TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions
By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Third edition November 2010
IDD MUBARAK TO ALL THE MUSLIM FAITHFUL ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO PERFORMED THE HAJ PILGRIMAGE THIS YEAR
THE CHANDLERS ARE HOME – TIME TO END THIS MENACE ‘FROM HELL’ The Chandler couple, abducted by Somali ocean terrorists well over a year ago off their yacht in international waters, incidentally with a UK naval unit passively standing by and watching the capture, have finally been freed last weekend and since returned via Nairobi / Kenya to the UK. Their yearlong ordeal came to an end after reportedly ransom was paid through intermediaries, as neither special forces units nor the Somali government and local authorities were able to get them out of the hell hole Somalia has become over the years. While this troubling episode is now finally over with the safe return home of the Chandlers, the threat on the ocean off the Horn of Africa continues and has in fact spread and only recently was a record ransom paid to the ocean terrorists to free another ship, only encouraging them to try it again and again. Presently over 500 crew members of the 23 vessels known of to be still held are at the mercy of the terrorists, held in atrocious conditions often with water, food and medical supplies at the verge of running out. Meanwhile has Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni once again called for more troops to be injected into Somalia, saying what is long now an open ‘secret’ and has been repeatedly stated here too – it will have to be troops on the ground ending the insurgency and keeping Al Qaida out of Somalia and not naval forces. Uganda presently has already thousands of troops in Somalia under an African Union ‘peace keeping force’, a gross misnomer as there is no peace to keep at right now in Somalia, necessitating a bold change of the troop’s mission mandate and their rules of engagement. For months now have calls been made unsuccessfully to impose a complete sea and air embargo on Somalia’s lawless territory, and then robustly take down the pirate infrastructure on land, denying them access to the sea while effectively shutting down their retreats and safe havens on shore. It is a known fact that some of the ransom money has found its way into the Somali offspring of Al Qaida, Al Shabah, and there are more and more indications that there is a regular and increasing flow of those Islamic militants and terrorists between Yemen, located only a couple of miles across the narrow sea strait from Somalia. The latter is of course a failed state since the early 1990’s and has become a conducive breeding, training and assembly point for internationally wanted terrorists from where they plan and instigate acts of terror against the rest of the world. The freeing of the Chandlers should be a final wake up call to members of the naval coalition, which undoubtedly has done much good so far but not delivered safe passage to ocean traffic, to review their own commitments to the overall mission, and join Ugandan and Burundian troops on the ground to cleanse the country from all pirates and terrorists before helping the many innocent Somalis to elect a legitimate government which can then be supported under a ‘Somali Marshall Plan’ to rebuild the country from its present ruins and reclaim its place in the family of nations. Only a combined sea and air blockade, with the support of stronger troop levels under clear combat rules, can solve the problem of Somalia. Left only and entirely to ‘us proxies’ Uganda (and Burundi) will not very likely bring an early conclusion to piracy and terrorism nor bring peace to the county’s long suffering population. We in Uganda have already suffered twin bombings when Al Shabab hit the city on the eve of the World Cup final and only the extreme vigilance of our security forces, supported by such friendly organizations as the FBI, British and other security services, have prevented more such incidents. Airlines in Uganda were also warned last week to be extra vigilant, as Al Shabab threats again emerged against the aviation sector, and Uganda should not be left alone to shoulder the burden of a fight which has global dimensions, considering the limited resources we can muster and afford. Trade, shipping and relevant to the tourism industry the valuable cruise operations have all been affected along the Eastern African seaboard, from the Mozambique Channel across the Indian Ocean islands to the Gulf of Aden and beyond towards the Arabian Sea, evasion and protection measures driven transportation and insurance cost up, making imports and exports more expensive and yet not seeing the piracy, aka ocean terrorism problem brought under control. Until and unless their land bases and safe havens are being robustly and decisively cleansed of these elements, and Somalia at large be rid of any Al Qaida affiliates, this festering problem will not go away and in fact become worse, should the Islamic radicals begin to infiltrate their neighbours to create new fronts and new theatres of war as they have now started to threaten. Watch this space.
BREAKING NEWS CHOBE SAFARI LODGE OPENING FOR WEDNESDAY, 17TH NOVEMBER
Watch this space for the full report in next week’s edition, or the ‘live Twitter update’ from the site on the day.
