News from ‘Uganda – Gifted by Nature’ and the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome First edition June 2010 Uganda News TRAVELTALKRADIO DISCUSSES WILDLIFE QUESTIONS The San Francisco bay area (previously San Diego) based TravelTalkRadio (www.traveltalkradio.com) last week spoke with this correspondent about several of his recent articles related to wildlife conservation in Eastern Africa. Discussed was, amongst others, the sad case of five poisoned lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park, blamed on illegal herders constantly trying to push their cattle into the park, but also other issues from the region. Topics included the Kwita Izina festival in Rwanda, where newly born mountain gorilla babies are ‘named’ and the relocation of 32 eastern black rhinos from South Africa to Tanzania, which were received by none other than President Kikwete. TravelTalkRadio, and their sister station dealing with business travel are both often featuring tourism issues from Eastern Africa and their weekly newsletter is regularly reproducing material from this correspondent. Write to them, via their website, to subscribe to their free newsletter. eTurboNews cooperates closely with TTR and eTN’s publisher Juergen Thomas Steinmetz is a regular guest on the weekly talk shows. Details of live transmissions and archived sessions are available from the website. Go Listen! CAA TO IMPROVE KIDEPO AIRFIELD Information was received from the Civil Aviation Authority that work has been put out to tender for bids to re-gravel the CAA owned and operated field in the Kidepo Valley National Park. Flying into the remote park, which is located in the border triangle between Uganda, Kenya and the Southern Sudan is the easiest way to reach, and the safest for that matter. Visitors to the park, considered by this correspondent as one of the most scenic in Eastern Africa, normally stay at the Apoka Safari Lodge, owned and operated by Wildplaces Africa and The Uganda Safari Company, which also offers packages including air transport from the Kajjansi aerodrome to Kidepo. The CAA owns and manages a number of upcountry aerodromes and airfields, some of them even located inside the national parks like the Pakuba airfield in Murchisons Falls National Park, to promote air travel and avoid the often tiring and lengthy journeys by road. Tenders for upgrading and maintenance are also expected to be invited soon for these other fields like Arua, Masindi, Pakuba, Mbarara, Kisoro, Kasese, Jinja, Tororo, Lira, Moroto, Soroti and Gulu, some of which are tarmacked while others are under all weather gravel surface. Meanwhile in a related development have aviation sources confirmed that Shell has once again run out of AVGAS and lubricants, lending more credence to suggestions that they no longer bother about this important fuel segment, having made their decision to sell of their retail business in Eastern Africa and Uganda. Shame on Shell leaving once again operators of light aircraft literally stranded, once their own storage has run dry. MARTYRS DAY TO PROMOTE TOURISM The annual ‘Martyr’s Day’ religious holiday in Uganda will be used to promote tourism to Uganda, has the Uganda Tourist Board announced just ahead of the 03rd of June, when the celebrations will take place just outside Kampala. Every year large groups of pilgrims are coming to the country, some of them walking from across the region for weeks, to attend the commemoration of the killing of the Christian faithful by one of the former Kings of Buganda. Visitors are regularly coming from West Africa but also from Europe to pray at the shrine, which was erected as a standing memorial for the 45 Catholic and Anglican Christians, who were burned to death at the time when they would not denounce their believes and eventually declared saints. Information about the event are available from the Uganda Tourist Board via email@example.com or through the board’s website via www.visituganda.com TOURISM UGANDA ASKS FOR 22 BILLION SHILLINGS BUDGET The Uganda Tourist Board has ahead of the reading of the annual government budget in mid June asked for a 10 million US Dollars fund allocation, to more effectively ‘sell’ the country abroad and attract more tourist visitors. UTB, or Tourism Uganda as it is known of late, has drawn up an action plan to penetrate new and emerging markets while also ‘working’ existing tourist markets for Uganda and has put a price tag of about 10 million US Dollars on their intended activities for next year. While Uganda has recorded a steady growth in arrival numbers between 2000 and 2007, the last two years were difficult for the tourism sector as a result of the global economic and financial crisis and numbers did reduce, a trend UTB now seeks to reverse to the upwards again. Industry observers are divided over the timing of the budgetary demands, and although some mention was made during the Presidential Investors Round Table meeting last week, it is unlikely that the budget, which by now is largely ‘ready’, will tweak funds towards tourism at the expense of other sectors of the economy which are in equal need of government support. Budgeting normally starts as early as September each year and then culminates in the reading of the draft budget by the Ministers for Finance in June each year on the same day across the entire East African Community member states. The current demand is therefore thought to rather serve notice to government of future intent to get greater funding, but as reported in an earlier edition indications are that the overall funding for the Ministry of Tourism Trade and Industry may