Weekly roundup of news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, First edition June 2011

My dear readers, the original version of this post contains many pictures which when using the copy/paste mode to transfer my Word documents on to the blog disappear as WordPress has seemingly still not caught on to making life easy. Posting the pictures individually again is cumbersome and takes hours I do not have, so let WordPress know to shape up a little more and facilitate a straight file transfer with  embedded pictures from Word to blog. Thank you for reading!

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 instantly via Twitter by following @whthome or read the daily postings on my blog via: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

First edition June 2011

 

Africa News

IN MEMORIAM STEPHANE FRANTZ DI RIPPEL

Ivorian security authorities, now under a new and legitimate government, have yesterday confirmed that the remains of the General Manager of the Novotel in Abidjan have been found, bringing an anxious period of several weeks of waiting by his family, friends, colleagues and staff to a gruesome end.

Stephane was abducted by armed men together with several guests from the Novotel Abidjan in early April, when former President Gbagbo tried to illegitimately hold on to power by use of brute and indiscriminate force against his population and even expatriates, before he was eventually captured and is now being held awaiting trial.

While no specific details are available yet on motives or the individuals involved in the abduction at the time there are strong suspicions that it was Gbagbo’s henchmen and goons who were involved as Gbagbo at the time incited and inflamed the situation with anti French statements and rhetoric, giving prosecutors a fresh case to build against the former dictator already under investigation for alleged crimes against humanity.

It is understood from Novotel personnel known to this correspondent that the hotel group is ‘devastated and deeply distressed’ since the news broke as are the entire staff of the Novotel Abidjan and the previous posting stations of Stephane in Cotonou and Lome. Stephane had only taken over as General Manager a few weeks prior to being abducted and subsequently killed.

No word has yet been given about the fate of the several other guests who were abducted at the same time but the worst is feared for them now while the search for them continues.

Condolences are expressed to Stephane’s family, friends, his colleagues and staff on this sad occasion and may he rest in eternal peace.

 

Uganda News

IT IS ‘STATE OF THE NATION’ ADDRESS TODAY

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will today address the nation as he delivers his ‘State of the Nation’ speech to parliament, now that his government has been sworn in and commenced work.

This will be followed on Thursday by the reading of the national budget by the new Minister for Finance Maria Kiwanuka although she is thought to have had little final input into this year’s budget proposals due to the time frame between her appointment, vetting and swearing in yesterday. As said  in a related article yesterday, the tourism sector does not expect much of a change for 2011/12 but has high hopes that the new minister, herself from a successful business empire in the private sector turned politician to change things for the better, will in fact for 2012/13 inject greater resources in the industry to ensure exponential growth and fulfill at last the tourism industry’s potential for the good of the nation.

The President himself is today expected to address the concerns of the people of Uganda over rising fuel and food prices but also about corruption in government and will outline his policies to combat these challenges during the near and medium term future. Much hope is also now based on the rapid coming on line of Uganda’s oil resources, generally seen as a financial savior for being able to self finance projects like power plants, roads and highways, schools and health centres without having to rely on donors and development partners who often sway in their support as the political wind blows, that is until their envoys’ cars are stoned by the rowdy hooligans of their political choice in Uganda as seen recently.

With Total and the Chinese Overseas Oil Corporation now part of Tullow Oil in Uganda, the investments needed will undoubtedly accelerate and when the oil flows fuel prices too are set to become affordable as they are in other Gulf countries pumping crude, as Uganda intends to refine ‘at home’ and then put ‘white fuels’ on the market for domestic consumption and export.

Details of the Presidential address will overnight become available via www.newvision.co.ug which is Uganda’s leading daily newspaper and respected for its balanced reporting.

 

WILL THE NEW BUDGET CHANGE THINGS FOR UGANDA TOURISM

Tourism stakeholders are not holding their breath and neither does the Uganda Tourist Board, when asked about the forthcoming annual budget speech soon expected to be read to the newly constituted parliament.

Ministers are being sworn in today at  State House Entebbe, making the appointments by President Museveni legal and final, albeit not some 6 who were thrown out by the parliamentary vetting committee over a range of issues concerning academic qualifications as well as ethical concerns.

The swearing in of Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu as Minister of Tourism will fulfill at least in part the demands made by tourism stakeholders over many years, but it is only one step in to the right direction to give the tourism industry their rightful place, in cabinet and across the national economy and its driving institutions.

No change is expected in the amount of funds set aside for the tourism sector, and from the available budget a new stand alone ministry has to be created first now that the split from Trade and Industry has finally become reality. Yet, budget allocations leaked to this correspondent for the Uganda Tourist Board confirm the worst fears, that inspite of evidence submitted to the powers that be, how added funding has catapulted the Kenyan and Rwandan tourism sectors sky high in their performances, this does not seem to sink into the heads of finance ministry bureaucrats who still thing ‘tourism happens’, which of course it does not, as no sector of the economy just ‘happens’.

A billion Kenya Shilling budget for KTB last year and a lot more for flanking measures like recapitalizing the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation – something Uganda sorely lacks – have made an impact around the world in terms of marketing abilities for KTB and the record year 2010, Kenya is well enroute to turn 2011 into another record breaker, should make it clear for all to see that the more you put into the sector and facilitate global marketing in existing, emerging and new markets the better the sector performs overall with all the positive fallout, added jobs on the fast track, added investments both FDI and domestic, added foreign exchange earnings and added visibility in a global market place which generally helps the destination to overcome the gutter press suggestions in recent weeks that ‘The Pearl of Africa’ had descended into chaos and is ruled by a dictatorship, which are of course utter lies by propagandists.

Uganda has a tourism potential hardly touched and is unique in many ways even considering the immense biodiversity and tourism opportunities East Africa as a whole offers to visitors.

The country’s lakes and rivers, mountains and forests, birdlife and wildlife, our cultures and heritage are all winners in their own rights but until UTB gets the funds to tell the world and show the world by being present at as many tourism trade shows across the globe as possible, strike alliances with airlines and for twin centre holidays with complementary destinations like the Seychelles and create and maintain a state of the art and proactive presence on the Web this is not about to happen. Presently the Uganda Tourist Board barely makes ends meet to pay for recurrent expenditures leaving little left for promotions and almost nothing for product research and development which could spur an entire new branch of opportunities for investments and new jobs in the country.

Still my message to my erstwhile colleagues is not to despair and try again and harder to reach the powers that be with facts and figures, demonstrating how our neighbours are cleaning up ‘our plates’ because they invest a whole lot more into tourism future than we do here in Uganda, and talk to the new Minister of Finance, who comes with a wealth of experience from the private sector, and tell her what needs to be done and what the returns will be from such an investment – and 2012 / 13 might be an entirely different story then.

 

INFLATION HITS 17 YEAR HIGH

The high cost of fuel in recent months has driven inflation across East Africa to new heights and in Uganda the figures have now reached 16 percent, the 7th straight rise in the consumer price index prepared by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics in conjunction with the Bank of Uganda and a level not seen since 1994. Main reasons for the continued rise in prices are the cost of petrol and diesel influencing the transportation of goods, both imports and food stuffs from the producing areas to the cities and urban centres, but also still the high general cost of food items, which however are thought to have now started a downwards trend again as the rainy season spurred greater supplies of greens and staple food items like matooke in the country. Economic observers and analysts expect inflationary trends to gradually return to single digit figures before stabilizing within the initially forecast 3-5 percent margin again.

Tourists in the meantime continue to enjoy the greater value their hard currency buys them while in Uganda for in country expenses, extras and those quintessential souvenirs.

 

KISORO ROAD COMPLETION DRAWS NEARER

The main contractor for the road reconstruction and tarmacking between Kabale and Kisoro will within the month of June hand over two more completed sections of the new road to government, after completing all the work and inspections recently. Tourist visitors already enjoy a smooth ride, but for some 10 miles which will be ready later in the year. The ease of driving along what this correspondent thinks is one of Uganda’s most scenic routes, and passing constant ‘awesome’ views along the entire route including driving through an extensive bamboo forests and then the so called Kanaba Gap where a clear view towards the volcanoes in Rwanda is possible and on clear days all peaks can be seen in the distance makes the road a favourite with tourists and locals alike.

Lake Mutanda near Kisoro expands the options for visitors with boating and bird watching and two gorilla national parks, Mgahinga and Bwindi, can easily be reached from Kisoro. Luxurious accommodation is available at Clouds Safari Lodge but both in Kisoro and up the mountains are more affordable options available for those travelling on a budget. The borders to Congo Dr and Rwanda are near the municipality and should no gorilla permits be available on site in Kisoro – thankfully the available slots for tracking are mostly sold out – ad hoc visitors can always cross into Congo and try to track there, or else pay a quick visit to the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’, aka Rwanda. Watch this space for future updates on the eventual completion of this new tarmac road and visit www.visituganda.com for more details on this particular part of the country or look up the two parks via www.ugandawildlife.org

 

UWA’S WOES REACH NEW LEVELS

The Uganda Wildlife Authority, torn apart as a result of the ill fated appointment of a friend as chairman last year by the then minister, is now seemingly facing new woes, as the Commission of Enquiry chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba is showing its ‘teeth’. Armed with powers almost identical to the High Court, the chairman and some members last week went in person to the UWA head offices to demand information and files from staff, only to be commenting later on that they were frustrated once again and could not receive certain files, which according to UWA staff were with the World Bank, the main financier of the PAMSU project and could only be released by them, though the World Bank of course is beyond the Commission’s jurisdiction and enjoys diplomatic status in Uganda which means officials cannot be compelled to testify.

World Bank officials were loath to comment other than to point out that their internal audits of the project had unveiled no irregularities over the years but they would act upon any sound evidence the Commission would find and formally submit to them.

The Commission yesterday accused at least four UWA staff of concealing and hiding evidence and called for their immediate suspension and physical removal from their offices, while also considering added measures in the power of the Commission to compel them to testify truthfully. By morning today it was not known if the suspension had been effected already, and as a refusal or delay could be interpreted as Contempt of an Order issued by the Commission details are expected to become available later on.

Regular sources at UWA are keeping shtumm and refuse to accept calls on office phone lines to discuss such issues while being equally afraid to even make use of their personal mobile phones unless callers could be traced back and they end up in even deeper problems for sharing information and opinions.

Erstwhile star performer UWA, until a board of greedy and powerhungry individuals was appointed last year, has seen a deep fall from the height of their professional standing to a level where even day to day operations are now being affected by decisions being weighed seemingly forever and obviously forgetting a key corporate principle, that while few mistakes are made when NOT making decisions, indecisiveness itself is one of the biggest corporate sins in itself.

Watch this space as the UWA saga continues to unfold and unravel unabated.

 

DR. OKURUT TO HEAD NEMA

As the lackluster and widely perceived mediocre two terms of office of Dr. Aramanya Mugisha at the helm of the National Environmental Management Authority came to an end, the Minister of Environment wasted no time after her re-appointment to cabinet to appoint Dr. Tom Okurut at the new NEMA boss, effective immediately.

