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
Second edition August 2011
BAD NEWS FOR CHOGM THIEVES
Civil society activists and anti corruption groups celebrated an intermediate victory yesterday when the Constitutional Court of Uganda handed down their verdict, that former Vice President Dr. Gilbert Bukenya could after all be prosecuted by the Inspector General of Government and did not enjoy the privilege of immunity from prosecution as he had claimed. While it could not be immediately ascertained that a final pitch at the Supreme Court would be made to stem criminal prosecution, it can now be almost taken as a fact that the immediate former Vice President of Uganda will face court and stand trial over allegations made by the IGG of serious wrongdoings when procuring a fleet of posh vehicles for the summit in late 2007.
Other politicians and civil servants too are now likely to face similar cases, as the IGG apparently held off further indictments until the Constitutional Court had declared its position. A number of former ministers, permanent secretaries and other senior staff were under investigation by the parliamentary committee looking into CHOGM expenditure but were at least there let off the hook when the plenary session of the last parliament dismissed the report of the committee. However, with President Museveni then running on an anticorruption platform during the end February general election, the Inspector General of Government was using the powers of that office to initiate prosecutions, and in fact publicly locked horns with the president who had declared his former deputy had no case to answer.
Immediate former Minister of State for Tourism Serapio Rukundo is now also awaiting his fate as the IGG’s office is said to be in high gear preparing more cases to go to court.
The general public, suffering from runaway inflation, is generally in favour of ‘big shots’ being prosecuted and be sure to read the outcome of this and possible other trials right here.
PAY UP OR SIT IN DARKNESS
Parliament was once again told by the energy minister earlier this week that the country would continue to suffer extensive power rationing until at least December this year, when units 1 and 2 of the new Bujagali hydroelectric plant are expected to be fully on line and in production. The country has for weeks now been suffering nightly black outs, often extending until late in the morning in the affected areas, after parliament had withheld funds to pay pending subsidies to independent electricity producers using heavy fuel oil and diesel propelled plants. Current fuel prices have not helped to resume full production due to the sharply risen input cost and experts claim that the current charge per unit of about 426 Uganda Shillings could rise to 1.000 Shillings if subsidies were removed as government has threatened.
Ugandans, already suffering from double digit inflation, were intrigued by the intensity of the arguments in parliament earlier in the week when several politicians demanded that UMEME’s contract be reviewed with the aim of cancelling their concession for non performance. Yet, the fact was not lost on the public that it was in fact parliament which caused the crisis by not approving funding for the delayed subsidy arrears, which in the end prompted several independent power plants to be switched off. In addition, one 50MW plant was permanently decommissioned already, as it was using the more expensive diesel, as opposed to heavy fuel oil, to run and the loss of this generating capacity could not be made up by releasing more water to turn up hydro production at the Jinja Kiira and Owen Falls plants by 40 MW, leaving the country with a peak demand deficit of over 120 MW.
UMEME was also blamed for failing to reduce the rampant power thefts and other system losses, still in the high 30 percent range and recent attempts to get higher tariffs approved fell on deaf ears with the Electricity Regulatory Authority.
Economic analysts have said that the combination of job losses, high inflation, sharp devaluation of the local currency, rising interest rates and lack of electricity are having a devastating effect on the Ugandan economy. Meanwhile is the tourism sector also struggling with visitors staying away due to negative publicity, likely to fail reaching its key target this year of bringing more than a million visitors to the country for the first time ever. Stakeholders blame this partly on a lack of funding for an aggressive marketing campaign, the sudden rise in various fees for the national parks and the fear by potential visitors of further political violence on the streets. Embassies and High Commissions in Kampala have also been quietly telling their citizens to become more vigilant as higher crime rates could be fueled by the current trend of inflation, which leaves many ordinary Ugandans struggling to make their salaries last beyond the middle of the month. Watch this space.
KANGAROO COURT AFTER ALL ???