in fact reduce by about 20 percent for the next financial year, according to information available from usually well informed sources. Meanwhile all the best to Cuthbert Baguma, the new UTB Chief Executive and his team in their endeavours to promote our beautiful country. UWA INVITES BIDS FOR JOINT VENTURE ACCOMMODATION DEVELOPMENTS The Uganda Wildlife Authority has last week advertised for expressions of interest via international tender of joint ventures to construct, re-construct and / or rehabilitate accommodation facilities and sites presently owned by them. Amongst the opportunities is the destroyed Grand Katarum Lodge in Kidepo Valley National Park which has been an inoperative ruin for the past 30 plus years, while other projects are named as two sites in Lake Mburo National Park, Rwonyo and Kigarama and a site in Semliki National Park near the hot springs. Further opportunities have been advertised in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, inside the national park, as well as new facilities in both the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park and the central park area. Murchisons Falls National Park too has been earmarked for a new lodge, prompting this correspondent to point out that the derelict Pakuba Lodge is still awaiting reconstruction for the past 15 years, where several wannabe concessionaires tried their luck and failed so far. The Wildlife Authority has also pointed out though that lodge developments in Murchisons and Queen will have to take place in accordance with the approved management plans, which are available for purchase as well as in soft copy from UWA. With international bidding going underway it can be expected that the ‘greed and envy crowd’ will become vocal again in coming weeks and months, should they not be successful to put together bids which might find favour with UWA’s board or comply with bid requirements as to financial and operational capacity, and their now legendary lamenting and public showmanship may well delay projects by international consortia as they might once again attempt to reap where they did not sow. International investors therefore ought to beware of those characters and contract first class legal representation in Kampala to deal with such elements, should it become necessary. For more information regarding terms and conditions, bid documents and deadlines for submission of bids contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ugandawildlife.org Watch this space. NEW ROUTE OPENED UP TO RWENZORI PEAKS Following the recent opening of a deep and several metre wide crevice, which cuts across the tradition ascend route to the Margherita peak (5.109 metres above sea level) was another route scouted by guides and UWA staff located in the national park, to avoid a loss of revenue by pre-booked climbers, who come from across the world to hike and climb the ‘mountains of the moon’ as the range is also known. The ‘rip’ in the glacier is attributed to generally rising temperatures under the climate change phenomenon and it is understood that the Uganda Wildlife Authority is working on other contingency plans to climb the various peaks, should other glaciers and ice fields shrink further or ‘rip’ apart. For more information visit www.ugandawildlife.org or write to email@example.com VISA FEES TO US GO UP – AGAIN Anger and frustration is marking the publication of news that an application for a VISA to the United States is set to go up again effective 04th of June, with some categories now costing nearly 400 US Dollars. Undisclosed sources from the American Embassy quoted in the local media spoke of the sharply risen cost of processing VISA, meeting the latest security standards and being machine readable, a notion swiftly rejected by travel professionals who often assist their clients buying tickets from their agencies in accessing the now mandatory ‘on line applications’ for travellers. This, it was learned from usually well informed and closely involved sources, made a particular impact on aged travellers from upcountry, who in the past for instance travelled with their family to witness graduation ceremonies, as ‘villagers’ – often in the past part of such travelling parties, do not have easy access to web facilities nor find the funds easily to pay, in addition to ticket and accommodation cost, for the new VISA fees. The travel agency staff contacted by this correspondent in fact suggested that the massive increase in fees was mainly aimed at subsidising the American budget deficit, with VISA fees identified as a source of income rather than to just cover the cost of processing them as it was initially meant to be. Calls have subsequently emerged to raise fees in turn for American citizens coming to Uganda, who in stark contrast only have to present a filled landing card, pay what is often describes as a pure ‘entrance fee’ of US Dollars 50 and are then admitted into the country, WITHOUT the 40+ percent rejection rate Ugandans suffer when applying for entry to the United States. That however also drew criticism from other sources in the tourism industry, one of whom said: ‘we need visitors from abroad more than they need us, that is clear, so our fellow Ugandans wanting to travel to the US just have to cough up the extra money. I go there at times to promote tourism and yes now it costs me even more than before. But this is a power game, we need them more than they need us nowadays, so we have no options but to pay and yes, in comparison they pay peanuts to get their documents stamped at the airport. They don’t even need to apply in advance, which to be honest is violating the reciprocity requirements under diplomatic agreements. But then there is a Kiswahili saying of ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ and here it is so true. But between me and you, it smacks of discrimination and exploitation and they know it here at the American embassy.’ Friendly relations indeed when the poorer pay more than the richer, ehhh? ICC MEETS IN KAMPALA The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, this week commenced a global meeting in Kampala’s lakeside resort and conference centre of Munyonyo, which sprang into global prominence for holding the 2007 Commonwealth Summit there. Predictably the meeting attracted protests from the regime in Khartoum, where the recent sham elections in the North put a man wanted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity back into the presidency. Rightly ignored though, the meeting went ahead anyway, offering an international platform to discuss all matters concerning the court, its future directions, policies and briefs and how to go about ‘business’. Said one ICC staffer this correspondent spoke with during a pre-conference visit to Munyonyo: ‘we decided on holding this meeting in Uganda for several reasons. One are the excellent facilities here in Uganda’s capital at the Lake Victoria and very good connections by air to bring in about 2.000 delegates from the whole world. Second is the significance of holding this conference in a part of Africa ICC has interest in [the ICC has indicted Khartoum’s regime leader Bashir and is preparing indictments for a number of ‘senior’ Kenyans alleged to have masterminded the post election violence after the disputed elections at the end of 2007]. And it was in this regard that one statement in particular, emerging from the conference, caught this correspondent’s eye, when the ICC’s chief prosecutor Louis Ocampo declared that ‘election thieves and perpetrators of election violence will face the court and behaviour like this will in the future be a ticket to The Hague and not a ticket into a cabinet’. AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT ON COURSE FOR JULY 19 – 27 Confirmation has been received from sources close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the continental summit of the African Union will indeed take place in July as planned, and that funding has been secured from the Ministry of Finance. However, sources in the local media also speculated over the reasons for the shift of the preparation centre to the Office of the Prime Minister and hence away from any of those ministries and individuals alleged to have ‘stolen’ CHOGM funds or misappropriated them in the run up of the 2007 Commonwealth Summit, which if true would be an added indictment of the principal’s opinion of those put in the bad books of the parliamentary public accounts committee. Intending visitors to Uganda over the period of the summit are advised to secure hotel bookings immediately but certainly before arrival in Uganda, ditto for flight reservations, as the Entebbe – Kampala – Mukono corridor will see the fully booked signs go up soon, considering the influx of top level delegations comprising heads of state, heads of government, ministerial delegations, international observers from multilateral agencies and organization and of course the media train in tow. The present series of conferences and large scale meetings will be a shot in the arm of the local hospitality industry and the erstwhile critics of expanding hotel and meeting facilities for CHOGM in 2007 have predictably gone silent, now that conference after conference has come to the country as a result of the investments undertaken by the private sector at the time. MBARARA BYPASS ROAD IN THE MAKING The south western township of Mbarara, where the main highway from Kampala branches into two directions, straight on to Kabale and the Rwanda border and ‘side ways’ to Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kasese and the Congo border, will breathe a sigh of relief after news broke last week that a major by pass was to be constructed to route heavy cargo trucks and through traffic destined for ‘beyond’ around the municipality in coming years. The measure is part of the ongoing reconstruction and modernization of the country’s road network, especially those highways which are part of the intra Africa infrastructure linking the Indian Ocean seaport of Mombasa to the African hinterland. The overall cost is estimated at current prices to be in the region of 250 million US Dollars and while the Uganda government will make major contributions towards the construction the largest financial share will come from the European Union, a major development partner in the roll out of new infrastructure. Work is due to start in late 2010 after completion of the ongoing tender process. Watch this space for future updates. Kenya News HAPPY ‘MADARAKA DAY’ TO ALL KENYANS – commemorating the day when they attained internal self administration ahead of full independence in 1963. OL PEJETA NEWS UPDATE The Northern White Rhinos, donated by the Czech government in December last year, have now started to roam freely on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy after being ‘released’ from their smaller ‘bomas’ into the wider area. The four rare rhinos are now joining the other hundred plus Eastern Black and Southern White coexisting on the sprawling estate, and latest information has it that two of the Northern White females have been separated from the other two to encourage breeding. Richard Vigne, CEO of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, has made