Dr. Okurut joins NEMA from his previous position at the Lake Victoria Basin Commission where he held the office of Executive Secretary, better understood as Secretary General in layman’s terms, for several years, allowing him to get fully acquainted with the challenges he will now face at Uganda’s principle environmental protection body.

Dr. Mugisha’s terms were often riddled with controversy and in particular many questions remained unanswered over the selective application of the rules and regulations, seemingly hunting for a few and letting many more off the hooks, while ignoring regular information passed to the authority over encroachment of wetlands, especially one near this correspondent’s residence along the Konge Valley, where more developments seems to spring up every night with the watchdog having slept, not even barked leave along bitten the offenders, leading to the rephrasing of NEMA as ‘never encountered more apathy’ in this column, widely applauded but bitterly resented by NEMA’s top officials who came across the term, yet quietly accepted by some lower ranking officials in regular contact as ‘sadly true’.

Much hope is vested therefore in the new man whose reputation as a scientist and effective technocrat has preceded him even before his arrival at NEMA and his proven ability to build alliances and create political support, something he excelled in at the LVBC, will stand him good when requiring the powers that be to back his action plan and responses to put the environment first and foremost before ‘development’ which while benefiting a few will only bring negative effects and fallout to the country which so much depends on ‘staying green’, for tourism and generally for future prosperity. Karibu Sana Bwana Tom and all the best!

 

TOURISM GETS OWN MINISTRY BACK

As projected here a few weeks ago, President Museveni has indeed re-constituted a separate Ministry of Tourism, leaving Trade and Industry behind as a ‘stand alone’ ministry again to the great relief of the entire industry. New cabinet minister is the Hon. Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, who already served as state minister in the former ministry of tourism, trade and industry and has the required insight and without doubt the intellect to provide guidance and leadership to the sector which has of late been suffering of bad publicity as a result of opposition incited incidents on the streets of Kampala, but also from the fallout of bad decisions made by the former minister who gained some serious notoriety when he referred to himself as the ‘minister for crocodiles’.

During the World Bank ‘inspired’, if not dictated public sector reform in the late 90’s the ministry of tourism, wildlife and antiquities was force-merged with Trade and Industry, not a compatible ‘marriage’ unlike for instance a joining with natural resources or environment, and this promptly caused outrage and serious concerns by the sector for not being consulted at all, which in coming years was proven exactly right as the tourism portfolio constantly pulled the short straws when it came to budget allocations, leaving the tourist board seriously cash starved and the sector almost in neglect.

The forthcoming budget reading will give the tourism industry a better idea what resources government will allocate to the ministry and the tourist board, as the initial action now witnessed must of course be followed up by sufficient cash to go out and promote Uganda to the world, as our neighbours Rwanda and Kenya have amply demonstrated and very successfully so in recent years. In the meantime, the new government is granted the traditional 100 days grace period to settle in and get into gear, but expectations will be high that fundamental change is now on the way to propel Uganda’s tourism industry truly into the 21st century. From this correspondent it is a hearty welcome to Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, who served with me on the board of the Rhino Fund Uganda a decade ago, and all the best of luck and good fortune in steering Uganda’s tourism sector to new exciting heights. Watch this space.

 

Kenya News

KENYA TOURISM SET TO GET RECORD FUNDING FOR 2011/12

Information obtained through leading tourism sources in Nairobi speaks of a substantial increase in funding for tourism marketing up to 1.4 billion Kenya Shillings for the next financial year, news which were greeted with delight by the industry. While 2010 ended as the ‘best year ever’ in terms of arrival and revenues for the Kenyan tourism industry, this year is projected to set a new record again as presently the sector is up by about 15 percent compared with last year.

However, this is a result of intense and focused marketing abroad where existing markets get as much attention as new and emerging markets in particular in the Far and South East, the former Soviet bloc and South America.

New and  additional air connections have aided Kenya’s tourism boom and the added funding now put into the pipeline will allow the Kenya Tourist Board and the private sector to become visible across the world in all key tourism trade shows, conduct road shows in key market places and  create new circuits to open up the entire country for in particular repeat visitors.

The envisaged introduction, final word is still pending as to the when and how, of the common visitor Visa for the East African Community is also though to greatly assist Kenya to benefit for quick add on visits by tourists already in the region and hitherto put off by the need to pay extra Visa fees, which for a family of four can easily run into 200 US Dollars, money which ought to be spend ‘on the ground’ where the cash percolates into the economy and the pockets of wananchi and not an obscure general government fund.

Rwanda too is expected to pour more resources into their crucial tourism industry and calls in Tanzania ahead of the budget reading echoed the same sentiments, as they did in Uganda too, that the more one puts into tourism marketing the more one gets out of it, exponentially and in great multiples through new investments, new jobs and far greater foreign exchange earnings crucial to the stability of local currencies and the balance of payments accounts. Watch this space as the budgets are ready on the same day, 08th of June across the region, just how much and how high tourism ranks in the respective countries.

 

KENYA GOVERNMENT TO ‘DEFEND’ THEIR STAKE IN KENYA AIRWAYS

Information was received from usually well informed circles in Nairobi that the government will during the upcoming additional share issue by Kenya’s national airline be defending their 23 percent shareholding in the publicly listed and traded company and underwrite their share options in full.

Kenya Airways was privatized in 1996 and has since then not raised its capital, now however thought to be essential to provide the company with the financial resources and strength to finance and acquire additional aircraft and roll out its network expansion as internal strategy papers suggest it should.

Kenya Airways remains an example of a successful airline privatization and shares are now traded across the entire region with over 75.000 institutional and individual shareholders on the company register. KQ has largely posted profits since it was ‘sold’ but for the extremely difficult years during the global economic and financial crisis, when the world’s aviation industry sank into unprecedented depths of losses not seen since 9/11 had turned airline accounts into scarlet red reading material.

During privatization, incidentally spearheaded by British Airways Speedwing Consulting, KLM at the time emerged as the most potent bidder and subsequently acquired a 26 percent stake before taking ‘the Pride of Africa’ on an unprecedented journey of success.

However, the initial KLM management team and subsequent managers then chosen have since made way for a largely Kenyan team at the helm, presently headed by Dr. Titus Naikuni, who have done Kenya and Africa proud by continuing the success stories written by their predecessors since 1996 and being living evidence that privatization, when done smartly, can actually work and bring about huge benefits.

The Kenyan government’s decision to fully take up their share entitlement will cost them nearly 60 million US Dollars but is thought to be a strategic investment – incidentally a profitable one considering the financial returns through dividends – aimed to cement Nairobi’s regional superiority as THE leading East African aviation hub. As reported here in the past in related articles, Kenya Airways’ hub airport of Nairobi is currently undergoing expansion and modernization and it is understood from usually reliable sources that this will include a dedicated new terminal for Kenya Airways and their Sky Team alliance partners alongside a second runway, which will boost Nairobi’s standing as a fully functional twin runway airport and create capacity for more airlines to commence flights to Kenya. Primary targets here are carriers from the Far and South East but also from North America where commercial demands are now gaining the upper hand over obscure aviation safety issues past American administrations had with Kenyan airports.

Meanwhile though is the immediate financial future for Kenya Airways looking stronger than ever before and this correspondent in particular is always happy to walk on the red carpet when flying with ‘the Pride of Africa’ – taking me places.

 

CAUSE FOR NAIROBI EXPLOSION UNKNOWN AS YET BUT ACCIDENT STRONGLY SUSPECTED

Update

It was overnight confirmed that the explosion at a Nairobi fuel station was indeed an accident, putting any other speculations remaining to a firm rest. Official sources, while still tight lipped, point to a fuel leak of fuel fumes which might have been ignited by welding sparks as a very likely cause of the blast. At least one person has also been confirmed dead and the number of injured treated in various hospitals has been pegged at nearly 50, although many have been released after receiving first aid for cuts and bruises. As many as six are said to remain in critical but stable condition in intensive care units of city hospitals.

A sizeable explosion appears to have rocked Nairobi earlier today resulting in as many as 30 people being injured but at this moment thankfully there are no reports of anyone having been killed.

A source in Nairobi did say that a number of those injured suffered severe burns and are presently admitted at Kenya’s largest referral and national hospital in the city.

The resulting fire was being dealt with by the Nairobi Fire Brigade and the area has been cordoned off to allow for a full scale investigation on the cause of the fire and apparent prior explosion, after the flames had been fully extinguished.

Police sources were quoted in local media reports picked up in Kampala that the public should desist from any speculation over the cause of the incident as it was too early to make conclusive statements, but would not rule in nor out any possible cause.

A source close to the Kenya Tourist Board also asked to get the message out immediately that this could just as well have been an accident involving hazardous or flammable materials stored at the site and that the destination Kenya was safe for tourist visitors, a sentiment this correspondent can underscore having been in Nairobi just a few days ago. The Kirinyaga/Accra road junction, where the blast occurred is not an area tourists would ordinarily visit nor an area of any strategic value, lending credibility to emerging information that it may indeed have been a simple accident. Watch this space or the news media for further updates.

 

MORE FENCES FOR MORE PARKS

Kenya Wildlife Services has recently announced that they have raised and secured enough funds to commence the fencing of the Mt. Kenya National Park, due to start later in the year. The cost for the project is estimated to be over 12 million US Dollars, with a tendency to rise considering present inflationary pressures and the decline in value of the Kenyan currency over the past months.

Mt. Kenya, like all other forested areas prone to encroachment beyond the national park boundaries will hence follow the example of the Aberdare National Park, where a private initiative started by Rhino Ark has last year led to the completion of fencing, aimed to protect the animals inside from poaching, the park from encroachment and the farms around the park from being raided by hungry animals in search of pasture.

However, criticism is never far off when talking ‘fence’ in conservation circles, as crucially fencing cuts off the ancient migratory routes elephant in particular but also other game used to follow, when they traversed a then sparsely populated Kenya and often travelled between the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya, across the Laikipia plains and as far as Marsabit to the North but reportedly also way into the Great African Rift Valley. The exchange of genes, of crucial importance for the maintenance of a sound DNA base for future animal generations, is also being cut off leaving the wildlife managers with a different set of problems to resolve.

The Nairobi National Park is often cited as an example, where fencing was considered of crucial importance to protect the game and the territorial integrity of the park against land pressures by developers, but with the migration routes in and out of the park increasingly cut off towards and beyond the Athi plains, DNA exchange is set to become an issue here too.

While making the announcement KWS also released information that they intend to fence the Marsabit National Park too, setting off a clear trend towards confining wildlife from their erstwhile ranges to defined and fenced habitats, which while often large in size nevertheless keep game from migrating.

Only recently was it reported here that as a result of the fencing game needed to be fed and watered at substantial cost by KWS, as they were unable to leave their fenced spaces in search of water and pastures beyond their mandated new ‘habitat’, showing clearly what range of difficulties the wildlife managers are faced with after opting to put up fences in the first place.

