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Tuesday 25 December 2012

When is a Christmas bug not a Christmas bug?

... When it's a Christmas cicada. From the Zambezi Traveller, Issue 11, Decemner 2012.
Christmas beetles are a southern hemisphere phenomena, a blessing brought by the summer rains and another reason for seasonal cheer – for some of us, anyway! Across southern Africa various species of cicada of the genus Platypleura are commonly known as Christmas beetles, despite not even being true beetles. Cicadas are amazing insects with incredible life cycles and phenomenal sound making abilities, for which they are often cursed.
Read more: Zambezi Traveller - The Sound of Summer
Zambezi Traveller - The Special Life of Cicadas
Photo Credit: Peter Roberts/The Zambezi Traveller

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Botswana to end sport hunting

From the Zambezi Travller, Issue 11, December 2012.

The President of Botswana, Lt. Gen. Ian Khama, announced in November that from 2014 Botswana will stop commercial hunting of wildlife in public areas.

Read more: Zambezi Traveller - Botswana to end sport hunting

Saturday 15 December 2012

Mining in Lower Zambezi Park thrown out

From the Zambezi Traveller, Issue 11, December 2012

In a landmark decision, the Zambia Environmental Management Agency has rejected mining activities in the Lower Zambezi National Park, under the Environmental Management Act of 2011. Despite the ruling, Zambezi Resources, the developers behind the proposed mining development, have lodged an appeal to the Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.

Red more: Zambezi Traveller: Mining in the Park thrown out

Zambia suspends timber licences to protect forests

Lusaka Times
10 November 2012

Government has, with immediate effect, suspended all timber licences to protect the depleting forests around the country.

Meanwhile, Parliament heard yesterday that over 25 million trees equivalent to 20,000 hectares will be planted during the 2012/2013 tree planting season countrywide to help address depleting forests due to increased deforestation.

Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister, Wylbur Simuusa said the programme would be implemented through the launch of the National Tree Planting Programme (NTPP). Mr Simuusa said the NTPP, once fully rolled out, could create over 200,000 jobs while the first phase of establishing 11 large scale forest nurseries and community ones could create over 6,000 jobs countrywide.

“There is urgent need Mr Speaker, for a serious concerted effort to address this very serious situation and for the first time in 30 years, your Patriotic Front (PF) Government in line with its manifesto has taken a bold step to address the depleting forest resources by funding my ministry with an initial amount of K12 billion,” he said.

Among other tree species to be planted in different parts of the country include, pinus and eucalyptus for timber, poles and resins, faldherbia albida for animal fodder, nitrogen fixing, firewood, moringa oleifera for medicine and oil and fruits trees.

Mr Simuusa said the purpose of funding was to establish 11 large scale tree nurseries in all 10 provinces and one at the Forestry Research Centre in Kitwe. He said the funding would raise 17,500,000 tree seedlings in 11 large scale forest nurseries countrywide by December 15, 2012 and would engage about 5,000 local people during production.

He said the funding would assist in developing an out-grower scheme to produce 8 million seedlings countrywide valued at K 1 billion which would involve chiefs, schools, churches and other stakeholders. At provincial level, he said, the nursery size could be two to three hectares per district, 1,550 tonnes of soil collected for nursery while 452 workers would be engaged in each province and at the Forest Research Centre. Central Province would have 700 hectares, Copperbelt 5,000, Eastern 2,700, Luapula 5,000, Lusaka 4,000, Muchinga 10,000, Northern 5,000, Northwestern 5,000, Southern 3,000, and Western 5, 000.

Read more here.

Friday 14 December 2012

Livingstone's Lechwe

When David Livingstone reached Linyanti on the banks of the Chobe in 1851, he not only found the upper reaches of the Zambezi, but also large numbers of a species of spiral-horned antelope specially adapted to the seasonally flooded marshlands, the lechwe (Kobus leche). Livingstone had been the first to describe this species to science when he became the first European to reach Lake Ngami in 1849, and he later discovered another subspecies when he travelled upstream and into Kafue Flats.
Read more: The Zambezi Traveller: Livingstone's Lechwe
Photo Credit: Zambezi Traveller

Monday 1 October 2012

New lodge for Victoria Falls

African Luxury Hideaways has announced the addition of two new properties in Zimbabwe to its collection: The Victoria Falls Cliff Tops Lodge and Elephant’s Eye, Hwange National Park.