it clear that they will be breeding ‘hybrids’ for a while before sufficient numbers will then permit to ‘cross them back’ towards nearly pure Northern White. The four, another four remained in the Czech Republic for being too old to breed, are thought to be the last hope to ever restore a Northern White population, as the last herd in the wild was wiped out by Ugandan rebels in Eastern Congo, where an incompetent and arrogant minister some years ago halted the translocation from the Garamba National Park to Ol Pejeta at the last moment, condemning these rarest of rhinos to almost certain extinction. Three of them are shown below and please note that their horns have been ‘taken off’ to protect the animals from any attempt to poach them. In other news it was also confirmed that following some more births the number of cheetahs on the conservancy has also risen to 33, a remarkable development as cheetahs in the wild are also considered endangered due to threats to their habitat and hunting patterns. Finally, Ol Pejeta has also announced the availability of ‘Pelican House’ on the estate, sleeping six visitors comfortably in three bedrooms. The ‘classic’ up country cottage can be booked through the Conservancy office at firstname.lastname@example.org and proceeds from rent income will be dedicated to a large portion to community development programmes. While it is mainly for ‘self catering’ staff is available to assist in the daily housekeeping chores. Visit www.olpejetaconservancy.org for more information on the work done on the estate and how to support conservation programmes. FLY 540 ‘GOES SAFARI’ Information received this morning indicates that Kenya’s – and the region’s – first true low cost carrier Fly 540 will from the 10th of June onwards begin scheduled operations to a number of Kenya’s safari parks from Wilson Airport. New destinations, the airline has for a while now been flying to the Masai Mara already, will be Samburu, Nanyuki and Lewa Downs on the Northern circuit but also Amboseli, all popular tourist destinations across Kenya. The start of new flights, which will be operated depending on demand with a B1900, a Dash 8 or the larger ATR, indicates that Kenya has now truly emerged from the downturn in tourism fortunes in 2008 and part of 2009 and the added seats will according to information from Nairobi be ‘snapped up’ quickly by an expanding safari market and the growing demand for air safaris in the upmarket bracket. Fly 540 Tanzania is already connecting passengers arriving from their daily Nairobi service from Kilimanjaro International – located between Arusha and Moshi – to the parks of Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti on a scheduled basis and the addition of scheduled services to the Kenyan national parks will only add to the appeal to fly to an ever increasing number of domestic and regional destinations with the LCC. It is also understood that new plans for the Ugandan operation of Fly 540 are also at an advanced stage but not yet ready to be shared with the public, and the competition, upon which Fly 540 intends to spring some major surprises in the not too distant future. Watch this space. WINDPOWER PLANT TO ‘EARN’ CARBON CREDITS As reported previously here, a proposed wind power plant in the Turkana region of Northern Kenya is in an advanced stage of planning and, when ready, will feed about 300 MW of green energy into the national grid. It is now also understood that the power plant will earn carbon credits worth over 10 million Euros per annum, an added bonus for the investors into the project, and little wonder that a second such plant is already under consideration to also be built in Northern Kenya, where remote arid areas with often strong winds provide the right ‘environment’ to used wind power to generate electricity. The African Development Bank is reportedly setting aside some 55 billion Kenya Shillings to co-finance wind power projects in Kenya, which may eventually be able to add a third of the national power production into the grid system. Under the financing packages made available by the ADB are also separate elements for community improvements like piped water, health centres and educational facilities, aimed to win the support of local tribesmen and reward them for giving land use rights for the wind power plants. READ KENYA BUZZ FOR THE ANSWERS This correspondent often receives enquiries about vacations in the region and in particular about ‘budget holidays’ across East Africa and in particular in Kenya along the beaches. Such are of course available and self catering properties, including some right at the beach and many more not far from the beaches, can be sourced from local travel agents or be found in the weekly edition of ‘Kenya Buzz’. The website www.kenyabuzz.com or their weekly news bulletin, regularly feature such properties, many of them with staff taking care of cooking and cleaning, a real alternative to a resort holiday and the preferred method of having a vacation at the beach, or near the beach, for many expatriates and residents. It is therefore recommended to subscribe, for free, to the weekly ‘Buzz’ edition via email@example.com and receive updated information on a regular basis about what is going on, and where to go and stay in Kenya. For similar information about Uganda and Rwanda visit www.theeye.co.ug or www.theeye.co.rw where a range of stay options is available from the listings in the guide booklet. Tanzania News HOTEL RATING REVEALS DEFICIENCIES The ongoing exercise to grade and rate hotels in Tanzania has stunned some industry observers, when preliminary results started