Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean report Second Edition June 2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome Second edition June 2010 BIG BROTHER COMES INTO THE CABIN Information received from Lufthansa sources speaks of the development of a new surveillance system in commercial aircraft, developed by Lufthansa Technik, which is part of the Lufthansa Group. The new system will become available on the market in early 2011 when a launch customer will have it installed in the first of their aircraft before other customers can then also order the system. It is understood that more than a dozen cameras will be monitoring the access to the cockpit, the passenger cabin but also the cargo holds, giving the pilots an detailed overview of ‘what is happening behind and below’. It is not presently confirmed if air marshals deployed on mainly United States airlines, but also on aircraft of several other nations, will be able to ‘peep’ into the camera feed, but once the technology is available and installed it is likely that constant monitoring of this sort will also become available for security staff deployed on board and not just the pilots, so that all concerned with the safety of that particular flight will be constantly aware of movements of passengers in the cabin and possible events in the cargo compartment. And ending tongue in cheek, applicants or aspirants for the ‘mile high club’ beware when this latest gadget will begin to appear, as ‘big brother’ will be watching… Uganda News HAPPY HERO’S DAY ON THE 09TH JUNE TO ALL UGANDANS, AS WE REMEMBER ONCE AGAIN THOSE WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES TO ENSURE FREEDOM AND LIBERTY WERE RESTORED WHEN THE DICTATORSHIPS OF OLD WERE DEFEATED BY THE NRA IN 1986. EAST AFRICA’S FINANCIAL BUDGET READING ON THURSDAY 10TH JUNE 2010 All five ministers of finance will read the annual budget speech to the respective parliaments on Thursday this week, 10th of June, as has become practice across the entire East African Community. Details about the proposed budgetary allocations for the tourism sectors in each of the member states of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi will be in next week’s column. Watch this space. BULAGO ISLAND LODGE REBUILDING ON COURSE It was learned over the weekend that the rebuilding and upgrading of the Bulago Island Lodge, now under the management of Wild Places Africa and The Uganda Safari Company, is well on course. 6 brand new shore side cottages are in an advanced stage of construction, as are modifications to the original main building and public areas. Some of the existing ‘old’ cottages are being re-modelled as ‘family rooms’ and a new larger pool will add to the attraction in particular for families with children coming to stay on Bulago once again when they reopen later this year. The ‘twin storey’ cottage, a favourite of visitors under the previous management, is being converted into a Spa where treatment programmes similar to those available at the Emin Pasha Hotel will be introduced when the ‘new’ Bulago Island Lodge opens its doors again. Bulago Island Lodge can be reached within minutes after takeoff from the Kajjansi airfield outside Kampala, and the landing strip on Bulago leads right to the ‘back’ of the main buildings of the lodge. Alternatively boat transport from various landing sites is available for visitors, with this journey taking between 45 and 60 minutes. Bulago is the latest addition in the ‘collection’ of Wild Places’ Ugandan properties which include the Emin Pasha Hotel in Kampala’s fashionable Nakasero suburb, the Semliki Safari Lodge, the Apoka Safari Lodge and the award winning Clouds Safari Lodge. Watch this space for the announcement of the proposed re-opening date. SHERATON TO SCREEN ALL FIFA WORLD CUP MATCHES Football fans will have the comforts of the Sheraton surrounding them when the World Cup kicks off in earnest as the hotel has announced it will screen all matches. This is the first of the ‘big’ hotels making such an announcement and as often the Sheraton is leading the pack once again from the front. A cover charge of 15.000 Uganda Shillings, about 7 US Dollars, redeemable for drinks and food, will be the only barrier between soccer lovers and the big screens especially installed at the hotel’s garden side ‘Lion Centre’ where the management has opened a dedicated ‘FIFA World Cup viewing centre’ for Kampaleans and visitors. It is expected that hotels, resorts and even restaurants across the city, and in fact across the country, will put up large screen TV’s on their premises to cash in on the event by attracting customers into their establishments, who in the process then also eat and drink while watching the action on the pitch. Meanwhile has Ugandan power company UMEME poured cold water on the expectations of soccer fans, by announcing that power supplies may be falling short over the period of the FIFA World Cup and the so called ‘load shedding’ may increase, leaving TV’s blacked out during matches – shame on them and all the more a reason to then see the matches at the Sheraton. This correspondent was considering for a while actually flying to South Africa for the Germany matches but the cuckoo land pricing soon put an end to this and a new big screen TV will now provide all the action needed at home without being ripped off by airlines and hotels trying to make the proverbial once in a lifetime ‘killing’, although news from down south are that ‘surprise surprise’ hotel rooms are now being sold at discounts due to less visitors from overseas than initially expected while FIFA was still trying to sell tickets which were, arguably as a result of their pricing, not being taken up by overseas visitors. And whoever thought down there that price does not matter, it DOES, but this is a recognition which might come just a shade too late… ICC MEETING IN KAMPALA REJECTS OPPOSITION CLAIMS The ongoing global meeting at the Commonwealth Resort in Munyonyo / Kampala has brought former UN supremo Kofi Annan into the country, together with the current UN chief Ban Ki Moon, the president of the International Criminal Court and the ICC’s chief prosecutor Ocampo. It was the latter who publicly rejected demands by a section of the Ugandan opposition to have Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni investigated for war crimes when fighting the long lasting northern insurgency by rebels, who have since then been pushed out of the country bringing peace, economic and social development to the affected areas. The key rebel leaders, also declared as terrorists by the UN, are wanted by ICC international arrest warrants for their crimes against humanity and war crimes but no arrests have been carried out as yet, while several of them are in any case said to have died in the meantime. A section of the media also took an undeserved dig at the incumbent president, shielding behind the international meeting, when publishing what is widely considered as ‘doctored’ opinion polls, portraying public support for Uganda’s longest serving leader at ‘record lows’, a conclusion not shared by either the political establishment nor this correspondent. The same applies for members of the political opposition who are reported to have said the president has lost touch with reality after the annual ‘state of the nation’ address in parliament last week. It was there that President Museveni gave a glowing outlook for national development and economic performance – the economy is expected to grow again by over 8 percent – in view of the discovery of substantial deposits of crude oil, while highlighting the achievements