Few have dared so far to take retired Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba to task over his acid outbursts, if not outright declaration of ‘guilt’ towards witnesses brought before the UWA Commission of Enquiry, but for the former Chairman of UWA enough was enough. He reportedly wrote to the Minister of Tourism, whose predecessor, the notorious Kahinda Otafire, had instituted the commission – in what was at the time calls a vengeful act of spite after losing a court case brought by former UWA staff leading to the dismissal of his choice chairman and board members – complaining about the shenanigans of the Kanyeihamba and the way witnesses were being interrogated, treated and called names, demanding that the minister set new boundaries for the commission and allow witnesses ‘mistreated’ the right to properly defend themselves and respond to the draft report before it is being published. Andrew Kasirye, a leading Kampala lawyer and former President of the Uganda Law Society, made his objections quite clear to a range of issues stemming from the handling of witnesses and a series of public statements made by the commission chairman Kanyeihamba, who for all practical purposes had made up his mind already in advance over guilt or innocence of those called to testify. Calling the methods employed by the commission ‘trial by ambush’ he further complained that the media’s reporting had done incalculably damage to witnesses reputations, fueled by comments made by the commission chairman and other members.
Before the commission was formally launched by Otafire, he had instituted a probe committee, which was also generally perceived to be a purpose driven kangaroo court and the report of which was widely critizised only to see the same sentiments reappear now as the commission of enquiry, protected by the privilege of judicial immunity, is winding up its affairs. Watch this space as this saga is slowly drawing to its conclusion.
LET THE AIR WARS COMMENCE
Kenya Airways confirmed earlier this week that they registered a new business name ‘Jambo Jet’, generally perceived to be the national airline’s answer to increasing low cost operations across Kenya and the wider East African region.
KQ has already locked horns with companies like Jetlink or Fly 540 over their aggressive marketing of flights from Nairobi to Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu, and their subsequent ‘special offers’ often beating the ‘regular fares’ of LCC’s considerably on the Kenyan domestic market, albeit restricted to maybe only one or two departures out of 10 overall on the Mombasa route.
The delivery of in particular Embraer E170’s and E190’s has allowed Kenya Airways to operate one of the most cost effective aircraft on their domestic routes while also throwing down the gauntlet to their competitors on the route to Juba, which – compared to a year ago – they now fly double daily instead of not at all while at the same time also increasing their presence in key markets across the region.
Affected Kenyan airlines are reportedly talking strategy not only amongst each other but have also sounded out carriers from Rwanda and Uganda over how best to counter KQ’s seemingly relentless drive to increase their market share on domestic and regional routes.
Should KQ in fact launch their own low cost operation, for Kenya and the East African region, one this is sure, that passengers, for the time being, will see much more competitive fares emerge on key routes with airlines adding other benefits like frequent flyer ‘goodies’, and that the fight over market shares and passengers will then not end until at least one of the ‘other airlines’ will have been pushed out of the market. Watch this space for the most up to date information from the East African aviation scene and be sure to read here exactly what will happen and to which airline, when push comes to shove.
LOKI GATHERING DUST AS TRAFFIC SHIFTS TO JKIA
Once the main gateway into occupied and wartorn South Sudan, a key supply base for the United Nations aid organizations and a multitude of NGO’s, Lokichoggio has since the signing of the CPA in January 2005 seen a remarkable reverse in fortunes. During the early years of the CPA, when no one could be certain of the Khartoum’ regime’s bag of tricks up their sleeves, Loki as the town is fondly known amongst the aviation fraternity in Kenya, was still doing brisk business with supplies being trucked in from Mombasa’s port or from Nairobi’s industries geared to supplying the South Sudan territory, but at the very latest from 2008 onwards it became clear that the ‘boom town status’ was getting brittle at the edges and progressively being eroded in favour of direct flights from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Juba’s fledgling airport.
Private airlines like East African Safari Air Express, since then taken over by Fly 540, and Jetlink were the first to enter into agreements with the South and the regime’s civil aviation body in Khartoum to get traffic rights, then followed by others like Delta Connection, making the South’s links with the outside world via Nairobi possible, not of course trusting the regime’s surveillance methods in Khartoum, when having to travel via that airport.