A source close to KWS in Nairobi rejected suggestions by this correspondent recently that fencing would eventually create open air safari parks found in Europe and elsewhere, although substantially larger of course, insisting that a fence served to protect game, the parks integrity and the property of people who live close to the national parks and game reserves. Yet conservation sources from Nairobi had issues with this school of thought when again insisting that the habits of migration, carried in the genes of game since times immemorial could not be changed and that the impact of being cut off from migrations could irreversibly impact on the social behaviour and breeding patterns of game in the future. Said one source: ‘your reporting about the Serengeti highway tells the story. If the Serengeti is cut apart by the highway, it is almost like a fence and the migration of the wildebeest to the Masai Mara could be totally disrupted. Where are wildebeest finding food then. They migrate a long distance to follow the rains and pastures. When the Serengeti has dried up the come to the Masai Mara to feed and then return to Serengeti and almost to Ngorongoro before turning full circle back once more. KWS maybe does not always see too far into the future. How will they feed animals, bring water to them when drought strikes. I think we need a national dialogue on such future looking issues, not just in Kenya but in all of East Africa, even in Southern Africa, before mankind swallows all the wildlife habitat up for what tycoons tell us is development but it really is for their own benefits only. They too will suffer when the planet has lost its rich diversity and smoke stacks rise where big herds once grazed.’

Not an easy question to answer and surely the stuff of more articles, more controversy and more heated arguments in coming days. Watch this space.

 

BACK IN HISTORY SAFARI HONOURS JOY AND GEORGE ADAMSON

Cheli and Peacock Safaris will this summer offer a dedicated tour to two of their Northern Kenyan camps in commemoration of the famous Joy Adamson – of Born Free fame – when they will welcome one of her former assistants, Martin Clarke. Martin will visit ‘Joy’s Camp’ built by Stefano and Liz Cheli on the exact spot where Joy’s first ever camp was pitched in what is today the Shaba Game Reserve.

After concluding his stay at ‘Joy’s Camp’, where Martin is going to interact with guests to share his memory of those long gone days and show some of his photographic collection from back then, he will move to C&P’s Meru camp ‘Elsa’s Kopje’ which was set up above George Adamson’s erstwhile campsite in an elevated position. Cheli and Peacock now own and/or operate 14 unique and individually crafted boutique properties across some of the fanciest destinations in Kenya, on the safari circuit and along the coast, and have over the past 26 years – they were established in 1985 – become one of Kenya’s foremost safari and camp operations, bagging rewards galore for many of their properties. Visit www.chelipeacock.com for more information and to appreciate the incredible variety of places one can visit under this ‘one stop operation’.

Notably, and related to this news item, will the 22nd anniversary of George Adamson’s passing be commemorated with an event in Kora National Park on the 19th of August this year at ‘Kambi ya Simba’ and details for that are available on a special Facebook page where all details, how to get there and what an organized tour will set participants back can be found:

www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10150271529601413&id=536256412&ref=notif&notif_t=like#!/event.php?eid=219294608095289

 

KENYA TOURISM FEDERATION TO ‘CELEBRATE WINNERS’

The famous Carnivore Restaurant’s Simba Saloon will provide a fitting setting and backdrop to the first ever Kenya Tourism Awards, due to be held on the evening of Thursday 23rd of June. The Kenya Tourism Federation, the private sector apex body for the tourism, hospitality and aviation industry, has joined hands with the Kenya Tourist Board to recognize and reward exceptional quality and commitment of stakeholders being the very best in their field and profession. A formal Gala Dinner will set the tone for the award ceremony which will be attended by none other than the Secretary General of UNWTO, his colleagues from the UNWTO Executive Council, the Minister of Tourism, the Who is Who of Kenya’s tourism, hospitality and aviation industry but also captains of other industries and needless to say the media themselves, also vying to be given recognition for regular positive reporting on sectoral developments, conservation issues and the industry in general.

The following categories of prizes will be awarded to the winning companies and individuals:

 

  1. Best Accommodation Facility Award
  • City hotel
  • Beach hotel
  • Inland hotel/camp/lodge
  • Less than 10 employees
  • 10 or more employees
  1. Best Entertainment Facility Award
  2. Tour Operator of Year Award
  1. Air Operator of the Year Award
  2. Domestic Tourism Award
  3. Best Tourism attraction
  4. Best Travel Management company/Travel agency

 

Media Awards will be presented in the following categories

 

  1. BEST JOURNALIST PRINT MEDIA
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines

 

  1. BEST JOURNALIST ELECTRONIC MEDIA
  • Television
  • Radio

 

  1. DIGITAL MEDIA

 

The event has gained additional significance for the Kenya tourism industry as the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Executive Council will in prior days meet for the first time in Kenya at a coastal resort in Mombasa and conclude their visit to East Africa’s most significant tourism destination by attending the Kenya Tourism Award celebration.

Meanwhile have earlier reports been confirmed that with the latest data now at hand Kenya is indeed heading for another record year in tourism arrivals and revenues, catapulting the sector back into the top three economic performers for the country. Ahead of the event, all the best for the organizers KTF and KTB and needless to mention, winners will be announced here on the next day for the world to see, read and appreciate the outstanding performances of those companies and individuals who the night before carried their trophies home with them.

 

80 AND COUNTING – A RETURN TO LAKE NAIVASHA

 

(The new enlarged entrance to the Lake Naivasha Country Club, welcoming as ever)

 

The calls of the fish eagles echoed across the extensive manicured grounds in the early hour of the day as the first rays of light crept across the horizon, just as it must have sounded 80 odd years ago. Ever since the erstwhile Sparks Hotel’s construction was started in 1931, at the very spot where I now sat on the verandah of my cottage to soak up the birdsong from the tall ‘fever trees’, aka acacias, did this distinct bird call capture the imagination of owners, managers and travelling guests alike, nature’s wake up call for sure and greatly assisted and enhanced by the myriads of other birds making the Lake Naivasha shores their habitat and singing their hearts out day in day out to the delight of visitors from the city but also from abroad, who probably see more birds at Naivasha in a day than in a year back home where they come from.

 

(Across the water is ‘Crescent Peninsula’ formerly ‘Crescent Island’, now connected to the mainland)

 

The lake since then has seen variations in water levels, and at present, probably for a variety of reasons, the water is well back from the time the Sparks’ set out to build their little hotel, at a time when Crescent Island was indeed still an island as opposed to ‘Crescent Peninsula’ as it now appears to have become.

The first five rooms, still standing today at the same spot though repeatedly modified, enlarged and modernized were completed by 1933, allowing Ann and Herbert Sparks to take in paying guests but the ‘official’ opening, cutting tape and cake and all, still took until Christmas Day in 1935 when according to records obtained the ‘Sparks’ was fully booked

The hotel soon gained a reputation as a comfortable and conveniently located rest stop for those taking the hard road from Nairobi into the Great African Rift Valley or vice versa, but only when Imperial Airways commenced their long distance flights between London and Durban with the legendary ‘flying boats’ – huge ‘beasts’ in those days – was it that the hotel began its rise to fame and glory which lasted to the present day.

These flying contraptions landing on water came from the River Thames via the Mediterranean Sea to the Nile delta near Alexandria and then flew along the river with further landings in Khartoum before breaking the journey in Naivasha, the lake being Kenya’s first international airport in a manner of speaking.

Crews and passengers stayed on land for night stops along the route and the trip taking several days allowed in particular the passengers to take in some real life experiences en route, with lions reportedly still roaming the floor of the Rift Valley back then and their roars being heard at night, causing probably fear and hopes amongst the airline guests for the swift onset of daylight, considering the stories passengers had heard about the man eating lions of Tsavo which had taken quite a few fellow Englishmen in their days and more locals in addition to the ‘imported food’.

Transport to and from Nairobi was by available cars or trucks or in the worst case by ox drawn wagons, having to make the way up the escarpment and across the Limuru hills before reaching the then capital of the colony. Ancient pictures still remind the guests of what is today called the Lake Naivasha Country Club, giving a glimpse back into times long passed but still remembered by a few as this correspondent can vouch for.

During the Second World War the hotel was for a brief period converted into a boarding school when the ‘Prince of Wales’ had to be evacuated until the Abyssinian campaign had been concluded and the Italians been defeated in their only African colony.

In the early 1940’s the hotel changed hands twice according to records found, first bought by one Mr. Storey, no other names found before his manageress a Miss Evelyn Denwett bought it off him in 1944 and changed the name to ‘Lake Hotel’.

A rather nondescript period evolved with little information found in the short time I was back in Naivasha, between the end of the war and independence for Kenya, and just a few years after Kenya became a republic Michael Cunningham – Reid bought the hotel and promptly renovated and refurbished the hotel, building more rooms in the process to cater for the growing demand by the local farming community, then still largely white ex-Brits who had taken Kenyan nationality on independence and the initial trickle of tourists coming to Kenya on big game safaris.

 

(Zebras and waterbuck are ‘friendly’ and freely roam the grounds of the club but best be careful not to walk up to a hippopotamus when seen)

 

Notably, not far from the Lake Hotel’s extensive grounds is Elsamere found, now a memorial and educational site cum museum for the work done by George and Joy Adamson who propelled Kenya into the international spotlight with their efforts to successfully release captive lions back into the wild at the Kora Game Reserve in Northern Kenya, while they still spent much time every year at their lakeside residence.

‘Dodo’ Cunningham – Reid, Michael’s wife, was often seen at the hotel, inspite of Block Hotels, in the 70’s THE hotel, resort and safari lodge management company in Kenya and training ground for a number of first class Kenyan hotel managers, having taken on the management of the Lake Naivasha Hotel, getting her hands into the gardens and even the service on weekends back in the 70’s when this correspondent made the Naivasha lakeside his weekend stomping ground. During those years the property grew in size and the final addition, a more remote lake side Presidential Cottage, was THE place to be for a Saturday night when wanting to impress.

A crowd favourite until this day, the Lake Naivasha Hotel was a perfect stopover between the Northern national parks and the Masai Mara for the increasing number of safari guests who flocked to Kenya in those days and while talks have been more off then on between the Cunningham – Reid’s and Block Hotels, the latter eventually managed to buy it lock stock and barrel in 1989, at which time the name became the Lake Naivasha Country Club. Block Hotels and owners United Touring Company or better known as UTC eventually suffered of the owners financial woes and related problems and today the LNCC is managed by Sun Africa Hotels, which also got the famous Keekorok Lodge in the Masai Mara – the first ever built in the game reserve back in the 60’s and the Lake Baringo Club in their portfolio.

For this correspondent the trip to Naivasha during a stopover in Kenya enroute to Uganda was a welcome opportunity to also see how the roads between Nairobi and Naivasha have improved, as the route chosen down the ‘old escarpment road’ was in perfectly good shape and not one pothole to be seen or experienced during the 100 or so kilometre journey from the capital.