“We have recently been awarded a concession in Victoria Falls overlooking the Zambezi Gorge, as well as a private concession in the heart of the Hwange National Park,” said Garth Jenman, Owner of Jenman Safaris.

African Luxury Hideaways is a separate brand to Jenman African Safaris, but 100% owned by Jenman African Safaris, and was created to market existing up-market properties throughout Southern Africa.

“We feel that the time is right to take the next step and add our own lodges to this portfolio. We have gained valuable experience in the tourism industry over the past 20 years and strongly feel that our aim to offer truly eco-style sustainable lodges, without compromising the traveller’s experience is what the market is looking for. All our lodges will allow our customers to experience barefoot luxury in different parts of Southern Africa. We have seen a great demand for unique and natural experiences that are eco-friendly and not overpriced,” said Jenman.

Both lodges will have eight chalets with en-suite bathrooms, reception area, restaurant and bar areas, a lounge area and swimming pools. Eco-friendly sustainable materials will be used. “We plan to put in natural swimming pools that will use reed beds to filter the water, and solar power for heating water as well as for lighting. A local farmer in the area has agreed to supply us with all the vegetables for the lodge.

“With all our projects we will be employing locals and training locals to supply us with fresh produce as much as possible. Our aim is to provide healthy meals, not the typical heavy safari meals – so the kitchen will receive special attention too. We look forward to adding to the growth in tourism to Zimbabwe by developing the first eco lodges in the country and promise to keep you updated in the upcoming months,” he concluded.

Construction will start on October 1 and both lodges will be complete by the end of April 2013.

Saturday 29 September 2012

Tourists fined for stealing boat

The trio was convicted of two counts of contravening Section 116 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23 (unlawful borrowing or use of property) and contravening Section 129 (1) (3) as read with Section 37 (1) (b) of the Parks and Wildlife Regulations 1262/1990 of the Parks and Wildlife Act, Chapter 20:12 (using a vessel during the night).

Trzcinski, Dabrowski and Perini were convicted on their own plea of guilty. For the first count, they were each fined $200 (or four months in prison) and $300 each (or five months in prison) for the second count. It was the State case as presented by the prosecutor, Miss Namatai Ngwashi, that on 23 September at around 4pm, the three tourists arrived in Victoria Falls from South Africa and were booked at A ‘Zambezi River Lodge.

At 11pm, the trio went to Zambezi Fishing Safaris jetty along the Zambezi River. While at the jetty they untied a fishing boat which was docked, belonging to Mr Cornelis Jacob Gelduys of House Number 550 Aerodrome, Victoria Falls, who is the director of Zambezi Fishing Safaris and peddled it into the Zambezi River waters, putting the boat to use without the complainant’s authority. After peddling for about two hours, Trzcinski, Dabrowski and Perini returned the boat to the jetty. The hotel authorities discovered the offence and alerted the police at Victoria Falls leading to their arrest. The boat is valued at $6 000 and was recovered.

Source: Tourists fined for stealing boat  (28/09/12)

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Mosi oa Tunya’s dreams go up in smoke

Many residents hoped for jobs and that the infrastructure that would be constructed and left behind for life after UNWTO would change the face of their town.

However, with reports that a major project — the proposed convention centre that was supposed to house two hotels, a conference centre to accommodate more than 5 000 delegates and a shopping mall, would no longer be constructed — the zeal in some residents over the assembly has markedly gone down.

There were great expectations that hundreds of unemployed youths and those with qualifications like Class One builders would be employed.

There were great expectations that individuals’ status in society would improve for those who would have secure employment.

Residents were dreaming big, hoping and praying that the proposed developments would really change their lives as they anticipated that as locals, they would be the ones to provide all the much needed labour for the projects.

But the unemployed are losing patience. Only a few builders will be engaged for the expansion project of the Victoria Falls District Hospital.

To stakeholders, to the general residents, there is a feeling that dreams of a new Victoria Falls are slowly coming to an end.

Soon after Zimbabwe and Zambia won the bid, Victoria Falls was said to be poised for a major uplift ahead of the general assembly.

There were reports that the Government had raised more than $200 million for different projects earmarked for the resort town.