to filter into the public domain to the consternation of stakeholders. Figures sent in from a source in Dar es Salaam indicate that only two third of the over 200 hotels and resorts captured in the exercise met the required and anticipated standards, while the remaining third left many open questions for the evaluation teams visiting the properties. The information was also confirmed when the formal appeals body was launched, which owners of hotels and resorts can go to if they feel they were not given a fair assessment by the inspectors, with added confirmation that the ‘failure’ rate was unacceptable and that owners must improve their standards or else risk to lose out in the star rating or else face shut downs, if serious problems persist. The new ‘tourist appeal authority’ has commenced work reportedly already, as grading and rating is now moving to upcountry areas where also safari lodges and tented camps will be visited and assessed. POACHING SOILS OUR IMAGE ABROAD A senior TANAPA official last week lamented the impact of poaching on the country’s international reputation, saying that unless the problem was dealt with decisively and firmly, the country’s standing abroad might be impacted upon. Already during the Doha CITES Conference in March this year did Tanzania meet firm resistance against their request to sell ivory stocks, when an earlier report compiled for the CITES Secretariat in Lusaka pinned Tanzania down for lack of political will to fight poaching, lack of improved legislation and lack of resources for the anti poaching operations by TANAPA and other law enforcement agencies. Tanzania has also often been linked as a way- and transit point for blood ivory and even life game, bird and reptiles exports originating in other countries due to the lax enforcement. It must be said though, in all fairness, that several consignments of such booty were in the past confiscated due to the vigilance of individual customs and security personnel at the Dar es Salaam airport, and a number of suspects, including Chinese nationals, have been arrested and taken to court. However, it is also thought that substantially more needs to be done, both within Tanzania as well as in the wider region, to bring poaching under control and stem the hunger for ivory and animal products in particular in the Far and Middle Eastern ‘consumer countries’, where spiralling demand drives poaching across Africa. Watch this space. Ethiopia News ETHIOPIAN ADDS POINTE NOIRE The ‘battle for the African skies’ is ongoing, as not long after Kenya Airways added Juba to their African destination network – incidentally for some time already in the ET schedule – has Ethiopian now announced a new thrice weekly service to Pointe Noir in West Africa. Information received from Addis Ababa indicates that the airline will be using a B767 for the operation, providing both passenger and cargo space, the latter considered increasingly important for the transportation of palletised cargo, another hotly contested business segment. Ethiopian was the erstwhile ‘pan African airline’, connecting the continent via Addis when no other airline was taking these routes very seriously and most were looking to European destinations, and a large number of African countries granted ET in fact 5th freedom rights in support of their efforts. However, over the past 10 to 15 years other airlines, notably Kenya Airways, have also embraced a growing African network to feed traffic into their Middle and Far Eastern destinations from across the continent, and ET has seen KQ in fact overtake them, by albeit a narrow margin, in terms of numbers of African airports served. Watch this space. Rwanda News TOURISM RECEIPTS IMPROVE Ahead of the annual celebrations of the gorilla naming ‘Kwita Izina’ later this week have figures been released by the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation, speaking of a 5 percent increase in revenues during the first quarter of 2010 compared to last year of 2009. The improved figures are attributed to sustained marketing of Rwanda as a destination and the introduction of new products for the tourism industry on one side and the added visitors coming to the ‘land of a thousand hills’ for conferences and meeting, now that new facilities are available for MICE organizers. Leisure visitors to Rwanda compared to last year went up by about 25 percent while overall arrivals increased by 8 percent for the first quarter of 2010. Sources from Kigali generally felt that 2010 could become another record setting year. RWANDAIR SIGNS CODESHARE WITH AIR UGANDA The Rwandan national airline has effective 01st June signed a full codeshare agreement with Air Uganda for the route between Kigali and Entebbe. It is understood that each carrier will operate ONE daily flight between the two airports, U7 in the morning while WB will continue to operate the evening service, permitting passengers to do ‘one day trips’ from now on. Both flights use the Bombardier CRJ200, offering equal comfort and speed. The agreement covers both full fares as well as promotional fares on the route and flights can be booked on line, through the airline offices in Kampala and Kigali or the commonly used CRS’s’ Seychelles News SEYCHELLES PROMOTION REACHES KAMPALA The Seychelles Tourist Board Director for Africa and the Americas and other staff from the Seychelles Tourist Board were in Kampala earlier in the week to promote holidays on the archipelago to the Ugandan resident and expatriate community. Assisted by their Seychelles Tourism Ambassador for Uganda, Ms. Pearl Hoareau, who is also the Managing Director of the Uganda