When Air Uganda commenced flights to Juba, Ethiopian began flights from Addis and even more so since Kenya Airways has gone on the route to Juba, the significance of Loki has continued to dwindle with passenger and flight numbers dropping as much as by half from year to year, rendering many of the facilities put up to make Loki operationally fit for cargo and passenger flights in and out of the South, now to a status of near mothballing. Said a Wilson Airport based regular aviation source from Nairobi: ‘Before the CPA and even the first years after the peace agreement was signed, Loki was the place to be. Regular air operators were joined by opportunistic start ups and the number of lesser and more serious accidents are witness to the ‘Wild West’ mentality which existed back then. Pilots were aware of the risk they took, flying into Sudanese airspace without clearance from ATC in Khartoum, but as those clearances would have been denied anyway, the regime did not want even humanitarian supplies to reach the Southern people. So pilots knew there was always a risk to be shot at from the ground where regime troops were based and destinations often were rough bush strips, put up sometimes only a day before going in. SPLA controlled areas were giving clearances to fly in medical equipment, drugs, doctors or evacuate injured people, and of course other supplied like food too went in through Loki. Now things have changed dramatically and can no longer be described as busy. Some airlines have closed their offices in Loki, and guest houses and hotels lack business. But my prediction is that Kenya will keep Loki intact because one never knows when it might be needed again, it is only a few miles from the common border and while the use is changing it is of strategic importance to Kenya.’
One thing though is sure, that Kenya aviation will always have a chapter about Loki in its history books and Loki is forever linked with the struggle of the Southern Sudanese people against racism, slavery and oppression which ended in their victory and independence from the regime in Khartoum on the 09th of July this year. So whatever is in store for Loki from here on, its place in history will have been assured.
TANAPA’S LATEST – INSANITY OR A CASE OF TOURISM MURDER / SUICIDE
Disturbing news emerged from Tanzania that scores of tourist vehicles were kept at gates earlier this week, while attempting to enter various national parks and that aircraft trying to take off from park airstrips were prevented to leave by TANAPA staff, which according to a reliable source also arrested a camp manager on unspecified charges.
An initial count of affected vehicles arrived at a preliminary figures of over 200 tourist safari vehicles, carrying hundreds of tourists who had paid their safari packages to their respective tour operators, overseas and locally in Tanzania, all of them first bewildered before this turned into anger and in some cases outright rage.
The background of this development earlier in the week needs to be explained, to understand the full folly of TANAPA’s action and then see it in the light of a long line of actions by the Tanzanian government impacting severely on the country’s global standing as a partner in conservation and against promoting the country as a desirable tourist destination.
It was reported here earlier in the year, that TANAPA and the Hotel Association of Tanzania, representing safari lodges and safari camps licensed by TANAPA, had engaged in negotiations over a new set of concession fees, which culminated in a new contract being signed in February 2011. All well what ends well? Think again, as within a few months TANAPA seems to have discarded the agreement reached and announced unilaterally that they would effective 01st of August raise their fees, in some cases tripling them.
When the hotel association then decided to take the matter to court, having a signed agreement in hand, and obtained an injunction to halt any TANAPA action until the principal suit brought by HAT could be heard and determined, the wildlife management body then tried to circumvent the court order by demanding that tour operators have to pay concession fees alongside the park entrance fees, putting the onus of the collection on them instead of the concessionaires. This too was deemed not only illegal by the tourism fraternity but also proves impractical, as such fees are already built into the accommodation cost safari lodges and camps charge to the tour operators or individual clients. TANAPA’s letter to TATO, the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, dated 01st of July but only received by TATO’s offices on the 05th of July, says amongst other things: (iv)Tour Operators, Tourists and visitors will have their own arrangements for set offs with Hotels, Lodges and Tented Camps.
