Weekly roundup of news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region, Third edition May 2013

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

You can get your daily news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome or join me on www.facebook.com/WolfgangHThome where the articles also ‘cross load’.

Read the daily postings on my blog via www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com which you can also ‘follow’ to get immediate notification when a new article is posted. Many of my articles are also published via www.eturbonews.com/africa with added news from the African continent and the world of tourism, aviation and travel at large.

Third edition May 2013

East Africa News

QATAR AIRWAYS RESUMES B787 FLIGHTS TO LONDON HEATHROW

Qatar Airways’ sales teams have been blitzing the East African markets of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda with news, that the airline has resumed their Doha to London flights with the B787 Dreamliner, the first B787 destination outside the Gulf since the FAA and global regulators lifted the flight ban on this aircraft type.

It is understood that all 5 of the B787’s presently in service with Qatar Airways have been put back into service and that the airline will, as initially planned, deploy the new birds on the routes to Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich over the coming weeks. The return of the B787’s has also seen the fifth daily flight between Doha and London restored, which for the time of the grounding of the aircraft had to be shelved.

The airline’s CEO Akbar Al Baker, was in a media release issued a few hours ago quoted as having said: ‘The Doha – Heathrow route is one of our most popular international services, and so I’m thrilled that our Dreamliners are back in the skies, providing our passengers with an unparalleled level of service and comfort to and from the UK. I have always hailed the Dreamliner as the state-of-the-art aircraft destined to change the way people travel. After a setback that not only affected our own worldwide operations, but those of many carriers worldwide, we look forward to now deploying the Dreamliner on other key routes over the coming weeks’.

Qatar Airways’ B787 is offering the most comfortable cabin configuration presently available on any of the 51 B787 Dreamliners in service, with a Business Class layout of 1 x 2 x 1 using the most advanced flat bed chairs on the market and an Economy Class layout of 3 x 3 x 3. All B787’s are ‘wired’ with full internet connectivity inflight, allowing passengers to browse the web, send and receive emails by using their laptops, tablets or smart phone devices.

The 5 star airline connects Uganda and Rwanda with daily flights between Doha and Entebbe / Kigali and also flies twice a day to Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, with one flight routing via Kilimanjaro International. QR recently announced the addition of Addis Ababa from the 18th of September onwards as its sixth destination in the wider Eastern African region. Planned flights to Mombasa and Zanzibar are according to a regular source at Qatar Airways still on the drawing board through no dates have been set after postponing the planned launch last year in what was generally seen as a reaction to failed promises on 5th freedom traffic rights on part of the Kenyan authorities. From Doha East African travelers can connect to over 120 destinations worldwide, flying on one of the youngest fleets in the skies. Qatar Airways was the Gulf region’s launch customer for Boeing’s latest aircraft and is currently in negotiations to become launch customer too for the upgraded B777X.

(One of QR’s B787 Dreamliners’ seen landing at London Heathrow – picture courtesy of Qatar Airways)

AIRLINE COMPETITION SET TO HEAT UP AS SOUTH AFRICAN GETS 20 MORE AIRBUS A320’S

The news coming from Johannesburg, that South African Airways is due to take progressive delivery of 20 Airbus A320 aircraft, will serve as a reminder for other African airlines that sitting still, or pronouncing the delivery of 10 or 15 year old birds as ‘new’, will no longer cut it.

The introduction of the more cost effective A320 will cut fuel cost, reduce maintenance cost and allows for a reduction in training cost, when SAA’s narrow body fleet will have moved to a single model, the A320, as the older B737’s are being phased out.

Also a Star Alliance member on the opposite side of the continent, is Egypt Air equally due to get new aircraft, as the recovery of Egypt’s national airline continues after the prolonged political struggles in that country and tourism is finally on the upswing again.

More in the heart of Africa are Ethiopian and Kenya Airways competing head on with each other, but here Ethiopian has the advantage right now as they already operate 5 Boeing B787 Dreamliners while KQ has to wait till at least March next year to get their first. On the narrow body front, both ET and Kenya Airways are at regular intervals getting new aircraft delivered, in Nairobi mainly the Embraer 190E’s while Ethiopian has been boosting their short and medium haul fleet with two class turboprops of the Bombardier Q400 make. The use of these very cost effective aircraft though has faced some opposition from travelers who expect to fly in a jet from Addis to their final destination, only to be bundled into a turboprop, perfectly acceptable on short domestic or regional routes but a matter of argument when deployed to such destinations like Entebbe, Kigali and other Eastern African destinations. It was in fact the initial absence of a business class in the Q400’s which compelled Ethiopian to go back to the drawing board with Bombardier and introduce a two class version, to avoid losing their prized business class clientele who back then found themselves ‘downgraded’, often to their disappointment if not outright anger.

The competition between the two Eastern African protagonists is of special significance vis a vis the standing of airline alliances in Africa, as Ethiopian too is a member of Star Alliance, making it three for Africa, while Kenya Airways is the only member of SkyTeam, leaving OneWorld trailing in the distance with not a single member representation on the continent.

In Rwanda, national carrier RwandAir has only recently also ordered a two class Bombardier Q400 to supplement their current single class Bombardier Dash8-200, while it took delivery over the last 1 ½ years of two brand new B737-800NG’s, two brand new Bombardier CRJ900NextGen’s and more recently leased a pre-owned B737-700NG, with a second one due for delivery anytime soon.

In Tanzania it is Precision Air which as the only major operator has brought brand new ATR 42 and 72 aircraft into their fleet, including the latest -600 models, although their B737-300’s were acquired pre-owned, as incidentally are the Airbus A319 and the B737 of their competitors.

These developments will put pressure on smaller airlines operating in direct competition with SAA, MS, ET, KQ, PW and WB, as their older craft will not only incur higher operating expenses, in particular for fuel and maintenance, but also suggest to the travelling public that they are either financially unable to buy brand new planes or else think their market not worth the expense and effort. The latter of course could backfire badly, should such an approach, if not outright company policy, take root in travelers’ minds and lead to a shift in loyalty and brand recognition.

With competition heating up, frequent travelers can expect the main airlines in the African skies to do what it takes to have replace ageing jets and at the same time improve handling on the ground, where airline premium lounges and generous frequent flyer benefits can make all the difference to retain, or else lose customers. Interesting times for African aviation, so keep watching this space for breaking and regular news from Eastern Africa’s airline scene.

