TOURISM, AVIATION AND CONSERVATION NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
A weekly roundup of reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
Get daily breaking news updates via Twitter @whthome or on my blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com
Fifth edition May 2011
STOP MOUTHING OFF ABOUT GULF CARRIES – GO MATCH THEM
In recent months were more than the usual periodical spats observed between European airline chiefs and CEO’s of some of the Gulf region’s leading airlines. Using different forums suggestions were made by the Europeans about the growing ‘threat’ by Gulf based carriers, siphoning traffic from the traditional aviation hubs by using their government ownership and backing to implement strategies of global expansion with and through lower fares, increasingly bypassing the traditional Euro-American traffic flows and re-writing the aviation history books for the 21st century.
The Gulf airlines in turn, sitting ‘pretty’ as it is, countered the arguments by suggesting to their European counterparts to start lowering their cost structures on a broad basis and more important for travelers look into their service structure, on the ground and in the air and make improvements rather than just mouth off.
This correspondent, by all standards a seasoned traveler, recalls past trips through some of the European hubs which were marked by congested lounges, once a heaven of peace and tranquility, back in the old days anyway, but now crowded by travelers holding C class tickets and joined by others with the privilege of access courtesy of their frequent flyer cards. Considering the fact that these lounges are the showcases in the very home hubs of the respective airlines – and I want to exclude the Brussels Airlines lounge at the Brussels Airport’s international departure gates, which while it could still be larger at least resembles the classic ‘lounge’ even during peak traffic times [I am told that an expansion may be on the cards] – some of them nevertheless now appear quite hectic and overcrowded.
Why am I writing about this? Well, a recent simple and relatively short trip to an assignment turned into something quite different and I found myself bound for Dubai, once again having the opportunity to sample the Emirates Terminal 3 and doing some comparisons.
Our aircraft parked on an apron position and by the time Business Class passengers disembarked, the First Class passengers had already been whisked off to the terminal. Our bus was dedicated for C-Class passengers only, and when the last of my fellow travelers were on the bus the doors closed, we drove off and other busses then rolled up behind us to take care of the rest of the passengers. I say this as in many European airports there is little distinction being made between premium and economy class passengers when being bussed to or from an apron position, but showing that it actually can be done proves that the very substantial difference in airfare does actually bring equally substantial results in customer care while still on the ground.
Hence, the terminal entry was swift and the comprehensive security check on arrival, thorough as it was, went quickly in the absence of queues at this point. This central entry point screening probably also explains why at the boarding gate no more security checks are needed, something which has been witnessed all too often at European and other gateways, where the added layer of repeat checks tends to upset travelers, in particular the frequent travelers who know that elsewhere it is less of a hassle and CAN be done in a more user friendly fashion.
While at the main level of terminal 3 in Dubai the usual shopping frenzy went on, a floor up Emirates has its lounges, for their First Class and for their Business Class passengers. The facilities in these lounges are legion and have been described many times before, so I do not need to go into that but for a different aspect of these lounges. It appears that Dubai is becoming a hugely popular ‘hub’ for corporate meetings where ‘face to face’ is required to ensure privacy and such meets do take place not only in Dubai proper but evidently also now at the airport itself, where the two premium class lounges for First and Business expand across the upper level of Emirates’ own Terminal 3. Associates from different flights can meet in privacy ‘airside’ and then fly on or back to where they came from and no one is the wiser for it.
Even during the ‘rush hour’ there is still space to be hand in plenty and quiet corners can be found, meeting rooms are available as are of course food outlets, bars, business centres and the quintessential shower and changing rooms where one can on arrival, or again before boarding the onward or return flight, can make oneself presentable.
So when the former ‘mainstream’ airlines are now mouthing off and to an extent are staring at Emirates, Qatar and Etihad like the proverbial rabbit stares at the snake, it is probably time to examine and re-assess service levels and the service quality vis a vis such airlines and get even or better instead of exhibiting a sulking mood. And as an advert in Kampala tells ‘why go East first when you can go West directly’ – sometimes there are amply and convincing reasons to do just that. Few would after all consider flying to a European airport for such meetings but willingly consider Dubai which beckons on the horizon with superior facilities and often double daily flights from most regions of the world. A case to ponder about while travelers watch, wait and decide which of the contenders is really going to be the next ‘world’s favourite airline’.
PAYMENT OF RANSOM TO OCEAN TERRORISTS INTERCEPTED
Information was received yesterday via the Nairobi based ECOTERRA INTERNATIONAL organization, that authorities in Mogadishu reportedly intercepted two aircraft, crews and passengers, carrying what can only be described as ransom money worth millions of US Dollars, as the two flights appeared to have run short of fuel, or lost directions and landed at the main airport in the Somali capital, which is controlled by the African Union peace keeping troops and under government control.
Cutting the ocean terrorists off their blood money will be a huge blow to them, but also to Al Shabab and other Islamic based militant groups, which are regularly reported to have received their fair share and then some more, fueling arms trafficking and financing terror attacks like the one against Uganda last year during the World Cup final.