However, it was established that no such ‘off sets’ were in place, not contractually agreed between tour operators and lodge / camp operators nor had those individual clients with prepaid accommodation packages for their safaris any legal recourse in place to compel safari lodges and safari camps to actually refund to them directly any such fees built into the accommodation rates and paid by them in advance to secure their bookings during the current high season.
Said one source on condition of strictest anonymity – fully understood considering the vicious backlash one can expect from Tanzania’s officialdom when ‘going against the grain’ – to this correspondent: ‘TANAPA had agreed with our association on a new set of fees. Those fees we shall remit as we have always done before and there is a mechanism for that. What we shall not do is to refund clients who paid us directly, or tour operators with contract rates, or any clients for that matter, fees which were illegally raised by TANAPA and over which we are now in court. TANAPA knows that but chose to conduct this illegal operation to force tourists to pay up from their pockets. We can only reiterate that the fees agreed early this year are the ones now in effect, not the unilateral ones declared in total isolation by TANAPA. The legally agreed fees will be remitted, but not one cent more until the court case is heard and we have a judgment. We are confident we will win this case’.
The damage done by this cloak and dagger action by TANAPA to the country’s tourism sector is said to be ‘huge and spreading like wildfire overseas’ according to a regular source in Arusha from within the safari operators, as irate clients called their home based travel agents, tour operators and in some cases their local newspapers that they were held at ransom and in some cases spent the entire day outside park gates.
Another source had this to add: ‘TANAPA forced us to sign bills for these concession fees, due to be paid within 7 days. At least now clients can get on with their safari itineraries but I doubt if our companies will honour to pay such bills which were forced on us under duress. Personally I think that this is in fact giving our court case more strength because it exposes TANAPA’s illegal moves as an act of brute force.’
The Tanzania Tourist Board, presently working on a re-branding of the tourism sector ahead of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Tanzania’s independence later this year, is said to be shell shocked too, though not officially commenting, but this latest damage done to Tanzania’s reputation abroad is just one in a long line of misjudgments, brainless rhetoric’s and affronts which marked the country’s U-turn from founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s commitment to protect Tanzania’s wildlife and parks at all cost.
Worth mentioning here are the ongoing squabbles over the commitment by Tanzania to UNESCO NOT to build a road across the migration paths of more than one and a half million wildebeest and zebras in a letter, only to be rubbished later on by a number of government ministers and officials, causing ongoing consternation and confusion over the issue.
Second on the list is the planned establishment of a soda ash plant at Lake Natron, which would have an irreversible impact on the breeding patterns of the ‘lesser flamingo’, as the muddy lake flats are the only breeding ground for these birds in the entire East Africa.
Uranium mining, inspite of warnings of toxicity of such activities, in the Selous Game Reserve combine with reactivated decades old plans to build a dam across Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous, in both cases notwithstanding that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here the Minister of Tourism only recently let his true thoughts and sentiments show when in a sudden angry outburst towards journalists he called UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee an ‘inconsequential entity’.
The woes for Tanzania’s global standing as a conservation nation however does not end here. President Kikwete’s directive to the tourism ministry, to withdraw an application for recognition of the Eastern Arc Mountains as another prized World Heritage Site, goes directly to the core of Tanzania’s conservation policies and is evidence that where ‘development’, in this context mining and logging interests combine, conservation is getting ‘shafted’. Not being recognized as a World Heritage Site makes decisions for commercial exploitation easier, as no one needs to be asked for consent under binding conventions Tanzania has signed on to, like is the case in for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Serengeti and Selous, which stands in the way of making quick decisions by the executive in Dar es Salaam at the expense of the environment.
The list is however not yet exhausted as a recently created marine national park near Tanga, at Mwambani, is also in the cross hairs of ‘developers’ who want to build a new harbour into the very site where prehistoric ‘Coelacanth’ fish, long thought extinct, are found, prompting the declaration of a marine national park in the first place.
