Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, Second edition November2010

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Second edition November 2010


Uganda News


Information came into the public domain over the weekend that UWA has yielded to long lasting pressure on their decision to permit sports hunting in Uganda, a very controversial subject amongst the conservation fraternity in the country. A pilot project, introduced several years ago outside the Lake Mburo National Park, was arguably never discussed with stakeholders in the open public domain, and while noises were made in the past that ‘consultations were held’ this was neither substantiated by providing meeting records and participant lists nor in fact known about by many of the concerned partners of UWA in the private sector.

Opponents of hunting have long demanded that first a full stock taking ought to be undertaken, to establish the game numbers across the country and provide acceptable data on what game, if any, can be hunted. Calls for stricter sanctions too were repeatedly made in public, especially when it became known that hunting trip promoters had included the endangered Sitatunga gazelle in their brochures and adverts, inspite of this particular wetland gazelle being on the CITES annex.

UWA, now leaderless – see related articles – has at last owned up to the need to carry out a game count and survey, admitting that concerns have existed all along over the sustainability of hunting in view of reducing game numbers in some parts of the country both outside and inside protected areas.

Other shortfalls often cited but equally often ignored were the lack of a strong regulatory regime, alleged legal loopholes and the alleged absence of constant monitoring of what was going on in ‘hunting areas and concessions’, which often left the hunting companies to do what they liked without ever being cited, warned or stopped from any activities which were not in line with other existing laws and regulations. A regular source at UWA was not willing to discuss legal or financial implications of the decision and only conceded under the cover of anonymity that discussions with the hunting companies were ‘ongoing’ and aimed to ‘find a resolution in the best interest of wildlife conservation’.

Conserving for Generations – after all this is the slogan of UWA and should be first and foremost on the mind of the authority’s decision makers, ALWAYS.


Tell tale signs emerged last weekend when Warid Telecom opened the door to further tariff cuts, having initiated the current price wars with their 5/- Uganda Shillings offer some weeks ago, before Celtel / Zain then pulled one over the entire industry by aggressively promoting a 3/- Uganda Shillings tariff per second, something most other operators now followed. However, across the border in Kenya the lowest call rate is standing at about the equivalent of 81/- Uganda Shillings at present, leaving considerable room for yet more marketing stunts – all expected to kick in when Celtel / Zain rebrands to Bharti Airtel in due course.

Meanwhile has the Uganda Shillings fallen to a low of 2.300 Uganda Shillings versus one US Dollar, before the Bank of Uganda briefly intervened last week to halt a more rapid slide of the local currency. However, the continued weakness of the US Dollar, attributed in part to repatriation of financial investments ahead of the February 2011 elections, will also impact on the cost of fuels. While the prices per litre of petrol have come down for an average high of 3.500 Uganda Shillings a few weeks ago to just over 3.050 Shillings in average, this is expected to reverse again in coming weeks should the international spot market price for crude oil remain high and the shilling slide further.

International airlines flying to Entebbe have also given ‘early warning’ that their fuel surcharges will be reviewed upwards as a result of persistently high crude oil prices, which means that the ‘net fares’ advertised by airlines will see yet higher ‘add ons’ again and some intending travellers from Uganda to foreign lands will have to dig deeper in their pockets to find enough Shillings to pay for this all.

That all said, the higher ‘yield’ for their hard currency Dollars and Euros will keep the ‘on site costs’ for visiting tourist in check, something which should benefit and encourage greater spending in the destination. Watch this space.



The High Court has last weekend ruled in favour of a suit brought by the UWA Executive Director Mr. Moses Mapesa, and his co-plaintiffs, and ordered that the Board of the Uganda Wildlife Authority was illegally constituted, as alleged by Mapesa and his ‘fellow sufferers’ and wider sections from stakeholders and the public at large.

Those taken to court were, besides government in general (the Attorney General is always the first respondent in suits against government or its institutions), also the Minister in particular and the named five board members as co-respondents, namely Mr. Boysier Muballe (Chairperson), Jacob Oulanyah, Tibasiima Ruranga, Gloria Androa and Masokoyi Wasswa.