Uganda News

MARASA BECOME GOLD SPONSORS OF BRUSSELS AIRLINES ‘BIKE FOR AFRICAEVENT

Paraa and Chobe Safari lodges, owned and operated by Marasa, the hospitality arm of the Madhvani Group in Uganda, have just signed up to become Gold Sponsors for Brussels Airlines’ ‘Bike For Africa’ charity cycling race planned for the period of 28th January to 04th February 2014.

The inaugural edition of this bi-annual cycling event took place in late 2011 in Rwanda and raised over 93.000 Euro in support of SOS Children Villages in Rwanda, Burundi and several other countries in the Brussels Airlines’ Africa network. The 2014 event is expected to exceed this figure substantially though event organizers presently speak of a target of 100.000 Euro, which will be donated to Uganda’s CoRSU charity, short for Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services in Uganda. The route will lead from the Source of the Nile in Jinja to the Murchisons Falls National Park, much of it using rural tracks, making the race a real challenge for riders and their support teams.

Marasa, the hospitality arm of the Madhvani Group, have come on board as Gold Sponsors and will accommodate the cyclists and their support teams at the Chobe Safari Lodge and the Paraa Safari Lodge, among other contributions for the race organization, while Brussels Airlines will uplift the bikes of competitors as well as fly them from Brussels to Entebbe and back.

For more information see www.bikeforafrica.be for details about the objectives of the charity and how to be part of it. Don’t forget to also visit the sponsor’s website at www.marasa.net and of course www.brusselsairlines.com

DIRK TEN BRINK RETIRES AS CHAIRMAN OF RHINO FUND

Dirk Ten Brink, best known in Uganda for his long service first as General Manager and then Director of Group Operations (Golden Leaves Hotels) at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel, has an almost equally long association with the Rhino Fund Uganda.

It was Dirk who joined hands with Uganda’s first Rhino Lady Yvonne Verkaik, who kept the Rhino Fund Uganda ticking over when founder chairman Ray Victurine left Uganda, to procure the first two rhinos, now resident for over a decade at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre. The Sheraton Kampala actively helped to raise funds, from guests wishing to contribute to conservation in Uganda but also on a corporate basis, to pay for ‘Sherino’ while the opposite number at the time was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Sudhir Ruparelia, named ‘Kabira’.

When Dirk eventually left Golden Leaves Hotels, then the company owning and managing the Sheraton Kampala Hotel under a franchise agreement with Starwood Hotels, he left a legacy behind at the hotel which continues to this day and the present day close partnership is rooted in the conservation work done by Dirk and his staff over many years.

Dirk served on the board of trustees of the Rhino Fund Uganda under the chairmanship of this correspondent for nearly 8 years until 2008, when he was elected as chairman of RFU, and he is credited with steering the Rhino Fund and the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary through challenging times. There were however many rewarding moments, in particular the births of 6 rhino babies during his term as chairman, which brought the overall number on the sanctuary to now 12, six adults and six adolescents, while the mothers are reportedly all in the family way again.

Now, 5 years down the line, Dirk is retiring to Europe and has, for the time being at least, handed back the responsibility of looking after the Rhino Fund to this correspondent, until during the Annual General Meeting later this year existing vacancies on the board can be filled and a new substantive chairman elected, to lead the Rhino Fund into the future.

Uganda’s conservation community will no doubt be greatly saddened by this news, and join this correspondent in expressing our all deepest gratitude to Dirk for the tireless work done, the never ending fund raising efforts and the long if not endless hours spent on Rhino Fund and Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary business, besides the many trips to the sanctuary, the expenses of which, as has been customary at RFU, were born by the Chairman himself at no cost to the Rhino Fund Uganda.

All the best to Dirk and his wife Annie, as they leave Uganda tonight. Happy landings, happy retirement days ahead and Kwaheri Ya Kuonana to you both – remember, you always have a place in Uganda which you can truly call your own. Rhino Regards to a truly exceptional individual, who came to East Africa decades ago, made it his professional and personal home and who, with other likeminded individuals, made wildlife conservation, and the return of the rhinos to Uganda, his business. Asante Sana, Webare Nyo, Thank You and Danke Schoen my friend.

(Dirk Ten Brink pictured here with the Executive Director of the Rhino Fund Uganda Angie Genade during a past visit to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary)

Kenya News

ABERDARE COUNTRY CLUB BRINGS HORSE RIDING BACK

The Aberdare Country Club, a favourite of this correspondent for many decades already, has since the re-opening last year seen its fortunes rise and aficionados return in their droves. Set in over 1.300 acres of a private game sanctuary, the club features a 9 hole ‘safari golf course’ where impala and warthogs have been known to deflect balls, or monkeys run off with them, thankfully both events on the rarer side.

When last reporting about what has been going on at the Aberdare Country Club, the owners, Ugandan based Marasa Africa, the hospitality arm of the Madhvani Group, were embarking on putting the finishing touches on the stables and procure horses, an activity shelved under previous owners Fairmont Kenya, which had in fact closed the club and only retained it as the lunch base for guests destined for sister property The Ark.

It can now be reported in breaking news that the Aberdare Country Club has just re-launched horse riding, currently offering 5 horses for guests, who will be accompanied on every trip by an experienced guide.

Richard Hodgson, General Manager – and well known in Uganda where he has served for over a decade at the Mweya Safari Lodge before moving on to open the Chobe Safari Lodge, in a communication to this correspondent wrote: ‘Five horses are available and guests can ride solo or be accompanied by a syce. There are no predatory animals in this wildlife-teeming sanctuary’, the latter comment clearly aimed at those worried they may run, or rather ride, into the middle of a pride of lions. The main game on the sanctuary are gazelles, zebras, warthogs, giraffes and monkeys, ever present and making way for the riders of course. The most impressive residents from the animal kingdom at the Aberdare Country Club however are no doubt the peacocks, which greet arriving guests, and at night, with their eerie calls, often have guests peep through the curtains to see what is going on outside their cottage, only to see fog rising from the valley below – Hitchcock atmosphere close up and personal for sure. Horse riding can be prebooked as an activity and during peak months is probably very advisable to avoid disappointment, as there is keen interest of course from Kenyan residents coming to Mweiga for the weekend. For more information about the Aberdare Country Club visit www.aberdarecountryclub.com or read this correspondent’s main article, written when the club just re-opened last year, via http://wolfganghthome.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/turning-75-years-the-aberdare-country-club-gets-a-new-lease-of-life/

The Madhvani Group has a close affiliation to equestrian sports, offering Uganda’s only Polo Ground at Kakira, their main base outside Jinja where regular tournaments are being staged, with members of the Madhvani family of course among the players.