of government in the past. Amongst those were key corner stone data, like the increase in primary pupils from 3 million in 1997 to over 8 million now, the abolishing of examination fees for Ugandan primary and secondary students, an increase in phone ownership from less than 60.000 in 1992 to now over 12 million Ugandans, completion of key road projects and ongoing work on other highways, the provision of thermal power stations ahead of the commissioning of the new Bujagali hydro electric plant next year and economic growth of nearly 8.5 percent over the past 12 months. The Ugandan parliament has now entered its fifth and final session ahead of the upcoming general elections due early next year, when President Museveni and his ruling NRM party are again expected to carry the day. Meanwhile has news reached from Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, that political activists based in Khartoum were denied travel permission to fly to Uganda and attend the ICC meetings, not a surprise considering that regime leader Bashir is on the ICC’s wanted list. The Southern Sudan based activists however were present in Munyonyo and some from Khartoum are also said to have made their way to the meeting venue by first travelling to Juba from where no travel restrictions can be imposed by the regime. SLIDING SHILLING GIVES BETTER VALUE FOR TOURIST’S LOCAL EXPENSES The ongoing slide of the Uganda Shilling, now trading below the psychologically important 2.250 mark versus the US Dollar, is helping tourists to get more value locally for their Euros, Pounds and Dollars, as they can purchase ‘more’ with the same amount of their own currency. Expenses ‘in destination’ are often a factor, in making the decision to come to a country or in the final assessment how enjoyable a holiday was and if a visitor got ‘value for money’. In turn however Ugandans are bracing themselves for a rise in prices of imported goods, including fuels, as more shillings are now needed to purchase hard currency. Across the border in Kenya their shilling too has been sliding and over the last weekend reached a 5 year low, breaking through the important 80 barrier, lowering the cost for local purchases for tourists but in turn making life for ordinary Kenyans more expensive. One’s joy may be the other one’s agony. EMIRATES’ SPECIAL OFFERS AID DEMAND The local office of Emirates has now put special offers on the market for travellers to Dubai – obviously over the forthcoming ‘hot’ months – whereby two children up to the age of 16 can fly free with their parents, and in addition get free ‘bed, meals and entry’ as long as the parents purchase one of these fabulous offers from the Emirates office in Kampala or their preferred travel agent. This ‘coup’ will undoubtedly spur a round of similar offers from such airlines as Kenya Airways or Ethiopian both of which also fly daily to Dubai via their respective hubs in Nairobi and Addis Ababa. Several expatriate travellers this correspondent spoke with welcomed the offer, in particular as they do not need to pay any Visa fees for Dubai on the strength of their nationality, and one commented: ‘this is cheaper than going to Zanzibar for a beach holiday, considering we have to pay 200 US Dollars for our Visa there. Why can’t East Africa waive this for expats living in one of the EAC member countries?’ Meanwhile though, Ugandans too can take advantage of the Emirates offers and they will be able to obtain their Visa through the airline at minimal hassle and affordable cost. CITY COUNCIL GETS SERIOUS ABOUT NOISE POLLUTION The Kampala City Council, in conjunction with the National Environmental Management Authority, has of late become more active in combating noises from entertainment spots across the city. After media adverts and warnings apparently bore no fruits over a dozen culprits have since been taken to court, where in case of repeated complaints they can face not only fines and imprisonment but a shutdown of the concerned businesses. Kampala residents have in the past often complained but little was done, except in the immediate neighbourhood of prominent citizens, but this latest action by KCC and NEMA staff gives hope that city dwellers will in the future be able to sleep more peacefully and no longer get disturbed at night by discos and rowdy nightclub crowds running riot into the wee hours of the night. Well done – for a change – to KCC and to NEMA’s enforcement units. CITY SECURITY GETS A BOOSTS The Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, has over the weekend announced that in order to boost security within Uganda’s capital city a new squad has been formed, which will patrol the city 24 / 7 on motorcycles. The new unit started work already last weekend after receiving 300 new motorcycles and training how to use them and carry out their duties. While some residents dismissed this as a publicity stunt and linked it to the upcoming election period, the majority of those this correspondent spoke with expressed relief that more police would be on the streets, able to help with traffic congestions or in the immediate area where police presence could be required to stem petty crime or chase down offenders. In particular some regular sources from within the tourism industry expressed their delight, saying that this measure would make the city safer for tourist visitors, and locals of course, and boost tourists’ shopping expeditions into the main trading areas of town while encouraging them to walking in the city. It was also announced by the President recently, during his state of the nation address, that the Ugandan police force would be increased by 4.000 new officers to cater for the growing demand on the force’s manpower and cater for ‘loss’ of personnel through retirement or voluntary departure. ROGUE HIPPO GETS DESTROYED A marauding hippo, which was resident near the shores of Lake Victoria at Munyonyo, outside Kampala, has last weekend been shot by rangers of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, after all other measures to , chase off, contain and / or relocate the animal failed. The beast stood accused to have killed at least two people out on the lake fishing and at least one domestic animal and following intensifying complaints to UWA their staff swung into action and proceeded on site to investigate. Tranquilizing, trapping and relocating was the first choice but found too difficult to achieve and subsequently the killer hippo had to be put down, to the relief of nearby communities living along the lake shores and making a living from fishing. There has also been some apprehension within the Munyonyo establishment when the first news of a human death emerged in the local media and through the neighbourhood grapevine, as fears grew that the rogue animal may cause damage to the resort or injure visiting guests. It is understood that the Uganda Police had explicitly cleared the action, as it was being taken near villages. It is however, and I say this out of experience, always advisable along the lake shores to be careful when walking or bird watching, as it can never be predicted where another hippo may emerge, or in a worst case scenario a crocodile, from the waters in search of pasture or prey. Hippos in particular are known to attack without warning when feeling disturbed or threatened and in particular when they are with young ones. Kenya News SAFARILINK PREPS FOR HIGH SEASON Following hot on the heels of Fly 540 expanding their ‘safari’ network in Kenya has SafariLink, one of Wilson Airport’s leading ‘safari airlines’ reacted and also posted new routes and added flights to the tourism trade. Most