Footsteps Through Time

Footsteps Through Time
A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls - www.zambezibookcompany.com

Friday, 31 December 2010

Rainforest Cafe at Victoria Falls receives UNESCO stamp of approval

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Gill Staden

(eTN) - The United Nations Education and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) has endorsed the Rainforest Cafe that was constructed at the entrance of the Victoria Falls rainforest, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr. Sylvester Maunganidze, has said. The development means that the World Heritage Status of the rainforest is not under threat from delisting.

Dr. Maunganidze said the endorsement of the restaurant follows a decision by UNESCO to send a secret mission into the country, which he said found nothing amiss at the facility.
The Rainforest Cafe has been closed for a month after the National Museums and Monuments (NMMZ) unilaterally took over control of the rainforest from the long-time managers, the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (NPWMA). At the same time, park rangers were also booted out of office. The two government entities are fighting each other for control of the entrance at one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which rakes in about US$7,000 daily, and the restaurant was caught in the crossfire.
In an interview at the resort town of Victoria Falls, Dr. Maunganidze said UNESCO convened a meeting in Livingstone, Zambia, to discuss the conservation program at Victoria Falls among other issues. He stated: “UNESCO had picked from the media that there were some fights around the restaurant with NMMZ claiming that the facility should not be there as it was in violation of UNESCO protocol and that it was disturbing the skyline of the falls.
“So out of that meeting, UNESCO sent a secret mission on Monday to see the restaurant, and the mission later reported that there was nothing amiss, adding that it was not interfering with the WHS.
“UNESCO also had never complained about the restaurant as some elements in the local and international media were claiming. UNESCO even quoted a local non-governmental organization that was raising the dust, and one wonders on whose behalf they were raising dust. In fact, UNESCO concluded that the restaurant was adding value to the falls.”
He added that UNESCO and his ministry had no qualms over the operation of the restaurant noting that a directive by Vice President Nkomo for the status quo of the facility to remain should be followed.
“My ministry gave the operator, Shearwater Adventures, a licence to operate and would see to it that they re-open soon. I am taking the matter up to Vice President Nkomo who gave a directive last month for the status quo to remain at the rainforest,” he said. Trouble started when NMMZ tried to control the Victoria Falls rainforest by elbowing out long-time managers, NPWMA. NMMZ also forced the Rainforest Cafe to close.
However, the government took a position that the management of the rainforest reverts to the parks authority. The battle to control the rainforest has been raging behind closed doors for more than a decade.
The area was declared a national monument in 1932 and a national park in 1957 before UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 1989.

Friday, 24 December 2010

UNESCO endorses Victoria falls rainforest restaurant

THE United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (Unesco) has endorsed the restaurant that was constructed at the entrance of the Victoria Falls rainforest (pictured), the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr Sylvester Maunganidze, has said.The development means that the World Heritage Status of the rainforest is not under threat from delisting.
Dr Maunganidze said the endorsement of the restaurant follows a decision by Unesco to send a secret mission into the country on Monday which he said found nothing amiss at the facility.
The restaurant has been closed for a month after the National Museums and Monuments (NMMZ) unilaterally took over the control of the rainforest from the long time managers, the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (NPWMA).At the same time parks rangers were also booted out of office.
The two Government entities are fighting each other for control of the entrance at one of the Seven Wonders of the World which rakes in about US$7 000 daily and the restaurant was caught in the cross fire.
In an interview yesterday in the resort town of Victoria Falls, Dr Maunganidze said Unesco convened a meeting in Livingstone, Zambia, to discuss the conservation programme at Victoria Falls among other issues “Unesco had picked from the media that there were some fights around the restaurant with NMMZ claiming that the facility should not be there as it was in violation of Unesco protocol and that it was disturbing the skyline of the Falls.
“So out of that meeting, Unesco sent a secret mission on Monday to see the restaurant and the mission later reported that there was nothing amiss, adding that it was not interfering with the WHS.
“Unesco also had never complained about the restaurant as some elements in the local and international media were claiming,” he said.“Unesco even quoted a local non-governmental organisation that was raising the dust and one wonders on whose behalf they were raising dust. In fact, Unesco concluded that the restaurant was adding value to the Falls.”
He noted that Unesco and his ministry had no qualms over the operation of the restaurant noting that a directive by Vice President Nkomo for the status quo of the facility to remain should be followed.
“My ministry gave the operator Shearwater Adventures a licence to operate and would see to it that they re-open soon.“I am taking the matter up to Vice President Nkomo who gave a directive last month for the status quo to remain at the rainforest,” he said.Trouble started when NMMZ tried to control the Victoria Falls rainforest by elbowing out long-time managers NPWMA.NMMZ also forced the restaurant to close.
However, the Government took a position that the management of the rainforest reverts to the parks authority. The battle to control the rainforest has been raging behind closed doors for more than a decade.
The area was declared a national monument in 1932 and a national park in 1957 before Unesco designated it a World Heritage Site in 1989.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Multi-million dollar mall to be built in Vic Falls

A multi-million dollar "one stop" shopping mall is set to be built in Victoria Falls next year.



