Weekly roundup of news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean regions, Fourth edition August 2011

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

Fourth edition August 2011


East Africa News


African airlines will meet in Marrakech / Morocco between November 20th to 22nd this year for their AFRAA Annual General Assembly, hosted by Royal Air Maroc. Notably there will also be a meeting of key Chief Executive Officers of leading African airlines to discuss the increasing threats posed to the industry by foreign carriers being given traffic rights galore by their own governments and the alarming trend of ‘staff poaching’ in particular by Gulf based airlines which offer attractive terms and conditions to pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers and other highly qualified technical staff.

Alongside an exhibition is expected to bring together the leading aircraft and engine manufacturers, IT solution providers and aviation infrastructure developers, taking advantage of this unique annual gathering of Africa’s airlines. The theme of ‘Harnessing of Growth Opportunities Together’ is significant too as many airlines continue to advocate for a full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Agreement, which is aimed to break down restrictive practices, remove non tariff impediments and promote cooperation between airlines and African Union member countries to enhance air traffic across the continent by African airlines.

The details were released following the Executive Committee meeting of AFRAA in Nairobi recently when the status of preparations for the AGM were reviewed amongst a long list of other pressing issues on the agenda of AFRAA, which also includes the ongoing blacklisting of a large number of airlines from Africa by the European Union, something AFRAA has repeatedly claimed to be a measure of protectionism aimed to keep African airlines off profitable routes to and from key European airports. 



When Japanese airline ANA is taking delivery of their first ever B787, being THE launch customer for Boeing, over three and a half years of delay after delay comes to an end. Often denied by Boeing executives, several of whom have since lost their jobs, probably as a result, industry observers regularly put two and two together, and to no one’s surprise arrived at the magic four, when predicting yet another delay again, rattling Boeing’s executive suites and unsettling airlines around the world, which gave over 800 orders for the ‘Dreamliner’ to the Seattle based company.

While the test flight programme was yesterday concluded, finally one should add, questions have now emerged over the projected production rate for the aircraft, with industry analysts predicting that the intermediate goal of Boeing to roll out 10 B787 per month, may be missed by between 6 – 9 months owing to a number of factors. The same sources are also predicting that Boeing will only fly into the profit zone with the B787 when they reach 1.000 deliveries, a clear pointer to the true cost of having to compensate airline customers for the long delays, which was reflected in discounted ‘alternatives’ like the B777 or knock down prices for the B787 itself. Such actions however stemmed the tide of an oncoming wave of order cancellations and inspite of the cost to the company may ultimately have been a game changer for Boeing.

Other sources claim that the delivery to ANA had turned into a Herculean task for Boeing, not wanting to risk more egg over the faces of leading executives, but that subsequent deliveries would already be affected by the a slower than expected rate of assemblies and that under ‘normal circumstances’, i.e. if the general delay had been less than 3 ½+ years, this particular aircraft may only have been delivered much later in the year and would have been the expected deliveries of the first few sister ships.

East African customers, namely Ethiopian and Kenya Airways, will be eyeing these latest reports with yet more concern, as a slower than planned production rate might well affect their own, and in the past often rescheduled delivery dates. Industry analysts will be watching developments with keen interest, as their attention now turns to Airbus, where the timetable for the A350 is also under pressure. However, Airbus did learn lessons with the delays of the A380 and has taken remedial steps, which in the case of Boeing were often denied and yet eventually taken, but far too late. Watch this space.



The unprecedented decision by the standing committee of CITES yesterday, to exclude civil society organizations and NGO’s, including WWF, AWF and others from its deliberations on the illegal trade in ivory has shocked the global conservation fraternity and prompted already a wave of protests from those affected. Suspicion on the sponsors of this exclusion now focuses on the main beneficiary countries of illegal trade in ivory, such as China, especially as the exclusion was demanded by Kuwait on behalf of the Asian member countries. ‘Shutting the door into our faces will not help the perpetrators of poaching, of illegal trade in blood ivory and beneficiaries like China first and foremost. We shall leave no stone unturned to prove to the world who is behind excluding us from these crucial talks, and that it was done to evade a ton of evidence we were going to present in these meetings’ said a regular source close to one of the global leaders in conservation before adding ‘ … we are in fact helping CITES to finance a number of initiatives to combat poaching and stop the illegal trade and while we appreciate that the Secretariat in Lusaka has a different view from the one taken by member states, should this decision not be reversed we may have to review our position as our own donors and supporters expect no less of us. There are other important issues on the agenda too, like the trade in rhino horn, or the fate of the Asian tigers and it is clear that there are some very dark and regressive forces at work trying to prevent the truth from coming out. If this decision is allowed to stand it will severely impact on the standing and ability of CITES to be a force for good, a force pro conservation and will have been taken over by anti conservation countries’.

The news were received with incredulity by many of the East African conservationists, NGO’s and even the tourism industry and there were prompt allegations being made of a large scale cover up being initiated behind closed doors to whitewash the tacit complicity of CITES member states in not preventing importation of blood ivory into their countries. Said a regular source from Nairobi overnight: ‘Only yesterday were news broken that blood ivory is on open sale in China. Imagine we would go there and poach their prized panda bears, they would execute us. But importing blood ivory from Africa, that seems in order. The Chinese, it should be openly said, are the biggest drivers of poaching in Africa and their government is doing very little to stop it. They must introduce new legislation to prohibit trade, processing and possession of ivory and give it the same penalties as they do when it comes to their panda bears. But it is obvious, while China professes friendship for Africa they buy our politicians and totally disregard our culture, our heritage and our wildlife. They treat us like barbarians and the behaviour of many Chinese here in East Africa is living proof of how racist they are’.

Sharp words and acid allegations, understandably made out of frustration when hearing that the Asian representative country of CITES Kuwait had voted to close the doors to the public together with such notorious countries like Iran, against reportedly the strongest opposition by countries like Kenya and the UK.

In latest news however it was confirmed that the Standing Committee, which governs CITES affairs in between the tri-annual global conference, revisited their decision following high level interventions and that a second vote then re-admitted NGO’s and civil society groups to the meeting, but not before the damage was already done and leaving in particular countries like China under added scrutiny over their words versus their actions. Watch this space.


Uganda News



(Picture courtesy of Mrs. Angie Genade, ED / RFU and ZRS)


The Rhino Fund Uganda / Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary have over the weekend confirmed that the most recent ‘addition’ to the rhino family on the sanctuary, has now been named. Aptly, the Kiswahili name ‘Malaika’ was chosen, which translates into ‘angel’.

The sanctuary now holds 10 rhinos, and the two more female adults are also confirmed pregnant, with ‘Bella’ expected to have another calf as early as late September or early October while ‘Kori’ is due to have her second calf towards the end of the year.

Tourist visitors to Ziwa can presently see the males and both pregnant females, which still have their first born calves with them. Those however will be ‘chased off’, and going by experience rather abruptly and even harshly, just as soon as the females have delivered their newborn calves and will then eventually join their ‘brothers’ in roaming the sanctuary on their own until they reach maturity in a few years time.

Watch this space for upcoming announcements on the births of rhinos 11 and 12 on Ziwa just as soon as it happened.



When news broke about the Ugandan arm of Rift Valley Railways intending to bring back commuter rail services into the capital city, the initial joy was soon joined by skepticism over the true motives of the proposed move.

Last week purported landowners commenced the clearing and fencing of land at the railways main engineering plant and workshop in Nalukolongo / Kampala, literally ambushing the corporation, claiming to have had land titles to the plots for over 30 years and finally intending to develop the plots. Along railway lines, especially in the city suburbs but also elsewhere along the functioning sections between the border with Kenya and the capital city Kampala, many literally defunct stations have been taken over by entrepreneurs conducting their business from these premises, and while called squatters by RVR, little if anything has been done to evict them.