notable is the addition of Migori right at the border with Tanzania, where camp operators from the Serengeti are able to pick up their passengers from the airstrip and then take them to their camp or lodge via the immigration and border point nearby at Isebania. This will be an ‘add on’ sector for flights between Wilson Airport and the Masai Mara, permitting tourists the quickest access to the Serengeti and a combined visit between the two parks, without having to fly via Nairobi to Arusha (JRO), or driving all the way across the border in Namanga or else using the poorly maintained road from the top of the Olooloolo escarpment to the Tanzanian border. This flight will commence on 01st July and initially run until 31st of October, subject to review after assessing demand and uptake of the new offer. The other new service, also effective 01st July, is an afternoon flight to Tsavo, the Chyulu Hills and Amboseli. This new departure will allow passengers on the morning flights from Northern Kenya, i.e. Samburu, Lewa Downs and Nanyuki and the flights from the Masai Mara into Wilson an easy connection to other key national parks after having lunch at one of the many venues now available at Wilson Airport, including the Aero Club of East Africa, where they can not only have a good and fast lunch but also see pictures on display of long gone aviation days. The Tsavo destination is going to be the Voi airstrip, which is owned and operated by Kenya Wildlife Services (inside the Tsavo East park) and from where passengers can be picked by camp / lodge transport from as far as Taita Hills lodges or Ngulia / Kilaguni in Tsavo West, offering a game or scenic drive enroute. The Chyulu destination airstrip will be at ‘Ol Donyo Wuas’. In Amboseli the main airfield in the centre of the park will be used to drop and pick up passengers as usual for the morning flights. For all the ‘new’ sectors a minimum of 2 passengers booked and ticketed are required and the airline has pointed out that there may be differences in flight arrivals and departures as a result of flying into only one strip, several or all of them. More information can be obtained via the Safarilink website or by writing directly to Anu Vohora, Director of Sales and Marketing via anu(at)safarilink.com KENYA AIRWAYS TO ADD ROME As the economic recovery takes further hold in Kenya and the region, the ‘Pride of Africa’ has just announced that they will commence flights to Rome again, a destination dropped long ago when the cooperation with KLM started. At the time, the route was no longer considered viable but passengers often complained that in order to get to Italy they first had to fly an extra 2 hours north, only to then overfly their country again enroute to Kenya and the same again on the way home. The Italian capital will be the most southerly entry point for Kenya Airways into Europe and tap once more into the lucrative Italian holiday market for Kenya, but also add capacity for air cargo between the two countries without having to trans ship it first via other European waypoints. The information was given by the airline’s CEO Titus Naikuni after announcing to the shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting that the carrier had returned to profit after facing two difficult years, caused by the global financial and economic crisis but also strike action, which impacted heavily on the bottom line last year as overheads rose as a consequence by almost 30 percent. The airline posted a pre tax profit of over 2.5 billion Kenya Shillings, compared to a loss of well over 5 billion Kenya Shillings for the last financial year. Management also confirmed that the recent ‘ash cloud’ stoppages of flights into Europe will have an impact on the annual financial performance but no details were given just how much it did cost the airline – although the damage to the Kenyan economy in regard of lost passenger transport revenues, export of flowers, fresh produce and chilled fish was last month pegged at over 3 billion Kenya Shillings overall. Kenya Airways at last also confirmed that they were indeed in touch with Airbus discussing the purchase of several A 330 aircraft to bridge the gap until the newly developed and long delayed Boeing 787 will become available, which – considering that major shareholder KLM / Air France already flies these models for several years in their fleet – will constitute no problem to integrate an Airbus model into the hitherto almost exclusive Boeing fleet. A final decision will be made in the second half of 2010 and of course reported here. KENYA BUZZ NOW INCORPORATES TWITTER AND FACEBOOK LINKS The premier Kenyan e-Guide has now added links on Facebook and Twitter for their readership, to stay informed at an instant when new broadcasts are mailed. FB users too can befriend the page and receive a regular news update as and when a new item is posted on the Kenya Buzz website. Go with the times, go ‘e’ is obviously the catchword and every news, PR and marketing organization not yet linked with these two key social media will have to review their publicity approach to increase visibility in the global market place or else risk sliding into oblivion sooner or later. Well done Alix and team, keep it up. LET’S GO OPENS NEW ‘SHOP’ AT FORMER TN PREMISES It was learnt last week that one of Kenya’s leading travel agencies has now set up shop in the posh Muthaiga suburb of Nairobi at the offices formerly occupied by TN – Travel News and Lifestyle, once the region’s premier travel magazine before merging with the South African EAM owned ‘Twende’ and eventually seeing the merged operation going under after losing several key staff and failing to learn how the local market in Nairobi ‘worked’. Let’s Go Travel at the opening also, together with Tony Clegg Butt, expressed their intent to start an e-magazine befittingly called ‘travel news’, featuring amongst other things Tony’s ‘Miscellaneous Ramblings’ previously published in TN / Twende and immensely popular with their readership, in which the former TN publisher every month either praised or lamented over his encounters in restaurants, hotels, with airlines and the trials and tribulations of a frequent traveller. Watch this space for upcoming announcements, as and when this happens. Let’s Go Travel is owned by Alan Dixson, son of the late Bill Dixson of Bruce Safaris fame, who in his days was quite an individual in Kenya’s tourism circles. The new branch office of Let’s Go Travel is reportedly a partnership between Tony Clegg Butt and Alan Dixson, putting Tony – who has been ‘privatising’ since leaving the Twende operation in July last year – firmly back into the tourism frame. FERRIES ARRIVE IN MOMBASA There were scenes of jubilation and relief amongst commuters and tourism operators last Thursday when the two new ferries were delivered to the port of Mombasa from Germany, after months and months of delays caused by a variety of issues over investigations into procurement and payments, a situation which cost the past ferry company management their jobs. The presently used ferries have long exceeded their natural life span and suffered of frequent breakdowns, and when the two new ferries have been put into full service, trials are already underway supported by a team of experts from the German wharf where they were built, at least one of the ‘old ones’ is expected to undergo a full overhaul to then serve at peak periods and as back up during maintenance periods. Others of the present ferries are due to be relocated to a new crossing point after repairs and major maintenance, which in itself should also bring some relief to the tens of thousands