Plans for the construction of the upmarket mall are at an advanced stage.

Construction of Mosi-oa-Tunya Gateway Shopping Mall is expected to begin early next year.

The Bulawayo managing partner of Knight Frank Zimbabwe, Mr Oswald Nyakunika, said his company had been mandated to put together a balanced tenant mix that would reflect the exciting theme of the centre.

The marketing of the centre will be spearheaded and managed by Knight Frank.
Calwood Investments Private Limited is funding the project.

"A new development is going to take place in Victoria Falls. We are ready to take off anytime and we are just finalising details on anchor tenants. An impressively designed shopping mall, is targeted at the progressive retailer and discerning shopper to enjoy a world class African shopping experience.

"The developer is Calwood Investments and is very excited about the project which will transform and take shopping to a new level in Victoria Falls. The project has already been approved by all parties concerned," he said.

Murray and Roberts would undertake the construction of the project and the site for the construction has been identified.

"Murray and Roberts have extensive experience in delivering high quality and sustainable projects and would deliver this project within nine months of commissioning. Mosi-oa-Tunya Gateway Shopping Mall is appropriately located at the corner of Livingstone Way and Kazungula Road at the entrance to Victoria Falls town. The development will be highly visible and abutting these major roads from Kazungula, Bulawayo and the airport into town," Mr Nyakunika said.

The location of the shopping mall in a town characterised by the mighty thundery of the Victoria Falls would definitely boost the country's tourism industry.

The shopping mall would offer 36 shops ranging from 40 square metres to 1 800 square metres on ground and first floor.

Mr Nyakunika said the shopping mall could accommodate a full complement of shops such as pharmacies, banks, clothing stores, hardware and electrical appliance shops.

"The large anchor shop is approximately 1 800 square metres and can accommodate a large retail warehouse, a wholesale cash and carry, superstore or large supermarket whose catchment area is in excess of 100 kilometres, supporting the entire region of Victoria Falls and the nearby towns of Hwange and Lupane, as well as Livingstone in Zambia, Kasane in Botswana and Kazungula at the borders of Zambia, Botswana and Namibia," he said.

"The shopping mall's elegant design is characteristic to the preserved natural environment in which it is set. The open-air food courts, restaurants and courtyards, wide verandas and shop fronts create both a tasteful and an inviting experience.

"The developers of this prestigious project invite prospective tenants to indicate their interest and showcase their product and service offering to Knight Frank who are the appointed marketing agents," said Mr Nyakunika.

Source: Multi-million dollar mall to be built in Vic Falls (09/12/10)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Mall Development proposed


Developers of a shopping mall in Victoria Falls (pictured and the wildlife in the area) have invited businesses to forward their input into the building of the structure which they say would take shopping to a new level in Zimbabwe's premier resort town. The Mosi-oa-Tunya Gateway Shopping Mall, that will accommodate shops of all sizes, is being developed by Calwood Investments Private Limited, through their project managers, Knight Frank, who have invited prospective tenants to indicate their interest.

Knight Frank managing partner in Bulawayo, Oswald Nyakunika, said the shopping mall would be located at the intersection of Livingstone Way and Kazungula Road at the entrance to Victoria Falls town.

"The development will be highly visible and abutting these major roads from Kazungula, Bulawayo and the airport into town," Nyakunika said. He said with store sizes ranging from 40 square metres to 1 800 square metres, the shopping mall would accommodate a full complement of shops from pharmacies to banks, to restaurants, clothing stores, hardware and electrical appliances shops.

"Customers will also have access to curio and art wares, medical suites, tour operators and travel agents, as well as an Internet cafe," he said.The largest shop will be approximately 1 800 square metres and can accommodate a large retail warehouse, a wholesale cash and carry, superstore or large supermarket.The mall is expected to service Victoria Falls and the nearby towns of Hwange and Lupane, as well as Livingstone in Zambia, Kasane in Botswana and Kazungula at the borders of Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

The estate agent expert said amenities would include ample parking in a secure environment, tastefully designed street furniture, vendor stalls and shopping benches. "The shopping mall is expected to be a blue tooth and Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing patrons to be in touch with the centre events and surf the web free of charge," said Nyakunika. He said what makes the town attractive is that it is the centre of attraction in a vast tourist region that straddles across the borders of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

"Victoria Falls has a local population of 65 000 inhabitants complemented by tourist arrivals estimated at 300 000 per year and forecast to reach 1 million per year by 2015," he said. The development by Calwood Investments is a giant step as the property market lumbers on a recovery path after a decade of struggling.