KENYA AIRWAYS’ PRIDE CENTRE GETS IATA NOD OF APPROVAL

Kenya Airways’ inhouse training facility, the Pride Centre, located at the airline’s Embakasi headquarters, has recently been given recognition and approval by IATA, which certified the training college after an audit of facilities, teacher’s qualifications and the curriculum taught.

Two years ago the Pride Centre was approved by IATA to offer relevant courses covering aviation, travel, tourism but also cargo operations and dangerous goods regulations.

The airline also offers crew training courses for cabin crew, both internally and for external students and has pilot training facilities too vis a vis B737 flight simulators, where Kenya Airways’ pilots undergo their mandatory twice a year training.

Dr. Titus Naikuni, CEO and Group Managing Director of Kenya Airways, was quoted to have said when receiving the news from IATA: ‘This is a huge endorsement of our efforts to deliver quality training that meets international aviation standards and recognition. We welcome individuals, organisations, airlines and governments to take advantage of our expertise to build their own competencies’ with clear reference to KQ’s ‘selling training’ to other airlines just as the airline offers maintenance services to third parties.

It could not be established at the time of uploading what revenues are generated by offering training, in the simulators and in the classrooms, to external clients and students but thought to be of growing importance as a contributor to the airline’s bottom line when the passenger market, in view of the increased competition, operates at cut throat rates. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from Eastern Africa’s aviation sector.

LAMU’S MANGROVE FORESTS UNDER INCREASED THREAT

Conservationists in Kenya have raised the alarm over the rapid cutting down of mangrove forests around the Lamu archipelago. A senior official at the Kenya Forest Service, one Donald Avude, has come out with all guns blazing as he painted a grim picture on the destruction of mangrove forests in and around Lamu. Mangrove forests provide a unique and vital biosphere for fish as breeding grounds but also serve in part as a purifier and wave breaker to protect the shore line from erosion.

Avude warned in particular over the effect mangrove destruction will have on the local fishing communities, appealing to replant mangroves where they have been harvested beyond sustainable levels.

According to a Mombasa based source however there is more to the cutting down of mangrove forests than meets the eye. ‘Mangrove poles have always been a key construction material for Swahili houses. The demand has shot up because there are a lot more people around now than 50 years ago or 100 years ago. Back then mangroves grew back, today they are just cut down en masse because they are a very pricey commodity. But there is another dimension to it. There are developments planned along the beaches of the Lamu archipelago. Where there are mangroves, developers do not like them because there is no clean beach. They want sandy beaches in front of what they are planning to build, not a mangrove forests which harbour snakes and so forth and does not allow residents to swim. So there is another agenda to cut mangrove forests, to clear the view and at the same time make a good profit in selling the wood’ – sentiments repeated by several others who pointed to the LAPSSET project as another contributor to the cutting down of mangrove forests.

(Source of pictures: www.fredhoogervorst.com)

I am not going on record here because I fear repercussions, for me and for the business I run. But the truth spoken, the authorities in my view are not doing their part in enforcing the EIA recommendations strongly enough. If what Kenya Forest Service says is true, we have a problem and the impact of vanishing mangrove forests could change the biodiversity and ecosystems around Lamu forever, and for the worse.

Clearly another conservation issue to worry about in Kenya, besides the poaching of animals now the poaching of mangroves on an apparently big scale. Watch this space for regular updates on conservation issues from the Eastern African region.

KENYA’S NEW TOURISM MINISTER SWORN IN

Mrs. Phyllis Kandie was yesterday sworn in as Kenya’s new Minister for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, combining the previously stand alone ministry with, what tourism stakeholders described as ‘very alien bedfellows’, namely Commerce and East African Affairs. There was wide speculation after the election results were announced, that the new portfolio combination would bundle tourism with natural resources and environment, as after all President Uhuru Kenyatta had to comply with the new constitution of Kenya and reduce the ministries of the previous government from 42 to a maximum of 22.

Having served as chairman of KTB for a while in the past, Uhuru Kenyatta ruffled more than a few feathers when he opted to put tourism into a ministry also looking after the hugely important East African Affairs and Commerce, reducing the tourism portfolio to a mere department inspite acknowledging in his inaugural address and subsequent speeches the importance of tourism for the country.

A very senior stakeholder, for obvious reasons unwilling to be quoted by name, had this to say: ‘We shall have to lobby for a change here. It is an unnecessary effort however because President Kenyatta should have known better, his advisors should have known better. You in Uganda realized that putting tourism with trade and industry in the past was a complete failure and Museveni realized and made tourism a single ministry again. In Tanzania it is Natural Resources and Tourism, again a sensible combination. Now, like under the last government, which was a balloon for job creation reasons, wildlife is held by another ministry, forests are held by another ministry, environment is held by another ministry and yet they are all supposed to be part and parcel of tourism. It is a combination where tourism, instead of working unfettered, now has to compete over resources with Commerce and East African Affairs. The other issue is that the industry wanted to have Balala back who was the best tourism minister we ever had. He is now in charge of mining, again a strange choice considering his background from the coast where a lot of Kenya’s tourism activity is centred. Few will right now say this but behind closed doors there is concern that in this case Kenyatta and Ruto got it wrong. How will this minister be able to concentrate on Kenya’s most important sector when she has to deal with East African Affairs where there are so many contentious and even explosive issues between member states. How will she give her undivided attention to Tourism when she has to look after Commerce also at the same time. Will she be able to get KTB the budget the industry has demanded for tourism promotion? You can see, there are many issues being discussed here right now and it is all in the interest of propelling tourism to the top of the rankings again’.

Another issue mentioned was the Mrs. Kandie was the only of the 16 candidates presented to the parliamentary vetting committee rejected by majority vote, making it necessary for the full parliament to jump to her defense and vote to accept her, leaving open questions what may have prompted the committee to give her the thumbs down, what they knew and what the public is still to learn. Added information from Nairobi quoted one committee member, the MP for Kigumo Hon. J. Kamau, who apparently was the single voice on the committee voting for Mrs. Kandie at the end of vetting as having said: ‘This woman worked for some of the biggest companies in the private sector. There is therefore no question as to her competence. The reason that she did not present herself very well before the committee is not reason enough for us to reject her’, opening the door even wider as to questions over the impression she made when appearing before the committee charged with vetting cabinet secretaries proposed by the president.