of people crossing into the city every day. Tourism staff contacted at the coast expressed their relief that a new era is now being rung in and a more reliable service can be offered between the city of Mombasa – itself an island – and the southern mainland where many of the beach resorts are located. The same sources however also stressed their ongoing demands for a road link which would connect the main highway from Nairobi and the Mombasa International Airport with the ‘South Coast’, as that was the only long term solution to ensure easy transportation, while the ferries could then serve primarily commuters in and out of the city. Other tourism sources in Kenya also demanded that the city of Mombasa, in particular those parts where tourists regularly pass through on their way from the airport to their beach resorts, must be ‘spruced up’ so that the holiday experience is not impaired by the at times and at present often unsightly state of repairs of roads and buildings along the way. ANCIENT ‘MAILBOX’ TREE BECOMES NATIONAL MONUMENT The ‘Mugumo’ tree used by the Kenyan Mau Mau movement as a mailbox to safely exchange messages during their days of liberation struggle, has last week been declared a national monument in Kenya. Located inside the Aberdare National Park the Kenya Wildlife Service is now set to create a path towards the tree so that visitors, both locals and from overseas, can reach the location and pay tribute at the site to the ingenuity developed by the Kenyan freedom fighters who prior to independence took on the might of the British colonial administration in their struggle for independence. Visitors presently need to walk a distance to the location with a guide but a motorable track is due to be opened soon to allow greater access to the site. KWS TO ‘TAG’ EASTERN BLACK RHINOS The Kenya Wildlife Service is currently embarking on a tagging and marking exercise of the eastern black rhino species, commencing in the Masai Mara game reserve. The marking will use a technique of making unique cuts in the animal’s ears, which allows trackers and rangers to identify the particular animal with greater ease when observing them in the wild. Electronic tags will also be fitted on the animals, an exercise partly funded by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which also assist the colleagues of KWS across the border in the Serengeti to learn more about the migratory patterns and range of the rhinos in the transboundary ecosystem. 50 years ago more than 60.000 eastern black rhinos roamed the African wilderness, a figure reduced to less than 4.300 at present, a clear signal for the challenges ahead for conservationists to preserve the species for future generations. On the occasion of the World Environment Day last Saturday KWS also released details on their work for other endangered species like the Roan antelope, the red colobus, cheetahs and Gravy zebras, amongst others, while a number of bird species were also singled out as being near extinction. Poaching continues to be the greatest danger wildlife managers are faced with but diseases like Anthrax have also decimated animal populations in the past and are suspected to be the main reason for the sharp fall in Gravy zebra numbers in the North of Kenya and neighbouring Ethiopia. MORE GREEN POWER GETS FINANCIAL NOD The planned wind power project in the Marsabit area of Kenya has just received a major ‘shot in the arm’ when the US based Exim Bank has confirmed that they have signed a loan agreement together with other financiers to make the new ‘green’ power plant of a projected 300 MW a reality by late 2012. The company is also said to put up a second solar powered plant of 50 MW nearby, which will add together with the planned Turkana wind power plant almost 700 MW into Kenya’s national grid, enough to cater for growth in electricity consumption by industry and domestic consumers, and leaving some to spare for bringing electricity into rural areas in order to reduce the consumption of firewood and charcoal – as long as the monthly bills are affordable for the rural folks. Construction of the required transmission lines is according to reports from Nairobi due to start already before the end of this year to be ready to ‘feed’ the newly generated electricity to the nation. The ‘green’ energy production will also improve on Kenya’s carbon footprint and assist in marketing the country as an ecofriendly tourism destination. Watch this space for further news updates as and when they become available. Tanzania News TANZANIA TOURIST BOARD SEEKS TO EXPLORE NEW NICHE MARKET It was learned last week that added efforts will be made by the TTB to promoting ‘Diaspora’ travel overseas amongst people of African descent, who have an interest to explore not only their own roots but generally get acquainted with the rich history of the African continent and its varied cultures. Remarks attributed to the Minister of Tourism who was speaking on the subject while on a tour upcountry, were also providing figures – which could not be independently confirmed before going to press – that the tourism sector in Tanzania contributed to over a quarter of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and contributed up to 17.5 percent of Gross National Product (GDP). The Tanzania Tourist Board, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and other governmental bodies, has for a while now been beefing up the access to and the appearances of monuments and ancient ruins, especially those related to the slave trade, but has also started to spruce up archaeological sites across the country, where visitors can learn about early mankind’s way of life. PEMBA ISLAND GETS ‘MAINS POWER’ The Indian Ocean island of Pemba off the Tanzanian mainland has last week been connected to the national power grid through an underwater cable – similar to the arrangement for Zanzibar – and the cost for hotels and resorts on the island to use power can now come down considerably. The general impact on the islands economy and households is thought to be immense and in particular the tourism industry now seems set to expand further and may in coming years see a boom of new resorts being opened up, now that affordable power is available. Zanzibar has become one of East Africa’s most sought after and ‘en vogue’ destinations, supported by a range of very posh and upmarket resorts, while ‘affordable’ accommodation however is also available for visitors on a budget. Pemba in turn has lagged behind these developments, a past trend most likely influenced by the need to run costly diesel generators for power generation, but with this disadvantage now removed the island can start to catch up with the more advanced neighbour and begin to sustainably exploit the dramatic beach and reef setting for tourism purposes. Watch this space. Rwanda News CONSERVATION CONFERENCE KICKS OF KWITA IZINA WEEK A biodiversity meeting, convened by the Rwandan government in conjunction with UNEP – the United National Environment Programme – took place last week in Kigali, bringing together a range of experts from the region and from around the globe. The UN is also celebrating the global World Environment Day in Rwanda this year under the theme: Many species, one planet, one future and speakers at the conference made repeated reference to this event, and the annual Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony which took place last Saturday in Kinigi at the foot of the famous volcanic mountains. Rwanda’s economy depends on tourism to the country, and past years have seen steady improvements in arrivals, longer stays and greater spending by