In the ruling court said it was ‘plain that the appointment is tainted with illegality’, confirming what critics of the minister’s action and the overwhelming majority of conservationists, NGO’s, tourism stakeholders and observers have said all along. While the option for an appeal exist, loud counsel has already been given in the media to accept the ruling and that the minister now appoint a new board of trustees for UWA, in line with the relevant qualifications and background demanded by the Wildlife Act.

The same sentiments were also expressed last week by the parliamentary committee on tourism, which equally blasted the minister and the, now surely former chairman of UWA for their ridiculous actions, including wild threats of suing by the latter. Muballe became swiftly notorious in conservation circles when he demanded a multiplying of his emoluments as chairperson, and when blocked by the UWA management ran to the minister for redress. It is understood from sources close to UWA that the sitting allowances for the chairperson, and his cronies on the board, have in past months dug deep into the cash flow of the organization, redirecting funds meant for conservation to be spent on luxurious allowances of all sorts and shapes, inspite of denials by the former chairperson that he was not after the money. In addition the former chairperson regularly caused laughter for parting with Latin proverbs aimed as verbal missiles against his perceived enemies, tempting this correspondent to retort, following the court ruling: ‘Quod Erat Demonstrandum’.

Both gentlemen, minister and former chairperson, now have the proverbial egg all over their faces and the minister’s woes have just worsened, after being beaten into a distant second in the recent NRM party elections in his quest for the post of party secretary general, following which he went as far as threatening to leave the ruling party. Watch this space and in the meantime read the latest comments from the Uganda media via



Members of the parliamentary committee on tourism, trade and industry have taken aim at the minister, and by proxy at the chairman of UWA, over the so called ‘forensic audit report’ hastily concocted by Ernest & Young. The MP’s took exception to the fact that a private audit firm was contracted by the board, reportedly in conflict with relevant legislation governing procurement, while pointing out that it was the Auditor General’s office which was to conduct audits of public institutions. Several MP’s were also quoted with comments over throwing the report out altogether, while the media quoted some of them as claiming the sweeping sackings of senior management of UWA was part of a wider scheme to ‘swindle’ the organisation.

MP’s also reportedly dismissed the ‘probe committee’ instituted by the tourism minister, with one member of the committee under assurance of anonymity telling this correspondent it was a ‘Kangaroo court put in place for a pre-determined outcome’. Immediate former board chairman and respected senior member of the legal fraternity Andrew Kasirye also appeared before the committee to give his testimony while several of the ‘sacked management’ team were also called into attendance to answer questions of MP’s.

Read more about his unsavoury saga via this link:



Selling like hot cakes comes to mind when hearing the success story of incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s campaign song, released just ahead of the main election campaign kicking off.

Celtel / Zain and soon to be Bharti Airtel were first out of the starting blocks in securing the ‘rights’ of the song and then offering it as a ring tone, which NRM supporters can download to their phones, and enjoy the tunes – while annoying supporters of other candidates nearby – whenever their phone rings. That not being enough, FM stations across the country too are airing the song repeatedly every day on their programmes and it is understood that even in night clubs and discos ‘Another Rap’ is getting the crowds into wild dance moves, to the delight of the NRM party strategists and the dismay of the opposition.

Splendid election gimmick and for sure the other parties will now scratch their heads, considering that the ring tone is being downloaded at record pace across the country, just as soon as the news broke on Sunday morning. Well done Mzee!



Last week also saw the law passed in parliament which will allow the central government to take over the capital city and hopefully bring an end to the shambolic services the city fathers provided to long suffering citizens. It is understood though that the inclusion into the new metropolitan area of the Entebbe and Mukono corridors has been taken out of the final bill, and that and elected Mayor and councillors will also be retained. Kampaleans are now awaiting the consent signature of the president and will then look forward to seeing potholes being fixed and rubbish being collected on a regular basis from across the city, while also hoping for better related services like clinics and health centres.