On the state of the property market in the country, Nyakunika said development had been affected by the liquidity crunch. "Even though development costs have stabilised there is a severe liquidity crisis and as such there are very few development projects going on. This huge development that we are undertaking is one of the few in the country," he said. Nyakunika said they were hoping to marry the staying power of the property market with the allure of the tourism sector.

Controversy over development near Victoria Falls

Environmentalists are complaining that the tour company Shearwater Adventures has violated national and international law by expanding their luxury resort into the rainforest near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Shearwater has constructed a new restaurant, bar, kitchen, and information center next to the public entrance to the World Heritage Site. A lawyer for Shearwater insists the development is a legal replacement of earlier structures that had fallen into disrepair and that none of the new buildings go outside the area already reserved for facilities. Opponents to the construction contend that the buildings are on a much larger scale than the previous ones and are forbidden by a 2007 moratorium. This was put in place after UNESCO threaten to rescind Victoria Falls’ World Heritage status after a local businessman tried to build a hotel and golf course in the World Heritage zone.

Without being on the ground it’s hard to say if who’s telling the truth here. Last week The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe ordered that no new construction take place. It is now running the site along with the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, which used to have sole authority. The government is currently trying to decide which body will run the Falls.

As this shakeup is going on, conservationists say Shearwater is planning a giant $6 million development next to the VIP entrance to the Falls. This will include a complex of buildings close enough to the Falls to threaten its World Heritage status. There’s also worry about the development’s location only a few yards from the Zambezi River.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Victoria Falls bridge set to last another 100 years

THE Victoria Falls Bridge, situated close to one of the country’s world-renowned tourist attractions, is in a position to last a hundred more years if its custodians stick to maintenance recommendations, an official has said.


In an interview with Sunday Business on Wednesday last week, the Emerged Railway Properties’ engineer, Mr Herbert Dvinotyiwei, noted that when the bridge turned a hundred years old a few years back, they sought services of consultants who made recommendations which if followed it can last for 100 more years.


“A few years back when the bridge turned 100 years old, we made consultations with our consultants and they gave us recommendations and said if we follow them well, it can last for the next 100 years,” he said.


Mr Dvinotyiwei said the recommendations include surface treatment of the steel, replacement of the footway, the roadway and the railway decks, the installation of concrete barriers, traffic lights, the drainage system and the foundation of the maintenance walkway.

He said they have, however, managed to go through some of the recommendations except for the replacement of the three decks that will cost more than US$1.9 million.


“So far we have installed the concrete barriers and done the other recommendations but we are left with the replacement of the railway deck which will cost close to US$800 000, that of the footway deck costing US$300 000 and the roadway deck which will also cost US$800 000,” he said.
Mr Dvinotyiwei said as from September until March next year, they will surface treat the steel on the bridge. They are painting the bridge to fight corrosion.


“As from September this year, we have been busy with the surface treatment of the steel whereby we are painting them so as to fend off corrosion. This will take up to March next year when the showers intensify making it impossible to paint and then we will resume again around July,” he said.
Mr Dvinotyiwei said they are appealing to all stakeholders to come forward and assist in the maintenance of the bridge as it benefits all of them.


“This is an appeal to say look, this is an asset that helps both you and us so if there is a way you can assist please come forward and do so,” he said.

Source: Victoria Falls bridge set to last another 100 years (Nov 2010)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Rich pickings at Vic Falls

VICTORIA FALLS - The government has rebuffed calls from environmentalists to boot out a company that has constructed a restaurant and curio shop in the core zone of the magnificent Victoria Falls world heritage site.

The tour operator, Shearwater Adventures, was last month granted permission by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to construct a restaurant and start selling curios right in the core of the Victoria Falls rainforest. Environmentalists have expressed concern about the impact of the development on the conservation status of the Victoria Falls, one of the world’s seven natural wonders, and the livelihoods of more than 100 poor curio vendors and their families who were earning a living selling curios outside the rainforest.

The vendors from Ema Doyilini, Busy Island, Sinathankawu and Rainforest are complaining that they have been robbed of a living. Said one environmentalist: “The beautiful angels that David Livingstone talked about when he first saw the Falls must be weeping in their flight as they see this beautiful national asset taking its first step towards its demise. Imagine a restaurant in the Great Enclosure of the Great Zimbabwe monument? Yes you can’t believe it. But its happening in Victoria Falls. The Lozi, Toka Leya, Tonga and Nambya speaking people handed it down to our generation undisturbed. Is this the legacy that we want to hand over to our children?” The Zimbabwean understands the National Museums and Monuments had ordered Shearwater to get out of the rainforest saying its construction was in breach of UNESCO regulations. But this quasi government department has now been sanctioned, and authority over the Falls has now reverted back exclusively to the more pliant Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Environmentalists insist the tussle over control of the Victoria Falls monument is being fuelled by the rich pickings amid reports it earns an average of US$7 000 a day in gate takings. The permanent secretary in the ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Sylvester Maunganidze said Shearwater was staying put and claimed its development of a kitchen, top class restaurant and bar, plus a converted and expanded information centre in the rainforest was done in accordance with government regulations.