A related interview with the Seychelles Minister for Home Affairs, the Honourable Joel Morgan, often referred to as the ‘Anti Piracy Minister’ will be published here very soon and his answers in regard of the Seychelles hard line position vis a vis ocean terrorism – he fully endorsed this phrase coined by this correspondent a from the early stages of this menace emerging – reaffirm what few still dare to say openly: ‘the naval coalition must revise their rules of engagement, contain the terrorists within the Somali national waters and decisively respond just as soon as they cross the line, going out to hunt for maritime traffic. At the same time robust action needs to be taken too to deny the ocean terrorists safe havens on land, disrupt and disable their financial network across the globe, just as it has been happening in regard of raising money for Al Qaida – as ultimately there is little difference between the two in the barbaric acts both groups perpetrate.
The confiscation of at least 3.6 million US Dollars was further sweetened when the crews of the plane, faced with long detention in notorious Somali prisons, started to spill the beans by pointing to Nairobi based backers and financial beneficiaries of the ransom deals, which will finally permit some arrests to take place and prosecutions being initiated against masterminds and financiers of ocean terrorism.
Just like Al Qaida sympathizers and financial backers are facing the full brunt of the laws now in place, those supporting, aiding and abetting piracy terror on the open seas too must be held accountable by the same standards.
The economic damage done by the menace to Indian Ocean countries and along the Eastern African seaboard, but in fact the entire world economy, is now estimated to be near 20 billion US Dollars, a big enough incentive to once and for all do the right thing: Strengthen the mandate of the AU force to move from a dubious peace keeping mission to an active role of cleansing Somalia of insurgents and Islamic terrorists on land, eliminating the ocean terrorists bases on land and upon completion of the task allow the international community to assist the Somali leadership to rebuild their country and provide an enabling environment to allow Somalis to create prosperity for themselves by honest means.
Meanwhile on the open seas, with all the available monitoring and surveillance systems the naval coalition commands, the message must be clear too – cross from your territorial waters into the open ocean, look like a pirate, act like a pirate and be sure of a swift and harsh reaction, which the war on terror, including the terror of the open seas, requires as a measure of self defense. Watch this space.
EUROPE FLIGHTS MIGHT BE AFFECTED BY NEW ICELANDIC ASH CLOUD
Twice in as many years have warnings been sounded to airlines flying to and from European airport, or across European airspace, that the fresh outbreak of the notorious Icelandic volcano might bring with it fresh misery, flight delays and cancellations.
Travellers across Eastern Africa have been told by travel agents and airlines, presently as a precaution, to be aware of the situation which remains fluid and may result in sudden closure of destination airports in Europe, causing flights to be diverted or not leaving in the first place.
Kenya Airways is said to be monitoring the developments closely and are in touch with their partner airlines KLM / Air France on a constant basis to get the latest updates but are also consulting frequently with European aviation authorities which are the ones actually able to close airspaces at an instant’s notice.
Initial feedback from sources in Brussels pointed out that the current situation might not have to involve large scale closures of the designated airways over Europe, giving hope to travelers to and from Eastern Africa that they might be spared the at times huge delays and costly return journeys witnessed last year.
All intending travelers are reminded to stay in touch with their travel agents and their airlines to remain appraised and informed about any changes before they leave for the airport.
CABINET APPOINTED AT LAST
President Museveni made his cabinet announcement yesterday with a number of significant changes, entrusting key ministries to women who now hold 10 of the total of 29 cabinet ministerial seats including such portfolios like Finance, Health, Education, Trade, Energy, Information, President’s Office and Gender. The list has been officially submitted to parliament for the mandatory vetting of ministerial candidates, a legal requirement and the preserve of parliament to clear or reject candidates. Due to travel more details will be submitted upon my return from safari.
It was also learned that government intends to triple power subsidies for the coming financial year to cushion the population against rises in the cost of electricity before the new hydro electric power plant at Bujagali goes into production with a first 50MW output, due to rise over the next year to 250 MW output when fully installed.
MARTYR’S DAY PILGRIMAGES UNDERWAY
From right across Uganda and other countries in East Africa are Catholic faithful making their long way to the Namugongo Shrine, where the annual ‘Martyrs Day’ is celebrated, a public holiday in Uganda since the church declared the victims of a savage ritual burning decreed by Kabaka Mwanga, the then King of Buganda on Christians, when they denounced their allegiance to him over and above their allegiance to God. Many of the faithful are in fact walking for days already, intending to reach the shrine in time for the June 03rd commemoration and celebrations in Namugongo, located just outside the capital Kampala.
Martyrs Day brings thousands of pilgrims to Uganda year after year, and in recent years many come from far away including regular groups of Catholics from Nigeria who seek the blessings of these Saints, through whom they pray to the Lord. However, pilgrims from Asia and Europe too have started to recognize the importance of this event and began to flock to ‘the Pearl of Africa’ to pray and seek the intervention of Uganda’s saints on their behalf.