Only over the weekend did upset residents put up banana plants in ‘mega potholes’ signalling their distaste with the city administration and making a very public gesture to the new ‘masters’ coming to the city of what is expected of them

What was however retained is the creation of a metropolitan planning authority which will jointly plan and likely oversee the execution of physical and traffic features including the Entebbe to Kampala and the Kampala to Mukono corridors, in order to provide long term solutions and improvements to an area now home to as many as 4+ million people.



It was ascertained last week that under the new winter schedule just in effect Fly 540 will now operate 12 weekly flights between Entebbe and Nairobi, with Tuesday and Sunday having one flight each, subject to an early review in accordance with demand, while on all other days there will be both an early morning and late evening flight operated between Entebbe and Nairobi.

All flights will be using the airline’s CRJ200 aircraft, which has the fastest flying time between the two cities.

In a related development it was also learned that many of the ATR aircraft previously operated in Kenya and across the Eastern African skies have now been relocated to the ‘new’ Fly 540 countries in Southern and Western Africa, where they will form the fleet backbone for the time being, while in Eastern Africa, likely caused by increasing competitive pressure, the CRJ’s will be the ‘workhorse aircraft’, supplemented where needed by Bombardier Dash 8’s and B1900’s. And when I say watch this space it is not an empty phrase as it is here that you can read the most up to date news from the Eastern African aviation scene.



The Kampala office of THY has confirmed that the airline has now launched nonstop flights from Istanbul to Washington DC, with convenient connections for travellers from Uganda, and in fact from the other East African destinations like Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. While presently only 4 frequencies per week are operated, this will be rising to daily flights once more of the expected B777 aircraft are delivered to Turkish.

At the same time the source also informed that the airline will serve New York during the next summer schedule with double daily flights while they will increase flights to Los Angeles and Chicago to daily departures. Several other US destinations are in the final stages of planning and details would be release in due course when relevant announcements could be made.

Some of the more established airlines, in particular those not yet flying daily to Entebbe (after being asked by travel agents, travellers and government for years to introduce more flights), have in the meantime and ‘off the record’ expressed their concerns over the fares THY was offering across the East African markets, claiming such levels could not be viable in the longer term, although several of the ‘complainants’ had also indicated they would match the fares in order to protect their own market share. Information received from THY however tells a different story, as the airline claims to have a substantially lower cost base in Turkey compared to other ‘more established’ airlines, and that this cost advantage is being passed on to their customers.

Tourism stakeholders meanwhile expressed their satisfaction that the ‘new airlines’ coming to Entebbe were offering attractive fares for visitor flying to Uganda and one regular source said: ‘if they offer good service and affordable fares they can find new traffic for Uganda, people who would not otherwise have considered visiting us here because of the high cost of air fares by established airlines. Therefore we are happy to see such new airlines bringing more tourists from their own sales and marketing efforts. We believe there can be a growing market out there for us in Uganda, and if Kenya can establish a new arrival record this year, so should we. All we have to do is stop this eternal bickering and politicking, have government give our tourist board enough funds and we can work hand in hand with such partners to promote the ‘Pearl of Africa’ as good as we can’.


Kenya News


This year’s 31st edition of the World Travel Market in London has welcomed the largest ever Kenyan business delegation to the tourism trade fair where a new stand and renewed focus on the country’s varied attractions has been boosted by the best ever arrival and revenue figures in the country’s history.

2010 is expected to break all previous records handsomely and for 2011 first talk has began to emerge of the urgent need to open new air routes and increase frequencies and where possible aircraft sizes on routes with already heavy traffic, in order to satisfy the expected rise in demand of East Africa’s leading tourism destination. This applies in particular to the new and emerging destinations in the former Eastern Bloc and the Far and South East, where in particular more direct flights from India and China could bring more visitors to Kenya and the rest of East Africa. Kenya Airways is now flying daily with B777 aircraft to China but is restricted in flying to more Chinese airports by the lack of equipment, caused by the extraordinary delay in deliveries of the ordered B787, leaving airline executives strategizing with increase urgency of how to address this situation.