At the same time, there were revelations that some regional financial institutions had availed tailor-made loan facilities for refurbishment of infrastructure.

According to stakeholders giving presentations during a meeting early this year, resources had been put in place for the expansion and refurbishment of Victoria Falls District Hospital into a state-of-the-art institution, upgrading Victoria Falls International Airport, relocation of the dumpsite, provision of dust bins for every household, television and radio access and the rehabilitation of the sewer and water reticulation systems, among other major projects.

And for a hospitality sector that has over the past six to seven years failed to refurbish because of the challenges ranging from unavailability of credit lines and unavailability of attractive loans from banks, this was a great opportunity to ride the wave and get the assistance to upgrade.

Reports were that the Government had released $70 million under the Zimbabwe Economic and Trade Revival facility to benefit players in the tourism industry.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe was said to have been given a $150 million lifeline for the expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport runway, a new terminal and tower.

The Government was said to have also released $2,5 million for the rehabilitation of trunk roads, $822 000 for the rehabilitation of council roads, $6,9 million for the upgrading of Victoria Falls Hospital and other health facilities.

For upgrading of Victoria Falls water supply, Zinwa and Victoria Falls Municipality were allocated about $15 million.

Works included upgrading of the water sewer plant, construction of a 1 000-cubic metre reservoir for Mkhosana and the rehabilitation and expansion of sewer ponds.

The International Development Bank of South Africa was also said to have come up with a $30 million facility to be accessed through the International Development Bank of Zimbabwe.

It is now almost a year since the country won the bid in South Korea to co-host the mega event which according to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr Sylvester Maunganidze, was the only chance this generation had of hosting the conference as the next time was likely to be after 300 years.

“So we have to make the best out of it. UN is a member-state organisation and over 100 plus sovereign countries, all members of the UN visiting us, it therefore becomes a diplomatic engagement and therefore the need for diplomatic expectations. We are therefore ambassadors of the country and everything we do should be in the best interest of the country,” he said recently.
Dr Maunganidze added that Zimbabwe had it all in terms of attractions, the people and the infrastructure.

“What therefore is remaining are the little details, the finishing touches like clean rooms without mosquitoes or lice, clean cutlery and availability of needles, buttons, toothbrushes in the rooms for the guests. They are the little things that count,” he said.

Unfortunately while that might be true, there is really nothing on the ground to show that the country is ready to host the event.

Week in, week out government officials report that there is progress taking place and that things are shaping up but in reality, nothing is happening.

While no one is disputing the fact that what won the bid was not new structures but the existing infrastructure, and that Rooney’s went and showcased its state-of-the-art tents which they said accommodate over 3 000 people, with air-condition, perfect lighting and all, residents, stakeholders especially of Victoria Falls had the idea that after the UNWTO, there would be left a legacy, there would be left infrastructure, borne out of the general assembly.

But now, the only tangible thing is part of the pre-cast wall that is being constructed at the Victoria Falls District Hospital.

Yet others are contending that construction of a beautiful wall before the wards are extended, before a new theatre is put in place, any machinery is bought is like putting the cart before the horse.
Residents say that an audit currently taking place should end sooner rather than later so that the construction continues.

At is stands; work towards the refurbishment of the hospital has been brought to a halt after the hospital staff allegedly refused to pay suppliers of services.

The hospital authorities are said to be querying the tender processes that saw a lot of Victoria Falls-based companies getting tenders to supply the institution with various services for the first time in a number of years.

The Mayor of Victoria Falls who is also the UNWTO Local Organising Committee chairperson, Councilor Nkosilathi Jiyane said work at the hospital shall remain stalled until an audit is carried out on how tenders were awarded.

“We hope that work shall resume soon. At the moment nothing is happening there because some staff queried the tender process and as a result, many people who had supplied building material and other goods to the hospital were not paid and they had to stop work.

“Work is supposed to include refurbishment of wards, construction of a new block, putting up of a pre-cast wall and medical supplies,” he said.

On the convention centre, Clr Jiyane said that was no longer going to be done within time for the UNWTO conference next year but shall, instead be a long term project.

“The Government had wanted to construct a convention centre for the UNWTO conference but now we are instead going to come up with a semi-permanent conference facility near the CHOGM Park and it is going to be constructed by a South African company that was involved in the construction of World Cup stadiums in that country.