 

(Escarpment road view point into the Rift Valley with Mt. Longonot dominating the horizon)

 

The view points at the escarpment, more than there used to be in the old days, were still a ‘must’ stop to take photographs, with the Mt. Longonot volcano, now a national park, rising majestically from the floor of the Great African Rift Valley. Another eye catching feature of course is the original satellite station near Mt. Longonot, which with the giant dishes pointed skywards keep Kenya connected to the world, now of course supplemented by three major underwater fibre optic cable systems which enter the country at Mombasa. Plenty of plains game was seen once down on the bottom of the Rift Valley, zebras, impalas and gazelles, but no giraffes, wildebeest, leave alone a cheetah or two or even a lion as was the case in the ‘old days’. Saying this makes me feel slightly weird, but considering that I have been around the block for more than 3 ½ decades in East Africa now this may be forgiven by my readers.

Visit www.sunafricahotels.com for more information like tariffs, reservations and details on their other properties which include the upcoming ‘Sovereign Suites’, nestled in Limuru’s green hills above the city of Nairobi but more about that at a later time.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS GOING PLACES, STAYING GREEN AT HOME

The Kenya Airways sponsored tree planting project at the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi continues with now about 750.000 trees already planted of an intermediate target of 1.000.000 trees before assessing the success of the ‘Trees for Future’ engagement and launching fresh initiatives.

KQ now also gives all passengers the option of making added financial contributions in accordance with the miles flown to support added ‘green’ initiatives selected by a panel at the airline and this, according to a source in Nairobi, is taking hold in the market fast.

Meanwhile, following the announcement of the full year 2010/11 results earlier in the week has the airline confirmed that they will continue with their rollout of a comprehensive Africa network, which by 2013 will connect all African capitals, traffic rights permitting, with the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi.

Constraints it was pointed out however were found in the fact that pilots’ training – Kenya Airways has several dozen sponsored trainee pilots in flying schools in South Africa and elsewhere – takes time, something the airline does not seem to have considering the ongoing delivery of more jet aircraft to the fleet. This year alone at least two more Embraer 190AR are due to be delivered as are more NG B737’s and all require multiple cockpit crews – conventional wisdom speaks of between 5 to 7 for each aircraft to be optimally staffed – to allow the birds to be operated to the fullest extent.

Estimates at present talk of a cockpit crew shortfall of over 100 pilots for Kenya Airways alone, to meet destination and expansion targets as planned, and much of this discrepancy is linked to the siphoning effect the Gulf aviation scene has created in recent years, absorbing trained pilots from Africa’s scheduled airlines at a rate faster than they can be replaced by their original employers. This has added to the trend that East Africa’s ‘safari airlines’ too are now suffering from pilots seeking greener pastures and ‘upgrading’ their ratings from single and twin engined light and turboprop aircraft to commercial jets as and when possible, leaving the aviation industry almost befuddled over how to retain their pilots and recruit new ones meeting the standard requirements for deployment as first officers or captains.

Although the age limit for captains has been increased in recent years from an initial 60 years to 65 years there is still a wave of retirements coming the way of the global aviation industry making it all the more urgent to recruit the next, and then again the next generation of ‘fly boys and fly girls’, as the female presence in cockpits, even in Africa, begins to expand.

Meanwhile though, these challenges notwithstanding, has a regular source at KQ confirmed that plans are advancing on course to add Abuja by midyear – it is not clear if this will be operated as an extension of the airline’s Lagos flights – before commencing operations to Mauritius and a few other destinations, as many as five or six more in total it was learned, they however like to keep still under wraps to give their opposite numbers a little more time to speculate and ‘worry’ as another aviation source in Nairobi put it.

Happy Landings to them all!

 

KENYA AIRWAYS TAKES DELIVERY OF NEW E190ER

Today saw Kenya Airways release of their financial year results but alongside more good news emerged when it was confirmed that their latest addition to the fleet, a brand new Embraer 190 had arrived overnight and was being readied for operations with the maiden flight due in under two weeks time to a destination in Southern Africa.

Kenya Airways had for long banked on their fleet of B737-300, B737-700 and B737-800 aircraft but since last year progressively introduced Embraer 170 and 190, which are being deployed on routes to Mombasa, the wider Eastern African region and now also to Southern Africa, where the new E 190 will according to a source from within the airline will fly to.

The 100 seater aircraft ‘is the right size for some routes’ said the same regular source at the airline’s head quarters earlier today, especially as the airline is going to introduce yet more African destinations in coming months. By 2013 Kenya Airways intends to fly to all African capitals / commercial hubs to comprehensively cover the continent and make itself the number one choice for travelers from Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and the Asia / Pacific region when flying to Africa.

The fuel efficient aircraft offers, as all other fleet aircraft, both business and economy class and is configured 2-2 in both sections with wider and more comfortable seats in the front cabin. A further three such aircraft are expected for delivery in the second part of 2011, from an order of initially 5 such jets. Visit their website for more information on schedules, fares and special offers www.kenya-airways.com

 

KENYA AIRWAYS RELEASES RESULTS AND ADDS NEW EMBRAER 190 TO FLEET

The Pride of Africa released their annual results today at 07.00 a.m. at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi, when Group CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni was addressing the media in the presence of other senior Kenya Airways staff including their Finance Director.

The regional airline giant posted after-tax profits which were 73.9 percent up compared to the same period last year, largely attributed to smart fuel hedging contracts but also a much improved business environment, risen demand on continental and intercontinental services and the introduction of new yet winning destinations across Africa and elsewhere.

Recapturing the domestic market with a return to Malindi and now offering considerably more flights to Kisumu and Mombasa too added to the return to good fortunes for Kenya Airways. More flights into the region with a now early morning departures from every EAC member country to capture network connections in Nairobi also contributed greatly to KQ’s improved passenger numbers as did the late evening flights to Dar, Entebbe, Bujumbura and Kigali. Passenger revenue and turnover improved by just over 20 percent in comparison with the 2009/10 financial year and KQ carried 3.137 million passengers during the financial year, an increase of 8.5 percent. Cargo and courier services too improved by a remarkable 20 percent, and with the arrival of a dedicated cargo aircraft this division is expected to outperform past years in coming months and years considerably.

The board recommended paying a final dividend of 1.50 Kenya Shillings, which will make shareholders smile as institutional and private investors keep flocking back to KQ to take advantage of rising share prices which are expected for the coming months. The airline expressed confidence in the market developments for the 2011/12 financial year and analysts in fact found the relative restraint of KQ’s management over the rosy outlook for the airline a little too reserved, considering that major global upheavals being avoided the ‘Pride of Africa’ will surely look at record results in a year’s time, outstripping past mega performances before the global economic and financial crisis struck and Kenya had a period of political uncertainty following the end December 2007 elections.

Up to date reporting courtesy of Chris Karanja, Corporate Communications and PR, Kenya Airways

 

Tanzania News

ITS USD 44 FROM DAR TO LONDON

When readers will set their incredulous eyes on this article the special introductory offer by British Airways for a limited number of seats from Dar es Salaam to London will have passed, as it is only valid from June 06th until June 09th inclusive, end of business day. The bombshell fare was launched yesterday on the occasion of British Airways finally introducing a fourth flight between the UK and Tanzania, where other airlines in particular from the Gulf region have long gone daily and more.

The airline was hastily adding that anyone missing on this very special and throw away fare – SUBJECT of course to taxes and regulatory fees which alone runs into a great multiple of the fare itself – could then take advantage of a USD 444 fare on offer until June 20th end of business day and outbound travel completed by June 30th.

These fares will get passengers a seat in economy class, while related offers for the economy ‘Plus’ section will sell at USD 888 and club class fares at USD 2.144.

And as an aside – while European Airlines have of late mouthed off in frustration about the inroads Gulf carriers have made around the world, consider this: Emirates, Qatar and Oman have in past years all upped their frequencies, including some of them connecting Zanzibar directly, as they have incidentally done across the Eastern African region and much of the continent. All this happened while some major European airlines are either absent from the East African skies like Lufthansa or use ‘family members’ like Brussels Airlines and Swiss to cover the region and erstwhile global giants like British Airways still don’t fly daily into Entebbe and only now move from three to four flights per week to Dar es Salaam. Maybe here lies the problem of exactly why Gulf airlines have become crowd favourites over here, and in many parts of the world – they go daily or even double daily, traffic rights permitting, offer impressive services on the ground and in the air and have simply left many of the traditional airline power houses trailing in their wake. And this too should be remembered, there is something called wake turbulence which seems to have affected those coming right behind the leaders. Fodder for thought.

 

KENYA AIRWAYS SET FOR KILIMANJARO FLIGHTS?

Aviation circles in Tanzania are speculating intensely over Kenya Airways’ plans to include direct flights between their Nairobi hub and Kilimanjaro International between Moshi and Arusha, a route so far served exclusively by KQ’s Tanzanian partner airline Precision Air with ATR aircraft.

These flights are operated under a full code share arrangement which has been benefitting both airlines as they were building up their respective fleets.

The arrival of more Embraer jets however, only last week was another E190 received by Kenya Airways from the factory in Brazil, now opens up additional options for Kenya Airways to consider operating their own flights between NBO and JRO, again codesharing them with Precision Air.

The Embraers have become a regular feature on the regional routes and the 2-2 seating in the economy class, and the wider 2-2 seating in the business class section have been fully accepted by KQ’s faithful travelers from the East African region. The smaller E170 version of the Embraers flying for ‘the Pride of Africa’ may therefore well be deployed in the not too distant future to Kilimanjaro, cutting flying time to just about half an hour and giving passengers enroute spectacular views of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Watch this space.

 

TANZANIA’S CAMP DAVID? GET REAL!

Last Saturday saw finally the formal launch of the latest kid on the aviation block, Safari Plus in Dar es Salaam, a company associated with Kempinski Hotels in Tanzania, belonging to the same holding company ASB Developments as the hotels which are managed by Kempinski.

The airline has acquired two Beechcraft King Air twin engined turboprop aircraft which offer a pressurized cabin for greater inflight comfort, allowing for a higher flight ceiling and thus avoiding much of the turbulences otherwise experienced in lower flying  unpressurized aircraft.

At the launch however did the airline’s business development manager get carried away by the occasion when in an outburst of uncontrolled rambling he compared the Kempinski Bilila Lodge in the Serengeti with the American president’s retreat in Camp David, calling the lodge the ‘unofficial Camp David of Tanzania’. Little did the man know that he only served to intensify speculation over the true ownership of this very large lodge in the heart of the Serengeti, build at the time against objections of conservationists in a sensitive part of the park, then opened by President Kikwete who in his speech said no other such developments in the park would henceforth be permitted, though conveniently omitting his plans to build a highway across the park. Suggestions that President Kikwete, now that the airline was finally operational, would as a result be able to visit Bilila more often, was also greeted with derision by observers, as the president would hardly fly on a privately operated aircraft when having a fleet of Tanzania air force aircraft at his disposal which meet the requirements of presidential safety and security demands. Camp David, located in the forested mountains of Virginia not far from Washington DC, is also an exclusive setting restricted to the President and his guests and NOT open to the public while the Bilila Lodge is regularly booked by tourists on long pre-arranged safari itineraries who would react sharply and probably take legal action, should they find themselves bumped on weekends for the purpose suggested by the airline’s official.