The grand new strategy of offering ‘affordable commuter services into the city’, but reportedly also into Jinja, went along with immediate demands that the respective stretches of the rail network and the stations along the route be cleared of squatters and encroachers, so that passenger commuter services can be introduced. This measure however is probably the clearest indication that the promise of affordable mass transport only serves the ulterior motive of ‘clearing’ the railroad lines and stations well in advance of the now more likely upgrade from narrow gauge to standard gauge, for which RVR – following a protracted ownership struggle last year which eventually resulted in the Egyptian shareholders displacing the erstwhile company founders from South Africa – has finally secured funding to commence the modernization of the rolling stock, line repairs and thereafter line upgrades.

The announcement must therefore be taken with a grain of salt and the question be asked: altruism or a clever tactic to prompt evictions – time will tell, so watch this space.



Uganda’s latest addition to the safari circuit, the Amuka Lodge on the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, is now open for business it was learned during the week, as Johan Genade welcomed his first guests. Built with predominantly timber and local stone, the other ‘visible’ material is canvas, creating exactly the feel visitors expect when ‘going bush’ for an African safari.

The new lodge will complement the existing but more basic facilities for overnight accommodation and meals at the head quarter of the Rhino Fund Uganda / Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where  individual visitors, driving their own cars, can pitch their tents or else use dormitory rooms or the more private family units which have between two and three bedrooms and a sitting room.

The new lodge is aimed at the ‘traditional’ safari market, offering all the facilities and amenities tourists expect while touring the country, and being small enough Johan and his staff will ensure that their guests are well looked after.

The Rhino Sanctuary has become increasingly popular with tourists visiting the Murchisons Falls National Park as it is conveniently located just over 100 miles from Kampala, enroute to the park. Ziwa is the only place where rhinos can be seen in the wild in Uganda. Presently 10 Southern White rhinos are found on the nearly 17.000 acres of the sanctuary, with the land provided by Capt. Joe Roy on a long term use right agreement to RFU. There are 3 adult males, 3 adult females, three adolescent males born on the sanctuary just over two years ago and a more recently born female calf. Two of the adult females are also ‘in the family way’ again and are expected to give birth over the next few months. Watch this space for details but in the meantime, for more information, write to them via johan@amukalodgeuganda.com



President Museveni was reported to be in a defiant mood earlier in the week when he met a delegation from city traders and business, who had asked for meeting him to discuss a long list of grievances, over licenses, unfair competition by foreign nationals posing as ‘investors’ while engaging in retail trade and the falling shilling value, amongst other issues. Also on the agenda was apparently the Mabira saga, but the president was in no mood for compromise when promising ‘to go to war’ over the forest to make sure that an Indian tycoon was to get the free land they had asked for.

Clearly in a belligerent mood the president then poured more oil into the fire when reportedly saying that the beneficiary, the Mehta Group, did not mind at all the sentiments of Ugandans and would take the land when given it for free in the face of public opinion.

This triggered a wide range of sentiments, not only against the Mehta Group which once again now faces a consumer boycott call for all their products, not just their sugar, while also fueling anti Asian and anti investor sentiments. Wrote a regular conservation source overnight: ‘It is very irresponsible of the president to talk of ‘war’. We know his background and recall the use of security forces to suppress  the 2007 Save Mabira demonstration and more recently peaceful political protest. Is this what the NRM fought for when they chased away the dictators in 1986? Are we not getting a new dictatorship into place now where foreigners can at will demand our prized assets like Mabira and get away with it? Suppose I bring an investor and he wants to be given free land and free this and that? I am suggesting that there are vested interests at work here, and maybe some payback due for favours given and taken before, who knows. I have long supported the president on many issues but here we part company. His reference first to terrorism and now to war over Mabira is not acceptable by any standards. We shall now lobby World Bank to demand that the offset agreed with government, which includes Mabira, be totally respected. We shall also involve global organizations and friendly governments. We are inspired by the way you triggered the Save the Serengeti movement last year. That fight is not over by far but a lot of progress was made. Now we have our own test case in Uganda with Mabira. The worst part is, that the kingdom offer is being snubbed by Mehta with the backing of government to prevent Buganda to get more income, at least that is the way it is perceived. The connection is clear here. Mehta has land on offer but is too greedy to pay for leases and rent and rather sees a quarter of Mabira destroyed to enrich their empire more. The president is plain wrong to support such greed at the expense of a national water tower. He should listen to the people and not do such things in isolation. And finally, NRM should be aware that the opposition will thankfully jump on this bandwagon and join hands with everyone opposed to the Mabira give away to make political capital out of it. The opposition is not very popular but government is doing a lot to drive voters into the arms of the opposition by making such bad decisions.’

Meanwhile has parliament demanded yesterday that a substantive executive director be immediately appointed for the National Forest Authority which has been under an Acting Executive Director for some time. Conservation sources link the two issues claiming that a weakened NFA could not stand in the way of political dictates and directives and that the appointment of a new chief was being delayed to make sure NFA would not stand in the way of cutting down over 7.000 hectares of prime rain forest to make way for Mehta’s new sugar fields.

Watch this space as this saga rages on and both sides dig in deep to defend their positions.



500 orphaned young children between the ages of 3 to 15 were treated to a traditional Iftar feast by the Sheraton Kampala Hotel a few days ago. Three orphanages run by Islamic charities were selected by the hotel to send their youngsters to the Sheraton to enjoy time in the extensive garden where a ‘bouncing castle’ had been set up and ball games were played, before the kids were taken to the ball room, where at the end of the daily fast a feast was waiting for them. The gesture by the Sheraton was hailed by not only the orphanages but also Muslim clerics as ‘an act of supreme kindness and sharing’, clearly in line with the principles the Islamic faith outlines for the annual Ramadhan month. The full moon earlier in the week signified ‘half time’ for the fasting month which will end with the Idd holiday when the new moon is sighted in less than two weeks.

Meanwhile are the evening Iftar feasts continuing at the Sheraton where in fact many of the Islamic faithful invite their Christian friends to break the daily fast with them and celebrate their unifying religious features and principles instead of dwelling on often hyped up differences. Uganda has a long tradition of religious tolerance between the various Christian denominations, Muslims and followers of other beliefs and is home to the only Bahai Temple in Africa.



A substantial number of NRM members of parliament appear set to defy their party’s leader on the issue of giving away a quarter of the Mabira rain forest to the Mehta Group for free to substitute intact rainforest with sugar cane plantations. News updates captured overnight speak of growing dissent amongst ruling party members who are ready to join with the opposition should the matter come to a vote in parliament.

‘How can the president talk of only giving away degraded forest land? Has he been deliberately misbriefed on this issue? And is whoever wrote and delivered the wrong brief in the pocket of Mehta? That should be immediately investigated. This Indian tycoon has been trying for years to get free land and the forest is near so it is a convenient target. Mehta had much time to enter contracts with land owners, even the Buganda Kingdom, to lease land for more plantations but they offer lease rents which are 50 years outdated. They want it all for free and still they keep all their profits. We want to know who is in their pockets and advocating for such free gifts on their behalf. That forest is sacred, for water storage, for biodiversity, for tourism. There is no degradation as one wants to make us belief. But to make our point also very intensely, we should now stop buying Mehta products and begin to expose them for their greed. The president should also stop saying the word terrorist in the same context as trying to save Mabira. If there is a crime at all it is Mehta’s greed to cut down a rain forest for sugar cane. Sugar prices on the world market are way below our local prices. Mehta is opposed to importing sugar to stop the artificial shortage. They are also quite inefficient compared to Kakira and Kinyara. Let them improve productivity first, then lease land from the kingdom and then promote outgrowers as partners and not treat them like slaves. And our executive should also stop acting as if they are the only ones who know something. Government must be by consensus, with the agreement by those governed. As if the economic crisis is not enough already, as if traders are not upset already over Owino, as if tens of thousands more every month have to walk to work because they cannot afford taxi fares. There must be an end to unilateral decisions benefitting only a few, and Mabira will be the test case for it all’.