What is clear is that Mrs. Kandie, now that she is the substantive minister after being sworn in yesterday afternoon, will have to pull out all the stops to make an impression on the tourism industry’s stakeholders. In addition she needs to be charming her cabinet colleagues who hold affiliated portfolios like natural resources which oversees the wildlife sector, to work hand in hand with her and be supportive of her policies to succeed in giving the tourism sector the funding, and the attention it requires to once again become Kenya’s locomotive for economic growth.

Added the source in closing: ‘She will have her intray marked tourism full to the brim. Mwazo left a mess behind in tourism. The various new tourism parastatals need board appointments which is long overdue and has hampered the work those new bodies have to do. There is need for industry relations to be repaired after Mwazo’s failed fight with the KTB board and CEO last year and so many other things he bungled up. And that is the concern really, will she have all the time for tourism when East African Affairs will keep her busy, when Commerce will keep her busy. Good luck to her, we shall wait and see how the government’s promises to revive tourism will be turned into action’.

For now it is a warm welcome to Mrs. Phyllis Kandie as the crucial 100 first days are now underway, during which she can and must convince those with doubts that she can and will fulfill the high expectations tourism stakeholders have in seeing their own sector excel.

BRIATORE’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH MALINDI CONTINUES AS THIRD RESORT IN THE OFFING

While in Malindi last weekend to see the progress on his ‘Billionaire’s Resort, which is due to fully open in August this year, did Flavio Briatore let the cat out of the bag, that he was planning to build another resort next year, adjoining the ‘Lion in the Sun’ where he purchased another piece of land with ocean front.

The former F1 Renault Team boss, according to information availed from a source in Mombasa, declared his intention to set up a further 24 apartments similar to those at the Billionaire’s Resort and at least 15 suites to meet the demand for luxury accommodation in Malindi, which has sharply increased since the opening of Briatore’s award winning Lion in the Sun Resorts and Spa.

Once all permits and licenses are secured, and it is understood that the process is underway towards that, construction could start by March 2014 and should be completed inside a two year period. Once the new development will be up and running, Briatore may well emerge as Malindi’s single biggest investor in the tourism industry, and his connection to the rich and famous is expected to bring glitz and glamour to Malindi as visitors will fly in on their private jets or on scheduled flights via Nairobi.

The news were welcomed by tourism gurus in Nairobi, who are now hoping for a revival of Malindi’s tourism fortunes as the formerly sleepy resort town, some 120 kilometres north of Mombasa, now has a chance to reposition itself as an upmarket destination. Malindi has for long been famous for the deep sea fishing season, which already brought such literary greats like Hemingways to Kenya’s shores, and the easy access to Tsavo East National Park and to the marine national park in Watamu add further attractions for visitors, beyond the sun and sand.

The publicity alone is very good for Malindi. When he [Flavio Briatore] came with Berlusconi a few months ago, the media attention was massive. Briatore’s involvement in Malindi is almost like a single handed kick start to Malindi’s fortunes. It also affirms that KAA was right in pushing ahead with the airport expansion because a longer runway and a larger terminal can in the end cater for direct flights from Europe. The only issue I have is that the town will be quite dominated by Italians but once those new resorts are known around the world, I guess a lot of other nationalities will also want to go there’ contributed the source from Mombasa when passing the details of this latest new resort development coming up at the Kenya coast.

Others pointed to the planned developments in Lamu, within easy reach by air from Malindi, where a new deep sea port is being constructed and major infrastructure links are planned for a railway, highway and pipeline to South Sudan, branching off near Isiolo to also link Ethiopia with the Kenya coast. ‘All these plans may well result in Malindi becoming a resort of choice for those many expatriates working on the LAPSSET projects and they will have money to burn. Maybe finally things are coming together for this part of the Kenya coast which has for long been neglected and there is growing optimism now that the tourism sector has a bright future’.

Good news for Kenya’s tourism sector as the recovery from the downturn, caused by harsh anti travel advisories ahead of the March elections, is now gaining momentum.

JOMO KENYATTA RECEIVES RE-CERTIFICATION FROM KCAA

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has recently re-certified Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in accordance with guidelines issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization, in short ICAO.

The initial certification for JKIA was granted in 2008 and KAA has since been regularly inspected and issued with renewals, now a mandatory requirement by ICAO for airport operators.

Key elements in the inspection and audit process are the existence of updated manuals and of course the adherence and compliance with emphasis on safety and security management.

JKIA is currently undergoing substantial building activities to complete the new Terminal Four before embarking on the construction of a new runway and a new ‘mega terminal’ under the Project Greenfield, which is estimated to cost about 650 million US Dollars.

Notably though has JKIA not been given FAA Category One status, largely over the airports current inability to separate the passenger streams, which is aimed to keep arriving passengers hermetically apart from departing passengers. The new Terminal Four will introduce this element of added security measures when open sometime in mid 2014, at which stage the current terminals one to three will be refurbished and upgraded to meet such requirements. All of Kenya’s airports managed by KAA are subject to certification by the KCAA, which in this case acts as regulator, and extends to Mombasa, Malindi, Eldoret and Kisumu as well as aerodromes owned and managed by the Kenya Airports Authority.

BRIATORE’S BILLIONAIRE RESORT SET FOR AUGUST LAUNCH

Flavio Briatore’s 500 million Kenya Shilling investment in the Billionaire Resort will pay off when the new luxury resort in Kenya’s seaside town of Malindi will open its doors to the owners of the apartments in August this year.

Briatore, the former Renault F1 team boss before having to retire in disgrace over a staged accident at the Singapore GP in 2008, was reportedly in Malindi over the weekend to inspect progress on the new resort. Already complete are the beach restaurant, open since end December last year, and the Casino which was completed in March and work on the 24 luxury apartments and public areas is continuing at full throttle, on schedule for a mid August opening. According to media statements made by Briatore during his most recent visit, 80 percent of the units have already been sold. It is not clear if these apartments will only be occupied by the owners or if they, by arrangement with the management, can sublet them to paying guests. The sales price per apartment also appears to be a tightly guarded secret as are the identities of the buyers so far.