Travel Bureau, one of Kampala’s leading travel agencies and American Express representatives, Mr. David Germain, Ms. Sharon Rosalie – who oversees tourism sales in Eastern Africa – and Ms. Marsha Parcou presented some 30 travel agency staffers with a great variety of information during a workshop organized at the Kampala Serena Hotel, before then departing to Arusha, via Dar es Salaam, where the Seychelles will for the first time ever be formally represented at the East African region’s premier travel trade show, the ‘Karibu Fair’. Also with the tourism board staff was Ms. Hilda Camille from Mason’s Travel, one of the leading DMC’s headquartered in Mahe / Seychelles but represented across the key islands of the archipelago. (from left to right Mr. David Germain, Ms. Pearl Hoareau, Ms. Sharon Rosalie, Ms. Marsha Parcou and Ms Hilda Camille during the press conference for the Ugandan media) Initial feedback from workshop participants was encouraging and many – obviously those not regularly reading eTN – admitted that they had never heard of ‘Affordable Seychelles’ before, where guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments owned and operated by Seychellois citizens were available to provide holidays on a budget and yet giving visitors everything all else the archipelago is rightly to proud of. This includes but is not restricted to marine and terrestrial national parks, pristine underwater reefs teeming with fish and marine life, birds galore, island scenery reminiscent of paradise on earth, and last but not least a friendly people aiming to make everyone’s holiday dreams come true, be it on a big or a smaller budget. It was also highlighted that both countries, Uganda and the Seychelles, had Ramsar sites and UNESCO World Heritage sites to their name which visitors may wish to see during a combined safari and beach holiday in the two destinations. Tourist traffic from Africa to the Seychelles presently is up by 27 percent compared to a year ago, giving the continent percentage wise the highest increase of any market around the world, and underscoring that the message ‘Affordable Seychelles’ is indeed working well. Kenya Airways currently flies twice a week from Nairobi to Mahe – calls for a third flight were repeated once again during the workshop – and connects conveniently both ways to Entebbe. Wannabe visitors should note that a current yellow fever certificate will be demanded from travellers arriving from any point in East Africa at the Mahe International Airport but that NO VISA are required provided that a firm hotel booking and return ticket can be produced at the immigration desks at the airport on arrival. The Seychelles also has a no tolerance policy in regard of drugs, irrespective whether the quantities are for personal use or trafficking. Stand Warned, but that said, law abiding travellers do enjoy your visit. STA GRADUATES MORE STUDENTS The Seychelles Tourism Academy has last week graduated another 177 Seychellois citizens, trained over the past months and years in a number of different hospitality and tourism courses. The new graduates, all of whom are expected to be absorbed into employment by new resorts and hotels, were certified by not only the STA but also the London City & Guilds Institute with which STA closely cooperates. The ceremony was graced by the presence of the Seychelles Vice President, who also serves as Minister for Tourism Mr. Joseph Belmont and a number of tourism stakeholders from Mahe and other islands. The Seychelles have a policy of affirmative action towards the employment of citizens in positions where expatriate labour can be substituted with locally sourced personnel and the Seychelles Tourism Academy, as well as in house training programmes have contributed greatly to providing more skilled labour in recent years. Well done to the new graduates and of course the STA – keep up the good work. PORTS OF INDIAN OCEAN HOLDS MEETING IN SEYCHELLES The association of Indian Ocean ports last week held its annual general meeting in Beau Vallon Bay with participants from the Seychelles, Mauritius, Mayotte, Madagascar, La Reunion and newly admitted Comoros Islands. The meeting focused mainly on a new strategy to attract cruise tourism to this part of the Indian Ocean but also to attract private yachts to sail the waters between the various islands. In view of this several initiatives were discussed during the meeting aimed at forming a joint promotional and sales force to attend international tourism trade shows, in particular those dedicated to cruise tourism, where an opportunity existed to not only attract new as well as repeat business but also pass out information about the security situation in the Indian Ocean. The area was in the past hard hit by ocean terrorists, who however failed to capture any passenger liner so far and ‘only’ managed to hijack cargo vessels traversing these waters. In this regard closer cooperation between the affected islands was also requested by the participants, when they urged their individual governments to work hand in hand with the international naval coalition to bring piracy under control and make the sea lanes safe again. The meeting followed hot on the heels of a major European Union initiated global conference in Victoria / Mahe, on the security of the sea lanes, focused of course on bringing the Somali ocean terrorists to justice and eliminating the menace, which has become a severe economic and security threat to Indian Ocean shore and island countries from Kenya to Mozambique, from the Comoros to Madagascar and from the Seychelles deep into the waters of the Indian