“The temporary structure can last up to about 25 years and it takes six months to put up. We are therefore within time for the UNWTO conference,” he added.

Residents said when the country hosted (Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting) CHOGM in the late 1990’s, the raw water pumping system was revamped and to this day they attribute its existence to the Commonwealth event. They also said ablution blocks for school children were constructed at Chamabondo Primary School which was hosting some delegates.

They reckon that the UNWTO is most likely to benefit hotels and tour companies and leave no lasting memory for them.

“We thought there would be so much development ahead of the general assembly but with less than a year to go, there is really nothing for us. We thought we would be employed even for menial work but zero.

“Most of the employees doing the wall at Victoria Falls District Hospital are employed by that Bulawayo company that won the tender. So really, there isn’t anything for us,” said Mr Bhekimpilo Siziba from Chinotimba Township.

A tourism operator who spoke on condition of anonymity said operators had failed to access funds from any local and regional banks which promised to assist them so that they could recapitalise.
“If there are facilities, tell me. We had hoped for facilities that have low interest rates but there is nothing like that out there.

“That’s why even if you go around Victoria Falls no one really is refurbishing or has beefed up tour vehicles.

“On top of that, Statutory Instrument (SI) 124 and 125 put in place for us to recapitalise is not there. Zimra at the border says it expired while on the other hand, government officials say that it is there. So there is no facility for the tourism sector players to recapitalise,” said a tour operator.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, chief operating officer, Mr Givemore Chidzidzi said the SI had run its course and was no longer relevant.

“Preparations for the general assembly are taking place in Victoria Falls and other areas. Operators are equipping themselves but they have a major challenge on incentives to re-equip, refurbish and retool.

“The SI to do with the buying of vehicles duty-free expired. There was SI 43 and 60 of 2009 which were replaced by SI 124 and 125 of 2011 but that facility has been reduced and therefore there is an outcry from the sector.

“We would have wished for the SI to be extended towards the UNWTO. We need investment in Victoria Falls; we need right types of vehicles, coaches, bedding and all that to make our product the best,” he said.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Victoria Falls home of true African hospitality, adventure

Not taking anything away from Old Trafford, for tour and adventure lovers, the actual Theatre of Dreams is Victoria Falls — the resort town built around the God-given natural wonder, the Victoria Falls Rainforest.

Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, about 1000km from its source. To the Tonga people on the Zimbabwean and Zambian side of the river, the Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is referred to as Mosi-Oya-Tunya, literally meaning the “Cloud that Thunders.”

While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is claimed that it is the largest. This claim is based on a width of 1 708 metres and height of 108 metres, forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world. The falls’ maximum flow rate compares well with that of other major waterfalls.

The falls are formed as the full width of the river plummets in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm 1708 metres wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau.

The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 metres at its western end to 108 metres in the centre.

The only outlet to the First Gorge is 110 metres wide, about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end, through which the whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges.

There are two islands on the crest of the falls that are large enough to divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank and Livingstone Island near the middle — the place that David Livingstone first saw the falls from Zambia.

At less than full flood, additional islets divide the curtain of water into separate parallel streams.
The main streams are named, in order from Zimbabwe (west) to Zambia (east): Devil’s Cataract (called Leaping Water by some), Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.

So around this feature, described as an incomparable and exquisite feature by Reverend Paul Bayethe Damasane in his opening prayer at the signing ceremony of the co-hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly by Zambia and Zimbabwe held at the historic Victoria Falls Bridge in front of the mighty Victoria Falls which was spraying delegates, the Theatre of Dreams for the tourism sector was constructed.

European settlement in the Victoria Falls area started around 1900 in response to the desire by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company to get mineral rights and imperial rule north of the Zambezi and the exploitation of other natural resources such as timber north-east of the falls, and ivory and animal skins.

In 1904 the Victoria Falls hotel was opened to accommodate visitors arriving on the new railway.
From 1905 the railway offered accessible travel to whites from as far as the Cape in the south and from 1909, as far as the Belgian Congo in the north.

Victoria Falls today is an important tourist centre, providing varied accommodation and adrenalin activities to many foreign and local tourists.