This was the sentiment expressed by an otherwise staunch NRM MP to this correspondent late yesterday, when debating the issue. Meanwhile is the international campaign against the Mabira give away also gathering momentum again with new petitions being launched by environmental and conservation groups and individuals from across the world. This is largely done in close cooperation with local Ugandan conservation groups and environmental lobbyists to use all possible legal means to stop government from giving the Mehta Group a free gift at the expense of Uganda’s future and the future of Ugandans.

Visit this petition site https://www.change.org/petitions/the-president-of-uganda-yoweri-kaguta-museveni-stop-destroying-mabira-forest-and-the-environment and sign on, or chose any other petition of your choice to help Save Mabira Forest.



A range of rather unprintable comments were received overnight when it became known that members of the commission of enquiry publicly lamented the lack of funds from the tourism ministry to ‘visit the national parks’, ostensibly to ‘carry out their mandate’. Commission chairman, retired Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba, is conveniently out of country already for several weeks after his notorious outbursts prompted a formal complaint by a former UWA chairman to the minister of tourism, while his fellow commission members rushed on trying to extract funds from government to finance, what can best be described as a sightseeing tour across the country. The commission is due to hand in their report by the end of August, arguably too little time now to go on a pleasure trip at taxpayers’ expense, but in view of witnesses having been called names and seemingly been ‘prejudged’ by in particular the commission chairman, the still to be published report is already being torn to shreds by critics who termed the entire exercise ‘Otafire’s kangaroo court’.

Meanwhile it was also confirmed that finally, several months after creating the stand alone Ministry of Tourism, a new permanent secretary was appointed a few days ago. All the best to Ambassador Mugoya in his new appointment, especially when he will have to face down Kanyeihamba upon his return and deal with whatever report is being put in front of him. Watch this space as the final episodes of this unsavoury saga begin to unfold.


Kenya News


Information was received overnight that Marasa Africa, the Madhvani Group offspring owning and operating their Kenyan properties The Ark, The Aberdare Country Club and Mara Leisure Camp, will invest at least 5 million US Dollars in refurbishments and modernization.

Work at The Ark, one of the ‘tree hotels’ in the Aberdare National Park, is due to commence shortly, giving ‘themes’ to each of the three floors as well as the public areas like the lounges, bars and the restaurant. The ‘communal’ washrooms and showers will be expanded and seating added on the game viewing platform to provide greater comfort for guests wanting to sit down and watch the game come to the salt lick and watering hole below. The overall ‘rustic’ look however will be maintained as it has become a hallmark much appreciated by visitors to The Ark over the decades.

At The Aberdare Country Club all the rooms will see an ‘overhaul’ while a new reception area and bar will be created. The health club, pool and the surrounding area too will be remodeled to reflect today’s expectations of a discerning clientele. A secluded ‘dine under the stars’ area will also be set up where guests can celebrate that special occasion in complete privacy.

Most important thought, the ‘feel’ of the colonial time ‘mansion’ will be retained if not enhanced by the planned changes and innovations. Work at The Aberdare Country Club is due to commence within weeks it is understood and should be completed by February 2012 or not long thereafter.


The presently third property owned and managed by Marasa Africa – it is an open secret that the group is seeking other investment opportunities on Kenya’s safari circuit to add other key national parks to their portfolio – the Mara Leisure Camp, is also due for some major work, including a rebuilding of the foot bridge across the Talek river, but of course also including the tents, cottages and public areas.

Marasa has also recently introduced new printed material for their Ugandan and Kenyan properties but a completely new range of brochures will be available once the renovations and refurbishments are completed in early 2012. Visit www.marasa.net for more information about the Madhvani Group’s properties in Kenya and Uganda.



As a decades’ long acquaintance, from way back in the 1970’s, of Capt. John ‘Johnny’ Cleave it gives this correspondent particular pleasure to report here his appointment to the Kenya Tourist Board as a member of the board of directors. Capt. Cleave, Chairman of Mombasa Air Safari, was recently appointed to the Kenya Tourism Board by the Minister for Tourism Hon. Najib Balala.

Capt Cleave has, in the past, held numerous positions in Kenya’s key transport and tourism bodies including  serving as former Coast Chairman of the Kenya Air Operators Association, National Skal Kenya Chairman, Acting Chairman of the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, Kenya Tourism Federation Chairman of Ethics and Chairman of the coast tourism umbrella body, the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association. For 5 years he also chaired the Moi International Airport IATA Airline Operators Committee. Recently he retired from the Board of the Kenya Hotel and Restaurant Authority, arguably to make ‘room’ for his new appointment to Kenya’s premier tourism promotion body.

Asked why he had accepted to serve in these various positions, being busy running Mombasa Air Safaris as it is, he said that it was based on a belief that advocacy through business member associations worked and that the private sector could bring beneficial change to the economy through dialogue with the appropriate government agencies. However, he went on to admit that this work is more difficult in Kenya as political corruption is deeply entrenched and public and private vested interests often act to avoid change and keep the status quo and in the process protect scams and ineffective processes. He noted that the tourism industry, if properly promoted, has the capacity to bring in added direct investment, drive up foreign exchange earnings, provide significant numbers of extra jobs and support poverty alleviation by contributing to GDP growth. However, he also clearly said the government needs to allocate more funds for international tourism marketing and to integrate the efforts of tourism and business marketing, probably under a common ‘Brand Kenya’ theme. The biggest single deterrent to raising tourism revenues in his opinion is however the country’s poor infrastructure. More water, cheaper power, better roads, railways, ports, the new south coast bypass and investment in airports and aerodromes are essential. This has to be combined with a respect for the law. Kenya cannot position itself as a country of large scale tourism and investment destination without the government first directly investing in the country itself. This, he admitted is beyond the brief of the Kenya Tourist Board, but he added that the goals of Kenya’s ‘Vision 2030’ have to be turned into realistic action plans by a Cabinet of hard working individuals dedicated to national development. Capt Cleave hopes courts succeed in convicting corrupt officials, that they be removed from office and that Kenyans will learn to vote for humble men and women who do not steal from them or make false promises and have the development of their country as their primary goal. Adds this correspondent: Words of a true patriot. All the best Johnny in his new appointment.



Kenya Airways, with the widely recognized tag line ‘The Pride of Africa’ is indeed making Kenyans proud, as the latest survey undertaken by the Nation Media Group shows.

Nearly a third of those polled have Kenya Airways their ‘thumbs up’ while runner up Safaricom ended up with a 20 percent vote, and Equity Bank coming a respectable third with just over 16 percent of the votes cast. One of the main factors was the bold display of the national colours integrated into the aircraft livery, which impressed those participating in the survey, and the fact that Kenya Airways was carrying Kenya’s flag across the entire continent and beyond. Also taken into consideration was the long term strategy and vision of Kenya Airways to cover Africa and connect it to the world via Nairobi, in the process bringing a range of added benefits to Kenya and boosting tourism and trade.

According to a regular aviation source however the ‘… main reason for this recognition is the way KQ re-entered the domestic market with a bang last year. They are offering competitive fares, beating the low cost airlines and private airlines at their own game now. Up to 10 flights a day to Mombasa, three times a day to Kisumu, daily to Malindi and several times daily via Nairobi to everywhere in East Africa, that is what really matters to most travelers and the readers of the Nation and Business Daily appreciated that too. That in my humble opinion was the formula which made KQ win this survey’.

Well done KQ – and continued happy landings!



News broke overnight that the Kenyan government had finally agreed to sell their stakes in the holding companies owning the InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi, the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi and the Mountain Lodge, presently co-owned and managed by Serena Hotels.

It is understood that the share holding in the respective owning companies by the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation is significant, and expected to earn government a handsome premium.