June 03rd is annually observed in Uganda and has for long had a galvanizing effect on all Christians across the board in the country, since both Catholics and Anglicans alike were burned alive or else stabbed to death with spears for refusing to accept the dominance of their worldly ruler over the rule of God.
Pope Paul VI, who visited Uganda and prayed at the then newly erected memorial site, canonized the martyrs in a then much publicized ceremony on October 18th of 1964 and in honour of the saints the government of Uganda then created the annual ‘Martyrs Day’.
TWO DOZEN UGANDANS DROWN IN SOUTH SUDAN RIVER FLASH FLOOD
A group of Ugandan traders, returning home after completing their business in Southern Sudan, were reportedly swept away by a sudden flash flood, as they spent the night, probably unknowingly, in a dry river bed where their vehicle had gotten stuck.
The horror news reached Uganda overnight but seems to have happened already earlier in the week. The river Rumula at this crossing has no bridge and busses, lorries and 4×4’s cross when the river is dry, something the vehicle carrying the Ugandans attempted but got stuck in the soft sand.
Not wanting to abandon the vehicle, and seeking the safety of it instead of sleeping on the ground – the area is also still frequented by game and predators – the group was probably surprised in their sleep when by the onrushing water after suspected heavy rainfall in the Congo, from where this particular river originates. Condolences are extended to the families and friends of all those who so tragically perished in this incident.
UGANDA’S NEW CABINET TAKES SHAPE WITH APPOINTMENTS OF VP AND PM
President Museveni started the long awaited announcements of his new cabinet by appointing former Speaker of Parliament, the Hon. Edward Sekandi as his new Vice President after former Vice President Prof. Bukenya had tendered his resignation the day before.
Also announced was the Right Honourable Amama Mbabazi’s appointment as Prime Minister, replacing Prof. Apolo Nsibambi who had served several terms had expressed his desire to retire from active politics. Mbabazi is a party heavyweight and Secretary General of the NRM, and he beat former Vice President Prof. Bukenya in the last party elections for the position when he dealt him a humiliating blow, relegating him to third in a three way contest. Refusing advice to let go of the elective party contest weakened Prof. Bukenya’s position within the NRM and pundits took it for granted that he would not return to the VP’s position after the general elections.
Parliament will today discuss and vote on these two crucial appointments, while President Museveni’s choices for cabinet ministers and ministers of state will require full vetting by a parliamentary committee before the house votes on accepting or rejecting the individual appointees, something which has happened in the past. The tourism fraternity is particularly keen to see if indeed, as has been suggested, a new stand alone Ministry of Tourism is being created again and equally important, that a progressive and enlightened minister and minister of state will take charge to add new impetus to the portfolio which has gone asleep only to wake up for scandalous statements and irresponsible decisions then overturned in the courts of law.
The opposition also is seeking a new Leader of the Opposition as Prof. Latigo failed to make it back to parliament when he lost his bid for re-election during the February 18th general election.
With peace fully restored now in the streets of Kampala, nation building is now resuming and when the new cabinet is in place and sworn in it will all be back to normal in Uganda – The Pearl of Africa.
SERENA HOTELS HOLD ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
East Africa’s leading hotel, resort and safari lodges company, Serena Hotels, is holding their annual general meeting today at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, preceded by a meeting of the Board of Directors at their Kenyan flagship property, The Nairobi Serena Hotel.
While the group is traditionally reserved about giving extensive advance information on performance – after all the shareholders expect to be told such news ‘fresh’, information has nevertheless been obtained that the record performance of Kenya’s tourism industry in 2010 has translated into an equally impressive result for Serena, bringing smiles to institutional and individual shareholders. The audited results of the financial year of 2010 are posted on the group’s website, accessible via www.serenahotels.com. Many of them started to arrive at the venue early, with over 700 of them expected to participate in the AGM, making it one of the most keenly awaited meetings of its kind in corporate Kenya. The company is ‘cross listed’ already in Tanzania with the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, something expected to happen in the not too distant future also with the Uganda Securities Exchange in Kampala. Major shareholder remains the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, in short AKFED, with 37.23 percent but ‘ownership’ has spread deep into both institutional as well as private share portfolios as a result of the company’s sterling financial performance even during the most trying years for Kenya Tourism in the past. Other major shareholders are French development and finance corporation PROPARCO with 7.35 percent, Standard Chartered Nominees with 5.79 percent, Jubilee Insurance Company of Kenya with 5.6 percent and their sister company Industrial Promotion Services with 5.19 percent while the rest are spread widely across Eastern Africa.
Serena’s ‘Collection’ has expanded from its erstwhile home patch of Kenya, where the company started out in the mid 70’s with properties in Nairobi, Mombasa, Amboseli and the Masai Mara, to Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Mozambique. Serena Hotels offers one of the widest choices for luxurious city hotels, top of the range beach resorts and uniquely positioned and superbly appointed safari camps and lodges in the most fascinating national parks across the Eastern African region.