Briatore already owns the Lion in the Sun Resort which features only 16 luxuriously appointed bedrooms and suites and where charges start at 400 Euro for a single and 600 Euro for a double and from 700 Euros for a suite

Also open already is the Thalaspa Henry Chenot, where guests of the Lion in the Sun will be able to experience a wellness regime during their stay, complemented by tailor made menus from the kitchen team based on fresh organic ingredients, low on calories but high on taste and nutritional value. Malindi reloaded, Version 2.0 coming up, so watch this space for more news as and when available.

CONSERVATIONIST’ ARRESTED FOR IVORY POSSESSION – CLAIMES CONSPIRACY BY KWS

Information was received from Nairobi that a Deputy Director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Mrs. Susan Soila and her son Robert were arrested on Sunday in Emali, after being found with ivory in their car weighing around 19 kilograms.

The two were reportedly produced in court on Monday where they denied the charged before being released on bail, with an initial hearing date set as for the 17th of June. Prominent Nairobi based lawyer Philip Murgor, retained by the pair, was quoted by the source as having highlighted that one of the accused is a prominent conservationist in Kenya and suggested that his client has ‘rubbed KWS the wrong way’ – a statement which will no doubt trigger a response from the Kenya Wildlife Service top management, which, considering the time of uploading this report, was unavailable for comment.

Poaching of elephant across Eastern Africa, but in particular in Tanzania – the worst hit in the region – has been on the upswing over the past years, fueled by the skyrocketing demand for ivory in China, Vietnam and other Far Eastern countries, and aided by weak legislation which regularly sees persons convicted of ivory smuggling for instance go free after paying a paltry fine.

The conservation fraternity in the region has demanded that the respective wildlife laws be amended to provide for crippling financial fines, confiscation of the property of those convicted of commercial style poaching and long prison terms of 10 years and more. Kenya was not spared by the poaching menace as last year, according to official figures, nearly 400 elephant were slaughtered – figures incidentally disputed as too low by sections of the conservation community – while this year the unconfirmed count already stands at nearly 100, going by summed up figures from media reports seen over the past few months.

Watch this space for updates on this latest twist in the tail of the ongoing poaching sagas coming from Kenya.

Tanzania News

OPPOSITION IN PARLIAMENT DEMANDS AIR TANZANIA TO BE DECLARED BANKRUPT

Sharp differences in opinion emerged in the Tanzanian parliament this week, when the Minister for Transport Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe moved his ministry’s budget for the financial year 2013/14. When touching on the budget provisions for Air Tanzania, he painted a glowing picture to the house of the airline introducing flights to Johannesburg, Mombasa, Bujumbura and added domestic destinations, claims rubbished by the opposition. In response was the chairman of the parliamentary committee on infrastructure, one Peter Serukamba, quoted to have said that the government itself was not serious, having during the current financial year allocated 5 billion Tanzania Shillings to ATCL but as of February only disbursed some 1.6 billion Tanzania Shillings so far, while the budget allocation for 2013/14 was reduced to only 1 billion Tanzania Shillings. Serukamba also denounced the airline for only operating two planes, saying this crippled the carrier. He went on to demand a detailed analysis of the status of ATCL to establish if the company was worth to keep or else to be given either to investors or closed down. Another leading opposition member, a Ms. Pauline Gekul, also hit the same tunes when she said in the view of the opposition the company was bankrupt and should be declared so while yet others demanded for the prosecution of those who in the past ‘looted’ state corporations like ATCL and Tanzania Railways.

Aviation analysts in the region agree that there is little room for Air Tanzania in today’s aviation environment unless the government spends significant sums of money to free the airline from historical debts and inject added capital for the purchase of new aircraft, something thought beyond the Tanzanian government’s ability under the already overstretched budget estimates for 2013/14.

Wrote one regular aviation source from Dar es Salaam: ‘Like before, this is not news. Government knows about the debts, government knows about the Airbus fraud and the liabilities they guaranteed. Since FastJet arrived it has become even more difficult for Air Tanzania. They are piling up more losses and who will pay for it in the end? The Tanzanian taxpayer. This is not right. Our government should give Precision Air that money they keep sinking into ATCL and get shares in that airline. Then there is reason to designate them as a national airline like the Kenyans have done with KQ. Precision Air can do with the support of government right now and it would also send a signal to the market that our government at last means business by supporting Tanzanian businesses’.

Another source voiced concern over the present capacity on offer vis a vis flights between Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Mwanza, claiming there were too many seats on the market for this time of the year, being the low tourist season, and that none of the airlines would be able to operate profitably under such circumstances. Time for sure will tell who will remain in the skies and who will falter in the end. Watch this space for breaking and regular news from Eastern Africa’s aviation scene.

COURT CASE OF MV SPICE ISLANDER REVEALS SHOCKING NUMBERS OF CASUALTIES

Prosecutors in Zanzibar are finalizing their paperwork in a case against eleven individuals to stand trial on manslaughter charges over what has turned out to be the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster on record.

The MV Spice Islander, as reported here at the time of the accident and repeatedly thereafter, went down in stormy waters while sailing from Unguja, Zanzibar’s main island to the sister island of Pemba, as a result of badly stowed cargo but mainly due to massive overloading. While some 941 passengers could be rescued by combined Tanzanian navy and fishing industry effort, which saw every available ship deployed to the site to pick up survivors from the water, it has now emerged that the initial estimates of casualties were grossly understated. Details emerged from the charge sheet the prosecution has drawn up, that the number of dead stands at a staggering 2.740, most of whom are thought to have gone down with the wrecked ship and are entombed inside the hull. The listed maximum capacity of the ship was set at 600 passengers but the actual load now appears to have been 6 times as many. The Tanzanian government has since then made significant changes in the way ships are inspected and in the staff deployed to the maritime authorities to root out the corruption and rot which has according to a source in Dar es Salaam significantly contributed in the past to the many accidents involving ships sailing between the islands and even on Lake Victoria. The sheer number of accidents left Tanzania as the worst off countries in Africa vis a vis maritime safety and among the worst in the world.

The case, which is before the Zanzibar Chief Justice due to its magnitude, will hear from at least 27 witnesses, as the owners, management and several of the surviving crew are facing a trial which might see them sent down for the maximum period permitted under Tanzanian law for a charge of manslaughter. In addition is is expected that the culprits will be being hammered by civil litigation if found guilty in criminal court through compensation claims by survivors and the families of those lost in the accident. Sources from the insurance industry say the ship’s insurance was immediately invalidated when the crew willfully and deliberately overloaded the vessel, leaving the entire financial liability with the company owners, managers and the crews responsible for the tragedy. Watch this space for updates when the case goes underway.