These utterances however notwithstanding, Happy Landings to the new airline and success on the routes between Dar es Salaam, Arusha and the Serengeti, but also to Zanzibar, where Kempinski only recently lost the management contract for the Zamani Resort.

 

Rwanda News

RWANDAIR GETS LOAN NOD FROM EX-IM BANK IN US

News from Kigali overnight confirm that RwandAir has secured a financing approval for their two brand new B737-800’s which are due for delivery in a few months time, through the American Ex-Im Bank, with fund disbursal to take effect via the PTA Bank, also known as the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank.

Delivery of the first NG B737 is due for the 22nd August this year and the second such aircraft will arrive in Kigali a few weeks later. Both aircraft will feature the latest state of the art ‘Sky Interior’ and inflight entertainment.

The PTA Bank had in the past also supported RwandAir when they purchased two CRJ 200 aircraft from Germany’s Lufthansa which came with a major maintenance support package at the time. RwandAir has in recent years, notably as a stand alone airline without a strategic partnership in place, emerged as a serious regional player and added routes, frequencies and still improved greatly on its balance sheets as a result of a fresh focus after deciding on a new business model two years ago.

Meanwhile has RwandAir, ahead of the upcoming annual gorilla naming festival Kwita Izina, put special fares on the market to connect East Africa with West Africa via Kigali, but also to travel from anywhere in East Africa via Kigali to Johannesburg and of course to travel to Rwanda directly. More information about this is available via www.rwandair.com where schedules, destinations and these special offers are posted.

 

ANOTHER SET OF GORILLA TWINS BORN

Births of gorilla babies in Rwanda are always a cause for celebrations, by conservationists and the tourism fraternity alike. Yet, when a gorilla gives birth to twins this really sets all the bells ringing and excites the media too. Overnight did confirmation arrive of a pending and until just now unconfirmed rumour that a female of the ‘Susa’ gorilla group had given birth to twins, ahead of the imminent annual gorilla naming festival ‘Kwita Izina’ on 18th of June.

The newborn twins, according to sources in Kigali, are a female and a male, belong to Rumuvu who already gave birth twice before in 2005 and 2009.

The same habituated group had another set of twins born back in February, as reported here of course at the time, who will be named with 20 others during ‘Kwita Izina’ in two weeks time, but the latest addition to the ‘Susa’ family will only come up for naming in 2012 due to the short time frame now available to process relevant documents.

‘Kwita Izina’ is the pride and joy of Rwanda’s tourism and conservation sectors as all eyes from the global conservation fraternity are set on ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ to celebrate the overwhelming successes recorded over the last decade. During this time the gorilla population in Rwanda increased by nearly 30 percent as a result of increased protection measures by what used to be ORTPN and is now ‘Tourism and Conservation’ under the auspices of the Rwanda Development Board.

Ms. Rica Rwigamba, who heads ‘Tourism and Conservation’ at RDB expressed her delight when announcing the news yesterday from her offices in Kigali.

 

RWANDA ATTENDS GLOBAL MEETING ON TROPICAL FORESTS

The Prime Minister of Rwanda, together with the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources is in Brazzaville this week to attend the head of state and government summit on cooperation for the world’s most important tropical forest systems which include the extensive rain forests of the Congo basin and the Amazon. The meeting will also launch the International Year of Forests 2011, in which Rwanda has become a major driver and force, having committed to re-forestation of up to a third of the country for the protection of crucial water towers, to maintain the micro climate in the region and to promote biodiversity and ecotourism on which the economy of the country depends.

Rwanda has raised its ‘green’ profile considerably in recent years as a result of conscious government decisions towards conservation and the protection of its environment and has been recognized as the environmental leader in the East African Community but also beyond.

The four day meeting is expected to end this weekend after days of expert and technocrat sessions with the formal adoption of resolutions and action plans by the participating heads of state and government.

 

AKAGERA FENCE CONSTRUCTION HAS BEGAN

Information received overnight from RDB sources confirms that the long awaited fence construction around key sections of the Akagera National Park has finally commenced, to the relief of neighbouring communities. The entire fence will be approximately covering a distance of 120 kilometres at a cost of almost 2.8 million US Dollars at present prices. At hand at the ground breaking ceremony were the RDB Chief Executive John Gara and members of the Akagera Management Company which is a joint venture between African Parks and the Rwanda Development Board. The electric re-enforced triple fence will keep rogue animals inside the park and prevent further destruction of crops as well as damage to other property, injuries and loss of life as seen in the past and residents living near the park were overwhelmed, according to an eye witness, when the ground was broken. However, the commitments to protect the communities were made when the joint venture between African Parks and the RDB were signed and with funds now available – parliament in Kigali just last week asked government to increase the allotted funding to speed up and complete the work sooner than envisaged initially – the construction is finally underway. Most affected members of the community were on the occasion also given financial compensation by RDB for the crop losses suffered in the past weeks. Updates on work progress will be posted right here, so watch this space.

 

Ethiopia News

ETHIOPIAN CHANGES TO B777 ON LAGOS ROUTE

Effective beginning of June this year has Ethiopian Airlines introduced the B777 on the route between Addis Ababa and Lagos / Nigeria. Cross Africa traffic has grown stronger that the global average growth in aviation and ET is one of only two airlines to have fully understood and exploited the need of Africa to connect within rather than, as was often the case in the past, Africans having to travel via a European gateway to get to the ‘other side of Africa’.

Ethiopian will be targeting both passengers and cargo, in particular to and from their Far Eastern and Middle Eastern destinations which it serves with swift connections out of their Addis Ababa hub, and the upped capacity and state of the art aircraft type will undoubtedly help them to capture more traffic. They will also in the process offer more serious competition to those non-African airlines making inroads across the continent due to a broader lack of understanding by countries granting almost unlimited traffic rights to them instead of promoting African aviation development, especially with airlines like Ethiopian foremost on their minds.

Happy landings to the new ‘baby’ now swooping into Lagos on a daily basis since early this week.

 

Seychelles News

NEW BANK NOTES FOR SEYCHELLES

This week will see the formal launch in Victoria by the Central Bank of Seychelles of new banknotes in the denomination of 50, 100 and 500 Rupees.

The new notes will incorporate the very latest state of the art security features which can be partly seen with the ‘naked eye’ while other ‘hidden features’ only ‘come to light’ under special lighting conditions used by commonly deployed currency validators emitting ultra-violet or ‘black’ light.

Present bank notes in use will remain in circulation until such time that the full exchange exercise has been completed across the archipelago, something which is estimated to take months, but thereafter will the old notes then be gradually withdrawn from circulation when their life span has expired and they are in any case due for collection by the Central Bank and incineration.

The new notes are reportedly smarter in appearance and are also thought to be instantly ‘hunted after’ by visiting tourists who may wish to take a note each home with them to keep as a memento and proof to have been there ‘when it happened’. Seychelles, truly ‘Another World’.

 

NEW POSH LOCATION FOR SEYCHELLES TOURIST OFFICE IN LONDON

The Seychelles Tourist Board offices have since the beginning of June relocated to Regent Street where the UK’s dream destination is assured of higher visibility and closer contact with key tourism trade partners. European Director of Marketing, Bernadette Willemin, who is based in Paris, was personally at hand to also introduce the UK’s new marketing representative Marsha Parcou, who relocated to Britain from her former position in South Africa. The particulars of the new address and phone contacts are shown below for ease of future reference:

Seychelles Tourist Office

222 Regent Street

Liberty House, Room 407

W1B 5TR

London

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 207 297 2128 / +44 (0) 207 297 2129

All email addresses and other contact information will remain the same;

Marsha Parcou – marsha.parcou@uksto.co.uk

Stephanie Medor – Stephanie.Medor@uksto.co.uk

 

The recent Royal honeymoon of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on North Island has hugely impacted on the demand for holidays and in particular honeymoons by UK travelers and is thought to be one of the driving factors for substantially increased visits to the Seychelles by British citizens who want to see for themselves where their future King spent his blissful honeymoon days. Seychelles, truly ‘Another World’.

 

SEYCHELLES REGATTA RESULTS

Following a series of messages and enquiries about the final results of the Seychelles Regatta which ended last weekend at the marina of Eden Island I am reposting the final results, courtesy of main sponsors the Seychelles Tourist Board, although eTN (www.eturbonews.com) had published the particulars while I had gone ‘bush’ in Kenya during a weeklong stopover enroute back to Uganda. Congratulations to the Seychellois winner for a second straight year, well done indeed to beat ‘The Master’ at his own game twice:

 

JEREMIE BEYOU ON BOAT HYUNDAI WINS SEYCHELLES REGATTA 2011

The renowned French Skipper Jeremie Beyou on the Hyundai Boat, a Leopard 47 Yacht with an all Seychellois Crew won the 2011 Seychelles Regatta by just 2 seconds ahead of Michel Desjoyeaux on his Nicholas Feuillate Yacht.

The Hyundai Boat is owned by Cedric D’Offay and Paul Hodoul who are the Seychelles Agent for Hyundai. Cedric D’Offay was part of the all Seychellois Crew and have successfully defended their title as winners of the 2010 Regatta.

Two Seychelles Boats competed in the 2011 Regatta, the Hyundai and the MAIA Resort Boats. Alain St.Ange, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board said at the closing ceremony of the 2011 Regatta that the Hyundai Team and Jeremie Beyou did Seychelles proud by being the proud winners of the Regatta two years running.

In 2009 it was the very famous Michel Desjoyeaux who has clinched the title when he won the Seychelles Regatta in the Yacht Nicholas Feuillate.

The Results for the 2011 Seychelles Regatta is as follows:-

First Place:-  Jeremie Beyou – Boat Hyundai

Second Place:- Michel Desjoyeaux – Boat Nicholas Feuillate

Third Place:- Francois Gabart – Boat Fondeol

4th Place:- Loic Peyron – Boat MAIA Resort

5th Place:- Samantha Davies & Servanne – Boat Heineken

6th Place:- Armel Le Cleac’h – Boat Aubriet Batiment

7th Place:- Romain Attanasio – Boat Ter Cognita

Seychelles have again this year been the proud host to all the famous skippers for their 2011 Annual Regatta.

SEYCHELLES GETS THREE FREE DESALINATION UNITS FROM ABU DHABI

The current drought condition across the archipelago has caused water supplies to dwindle in recent weeks and before the emerging crisis got worse did the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan dispatch three complete water desalination plants to the Seychelles upon a request by President Michel.