“It is time the country fully utilises its vast natural endowment for economic growth especially tourism,” he said. “From a tourism point of view, the building of the pole and thatch restaurant at the gate to the Victoria falls is ideal as before requests had been put forward by tourists that they need a resting place near the waterfall.” To buttress Shearwater’s controversial development, the permanent secretary has produced a government communiqu, inked by the Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Ray Ndhlukula giving back the management of the Victoria Falls to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority until any recommended changes are approved by Cabinet.

Paul Connolly, a legal advisor to Shearwater, said in a statement: There are UNESCO regulations pertaining to the site. The UNESCO regulations say, among other things, that there should be no developments in an area which is not already designated a facilities area. Shearwater has simply improved and developed infrastructure within the physical parameters of the buildings that have been in existence for a long time. This is already a developed area and Shearwater did not go an inch outside that designated area.

Source: Rich pickings at Vic Falls (17/11/10)





Monday, 15 November 2010

Parks, Museums fight over Vic Falls

THE National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe has failed in its daring bid to wrest management of the Victoria falls from the Parks and Wildlife Authority.

Ministers have ordered Museums to back-off after the department’s officials stormed the Victoria Falls Rainforest last week and hoisted their own flag before seeking to replace Parks rangers.

The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (NPWMA) has been in charge of the Victoria Falls Rainforest since 1937. The Victoria Falls was declared a national monument in 1932, and earned the UNESCO classification as a World Heritage Site in 1989. The Authority takes receipts of US$2,5 million annually from visitors to one of the world’s most majestic waterfalls.

After a week-long standoff with Museums, the Parks’ director general, Vitalis Chadenga, said Friday that cabinet had restored them as the sole managers of the Victoria Falls.

He told reporters: “National Parks as well as the Museums and Monuments are all institutions of the State.

“The government has taken a position that the management of the rainforest reverts back to Parks and therefore compliance is expected.

“Status quo remains and should continue as such.”

Museums officials had tried to take control after claiming that the Victoria Falls, as a national monument, was under the Home Affairs Ministry, while the Parks Authority is superintended by the Environment and Natural Resources Management Ministry. The dispute has been ongoing since 2007.

The fight reached a crescendo in October this year when the Home Affairs Ministry – which is in charge of the police -- wrote to Cabinet advising that it was “bringing the long-drawn matter to closure”.

Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Melusi Matshiya said in a letter to Misheck Sibanda, the Cabinet Secretary: “Effectively, the (Parks) authority has thrown away all efforts and initiatives that government put into the matter with a view to amicably solving the dispute.

"In view of the current circumstances, and noting that efforts to resolve the impasse, through negotiation and mutual understanding continue to yield no results, the Ministry of Home Affairs wishes to bring this long-drawn matter to closure by simply enforcing the legal position as advised by the Attorney General.

"In this regard, the Zimbabwe Republic Police is now being requested to intervene for purposes of facilitating the peaceful enforcement of National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe management rights at the Victoria Falls.

"Intransigence cannot be allowed unchecked ad infinitum. Also, being accommodative cannot be seen as a weakness, particularly over so many years of patience.” And days after that letter, dated October 10, police arrived at the Rainforest with Museums officials to enforce the threatened take-over.

Sibanda responded by re-releasing a 2007 letter to reaffirm Parks as the department in charge of Zimbabwe’s premier tourist destination.

In the letter, Sibanda stated: "Please be advised that at the 23rd meeting held on 10th July 2007, Cabinet resolved that there be integrated management and conservation of Victoria Falls, World Heritage Site.

"As such, the suggested takeover of the management of the site by the Ministry of Home Affairs is at variance with the decision of Cabinet.”