HEAVY TRAFFIC TO USE BYPASS FROM END NOVEMBER
With the completion of the ‘northern bypass’ around the city relief is in sight for Kampala motorists, as heavy ‘through’ traffic must now use the half circle bypass highway when coming from the border with Kenya and are destined for Eastern Congo, Rwanda and Burundi and Southern Sudan. The trucks will be directed on to the new route by traffic wardens and traffic police, ensuring that only cargos destined for Kampala itself can enter the city, while all other heavy traffic will from the 25th November no longer be permitted to drive through an already congested city centre. This will also be good news for the long suffering Kampaleans vis a vis the ever increasing potholes in many parts of the city, some of which have now eaten their way across entire roads, leaving craters capable of swallowing up a small car. Central government has already committed a massive emergency road repair programme due to be rolled out in coming days and weeks, now that they have taken over the maintenance of all city roads from the hapless city council, which was in recent years more in the news over corruption allegations than for delivering essential services to the citizens of Uganda’s capital. Watch this space.
NEW NILE BRIDGE TO OPEN IN 2016
Information was given last week by the Ministry of Works and Transport, that the new bridge across the Nile in Jinja, worth 109 million US Dollars and largely financed by the Government of Japan, is expected to be ready by 2016. Construction start was given as 2012, with the time until then needed to finalise the purchase and compensation for land and advertise for international tenders before selecting a main contractor. The new bridge is expected to ease the flow of traffic across the Nile, presently the only lifeline connecting the East of the country to the central part of Uganda, and crucially important as an import and export axis between the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa and the hinterland countries of Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Congo, Southern Sudan, often even Western Tanzania and of course Uganda itself. A railway bridge near the ‘old’ bridge across the Owens Falls hydroelectric dam is not capable to be converted for road traffic and is also expected to be upgraded when the rehabilitation of the main railway and conversion into the internationally accepted ‘standard gauge’ goes underway. The ‘old bridge’, once the new one is operational, will be rehabilitated and used as a standby facility though not open for ‘general traffic’ at that time.
MARKETING BONANZA FOR AIRTEL BRANDING
November 23rd has been named as the ‘launch day’ for an extensive re-branding campaign, during which Celtel then Zain will finally become Bharti ‘Airtel’, reflecting the new Indian based owners. Some 15 African countries, including neighbouring Kenya, will see the name Zain disappear from bill boards, media advertisements and TV commercials in a flurry of activity, as marketers hit the roads, markets, bus stations and public places while print and electronic media will smile all the way to the bank at least until the end of the year, if not well into 2011. The rebranding from Celtel to Zain in 2008 reportedly cost some 40 million US Dollars but this campaign may reach the 100 million US Dollar mark, as the battle for subscribers, pre- and post-paid will only intensify some more. Main rival MTN has already lowered their call tariffs to 5 ‘favourite’ numbers from 3 to 2 Uganda Shillings, bringing the per minute charges down to 120 Uganda Shillings, but observers generally expect that Kenyan tariff levels may be reached, should Bharti – a company with over a hundred million subscribers and deep pockets bursting at the seams from the monthly cash flow – decide that they would wish to copy what they did in Kenya a few weeks ago, where tariffs are now as low as 81 Uganda Shillings per minute to the delight of the subscribers and companies having accounts with them. Here in Uganda meanwhile has market leader introduced a rather selective tariff of 1 Shilling per second, making it 60 Shillings per minute, but available only to subscribers buying a 3-pack of SIM cards – how more deceptive can advertising get one wonders and how much more desperate will phone companies get as the tariff wars hot up in coming weeks. Customers have meanwhile held back with purchasing new handsets as they expect the mobile phone companies to offer them at throw away prices when the battle commences on the 23rd of this month, so watch this space for upcoming news.
KENYA TOURIST BOARD TO ATTEND GLOBAL GOLF TOURISM FAIR
The KTB is partnering with several private sector companies to promote golfing holidays to Kenya, when attending one of the world’s leading golf tourism trade fairs this week in Spain. A private sector group, the Kenya Golf Marketing Alliance has driven the agenda so far to make Kenya a country renowned around the world for both its championship class golf courses but also for ‘safari golfing’. Tourism marketing strategists feel that a large number of existing and upcoming golf courses across the country, combined with wildlife safaris and fabulous beaches, will allow Kenya to tap into a market worth billions of US Dollars annually when bringing golfers from around the world to the country. Airlines are known to value the business of golfers to an extent that many are transporting golf bags without extra charge, giving the right incentive to the golfing aficionados to travel the globe in search of new countries and new courses. Well done Kenya!