The three units were already received and are being installed as this report is filed, very likely sparing the Seychellois population the need to queue for water and see the precious liquid rationed.

The gift is said to be worth several million Euros and includes the setting up cost, maintenance and staff training over an 18 months period but also support for an overhaul and upgrade of existing desalination plants already in use across the island.

During a recent visit to the archipelago by this correspondent had resorts already informed guests of the need to conserve water, a measure many tourists this correspondent spoke with accepted without argument, knowing how important fresh water is on the remote islands of the Seychelles which depend entirely on sufficient rainfall during the wet season and subsequent storage.

Added information from reliable sources within the tourism industry in the Seychelles gave assurance that hotels and resorts were employing added measures to conserve water through recycling where possible to minimize any impact on their guests.

 

AIR SEYCHELLES RENEWS CODE SHARE WITH AIR FRANCE

Information was received that Air Seychelles and Air France / KLM have signed a renewal of their existing and long in place code share agreement, with will allow as many as six weekly flights between Paris CDG and Mahe. All flights are operated on the Air Seychelles B767 aircraft but with a dual flight number attached to the service, reflecting the Air France codeshare on the flight.

The agreement, which goes back to 1997 when Air France stopped flying to Seychelles and ‘transferred’ the flight in its entirety to Air Seychelles, also changes the ‘sellability’ for seats to now 55 / 45 percent of the aircraft’s capacity, with Air Seychelles moving from the previous 50 percent to 55.

Paris, and the French market, remains a key pillar for the Seychelles tourism industry and with the entire population being trilingual, including French, the archipelago remains a firm favourite with holiday makers and in particular honeymooners, as increasing sales in France also demonstrate.

The flight notably operates nonstop between Paris and Mahe and cuts down on connection flights which other airlines compel their passengers to do, but the increased competition to uplift traffic to the Seychelles by Gulf based airlines, which presently operate 19 flights per week, soon to rise to 25 flights per week when Etihad will commence flights later in the year. This has caused concern at both Air Seychelles and Air France which intend to counter it with competitive fares and the advantage of a nonstop flight. Happy Landings!

 

LE MERIDIEN – ONE ISLAND, TWO STORIES

Starwood Hotels, one of the world’s foremost international hotel groups, operates two resorts on the island of Mahe / Seychelles, under their Le Meridien brand.

During a recent visit to the archipelago I had the privilege to stay in both, located on the opposite sides of the main island, and was able to sample and review their services.

The larger, and as I describe it ‘classic’ type of a beach resort with traditional accommodation blocks is the Le Meridien Barbarons, located in illustrious company along a stretch of the island where Banyan Tree, Four Seasons and the fabled MAIA Luxury Resort and Spa are also found, offers just over 120 rooms and suites and inspite of having been around for a good number of years is extremely well maintained and shows its Starwood pedigree in the way the rooms are equipped with all a tourist’s heart can desire, tea / coffee maker, wireless internet connection and flat screen TV’s included.

Sufficient staff are at hand to attend to guests arriving even when a group checks in at the same time and they are whisking them to their rooms and then giving a detailed brief about what is where and how to get services, showing that good training of staff does pay off.

Breakfast at the Barbarons was what I call extensive and although I only ate once at the hotel for dinner, the variety was, while tempting, made for two or more stomachs and not one alone. I tried some very passable Sushi, then had some fish from the active cooking station and rounded it up with a generous helping from the cut tropical fruit section on the buffet.

Being presidential election time on my arrival I found it intriguing to chat with many of the staff, and almost identical to the outcome of the final tally – President Michel won with a convincing 55+ percent margin – the staff took their sides. Several openly admitted they intended to vote or later on to have voted for the opposition, rendering some of the nevertheless published comments on my blog from ‘regime critics’ – fellows, it is an elected government and not a regime – as without basis in fact nor of any true value. None of them showed any fear of persecution and not one confirmed the opposition’s story of vote buying, so thank you and try again in 5 years time. This was in marked contrast to my very first visit 30 or so years ago when staff were unwilling to talk politics at all and is surely a pointer to the fact that things in the Seychelles have fundamentally changed and why tourism is such a success story now – politically ‘enslaved’ staff, as one comment put it which due to bad language I opted to throw out, are simply not capable of rendering such first class services.

The beach at the Barbarons was what one comes to expect, picture perfect to the last detail, and my two nights were up before I could even remember my room number without looking at my key card holder.

Across the island, with the Seychelles Tourist Board offices just behind the resort and across the road at Bel Ombre, is the Le Meridien Fishermen’s Cove, rated 5 stars as opposed to the sister property which is a four star resort.

Smaller than the Barbarons with just about 80 rooms, suites and beach fronting adjoining cottages the Fishermen’s Cove is the more intimate resort of the two and superior in noticeable ways, especially when it came to the food. But first about the ‘early’ experience. I checked in rather late, having come from across the island after the end of day cocktails for the Seychelles Regatta teams and was nevertheless greeted by the duty manager and then briefed in the lobby over a refreshing glass of juice on the resort and my way around. Having my room, more a suite really, nearby I was swiftly installed and an adapter for a two pin charger delivered almost before I had put the phone down.

A ‘stand alone’ giant bath tub gave me some temptation to try out the oils and salts but common sense in the end just had me take a shower, equally large and open to the room, making watching the late evening news possible.

The most impressive feature, besides the location at the end of the renowned Beau Vallon Beach with sweeping views across the entire bay however was the food on offer. The resort sits on a coral outcrop with direct beach access, which allows a view to  other resorts, but also encourages to go for some shopping or simply enjoy a long stroll across the powdery white beaches which so fascinate visitors who are used to the often coarse sands of the Mediterranean.

Back to the fabled food now. First the superb cheese board caught my eye, available at every meal, and the restaurant was distinctly smaller and set up in a way that guests never appeared to be a crowd. Live music was being played for dinner, much of it instrumentals of well known songs, giving the right backdrop to the delicious meals the chefs conjured up on the days I actually was at the resort for dinner.

Smart casual was the ‘recommended’ appearance but some guests went well beyond that and wore head turning dresses, which speaks for the quality of guests and resort.

A live cooking station offered what the heart desired and several and daily changing main dishes on the buffet were fit to put on a stone in a day, had I tried to eat my way through all of them. Anyone on a diet ought think twice going there or else allow for an interval of uninterrupted culinary pleasure and indulgence while at the Fishermen’s Cove. Nationalities were legion at the resort and languages spoken reminded me of the biblical Babel, so many different ones were overheard.

Sadly, time flew by me like lightning and my week on the archipelago came to a vastly premature end, leaving me with pangs of regrets and a resort staff enthusiastically waving me off, demanding I return at my next visit if only for a meal – friendships are easily struck with the beautiful people of the Seychelles and a few words of swiftly acquired Creole do no harm but rather make friendships with the staff fast and steady.

The Seychelles, with tag lines like ‘Another World’ but also ‘Affordable Seychelles’ has a unique standing in the global markets and the recent honeymoon on North Island by the Royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, has driven demand for honeymoons and holidays on the archipelago into the ‘cosmic’ range. With more flights and frequencies, Kenya Airways will soon add a third weekly flight from Nairobi and Etihad will join up with four flights later in the year, at which time Emirates will fly double daily and Qatar Airways once a day, airfares will be competitive and so is the accommodation range on the islands. From locally owned and managed bed and breakfast establishments to guest houses, holiday villas up to the very top end of luxury accommodation setting one back a couple of thousand Euros a night, all tastes and pockets are catered for. The Seychelles, often thought to be for the rich and famous only, in fact is open for business for even budget travelers, though probably not, in all honesty, for the 10 USD a day types. This might be a challenge to prove me wrong and I accept that challenge in good spirits, should one prove to me it can be done – NOT sleeping on a beach that is or going fishing to catch a meal.

I take the opportunity to thank my hosts at the Le Meridien Barbarons and Fishermen’s Cove again for all the courtesies shown, and as I promised, I did write the truth and nothing but the truth about my stay.

Visit www.seychelles.travel for more information about the archipelago’s wide range of islands, accommodation and attractions and make sure you too visit the Seychelles one day – because it truly is ‘Another World’.

 

ST. ANGE AND TEAM DO IT AGAIN, SEYCHELLES STYLE

 

Seychelles Tourist Board CEO Alain St. Ange seen recently on the ‘Le Kir Royal’ at the Eden Island Marina where the Seychelles Tourist Board was a major sponsor of the ‘Seychelles Regatta’.

 

www.lekirroyal.com

www.seychelles.travel

 

A recent weeklong visit to the archipelago gave this correspondent plenty of opportunity to sample the island’s hospitality and interact with the who is who, including shaking the re-elected President’s hand upon his swearing in ceremony and wishing him well.

While on the roads around the island of Mahe, several times entirely on my own, the feedback to my questions I asked of literally all and sundry, from diners in local restaurants over drivers to waiters, from bar staff to shop attendants and certainly amongst officials, the answers were swift and laudatory – Alain St. Ange  IS THE MAN …

Since his arrival at the tourist board a little over 2 years ago, initially as Director of Tourism Marketing before being appointed by the President as Chief Executive of STB, the archipelago has returned to the global map of exotic holiday destinations in a way no one could have even hoped for and the Seychelles is today one of the most talked about holiday spots, leave alone HONEYMOON SPOTS around the globe – the latter courtesy of the Royal couple who enjoyed blissful days in total privacy on North Island bringing thousands of enquiries to the resorts across Mahe and the other islands.

Inspite of his impressive credentials before joining the Seychelles Tourist Board, few would have heard of him or known him beyond his own shores or beyond his work environment, and yet today the name St. Ange is on many minds and comes up in many conversations, around Africa in particular but generally around the tourism world, where keen eyes are studying him and his team to unearth the secrets of their success.

The appointment of tourism ambassadors around the world in January 2010 followed at the end of a strategic think tank session which involved the private and public sectors in the Seychelles to define a new marketing strategy, launched of course by none other than President Michel, who has since then taken on the tourism portfolio directly, a sign how serious the sector is taken on the archipelago. Alain St. Ange, previously an opposition member of parliament, in other words an opponent of the ruling party LEPEP, was taken on board for this crucial appointment nevertheless, equally a sign of how much the Seychelles politics have opened up and things have changed since President Michel took office and surely in recognition of his esteem at home and what was expected of him.

Selected Seychellois living abroad were asked and requested to help their country during the difficult times of the global economic and financial crisis and all of those approached immediately consented and used their local contacts across the cities of the world where they live to promote travel to the archipelago – and what an impact that made. In 2009, instead of seeing a drop projected to be as bad as between 30 – 50 percent in arrivals the year ended at level par, a huge success considering the circumstances of how the STB team had set out to change course and reverse the downwards trend.

For 2010 the islands established a new absolute visitor record and for the current year the upwards trend continues, aided by the more than doubling of available seats from the Gulf area, where Emirates is due to go double daily, they are presently at 12 flights a week up from previously 6, Qatar Airways went to daily and Etihad is due to commence an initial 4 flights a week from late this year.