It is also expected that potential investors in the hotel, lodge and resort sector will be trekking to Kenya in coming weeks, with the added interest spurred by reports that shortages of accommodation, over the traditional peak season but also for much of the rest of the year, may need to be addressed, again to cater for the expected larger number of visitors to Kenya’s beaches, safari parks, the capital city for conferences and meetings and the hitherto undiscovered parts of the country. The ‘MICE’ market for in particular Nairobi has grown in leaps and bounds in recent months and more city hotels are expected to open in 2011, but at the same time many parts of Western and Northern Kenya still are short of quality accommodation which is a prerequisite in attracting tourists into those parts of the country.



November 27th was set aside for one of the very rare occasions, when the world famous Treetops – immortalised by then Princess Elizabeth climbing up for a night of game viewing and coming down as Queen, after her father passed away that night – will allow children on to the premises. Normally kids are ‘banned’ to ensure absolute quiet for the visitors, who sit perched up high up and enjoy a parade of forest animals come by the watering hole and salt lick at night under flood light, yet bolting off from the slightest of noises made on the viewing terraces above them.

However, every once in a while does Treetops open up for a ‘family night’ visit and the 27th of November is likely to be sold out quickly, since such special treats are much in demand amongst Kenyan expatriates and local families. Treetops is owned and managed by Aberdare Hotels, which also owns the Outspan – Treetops’ base hotel in Nyeri / Central Kenya – and the Shimba Hills Lodge in Kwale District at the Kenyan coast.



Information from Fly540 in Kenya has drawn attention to the new winter schedule, effective from 05th November until initially 31st March 2011. Slight changes of flying times have been observed, arguably due to the change of aircraft from turboprop to jet on some routes, while frequencies and traffic days too underwent some revisions. Visit for more information about the destinations and fares of East Africa’s first true low cost airline.

Meanwhile it was also announced, that the airline will be adding daily flights between Nairobi and Ukunda / Diani Beach, south of Mombasa, following the likes of SafariLink and Air Kenya, which have been operating two flights a day each, following risen demand for non-stop flights to the ‘South Coast’, avoiding the hassle of road transfers and having to cross the notoriously unreliable Likoni ferry. Fly 540 will use one of their Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft for the operation, which is capable at landing on the Ukunda airfield.

Subsequently it was also learned that following the introduction of direct flights from Nairobi to the South Coast more and more visitors from upcountry are now booking hotels and resorts along the beaches south of Mombasa to the delight of hotel operators, being able at last to avoid the problematic ferry crossing and drive through the Mombasa city centre from the Moi International Airport in Mombasa, all carving out hours from the ‘beach time’.

Fly 540 will be the first airline offering scheduled flights between Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the Ukunda airfield – the two other airlines mentioned fly out of Wilson Airport – and launch fares and departure / arrival times are due to be announced shortly.



One of Kenya’s major private airlines, Jetlink, in the news last week for commencing daily flights between Nairobi and Tanzania’s lakeside municipality Mwanza – via Kisumu – is reportedly spreading their wings even further now. Information was received that the airline has filed for traffic rights with Eritrea for nonstop flights between Nairobi and Asmara. The airline already flies double daily into Juba with some flights going on to Khartoum, and indications are that Dar es Salaam too may be a destination to be added in the region.

Within Kenya Jetlink serves Mombasa as many as six times a day while also flying to Eldoret and Kisumu. The airline however was not commenting about speculations over the imminent arrival of yet another CRJ aircraft to join their fleet before the end of November.



Information received last week from Nairobi speaks of a 67 percent profit rise of the Kenyan flag carrier for the first half of this financial year, indicating a firm return to pre global economic and financial crisis days. Much of the better financial performance, compared to last year, is attributed to higher load factors, especially in the network across Africa, where KQ is presently the leading airline in Africa, albeit by the narrowest of margins, when it comes to connecting the continent out of their Nairobi hub. Sharply risen overhead however prevented a fuller financial impact as overheads have substantially risen over the past years as a result of higher – and arguably still rising – staff cost.

