notepad and pen.

Breakfast was served outside on the terrace and I noticed that the lodge had a bird-feeding area. There was water and lots of food down. The birds were great entertainment as they hopped about from tree to tree and down to the bird feeding area. Someone had even thrown down some bread left over from breakfast so the barbets and bulbuls were feasting nicely. Thank you very much.

Nata Lodge is a popular spot for travellers. It is 200 km from Francistown; 300 km from Kazungula; 300 km from Maun. It is surrounded by palm trees and, I am told, this was the reason why the first owner of the lodge chose the spot. Apart from being a good stop-over it is also easy to get onto Sua Pan although getting off Sua Pan might be a bit more difficult in the wet season. I intend to do a trip when it is dry so that I can drive around. The birds will have gone but there are animals too wildebeest, zebra, jackals. The sunsets can be glorious.

Getting back to breakfast at the lodge I noticed the group of tourists sitting around gloomily and asked them if they belonged to the stuck truck. Yes. They had got stuck early the previous morning, had spent several hours on the pan before being given a lift back to Nata Lodge. They were now waiting for another vehicle to arrive so that they could continue their journey onto Moremi their own truck was still bogged down.

We left the lodge to carry on with our own journey to Maun.

Tourism in Zambia

I am always on the internet looking up travel information in our region. Last year most of the information about Zambia was pretty boring. Tour operators and travel agents churned out the usual stuff about the Victoria Falls, South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Kafue National Parks. But I could feel in the literature that most travel agents held out little hope that Zambia would be the holiday of choice. Zambia being the most expensive destination in our region and with far-flung parks and bad infrastructure, could never compete with our neighbours.

With the new government and hopefully a change of image for Zambia, the information out there is becoming more positive. Travel agents are making tentative steps to promote Zambia, but still a bit in wait and see mode. Nothing has actually changed much in the tourism industry but there are hopes that, in a few years, Zambia will be able to compete favourably.

With visits from UN, World Bank and other International organisations who are constantly trying to promote investment in the tourism industry, we can only hope that things will improve. Not only can tourism bring in a lot of money for Zambia it can create employment too.

So, what has Zambia got to offer? One of Zambias most unexploited assets is its rivers. If you have ever looked at a map of Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana or South Africa you will see that they do not have our abundance of water. We have the Zambezi, yes, but there are Kafue, Luangwa, Lunga, Kabompo, Kalungwishi, Chambeshi, and lots more. Many of the rivers have amazing waterfalls; they all attract birdlife. We have lakes, swamps and floodplains, again a magnet for wildlife and birds.

We have culture too. With over 70 different tribes and their cultural diversity, this too can be promoted (Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia have around 8-9 tribal groups each). Chief Mukuni, over the years, has re-awakened his peoples self esteem by bringing back many of their old traditions and using their ceremonies to attract international visitors. Can you imagine Zambia if we rekindled the ceremonies of all our 70 tribes we could have a traditional ceremony somewhere in Zambia almost every day!

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I wont. I was spurred to write the above because I have seen some good literature about Zambia on one of the websites. I quote some bits of it:

Zambia is a land blessed with natural beauty and an abundance of wildlife. The country also enjoys the title of one of the Worlds fastest economically reformed countries (World Bank, 2010) and is regarded as one of the safest destinations to visit. The multitude of attractions and activities make Zambia an ideal travel destination for everyone from seasoned safari goers and thrill seekers to honeymooners and families alike.

Unusual tree-climbing lions found only in Kafue National Park.

Despite the remoteness of a lot of areas in Zambia, getting to the country is a lot more straightforward than people think. The international airport in Lusaka, Zambias capital, serves several major airlines including KLM, SAA and Emirates. Once there, smaller chartered planes or overland transfers take you to your destination with ease. …

A lot of camps in Zambia are seasonal (especially in the South Luangwa) which means that theyre taken down during the rainy season, and rebuilt at the start of each safari season, by skilled local craftsmen. This, coupled with the fact that the camps are pretty small, means that availability is something one must definitely take in to consideration. Its advisable to book well in advance, so get those Zambian thinking caps on early

Zambia is famed for walking safaris
During the rainy season, also known as the emerald season, the bush is really lush, thick and green which makes for amazing photographs. Seasonal flowers bloom and the entire landscape is transformed into an Eden for birds and animals. There are over 740 recorded species of bird in Zambia, with each vegetation habitat hosting its own distinctive set. A bird lovers treat!

Zambia is one of the best places to go on walking safari in the world. If youve been on safari before, and are seeking a more authentic, purist experience, then a walking safari is for you. Experience nature the way our ancestors did by walking in amongst it in the South Luangwa National Park. Experienced, trained guides escort you safely through the African bush whilst educating you on the unique fauna and flora as you go. This exhilarating experience is one that you wont soon forget.

Speaking of elephants, the local herd at Mfuwe Lodge are known to wander through the lodge and right up to reception en route to eat mangoes off a nearby tree in fruiting season. Where else in the world could you pass elephants peacefully munching on mangoes on your way to breakfast?

Zambia awaits!

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