subcontinent. Watch this space. EDEN ISLAND DEVELOPERS ‘ADOPT’ SCENIC VIEW POINT As part of the company’s community involvement have they recently ‘adopted’ a scenic view point and will now upgrade and landscape the location, from where a great view across parts of Mahe and the Indian Ocean is available to tourists and local visitors. The company, once work is completed, will also continue to maintain it, in terms of cleaning and ongoing landscaping work, to ensure the location ‘shines’ when visitors arrive there and take their memento pictures. Information sent to this correspondent also speak of improving the existing facilities by placing more benches, tables and waste containers across the site and in addition erecting an informative notice board with explanations about the locations which can be seen from the view point. Needless to say, Eden Island, a man made development which includes a marina and leisure facilities, is also visible. (www.edenisland.sc) AND in closing today again some material – and some phantastic pictures – taken from the ‘Livingstone Weekly’, faithfully produced by Gill Staden inspite of the obstacles put in her way by the Zambian power company ZESCO which has been cutting power supplies time and again (as does UMEME in Uganda by the way) – thanks Gill for the indefatigable spirit and do keep up your good work in the face of adversity as all ‘old hands’ in Africa do … Kariba, Siavonga and Home There are several harbours in Kariba Town. Two I will mention because I visited them. Firstly Andorra Harbour is the place where the Kariba Ferry starts. Kariba Ferry takes people and vehicles from Kariba Town to Mlibizi far up the Lake towards Victoria Falls. The journey takes 22 hours, I am told, and it is a stress-free way of getting vehicles and people from one end of the Lake to the other. I also found Kariba Houseboats at Andorra. This company is just revitalizing its boats which are large houseboats used for groups, usually overlanders. While visiting Caribbea Bay Hotel, I found Marineland, at their harbour. Marineland hires out boats – speed boats and houseboats. The houseboats are family-sized to large-sized. All houseboats can come along with crew – for driving the thing and for cooking and cleaning. Marineland also does the transfers from Kariba Town to Spurwing Island, Bumi Hills Lodge and to Musango Lodge. That evening I sat chatting in the bar at Cutty Sark with some very odd folk. One was a man who was now working in vermiculture (that’s worms). He told me and the barman, Mike, how he had been arrested for treason; the army with troops and helicopters arriving on his property one day. He was escorted to Chikurubi where he spent 60 days at Bob’s pleasure and then was released without charge. I don’t know whether it was the whiskey or the stint in Chikurubi maximum prison that unhinged him, but he was definitely not a happy chappie that evening. Then the large Town Engineer arrived in his suit and told Mike that he was starving and needed food very quickly … and a brandy on ice. The brandy came quickly, as did the next one; he had to wait a bit for his food. In the meantime he told us all the water problems he was having in Kariba Town; telling us about illegal connections and people not wanting to pay their bills … it all sounded so familiar. Finally his food arrived and he sat down at a table to wolf it down … I left for my room. The morning arrived and, after a disappointing breakfast, I headed out to see if I could find more accommodation. I was looking for Kariba Breezes. I failed. It is, I was told, under reconstruction. With that I drove down to the dam wall and the border crossing to Zambia. The border crossing was easy except that I was a bit confused with the Zimbabwe side insisting that I needed to show the Interpol Clearance for my car. I had never done that before. That is the problem with our borders – the rules change all the time. I got a rubber stamp for that and was allowed to proceed. The dam has three gates open at the wall and the water was pouring out into the gorge below, sending up sprays and making rainbows. Very pretty. I just feel sorry for Lower Zambezi and Mana Pools National Parks downstream – they must be quite flooded now. I wonder, too, what effect this having far downstream in Mozambique. Right, now I was in Zambia and heading to Siavonga. First I went to some absolutely awful lodges – the first one had the TV blaring; the second one had Zambian music booming. The music-blaring one had a rather unfortunate swimming pool – the waves were lapping all around and into it. I then went to Lake Kariba Inns and Manchinchi Bay. Both hotels cater for the conference market. At Kariba Inns I walked into the reception and the lady was on the phone; I walked around for a while to take a look and came back to the reception. The lady was still on the phone. She looked very smart but I felt she liked her phone too much so I left her to get on with it. I didn’t even take one photograph. Manchinchi Bay was further around the Lake shore and there I found John who took me for a tour. Both Kariba Inn and Manchinchi Bay are clean, big and expensive … they lacked character. I knew they would be like that. I didn’t go to Eagles Rest, just around from Manchinchi Bay. I have been to Eagles Rest before and that is where I always stay when I am in Siavonga. It is also the only place I would recommend. I wanted to get home to Livingstone that day and it was about 550 km from Siavonga – a long drive. I headed out onto the road up the Escarpment towards the main Chirundu-Lusaka Road. It had windy bits, but it was, basically, in