visitors, all of whom come to enjoy the rich biodiversity of the ‘land of a thousand hills’. While gorilla tracking remains the number one touristic activity in the country, making the country visible around the globe and earning them award after award, the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation has been diversifying their product range and added new attractions in recent years, to widen the appeal for overseas visitors. Notably the MICE sector has excelled with new facilities being commissioned in past months and new projects now taking off, aimed at adding yet more conference and meeting facilities as well as more top of the range rooms in Kigali. Participants in the conference also participated in some field work when planting trees at a formerly degraded wetland area not far from Kigali, which is currently under restoration by the local community and government, having recognised the importance of intact wetlands as a source of water and key element for the local microclimates across the country. GORILLA REPORT RAISES QUESTIONS A report released by the American Journal for Primatology, coinciding with the Rwandan Kwita Izina celebrations and conservation conference in Kigali last week, was met with a degree of doubt and scepticism by both park management as well as the tourism trade. Some of the recommendations in particular caught the eye of experts, such as expansion of the ‘safe distance’ from presently about 7 metres to a staggering 18 metres, and for tourist visitors to be compelled to wear face masks to prevent transmission of communicable diseases to the gentle giants. Having tracked gorillas many times, this correspondent can tell from experience that seeing the animals from that distance would be ultimately more difficult, taking good pictures even more difficult and the entire fabric of gorilla tracking could change, unless solutions are discussed and permanent measures agreed between conservationists, park authorities and the tourism industry. It is however known that all three park management authorities spend considerable resources for the monitoring the habituated groups open for visits by tourists, collect added data from groups ‘set aside for research’ and from encounters by their wardens, rangers and trackers with groups not habituated at all, and that these data are shared and undergoing constant review to ensure that this precious resource can be sustained for good. Mountain gorillas are found in their natural habitat in Rwanda, the Congo DR and Uganda across the Virunga mountain range, and an estimated 800 or so of the animals live under close supervision and around the clock protection by rangers and trackers. Sections of the report also suggested that regular visits in close range by as many as 8 tourists – the limit imposed on group size in all three countries – was impacting on the social behaviour of the mountain gorillas, giving the national park managers in Rwanda, Congo DR and Uganda fodder for thought, when studying and discussing the findings of the study, comparing it with their own research results and observations and finding a way forward. Gorilla tracking is key to the tourism sectors in Rwanda and Uganda, while relatively few visitors are making their way across the borders into the Congo, which still suffers from the long fallout of civil war and insurgencies in precisely the area where the gorillas are found. Subsequent security concerns have kept larger numbers of visitors away from the Congolese park, and it is therefore often overland truck tours and back packers who do their tracking there when available permits in Uganda and Rwanda are sold out during the peak season. The most common crossing point for this activity is the border to the Congo near Kisoro, itself a spring board to the two nearby gorilla parks on Uganda soil. Uganda records the largest number of mountain gorillas in the two national parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga, with Rwanda a close second in terms of numbers found in the ‘Parc de Volcanoes’, while surveillance and counts in Congo DR have of late been stepped up to ascertain the exact number of the gorilla groups, and their respective family members, found there. On the occasion of the World Environment Day it was also once again stressed that the cooperation between the wildlife management organisations in the three countries sharing the Virunga range is on course and that a draft treaty has been worked out in a series of meetings, the latest in Kigali just a short while ago, which is being presented to the respective national governments for the process of ratification. The gorilla project secretariat is located in Kigali from where conservation, monitoring and research efforts are being coordinated and notably the secretariat is headed by Dr. Arthur Mugisha, who is a former Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and then Regional Director for Flora and Fauna International, before moving to Rwanda. RWANDA AND TANZANIA TO COOPERATE IN TOURISM During the just concluded Karibu Tourism Trade Fair in Arusha / Tanzania have the delegations of Rwanda and Tanzania met and commenced discussions towards a formal Memorandum of Understanding which will in the future guide the cooperation in tourism matters between the two countries. Both of the East African neighbours are gifted with many natural attractions, thought to complement each other rather than compete with each other, a good foundation for future cooperation on marketing the two destinations. Participating tour and safari operators from Rwanda welcomed the announcement as it will widen their own scope of putting attractive regional packages together for the benefit of their overseas clientele. RWANDAIR RECEIVES FIRST OF THEIR LEASED B737-500 Early this week did the first of two leased Boeing 737-500 models arrive to join the Rwandan national airline’s fleet, in a low key ceremony at the international airport in Kigali. The two aircraft are leased from GECAS, a leading aircraft leasing company, and will remain with RwandAir until their ordered B 737-800 new generation Boeings arrive next year. The second of these aircraft will join the fleet reportedly in August. The new aircraft will be deployed on the route to Johannesburg to meet increased demand for the duration of the FIFA World Cup but will also fly the newly established connection to Kinshasa in the Congo DR. Watch this space for updates in coming editions when RwandAir is expected to shed some more light on their planned route and network expansion ahead of the delivery of their second B737. Southern Sudan News NEW GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT DUE THIS WEEK Southern Sudanese president Gen. Salva Kiir has last Friday announced that the current caretaker government will be formally dissolved and that a new government, following elections last month, is due to be announced later in the week. Of particular interest to this correspondent will be the appointment of a Minister for Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, who will then head the semi autonomous’ territory efforts to restore national parks and attract tourist visitors until the independence referendum due in January next year. Watch this space. Seychelles News PLANTATION CLUB NO MORE The ‘Plantation Club’, which dates back some decades and once was a shining resort synonymous with the upswing of tourism to the archipelago, but then subsequently ‘sold’ on a government directive over two years ago to the disdain of many in the tourism industry who continue to think that this action overstepped the mark, was last week ‘razed’ to