And then there is of course the battle over the sale of ivory stocks with the CITES Secretariat, on which recommendation the last CITES global meeting in Doha in March 2010 turned down Tanzania’s request for an ‘exception’. This prompted several spats by ministry officials with not just CITES but also accusing a neighbouring country of being ‘behind the hostile stand’. Yet, a CITES report clearly put the onus on Tanzania’s government which it basically accused of doing little if anything to prevent poaching in Tanzania and the smuggling of blood ivory, birds and other wildlife through its territory. Occasional arrests of ivory smugglers, mostly Chinese for that matter, are used to gloss over a range of institutional failures within the public set up of the conservation sector in Tanzania, and TANAPA’s latest action is just another case in a long line of grotesque misjudgments, raising the question if official institutions are now not just shooting themselves in the foot but aiming to blow their feet off altogether.
Said a source in Dar es Salaam, in regular contact with this correspondent but also demanding strict anonymity: ‘Our government does not like to be held accountable. Our government bodies are not ready to be accountable to the public. TANAPA’s latest decisions show that they lost all common sense and put themselves above the law. The matter is in court for crying out loud, but still they try to create facts on the ground and give a damn about hundreds of tourists going back home with a very loud message like ‘Don’t go to Tanzania, it is the wild west out there’. Our officials always like to blame Kenya for being in the lead, taking the lion share of safari business in East Africa but the Kenyans do not commit such mistakes, and so many mistakes like our lot does. I am not sure but it seems like a collective act of institutional suicide of institutions tasked to protect our environment and manage our natural resources. Our minister was in Manyani not long ago when Kenya’s president Kibaki burnt several tons of ivory. Then he comes home and rumour has it he privately called the Kenyan’s ‘crazy’ that they burn ivory instead of joining with Tanzania to persuade CITES to allow them to sell it. He is the same guy who also called UNESCO names a few weeks ago. Who can take us in Tanzania serious with such officials representing us? Or are they gone bonkers and try to kill the industry, but for what purpose I wonder? After all it pays for their own existence.’
Meanwhile are efforts continuing to have the case brought by the hotel association against TANAPA heard early under a certificate of urgency which is reportedly being prepared, although the present court holiday in East Africa is making an early court date unlikely. TANAPA’s reaction is being monitored in regard of the payment due date for the crudely enforced ‘bills’ for concession fees imposed on safari operators and individuals and the tourism industry in Tanzania is holding its combined breath to see that date come and pass, but is bracing for another round of tit for tat by TANAPA, i.e. keeping tourists for ransom at their gates in order to force and extract payments of what is essentially looked upon as institutional blackmail. Watch this space for updates as this latest negative and hugely damaging saga in Tanzania unfolds.
GADAFFI LIBYA GETS ANOTHER SLAP FROM RWANDA
Gadaffi’s business empire in Africa faces yet further disruption when news emerged from Rwanda that government in Kigali is set to seek bids to sell the Umubano Hotel, formerly the Laico Umubano Hotel.
Rwanda was one of the first countries in Africa to fully implement the sanctions imposed on Gadaffi’s regime by the United Nations and almost instantly froze the hotel asset, while already dismantling the regime’s telecoms assets in Rwanda.
There, following repeated failures to comply with licensing conditions, RwandaTel saw its mobile license withdrawn, crippling the operations of the company and forcing over 600.000 subscribers to migrate to other mobile companies in Rwanda, like Tigo or MTN. Following this regulatory measure the company is now in winding up status.
Meanwhile though has the Rwandan government now sought a competent firm to evaluate the assets of the Umubano Hotel, before then tendering it for sale, so that a new investor can live up to the expectations initially vested in Laico, to add much needed rooms and improve and enlarge the hotel’s facilities. The Libyan management and board members were upon the appointment of a care taker manager sent home and are no longer in a position to prevent the upcoming action.
It was learned that once the hotel has been sold off the fair share of the Libyan investment will be put into a frozen account too, before eventually the situation in Libya normalizes and a new democratic government can then reclaim frozen funds, not just from Rwanda but from around the world.