Source: Parks, Museums fight over Vic Falls  (12/11/10)

Victoria Falls heritage status threatened

One of Africa’s most famous landmarks, Victoria Falls, is in danger of losing its status as a world heritage site following the construction of a restaurant and curio shop in the ­adjacent rainforest, which has sparked loud protests from Zimbabwean environmentalists.
Zambian authorities have also been dragged into the fray, as Zambia and Zimbabwe jointly administer the site under a management plan signed in 2007 that set guidelines for the management and protection of the rainforest and prohibits new development there.
According to the NGO Environment Africa (EA), a Zimbabwean company, Shearwater Private, started developing the zone, building a kitchen, restaurant, bar and curio shop, after getting the green light from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Charlene Hewat, the EA’s chief executive, said: “We support new and sustainable development but not at the expense of the environment. The issue with this particular development is that national and international laws governing the sanctity of a world heritage site have been breached.”
Legislation governing such sites prevents new developments taking place to prevent congestion and the overstay of visitors.
Unesco first listed the falls as a world heritage site in 1989. Its status came under threat in 2007 when the United Nations agency accused Zimbabwe of “mismanagement and overdevelopment” of the site.
“A world heritage site is governed by very strict laws and, if they are transgressed, Unesco certainly has the right to revoke the status — Once again there is a very real ­possibility of that ­happening,” said Hewat.
Political deals 
It is understood that Shearwater, in partnership with the wildlife authority, initially proposed upgrading only existing facilities, which comprise an information centre, ablution blocks and food and beverage amenities. But green activists say the company has built new infrastructure.
Speculation is mounting that Zanu-PF bigwigs, known to have a large portfolio of businesses in the resort town, may have influenced the authority’s decision to allow Shearwater to build, contrary to regulations.
“This matter smacks of political dealing, with someone high up trying to strengthen his or her hand in business,” said one environmentalist, who requested anonymity.
Asked for comment, Francis Nhema, Zimbabwe’s environment minister, said: “I’ve sent my officer to check on what’s happening in the Victoria Falls, as I’m also anxious about developments there and will issue a response when the official has given me feedback.”
Local stakeholders and residents of Victoria Falls said they were not consulted about the development.
At a crisis meeting at the offices of the municipal board in October, the Environmental Management Authority of Victoria Falls decided to mount a legal challenge to force the government to cancel Shearwater’s operating licence.
Nhema said: “All stakeholders have to be involved. If that wasn’t the case then there’s definitely a problem.”

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Vic Falls municipality dumps raw sewage into Zambezi

The Victoria Falls municipality has been dumping raw sewage into the Zambezi River for over a year, after allegedly failing to deal with waste emanating from two of the country’s world renowned hotels — Victoria Falls and Kingdom.
The hotels are located on low-lying land and are not connected to the town’s sewer system because of gradient, meaning a powerful pump is needed to channel sewerage from the hotels up the gradient.
Instead, pipes have been laid to carry and pour sewage into the mighty river, between Rapid Four and Six. The area is popular with tourists for white water rafting.
Although senior council officials who included the mayor, town clerk, director of engineering services and public relations manager were reluctant to comment, sources in the resort town said the authorities had cited lack of financial resources for the failure to deal with the sewage problem.
A council official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed yesterday that raw sewage has been channelled into the river for more than a year now.
He said the pipes which linked the hotels to the municipality’s sewerage ponds had broken down resulting in effluent flowing into the river.
Africa Sun chief executive officer Shingi Munyeza professed ignorance over the issue and referred questions to the Victoria Falls Municipality, while the hotels’ management refused to comment.
“The best persons to comment would be the council. They are the ones who handle sewage,” Munyeza said.
Victoria Falls mayor Nkosilathi Jihane referred questions to the town’s engineer Sheren Sibanda.
However, Sibanda refused to comment, politely saying her job “is not to speak to the Press”.
She further referred questions to the municipality’s public relations manager, Nqabutho Moyo, who requested questions in writing.
After receiving the questions, he passed the matter to the town clerk, Godfrey Maphosa.
Maphosa was said to be in meetings most of yesterday before he was later said to have left the office.
NewsDay, however, has pictures taken two weeks ago of the raw effluent spilling into the river.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Urban sprawl threatens Vic Falls