the ground to make way for new developments. Observers were quick to point out to this correspondent that contrary to common practice, which would include selling all movable and still usable items like equipment, machinery and furnishings, this was not done as even these items were condemned for destruction. Wrote one regular source: ‘Seychellois people could have bought some of this inventory. Normally there is an auction or people can make bids for one item or many. Much of what has been destroyed could have been still useful for others, who cannot afford new items. But maybe this was the last stroke of vengeance in dealing with the former owners who were dispossessed at the time to wipe them from memory. At least now things have changed in how government does things, but this will remain a black mark against our tourism industry private sector’. NEW BILATERAL AIR SERVICES AGREEMENT WITH INDIA IN THE MAKING Information received from Victoria / Mahe indicates that negotiations will commence later this week between the civil aviation authorities of the Seychelles and of India for a new bilateral air services agreement (BASA), paving the way to begin commercial air operations between the two countries. This follows hot on the heels of a state visit by Seychellois president James Michel to India during which he was accompanies by a business delegation. India has long standing trade links with the Seychelles and is also a member of the naval coalition patrolling and policing the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Seychelles has been at the forefront of combating ocean terrorism inflicted on the shipping trade by Somali pirates. Regular flights between India and the archipelago are thought to benefit business, trade as well as tourism and give the Seychelles greater exposure in the global market. WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY IN THE SEYCHELLES The UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Valle de Mai on the island of Praslin was the location where the country celebrated the global world environment day this year, highlighting the importance of biodiversity and recognising the contributions of tourism to the national economy in general and the contributions this park makes in particular to the work of the Seychelles Island Foundation as far out as the Alhambra atoll. It was learned over the weekend that visitors to the Vallee de Mai national park, home of the fabled ‘coco de mer’, were given commemorative calendars to remind them until next year’s celebrations of the need to maintain biodiversity and look after one’s environment. The Vallee de Mai is the most visited single attraction across the archipelago and nearly half of all visitors to the Seychelles take a day trip, some in fact staying for longer on Praslin, to see the forest, the ‘coco de mer’ and the birdlife found in this park. AND this week quite a bit of material from ‘down south’ in Zambia, provided courtesy of the indefatigable Gill Staden, who lives in Livingstone at the Victoria Falls. Especially enthralling is the story of the lion raid on a bush camp, a reminder of the ever present danger posed by wildlife when going ‘bush’ … more so for us old hands who continue to think that such is not happening to us, simply because we survived all sorts of wilderness encounters until this point … all the best for a speedy recovery to Andre Van Rooyen through this medium. Royal Chundu I was invited to see the completely rebuilt Royal Chundu Lodge near Livingstone. When the email came asking me to drive to the harbour, I was a bit confused – Royal Chundu, I thought, was on the mainland. Anyhow, I did as I was told and arrived, with a bit of help from a member of staff, at the waterlogged harbour car park. I left my car in the capable hands of the member of staff to be driven to a less waterlogged spot and then I boarded a boat. This is going to be fun, I thought … where on earth were we off to? I found out then that Royal Chundu has not only rebuilt the main lodge, but has built a brand new one on an island in the middle of the Zambezi River. The island lodge, where I was to stay, only has 4 luxury rooms so it is very exclusive. I was met on the jetty by Hugh and Bev, the owners, and taken to the main deck for afternoon tea and a chat. The deck is at the end of the island overlooking the river and the Matetsi Safari Area in Zimbabwe, so it is surrounded by bush and water. The island is one of many in this area and is normally edged by rapids. With the water being so high, the rapids had disappeared, instead we were surrounded by fast flowing Zambezi water, full of detritus from higher upstream – branches, reeds and lumps of papyrus. The river has been high this year and I could see where the water had reached into the lodge. Fortunately, the builders had been clever and all the decks and rooms were above the water level – some good planning went on there. But underneath many of the decks the water lapped against the foundations. I was then taken to my room … oh, my goodness me … it was lovely. No expense spared on the building or the interiors. The room opened all along the front to a deck over the river. I could spend a week here, I thought, just watching the world go by. We then went on a boat for a cruise along the river. This stretch of the river is very quiet. We saw one other boat from Matetsi Water Lodge in Zimbabwe; they were also enjoying this beautiful stretch of the river. It made me think how daft all these man-made borders are – it would have been so nice to go over to Matetsi and say hello … but we would have been breaking the law! When are we going to find a way of getting around this situation so that we can promote tourism between our two countries??? I digress … The Matetsi area is a safari area; it used to be for hunting but is now purely photographic. We had a chance of seeing quite a bit of game but the bush is still full of waterholes so there was no need for the animals to come down to the river to drink. We did see some impala, and there were plenty of hippo in the water. The sun set in truly African style in a ball of red fire. It dipped below the horizon and we watched the ‘after-sun’ colours of the sky. It was time to head back to the lodge before it was really dark. It was cold too … More next week … Ministry of Tourism During the week, a group of officials from the Ministry of Tourism took time out to come to Livingstone for a press briefing. I assume that they had other meetings because I can’t imagine that they came all this way to talk to the press. They brought along with them the trophies that had been won by Zambian companies at Indaba: Best Safari Guiding Team in Africa – Robin Pope. Norman Carr and Chiawa Camp were also finalists. Best Safari House in Africa – Luangwa House. Chongwe River House was also a finalist. Best New Safari Property in Africa – Toka Leya Camp (Wilderness Safaris) was a finalist Best Safari Accommodation Group in Africa – Robin Pope and Sanctuary Retreats were finalists Best Safari Property in Africa – Chiawa Camp, Chongwe River Camp, Sausage Tree Camp, Tafika Lodge, Tena Tena and Tongabezi were all finalists. They also told us about their European Roadshow when they had gone to London, Paris, Berlin and Madrid. They said that the trip was successful and they hoped now to undertake more roadshows to United States and South Africa. In order to encourage tourists to visit Zambia during the World Cup they had set up a stand at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg during the event. Destination Zambia. This book is a glossy production which gives contact details for the lodges