MALINDI SPA GETS GLOBAL RECOGNITION
The ‘Lion in the Sun’ Spa in Malindi has caught the eye of the highflier Tatler magazine, which in their latest edition pronounced the Spa – little known outside the circle of ‘insiders’ – as the best in the world. The award, at times compared to the movie industry ‘Oscar’, will be sweet news to former F1 Renault team principal Flavio Briatore, who owns this complex and other properties in Malindi but also to the Spa’s management company. The resort town, an hour and a half drive north of Mombasa, is a much sought after vacation place for in particular Italian tourists and many of those have over the years acquired properties in and around Malindi, making the municipality their second home. The award will also be a shot in the arm of Kenya Airways for their upcoming relaunch of nonstop flights between Nairobi and Rome, and their onward domestic connection between Nairobi and Malindi, as ‘the rich and famous’ inevitably will be drawing other tourists to Malindi to rub shoulders with them, either for real in some of the fancy restaurants, bars and nightclubs or else simply ‘by having been there too’. So while the owners will undoubtedly benefit from the Tatler’s accolade and award, so will Kenya’s entire tourism industry, allowing it to shed the unjust image of a ‘cheap destination’ and being able to show to the world that top quality operations and facilities, in the Spa sector but also the safari and resort sectors, are available for those with deep pockets and the desire for an exotic vacation.
KENYA AIRWAYS GOES ‘SHUTTLE’ TO MOMBASA
The competitive environment on the domestic Kenyan market was turned up a few notches last week when Kenya Airways launched their ‘shuttle’ service between Nairobi and Mombasa. Passengers can choose from as many as 10 daily flights between the two cities at some of the lowest fares on the market at present and the crew on the aircraft and staff at the check in also wear a distinct new uniform, signalling intent by the national flag carrier to take back market share previously lost to private airlines like Fly540, Jetlink, Air Kenya and SafariLink on flights to the coast. The expanding market however is thought to be leaving a growing ‘cake’ to be shared amongst the air operators and none of those presently flying to the coastal destinations of Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa and Ukunda are expected to reduce services or pull out altogether, just as long as the market conditions and demand are on the upswing.
INDUSTRIAL COURT RULES IN FAVOUR OF BANNING STRIKE
The management of Kenya Airways welcomed a ruling last Friday by Kenya’s Industrial Court, which prohibited the Aviation and Allied Workers Union from calling a strike, and ordered them to return to negotiations with Kenya Airways on the core issues of their disagreements. This was a new order, superseding one given much earlier when a strike was imminent, and this order will reportedly stand until the main case has been heard and been determined. Said the judge in his ruling: ‘the union had developed a consistent habit of using strikes as a panacea for real or perceived disputes and it was therefore necessary to restrain [them] from engaging further in this reckless and destructive mode…’ The union last year in August ignored a court order and went ahead with a strike which eventually cost the airline some 600+ million Kenya Shillings, causing a huge impact on the financial results for that financial year but should the radical union leadership once more resort to such illegal practises it is expected that they will be jailed this time for contempt of court and the union’s assets frozen to permit for compensation, should the case arise.
KENYA AIRWAYS SPONSORS CLASSIC SAFARI WITH 16 MILLION
Last week saw the formal announcement that Kenya Airways has renewed their sponsorship deal with the Classic Safari Rally for the years 2011 to 2015, which brings the ‘golden oldies’, both cars and drivers like Bjorn Waldegaard back to their erstwhile racing grounds in Kenya and the region. However, Classic Safari Rally racing director Surinder Thatthi immediately put his foot into the proverbial, when he decried having to leave Rwanda out of the rally for November 2011, as the hugely controversial planned highway across the Serengeti would not be ready. Thatthi was speaking either out of total ignorance over the global opposition to this highway routing across the path of the great migration or else spoke fully informed with diabolical precision against these conservation efforts, causing immediate condemnation from conservationists and NGO’s working to change the highway routing to the Southern end of the Serengeti ecosystem. Any suggestion, that a track or road through a national park should be used for racing are questionable anyway to start with, and this misstep should be clarified on as soon as possible by more senior staff at the ‘Classic Safari Rally’ headquarters and also from Kenya Airways, the latter in particular for having been hugely supportive of conservation efforts in the past and having generally a good track record for turning the ‘Pride of Africa’ green. Thatthi also upset Ugandan rally enthusiasts when he flatly ruled out a return of the event to the ‘Pearl of Africa’ citing a dense population which would make it ‘difficult’, earning him immediate acid comments from the rallying community in Uganda and turning him instantly into a ‘persona non grata’. Meanwhile it was confirmed that several former ‘East African Safari Rally’ winners, word champions and local rallying legends have confirmed their participation for the November 2011 event, to which about 60 entries are expected. Watch this space for updates.