A massive $6 million planned structure next to the rainforest’s VIP entrance could cause uproar with environmentalists, already seething with anger over an open-air restaurant built at the public entrance.
The development is seen as a threat to the natural settings of the rainforest which could result in Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, losing its World Heritage status.
Documents at hand showed the grand plan by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) and Shearwater, a private adventure company, which established a restaurant, merchandising and information kiosk at the entrance, is to construct a massive complex, including an auditorium and conference room, at the VIP entrance.
The parties signed a 29-year-long build, operate and transfer agreement, which commenced on September 1 2009 and will run until 2038, for the VIP entrance project.
ZPWMA will own the property at the expiry of the agreement. According to the memorandum of agreement between ZPWMA and Shearwater’s parent company, Innscor Africa Limited (IAL), the latter shall provide retail and merchandise, photographic and DVD production and sales, food and beverage and transport (eco-friendly electric soundless golf carts for the elderly and invalids), at the property.
IAL will also run a DVD auditorium and conference room. In addition, the company will show documentaries on the geology, history and the 12-month cycle of the Victoria Falls.
IAL will provide funding for the project while the authority shall “ensure that the project is acceptable by all local, national and regional stakeholders . . . ensure that the project management committee and the Unesco World Heritage Committee concur with the developments”.
Environment and Natural Resources Development minister Francis Nhema has already approved the project.
The revelations came at a time environmentalists and the business community in the premier tourism centre are campaigning to have the developments at the public entrance reversed, arguing that they were disturbing the rainforest ecosystem.
Victoria Falls was declared a national monument in 1937, a protected area in 1952 and a World Heritage site in 1989.
The VIP entrance project, which should commence soon and be completed in 2012, has courted controversy given that construction will start a few metres from the banks of the Zambezi River.
Shearwater public relations manager Clement Mukwasi confirmed the VIP entrance project but said his organisation would ensure that it was done in an environmentally friendly way.
“The VIP gate is a commitment we have entered into. We have a contract and we are going to develop the place. We don’t expect negativity on the project because we have learnt our lessons and we will consult all the stakeholders in a manner they want us to,” he said.
However, Environment Africa chief executive officer Charlene Hewat, whose organisation has embarked on an intensive campaign against the open-air restaurant project, said the rainforest was in danger because of the developments.
She said there was need for wide consultations and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be carried out before the project was approved.
Hewat said the open-air restaurant was against the Zimbabwe-Zambia joint management plan of 2007 which put “a complete moratorium on the construction and development of all tourism infrastructure, facilities or services within the World Heritage zone”.
The management plan was put in place when Unesco threatened to delist the rainforest after a Zambian investor tried to build a hotel and golf course on the shores of the Zambezi River.
Hewat said when the original project was submitted to stakeholders for approval it was presented as an upgrade of existing infrastructure.
She said a proper EIA was not done.
“However the final development was of a much larger scale, with the building of new infrastructure and by so doing, governing legislation has been breached and the stark reality is we could once again be faced with the threat of being delisted.”
Mukwasi however said the open-air restaurant project was above board and that all stakeholders, including Environment Africa and the business community, some of whom were now speaking against the project, were advised of and approved the project.
He said the opposition was part of business politics and had nothing to do with the environment.
“The uproar is caused by mainly competitors; it’s not an environmental issue. Environment Africa was consulted, they endorsed the project and it was built in their presence. From June to September when we were constructing we had no complaints.
Complaints filtered in on September 27 when we had a trial run. I think people should be ethical enough to accept competition,” he said.
Mukwasi said measures had been taken to preserve the environment including a “comprehensive” EIA, adding that all known existing legislation was followed.
“The restaurant was constructed between two existing buildings which are the toilets and information areas. It’s not in the rainforest. It’s a refurbishment of the entry to the rainforest. The material used (pole and thatch) blends with the environment. The colours blend well, the seating capacity is reasonably small,” he said.
“The buildings are within tree height, and in fact, they have beautified the entrance to the rainforest. There also has to be a distinction between a core zone and a buffer zone; we built in a buffer zone and it’s allowed.”
Despite the controversy surrounding the project the restaurant is popular with tourists.
The visitors’ book only has one negative comment in which one tourist felt that the food was too expensive.
Source: Urban sprawl threatens Vic Falls (09/11/2010)

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Boat sinks in Zambezi River

No-one was injured and no tourists were on board. The boat captain and two crew members were testing it when the accident occurred.

The police officer commanding Victoria Falls, Chief Superintendent Regis Munya-radzi, on Monday said, “We received a report and the concerned party has enlisted the services of our sub-aqua unit to retrieve the boat from the river.”

The boat is lodged in the gorges beneath the mighty Victoria Falls and people standing on the bridge can see it.

Sources said the boat was supposed to do a pre-run before tourists boarded it.

“The boat rode a wave and the engine just stopped. The boat filled with water and when it started sinking, the crew jumped into the river.

“They swam to the river bank,” said the source.

Late on Monday, the Police Sub-Aqua Unit was still trying to retrieve the boat.

Jet boat cruises are popular with tourists.

Source: Boat sinks in Zambezi River (26/10/10)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Vic Falls on the rebound

After several years of losing ground to Livingstone, Zambia, “Vic Falls” is once again popular and the town can still claim to be the adventure capital of Africa, given the steady supply of adventure activities.

And since the coming in of the inclusive Government, the resort town has witnessed an upsurge in arrivals.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has also indicated that the sector has grown by seven percent this year.

The rise has also been noted by travel magazines and publications of note such as Getaway travel magazine and the gotovictoriafalls.com which are part of stakeholders complementing Government’s efforts in marketing the country regionally and internationally.

According to Getaway magazine, “Vic Falls” is now the place to be as it is very accessible, has beautiful hotels and lodges among packages thus making the destination stand above other destinations.