With tourism ambassadors ‘installed’ and a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Seychelles Foreign Office to place STB staff in embassies and consulates in strategic market places, the next phase of STB’s revamp commenced and it did not take long – inspite of much ongoing ‘scheduled’ activities like the Creole Festival and the annual SUBIOS amongst many others – to announce STB’s biggest brainchild yet, the Carnival of Carnivals. Alongside a staff re-organization which saw three key overseas marketing directorates introduced and internal functions at the Bel Ombre head office re-aligned almost all eyes were on the preparations for the Carnival Festival which had to be perfect, and perfect it was by any standards. Media coverage continues to this day and is likely to seamlessly move on to the second edition of this event, when a few novelties are planned by the team around St. Ange.

It is understood that STB has for next year’s festival started to invite, besides the traditional carnival nations,  the minorities of this world, from the Amazon over the Aborigines in Australia to the bushmen in Namibia and the pygmies in East Africa to come and celebrate the 2012 edition with the people of Seychelles, make friends with them and find the sympathy and respect they often lack at home in their own countries.

Initial contacts with the respective governments are clearly already bearing fruit and when this comes about in March 2012, the world’s eyes will again be trained on the Seychelles’ capital city of Victoria where ‘things are happening’.

So how does STB succeed where others struggle? Remarkably a combination of factors comes into play here. The tourism private sector is fully committed to STB’s various campaigns and the restructuring of the Tourist Board itself brought key players ‘on board’, as is the case with the sister organization the Seychelles Tourism Academy, and the joint private public ‘ownership’ has motivated the entire industry to lend a hand and ideas.

Then of course did the initial successes make good weather for the STB staff where a combination of new and ‘old’ people are enthusiastic about their jobs, their tasks and their country, the latter coming across in every conversation I had with them.

‘Almost anything goes as long as it brings success’ did one of them confide in me, a positive sign that their regular brainstorming sessions and market reviews, performance analysis and feedback from markets abroad during trade fair attendances and feedback from within, i.e. the stakeholders in the industry back home are taken seriously and geared to keep tabs on all and sundry to act on up-to-date data from existing, emerging and new markets.

Working very closely with airlines too has brought instant results, as the upping of flights to Mahe by several key carriers proves and Emirates only a few weeks ago crowned the Seychelles Tourist Board as their most favourite partner for being the most responsive, most proactive and most supportive tourist board in their wide array of destinations. They in fact put the Seychelles one stop away from all their destinations across the globe, and soon twice a day, an enormous bonus for the archipelago.  

Of course, that said, the national airline Air Seychelles continues to be an integral  and essential part of the ‘Brand Seychelles’ team wherever they go to promote, market and sell their destination as they too are flying regularly to London, Paris and Rome, but also to Johannesburg, Mauritius and Singapore from where growing demand for a holiday in paradise keeps the seats on the aircraft often filled to capacity.

Meanwhile though are global hospitality brands queuing to enter the Seychelles market, with Kempinski being the lastest of the big boys announcing a new resort being planned while Raffles a couple of months ago did open their ‘first’ on the island of Praslin. Starwood, as is Hilton by the way, has been on the islands for some time as are Constance Hotels with their flagship properties Lemuria on Praslin and Ephelia on Mahe. Banyan Trees and Four Seasons, I should say ‘of course’ also have a presence on Mahe, the main island.

All the latest surge in demand to build and be part of the Seychelles successes in marketing, at least not in my mind, is a result of the remarkable work Alain St. Ange and his team have accomplished over the past two years, putting ‘Brand Seychelles’ on the map way beyond the numbers of visitors to the islands per annum, but then, already more than twice as many visitors come to the Seychelles compared to the number of their own citizens and this ratio is planned to go triple in a few years before eventually reaching a set ceiling of arrivals, mindful of available resources and sustainability of the tourism sector, expected to be in the 350.000+ arrival region per annum.

Not much compared to Spain or other Mediterranean destinations – and Thank God for that I can only say – but then the Seychelles is truly ‘Another World’.

GO VISIT SOON is all I can say in closing, and see and experience for yourself what must be the last Garden of Eden on our planet. Inner islands, outer islands or as far away as the Aldabra Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with strictly regulated access for visitors, who can see marine life like nowhere else, including many of the 100.000 giant sea tortoises which make the atoll their home. Call your favourite airline or your choice travel agent to get you there – See you in Seychelles, where else!

 

SEALEGS – A NOVEL WAY TO KEEP THE GUEST’S FEET DRY

 

 

The MAIA Luxury Resort and Spa recently introduced an innovation to the archipelago, allowing their guests to keep their feet dry and their shoes on when either returning from their yachts moored off the resort’s beach or else leaving for a day trip to sail around the island.

‘Sealegs’, a motorized skiff with three wheels, is based at the resort and guests can board on the shore before they are ‘driven’ into the water, the wheels then lifted and hey presto, there begins the sea journey proper. This correspondent had several exhilarating ‘rides’ with the skiff and while getting a lot of spray into the face nevertheless managed to keep the shoes dry as the boatman, in this case Frederick Vidal of the MAIA, promised.

The ‘Sealegs’ also allows for the loading of provisions and supplies for the yachts without the risk of dropping some boxes or valuable into the ocean waters. It is understood that after seeing the new contraption in action a number of other resorts already approached the MAIA for details of where ‘Sealegs’ can be purchased from, so visitors can look forward to seeing this level of comfort and ease spread soon to other parts of the inner and outer islands.

The same name, ‘Sealegs’, was incidentally also chosen for the MAIA sponsored catamaran in the recently concluded Seychelles Regatta and the results have already been posted here under a separate cover – just remains to say well done to the MAIA cat and even better success next year.

 

 

And in closing today once more some interesting reads, in fact quite a few this time round, taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, courtesy of Gill Staden – asante sana Gill! The selected articles contain descriptions of challenges we face in Eastern Africa too and it goes to show that all African safari destinations are beset by the same range of problems.

 

 

 

CUSS-ing and CUTE-ing

This is from Travel Daily News

 

Zambia’s National Airports Corporation Ltd. (NACL) is embarking with SITA, the air transport IT specialist, on a major transformation of check-in facilities at Lusaka and Livingstone International Airports.

 

A key goal of this five-year agreement is to reduce pressure on existing infrastructure at both airports through greater automation of the check-in process and the introduction of passenger self-service check-in on the SITA AirportConnect Open platform. This will also allow for the common-use of all check-in facilities by all airlines based at the two airports.

 

Passengers and airlines at Lusaka International Airport will benefit from the deployment of the new CUTE (Common Use Terminal Equipment) services at check-in counters and will also be able to use a range of CUSS (Common Use Self-Service) check-in kiosks including the compact S3 free-standing kiosk.

The upgrades happening at Livingstone International Airport will cover both check-in counters and CUSS check-in kiosks. Automation at both locations will also extend to boarding gates, arrivals and lost baggage and other areas. …

 

 

 

 

Vultures

 

Many of you know that Rory McDougall (bedrockrory@gmail.com) has a passion for vultures.  He loves to know how many and where they are … and there is a reason for this.  Here is part of his email:

 

Greetings from me again and hope you are all well. Those in the safari industry should be in full swing by now.  I … would be grateful for any more contributors, especially from places far and wide! Equally should you wish to be de listed just send me an e mail.

 

Please would you be so kind as to keep your vulture sightings coming in. I am very grateful for those records received. The more data we get on these issues the better.

 

Just to highlight the vulnerability of world bird populations I have copied a report sent from the Malawibirdinggroup.com very kindly by Lizanne Roxburgh.

Fascinating, and makes scary reading but this is in Asia !!………………..but some time back, in one National Park in Malawi, almost the whole vulture population was lost in a matter of weeks from a few deliberately poisoned carcasses !!!

 

Do not believe it cannot happen in your own backyard so speak.!

This is what we could be up against with deliberate poisonings from poaching activities as they give the poachers presence away. Unless we can somehow monitor what is going on regionally, both in and out of National Parks we could be caught with our pants down.

 

So “in the interests of Science” keep that data coming please in any format you wish, even a simple note on an e mail, with dates/ numbers / species and locations…………at any time of the month or year.  ANY DATA IS USEFUL to help monitor what is going on.

 

Asian vultures update in news:

Posted by: “Munir Virani” tpf@africaonline.co.ke

Thu May 12, 2011 8:04 pm (PDT)
The full paper can be found at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0019069
which documents a reduction in diclofenac prevalance in livestock carcasses all across India.

Drug ban helps vulture recovery
By Victoria Gill

Science and nature reporter, BBC News
The population of the Oriental white-backed vulture (left) crashed by 99.9%
 A ban on the veterinary use of a painkiller in South Asia appears to be preventing vultures from being poisoned there, say researchers.
 Many vultures have been killed by eating livestock carcasses that were contaminated with the drug.
The crash in vulture populations was so severe that the three endemic species are now threatened with extinction.
This study, published in the journal PLoS One, reveals the first signs that the ban has reduced vulture poisonings.
The governments of India, Nepal and Pakistan banned the use of diclofenac for livestock in 2006.
But by this time the oriental white-backed vulture population had crashed by 99.9% and populations of the long-billed vulture and slender-billed vulture had fallen by about 97%.
The researchers set out to assess the effectiveness of the ban by measuring the concentration of the drug in livestock carcasses.
They took samples from the livers of 5,000 of cattle carcasses. Some samples were gathered one year before the ban, some immediately after its implementation, and some between 2007 and 2008.
This revealed that the proportion of cattle carcasses in India contaminated with the drug declined by approximately 40% between 2006 and 2008.
In animal carcasses that were contaminated, the concentration of the drug was significantly lower.
But, according to the RSPB, which helped fund the research, diclofenac manufactured for human use is still being used in India to treat cattle.
Easing suffering

One of the authors of the research, Professor Rhys Green, a Cambridge University conservation scientist, said: “The ban on veterinary manufacture and sale of diclofenac appears to be having some effect, but the job is only about half done.
“Diclofenac use must be virtually eliminated, and not just halved, if vulture populations are to recover.”
The drug, an anti-inflammatory, is used to reduce pain and swelling in injured and diseased cattle.
For religious reasons, it is not the practice in India to kill dying cattle to relieve their suffering. So owners give the painkiller to cattle and buffaloes when they are very close to death.
“Only then is there enough diclofenac left in the tissues of the dead animal to kill vultures,” said Professor Green.
“An alternative legal drug, meloxicam, also relieves pain effectively and is safe to vultures.
“Its use is increasing, but it has not yet replaced diclofenac.”
Munir Virani, from the Peregrine Fund, an organisation that supported research into the cause of South Asia’s vulture decline, said the results were “incredibly encouraging”.
“But,” he added, “we must be extremely cautious about jumping the gun to say that vulture populations are on the road to recovery.”