In December the airline will add Rome back to their network and subsequently also offer connecting flights to Malindi again and more destinations are reportedly being finalised and should be announced soon.

The decision making process about the pending fleet upgrade and renewal is also nearing its end it was learned from the same source and a tight vote on the board is expected opt for either the Airbus A330 – potentially opening the door to a later decision for the A350 – or else seek substantive concessions from Boeing to try and recover the higher operating costs of the airline’s B767. Those aircraft were due to be substituted with a large order of B787, but the extraordinary delays in getting this aircraft into the skies and into production have delayed Kenya Airway’s fleet renewal plans. Watch this space to find out first when KQ has decided on Airbus versus Boeing.


Tanzania News


Information last weekend described a worrying trend of a looming fuel shortage in Tanzania, due to few new supplies being landed and processed in Dar es Salaam’s port. Like in other Eastern African countries the procurement of fuel was recently reviewed and led to more or less avoidable shortages, as companies tried to adjust to the new rules and regulations.

Other sources however also confirmed that fresh supplies were being offloaded from early this week with priority, which included measures to halt for the time being the discharge of edible oils, until the domestic fuel market had enough supplies again to keep traffic flowing.

The development was still watched with some incredulity though by observers in Kenya where the oil sector underwent similar problems in recent weeks as no lessons were apparently learned when implementing the new measures. Watch this space.

Rwanda News


Reports were received that about 150 personnel underwent a three week intensive training course in Kigali and graduated earlier in the week, after learning new details about aviation security, including passenger and cargo screening procedures. The session was financially supported by the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, the Rwanda Development Board, the Department for Immigration and other partners from the private sector.

Amongst the topics taught were also customer care and relations, but also up to date details on relevant legislation and regulations covering importation of goods, duty free allowances, prohibited imports as well as methods to detect falsified and forged travel documents.

All graduates were immediately deployed back to their respective positions in airport security, customs, immigration and other jobs at the international airport and visitors to the ‘land of a thousand hills’ can look forward to a yet more professional and friendly welcome on arrival and processing on departure.


Congo News


The head of the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature, Mr. Cosmas Wilungula, last week tried to put a brave face to growing pressure on the Congolese government and park authorities over reports that indeed the Northern White rhino species has been wiped out.

The last free roaming herd of this subspecies was located in the Garamba national park in the East of the country, bordering the Southern Sudan. Rescue efforts, with aircraft engines literally ready to spool up, were halted when the then Congolese minister in charge of the wildlife sector suddenly and inexplicable decided that the Congo was able to look after the animals and protect them, forcing international NGO’s to abort their planned capture and relocation to Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy at the time.

Not much later was the park taken over by Ugandan rebels, pushed out of Northern Uganda, and then the Southern Sudan, by coordinated efforts between the UPDF and the SPLA. Those rebels, left for long untouched by inept and corrupt Congolese officials and military, are alleged to have slaughtered elephant and the Northern White rhinos to sell the trophies in order to purchase supplies.

The Ugandan armed forces eventually, in a cross border operation, drove the rebels out of their stronghold in Congo too, but since then all efforts to find signs of surviving Northern White’s have failed on the ground and from the air.

Mr. Cosmas Wilungula during a press statement last week finally made a public appearance over the ‘missing’ Northern White’s, predictably denying that the subspecies has been wiped out and trying to reassure the global conservation fraternity that ‘the animal species is no longer visible, but the search for them is scheduled to begin soon and end in the course of this year’.

Ardent critics of Congo’s conservation commitment and administration immediately retorted in various media asking what he hoped to achieve in the few remaining weeks of the year, why the search then had not started long ago and what evidence there was, if any at all, to suggest that these rare rhinos would still be alive, but no answers have been received to that effect.

Incidentally, all efforts over the past two years to spot the Northern White rhino, or any other rhino form the air has failed to produce results and feedback from the ground of individuals and groups visiting the area also reported no sightings, spoors or other signs of the near extinct species. Congo oh Congo!


Seychelles News


The authorities on Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles, have reacted swiftly when information was leaked to them that the Coral Strand Hotel, already under the spotlight over persistent reports of poor performance, was in violation of environmental regulations and causing ocean water pollution.