MTWARA ‘VERY TENSETHOUGH FLIGHTS CONTINUE, FOR NOW

Information has come to light from sources in Tanzania that the town of Mtwara, recently in the news over increasingly acrimonious exchanges between the local population and their leaders and the central government over plans to build a gas pipeline for gas to Dar es Salaam instead of processing on site, has seen the situation escalate earlier today. From what has been gathered have local businesses decided to keep their stores and shops closed and there appears to be a sharp increase in the presence of security forces deployed across the town, and at the airport.

From the details given, air traffic is continuing for now and it is hoped that the volatile situation can be diffused without any outbreak of scuffles or worse.

Mtwara is at the centre of some of the biggest gas discoveries made in recent history and certainly the largest so far along the Eastern African seabord, and additional exploration has been stepped up to both find more deposits as well as get the fields discovered so far on to production stage. The Mtwara population had hoped, in fact expected, that processing facilities would be constructed on site to turn the gas into LPG but the powers that be in Dar es Salaam apparently had other ideas when they insisted on a pipeline being built to ship the gas to Tanzania’s commercial capital and process it there. With hopes for jobs instantly doused, the mood started to turn from sour to bad to ugly, as the lastest development in Mtwara shows, a reminder for politicians that increasingly the local population demands their own, as is incidentally seen in Uganda too where the Bunyoro Kingdom is holding out for a larger share in the proceeds of future oil production, with most of the Uganda’s discoveries made within the boundaries of the Kingdom.

Presently Mtwara is connected by air to Dar es Salaam with flights from Precision Air and Air Tanzania but neither airline has reportedly issued any travel advisories to their passengers booked to fly there, indicating that air services, for now, continue to operate uninterrupted.

Watch this space for future updates as and when they become available.

FASTJET REPORTEDLY ABORTS TAKEOFF TWICE ON MWANZA FLIGHT

Questions asked but not answered on Twitter about an allegedly twice aborted takeoff only served to turn over the rumour mill faster about the reasons for the failure of flight FN 0163 on the 13th of May to successfully take off from Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport.

The tweets below were sent but apparently ignored by FastJet’s social media managers, with no evidence that they reverted to Jerry and Yusuph or in fact made any other statement available on the incidents.

In another communication made available from regular social media source – on condition of strict anonymity over fears about ‘their attack dogs’ this additional information was received: ‘Dar – Mwz took off well till the ocean then the plane started shaking then passengers informed they were turning around. Afternoon it was taking off till the nose was up then it failed to complete its take off. Passengers were off loaded and informed there was technical problem and transferred later to another aircraft’.

Bitter medicine surely for both the paid and selfstyled mouthpieces who no doubt will fill the spam filter here again with their acid ladden utterances. Watch this space.

TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS TAKE ISSUE WITH TOURIST BOARD DECISIONS

Information is coming to light from Arusha, that tourism stakeholders have sharply criticized the Tanzania Tourist Board over their decision to engage a South African company as partners to set up a rival tourism trade fair in Dar es Salaam. TTB was accused to have engaged the services of a company based in a rival country, described as a key competitor for tourists coming to Africa for a big game safari and the company chosen, Witch and Wizard Creative, was described as being more pro South African than pro Tanzanian.

The Karibu Tourism Trade Fair, held every year in Arusha in late May or early June – this year between the 31st of May and the 02nd of June [www.karibufair.com] – has over the past 13 years evolved into Eastern Africa’s premier international tourism trade show and is attended by a global buyer’s audience and exhibitors from not just Eastern Africa but countries like the Seychelles, Congo, Malawi, Zimbabwe and even South Africa, showcasing their attractions for outbound travel from Tanzania but also to set up business opportunities to send tourists to Tanzania’s national parks and beaches.

Me I don’t understand why TTB wants to set up the Swahili Tourism Fair in Dar. If they have only now woken up to find out what Karibu has achieved, they should be in full support and not just start a new competition fair in Dar because their offices are there. If Swahili Fair is for the domestic market, we do not need a foreign firm to promote and organize it, we have capacity to do that internally. But if they want to take a piece of Karibu for their own selfish ends, we shall oppose that. It would be wasting our scarce resources to invest in two trade fairs in one country. Companies will be pressured by them to take stands and yet Karibu has always been sufficient for them and for us as a country. This is not the activity we expect from TTB to promote our country but just activism. Someone maybe saw some opportunity to make money and had others buy into the idea. Uganda has one small tourism show, Kenya has a domestic show at Sarit purely for resident travel and then the Magical Kenya Show of their tourist board. Someone is misguided here and they better listen to their stakeholders before they embarrass themselves and do us a lot of damage’ said a regular contributor closely linked to the trade association framework in Tanzania. Sources from Dar meanwhile have pointed to the proposed partnership of the Swahili Tourism Fair with South Africa’ INDABA, which has just ended in Durban, and which is widely acknowledged to be the largest continental tourism trade show in Africa, albeit heavily tilted towards South Africa and SADC countries, and for long having shut out their competitors from Eastern Africa before gradually changing policy. ‘Tanzania is a SADC member. We get over 25.000 visitors from South Africa every year and want to increase that number. For that reason we needed to get a South African company to help us tap into that market. There is nothing sinister about the Swahili Tourism Fair and we expect a great inaugural event this October’ retorted a source from Dar es Salaam, close to TTB but unable to give a name for not being an officially sanctioned spokesperson for the organization.

Clearly two sharply opposed positions and in the interest of Tanzania Tourism it is hoped that the differences can be bridged and the difficulties overcome, so that both events, each clearly designed and positioned, can bring positive results for the country. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from across Eastern Africa.

PRECISION AIR LAUNCHES NEW LOGO


Tanzania’s premier private airline, Precision, has just unveiled their revised logo, which while based on their previous showcase now looks fresher and simpler, yet retaining the company’s corporate colours and their trademark gazelle.

The airline operates a mixed fleet of B737-300, ATR 42 and ATR 72 aircraft, including the latest -600 versions, and operates scheduled flights from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Mwanza, Mbeya, Musoma, Bukoba, Kigoma and Mtwara on domestic services and to Nairobi, Mombasa, Entebbe, The Comoros, Lubumbashi and Lusaka in regional services. More destinations are planned to be launched later this year as more brand new ATR aircraft become due for delivery.