fairly good condition. After about 60 km I came onto the main road and joined the trucks as they plied their way up the escarpment to their destinations of Lusaka, Copperbelt and further afield into the Congo. The road has been fixed, even that gaping gash that suddenly appeared a few months ago. It is wide in places to allow for overtaking, which was definitely needed when I came up behind three ‘abnormal loads’ bearing equipment, I assume, for the mines. What scared me most were all the rocks which litter the road. Trucks often break down going up the steep hills and they use rocks to put behind the wheels. Of course, when the truck gets going again, the rocks remain. Anyway, all went well and I turned south on the road to Livingstone. Between the turnoff and Mazabuka the road was rather potholed – could do with a bit of repair. But from Mazabuka to Zimba it was good. At Zimba, of course I met up with our new Chinese road to Livingstone. I think about 10 km of it was useable and fast. And then I came upon deviation, bad road, deviation, bad road, deviation … How long has this company been working on this road? Two years, I think, and it is still nowhere near complete. What’s up? I think we will have to put this road nearer Lusaka and then Lusaka-ites can experience what it is like to have a road access in such a state … maybe then something will be done. VICTORIA FALLS ANTI POACHING UNIT NEEDS YOU! – [Durban, 26th May 2010] This year’s Indaba Travel Trade Show held in Durban from the 8th to the 11th May proved that anyone can raise the much needed funds for the Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit. SATIB Risk Solutions chose VFAPU as the conservation effort and their fundraising efforts yielded a very healthy ZAR34 600 injection into the conservation organization. As many are becoming aware, the poaching situation in Zimbabwe is dire as a result of bush-meat trade and commercial poaching. VFAPU founder, Charles Brightman of Discover Safaris says that, “The end to poaching in Victoria Falls would depend on the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe improving. Until such time, we will continue in our efforts to deter poaching in our region by patrolling our 50 square kilometer operational area on a daily basis. We are out there 7 days a week and our presence is being felt. The fact that we removed 394 snares and apprehended 436 poachers in 2009 makes us feel that we are definitely making a difference.” This unit has been actively working against poaching in the Victoria Falls region of Zimbabwe for the last decade and, in that time, they have removed and destroyed over 19 000 wire snares in the bush. The unit has also darted and treated over 120 mammals injured by snares. Brightman is a local safari operator and conservationist, who together with the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge established the VFAPU in January 1999. The unit works in close co-operation and with the support of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. This collaborative effort serves as a good example of what can be achieved by working together. Having started with just 3 scouts, the unit now employs 18 permanent and extremely dedicated scouts. While the main objective of the unit is to remove snares and apprehend poachers, the unit is also heavily involved in spreading the conservation message to communities in the area. Brightman says, “Whilst there have been some more losses of a number of species of wildlife in recent weeks, there have also been some very successful operations. A total of 8 poachers were arrested and 2 of them have already been sentenced to 18 months in prison whilst the rest of them await their sentence in remand. We have successfully darted and treated an injured buffalo cow and released her back into the wild. So far this year, we have removed 112 snares from the bush and have darted 15 mammals.” VFAPU is a cause that is close to the heart of Brian Courtenay, the founder of SATIB Risk Solutions and continued support of VFAPU is central to the company’s conservation efforts. In 2010, SATIB undertook to partner with VFAPU to raise the US$80 000 needed for the unit’s ongoing operations. SATIB designed and sponsored the printing of a hard-hitting A5 brochure, which highlights in graphic detail the horror of poaching. Together with a pledge form in the brochure, SATIB has also sponsored 500 metal cast lapel badges for the unit to sell for ZAR100 each as part of their fund raising drive at Indaba 2010. To date, 246 badges have been sold, raising ZAR24 600 for VFAPU. A painting by Larry Norton was also auctioned at the annual SATIB Indaba Joe Cool’s party and SATIB Botswana’s Seamus O’Neill snapped up the painting for ZAR10 000. Courtenay says, “There is no denying that subsistence and commercial poaching have taken a massive toll on Zimbabwe’s wildlife populations. It is a harsh reality we cannot hide from. However we have to continue to make a stand. It is only with the support of various stakeholders such as corporate companies, lodges and hotels that this unit has been able to achieve the success it has.” Brightman adds, “The general situation on the ground would be far worse if the unit was not able to conduct its anti poaching operations. The support the VFAPU receives is so important because it means we are able to continue this vital work.” If you would like to find out how to contribute to the Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit and their invaluable work, please contact Charles Brightman on +263 13 45821 or +263 11 209 144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.