AIRPORT INVESTMENTS ALSO TARGET CARGO
Information was received last week that the Kenyan government, already investing in upgrades and expansion of the main airports in Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu, will not only target passenger operations, i.e. terminals and parking, but also add more facilities for cargo handling. It was noted in the press release that exports of agricultural and horticultural goods, but also of fresh chilled fish fillets and crustacean are making big contributions to the national economy in terms of employment and foreign exchange earnings and required state of the art cooling, storing and processing equipment and buildings, if the trend was to continue. Meanwhile it was also confirmed that the privately owned Swissport Cargo Terminal, built at a cost of nearly 1 billion Kenya Shillings, is now operational and can transact up to 150.000 tons of cargo annually in accordance with international handling and hygiene regulations and standards, the latter of particular importance for the certification process when exporting fresh produce and chilled fish.
EAST AFRICAN TOURIST BOARD CEO’S AT WTM
The heads of the tourist boards from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, who were in London for the just concluded World Travel Market, have met the media during their tourism trade fair attendance. Kenya in particular was in a bullish mood, looking at new all time spending and arrival records from the tourism industry, but Mr. Muriithi Ndegwa did add a grain of salt to his general optimism, when asking his home government for greater funding of marketing activities for the country. He pegged optimum funding allocations to the 2 billion Kenya Shillings mark – 1 US Dollar currently exchanges to about 77 Kenya Shillings – in order to effectively cover the entire globe with promotional activities in existing, emerging and new market places. In contrast did the Rwandan participants applaud their governments’ spending and allocation of budgets, also expressing confidence that 2010 would be another record breaking year for the tourism industry, especially with more activities and options now available across the country for visitors. These were given as aviary tourism, lake tourism, cultural tourism and a variety of new ‘products’ like the Nyungwe Canopy Walk recently inaugurated. Uganda however again seems to have drawn the short straws when comparing tourism marketing budgetary allocations, with the least funding granted by government and unlike for instance Kenya also still awaiting to operationalise the tourism levy, which could assist in meeting at least some of the recurrent and development expenditure. Here it is hoped that after the next elections government makes good of decade long promises to facilitate the Uganda Tourist Board in such a way, that they can at last hold their own when promoting the country abroad and not remain the ‘poor cousin’ in comparison with Kenya and Rwanda.
EDELWEISS CHARTER TO KILIMANJARO PERMITTED TO CARRY CARGO
The planned winter season charters of Swiss’ subsidiary Edelweiss to Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro International Airport near Arusha will, according to information received from there, be able to carry cargo, space permitting of course, during its round trip between JRO and Zurich. Marketing of the cargo service will be undertaken by Swiss World Cargo, adding financial strength to the seasonal operation and offering added capacity for the export of flowers and fresh produce to the farmers in the Arusha region. It is also understood that similar arrangements have been put into place for the Edelweiss charter from Zurich to Pt. Louis in Mauritius, a marked departure from the olden days when inclusive tour charters were only permitted to carry passengers from the point of origin to the destination and back. Commercial sense has prevailed!
MT. MERU HOTEL IN ARUSHA REOPENING
December 17th has been provisionally set for the re-opening of the Mt. Meru Hotel in Arusha after well over a two years of closure for rebuilding and refurbishments. The multi million US Dollars project, a source spoke of expenditure of over 24 million US$, was long in coming and the re-opening will add much needed hotel bed capacity in Arusha, which is generally considered as the ‘safari capital of East Africa’ and springboard for such diverse activities as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or Mt. Meru to visiting the Northern parks of Tarangire, Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. Arusha is also known to be the seat of the East African Community headquarters and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Rwanda genocide, making the municipality a centre for meetings, conferences and conventions and bringing in a constant stream of business visitors and tourists from which the local labour and agricultural market benefits well. Congrats on the achievement and when next in Arusha an ‘on site’ evaluation of the facilities and services will follow.