“Getting there, SAA, BA Comair and Air Zimbabwe fly to Victoria Falls every day. You can also fly into Livingstone in Zambia, from where it is a short transfer across the border to Vic Falls.

“Citizens of South Africa and other Sadc countries don’t need visas to visit,” reads magazine.
According to the gotovictoriafalls.com, safety has never been an issue in the resort town and the country at large. “Friendliness is endemic — a major reality, not an empty word, 70 percent of the views of the Falls are from the Zimbabwean side, the infrastructure of properties and products is as pristine, even better than ever,” reads the publication.

Overland truck companies such as Kananga, Wild Touch, Drifters and Nomad that had relocated to Livingstone are now bringing in tourists straight into Victoria Falls.

Other companies that had also opened offices in Livingstone have also returned here.

Whether one is an adrenalin “junkie” or someone who would rather stroll through the rainforest or admire the sunset on a river cruise, Victoria Falls has something for everyone.

There are more than 50 activities to choose from which include air activities, land activities, water activities and scenic activities. On the other hand, Zambians are also coming here for shopping.

The opening of TM Supermarket brought about competition of the retail sector and prices of basic commodities are now affordable to the extent of attracting Zambians.

Source: Vic Falls on the rebound (13/10/10)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Vic Falls Bridge Company introduces guided tours

The company recently took agents from tour and adventure companies in Victoria Falls on a familiarisation tour of the bridge that straddles the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In an interview at the bridge, the bridge company’s marketing manager, Mrs Sonja Clay, said a visit to the Victoria Falls area was not complete without a trip to Victoria Falls Bridge.

“It is for a good reason that the bridge is the area’s second most visited landmark. Built in 1905, it was at the time the highest railway bridge in the world.

“It is truly a wonder of Victorian engineering and provides striking views of the falls, Batoka Gorge and Zambezi River,” she said.

“Our bridge tour includes a special presentation on the history of the bridge and the men who built it, a guided tour of the bridge, visitor centre and a rare opportunity to walk on the catwalks used in the original construction of the bridge.” She said tours were conducted three times daily at 9.15am, 12.15pm and 3.15pm.

Victoria Falls Bridge was part of Cecil John Rhodes’ dream of a railway line linking the Cape to
Cairo, which was fuelled by investment and speculation about the potential of central Africa. This famous bridge was designed by GA Hobson, and the preliminary calculations were made by Ralph Freeman, who would rise to fame as the designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.
It was built by Cleveland Bridge Company, and cost 72 000 pounds at the time.

Source: Vic Falls Bridge Company introduces guided tours (12/10/10)

Monday, 16 August 2010

Controversy over development near Victoria Falls

Environmentalists are complaining that the tour company Shearwater Adventures has violated national and international law by expanding their luxury resort into the rainforest near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Shearwater has constructed a new restaurant, bar, kitchen, and information center next to the public entrance to the World Heritage Site. A lawyer for Shearwater insists the development is a legal replacement of earlier structures that had fallen into disrepair and that none of the new buildings go outside the area already reserved for facilities. Opponents to the construction contend that the buildings are on a much larger scale than the previous ones and are forbidden by a 2007 moratorium. This was put in place after UNESCO threaten to rescind Victoria Falls’ World Heritage status after a local businessman tried to build a hotel and golf course in the World Heritage zone.

Without being on the ground it’s hard to say if who’s telling the truth here. Last week The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe ordered that no new construction take place. It is now running the site along with the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, which used to have sole authority. The government is currently trying to decide which body will run the Falls.

As this shakeup is going on, conservationists say Shearwater is planning a giant $6 million development next to the VIP entrance to the Falls. This will include a complex of buildings close enough to the Falls to threaten its World Heritage status. There’s also worry about the development’s location only a few yards from the Zambezi River.

Source: Controversy over development near Victoria Falls (14/11/2010)



Monday, 26 July 2010

New tourism venture opened in Vic Falls

Harare – Tourism group Tourvest says its newest venture, a luxury tented camp in its concession in the Victoria Falls National Park costing “just over $1 million” to develop, has already been fully occupied on several days since its opening on July 6 this year. 

Gary Elmes, the chief executive of Tourvest Products, said that although comparatively few tourists were going further into Zimbabwe at this stage, he was investigating opportunities for possible new developments in the country. Pointing out that Victoria Falls had been “like a separate enclave” from the rest of Zimbabwe as far as tourism was concerned, he said instability over the last decade had deterred many leisure travelers from going to other parts of the country. 

However there has been a remarkable change over the last few months. Industry operators are reporting a 50 percent increase in the number of foreign tourists, mostly from Asia, the UK and US, visiting Victoria Falls in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year. Elmes said high air fares to Victoria Falls from South Africa were a deterrent but added numbers could pick up with the recent introduction of a low-cost airline on the route. 