in Zambia. It certainly is very stylish and is to be distributed through ZNTB outlets. Unfortunately, as was pointed out by one of the owners of Taita Falcon, their contact details were wrong in the book. And, having a quick glance through, I found another glaring error. That is the problem with the preparation of books – one has to have good editing. I am sure they will get it right, though. At question time, we gleaned the following information: The World Heritage Status for the Victoria Falls was ‘safe’ we were told because the rather overdue report had finally been submitted to UNESCO. Sichango Road was being looked into but we had to understand that these things take time (10 years?). The Livingstone-Zimba road should be finished by the next rainy season. Some of the Ministry officials had actually driven down to Livingstone (although some had also flown), and told us that only 42 km remained to be done. This confused me a bit because I had come down the road two weeks ago and there seemed to me that there was a lot more than 42 km to be completed … maybe some more had just been completed. Lochinvar National Park. I asked what was being done about the Park which was an absolute disgrace. They said that it was a ‘Birders Paradise’ and that they were sure ZAWA had it in hand. Actually, I don’t think they knew much about it. There is nowhere to stay in Lochinvar unless you take a tent and put it up in the bush so I am sure they hadn’t managed to visit it recently to see the problem for themselves. Protea in Lower Zambezi This has been circulated: A meeting was held on 20 May 2010 at Chiawa, called by the Lusaka Province Planning Authority apparently with the backing of the President’s office and involving the local Chieftainess, Environmental Council of Zambia, Ministry of Tourism, Environment and National Resources and the Zambia Tourist Board and of course Protea …Hotels. Local operators were invited and allowed to have their say but it was made very clear that despite what Protea Hotels had clearly stated previously the project has not been cancelled, only “temporarily withdrawn”. In fact they have every intention of proceeding and while they apparently said they were prepared to discuss size and design the location is non-negotiable. Lillian’s Lovebirds There is concern over the ‘disappearance of Lillian’s lovebirds from their normal range in Lower Zambezi. Emails are being sent around trying to establish what has happened: From Rod On the lovebird issue, 15 years ago I used to see flocks regularly near the confluence of the Mwambashi (Musangashi) River with the Zambezi but have not seen them here for at least ten years now. However on the brighter side I was at Ana Tree camp at the Mushika confluence where there is much more Mopani two days ago and the guide there (Wilfred) told me that he sees small flocks almost daily. I will try to spend some time down there and report back. From Grant This ties in with my own experiences. 10 years ago and back I used to see flocks coming off the ground etc on what we call “Escape” route – the area between Sausage Tree and Chif channel, but now nothing. However flocks are found regularly in the mopani woodland around Kulefu airstrip. If anyone has any other information on Lillian lovebird sightings please email Rory on: bedrockrory@gmail.com Turbo Charge Lion Attack at Tashinga – The Facts It was mid morning on a Sunday when the TurboCharge fleet of sixteen boats arrived at the Tashinga National Park at the mouth of the Ume River. We were greeted by the sight of a magnificent bull elephant in the camp calmly feeding himself. Our first mooring spot was too exposed to potential weather so we moved around the corner into a bay where the sight of previously buried garbage floating on the bank was very off putting. The water had come up to such a high level that previous garbage pits were now under water. Within minutes a gang of Turbochargers were collecting the rubbish and storing it in dustbin bags. There was no sign of any other people. We relaxed and marvelled at the tranquillity of the place and of how wonderful the campsite must have been in its day. There were ablution blocks that were still working and were clean and there were various campsites within the area. After a few hours of entertaining ourselves three of us decided to set out on foot and try and find some national parks staff. From the camp to the offices is about a kilometre and a half. Walking the road without protection makes the road seem a lot longer. Very fresh tracks are everywhere. You enter the Parks offices via the workshops where various recent model 4×4 ‘s are in various states of disrepair. One cruiser was parked against a rock and we assume this means it was a runner. At the office we found the Wildlife Manager who offered to send the camp supervisor down to the camp and book us in. We specifically asked him if there were any ‘problem’ animals that we should be concerned about and were assured that there was nothing to worry about. We returned to camp via the same road, not as worried about animals as before. The camp supervisor duly arrived in his Sunday clothes and took our order for firewood. The boilers were lit and everyone was into the showers quickly. We had permission to have one big bonfire in a central place and we collected a big tree to help. During the rest of the afternoon some guys went off fishing, some played scrabble and some even had a few beers. Firewood arrived and the four cooking teams started preparations for the evening meal. The sunset was as spectacular as one could wish for. It is beyond my command of the English language to describe the colours of red and pink that were exploding out of the clouds. A Parks member arrived with a weapon stating that he was here to protect us and could he also have a drink pointing to the beer in my hand. Beer denied! It was Andre Van Rooyen and Rich Elman Brown’s turn to cook and it was a superb meal. We all ate well and there was enough left over for breakfast. We adjourned to the big bonfire. The other cooking teams had cooked on the highest part of the camp site and had had a good loud party. Slowly but surely everyone either gravitated towards the fire or to bed. It was in the back of everyone’s mind that we were in a wild habitat and that the fast rising lake was restricting the open ground that normally surrounded the camp. Cooking areas were packed up well and the thought of hyenas was never far away. The various campsites consisted generally of one or two asbestos ‘A Frame’ huts and a concrete slab. Four people could sleep in or on each. Eight guys chose to occupy the site closest to the water. This had two ‘A Frames’ and a slab, all within touching distance of each other. One even had a back wall. At about midnight there were four of us left at the fire. All the sites had people sleeping in them and all were within a forty meter radius. Mike and I decided to call it a night and grabbed our bed packs and toured the area. Our first choice was the camp by the water but we felt it was too crowded. The moon was as bright as daylight and we wandered from spot to spot before returning to the fire to join Bruce and Justin. Just before four o’clock in the morning an elephant broke down a tree. In the still of the night it sounded very close and the majority of the camp was instantly awake. Down at the crowded camp close to the water, Dave and Rich turned on some music and chatted. Andre was in the next hut less than one meter away. Ben was at his boat having a cigarette on his own. Lance got out of bed to relieve his bladder shining his hunting torch at his target