SCANDINAVIANS ‘GET CLOSER’ TO SEYCHELLES
The start yesterday of nonstop flights between Dubai and Copenhagen by Emirates, Dubai’s award winning airline, has brought the Creole Island Paradise of Seychelles much closer to Scandinavian travelers. Copenhagen, easily accessible from across Denmark but also from Norway and Sweden, and not too far from Finland, will now every day connect Seychelles bound passengers with only one stop and an almost immediate onward flight from Dubai to Mahe, supporting the sales and marketing efforts by the Seychelles Tourists Board across the Nordic countries. Especially during the dark and cold winter months many Scandinavians are ‘escaping’ from the harsh climate and short daylight hours and the year round summer climate of the Seychelles is ideally suited to offer a superb get away, clean azure waters and shining white beaches combined with a wide range of resorts fitting anyone’s budget.
The new flights to Copenhagen were hailed across the Emirates network, including this correspondent’s home country of Uganda, as a welcome new destination to facilities exports to Scandinavia and receiving more visitors from there to boost tourism receipts. Watch this space.
And in closing today, some more material from Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ – Asante Sana Gill!
Beyond the Victoria Falls Book Signing
I have been told that a Book Signing is the thing to do with a new book. As I have received some copies of my book to sell on behalf of the publishers I will be doing a Book Signing at the Zambezi Sun on Saturday 13th August from 4pm-6pm.
Please come and buy a book and/or keep me company while sitting by the pool and having a sundowner. I have visions of myself sitting there alone for two hours looking extremely silly.
The book is selling for K125,000 (US$25). I feel that it is an important part of any lodge or home library for people who live and work around the Victoria Falls. It covers the towns of Livingstone, Victoria Falls, Kasane and Katima Mulilo. It also includes descriptions of 19 National Parks or Reserves within the four countries and within easy reach of the Victoria Falls.
I have a dream that the four countries should market the Victoria Falls as a group, not fight for the tourists which come our way. If we join hands and market together we will receive many more visitors which we can share. And, together, we should urge our governments to ease restrictions between the countries and to give us all a level playing field. As I said … it is a dream …
I can also take orders for multiple copies for sale at a discounted price. Get in touch with me if you would like some – I can order for you. I am hoping to bring copies to Victoria Falls Town, Kasane and Katima Mulilo soon.
Hwange 27-31 July 2011
The main aim of the trip to Hwange National Park was to go and see the bike ride from Main Camp. But, me being me, and wanting to make the most of it, I decided to go to Main Camp via Robins Camp and Sinamatella.
We set off early – I was travelling with a friend, Venice, from Saf Par who volunteered to keep me company. It is not a good idea to go into the bush alone. I have done it, but it is not wise. At least if there are two of you and the car breaks down, there is someone to talk to!
The border crossing into Zimbabwe was painless although the Zimbabwe side was slow. After filling up the jerry cans with fuel, we took the Bulawayo road out of Victoria Falls Town. We were not going to be near a petrol station again until we came out of the park four days later.
45 km along the Bulawayo road we took a right to Robins Camp, Hwange National Park. This is also the road to Pandamatenga and the border with Botswana, but you turn off before then to reach Hwange. The road was quite horrid – corrugations and holes. It passes through Matetsi Safari Area and it was fairly obvious that there was a lot of activity there. I am told that the hunting has taken off in a big way – there is lots of money in hunting. There are many people out there – men and women – who love the thrill of killing something … and then hanging the stuffed head over their mantelpiece. Each to their own, I say.
As we approached the entrance to Hwange I noticed that my car was making a funny noise. My car is 23 years old and has seen some bush. But it is still a great car … it just needs some TLC now and again. I decided that being totally ignorant of car mechanics I would try to keep it going to Robins where I thought someone would be able to help.