Precision Air has also strengthened customer loyalty through their Paa Royal frequent flyer programme, the first of its kind in Tanzania’s aviation history, where less points are now needed to get a free ticket, though a government tax of 22.000 Tanzania Shillings will apply for each transaction. Visit www.precisionairtz.com for more information on schedules, bookings, on-line check in and other corporate news.

Rwanda News

RWANDA GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES NEW DRAFT TOURISM BILL TO PARLIAMENT

Rwanda’s government yesterday presented a new draft tourism bill to parliament, aimed to strengthen the sector through better regulations and legal provisions.

The tourism sector, presently overseen by the Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Department, has developed in leaps and bounds in recent years, recording double digit growth in terms of visitor arrivals as well as revenues, and become Rwanda’s leading economic sector. A regular source from Kigali has described the introduction of a new draft bill as being aimed to improved the licensing, inspection and grading of hospitality and related tourism businesses but also sets the stage for the introduction of a tourism levy.

The latter is seen as a crucial financing mechanism to support vocational and tertiary training for individuals seeking to start a career in the industry, but also other capacity building measures in support of injecting greater professionalism into the workforce and among investors.

The draft bill was presented by the Minister for Trade and Industry, also in charge of the tourism portfolio, Francois Kanimba, who was quoted as having told the members of parliament: ‘If you look at how things have been conducted in the tourism industry, you find that many things were lacking, even if there is a government agency in charge of promoting the policy on tourism development. There are many businesses in the industry yet for them to mind about quality services, there must be standards and guidelines as well as a system of monitoring so that the country can make progress’.

Meanwhile was it confirmed by RDB’s Media and Events Officer Maurice Twahirwa, that the country’s annual naming of young born gorillas will this year take place on the 22nd of June at the Kwita Izina showground in Kinigi, where the Volcano National Park headquarters are located. According to the details passed on by Mr. Twahirwa will a week of conservation related activities commence on the 15th of June, building up to the main day when reportedly over 20 gorilla babies will be given names by individuals selected for their affiliation to conservation and tourism.

Watch this space for regular and breaking tourism and conservation news from across Eastern Africa.

Ethiopia News

ETHIOPIAN NAMED OFFICIAL CARRIER FOR AFRICAN UNION GOLDEN JUBILEE YEAR

Africa this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organization for African Unity, in short OAU, which was later renamed to the African Union. The headquarters of the continental organization have since the inception 50 years ago been located in Addis Ababa, and it comes as no surprise therefore that Ethiopian Airlines, the erstwhile Pan African carrier connecting Africa in days when otherwise one simply had to fly via Europe to reach the other side of the continent, was chosen as the Jubilee Year’s official carrier.

There was pride in the airlines’ statement issued by CEO Tewolde Gebremariam when he said: ‘We are very proud to be selected as an official carrier for the historic golden Jubilee celebration of the Organization of African Unity – African Union. Our main hub, Addis Ababa, is the political and diplomatic capital of Africa and Pan-Africanism is part and parcel of our corporate DNA. For close to seven decades, we have been manifesting our Pan-Africanist creed by serving as a presidential airline for newly independent African countries in the early 1960s; by bringing Africa together and closer to the world in good and bad times; by promoting Africa throughout the world; by always being an aviation technology leader in the continent; and by providing training and aviation services to sisterly African airlines. Ethiopian and the African Union have been working together, for five decades, towards the shared objective of an integrated, peaceful and prosperous Africa that takes its rightful place on the global stage. Today, thanks to the work of the African Union and indigenous African airlines like Ethiopian, the African Renaissance is here’.

The theme of the Golden Jubilee year has been set as ‘Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance’ and will be carried across the airline’s African and international destinations. Ethiopian connects from Addis Ababa to Entebbe, Kigali, Bujumbura, Nairobi, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro

Congo News

REPRIEVE FOR THE VIRUNGA PARK AS FRENCH OIL GIANT TOTAL DROPS OIL EXPLORATION

In a breaking news story has information come to light that the French oil company TOTAL has today, through its CEO and Chairman Christophe de Margerie, made a firm commitment to respect the integrity of the national park and drop all plans to explore for oil inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

De Margerie made the pledge at the annual general meeting of the shareholders of the company, after the French oil giant came under sustained pressure from global conservation groups and faced additional targeted action from consumer groups siding with the conservation fraternity.

The Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest UNESCO World Heritage Site and when plans became public nearly two years ago, that the regime in Kinshasa, already with a soiled reputation on wildlife conservation after abrogating their duty to protect the last Northern White Rhino population at the Garanga National Park a few years ago – the population has since been wiped out by poachers – was considering to permit oil companies to prospect inside the park, a storm of outrage rose around the globe to rescind exploration licenses already granted under a shroud of secrecy.

Conservation groups were swift to congratulate TOTAL for their commitment and immediately turned their attention to British exploration company SOCO International, urging them to equally halt all activities of prospecting and exploring, while at the same time renewing a campaign to expose the Kinshasa regime for their shady deals which were in total conflict of the country’s various international commitments to protect biodiversity hotspots like the Virunga mountains.

To make matters worse for this park, it has been repeatedly at the very core of intense fighting between government troops, their allied militias and liberation forces seeking to create a more stable and peaceful environment for the hundreds of thousands of area residents which have been subjected to slave labour, mass rape and regular looting by regime forces, often as a result of their ethnicity. Rangers posts have in the past been shelled and destroyed and several rangers and wardens, deployed to protect the remaining mountain gorilla population in the Virunga mountains, were killed in attacks on their outposts or in cross fire between the warring parties.

In an email communication late yesterday evening from a source close to the Greater Virunga Transboundary Cooperation, which is based in Kigali / Rwanda and brings the three conservation bodies ICCN, RDB T&C and UWA together, the following sentiments were expressed: ‘This is great news. I am happy to see that the campaign worked and TOTAL has shelved plans to explore and drill for oil in the park. But the truth is that Kinshasa should make the same pledge and remove all the oil blocks they have mapped out inside the park. Any licenses they issued should be withdrawn and activities be restricted to beyond the park buffer zones. Even there, global watchdogs must be involved to monitor compliance with EIA’s, if at all any have been conducted so far. The Virunga park is critical to the survival of the mountain gorillas and in general a bio diversity hot spot. The gorillas migrate often across the national borders and unless all three gorilla range countries cooperate and pursue the same conservation policies, the future survival of these animals could be at serious risk. Thank you for the publicity you helped to generate and please keep the struggle going. This can only be the start and a lot more work must be done’.