but not into the close bush. Unbeknown to an of them, a lioness and her three adult cubs had crawled down the thick bush line and were just meters away. The bright moon had just dropped below the horizon and the night was at its darkest. Andre was asleep with his head against the back wall of the ‘A Frame’. He felt a weight on his body and in his slumber thought he was at home and that his dog had climbed on his bed. He rolled over to tell his dog off when he saw the lion open her mouth and close it on his head. H started shouting. Andre is a big man of about 100kgs. The lioness slapped him through his air mattress and then proceeded to slap his body against the roof of the hut two or three times with his head in her mouth. Andre was convinced she was going to break his neck. Unable to break his neck in the confined space she then dragged him off still holding his head in her mouth. Lance Nesbitt was the first hero. Still getting into his sleeping bag less than four meters away he heard Andre scream and immediately knew what was happening and what to do. His torch was still in hand and he shone it straight at the retreating lioness who was already two meters away from the ‘A frame’ next to an anthill. By advancing and shining his torch on the lioness and screaming at the top of his voice, he stopped the lioness. When Lance was joined spontaneously by Dean Kendall and Bobo Gibbons, also with torches and loud voices, she dropped Andre and grudgingly walked away a meter before stopping and turning back. Very nearby were her three almost full grown cubs. Had she dragged Andre one or two meters closer to the others, the situation might have been far more serious. The brave screaming and cussing from Lance, Bobo and Dean was joined by more voices and more screaming. The four lions reluctantly retreated another ten meters and then squatted down in the light bush. I had grabbed my air horn from the boat. The combination of this unfamiliar very loud noise and many torches and advancing, shouting humans encouraged the four lions to wander off. They were in no hurry and on their way towards the thick bush they walked within ten meters of John and Alex Lucas who were sleeping in the most isolated of the ‘A Frames’. Their father, Lex, was shouting for his boys but they did not want to shout back in case it attracted any attention from the lions. When we thought the lions had gone Dean stated that we were very lucky that it was only an hour and a half to daybreak and that it would be very unlikely that the lions would return. It has taken me longer to write the account of the incident than the actual time this part of the attack and rescue took. When I got to Andre he had crawled back the two meters to the ‘A Frame’ and was vomiting. His face was a mess but the bleeding was not extensive. At this point there was every reason to panic but the most amazing scene unfolded. First aid kits came out of most boats. Andre was made comfortable. Hugh Roberts calmly asserted control and administered a drip. Alex Lucas sat with Andre and monitored his shock. Hugh assessed the damage and cleaned up the wounds as best he could. Andre remained conscious throughout but did not talk much. Those who could not help congregated to the big fire and a head count was taken. Rich found Andre’s medical aid card and on one particular spot at Tashinga, Jeff managed to use his South African phone to get a signal from Zambia and phone for rescue. It is an extremely anxious time trying to explain to someone in Harare at four thirty in the morning where Tashinga is and the state of the emergency. It was Hugh Roberts’ calming influence that prevented emotions running high. It was agreed to casavac Andre at first light to Bumi Hills which was only twenty minutes away by boat. Radio communications were limited but we thought that Bumi were aware of our forthcoming arrival. Later I was told that one of the boats had managed to get hold of the Tashinga Parks (two kilometres away) who said they would send an e-mail to Bumi! We prepared my boat for the trip but just before we were going to move Andre, I asked for another boat as it was not safe to go in only one. Arthur had his ready in seconds and it was decided his decking was more suitable to carry Andre. Five hundred meters off shore, Arthur’s boat stopped. He quickly corrected a loose fuel connection and it gave us the opportunity to imagine how badly things could go wrong if the rescue boat had been on its own and had broken down. At Bumi I was blowing my air horn as we entered the harbour and a manager (Ian Smith) saw through his binoculars a drip being held up in the boat and knew there was an emergency. Bumi was not expecting us. Mike and Jeff decided to run up to the hotel and were met by a vehicle near the top. Lying in the boat, Andre was shivering from shock but the early morning sun was beginning to rise. With his head covered in bandages, he calmly and bravely stated ‘ I cannot see and I cannot feel my feet and that disturbs me’. A true masterpiece of understatement for us. The staff at Bumi were magnificent. We loaded Andre onto a cruiser and took him straight to the airstrip. There we tried to make Andre as comfortable as possible. Anticipating a two hour wait, there was not much we could do. Hugh Roberts changed the dressing and eventually the drip. Andre was in a great deal of pain and Mike, Jeff, Arthur, Rich and I took it in turns to care for him – all under the calm leadership of Hugh Roberts. We had a chance to check Andre’s back. Where the lioness had slapped him through his air mattress was an intense bruise in the almost perfect shape of a lion’s paw. The mattress had merely prevented her claws from ripping into Andre’s flesh. Waiting for the plane was very difficult. We later learned that it had spent nearly half an hour on the runway in Harare waiting for clearance. On hearing the plane, the Bumi staff quickly drove up and down the runway to clear the many animals. The very impressive MARS air rescue ambulance taxied close to us and the professionals took over. Andre was carried on the mattress to the plane where he got out and walked. At the last minute he suddenly refused to get into the plane but there were enough of us to get him those last few meters. It took the doctor and nurse about half an hour to stabilise him and prepare him for take-off. The plane took off and Andre was in safe hands. There was nothing more we could do. Hugh Roberts could sigh and rest against the vehicle. I wanted to sit in a corner and cry. We are told that Andre was suggesting to the pilot how he should be flying the plane – the morphine had obviously kicked in! Family and friends were waiting for him in Bulawayo. From being attacked by a lion at the remoteness of the Ume river to being hospitalised in Bulawayo in less than eight hours is praiseworthy and we need to thank all medical staff and pilots involved. We went up to the hotel to make some phone calls and then returned to the fleet. Some National Parks staff had wandered down mid morning stating that they had heard the noise and was there anything they could do? Had I been there my reply would not have been polite. Andre is currently in hospital in Johannesburg. Sadly he has lost his left eye but his life is no longer in danger. His wife Clare is with him whilst their three sons remain in Bulawayo to get on with their schooling. Friends have been amazing in their support for the family. Our most grateful thanks and respect to the heroes who chased off the lions and those who rescued Andre afterwards. To Andre, we wish you a complete and speedy recovery. We salute your bravery. Rob Nixon