Serena has in the recent past opened two sensational safari camps in the Selous Game Reserve south of the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam and will within weeks open another ‘signature collection’ camp at the shores of Lake Elementaita, located between lakes Naivasha and Nakuru and home to tens of thousands of the lesser flamingo, painting the lake shores in pink colours.
Reporting ‘live’ from Nairobi / Kenya today.
KENYA AIRWAYS TO ADD N’DJAMENA / CHAD
Effective 19th of June will Kenya Airways commence initially twice weekly flights on Sunday and Wednesday to N’djamena in Chad, via Cotonou / Benin. This 54th destination overall has reaffirmed Kenya Airways’ lead on the African continent and information from the airline’s head office confirms that by 2013 a further 7 African capitals will be served by Kenya Airways in what is set to become the most extensive route network connecting Nairobi with the rest of Africa.
The flights to N’djamena via Cotonou will be operated with the B737-800 aircraft and bookings are now possible with immediate effect while schedule details are available via the Kenya Airways website www.kenya-airways.com
Happy Landings as the Pride of Africa continues to spread the wings across the African continent.
TOURISM MINISTRY RESPONDS TO ‘TOURIST COMPLAINTS ON MARA ROAD’
The appalling state of the main road between Narok and the Masai Mara Game Reserve, the jewel in the crown of Kenyan game parks, has now reached parliament when questions were raised about the lack of repairs and upgrades on this key tourist access road to the park. Assistant Minister for Tourism Hon. Mbarire in fact had to concede that she was asked about this problem point blank when encountering people at recent tourism trade fairs she attended on behalf of government, a sign that the ‘bad news’ have spread and something needs to be done urgently to redress the situation.
The majority of visitors come to the park by road, and while flying is more expensive experienced travelers rather book themselves on one of the many daily scheduled flights from Wilson Airport, for instance on SafariLink, Fly 540 or Air Kenya, to avoid being shaken to bits while on the road.
Tour operators too are in near constant argument with government over the state of this but also other roads leading to parks, as potholes and ‘washing board’ surfaces on gravel roads take a huge and very costly toll on vehicle suspensions, shock absorbers and car bodies.
Information was also provided that work contracts had been issued but feedback from Nairobi from regular sources was clear that no machinery or workers columns were seen as yet on the dilapidated stretch of road to the Sekenani gate. Watch this space as fact finding continues on site in coming days.
GOOD NEWS FOR KENYA TOURISM
Kenya projects a 15 percent growth overall for the year 2011 according to sources at the Ministry of Tourism in Nairobi, setting the stage for another record year for the country’s tourism industry. In particular ‘traditional’ markets have recovered strongly since the 2008 downturn although new and emerging markets, as a result of intensive marketing by the Kenya Tourist Board and the private sector, are showing strong growth rates too.
Kenya’s important beach holiday market too is looking for a bumper year, taking advantage of the political turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt from where tourist flows have been diverted elsewhere including to Mombasa and Malindi.
The MICE market has also put up a sterling performance in the first quarter of 2011, giving rise to hope that the news of a second major international conference centre, to be built in the Bamburi area of Mombasa, will further stimulate demand and bring more conference, incentive and meeting tourists to the country. The new facility, able to host as many as 5.000 conference participants at a go will be owned and managed by the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation and is part of Kenya’s determined effort to raise its tourism profile. More flights by airlines already flying to Kenya and by new carriers making Nairobi their new choice destination in Eastern Africa are also supporting growth of the sector, which has returned to the top of the economic performers list.
MORE REVELATIONS ON SMUGGLING SHOCK CONSERVATIONISTS
Information came to light in Tanzania last week that influential ‘people’ – allegedly from the government in Qatar using an air force aircraft, were late last year flying out live animals and birds with customs officials conniving in the scam in contravention of the country’s laws and regulations governing the export of wildlife. An ongoing investigation by the criminal investigation department in Dar es Salaam appears to implicate customs officials, wildlife traders, airport security officials and ground handling staff, although the report prompted an immediate denial by the country’s largest ground handling company Swissport, which denied any involvement although they apparently confirmed that some of their equipment had been hired by a third party to ‘do the job’.
Details revealed to the media in Tanzania show that several giraffes, oryx, dik-dik, gazelles and impalas but also elands, ground hornbills, kori bustards, secretary birds, vultures, eagles and other game were being shipped illegally.
Emotions were in the past running high in Tanzania when hunting blocks were indiscriminately ‘shot empty’ by Gulf based Royals with officials turning a blind eye to quotas so as not to upset the ‘friendship’ of the rich rulers of the oil producing Gulf states but these latest revelations are only bound to once more turn the spotlight on both hunting and wildlife trade practices in Tanzania which in recent months has come under increasing global criticism over their laissez faire approach towards conservation areas, where massive infrastructure, timber harvesting and mining projects are threatening the Serengeti, Lake Natron, the Eastern Arc Mountains and the Mwambani coastal area which too is protected as a marine national park. The Tanzanian government’s indefensible position has only a few days ago been raised in the European parliament in Strasbourg when the European Commission was compelled to express their concern over the massive impact of these projects and confirmed that diplomatic initiatives were underway to have scientifically sound reviews of the plans carried out, casting doubt on the legitimacy and validity of ‘environmental impact studies’ undertaken by ‘scientists’ in the pay of government.
Last year did the CITES Secretariat in a specially commissioned report cite Tanzania for their weak regime in regard of anti poaching and wildlife trade, including the transiting from third countries via Tanzanian airports and ports, before the Doha CITES meeting was then turning down an application to sell ‘surplus’ ivory on the open market. Watch this space.
EASTERN ARC MOUNTAINS GET NORWEGIAN FORESTRY SUPPORT
Inspite of many misgivings over the President’s directive a few weeks ago to cancel an application for UNESCO recognition as a world heritage site for the Eastern Arc Mountains has Norway now concluded pending negotiations with the Tanzanian government over a support initiative worth nearly 6 million US Dollars. The funding is due to be disbursed to the Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund which is due to roll out a major project of re-forestation and added protective measures in parts of the forest where illegal logging is said to be high. Added project objectives are to increase the management functions of the Eastern Arc region.
The Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism had initially filed an application with UNESCO to recognize the Eastern Arc Mountains as a World Heritage Site, which would have raised the profile of the protected area, but other considerations, like alleged tropical hardwood harvesting and land allocations seem to have overruled common sense and conservation measures even here, as has been the case with President Kikwete’s administration elsewhere across the country.
The Eastern Arc Mountains are a major ‘water tower’ for Tanzania and extend over some 23.000 square kilometres. They include over a dozen forested mountains across the entire range, are immensely rich in biodiversity but at the same time also eyed with greed by logging companies and mining interests for suspected major deposits of minerals. This is according to a source in Arusha arguably the reason why the Tanzanian president stopped the UNESCO application to allow him to make ‘commercial decisions’ easier and without the troubles his administration is already encountering over their Serengeti highway plans.
The Norwegian support package was according to another source made ‘in the face’ of such plans and to serve as a sharp reminder to government that environmental protection and conservation measures ought to be taken more seriously and resources not squandered in an unsustainable way, contributing to climate change and leaving man made environmental disasters of the highest order for future generations to deal with. Watch this space.
RWANDAN PARLIAMENT ASKS FOR ‘FENCE MONEY’
Government was asked to allocate at least 350 million Rwandan Francs out of the overall 30 billion Rwandan Francs budget likely to be set aside for the Rwanda Development Board, to be used to erect a fence around key parts of the Akagera National Park where small scale farms reach right up to the park boundaries and create human – wildlife conflict when animals cross the invisible lines and destroy crops.
In recent months were several cases reported of injuries to farmers and even deaths, when animals strayed into the farms, encountered humans and then attacked.
The park is now under a partnership agreement between the Rwandan government and African Parks which manage Akagera and have pledged a major investment into park infrastructure but the fencing remains a crucial component in ‘neighbourhood relations’ with the local communities, which have suffered for many years through loss of life, property and crops. Electric and conventional fences in combination with dug ditches are often the only way to keep animals inside the park although migratory species of game then find it hard to follow their ancient movement patterns in search of pastures while the injection of new DNA into the game stocks too is difficult to maintain.
Akagera is besides Nyungwe National Park and the Volcanoes National Park one of the most visited areas of the country and offers diverse game viewing and different sceneries, making it attractive to tourist visitors to include the park into their safari itineraries.
RWANDAIR STARTS RUBAVU/GISENYI SERVICES
The national airline of Rwanda has now set the inaugural flight date for Rubavu / Gisenyi, their second domestic destination in Rwanda, for 02nd of June, at which time they will commence 4 weekly flights. The destination is only a ‘stone throw’ away from the border with the Congo DR, the nearest town being Goma only a few miles distant.
The operation will connect the capital city of Kigali with the municipality of Rubavu / Gisenyi and passengers can look forward for a swift – just over 20 minutes by air only – and safe journey every Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The airline will use their Bombardier Dash-8 for the service and arrival and departure times are coordinated to allow for onward connections with other RwandAir flights to regional and continental destinations. Happy Landings!
HOTEL QUALITY ASSESSORS GRADUATE
A dozen hotel assessors did last week graduate after a two month training course which focused on the East African Community’s common standards of classification and grading of hotels, lodges, inns, resorts and other hospitality businesses. The course was organized by the East African Community Secretariat and the Rwanda Development Board’s division for Tourism and Conservation, which had in the past repeatedly gone on record for the need to have skilled staff at hand able to carry out the region wide exercise and see to it that Rwandan hospitality standards are equal to those of her neighbours.
The assessors sat for their final exams early this week and are now able to deploy all over the region where the hospitality industry is undergoing assessment before being awarded the coveted ‘star ratings’ – the more the better of course.
Rwanda is notably the second EAC country to complete the mandatory training, following Kenya which had concluded the exercise a while ago, with Tanzania supposed to be the third country to graduate assessors, before Uganda and Burundi will also follow suit.
KWITA IZINA THE ‘BIGGEST AND BEST EVER’
Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming festival is now only just over two weeks away and 22 new born gorillas will be formally named in Ruhengeri on the 18th of June.
As has become almost customary now Rwanda is organizing a week of events, covering the country with a cycling tour, holding seminars and workshops on conservation in Kigali and engaging with local communities through support programmes – percolating tourism benefits to those in most need – before then embarking on the key gathering of conservationists, tourists and officials at the Volcanoes National Park for the main ceremony.
Tourism in the country has in recent years established itself as a key foreign exchange earner and seen this year already a very considerably increase over the early months in 2010, when Rwanda did reach record arrivals and revenues from visitors. Gorilla tracking is the highest profile activity the country has to offer but product diversification has over past years contributed greatly to spreading tourism benefits across the entire country, especially with the acceptance of Nyungwe National Park and its already famous tree canopy walk which has attracted thousands of visitors since its inauguration. Watch this space for live reports from Rwanda and regular updates throughout the ‘Kwita Izina’ week.
TOURISM FEATURES BIG IN CAREER DECISIONS
Seychelles Tourism Academy Principal Flavien Joubert last weekend led over 140 students to the Seychelles International Conference Centre for their annual graduation ceremony, which was graced by the presence of President Michel and other government officials.
In his address Mr. Joubert confirmed the increasing trend of applications by young Seychellois to join the STA’s course programmes, and that for the next intake of students more than 50 percent more have applied for admission compared to past years.
This, it was mentioned to this correspondent, was the result of a vibrant hospitality sector across the archipelago and many more career opportunities for Seychellois citizens, compared to the past, leading to an increase in students seeking to acquire the skills needed to make a success out of such a career choice.
While recently in the Seychelles the daily newspapers were full of adverts to recruit primarily Seychellois citizens for a wide range of positions, in both new as well as existing resorts, showing even casual observers that the tourism sector across the islands is indeed booming and absorbing skilled individuals literally at an instant’s notice.
President Michel, who was accompanied by Vice President Faure and the Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourist Board, awarded prices to the outstanding performers of this year’s graduation ceremony including the annual ‘President’s Cup’, underscoring through his presence the importance he himself accords the sector, as after all he continues to oversee the tourism ministry directly to ensure the industry receives all the required attention it needs from the head of state directly to succeed and continue to grow. Congrats to the graduates and all the best in their future careers.
EMIRATES TO RECRUIT MORE STAFF FROM SEYCHELLES
As the award winning national airline of Dubai moves from its present 12 flights per week between Dubai and Mahe to double daily in the very near future, Emirates is also making good of a commitment made when announcing the upping of its frequencies, that they would employ substantially more Seychellois citizens for a range of positions. This started with the promotion of two Seychellois in their Victoria office, where Lisa Chetty was promoted to Finance and Administration Manager for the Seychelles while Denise Rassool has taken over as Sales Manager. The two are pictured above when the announcement was made yesterday.
On 11th June Emirates will hold an ‘open day’ for young Seychellois intending to make a career in the aviation industry at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Resort, when officials and recruiters from the airline’s head office in Dubai will be at hand to lay out career plans and then select suitable applicants for a full interview. Those young Seychellois selected will then undergo the full training course as flight attendants in Dubai and will be based there as expatriate staff. This according to a source in Mahe provides exciting prospects for the many who will be getting the ‘nod’ from the recruiters and help the archipelago to further provide job opportunities for those who have completed their education programmes but also for others wishing to switch to more lucrative jobs.
Currently some 55 Seychellois are already working with Emirates in positions from ground staff, cabin crew and even B777 captains and this number may double once the current recruitment exercise has been completed.
Well done to Emirates on this occasion and all the best to the applicants for their ‘appointment with fate’ in two weeks time.
NOW ETIHAD WILL FLY TO THE SEYCHELLES
Information was confirmed overnight that Etihad, the national airline of Abu Dhabi, has also decided to add the Creole Island Paradise of the Seychelles to their list of destinations.
From November 01st Etihad will fly initially four times a week with an Airbus A 320 to the archipelago, joining the double daily flights by Emirates and the now daily flights by Qatar Airways.
Etihad’s decision was greeted with enthusiasm by the island’s tourism and business fraternities and warmly welcomed by the Seychelles Tourist Board.
Almost 1.100 seats are being added from November each week, helping the archipelago to fill beds in new resorts now coming on line and becoming more visible around the world as Ethihad will start to market their new destination.
The recent Royal Honeymoon as driven interest in the Seychelles to near frenzy levels, as not only British couples but couples from all over the world are now seeking to ‘copycat’ the young Royal’s honeymoon choice and North Island, the actual location of the honeymoon, appears to be awash with enquiries.
Abu Dhabi, part of the UAE and seat of the Presidency of the UAE, has in recent years become a strong partner of the Seychelles, and business links and investments on the archipelago have grown in leaps and bounds, with a warm friendship also developing between the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and the President of the Seychelles James Alix Michel.
An entire range of holiday options is now being prepared to be launched by Etihad Holidays, giving a variety of choices of different levels of accommodation in different islands.
Ethihad’s Airbus A 320 will offer 16 premium seats and 120 economy class seats on the route and will operate as flight number EY 621/2 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, although the airline left their option open to add more flights as market demand takes up the available seats.
AIR SEYCHELLES DEFERS NEXT TWIN OTTER DHC-600 DELIVERY
Information was received from sources close to and at the national airline of the Seychelles, that a second brand new Twin Otter DHC-600 earmarked for purchase will not, for the time being, be delivered while the restructuring of ‘HM’ is ongoing. The first aircraft, the long round the world ferry flight to the Seychelles covered here on a day to day basis a few months ago, is in service on the domestic routes of Air Seychelles to Praslin and other islands, and for charters, and it is understood that existing turboprop aircraft will remain on the fleet for some more time to come to have sufficient aircraft capacity available to operate the network of scheduled domestic flights, in particular when the main international airlines arrive and depart from Mahe’s airport, besides the regular charters the airline undertakes for tourist groups.
SUN PRINCESS CALLS ON VICTORIA HARBOUR
Princess Cruise Lines’ Sun Princess called on Victoria Harbour yesterday for a day long visit, during which many of the 1.900 passengers disembarked to stroll through the capital of the Seychelles while the ship was replenished with water, fuel and other supplies. The ‘new generation’ cruise liner towered over all the other cargo vessels in port that day and many Seychellois flocked to the harbour to get a glimpse of the huge ship while the tourists visited land marks in Victoria and the main market to shop for some indigenous souvenirs.
Sadly the Seychelles has been hit in recent years by the precautionary withdrawal of a number of cruise lines from the Indian Ocean as a result of ocean terrorists roaming the expanse of the ocean off Somalia which has prompted safety concerns by the companies and the passengers. Subsequently the classic Indian Ocean cruises covering the Seychelles, Mombasa, Zanzibar and often Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and then South Africa largely disappeared from the cruise lines’ brochures until the menace from hell has been cleared off the Indian Ocean waters, a measure long overdue by the naval coalition divided by different rules of engagement which have to be uniform and robust if not harsh to succeed.
In a soon to be published interview with the Minister for Home Affairs, Environment, Transport and Energy yesterday, the Honourable Joel Morgan, is was clearly stated that the ocean terrorists had caused a substantial impact on the Seychelles three main economic sectors of tourism, fishing and trade, and that the government of Seychelles would leave no option unexplored and would pursue a continued policy of robust responses to any intrusion into her economic exclusion zone of 200 nautical miles. At the same time the minister also assured this correspondent that the Seychelles government was continuously monitoring the sea lanes and the access to all islands of the archipelago to ensure the safety of her citizens and visitors alike and that there was absolutely no cause for concern that the Somali ocean terrorists would ever be able to make landfall as seen recently at a remote beach in Tanzania.
The Sun Princess meanwhile left after nightfall from Victoria and continued on her journey, which brought her to the Seychelles from Malaysia with final destination being the Caribbean.
South Sudan News
ABYEI WILL MAKE OR BREAK PEACE AGREEMENT
The blatant violation by regime troops and loyalist militias of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Khartoum and the SPLM/A led Southern liberation movement 10 days ago has again highlighted the reckless disregard by Khartoum’s ICC wanted leader Bashir and his goons. Tens of thousands of refugees are streaming away from the state and Abyei town moving further South, after Northern military units and their allied militias overran the SPLA detach stationed in Abyei and reportedly in Darfur style raped, looted and burned to clear the area for the imminent occupation by Misseriya tribesmen.
A ruling of the International Arbitration Panel at The Hague and the provisions of the CPA did little to stem the regime’s greed to return Southern land into their fold, to continue the exploitation of mineral resources and their long standing policy of treating their African compatriots with contempt if not hold them in slavery conditions.
The East African countries which had in 2009 signed on to the peace treaty have already expressed their grave concern to Khartoum, and while presently opting for diplomatic pressures and mustering global opinion against the regime have not ruled out to come to the assistance of the South with military support, should Khartoum not withdraw their marauding troops and militias from Abyei forthwith.