FROM FUEL TO WATER – SHORTAGES LIST GROWS
Hotels and residents along the coastal stretch between Dar es Salaam and Bagamoyo have been warned that water will be in short supply for the near and medium future as a result of largely grown populations in the area. Water needs were according to a source in Dar es Salaam pegged at 450 million litres of water per day, while production hardly reaches 300 million litres of water per day, a shortfall of about one third of overall requirements. While hotels and beach resorts may get a level of priority, manufacturing too is demanding a growing share of the precious liquid while households are most likely the hardest hit in the equation of who gets what and when. Infrastructural development in the utilities sectors remains a major challenge, in Tanzania but also across the entire region, where roads, rail, water, electricity, health and education are cornerstones of public services and parastatal companies yet often undercapitalized and hence unable to perform to the expectation of the populate. After the recent fuel shortage this is another matter of concern to Tanzanians and hotel and resort operators of how best to cope in periods of short supplies and the new government, due to be appointed anytime soon after the elections of 31st October will have their hands full to make good of the many pre-election promises made, including the provision of water. Watch this space.
FORMER GERMAN ‘WARSHIP’ TO BE MADE A MUSEUM
The arguably oldest ship on the Tanzanian registry is to be turned into a museum, going by reports received from regular sources in Arusha. MV Liemba, formerly named ‘The Graf von Goetzen’, was originally built in Germany in 1913, before being shipped to the then German colony ‘Tanganyika’, where it was upon the outbreak of World War I deployed as a warship, before the crew scuttled it in 1916 to avoid capture by the British expeditionary forces. The ship was however later on salvaged, repaired and renamed MV Liemba, when she returned to service in 1927 with a capacity of about 200 tons of cargo and up to 600 passengers. The plans to turn the vessel into a floating museum and cruiseliner are aimed to attract more tourist visitors to Lake Tanganyika and the owners and regional authorities in Kigoma are reportedly discussing the project with German counterparts regarding funding and logistical support. Tanzania has many well known attractions for visiting tourists but lake tourism, both on Lake Victoria and other lakes like Tanganyika have not really been tapped into, opening a whole new spectrum of investment opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to take a calculated risk by opening up hitherto undiscovered – by tourism that is – parts of Tanzania.
WILDLIFE BODIES OVERCOME NATIONAL SQUABBLES TO COOPERATE
The wildlife bodies of Tanzania and Kenya have set aside a range of differences smouldering between the two East African neighbours over a range of issues and decided to cooperate on a joint wildlife census now unfolding in the greater Amboseli / Kilimanjaro national parks area. TANAPA and KWS partnered with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the Amboseli Trust for Elephant (ATE) and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) to establish the latest game numbers in the border transcending ecosystems between Amboseli on the Kenyan side and the greater Kilimanjaro park area on the Tanzanian side, a positive development of East African cooperation compared to the ‘usual’ bickering over border posts, cross border tourist traffic and the continued denial for airlines from other EAC member states to be treated equitably when applying for permits to fly into Tanzania’s national parks. Once census results have been released details will feature here.
RWANDA IS SO MUCH MORE THAN ‘JUST GORILLAS’
Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of tourism and conservation within the Rwanda Development Board, during her visit to the World Travel Market in London last week made it plain to stand visitors and the media, that Rwanda had a lot more to offer than ‘just gorillas’. While admittedly Rwanda is still best known for the tracking of the rare mountain gorillas in the ‘Parc de Volcanoes’ in the West of the country along the common borders with Uganda and the Congo DR, RDB has in recent years made a determined efforts to opening up new areas and attractions, to offer visitors a wider range of tourism products. The effort has largely paid off with more and more visitors coming to Rwanda and spending more time in the country, in the process pushing the tourism sector to the top of the economic performance list. A canopy walk at Nyungwe Forest National Park, said to be the first in any of East Africa’s rain forests, the expansion of tracks and viewing points in this particular park, the partnership with ‘African Parks’ which is now managing the Akagera National Park and investing over 20 million US Dollars there to improve infrastructure, but also the introduction of suitable boats to take tourists on trips along the shores of Lake Kivu, have all made an immediate impact on the tourist itineraries now offered to visitors, keeping Rwanda at the cutting edge of the East African tourism sectors. It was also ascertained that the average stay in country has now gradually moved towards the 6 day intermediate target, and with the recent start of KLM flights, operating from Amsterdam via Entebbe to Kigali five times a week, more and more tourists are expected to visit ‘the land of a thousand hills’.
ANOTHER AIRCRASH, MORE CASUALTIES
A Soviet era Antonov 24 turboprop aircraft, owned and operated by Tarco Air of Sudan, crashed mid last week while landing on an airstrip in Darfur. The accident which happened in reportedly good weather conditions in the early afternoon, is yet another tragedy for Sudan’s troubled aviation industry, which still permits the use of Soviet Union era very aged aircraft, which are literally ‘dumped’ on the African continent as more and more countries elsewhere not just severely restrict their use but outright banned them from their skies, even for overflights. This latest tragedy cost several lives amongst the 36 passengers and crew on board, and some reports speak of as many as 6 dead. Eye witnesses are quoted as saying that upon a ‘hard’ touchdown one or more of the aircraft’s tyres burst, before it then split in pieces with one section catching fire, destroying that part of the stricken craft. An air accident investigation by the Sudanese aviation authority is now underway and while one has to traditionally wait for the formal report to be submitted, the early conclusion by aviation observers is already now that the time is finally ripe to ban such aircraft and convert the fleets of Sudanese airlines to modern turboprops and jet aircraft, well maintained and operated by competent crew undergoing regular training cycles as internationally required. Meanwhile we convey our condolences to the families and friends of those who perished and were injured in the crash.
HM FINALLY STARTS CHENNAI FLIGHTS
Information was received last week that the Indian civil aviation authorities have finally granted the operating permit and approved the schedule for the Air Seychelles operated flight between Mahe and Chennai. The operation is code shared with Air India, and yet does it appear have rival airlines, ostensibly not happy with Air India’s access to the Seychelles and beyond, thrown spanners into the works of having the paper work approved in time. Air Seychelles confirmed again, that instead of the mandatory 60 day application period they actually presented, i.e. hand delivered, the dossier 100 days in advance and were vigorously following up on the progress of their application, but were thwarted by allegedly individuals in league with competitors. This may also be the reason that the airline has not made progress to operate the Chennai – Singapore leg as a codeshared operation with Air India up to now, which would vastly improve the financials of the service, operated once a week from Mahe, leaving on Monday night. It is understood though that no stone will be left unturned to unearth and expose the reasons for the delays, which cost HM dearly in compensation for already booked and ticketed passengers and is entirely blamed on ‘office politics’ in India’s civil aviation department. Watch this space.
SUPERINFORMATION HIGHWAY HEADING TO SEYCHELLES
The archipelago has finally made progress to be connected to the global fibre optic grid, when the participating parties, Government of Seychelles, Cable and Wireless and Bharti Airtel signed the Memorandum of Understanding and contracts to have a seabed cable installed between Tanzania and the islands. The main attraction for operators is the vastly increased bandwidth available and exponentially faster speeds compared to the present satellite up and downloads, which should also impact on lower tariffs for voice calls and data transmissions. The contract was befittingly signed at the Seychelles Tourism Academy, the country’s premier tourism and hospitality training institution, as tourism will be one of the greatest beneficiaries of the link, once it is completed. Fears of work disruptions by Somali pirates were also dismissed by insiders in Mahe, who assured this correspondent that units of the Tanzanian navy, the international naval coalition and of the Seychelles coast guard and navy will be deployed alongside the vessel from which the cable is laid to ensure timely delivery of the project without any problems. Main contractor is French communications company Alcatel-Lucent which has an excellent track record for such projects. Well done indeed.
CARNIVAL PROGRAMME NOW AVAILABLE
The Seychelles Tourist Board has just published the final programme for the first ever ‘Seychelles Carnival’ due for the period of March 04th till 06th next year. See the details below and book early, as air seats and hotel space will surely be limited if not soon sold out over that period of time …
MORE REWARDS FOR SEYCHELLOIS RESORTS
Last week saw more praise being heaped on two resorts in the Seychelles, when the island of Cousine was named as winner by the ‘World Travel Awards’. Cousine’s resort and the island in general was voted ‘best’ by the over 180.000 participants from around the globe in the WTA’s annual survey in recognition of the island’s environmental protection measures and also for the 5 star services at the resort, said to be in ‘balance with nature’. The island is well known for the large numbers of birds visiting annually as ‘migrants’ but also for the rich biodiversity the owners of Cousine have pledged to protect and preserve at all cost. Already three years ago did the island capture headlines when named the Indian Ocean’s leading ecotourism destination. Meanwhile did the ‘Coco de Mer Hotel’ and ‘Black Parrot Suites’ on the island of Praslin also get global recognition when they got the newcomer of the year award at the World Travel Market for their market success within Expedia Travel’s portfolio.
South Sudan News
IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS GET TRAINING
Juba based immigration staff last week completed a two week course and intense training workshop, aimed at improved customer care and public relations. The training agenda also included a variety of detection measures in regard of forged and fraudulent travel documents, managerial and leadership skills, to equip them with knowledge to serve the presently still semi-autonomous but after the January referendum hopefully independent Southern government to the best of their ability. Complaints and observations by travellers and airport staff, but also from traders and travellers crossing into the Southern Sudan by road from Kenya and Uganda, were taken into account when preparing the teaching materials and case studies, all aimed to bring the standards of immigration to the level of the other countries in the East African Community, which the Southern Sudan intends to join after becoming Africa’s youngest nation in 2011. This correspondent’s next visit will obviously tell what, if any lessons have indeed been learned.
AND as in most editions, here is some useful material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ produced by Gill Staden – gratefully acknowledged! Readers can see that the challenges and problems further down south are quite the same as we experience here in Eastern Africa – short term fixes for cash and other considerations as opposed to long term sustainable solutions, hunting, mining, road construction – both Gill and I could go on and on, so please lend your good office and standing to support conservation or our grandchildren will inherit a wrecked environment from us …
An Historical Guide to Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town
I have got some more copies of An Historical Guide to Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town. If anyone would like a copy it is: US$7 (wholesale, 20 or more) US$10 (retail) To check it out: I have got modern and opened a Facebook page (with a little help from a friend)! How classy is that! http://www.facebook.com/pages/An-Historical-Guide-to-Livingstone-and-Victoria-Falls-Town/100793596659157 or else write to email@example.com I assume that you can click on the link and the page will open. If not, don’t ask me … ask an expert. I suppose I will get into this Facebook craze, but I don’t want to try just now …
Congratulations to Sun International, Livingstone
The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa organises the Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards. This is their 9th year of recognising companies in the tourism industry for their commitment to sustained responsible practice in their operations in terms of their natural, social and economic environments. Again this year, Sun International, Falls Resort, was recognised, this time being the overall winner, selected from the six category winners. The judges applauded the property’s outstanding understanding of the interdependence of all aspects of an effective environmental management system and its excellent social involvement and economic programmes. Also: In the category Best social involvement programme the group winner is Sun International Zambia – The Falls Resort … In the category Best practice – economic impact the group winner is Sun International Zambia – The Falls Resort … Sun International Zambia – The Falls Resort also walked away as the group winner in the category Best overall environmental management system.
… Hwange National Park
Hunting in the Park
I have received a report that alleges that the government of Zimbabwe is to allow hunting in Hwange National Park. In a bid to raise money for the upkeep of the Parks, the government must feel that this is a ‘quick fix’. The effects of this decision, though, will be long-lasting. I cannot imagine photographic tourists, while sitting quietly at a hide enjoying the view, appreciating a hunter coming along and taking a pot-shot at an elephant. The animals, of course, will also come to think that the Parks are no longer a safe haven. Most parks are bordered by hunting areas, surely that is enough space. Hunting in a National Park is no different from canned hunting … but we know that there are people in this world that partake of this ‘sport’. This is a real slap in the face of Friends of Hwange and Wildlife & Environment Zimbabwe who have all worked tirelessly to keep the pumps running to bring water to the surface so that the animals do not die from lack of water. It has been an ongoing task to raise funds for diesel and pump repair since 2005. Mining in the Park We have also received a report that there is mining going on in the park. It started off in a Rhino Intensive Protection Zone on the border with the Hwange National Park, near Bumboosi. Large tracts of land have been cleared and open-pit mining has been taking place. All the waste water from the mine is being pumped into nearby streams which are fed from springs, causing pollution of the water. The area is a total mess. Now, it would seem that the miners are moving into the park to continue their search for coal, with more land being cleared for the purpose. On the map: A – Chawato Spring, outside HNP but immediately adjacent to the boundary. B – within HNP adjacent to Sinamatella-Bumboosie Road.