The company’s new Elephant Camp, with a low ecological impact, is in a concession awarded to Wild Horizons Zimbabwe – a division of Tourvest Products – for 10 years. Wild Horizons wildlife sanctuary, established as a trust fund to benefit a number of conservation projects, had helped to translocate zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and impala on to the concession which, Elmes said, had been “heavily impacted by poachers”. He said other animals on the concession included buffalo, kudu, waterbuck and warthog.

Source: New tourism venture opened in Vic Falls (24/07/10)

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

No Threats of Victoria Falls Deregistration by UNESCO

ZAMBIA Tourism Board (ZTB) has reacted to earlier concerns about the state of the Victoria Falls being threatened for deregistration from UNESCO World Heritage list.

“Victoria Falls are not going to be deregistered from the World Heritage UNESCO list. We have in fact submitted the report on the state of the Victoria Falls to UNESCO. You can best be assured that there is no threat, there is no risk. We are even planning to push for more World Heritage Sites to be enlisted especially in the lower Zambezi which is rich in ecology.” ZTB’s Chief Timothy Mushibwe said

Mushibwe made the assurance while responding to a question from Gill Staden, publisher of the Livingstonian, a weekly publication. Gill Staden wanted to know the state of the Victoria Falls which was under threat of deregistration by UNESCO.

Mushibwe guaranteed tourists and the Zambia tour operators that the Victoria Falls was not under any threat of deregistration from the World Heritage list by UNESCO.

The deregistration concerns come following the continued attacks on tourists in Livingstone through muggings along the Mosi-oa-Tunya Road near the Falls.

Zimba-Livingstone road project for completion

Mushibwe has also assured the tourism players that government has stepped up efforts in ensuring that the Zimba-Livingstone road project is completed.

“There is commitment on the part of government that the infrastructure that supports linkages of feeders into the national parks and the Victoria Falls are addressed. There is focus to complete the route which we expect will ease movement, bring down costs of doing business in tourism and promote tourism in the country,” he said.

Source: No Threats of Victoria Falls Deregistration by UNESCO (14/06/10)

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Victoria Falls World Heritage status under threat

The governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe are in a mad scramble to complete a document to be given to UNESCO on the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site. The report was first requested by UNESCO in 2002 and then again in 2006. Various deadlines have been passed and extensions given. The latest deadline of February 1, 2010 has again passed, and UNESCO has received no document.

In 2007, the joint Zambia/Zimbabwe team requested for financial assistance in the amount of US$30,000 to help them to undertake the report. UNESCO gave them this assistance but still has no report.

The private sectors on both sides of the border are very alarmed at their governments’ inability to produce this document. Not only is the report important for the continued luxury of having the Victoria Falls as a World Heritage Site, but it is also important in its content.


UNESCO required the governments to form a Joint Management Team and an Integrated Management Plan for the site. It also requested that certain issues were addressed. The main issue in 2006 was Zambia’s worrying commitment to further development within the site; development which UNESCO felt compromised its beauty and integrity. Other concerns were on invasive species such as lantana and water hyacinth; pollution in the river; the water extraction by Zambia for hydro-electricity generation; and the continued licensing of helicopters, microlights, and other tourism services.

To be fair to both governments, some measures have been undertaken to protect the World Heritage Site. A balloon operation, which started its life in Zimbabwe and then moved over to Zambia, was discontinued. The lantana on the Zambian side is being eradicated with private sector assistance; in the meantime, though, the lantana has become a forest on the Zimbabwe side. Again, on the Zambian side, the water hyacinth problem is being tackled. The development of a hotel on the Zambian side was stopped because of concerns from the private sector but still rumbles on in the background.

The Victoria Falls World Heritage Site was proclaimed in 1989. It covers the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia and the Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe. A buffer zone surrounds the site, which extends to a 30 kilometer radius around the Victoria Falls. When both governments signed the agreement with UNESCO in 1989, they committed themselves to work together for the protection of the Victoria Falls and its surrounding area. It seems that their half-hearted attempts at protection will avail them nothing if they cannot produce one report and work together.

There is a small window for Zambia and Zimbabwe to submit the report before the 2010 session of the World Heritage Committee; all documents have to reach UNESCO by March 15. The scramble to complete the document is to try to meet that date. In the meantime, a large delegation from Zambia’s Ministry of Tourism starts a three-week tour of Europe, visiting London, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid, to promote tourism. As Victoria Falls is Zambia’s main tourist attraction, one can only wonder how this team will explain to the world how Zambia’s main tourist attraction has been downgraded, while they were on a tour to promote it.

Source: Victoria Falls World Heritage status under threat (28/02/10)