Watch this space for breaking and regular conservation news from the wider Eastern African region to stay up to date with the latest trends and developments.

Mauritius News

AIR MAURITIUS BAGS ‘INDIAN OCEAN’S LEADING AIRLINE’ AT WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS

The World Travel Award Ceremony for Indian Ocean island destinations, held yesterday evening in the Maldives, saw the host country take the lion’s share of awards, but Air Mauritius, as several times before, once again took the airline honours as the ‘Indian Ocean’s Leading Airline’. Alongside did Mauritius also receive several other top rewards, starting with the award as the Indian Ocean’s Leading Dive Destination as well as the Indian Ocean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination. The Le Touessrok was named as the Indian Ocean’s Leading Golf Resort while four other resorts from Mauritius received national honours as best in their respective categories, among them the Royal Palm, the Oberoi Mauritius, the Maradiva Villas and the Hilton Mauritius Resort and Spa.

In fact, Hilton was named as the Indian Ocean’s Leading Hotel Brand, affirmed by being among the winners in several national categories. Congratulations to all the winners, but first and foremost to Air Mauritius for once again topping the airline charts.

Seychelles News

AIR SEYCHELLES SLASHES DOMESTIC CARGO RATES

Information received from Mahe speaks of a 40 percent reduction in tariffs for shipments of cargo by air from the main international airport to the island of Praslin, an offer mainly aimed at hospitality businesses in urgent need of time critical deliveries. A kilogramme of cargo will from next Monday onwards cost only 36 Seychelles Rupees, or about 3 US Dollars, reducing the shipment cost considerably and making the delivery of urgent orders by air more affordable. Air Seychelles presently operates 20 flights a day between Mahe and Praslin, using two DHC 6 Twin Otter aircraft for the inter island service and flying time is a mere 15 minutes from take off to landing.

Real time tracking, according to information given by the airline, is possible and dangerous goods and bullion / currency shipments NOT accepted on these flights.

Deliveries of cargo at Mahe’s international airport must be done at least one hour before the selected flight at the cargo terminal while on Praslin a dedicated cargo desk is open at the main check in area of the aerodrome. Visit www.airseychelles.com for more information about the airline’s services, destinations and fares.

PORT VICTORIA NAMED AS THE INDIAN OCEAN’S LEADING CRUISE PORT

The hotly contested top rank as the Indian Ocean’s leading cruise port went once again to Port Victoria on the Seychelles’ main island of Mahe, during the World Travel Award Indian Ocean Ceremony held last night in the Maldives.

Two resorts from the Seychelles were also recipient of the top honours, namely Fregate Island Private as the region’s leading private island resort and the Hilton Northolme Resort and Spa as the Indian Ocean’s Leading Villa Resort. National winners were among others also the Hilton Labriz Resort and Spa in two categories and again the Hilton Northolme, helping Hilton to be named the Indian Ocean’s Leading Hotel Brand.

The top honours for Port Victoria will boost the Seychelles efforts to kickstart cruise tourism after years of a lull as a result of security concerns, but those sufficiently addressed the Seychelles Tourism Board has pulled out all stops to attract the world’s leading cruiselines back to the archipelago, since even a day visit of a cruise ship adds immense financial income to the Seychellois economy. Well done to the Seychelles’ winners and in particular to Port Victoria for their ongoing success story.

AND in closing some more reads from The Livingstone Weekly, courtesy of Gill Staden, Livingstone, Zambia:

Gill Staden

Email: gill

Web: www.beyondthevictoriafalls.com

Blogs

Contact Directory: www.contactbeyondthevictoriafalls.wordpress.com

The Livingstone Weekly: www.thelivingstoneweekly.wordpress.com

Stories and Updates: www.storiesbeyondthevictoriafalls.wordpress.com

Our Forests

At the beginning of May, Government lifted the ban on export of timber, stating that existing licence-holders could continue.

Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister, Wylbur Simuusa:

All illegal logging, overcutting and other similar breaches will be dealt with severely. The second line of attack would be the charcoal burners. We need to be brave and bold and address the issue. The next two months are charcoal months. There will be a national indaba on charcoal so that we deal with this issue of deforestation.

In an email from a Livingstonian:

We are having huge problems with charcoal burners, some of them our own people but also outsiders. This week we have found over 25 charcoal pits PLUS TONS OF BEAUTIFUL WOOD READY CHOPPED. We have collected most of it but no one is interested in helping not forestry not the police not the chiefs.

In January there was a big fanfare by government which started a mass tree planting campaign to plant 25 million trees. The trees to be planted are exotics (I assume Eucalyptus and Pine). The problem we face in Zambia is that timber merchants are cutting down our teak and rosewood and exporting it mainly to South Africa; and our charcoal burners also use indigenous woods.

Some Elephant Pictures

The elephants are on their way back to the Zambezi River. The hinterland is drying up and the elephants need water … lots of it.

I found one herd by the Maramba Bridge which is one of their favourite spots for entertaining Livingstonians and visitors. I was really pleased to see that all the cars and bicycles stopped and enjoyed the spectacle. Even the police at the road block seemed happy to see them.

When I first came to Livingstone there were no elephants. Then, any which crossed the river were persecuted – either shot or sent back to Zimbabwe. How things have changed … We now have hundreds of elephant in and around Livingstone. And, mostly, we love them.

BOTSWANA

After Hunting …

One of the best hunting blocks, according to hunting websites for Botswana, is Concession NG35. This block circles Shorobe, lying south of Moremi Game Reserve. Now that hunting will end in Botswana this year, the government is keen to provide work for the people and, of course, to earn an income for itself.

In the reviewed Maun Development Plan, part of NG35 is set aside as a Maun Eco-Tourism Park. The park will include a wildlife orphanage, a research institute and accommodation facilities.

The park will mean the re-alignment of the Buffalo Fence, taking it south, one assumes, to allow wildlife to move into the area. It is this that is causing problems for the local communities living in and around NG35.

Several homesteads will have to be moved out of the area – 78 households with 900 cattle, 627 goats and 221 donkeys. As we know, the people of Botswana love their cattle and the farmers are also concerned about Foot and Mouth spreading to their herds once the buffalo are allowed to move.

Development for all African countries is a tough one with the city-dwellers being able to see the benefits for the people and the economy, but the villagers, mostly older and still in their traditions ways, not understanding and wanting to continue as they always have done.

The debate will rage on for some time, it seems, and there will have to be compromises on both sides.