We arrived at Robins Camp, chatted to the Game Scout at reception while paying our camping fees. I asked if there was a mechanic at hand. Yes, there was. He was called for. The mechanic arrived, put his head in the car bonnet, waggled something about and said: Broken. He proceeded to undo a lot of nuts and bolts … I asked him what I should do. Weld, he said. He continued to undo bits and pieces, finally walking off with a lump of my car …
Half an hour later the mechanic came back and started to put the lump back in the car. Fixed, he said, and walked off. A man of few words, I thought to myself. We drove around to the campsite and organised our camp for the night.
Robins Camp was an old farm property from the 1930s. A cantankerous old man called H G Robins owned and ran the farm. When he died the farm became part of the park. It still has that farm feel about it.
That afternoon we went for a drive to Little Toms, a pan, not far away. The road was not great and when we met up with some other visitors they advised us not to try to get to Big Toms as the road was appalling. So, we stopped by Little Toms for a while watching the birdlife and then took a slow drive back encountering a large herd of buffalo on the way.
Good, said Venice, we are sure to hear lions tonight.
Surrounding the property is nothing more than a chicken wire fence. Animals come and go. I suppose that is why Venice and I put away all the food before diving into our tents. And also why, in the morning, we found hyena tracks around our camp. The night had been full of night noises – lion, hyena and jackal.
The morning’s entertainment was provided by birds squabbling over some bits of bread. There was actually plenty for them all but the drongo decided he didn’t want to share.
After packing up camp we drove to Mandavu Picnic Site which we had managed to book. The wonderful thing about Hwange is that they allow campers at Picnic Sites where you can have the whole site to yourself. There is, usually, a couple of scouts nearby, but no-one else around for miles.
The drive to Mandavu was not very interesting. The road was horrid in places but the vehicle ‘fixed-bit’ held up. Arriving around lunchtime we decided to be lazy and just enjoy the view over the dam and watch the hyrax clambering around on the rocks below.
William our game scout was excellent. He greeted us and then left us to get on while he did a spot of fishing in the dam. He reappeared later to light our fire, make sure that all was well, light the fire for the hot water and then went to his house. In the morning he arrived early to light our fire and make sure the water was kept hot in the boiler.
Mandavu dam is quite a large dam so, watching the game on the far side, requires binoculars. Other dams are more intimate so viewing is better. Anyhow we saw a lot in the distance and enjoyed the hyrax and the birdlife in the camp.
After another night of listening to lions and hyena calling in the night we packed up and started off for Main Camp. Again the road is bad in places so we just took it slowly. As you near Main Camp the wildlife viewing improves.
The next couple of days were spent at Main Camp with drives into the park to watch the cyclists, to see the game and to visit Dardley at Somalisa Camp.
Somalisa Camp has had some renovations and increased the size of its camp. They now have more chalets and a family room.
We had to laugh when Dardley told us of a New Zealand couple who arrived there during that cold spell. Somalisa had temperatures in the negatives … and this couple, not packed for Africa’s cold, just couldn’t take it – they had to leave.
It seems that it doesn’t matter how much we try to explain to our visitors that, yes, it does get cold here and bring some warm clothing. Do they listen? Usually not.
I’ll just leave you with a few photos.
The twice-weekly flight by Air Botswana from Kasane to Lusaka has stopped. However, the flights on Fridays and Sundays from Gaborone to Lusaka will continue.
Sanganai Tourism Fair
The Sanganai Tourism Fair is to take place between 8-12th October. Here is an extract from Bulawayo 24:
The Sanganai/Hlanganani tourism and travel fair will kick off in the form of a Sanganai street procession which will culminate in the famous tourism night. Addressing the media in the capital, ZTA Chief Executive, Mr. Karikoga Kaseke said over 157 exhibitors, 16 foreign companies, 13 countries, 30 media houses from across the globe and 65 buyers have confirmed participation. …
The People’s Republic of China is the partner country for this year‘s edition of Sanganai in appreciation of the increasing numbers of tourists arrivals from that country. Among the VIPs expected to grace this year’s fair include the Minister of Tourism from Poland. Poland is the current European Union chair.
And, according to their facebook page there are plenty of stands still up for grabs.