Uganda in particular, but also Kenya are said to be increasingly upset that their continued engagement with Bashir’s regime has not resulted in Khartoum changing political course and while Bashir has in past visits to East African countries not faced arrest on behalf of the ICC, this lenient handling may soon be a thing of the past for him as he has once again exposed himself as a warmongering hardliner, even if some reports are true that this was only done to prevent his own overthrow by the more hardline Islamist elements around him. East Africa and other allies of Southern Sudan are also said to be concerned about Khartoum being prodded by their political godfathers into stirring fresh conflict with South Sudan, so that East Africa could on a broader basis be drawn back into wars and to create an enabling environment for Al Qaida sympathizers and affiliates to carry out attacks from their present strongholds in parts of Somalia and other ‘friendly’ regimes. This is supported by growing evidence that Eritrea’s posturing and rhetoric has of late increased again and that the resilience of Al Shabab and other Islamist militias, in the face of a largely underfunded and under-facilitated African Union mission in Somalia which has been unable to take the fight to the militants and militarily rout them out of their safe havens, has kept the balance of military power in Somali on knife’s edge.
Sources in Juba have in the meantime confirmed that SPLA units based in Abyei and nearby have undertaken a re-grouping exercise and are being reinforced should the invaders attempt to push further into Southern territory, but also pointed out that unlike the regime’s units they were still exercising restraint and not commence immediate offensive operations to clear the area again. This, the source pointed out was done to show their East African allies that the SPLM led government in Juba was indeed primarily seeking global and regional diplomatic intervention to have Khartoum withdraw behind the CPA demarcated lines and be compelled to compensate those who have suffered, instead of taking the ‘bait’ and being drawn into another round of armed conflict even if provoked by the Bashir regime.
Other sources are already talking about a fresh ICC investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes inflicted by the loyalist militias in ‘Darfur style’ on the innocent population while at the same time making added efforts to have African governments change their tune vis a vis the ICC arrest warrant for Bashir in the light of these latest atrocities committed.
Political analysts in Juba also confirmed that preparations for the Independence celebrations on 09th July remained on course but with substantially increased security for the event to prevent any disruption by Bashir’s goons. Watch this space.
And in closing today as almost every week some material from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, courtesy of Gill Staden. Selected articles from her are featured every week but you can subscribe directly to her weekly news feed via email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kasanka – Ever so Batty
This is part of an article about Kasanka National Park. To read the rest go to: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/travel/ever-so-batty-about-zambia/story-e6frg8rf-1226062510443
WITH bellies full of mango, they fly in exhausted. All night they have been gorging on the fruits of the forest. At about 5am, as the sun starts to rise, they return home to digest their fruity bounty.
From The Australian
Hundreds soon become thousands and tens of thousands become hundreds of thousands until the lightening sky above me fills with millions of furry, fruit-stained, winged creatures. They are fruit bats (or flying foxes), and with straw-coloured, puppy-sized bodies and wings that span almost 1m, these are giant fruit bats. All are looking for a roosting space and competition is fierce in this small patch of remote swamp forest in Zambia’s Kasanka National Park.
From my treetop hide, about 20m above the ground, I am almost at the same height as the bats. Against a backdrop of a crimson sky, the sight of millions of these creatures silhouetted against the early morning sun is startling. Graceful as trapeze artists, the bats dive in and out of the forest’s towering trees, chattering and squealing loudly. Landing on the trunks of red mahogany and milkwood trees, they crawl up into the branches, nudging, shoving and bumping each other until they find a free space from which to hang upside down.
The trees swarm with bats. Wriggling and jiggling, they pack tightly, like grapes, into clusters and begin to settle down. After a night of flying and foraging they are exhausted. Brown leathery wings are pulled in over honey-coloured tummies. Bright orange eyes, housed in faces as sweet as a puppy dog’s, start to close.
As they drift into sleep, birdsong, gentle as a lullaby, gradually replaces the high-pitched din of the bats. The forest, now an enormous bat dormitory, falls quiet.
With an estimated 10 million (possibly as many as 15 million, according to some figures) bats snoozing here from late October to the end of December, this is the largest bat roost on earth. From the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, millions of fruit bats migrate, regular as clockwork, every year.
Gastronomic tourists with huge appetites, they come in search of seasonal waterberries, mango, wild loquat and red milkwood berries. While they are in Kasanka, the bats eat their way through the forest, each feasting on about 2kg of fruit every night. By the time the bats leave in late December, the trees are stripped bare; more than one billion pieces of fruit will have been devoured. …
Such is the draw of this ambrosia that the number of bats migrating here is more than 10 times the number of mammals involved in Africa’s most famous wildlife spectacle, the annual migration of 1.8 million wildebeest between the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania. The fruit bats’ migration from the Congo Basin to Kasanka is actually the largest mammal migration on earth. And it happens in a pocket of forest no bigger than two or three football pitches, in one of Zambia’s smallest and least-visited national parks. …
Maun Heading for Floods
The water coming from Angola, down the Kavango River and then finally into the Okavango Delta, always arrives much later than our floods in Livingstone. This year after heavy rains in Angola the river is higher than even last year (which were exceptional). According to experts, the water could be 40cm higher this year than it was last year in Maun – it is still on the way…