The ‘holding company’ for the InterContinental Hotel, Kenya Hotel Properties, is co-owned by KTDC to the tune of 33.8 percent, while Hilton’s holding company, International Hotels is co-owned with a 40.7 percent share. KTDC also holds just over 39 percent in Mountain Lodge. All the respective shares are due to be sold on a ‘first right of refusal’ basis to the other shareholders in the respective companies and no ‘outside’ investors are likely to get a chance to grab hold of those stakes.

However, no decision has been made on a range of other properties owned by KTDC,  most notably the Kenya Safari Lodges, which comprises three attractive properties, the Mombasa Beach Hotel and the Voi and Ngulia Safari lodges in Tsavo East and Tsavo West respectively. Watch this space for upcoming announcements when the transactions have been made.



The Water Resources Management Authority chairman faced angry reactions from the coast branch of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers following his allegations that over 90 percent of beach resorts were letting raw sewage ‘escape into the sea’. Individual hoteliers and association leaders denounced the statement as misleading and lacking any facts, considering that each and every resort was operating within the guidelines of the council, NEMA and as per their licensing conditions, while in turn accusing the water authority and the Mombasa water company of not expanding their sewerage network, causing hotels and resorts to use intermediate storage pits which require frequent emptying by special vehicles and transportation to the municipal water and sewerage works.

While a few hotels have set up their own sewerage treatment plants others rely on municipal services to evacuate their sewerage in accordance with regulations it was found out by contacting regular sources in Mombasa, which also condemned the broadside against hotels and resorts. Hotel association chair Mohamed Hersi said: ‘Hotels go through Nema certification before they start operations. These careless statements made through the media are damaging the tourism industry because tourists worldwide read them and may get a different picture.’

A source from the tour operating fraternity also added his voice by saying: ‘Some of our officials shoot off their mouth without thinking what damage they do. Overseas tourists look at destinations and find out about eco friendliness and green footprints. Making such allegations that over 90 percent of our beach resorts let sewerage flow into the ocean can destroy Kenya’s reputation abroad very quickly. Already travel agents abroad have picked the story and are asking if this can be true? The Water Authority chairman must withdraw these wild allegations if he cannot produce evidence, and there is no such evidence I tell you that over 90 percent of our resorts are non compliant’.

Whom to believe here? My bet is on the side of the hotel and resort operators and that they are not just doing the right thing but are in actual fact complying with regulations.



It was confirmed overnight that Etihad, the national airline of Abu Dhabi, will use an Airbus A320 aircraft when daily flights commence between Abu Dhabi and Nairobi in April 2012. An airline source in Kenya made good of the promise to obtain and share this information, after initially availing the breaking news story that Etihad would join their other Gulf rivals on the lucrative route to Nairobi. The aircraft will operate in a two class configuration of business and economy.

It was also learned that the airline is presently also seeking talks with other airlines flying from Nairobi into the region to feed and de-feed into their planned flights to offer easy connections to such destinations like Entebbe, Juba, Kigali and Bujumbura. No timings for the new connection is however available as yet but will in due course also be reported here, when scheduling details have been finalized and slot times been confirmed with the local airport authorities.


Tanzania News


Stung by criticism in parliament over the allegedly illegal export of a range of wildlife and birds aboard a Qatar air force cargo plane last year has the Tanzanian government in a knee jerk reaction banned ALL exports of wildlife and birds for at least a year.

The time will be used to establish monitoring mechanisms and plug the often glaring loopholes in regulations, monitoring and enforcement. In the process were three senior wildlife officials suspended from duty, led by the Director of Wildlife who was sent on forced leave alongside two other of his senior staff.

However, the mood amongst the opposition, and outside parliament amongst the conservation fraternity is combative as the following comments show: ‘For us there was clear complicity in the illegal shipment of our wildlife by the Qatari plane. How can a whole foreign air force aircraft come to Tanzania and openly load game including giraffes and take off without top officials colluding. That is where the police should investigate to establish the godfathers of this operation. Suspending some officials is a smoke screen, they are sacrificial lambs in this game. CITES made a big report last year ahead of Doha and all there is to know about how lax our enforcement is, how easy it is to transit through Tanzania, is written there. Government has been found out and is now panicking a lot. How come that these three officials were promoted right after the deal with Qatar went through. Promotions in Tanzania must be sanctioned at that level from high up, so who is covering for whom now. Also is government record about conservation now very muddied. Our officials have lost credibility, in particular the tourism minister who called UNESCO names and makes one U-turn after the next. Should he not resign? He was deputy minister for tourism in last government and is an accomplice by the office he held then or the failure to prevent it happening. The former minister was sacked by her voters who did not even nominate her for the CCM candidature in the last elections but that was not enough. Let police investigate this whole affair who made sure that these animals were sent by truck to the airport and then openly loaded and the aircraft given permission to take off. Where are the animals now? In Qatar, where there is terrible heat and desert only?’

Other sources from Arusha also echoed the same sentiment that the suspension of officials was a mere smoke screen to divert attention from the real culprits. Tanzania oh Tanzania, where does it end these days?



Disturbing news emerged from Zanzibar overnight when it became known that a minister in the Zanzibari government had made public demands that police arrest anyone seen eating or drinking during day time during the current month of Ramadhan. ‘Anyone eating and drinking in public as well as opening a bar, guest house and restaurant is committing an offence. Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days, in which participating Muslims fast or refrain from drinking, eating and sexual intimacy with their partners during daylight’ was the minister quoted for having said in public, at the same time dismissing questions if this applied to Christians and tourists too who were not compelled to follow Islamic tradition. This caused panic and alarm amongst operators of tourist hotels and beach resorts on the islands of Zanzibar, as no one could immediately ascertain if this extra judicial order would be extended and applied to the thousands of tourists presently holidaying on the islands.

Said one regular source from the island, in view of the sensitivity of the matter under strictest anonymity: ‘This is a disastrous order. Does the minister even know how many tourists are here right now? This is high season. If we tell tourists they cannot eat or drink or should not have sex in their rooms during daylight, they will first laugh at us, and then sue us for whatever we are worth. I believe even for Muslims, they are free to obey or not to obey those rules as they choose, but if we try to impose this on non-Muslims visiting Zanzibar and spending their holiday here, or on the Christian minority who live here, we are making a mockery out of our hospitality. That minister has a stone age view and no wonder tourists who have picked up on this already spread this ridiculous ‘directive’ on Twitter and Facebook and other social media. It makes us a laughing stock really!’

Another resort operator warned of the consequences should police enter any of the beach resorts at lunch time or during the day and attempt to arrest tourists sipping on their drinks, having breakfast or eating lunch or having tea claiming ‘this might destroy our reputation for a long time to come if there is even a single arrest of a foreign visitor over this uncalled for directive. The minister should have been either precise to apply it to practicing Muslims or best shut up altogether before opening his big mouth’.

Meanwhile, no such fears exist apparently along the resorts of the mainland beaches of Tanzania, nor amongst the resorts along the Kenyan coast, where a regular source from Mombasa said: ‘if this is true it can only do them damage. We here in Mombasa serve our tourists and there are no such impositions. Even 20 or 30 years ago we served our tourists during Ramadhan because we do not discriminate either way. But for the sake of our colleagues in Zanzibar I only hope that no tourist is being dragged from a resort dining table at lunch time, or from the beach bar of a hotel and taken to court because that could finish them off’.

Watch this space.


Rwanda News


It was learned overnight that South African Airways intends to commence flights from Johannesburg to Bujumbura / Burundi and on to Kigali / Rwanda three times a week from sometime in October this year.

The South African flag carrier had gone off the route a few years ago and had left flights to RwandAir, which presently operates four times a week between Rwanda and South Africa.

Though traffic days could not be immediately ascertained it is expected that SAA will fly between the two countries on the days RwandAir is not operating. Questions on a possible codeshare between the two airlines, as has been the case in the more distant past, are pending and have not been answered at the time of going to press. The return of SAA to Rwanda has been attributed to growing demand by tourist and business travelers in both directions, and the inclusion of Bujumbura enroute is also giving Burundi greater access by air. Burundi, unlike Rwanda which has become Anglophone, is still overwhelmingly a French speaking country and has been largely left out from the East African safari tourism circuits, though business visitors are now streaming in and out in order to explore investment and trade opportunities as the EAC’s domestic market protocols progressively take root. Watch this space for the most uptodate aviation news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean regions.



A delegation of senior Rwandan officials, led by the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Hon. Alexis Nzahabwanimana, but also comprising the CEO of RwandAir John Mirembe and the Director General of the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority Dr. Richard Masozera and other senior RwandAir staff was in Istanbul during the week negotiating yet more agreements between the Rwandan national airline and Turkish, one of the fastest growing members of the globally leading Star Alliance.

New is the synchronization of the RwandAir schedules to fit into the arrival and departure times of Turkish Airlines, codesharing between the two airlines which will include through ticketing from Kigali to a number of destinations in the THY network and vice versa of course into the RwandAir network and significantly technical support and training for RwandAir personnel.

The agreement was formally signed by Dr. Temel Kotil for Turkish Airlines and John Mirembe for RwandAir.


(RwandAir’s John Mirembe seen here with Dr. Temel Kotil of THY)


The airline also reaffirmed that the first of two brand new B 737-800’s will commence the long ferry flight from the Boeing assembly plant near Seattle to Rwanda later this week and the formal ‘unveiling and naming’ is scheduled for Saturday 27th of August at the Kanombe International Airport in Kigali. The aircraft will be the very first with Boeing’s new ‘Sky Interior’ on the African continent and have a state of the art entertainment system on board to provide the latest news, series and films for passengers on the routes between Kigali to Johannesburg, Dubai via Mombasa and to Kinshasa, Brazzaville and Libreville. Watch this space for updates from Kigali at the time ‘live on Twitter’ and subsequent reports and pictures right here.



Construction of the electric fence along the boundaries of the Akagera National Park in Rwanda is according to the latest reports proceeding ahead of schedule, as a recent inspection revealed. The work is carried out through the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission, which offers employment opportunities to army veterans and erstwhile rebels who laid down their arms and sought amnesty.

Fencing the park became a priority for  the joint venture between the Rwanda Development Board – Tourism and Conservation and their partners African Parks, when an increase in wildlife raiding the farms near the park were reported and injuries and deaths caused by marauding buffalo and other game. Akagera is Rwanda’s only ‘savannah’ national park and popular with tourist visitors keen to see plains game after tracking gorillas or hiking in the Nyungwe Forest National Park.

The project, worth over 2.7 million US Dollars, is due to be completed by February next year but with work well ahead of schedule area residents can look forward to see themselves and their crops better protected much earlier than initially thought. Visit www.rwandatourism.com for information on the latest developments in Rwanda’s national parks or simply google ‘Akagera National Park’ for more details on the flora and fauna of this unique area.



The Rwanda Development Board’s Tourism and Conservation Division earlier in the week released their latest data on the trends the tourism industry has taken in 2011. It came as no surprise for informed observers that for instance TripAdvisor saw an increase of over 650 percent in visits to Rwandan hotel and lodge reviews compared to 2010, considering the growing popularity of Rwanda as an eco friendly tourism destination. As more visitors come to Rwanda, more and more of them write their reviews of the properties they stayed in on TripAdvisor, as this correspondent by the way has done in the past under his screen name of ‘Safariafficionado’, and applaud the risen standards of hotels in Kigali, lodging facilities upcountry and the safari lodges and camps inside and outside the three national parks Volcanoes, Nyungwe Forest and Akagera. Meanwhile though, it is not just ‘virtual visitors’ coming increasingly to Rwanda but also ‘real’ visitors, the ones who actually travel the country and enjoy the attractions of ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ in person. Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of tourism and conservation within the RDB set up, has earlier in the week told journalists that arrivals in 2011, compared with the same period in 2010, were up by an astounding 27 percent already, and that by the end of the year the country was expecting a new arrival and spending record. She attributed the trend to sustained marketing, the recognition around the world that Rwanda was not just paying lip service to conservation but actually working hard on re-forestation and maintaining biodiversity and the growing number of airlines and connections permitting visitors to fly to Rwanda from around the world with often only one stop.

Other sources in Rwanda also attributed the phenomenal growth of the country’s tourism sector to the support ‘from the top’ where in particular President Paul Kagame is keenly interested in the sector’s performance and has been using trips overseas to become a key promoter of visits to Rwanda, for tourism and investment purposes. RwandAir too has been singled out for their exemplary performance in linking Kigali with not only East Africa but more recently also to South Africa, West Africa – new destinations being Kinshasa, Brazzaville and Libreville – and to Dubai, from where growing interest in investments, but also for holidays has driving arrival numbers up.

Easy online Visa applications are another factor, and some nationalities – consult the Rwandan government’s immigration website for specifics – are in fact exempt from Visa, making entry into the country easy and uncomplicated even for those who have to go through the application process.

The ‘launch’ of the Nyungwe National Park’s canopy walkway last year, high above the tropical rainforest, and efforts to make Gishwati Forest another national park have also resulted in positive media exposure, raising added interest by adventure tourism magazines which in turn attract yet more visitors to the country.

It is little wonder therefore that Rwanda tops the interest scale of potential visitors to Eastern Africa and while behind Kenya and Tanzania in terms of ‘real numbers’, when seen in the context of the size of the country, the population number and considering that Rwanda had to rise from the ashes of the genocide in 1994, it is clear that ‘little Rwanda’ is giving their regional neighbours a run for their money.

Said one regular source from Kigali, when asked to compare the success of tourism in Rwanda vis a vis Uganda: ‘we have a big advantage in President Kagame being a committed environmentalist. He understands the value of keeping nature intact. All our laws and regulations are aimed at maintaining bio diversity. Our forest cover will grow until 2020 to 30 percent once again as we restore degraded areas and remove encroachers from forests. Kigali is a clean and safe city and we have a good rapport with the global media. Rwanda promotes discipline and when visitors come to Kigali they are amazed to see that traffic lights are respected, there is no criss crossing of lanes and the road network is superb. Our hotels have been catching up with standards of other East African countries. Serena has built a new wing to their hotel and Marriott is coming to open a new hotel next year. Dubai World has invested in two lodges in Uganda. Kingdom Hotels has expressed interest to build another hotel in Kigali. Our national road network is good and getting better and we are now ‘wired up’ for internet across the entire country with fibre optic cables. I do not think it is right for me to comment in regard of comparing Rwanda to Uganda, but considering our recent history in Rwanda we have made giant leaps forward and tourism is a number one industry now. We have learned from the mistakes of others, we have copied what was good and is working and added out own components of marketing our unique selling points.’ Valid sentiments adds this correspondent and surely worth absorbing a few lessons here. Watch this space for regular updates from Eastern Africa’s tourism industry.


Ethiopia New


Information was received over the weekend from Addis Ababa that Ethiopian Airlines has partnered with a Canadian company to create a new pilot training programme, which is in its first phase aimed to turn out 24 first officers for the Bombardier Q 400 aircraft, a turboprop commuter plane used for domestic and short regional routes, and another 24 for the ‘workhorse’ B737-800 which serves many of ET’s regional and continental routes from their Addis Ababa hub.

The new ‘project’ will go underway at the beginning of Q4 this year at Ethiopian Airlines’ own training centre in Addis and is likely to run for about 1 ½ years before the first batch of successful graduates can join active flying duty as co-pilots.

Ethiopian’s Aviation Academy is one of three such international quality facilities known by this correspondent on the African continent, besides the training centres owned and operated by the national airlines of South Africa and Kenya, all aimed to train up much needed additional pilots to facilitate growing fleets, flight frequencies and destinations. Well done ET!


Congo DR News


The unusual haste of publishing an interim report of the Kisangani crash of a ancient Hewa Bora Boeing 727 speaks volumes, at least for aviation observers, who have followed the history of the airline and kept an eye on the evolving investigation. Interim reports, leave alone final reports concluding an aviation accident investigation, often take very long periods of time, to allow for thorough analysis of the aircraft’s voice and data recorders and look over the debris with the aim to establish if any technical faults have plagued the aircraft. Airline maintenance records too are subjected to intense scrutiny and forensic audits by civil aviation investigators as in the past flaws in maintenance procedures of even the use of spare parts not sanctioned by the manufacturers have led to accidents.

Industry observers are divided here on the interpretation of the swift declaration of pilot error, blaming the pilot in command of the stricken craft, while only little mention and emphasis is given to the fact that the crew was not given up to date weather data and that air traffic controllers in Kisangani gave misleading information on the weather ahead of the aircraft’s attempt to land. In the absence of the full review of the flight data recorder, which, though not state of the art, could still give clues if for instance a wind shear could have forced the plane down, many analysts are cautious to accept the investigators ‘interim report’ and some even dismissed it as ‘premature, ill researched and probably attributed to the lack of investigative experience’. There is also speculation that ‘external factors’ could have played a role in the swift ‘conclusion’ as the airline’s AOC has been suspended following their latest crash and the owners reportedly being ‘extremely keen’ to see it restored to resume operations.

‘Interim conclusion’ here is that heaping the blame on the pilots is a convenient scapegoat. Let the records be produced on pilot training by the airline, the true maintenance records, the quality and reliability of weather service information in the Congo, the specific weather conditions prevailing on the day of the accident and the competence of the air traffic controllers who passed the fatally wrong information about the weather in Kisangani to the crew, and most important, if a wind shear could have been the cause, which – had the crew known – would have prevented them from landing at that time. Questions galore over the latest crash in a long line of aviation disasters which have been plaguing the Congo DR over the past decades and made it arguably the most dangerous country to take a domestic flight.


Mauritius News


Information was confirmed from Mauritius that a new ecofriendly wind power project is now going underway in the north east of the island. Some 55 acres of land have been set aside by the government in Port Louis and the project, once complete, is expected to yield up to 18 MW of extra electricity, but without the impact of thermal power plants which cause constant carbon emissions through the combustion of either diesel or heavy fuel oil. However, residents living on location had filed complaints on the environmental impact of the wind turbines, as the site was near a recently declared forest national park, the Bras D’Eau Forest. All objections however appear to have been overruled and green light been given for the wind farm to begin construction just as soon as the finance has been put into place.

Available electricity surplus is a key objective of the Mauritius government to assist them in the setting up of more investments and in particular the hospitality industry, a leading source of employment and foreign exchange earnings, depends on both available and affordable energy sources to keep the air conditioners running in the resorts and keep the smiles on the faces of their tourist visitors.


Seychelles News


The Seychelles Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean Paul Adam, and the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Alain St.Ange, jointly chaired a Press Conference in Melbourne on Sunday, August 21,  hours after their landing in Australia.

Minister Adam and his delegation are part of the Official State Visit in Australia by the President of the Republic of Seychelles, Mr James Michel. This will be the first State Visit by a Seychelles President in Australia, which results from an invitation made by the Govenor General of Australia.

President Michel is expected to land in Melbourne on today, on a visit that will also take him and his delegation to Canberra, Townsville and Brisbane. The Seychelles President’s delegation is made up of the Seychelles Minister of Foreign Affairs,  Jean Paul Adam, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Alain St.Ange, the Vice Chancellor of the Seychelles University, Dr Rolph Payet and the Seychelles High Commissioner accredited to Australia, Dick Esparon. The Seychelles Delegation will be officially welcomed to Australia when they land in Canberra, and this will be done by the Governor General and by the Prime Minister.
Minister Adam addressed the Press gathered on the issue of climate change, sustainable development and coorperation between Australia and Seychelles; whereas, Alain St.Ange, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board spoke about the avaliable option for Australians to visit the Seychelles after an African Safari, or a Shopping Break in Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha among many other twin center options, which includes the Volcano of La Reunion Island.

“Seychelles is the ideal extension after an African Safari. This is why we coined a year ago the slogan – From the Big Five, to the Best Five – which re-affirms that after photographing the big five of Africa, a beach holiday in Seychelles is the ideal extension as these islands stand just two and a half hours flight from the African mainland,” Mr Alain St.Ange said.

The Seychellois delegation also spoke about business opportunities that exist in Seychelles, the diversity of the Seychellois people and their islands among other unique selling points of these mid-ocean Creole islands.

“We have the best incentives for any investor, and this is safety and the assurance that the business community can repatriate their profits as and when they want because Seychelles has no exchange control at all,” said Mr St.Ange.

Seychelles is also appealing for Australia to showcase its own culture and its people at their island’s unique carnival of carnivals that takes place every March in Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles. The unique Aboriginal Culture and the Aboriginal people, the other cultures of Australia, inclusive of the rich Australian Country & Western Music were raised as options that could be considered to parade alongside the cultural groups from the rest of the world and with delegations of the known and the best carnivals of the world. 




(Picture courtesy of STB sources)

The Descroches Island Resort, the ONLY resort on the Amirantes island of Descroches, has over the weekend officially launched a brand new Spa facility, described by a source from the archipelago as ‘World Class’.

Owned by the Island Development Company the resort, a luxury facility by any standards, offers the privacy of an entire island dedicated to its guests, and being over 200 kilometres from the main island of Mahe, is a guarantee for as exclusive a vacation as it possible comes. Access comes mainly by air, using a private charter by fixed wing or helicopter transport or the Air Seychelles domestic flight, on which the ‘outer islands’ depend to get their visitors on site and keep ‘paparazzi’ away from them.

The new ‘Escape Spa’ is set a distance away from the main resort complex and the accommodation units, which comprise 20 beach suites, 4 beach one bedroom beach villas, 23 luxurious four bedroom beach villas and a presidential villa with a staggering 750 square metres of space for the occupants.

At hand for the official launch was Alain St. Ange, representing the Seychelles Tourist Board and government at large, but also Glenn Savy, CEO of the Island Development Company, invited senior management of the archipelago’s leading DMC’s as well as members of the media covering the event.

Mr. St. Ange said at the opening about this latest facility: ‘Our visitors expect nothing less than the best and the [Desroches] island’s new spa complex is a great addition and a needed addition. Seychelles has diversity of islands as one of its unique selling points and to maximise on these unique selling points we need committed established operators to get our visitors out of their hotels to appreciate our natural assets. The experience of our visitors is enhanced when visitors are given the possibility to appreciate the diversity of our islands and it is so important for our hotel network to appreciate that unique aspect of Seychelles’.

The Seychelles, truly ‘Another World’ altogether!



Predictably has the Hon. Joel Morgan, in one of his current capacities also Minister for Transport – besides holding the portfolios of Home Affairs, Environment and Energy – responded to public statements made by the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Association earlier in the week.

The minister pointed out in his statement that the initial request by TransAero for traffic rights had proposed to operate flights between Moscow, via Seychelles to Mauritius, applying for fifth freedom rights to uplift traffic for the sectors from Mahe to Port Louis.

Consequently TransAero was informed that the existing BASA, short for Bilateral Air Services Agreement, currently in place between the Seychelles and the Russian Federation, only foresaw third and fourth freedom access for their respective national or designated carriers and as such the request in the form submitted could not be approved.

However, the minister also pointed out that under the guidance of government the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority proposed to TransAero to commence discussions with national carrier Air Seychelles to find common ground how to cooperate, a suggestion TransAero reportedly declined to entertain.

TransAero was then offered a second alternative, to operated flights from Moscow to Seychelles and then on to Mauritius WITHOUT traffic rights on that sector, but this too was reportedly rejected by TransAero at the time as was the proposal to fly solely between Moscow and Mahe.

In an exclusive interview earlier this year, published in eTN’s Executive Talk, Minister Morgan discussed with this correspondent the difficult question of fifth freedom rights and explained at the time that Air Seychelles, as a national airline and a strategic asset of the government of Seychelles, needed to be considered every time such requests were made to government, as the long term future of Air Seychelles was in the national interest, without however impeding air access to the archipelago by other airlines wishing to fly to Mahe. At the time the minister cited the forthcoming 25 frequencies operated by three Gulf based airlines, Emirates – due to fly double daily before the end of the year – Qatar Airways with daily flights and Ethihad, due to commence an initial 4 flights a week from November 2011. Air Seychelles does not fly to any of these airline’s hubs and as such government had granted the applications to operate more flights, doubling them compared to a year ago. The minister at the time also made it clear that even such airlines could not take it for granted to receive fifth freedom rights when operating into the Seychelles, as each and every case would need to be considered with all merits taken into account, but also the potential impact on routes already flown by Air Seychelles or being potentially new routes in particular to the African continent.

It was also learned from other sources that the demand that the transport ministry be brought under the direct control of President Michel, who already holds the tourism portfolio, was most unlikely to be considered as ‘the partly political nature of that particular demand’ – that is how a source from Victoria put it to  this correspondent – was just too apparent.

Watch this space for the latest news from the Indian Ocean and East Africa’s aviation scene where things are happening and breaking news swiftly reported.



The Anse Lazio beach, world famous as one of the best shorelines in the world, will today at 2 pm local time see a memorial service unfold, to pay tribute to the victims of two recent shark attacks.

Both a Catholic priest as well as a Lutheran reverend will jointly hold the religious service right at the beach, only metres away from the spots where one of the attacks took place.

Representatives from the Seychelles government, the Seychelles Tourism Board, the hotels where the victims stayed and a large number of Seychellois but also foreign tourists staying on Praslin are participating in the service and will offer prayers for the victims’ families and friends.

Again, may the souls of the two victims rest in eternal peace and sincere condolences to the families and friends of Nicola Virolle from France and Ian Redmond from Britain.



Gemma Redmond, the grieving British bride who lost her husband in a shark attack in the Seychelles has upon her return home to Britain spoken to BBC Radio and said in a live broadcast:

“The last thing I would want is for any of these events to affect the Seychellois people, their livelihoods and the tourism in the area. It’s a beautiful place, people must come. It’s a one-off accident and I know that everybody is doing everything they can to ensure that the islands are safe”.

 Gemma Redmond, 27,  who is now back to London accompanied by her parents spoke to BBC Radio about her stay in the Seychelles and the snorkeling day at Anse Lazio at Praslin Island where her husband, Ian, 30, was attacked by a shark.

Gemma has reinforced the claim being made by Seychelles Authorities when she said they had gone to the Seychelles partly because they had thought the islands were free from dangerous animals. The Seychelles have stated over and over again that their last recorded fatal shark attack before these two back to back ones was in 1963. Mrs Redmond said on BBC that she hoped the attack on her own husband would not stop people from visiting the area and that local people had been “so kind”. She said: “The last thing I would want is for any of these events to affect the Seychelles Island people, their livelihoods and the tourism in the area.”It’s a beautiful area, people must come. “It’s a one-off accident and I know that everybody is doing everything they can to ensure that the islands are safe – the restaurants on the beaches and the places on the beaches and the hotels shouldn’t be affected by it.”

Ian Redmond lost his life 10 days after his wedding to Gemma Houghton at St Michael’s Church in Dalton, Lancashire, near the bride’s family home.

The Seychelles Government officials have issued a ban on swimming in certain areas close to the two back to back shark attacks until the killer shark is captured. The Seychelles Authorities are still trying to determine what species of shark killed Mr Redmond, and have enlisted the help of South African Shark experts who are expected to arrive in the country this Saturday. The island’s Coast Guards, the Fishing Authority, the Maritime Safety Department and the Department of Environment in their efforts to ensure normality returns to Anse Lazio and it neighboring beaches as soon as possible.

It is also understood that a wide search for the shark had been underway, since the first attack and re-enforce after the second fatal attack in the space of two weeks, and that a small armada of fishing boats, research vessels but even pleasure craft are out and about to seek out the shark and destroy it. The effort is supported by regular aerial surveying and monitoring but in view of the wide waters around Praslin and La Digue islands it is a major task for those participating.

Meanwhile it was also reported that Alain St.Ange, the CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board has been the main link person of the Seychelles, engaging with the media across the world and he has made it a point to thank the press for their objective and compassionate reporting. “We have always said that the press personality is part of a noble profession. Most of the reporting of the two recent freak shark accidents have been factual and for that we say thank you to the press. It must never be forgotten that we have two grieving families and that we owe them respect and compassion at all times” Alain St.Ange said.


In a hard hitting statement, issued by the Chairman of the Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association SHTA, has the private sector denounced the lack of permit for a planned air connection from Russia to Mahe. TransAero had applied for traffic rights to bring tourists on a nonstop flight from Russia to the archipelago, an initiative, according to an SHTA source fully supported by the private sector, only to see the application thrown out by the Ministry of Transport. A source wishing to remain anonymous had this to say: ‘… we have a lot of beds to fill, new resorts are coming on line and we were trying to get more visitors here from Russia. We consider this a poorly considered decision. If it was taken to protect Air Seychelles we do not know for certain right now, but we believe the case should be revisited immediately’.

SHTA chairman Louis D’Offay was also reported to have suggested that the Seychelles Tourist Board should have done more to support the initiative and then went on to demand that the portfolio of transport be transferred to the President and merged with the tourism portfolio, which is held directly by President Michel himself in recognition of the huge importance of the sector to the Seychelles economy. This surprised pundits and observers as it demonstrated that a potential fault line could develop between the private and public sector, which have jointly spearheaded the huge success the Seychelles have become over the past 30 months, since the restructuring of the Seychelles Tourist Board had started. No official comments are available as yet from the tourism board although a regular source added this overnight: ‘We welcome any initiative by the private sector to promote tourism and broadly support the Seychelles open skies policy for air access. We work hand in hand with our partners from the private sector and we will discuss this decision within government and with the private sector.’

Another source speculated openly over the influence of carriers from the Gulf like Emirates, Qatar and Ethihad, which by the end of the year will be offering as many as 25 flights per week and have convenient connections through their hubs to a wide range of destinations in Russia saying: ‘These airlines have been given unprecedented access to Seychelles. A few years ago this would not have been thinkable even. We in the tourism sector appreciate what they do for us in terms of promotions and that they have to fill their seats. But the TransAero flight would have tapped into a different market and could have brought travelers who would otherwise not have chosen to fly with other airlines to Mahe. I think in all fairness, this case should receive another consideration’. Watch this space.



Two shark attacks in the space of two weeks, after in fact not seeing the great white shark in the Seychellois waters for decades, have rocked the tranquil archipelago’s tourism industry. While the first deadly attack on a French tourist received little media attention, the second one yesterday on a British tourist brought on the predictable media spotlight on a destination, which over the past 30 months has become the darling of the global travel publications.

Gifted by pristine beaches and crystal clear azure waters around the dozens of islands, a friendly people and more than half of its territory declared protected areas like marine and terrestrial national parks and reserves, the Seychelles depend on three main economic sectors for its survival, fishing, trade and tourism. The first two were for the past two years increasingly threatened by Somalia’s ocean terrorists, and had it not been for the robust responses of the Seychelles government, supported by friendly countries from around the world boosting the archipelago’s defensive capabilities, things might be much worse. However, a determined and robust engagement of any ocean terrorists daring to enter Seychellois waters and an open declaration that an attack on the economic interests of the Seychelles would be taken as a clear and present danger to the country’s security interests has paid off and cruise ships, albeit with ‘escorts’ on board, are again more often seen calling on Port Victoria.

That brings me to the latter item, tourism. After staring at a gloomy forecast at the height of the global financial crisis between 2007 and 2009, a response equally determined and robust came about, when government in a departure from old practice restructured the Seychelles Tourist Board and made the archipelago’s private sector the driving force in promoting the islands’ tourism industry and re-branding the destination. Success swiftly returned and record arrivals are now filling many of the existing resorts but also the string of new ones which have sprung up over the past two years in accordance with a carefully designed masterplan. A separate marketing campaign ‘Affordable Seychelles’ took roots and helps to bring in plenty of extra visitors numbers occupying guest houses, B&B’s and holiday villas, mostly owned and operated by indigenous Seychellois, who are finally getting a larger slice of the tourism proceeds the industry produces.

While some may say that the destination has ‘overplayed’ its hand in working the media, and the two shark attacks give opportunity for ‘pay back’, I do not agree with that. No destination can ‘overplay’ its hand, and the Seychelles, gifted by unique natural attractions deep in the Indian Ocean, only grabbed the bull by its horns and engaged with the media, over the past 2 ½ years and notably and especially now, that a great white shark has struck twice in as many weeks. The Seychelles Tourism Board has issued a full and comprehensive communiqué explaining what happened and what response was being designed, and has even overnight been answering queries from overseas media houses to be certain that the facts and not speculation could be reported.

Competitors aiming to exploit the tragedies would be ill advised to make negative capital out of these two sad events and as I write this column, a small armada of fishing vessels and even airborne spotters are circling the beaches of Praslin, to find and capture the monster. After the first shark attack a crisis meeting was called and a public private sector action committee formed, now boosted by added resources to find the beast and destroy it. A temporary ban on swimming off shore has been put into effect, around Praslin and neighbouring La Digue and every effort is being taken to prevent another attack before the shark can be tracked down.

Shark attack specialists have gone on record to say it may be a migrant from far off distant shores, as it was most unusual to even hear of sightings near the Seychelles, leave alone attacks on swimmers.

The coming days will tell what results the response teams can produce. For now, it is sincere condolences to the families and friends of the two victims and a word of encouragement and support to my friends across the archipelago during these trying days – and a final reassurance, that the Seychelles, and in particular Praslin remains my personal dream destination.




AND in closing today once again some interesting material, courtesy of The Livingstone Weekly and Gill Staden, who faithfully produces this informative newsletter from ‘further down south’ week in week out.



Row the Zambezi


Last Sunday I went to watch the Row the Zambezi team arrive at the Boat Club after their journey of 1,000 km from Chavuma to Livingstone in their 3-man sculls.  They had spent 17 days on the trip which took them from the border with Angola, through the Barotse floodplains, to Sioma Falls where they had to carry the boats around, then along the border with Zambia and Zimbabwe.


It was an amazing trip and they all arrived safely in Livingstone to cheers from the crowd which had met at the Boat Club to welcome them.


The people who took part in the trip were doing it for several reasons.  Tim Cook, the organiser had wanted to do something special during the year of his 50th birthday and rowing the Zambezi seemed pretty special!


He also thought that he would like to do something for the people he passed on the way so the team raised money through sponsorship and donations which they will give to Village Water.  Village Water is a charity which helps villagers with supplies of clean water and sanitation.


But, more to his heart, Tim wanted to help with the promotion of the sport of rowing in Zambia.  The three boats which they used for the event will stay in Zambia and be given to the Zambia Rowing Association.


One of the team, Anthonia Van Deventer, a Zambian by birth, is hoping to row for Zambia during the Olympics.  She was one of four Zambians which joined in the row.


Anthonia left Zambia when she was 12 years old, moving to England.  It was there that she learned to row while at school.  She has already represented England at various rowing events.  Now, after a trip back to Zambia, she has decided that Zambia is home.


It will be interesting for all of us to watch her row for Zambia in the Olympics.  Let’s just hope that she does.





From Birdlife Zambia


Worldbirds, RSPB and ZOS


In 2007 the Worldbirds website was launched www.worldbirds.org. This has been set up as a data

collection point for the conservation of birds worldwide. It was initiated by three large birding

organisations, namely the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), BirdLife International and Audubon

(USA society for protection of birds). The objective is to create a network of internet systems that provide

a platform for the collection, storage and retrieval of bird observations worldwide.

Zambia is linked into the system and some of our members are uploading their data on to the site.

However there has been a need to upload all our past sightings so that Zambia has a broad base to work

from. RSPB has recently funded ZOS to do this and we have employed a student to work with Bob

Stjernstedt to uplift past records to Worldbirds. This will ultimately make the website easier to use as

many more birding sites will be added so users will not have to initiate all the new information

themselves. We expect to complete the exercise in a couple of months.


Migrants arriving


In July and August the first of the migrants from the north will arrive. This year make a record of when you

see the first Paradise Fly-catcher or hear the first Red-chested Cuckoo. These are many familiar sightings

and sounds that we should all note to see if a pattern emerges. You can always record this on Worldbirds

– see website for details – or just send your information to Bob Stjernstedt birdingwithbob@gmail.com.

Fil Hide had her first sighting of a Yellow-billed kite in the Mfuwe area on the 27th July whereas Chris

Wood saw 6 to 10 a day in the Tondwe area from the 20 to 22nd July and Frank Willems saw his first at

Kasanka on the 30th July. You may like to follow some of the cuckoos as detailed by Phil Atkinson from the

British Trust for Ornithology


“In an exciting new project we (BTO) are tracking 5 Cuckoos on their migration from the UK to Africa.

Already, they are yielding some stunning results and some totally new information.

Two birds are currently in transit across the Sahara.


We last saw Clement the Cuckoo two days ago in northern Algeria in what was probably the last bush

before the start of the Sahara desert (see his blog on the BTO website). Today at approx 10:30 GMT

Clement was crossing the Sahara and exited Algeria and crossed into Mauritania. By 1615 which was the

last fix we received today he waswell into Mauritania.


Kasper, our second Cuckoo in Africa travelled 2,200 km in the last two days and is well into Algeria. He

chose what is probably one of the longest desert crossings in West Africa and when we last heard from

him was two-thirds of the way across and heading for Niger. We should hear from him later on in the

weekend and find out if he made it.


The other three Cuckoos are still in Europe. Two are in northern Italy having taking a south-eastern route

from the UK (as did Kasper). Clement (named after BTO’s director) wasn’t one to follow the crowd and did

something we didn’t expect and after following the others to the foothills of the Alps, instead of heading

eastwards into Italy, jinked westwards and entered Africa via Spain. He is keeping up this SW movement

and is now in Mauritania.


The last Cuckoo, Lyster, is still in the UK. We thought birds would leave around now (mid-late July) so it is

a real surprise that he is the only one left! Dave Leech (BTO), who has an intensive project on Reed

Warblers reported a new Cuckoo egg in a nest this week, so there are still a few opportunities for Cuckoos

left… Not for much longer we suspect, as the breeding season in Britain is virtually over.

The cuckoos can be followed at http://www.bto.org/cuckoos Maps are updated automatically at 10:00

GMT each day.”


There is so much interesting stuff to read on the Birdlife Zambia newsletter.  If you want to join and receive the newsletter, contact zos@zamnet.zm




Another Step forward for KAZA


Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) has moved forward.  At a Heads of State meeting in Luanda last week, all five countries, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, signed an accord on the implementation of the programme.


KAZA will become the largest conservation area in the world, taking in over 278,000 square kilometres.  It will include the Okavango Delta and the Victoria Falls; Hwange, Chobe, Kafue, Mamili, Bwabwata, Matusadona and Chizarira National Parks; as well as Luiana and Mavinga Reserves in Angola.



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