A VERY HOT OCTOBER IN KARIBA
Derek Adamson from Marineland reports: “There has been screeds written and discussed about October being ‘suicide month’ in Kariba, and recent history has tended to disprove this, but October 2010 was a real HOT ONE ! The relentless daily temperatures were in the high 30’s and we even went to +40 degrees on a few days. As expected, this ‘heat wave’ was finally broken on the last day of October with a violent thunderstorm, with gusts of extremely high winds that brought down trees on to power lines, ripped roofs from houses and collapsed many other structures in Nyamhunga. Large areas of Kariba were without electricity for days. Fortunately the storm came from a direction that didn’t affect boats in the Marineland harbour. With the extremely hot weather during the month, it’s not surprising that the lake has dropped dramatically: 2.14 meters to 485.3m since the high water level reached in early June this year. On Wednesday 13th October there was a death from an elephant attack at Elephant Point in the Matusadona National Park. A visitor on a houseboat, despite an instruction from the boat Captain not to do so, went ashore to take photos of a breeding herd of elephants, and was subsequently charged and killed by a cow elephant. Most bush savvy people know that at this time of year, when there is very little food and with temperatures every day near 40 degrees, the elephants get highly stressed and unpredictable. Breaking National Parks regulations by going ashore on the Matusadona shoreline from a houseboat, has to be an invitation for such a disaster. Marineland was called upon to assist with heavy plant in the recovery of a 5 tonne truck that went over the edge of the main road above our harbour. It was only stopped from going all the way down the hill by a few good strong trees. This was a second hand Japanese import on its way to Zambia, but the surprising thing was that there were no other vehicles involved, and when we asked the driver what happened, he admitted that he was so enthralled with the view of Marineland, that he just drove off the road and over the side. To say the least, we are proud of the marina and the way it looks, but we’re really impressed that it would have such a dramatic effect on some people !!!!!”
ZIMBABWEAN LODGE PROPOSALS IN MANA POOLS: A NEW CONTROVERSY
Less than a year after international outrage at Protea Hotels seeking to develop a 72-bed conference facility on the banks of the Zambezi River right opposite Mana Pools National Park and World Heritage Site, the cash-strapped Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has asked stakeholders to ratify 4 new 24-bed lodge developments for Mana Pools – three of these along the eco-sensitive river frontage and one inland. Conservationists and lovers of Mana Pools as a wilderness Park are up in arms at the proposals – for several reasons: A recently-completed Park Management Plan, carefully negotiated and agreed between the Zimbabwe Parks Authority and relevant stakeholders, specifically advised AGAINST any new Park developments along the Zambezi river shoreline in Mana Pools because of the small size and very ecologically-sensitive nature of the Zambezi alluvial terraces known as “the Mana floodplain”. It did, however, allow for small developments at selected sites inland. The Management Plan acknowledges that Mana Pools is important for the unique low-volume, high wilderness tourism experience it offers visitors, and advises that these values should be maintained into the future. Critics of the proposed developments believe that increasing tourism bed-nights along the Zambezi river frontage by an effective 72 people per night would bring associated impacts which would seriously erode the very values that the industry sends its clients to enjoy. New developments in the already impacted “floodplain” area would, they believe, “kill the goose that lays the golden egg”. The Management Plan remains unsigned by the relevant Government Ministry, despite having been completed 18 months ago: a fact which has called into question Zimbabwe’s true commitment to proper and accountable planning procedures for National Parks and globally significant areas like UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is well known that the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority is short of money to manage its Estate. The recent proposals have drawn criticism that the Authority is seeking short-term quick-fix solutions to its financial crisis at the expense of the long-term future and sustainability of the country’s magnificent wild areas. Zimbabweans are being made to look foolish in objecting to Zambian developments opposite Mana Pools on the grounds of unacceptable tourism impacts while effectively increasing tourism impacts on their own side of the Zambezi River.