Officers were dispatched from a variety of government bodies to ascertain the situation before then citing the hotel management for their irresponsible behaviour.

It was also learned that in case of any repeat of causing water pollution the hotel may be taken to court and / or their operating licenses withdrawn until full compliance with environmental guidelines, regulations and laws can be guaranteed. Well done to the watchdogs ensuring to keep the archipelago ‘green’.

In a related development it was also confirmed that the government is continuing to encourage hotels to install desalination plants to produce their own potable water and it is understood that financial incentives for such investments are being considered.



Following the announcement that the third flight to the UK, which due to lack of slots was forced to use London Gatwick instead of London Heathrow, thereby increasing operational costs and made marketing more challenging, was being scrapped effective mid February 2011 – Air Seychelles is awaiting the allocation of a third weekly Heathrow slot to resume the added UK flight at some time in the future – the airline reacted swiftly to address concerns about capacity on flights to the United Kingdom.

The ‘through’ flights which presently route via Italy, will according to sources in Mahe be given extra seats for the final destination UK, while more capacity will also be offered for the Italian destinations of Rome and Milan, likely through an added Monday flight routing Mahe – Rome FCO – Milan – Rome FCO – Mahe.

The UK, as is France and Italy, are key producer markets for the Seychelles tourism industry and the presence of Air Seychelles with non-stop and direct flights to Rome, Milan, Paris and London are considered to be inextricably linked to the success of the archipelago to not just maintain arrivals from these countries but in fact expand market share some more. Watch this space.



Air Seychelles’ planned inaugural flight to Chennai, en route to Singapore, was delayed until further notice, when it emerged that the airline had not been given traffic rights in time.

Although the application, according to reliable sources in Mahe, was filed 100 days in advance – instead of the mandatory 60 days – and staff and local contacts in India were relentlessly chasing the application’s progress in the weeks leading up to the 01st of November, the approvals did not come forth.

Suggestions have promptly circulated in aviation circles that rival airlines were trying to use their influence, with other suggestions not being so ‘innocent’, said to be worried over or opposed to Air Seychelles’ code share arrangements with another Indian carrier, which would boost ‘new routes’ for both of them beyond Chennai and Mahe.

It was learned that diplomatic pressure is now being exerted on India by the Seychelles to approve the flight immediately under the bilateral air services agreement or else risk a fall out on the otherwise cordial and friendly relations between the two countries. It was also learned that no stone will be left unturned to establish who was individually and / or collectively responsible for the delay of formally granting traffic rights at the Indian government department and what inducements if any might have ‘led to the decision being held back’.



And in closing today some information taken from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ – always acknowledge with many thanks:

From Kanga Bush Camp, Mana Pools

Kanga was opened to the public early this year after we had completed building the camp in March. I have had the privilege of working at Kanga from the early stages. The area tends to grow on one; the surrounding bush is extremely thick, especially at the end of the rainy season. …

Speaking of predators let’s not forget Africa’s Painted Dog they have killed twice in the pan itself in the last two weeks, both times they killed Impala (no wonder they are referred to as Africa’s Mac Donald’s!). Leopard use the pan as a territorial boundary, I have seen 3 different Leopards here from the comfort of the lounge deck no less, Hyena serenade you to sleep along with the muted, rumbling roar of lion. …

There are many things that will probably stick in my mind more than anything else so far from this season; the amazing bird life, a herd of 300 + buffalo moving into the pan bathed in the moonlight, when I checked in the morning they had drunk such a lot that the pan had visibly lost water! A female Leopard hunting along the pan edge and the tangible fear in the pan’s inhabitants as they bolted away. Walking into a pride of lions, realizing that there were more than I first thought, I moved towards a fallen tree only to have a female lion fall out of it, I do not know who’s dignity was more hurt, the lion’s or mine! .Of course let’s not forget seeing the thirteen dogs that are now regular visitors. As the game has settled down and accepted us as permanent partners, each day holds its new wonders.


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