 

Transfrontier Conservation Areas by Peace Parks Foundation

 

Our own Kavango-Zambezi Conservation Area is moving forward in slow but steady steps.  The Conservation Area will bring together the five countries of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.  It is a long process.  Zambia and Zimbabwe have discussed and signed their own document.  Peace Parks is now concentrating its efforts in Namibia.  Botswana and Angola will be next. 

 

Other Transfrontier Conservation areas are on the way in Zambia.  Zambia and Malawi have signed the MOU for Nyika Plateau and it looks as if everyone is really excited about it.  Here are some notes from the Peace Parks site:

 

Malawi and Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area

 

The Malawi/Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area, which could eventually encompass more than 35,000 km², incorporates national parks, wildlife reserves, forest reserves and game management areas. The Nyika and Vwaza/Lundazi component of the TFCA (known as the Nyika TFCA), which will be developed in the first phase, comprises Malawi’s Nyika National Park, Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve as well as Zambia’s Nyika National Park, Lundazi Forest Reserve, Mitengi Forest Reserve, Mikuti Forest Reserve and the Musalangu Game Management Area. This is to be followed by the Kasungu/Lukusuzi component, which comprises the Kasungu National Park in Malawi, the Lukusuzi National Park in Zambia and a narrow corridor of customary land in between. …

 

CURRENT PROJECTS

The contributions from GEF and Norway will focus on the development of three components in the TFCA, namely the two Nyika national parks along with the Mitenge Forest Reserve, Vwaza Marsh and Bambanda-Zaro Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Chama Nature Park. An exciting recent development has been the establishment of a community nature partnership park in the Lundazi Forest Reserve in Zambia. The Chama Nature Park was approved by the Zambian government at district level (Chama District Council) and at national level by the Zambian Ministry of Tourism. The Park will border on Vwaza Marsh, thus allowing for the movement of animals.

Funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service supported the law enforcement adviser’s work in the Kasungu and Lukusuzi national parks. Staff houses were refurbished, uniforms procured, four of the existing ranger posts in Kasungu rebuilt and four new tented structures constructed to accommodate rangers in Lukusuzi. A radio communication system with a repeater station that services both national parks was also installed.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s COMACO project continued to make progress in developing the Kasungu-Lukusuzi TFCA. Beehives were provided to the communities of the Mwasemphangwe and Chikomeni chiefdoms as an alternative livelihood project, while fish fingerlings were procured for restocking and eventual utilisation by the communities. Sensitisation programmes, including the training of former poachers, were also conducted in the Mwansempangwe and Chikomene areas. Meanwhile, senior government officials at the provincial level held separate consultative meetings with the two local chiefs residing in the proposed wildlife dispersal area between the two national parks. The need to support the establishment of the TFCA was emphasised during these meetings.

 

Peace Parks has two other ideas for Transfrontier Conservation Areas in Zambia – Lower Zambezi with Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, and Liuwa Plain with Mussuma Park, Angola.  Neither of these Conservation Areas has yet passed the stage of signing an MOU.

 

Lower Zambezi and Mana Pools is an important Transfrontier Conservation Area.  (With plans to ask for National Heritage Status?)  Both these parks have a great deal in common and face similar problems and yet there are differences.  Flooding when the gates of Kariba Dam is open is a common problem; with one voice they can maybe affect the choices made by the all-powerful electricity authorities … at least they can be given more warning of impending floods, which doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment.  Differences between Mana and Lower Zam are operational ones.  Mana does not allow motor boats because they feel that the noise and water disturbance is not good for the environment and yet, Lower Zambezi has motor boats regularly plying the river.  Mana has no electricity, therefore no bright lights shining from their side yet Lower Zambezi has huge spotlights spoiling the view from the Zim side.  There are bound to be other differences too.  With a common administration one assumes that differences can be ironed out. 

 

And, wouldn’t it be a milestone when people were allowed to cross from Mana into Lower Zam and vice versa with few border controls.  They do it elsewhere, so why not here.

 

The other Transfrontier Conservation Area is between Liuwa Plain and Mussuma National Park in Angola.  This park will give protection to the wildebeest on their annual migration.  It is thought that many of the wildebeest migrate to northern Zambia but that some still go to Angola.  The migration needs protection. 

 

 

 

Zambia Tourism Board launches loan facility to enable Zambians take local holidays

From the Lusaka Times

 

Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) has launched a holiday loan facility which it has said is aimed at boosting the domestic tourism.

The Tourism Board has said that the involvement of local people as tourists will enhance growth and sustainability of the tourism sector.

ZTB managing director Felix Chaila said in Kitwe during the launch of the holiday loan package that domestic tourism has the potential to contribute effectively to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) .

“Tourism is a sustainable resource which local people can explore to increase productivity as it would enable them to refresh after taking time off on holiday with their families,” Mr.Chaila said.

He noted that despite Zambia being endowed with diverse tourism attraction sites local people do not have an opportunity to go on holiday as compared to foreign tourists because of financial constraints.

Mr. Chaila stated that this situation prompted ZTB to partner with local and international financial institutions to introduce the holiday loan package to enable local people who are in employment and have an opportunity to go on holiday. …

 

 

 

 

THE BULLETIN

Newsletter of  THE ZAMBEZI SOCIETY http://www.zamsoc.org

LITTLE RHINO FOOTPRINTS ANNOUNCE…..

A NEW ARRIVAL IN THE MATUSADONA NATIONAL PARK!  

 

The Zambezi Society is delighted to report that a new baby rhino calf has been born in the Matusadona National Park Black Rhino Intensive Protection Zone. Our Rhino Monitoring Co-ordinator, Dumisani Moyo reports that she is a female, which is good news for future breeding prospects.  Here is a picture of her little spoor (above left) and of the calf herself with her mother, Mvura (above right),

 

On behalf of the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, we have asked Chisipite Junior School, whose Grade Six pupils and teachers do a sterling job raising funds for rhino conservation every year, to name the new baby.  We await their deliberations.

 

Even better news is that our monitors in the Park report that three other black rhino females (Boma, Cleopatra and Jesse) are also expecting calves this year.  We hope to have good news of these later in the year.

 

DEVELOPMENTS ALONG THE ZAMBEZI RIVER AT MANA POOLS

 

Despite the Zambezi Society having expressed its concern, as a stakeholder, about developments along the Zambezi River in Mana Pools, we are still unclear what the latest situation is in this regard.

 

In September 2010 the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) told stakeholders about four proposed “joint-venture” riverside tourism development sites … then there was one only… and now there appear to be two. The still unratified Mana Pools Management Plan recommends NO further riverside developments in order to protect Mana’s special alluvial terraces and the wilderness quality of its tourism experience.  Instead, it suggests that any future developments should take place at inland sites only.

 

In January this year, a delegation from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee visited to assess potential impacts of Zimbabwean and Zambian development and mining proposals in the area. Their visit coincided with the rains which prevented them from accessing some of the more remote and relevant sites. However they met with stakeholders (including the Society) who expressed concern about possible impacts to the World Heritage Site and Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve.

 

The delegation has sent its report to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee which meets at the end of June.   We await the outcome of the UNESCO deliberations. 

 

In the meantime, we encourage Zambezi Society supporters and concerned individuals who visit Mana Pools to let us know of any developments taking place along the river shoreline in Mana Pools that may be contrary to the recommendations of the Park Management Plan.

 

 

 

‘Catastrophic loss of wildlife in Okavango’                                         

Written by OARABILE MOSIKARE               

TUESDAY, 31 MAY 2011 12:39

 

A report in the South African Mail and Guardian says all is not well among the 50 000 islands, clear channels and countless creatures in one of the most bountiful wildlife areas on earth.

 

The newspaper says an aerial survey commissioned by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, and undertaken by Michael Chase and Kelly Landen of Elephants Without Borders has found 11 species in serious decline in the delta. Comparing surveys going back to 1993, wildebeest numbers are shown to have shrunk by 90%; giraffe by 65%; tsessebe by 83%; lechwe by 58% and zebra by 53%. Also down about 80% are warthog, kudu, roan and ostrich. From 1999 to the present – only 10 years – the running average for total species decline is about 61%.

 

“There’s a catastrophic loss of wildlife,” said Chase, “and we cannot be certain about why. But one thing is clear from the survey — the delta’s wildlife is in trouble.”??According to the report the species decline is the result of “a complex mixture of local causes”, including human encroachment, game fences and poaching. Another factor could be fire.

 

Much of the area surveyed in the late dry season of 2010 was burning, the report says. ??“The most potent factor, however, is seen to be drought. With torrential rain and flooding across the region this year, it’s hard to imagine this being the cause. But using rainfall data from the 1920s, the survey found that the decline of animals coincided with the onset of a long, dry cycle starting in 1980 — the most severe ever recorded — which has only just broken.

 

During that time the Okavango River water flow rates were the lowest since records began,” says the report.

 

But elephants and hippos are bucking the downward trend. Hippos have increased steadily at 6% a year, and the elephant population is holding steady. “We found the number of elephants in northern Botswana has stabilized at about 130,000,” Chase is quoted as saying. “One reason is that they’re returning to Angola.”??Jonas Savimbi’s troops are thought to have slaughtered about 150,000 elephants for meat and to finance Angola’s civil war by selling ivory. All the rhino went the same way. When Elephants Without Borders the surveyed strife-torn Luiana National Park in 2001 there were 38 elephants; in 2005 it had jumped to 3 000, and by 2008 the count was 8 000.

 

How did they know it was safe to return to Angola? “The country is remembered by a generation of elephants still alive today,” said Chase. “They recognise the pathways to food and water and the timing of seasons. They remember where the hunters are. In a sense, they’re Angolan refugees returning home.

 

“The bulls are the scouts, leaving the vicinity of Botswana’s conservation areas on exploration journeys. They move from the delta up the Kwando River, streak across the Caprivi at night and into Angola. They find it’s pristine, with few people. There are thought to be millions of landmines in south-east Angola. I don’t know how they avoid them — probably by smell — but they do. Then they return and fetch the family herds.”

 

The distance elephants walk is staggering. Chase and Landen have tracked a collared elephant that covered 32,000km in two years, the greatest distance ever recorded for the species. “They look for food and water,” said Chase. “But they’re also searching for peaceful sanctuaries far from humans.

 

“For elephants to survive, we need to identify safe corridors, linkages between areas, networks, dispersal areas, transfrontier Parks. We need to let their movement draw the lines which define wildlife ecosystems. There’s not much time left. Their future is in our hands. We have to get it right and do it now, while we still have the opportunity.”

 

The survey suggests that many of the threats to animals come from hunting, fence-related deaths, habitat fragmentation and poaching outside the reserves. It notes that if the current problems persist, the populations of large plains game in northern Botswana are likely to remain low, while the wildebeest and tsessebe populations could collapse altogether.

 

The only way to monitor the situation, it says, is to conduct regular aerial surveys; in this way wildlife managers will be able to track population dynamics, set priorities and focus on the species that is most in need of attention.

 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: