Footsteps Through Time

Footsteps Through Time
A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls -

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Shearwater News April 2017


Welcome to this years’ first edition of the Pioneering Spirit. Overall 2016 was a good year not only for Shearwater but Victoria Falls in general. Shearwater continued with its rolling investment programme in new activities, our accommodation facility, and the upgrading and innovation of existing activities and services. But it was also reassuring to see so many other companies doing likewise with new enterprises springing up in town – it’s all indicative of the spirit of genuine optimism that abounds in the area, and bodes well for an even better 2017.

As planned our brand new camping and chalet site opened in December 2016 – and it has been exceptionally well received. It was after much thought that a slight modification was made to the original name of Shearwater Village – christening it instead Shearwater Explorers Village. This is intended to promote the Village as a basecamp from which guests can truly encounter their inner adventurer and embark upon personal voyages of discovery: whether adrenaline fuelled rafting and bungee jumping, the serenity of sunset cruises or the exhilaration of wildlife adventures.

At time of writing It is with great delight we can report excellent levels of rainfall so far this year – always an enormous welcome for indigenous wildlife and landscape, and perhaps yet another indication of a great year ahead.

rafting high water

Having had the best rains for many years, allow us to elaborate on it’s implications.
Nothing seems to be as conflicting as to the pros and cons of high or low water – particularly when it is a boon for some and a bane for others, and can get a little confusing when you also have to factor in rainy/dry season, summer/winter. To explain:

Weather in Zimbabwe is great all year round with sunshine guaranteed almost daily. However rainy season is over the warmer summer/autumn period mid Nov- mid April (but temperatures always a balmy 25-35+). It is the winter months (May-August) when you get guaranteed clear sunshine all day and no rain, with a bit if chill in the evening (July-August only).

• HIGHWATER (end January – April) as it suggests is when water levels in the Zambezi are higher following rainy season. There can be a slight delay from the start of rainy season (end November), to levels being considered HIGH, this is because despite what can be heavy rains in December, it generally takes until the end of January for levels to have increased sufficiently to be considered high.

• PROS: The benefit of HIGH water, is that the Falls themselves are more spectacular with huge volumes of the Zambezi cascading into the gorge – probably peaking around April/May. This is great for those whose main focus is to see the falls (though visibility can sometimes be periodically obscured there is so much precipitation) – so the very best viewing is from the air on a ‘’Flight of Angels’’ helicopter trip when you can appreciate the full magnitude .

helicopter flight

CONS: The downside to highwater, is that with so much water volume, rapids get washed out, so the whitewater rafting can be reduced and ultimately curtailed (though at worst only for possibly a month – sometimes (as last year) it runs 365 days).

LOW WATER (August-January). Though the rain stops around mid April, it takes some months for the water levels of the Zambezi to be considered low.

PROS. Perfect white-water rafting and canoeing conditions. With water volumes lower, the rapids run much faster and with far greater turbulence over a greater distance. This is when you can do the best one day white-water rafting on the planet – 25 km covering 19 rapids (mostly grade 5). Canoe trips on the upper Zambezi are also far more manageable at low water – and a truly rewarding activity taking in the banks of the Zambezi, hippo pods, basking crocodiles, occasional elephants and birds of every type and variety.

rafting canoe

What some find a little counterintuitive, Victoria Falls is at its wettest during the summer/autumn months of Nov-April, and at its driest over the winter/spring months of May-October (with October the hottest and driest).

It’s not just rafting and viewing the falls of course that is effected by rainfall, it has a huge impact on the local environment – as soon as it hits in volume, the parched landscape just explodes into vast oceans of greenery. Let’s not forget what makes our glorious part of the world extraordinarily unique is it remains one of the few destinations on earth, where there is still natural and abundant wildlife. Great rains are just – great, for the wildlife. But again it is mixed blessings. The rain makes the landscape all the more verdant and beautiful – but does make it harder to spot game due to ‘’foliage camouflage’’ and because the game no longer has to concentrate around small watering holes and the few areas of natural food provision. In contrast during the driest months, the landscape is parched and unyielding – but Shearwater game drives are at their most rewarding and day trips to Chobe fantastic for watching Elephant swim and all manner of teeming game, looking to get relief at the waters edge.


So in conclusion HIGH/LOW – it’s horses for courses, each to their own, one man’s meat is another man’s poison etc – best thing to do is come at least twice for both seasons.

explorers villageexplorers village

On Dec 20th the site of the Shearwater Explorers Village, as is often the case with such things, looked just that – a site, a building one. With guests due from Dec 23 and a full house for the Vic Falls Carnival over New Year, it was a little twitchy, but we always took reassurance from the best contractors in the business, who never wavered over completion in time. Sure enough our first guests came, followed by the carnival ravers, followed by the first of our series groups. Not a heartbeat missed, not a toilet failing to flush, not a shower without hot water – every bit of infrastructure passed the test with flying colours.

Feedback has been phenomenal. A Shearwater core value is to ‘’exceed expectations’’ – and this seems to have been achieved by a wide margin. It has always been, and continues, to be promoted as - affordable accommodation. Guests however have been simply effusive about the exceptional standard of the chalets to which they can book or upgrade – clinically clean, crisp linen on the beds, fantastic air conditioning, lovely tiled shower/wet room. Campsites are bespoke for the purpose – tailor made for overland trucks to pull in to a bay for 20+ - with shaded slabs for camping, covered dining area, kitchen, braii, charging points, fantastic ablutions. For those without their own tents, the village offers fully equipped dome tents, with camp beds, linen and side table.

What seems to be the most serendipitous aspect for all guests though is the boutique nature of the communal reception, bar and restaurant area. It is great for chilling in comfort and style, catching up with friends back home on the complimentary wifi, taking a dip in the lovely pool or enjoying delicious food or refreshing drinks from the fabulous Explorers Café and bar.

SHEARWATER EXPLORERS VILLAGE - camping from $15pp, Chalets from $60pp (inc breakfast).

chobe game drive

Shearwater has long been at the forefront of organising fantastic trips to the unique Chobe river and game reserve in Botswana. This extraordinary area is special in every sense. It is the very geographical fingertip of the slender territory known as the ‘Caprivi Strip’ – the boundary of 4 iconic African countries: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is also the confluence of 2 unique African rivers: The Chobe, and The mighty Zambezi. It was always destined therefore to be home to some of the most pristine wilderness and exceptional wildlife on the continent. Shearwater is now providing the greatest of all opportunities to experience this natural phenomenon at its best – as nature intended. A Chobe overnight trip encompasses the quite superb river safari, an afternoon game drive in the world class Chobe national park – followed by a night under the stars in the surrounds of the African bush at its superlative best. Its the greatest way to not just see nature, but to really FEEL it, smell it and hear it in all its glory.

overnight camping

shearwater sessions

Live music continues to play a highly important role in ensuring the best vibe in town when it comes to dining out in the evening. Shearwater Café is fast becoming a de facto automatic choice for those that want to enjoy great food, great atmosphere, fantastic entertainment and really catch the pulse of the town going about its daily routine. To add to our existing roster of musicians we have recently added Alistair – interesting character- originally from Bulawayo, Al is an ex Royal Marine turned Bob Dylanesque troubadour who is an exceptional entertainer blending humour with craft performing anything from Hendrix covers to songs about the Beitbridge border! A genuine Zim only gem. We have also had Andy Sax – a professional musician from the UK (Plan B’s touring Sax player for those in the know) – who literally blew us away with his astonishing Sax playing, and cant wait to have him back.

corporate social responsibility

Shearwater is delighted to continue with its diverse commitment to various issues and projects. The company provided the entire investment to re house the antiquated Craft market into a purpose built weather proof construction, complete with a new ablution block for all vendors and brand new sign. The new craft market is now open and prospering, in what is a great innovation for the community. As below, Shearwater was the principal donor in the construction of the Elefence – a highly laudable project. We are currently investigating innovative ways to initiate a campaign of anti litter signs throughout the Victoria Falls Municipality as we seek to establish The Victoria Falls as one of the greenest spots on the planet.



It is with great delight that we can report the fence for dumpsite has been erected. For those unaware we had a serious problem with Elephants eating plastic from the municipality dumpsite – and in the worst case, dying as a result of asphyxiation. It fell to the business community and residents to raise the necessary funds. Shearwater committed 50% of the funds needed. Many locals contributed wherever they could, but 2 in particular went above and beyond. Guy Cockcroft for organising Elefence Festival – putting in a huge amount of work and not only raising significant funds, but also giving Vic Falls the Woodstock/Glastonbury vibe for great day for all residents. Tony Peel from Vic Falls Guide rallied fund raising support via a golf day, took it upon himself to work with Environment Africa raising awareness, chairing meetings and ensuring delivery of the electric fence – and then also marshalling volunteers to ensure it all works and Elephants are deterred – it does and they are. The best example of community in action we can think of.


kaza is back

It is with great joy and relish that we welcome back the Kaza visa – the African Shengen! Basically this allows visitors to pay $50 for one visa which allows them limitless travel between Zambia and Zimbabwe for 30 days – exactly the same cost of a visa to one of these countries. A great triumph for common sense tourism strategy, allowing visitors easier access to so much more of what is on offer.


ethopian airlines

We widely reported the prospects of the new airport would present – and now they are becoming reality. In recent months new airlines and aircraft have committed to Vic Falls:

1. Ethiopian Airways is starting to fly directly into Vic Falls as of 6th March 2017. Their flight will be directly from Abu Dhabi, into VFA, then Gaborone on their way back to Abu Dhabi.

2. Kenyan Airways will start offering direct flights into VFA as follows:
a. Nairobi to VFA
b. VFA to Cape Town

3. As of 1st of March 2017, South African Airways is now operating an Airbus A330-200, with a capacity of 222 passengers. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Ancient Origins -Evolution of the Zambezi

Reproduced from the Zambezi Society March 2017 Newsletter


Lovers of the Zambezi River who are interested in learning more about its very ancient history, will be delighted to read a fascinating article by Fenton "Woody" Cotterill, Andy Moore and Roger Key which was reproduced in the The African Fisherman magazine last year.  

The article is a non-technical summary of the original paper published in the South African Journal of Geology under the title:  ‘The Zambezi River: an archive of tectonic events linked to Gondwana amalgamation and disruption, and subsequent evolution of the African Plate’. 
What is particularly fascinating to the layman about this latest research is a) geological study now establishes the ancient Proto-Zambezi as the Earth's oldest-known river (minimum 280 million years old) and b) that the ancient Proto-Zambezi ran in exactly the opposite direction (west across Africa into the Karoo) to what it does today (east into the Indian Ocean). 

We reproduce an extract below: (you can read the full article via the link given at the end): "Africa's Zambezi is now established as Earth's oldest known river – the direct descendent of an ancient Proto‑Zambezi river. The origins of the Zambezi have been deciphered from geological evidence across the vast wilderness of the Chicoa, Gwembe, Luangwa, Mana and Sebungwe valleys of south‑central Africa; here, rock formations and landforms preserve the central repository of the river’s history back into the Palaeozoic Era before 280 Ma (million years ago).The Proto-Zambezi river originated in the drainage system that was established as vast Dwyka ice-sheets were receding across the super-continent of Gondwana. At this time the immense highlands of the Trans-Gondwana mountains directed the westerly flow of glacial meltwaters into the interior of Gondwana. With its catchment entirely contained within Gondwana, this massive river sustained a vast, inland sea centred on modern‑day Botswana.... 

..An unbroken chain of evidence places a minimum age of 280 Ma on the Zambezi's origins, when Gondwana’s ice-sheets began to melt as the super-continent drifted northwards. Central Africa’s rift valleys preserve the rock ledgers (historic record) that tell us the Proto‑Zambezi existed long before Africa became a continent. Importantly, this geological record of the ancestral Proto‑Zambezi is contiguous with the modern river. In particular, the evidence reveals that precursors of the modern Luangwa and Middle Zambezi already existed in the early Permian. This geological record in the Luangwa and Middle Zambezi valleys (the central African rifts) has survived despite the complete reversal of the Zambezi’s flow caused by Gondwana’s breakup, which forged the African continent.

The west-flowing Proto-Zambezi drainage system maintained a vast inland Karoo sea (K).  The original extent of the Karoo sediments was likely larger before the breakup and erosion associated with the daughter continents of Gondwana.  This map details the centres of Karoo deposition (shallow lakes, seas and deltas) depicted in darker shading, as presented in surviving rock formations in southern and central Africa. The superimposed dashed line approximates the position of the modern, east-flowing Zambezi river.

The greatest change in over 280 million years of the Zambezi’s evolution entailed the complete reversal of its flow.  The process of break up was protracted, as over millions of years, river by river, flow in the Proto‑Zambezi’s catchment was redirected into the Indian Ocean, to reduce the significance of the Proto‑Zambezi’s inland terminus (in central Botswana).... 

....Geologically recent captures of the Chobe, Kafue and Upper Zambezi testify to the relative youth of the (modern) river’s topology.  The Great Equatorial Divide on Africa’s high plateaux comprises the Zambezi’s modern watershed, and its present position testifies to repeated re-shuffles of links between long lived rivers. To summarize, we now estimate the modern Zambezi basin to be barely 250 thousand years old.......

...Its status as Earth’s oldest, big river – yet known – underwrites the conservation status of the Luangwa‑Zambezi wilderness. The geological continuity preserved across these landscapes reveals how the ecosystems of the Zambezi have endured in an unbroken chain, ever since the first ecosystems of Dwyka times formed along glacial streams. The criterion of Ancient Evolutionary Heritage positions the Zambezi as a unique outlier among Earth’s most spectacular landscapes, including the Grand Canyon. One is challenged to name World Heritage Sites that match these iconic values, in preserving comparable geological and paleoecological records."

This summary article is reproduced in full by The African Fisherman in print (issue 172 - April/May 2016) or online at this link.  

The full scientific article is re-produced as a downloadable PDF on the Zambezi Society website HERE.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Tourism levy haunting sector

The tourism industry says government should scrap the 15% value-added tax (VAT) on tourism as it has made the Zimbabwean product more expensive.
Zivisai Chagaka recently in Victoria Falls
The cash-strapped government in January last year unilaterally introduced the levy on foreign tourist accommodation in a move seen as a desperate measure to augment the
government’s dwindling revenues. This was despite appeals and protests from stakeholders in the tourism sector who viewed the tax as tantamount to choking them out of business.
Tourist accommodation and related services have been exempted from VAT since its introduction in 2003 to spur growth in the sector.
In a wide-ranging interview, African Travel and Tourism Association chairperson Ross Kennedy told businessdigest that the tax on tourism was “totally unnecessary”. He said this during the relaunch of The Boma — Dinner & Drum Show earlier this week in Victoria Falls.
“Though the 15% tax added last year has been difficult to quantify, it has made our tourism product more expensive. Some of our colleagues reported cancellations after the tax was introduced,” Kennedy said.
Players in the tourism sector are therefore concerned that the few gains that have been achieved by the industry could be reversed. And Kennedy said the tax could have affected 5% of business in general.
“We are still in talks with our minister to have it overturned,” he said. Nonetheless, Kennedy said, the Zimbabwean product remained cheaper than in neighbouring countries although the pricing is driven by supply and demand.
Last year, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament that Treasury had collected US$1,6 million in the first four months of its introduction.
Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi is one of those who have spoken out strongly against the levy.
In August, he was quoted as having said that the introduction of the tax would neither grow the tourism cake nor guarantee that government will get the desired increase in revenue.
“The sector and myself still believe that it’s early days to impose such a full-blown tax on foreign arrivals that we are still trying to recover,” Mzembi is also quoted as saying.
He said “intelligent taxation would seek to promote the recovery of the sector through an incremental formula that does not kill the goose that lays the golden egg or punish people for visiting”.
“I often hear arguments about Zambia or that other countries are doing it. Why not us, but really, we are coming from different backgrounds given our history of a country under sanctions, at least in the travel market, until 2009,” Mzembi added. “So we need taxation creativity in other areas that do not constitute a barrier to entry and growth of the sector.”
Research conducted by the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism revealed that the country would experience a 75% drop in the number of foreign tourists and lose up to US$124 million per year if the levy is not reviewed downwards.
Available statistics show tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe increased by 9% to 2 056 588 in 2015, compared to 1 880 028 in 2014 with all markets performing positively except for Asia and the Middle East which declined. The growth in arrivals into Zimbabwe was generally backed by growth in the country’s traditional overseas source markets such as the United Kingdom and the United States and compounded by the positive performance of mainland Africa.
The tourism sector achieved 7% growth in receipts from US$827 million in 2014 to US$886 million in 2015 with more of the receipts being driven by the accommodation and restaurant sub-sectors. Tourism receipts have been on a growth path since 2009. The sector could achieve more if the country was not using a much stronger currency, the US dollar, which has made the destination more expensive compared to those in the region.
The average room occupancy level for Harare fell to 57% in 2015 from 59% in 2014. In Bulawayo, the average room occupancy level also fell from 44% in 2014 to 37% in 2015. However for Victoria Falls, room occupancy rose from 49% to 52%, during the period under review.
The national average hotel room occupancy level fell from 48% to 47% while the bed occupancy level also fell by five percentage points from 36% in 2014 to 31% in 2015. Except for Victoria Falls which enjoyed a client mix of 73% foreign to 27% local, utilisation by the domestic business clientele dominated the accommodation sector with 78% of the hotel clientele being locals. Domestic leisure is mostly active during public holidays.
However, Kennedy said 2016 has been “stable” for established destinations in Africa, including Zimbabwe itself as compared to previous years. It was a mixed bag for those in the Victoria Falls, he said, as some realised healthy returns while others struggled. Most of those businesses that rely heavily on domestic tourism are the ones that were hardest hit as a result of a severe liquidity crunch and numerous police roadblocks.
As a result, the domestic market suffered a 50% knock in the second half of December 2016 as the cash crisis deepened. Kennedy said this is the month that usually sees a spike in local arrivals as the festive season begins.
“The state of the economy in general where some corporates are downsizing and effecting other cost-cutting measures such as salary cuts affect travel and leisure as fewer and fewer people have disposable incomes,” he said.
Kennedy said the tourism industry is “poised for growth nonetheless as there were new projects in the pipeline, including multinational fast-food outlets and lodges, looking at the Victoria Falls as a destination that is growing. In Hwange, it was a fairly good year.”
The rains, though they came late, have provided a welcome relief for tourism operators, particularly those in the prime resort of Victoria Falls — “we need water”.
“The Zambezi is now flowing above average and that’s wonderful for tourism … the weather doesn’t impact very much on tourism in Vic Falls,” Kennedy said.
“There is a general good feeling on what the tourism industry is expecting in 2017 and on the balance sheets. The expectation is 7-15% more bookings in 2017. We now have the added advantage of a new and enhanced airport which can handle even the biggest aircraft.
“We are complementing government by talking to airlines to see what can be done to promote and market the new airport. There are big names that have expressed interest in coming here — so we need to promote it so we can realise some benefits out of it as an industry.”
The new Victoria Falls International Airport terminal was commissioned on November 18 last year. This state-of-the-art airport, with a 4km long runway, is capable of accommodating the big, wide bodied aircraft, including the A380. It is expected to handle 1,5 million passengers a year from the current 176 000. The new airport terminal is currently handling five airlines. Arrivals into Victoria Falls by long-haul carriers are, however, expected to increase. Victoria Falls is poised to become a regional hub given its geographical location in relation to other tourism destinations in the region.
Kennedy, who is also CE of the Africa Albida Tourism Group, however said the cash shortages, though problematic to all employees and businesses, “this has had no direct impact on us” as they encourage their guests to use credit cards. He said they also work with travel agents to advise tourists to bring small denominations for small transactions and use credit cards instead for major transactions.
Kennedy welcomed the recent relaunch of a univisa between Zimbabwe and Zambia as “a genuinely user-friendly tourism tool”.
The univisa known as Kaza (Kavango-Zambezi) Transfrontier Conservation Area Visa, means tourists only need to obtain one visa to visit Zimbabwe and Zambia and was relaunched by Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and his Zambian counterpart Stephen Kampyongo on December 21.
The facility had been suspended for a year from December 2015. The two countries had been chosen to pilot the facility following the hosting of the UN World Tourism 20th General Assembly in the resort town of Victoria Falls and Livingstone in 2013, but was suspended because the two countries had run out of stickers and also because the memorandum establishing a univisa between the two countries had expired.
Kennedy said the new visa regime is an early step in exploring and developing Kaza as a tourism zone with Victoria Falls as its hub. He said he hoped other countries in the region will also join in.
Kennedy also praised Mzembi for steering the tourism industry towards growth.
“We have a positive and ambitious Tourism minister (in Mzembi) who wants to get things done. He has worked hard to improve and grow the sector and we must acknowledge that fact,” Kennedy said, adding that the growth of the tourism sector naturally leads to the growth of the economy even from a provincial level to the national economy, hence its growth should be encouraged.
Mzembi is currently vying for the position of secretary-general of United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). He is currently the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa chairperson.
AAT is a Zimbabwean hospitality group with a portfolio of hotels and restaurants in Victoria Falls and in Chobe, Botswana, including the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Lokuthula Lodges, Ngoma Safari Lodge and The Boma — Dinner & Drum Show.
Source: Tourism levy haunting sector (27/01/17)

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Zim Southern Africa's Most Expensive Tourist Destination

Isdore Guvamombe — Zimbabwe is by far the most expensive tourist destination compared to other destinations in the Sadc region and beyond. But for the benefit of all and sundry, let me restrict this instalment to the Sadc region.
The effect of the high price regime has been that the country, despite being among the most attractive in the region, risks out-bidding itself through a prize regime that is deterrent to tourists.
In a global village as necessitated and dictated by the technology, tourists have many options to visit and such high prices certainly have a knock effect on Zimbabwe, as a priority.
Imagine the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority levy added to ZBC Radio and TV licence, then Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura), then Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), the local authority, then Zinwa and then . . . and then . . . and then . . . They add up to 23. Where do you do business like this, without passing the cost on to the consumer?

There are too many taxes and as if that is not enough, the Government's introduction of 15 percent VAT on accommodation for foreign tourists last year further worsened things.
Victoria Falls, is a case in point on this one. Over the years, Zimbabwe has been losing tourists to Zambia, firstly, because our political climate was portrayed as unfavourable in the international community, secondly, because the Victoria Falls International Airport could not accommodate wide-bodied planes. Now we have sorted out our international image doing extremely well in perception management, and, we have expanded the Victoria Falls International Airport. That has made us begin to out-compete Zambia.
Before the Victoria Falls Airport tarmac even dries up, here we are, shooting ourselves in the foot by introducing a 15 percent VAT on accommodation for foreign tourists. But these are foreign tourists who have an option to stay in Livingston, Zambia or Chobe, Botswan
Yes, the Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls gives the most spectacular view, the front side, compared to the unimpressive backside of the falls in Livingstone, but the effect has been that tourists stay in Zambia and visit Zimbabwe during the day. We don't need an economics graduate to tell us that the tourists are spending more money in Zambia through accommodation and a multifarious array of nocturnal activities, such as drinking binges, clubbing and braaing, while our hotel occupancy shrinks.
Suffice to say that the $20 they pay to see grandeur of the falls is nothing compared to what they spent in one night in Zambia. Most of the money is spent on accommodation and partying. That is where the money is. We are fast reducing Victoria Falls to a day town. We are killing the night life. We are shunning the money.
Again, we don't need an economist to tell us that we are already an expensive destination and adding another 15 percent is retrogressive.
Room prices in Zimbabwe are almost treble other countries and when you look at the standards, they might not correspond with the price regime.
Source: Zim Most Expensive Tourist Destination (20/01/17)

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Zambian operator to phase out elephant-back safaris

Safari Par Excellence and Zambezi Elephant Trails have decided to phase out elephant-back safaris. It is anticipated that by the end of December 2017, Zambezi Elephant Trails will no longer offer the safaris.

Safari Par Excellence will aim to end elephant rides by December 2017.

“Our approach to animal welfare as well as the decline in support of elephant-back safaris has confirmed that we are on the right track,” said Graham Nel, Managing Director, Safari Par Excellence.

Starting this month, the number of rides on offer will be reduced, with the focus being on the morning rides. Mid-morning and afternoon rides will only be conducted by special arrangement.

“We shall actively encourage clients to interact with the elephants rather than ride them,” said Nel. Elephant rides will be replaced by a boat ride up the Zambezi River, or road transfer, followed by an introduction to the animals with a short interaction and a meal at The Elephant Café.

Incentive groups are also encouraged to spend time to learn about and from the habits and characteristics of the elephants. 

Nel said the elephants’ well-being had always been at the forefront of operations within the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia.

Source: Another operator to phase out elephant rides (16/01/17)

Further Reading:  Captive Animal encounters: are they ethical? 

More from this blog: elephant-back safaris 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Rich pickings for Vic-Falls businesses at carnival

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

TOUR operators in Victoria Falls recorded brisk business during the recent annual Jameson Vic Falls Carnival.

The three-day event started on Thursday last week and ended New Year’s Eve with scores booking for activities during the period.

Different activities were fully booked for the three days and those who did not make prior arrangements failed to book.

Despite a generally subdued festive season owing to the weakening South African rand and lack of disposable income among locals, fortunes changed on Wednesday last week as thousands of travellers started arriving for the carnival.

Streets were fully packed with people and traffic while scores visited the Rainforest, Victoria Falls Bridge and other resort points dotted around.

Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said the biggest winner was the food industry as restaurants and eateries were all fully subscribed.

“The main area of benefit was the food area where all restaurants were filled to the brim,” said Mr Mukwasi.

He said besides the food industry, boat cruises were also 100 percent booked for the period.

“The second activity to reap high were cruises as almost every company was fully booked. Most had double trips which were all 100 percent full for the three days, which means that those who hadn’t made prior bookings couldn’t do any,” he added.

Mr Mukwasi said the carnival brought significant benefits for the tourism industry, adding that “these were very good three days of the year as capacities reached maximum.”

He said helicopter flights, which were also fully booked were affected by the weather as it was raining.

Scores others visited the Rainforest, Victoria Falls Bridge, The Snake Pit and Crocodile Farm among other activities.

Although she could not give figures, The Snake Pit manager Mrs Rina Greenland said they recorded a significant number of visitors.

“We usually have people coming to see and today people from the carnival have been coming since morning,” she said on Saturday.

Ms Sizile Nkosi from South Africa said: “I am usually scared of snakes but when I heard there is a snake pit I just thought I should pop in with my friends. It’s amazing.”

Newly introduced Zambezi Tram was also a hit as visitors booked for a tour of the Victoria Falls Bridge and Rainforest by rail.

However, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chairman Mr Chris Svovah said the occupancy rate had declined compared to 2015.

He attributed the decline to the fact that some locals have turned their houses into mini-lodges hence they take a significant number of people who could be booked in mainstream hotels and lodges.
Mr Svovah said the carnival had brought significant business as he commended the organisers for the annual event.

“From our assessment the occupancy rate has gone down in Victoria Falls despite a high number of people that attended the carnival. We would want to thank the carnival organisers for the event, which we know was a success and we believe will grow bigger going forward as it has put Victoria Falls on the world map,” he said.

HAZ reported a nationwide 80 percent hotel occupancy rate during the festive season, with Victoria Falls standing at 85 percent.

Source: Rich pickings for Vic-Falls businesses at carnival (06/01/17)

More: Vic Falls Carnival: When nature’s splendour meets hard partying (07/01/17)

Airport upgrade a boon for Vic Falls

THE upgrading of the $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport has stimulated a huge appetite for investment from local and international private sector players who want to set up businesses in the resort town, industry officials have revealed.
The new-look airport which is a gateway to the mighty Victoria Falls — one of the Seven Wonders of the World — was officially commissioned by President Robert Mugabe last year in November.
Following the upgrading of the entity, the resort town of Victoria Falls has experienced positive growth in terms of infrastructural development as well as attracting a huge appetite for investment from local and international players.
Industry players and municipal authorities told Standardbusiness good things had started showing up in the town.
“In the food industry, we have KFC which has become a popular restaurant in town. We also have Three-Monkeys Restaurant catering for both local and international tourists,” said an industry official, Clement Mukwasi, who is also Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president.
“We have a number of snake parks that have been opened. We had not been having this kind of business in Victoria Falls.”
Mukwasi said companies such as Shearwater Adventures had invested thousands of dollars in accommodation facilities to meet the overwhelming demand.
The group constructed a facility christened Explorer’s Village which has the capacity to accommodate 120 people. The facility has 16 chalets as well as a 200 seater restaurant.
Lodges such as Ilala and Batonga also expanded their capacity, Mukwasi said.
“The [tourist] destination is growing and we have received quite a number of enquiries from people wishing to invest in the resort town. Currently, there are two companies, one from here and the other from South Africa, wishing to establish helicopter businesses in Victoria Falls,” he said.
“These are some of the developments that occurred during the course of the year following the commissioning of the Victoria Falls International Airport.”
Mukwasi also said the United Nations World Tourism Organisation was sponsoring the development of a public swimming pool.
“Construction has started and we believe by end of January it will be completed. The structure [Victoria Falls Airport]added value to the city in terms of infrastructural development and employment creation. It has also increased attractiveness of Victoria Falls as a tourist destination,” he said.
Victoria Falls mayor Sifiso Mpofu said the airport was a game-changer and they had received quite a number of enquiries from people wishing to establish businesses in the resort town.
“The airport is a game-changer, though we haven’t seen much development. We have received many enquiries about investment opportunities from companies and business people,” Mpofu said. 
The completion of the project was a major milestone for the country given the resort town’s potential to transform and steer growth in the country’s economy by attracting more tourists and investors into the country.
The airport is capable of handling around 1,5 million passengers annually and its smooth new runway can accommodate some of the world’s largest jets — raising the prospect of new direct international flights to Victoria Falls.
Africa’s largest airline group, Ethiopian Airlines recently revealed that it would start flying into Victoria Falls in March. Rwandan airline, RwandAir has also indicated plans to start flying into Victoria Falls this year.
The state-of-the-art Victoria Falls airport’s features include the new international terminal building, a new four-kilometre long runway, a new control tower and a refurbished domestic terminal with a capacity to handle 1,5 million passengers per annum.
The apron area has a capacity to handle aircraft in the class of the B747 and equivalent. The airport has modern passenger facilities which include a compatible baggage handling system, Flight Information Display System and Common Use Passenger Processing System.
The expansion of the airport comes as government has designated Victoria Falls a special economic zone for tourism, which means that investors will get incentives to put their money in the resort town. It also comes at a time when Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi has plans for a $300 million “Disneyland” in Zimbabwe.