And so Victoria Falls is the Theatre of Dreams for adrenalin “junkies” as there are more than 50 products offered by tour and adventure companies.

These include safari, backpacking photography, adventure, rafting, bungee jumping, jungle/rainforest, eco-tourism, historical, water sports, among others.

There are two national parks around the falls, namely Mosi-Oya-Tunya which is 66 square kilometers, and Victoria Falls National Park which is 23 square kilometers. Next to the Victoria Falls National Park on the southern bank is the Zambezi National Park extending 40 kilometres west along the river.

Animals can move between the two Zimbabwean parks and can also reach Matetsi Safari area, Kazuma Pan national park and Hwange National Park to the south.

Although Zimbabwe has had recent economic difficulties, Victoria Falls town has always been somewhat removed and the people are as welcoming and friendly as ever.

On vegetation, mopane woodland savannah is most dominant with smaller areas of miombo and Rhodesian Teak woodland and scrubland. Riverine forest with palm trees lines the banks and islands above the falls. The most notable aspect of the area’s vegetation though is the rainforest nurtured by the spray from the falls, containing plants rare for the area such as pod mahogany, ebony, ivory, palm, wild date palm and a number of creepers and lianas.

Unfortunately, vegetation has suffered in recent droughts, and so have the animals that depend on it, particularly antelope. In terms of wildlife, the national parks contain abundant wildlife including the elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of antelope. Lion and the leopard are also seen.
Monkeys and baboons are very common and so are the warthogs. The river above the falls contains large populations of hippopotamus and the crocodile and elephants cross the river in the dry season at particular crossing points.

Klipspringers and clawless otters can be glimpsed in the gorges, but they are mainly known for 35 species of raptors. The Taita, Black Eagle, Peregrine and Augur Buzzard breed there. Above the falls, herons, fish eagles and numerous kinds of waterfowl are common.

For fish lovers, the river is home to 39 species of fish below the falls and 89 species above it. This illustrates the effectiveness of the falls as a dividing barrier between the upper and lower Zambezi.
There is so much diversity of what one can do within a 150km radius of the bridge.

There are three countries within reach of Victoria Falls, namely Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and there are four major airports namely: Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Kasane and Katima Mulilo International airports.

Within 500km of Victoria Falls, there are 25 national parks, seven major airports and four countries which are Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia and there is nowhere else in the world where a town can link to other countries in that short distance.

So this is a Theatre of Dreams.

All within a couple of hours drive, you can be in Katima Mulilo-Namibia, Kasane-Botswana all within reach of Victoria Falls town — the Theatre of Dreams.

Victoria Falls is also one of the safest destinations in the world.

To ensure Victoria Falls remains a safe and friendly environment, Tourism Police was started in 2004. They are there to look out for you, guide and assist you. The unit continues to operate seven days a week and you will see them in their smart uniforms with yellow reflective bibs in all the main tourist areas of the town.

Celebrities that include the late pop star, Michael Jackson, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, heads of state and government, preachers like Joyce Meyer and millions of foreign and domestic tourists have been here — they have been to the Theatre of Dreams. As preparations for the co-hosting of the UNWTO general assembly next year gathers momentum, it means more activities, more structures to make the Theatre of Dreams more and more attractive. With the UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr Taleb Rifai endorsing the country as a safe tourism destination open for business and also urging the people from around the world to come to the country to see and feel for themselves the country’s splendor and hospitality — it can only be one’s figment of the imagination that the world will again fall for the tricks of the United States and her allies to refuse to visit a destination rich with theatre, history and adventure that awaits visitors with open arms.

“By coming here, it is recognition, an endorsement that the country is a safe destination,” said Mr Rifai recently.

“In view of the negative publicity Zimbabwe has been subjected to as a tourism destination, what I can only do is to urge all those to come and see for themselves. Zimbabwe is a safe destination, they should come and feel the land, the people’s warmth and hospitality,” he said.

Source: Victoria Falls home of true African hospitality, adventure (12/06/12)

Thursday 7 June 2012

Tour operators accused of trying to ‘sabotage’ VIP bridge event

In an interview in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Mr Karikoga Kaseke said the actions by the operators almost led to Mr Rifai cancelling his trip to the country.

He, however, said while he understood that operators in Victoria Falls had not been officially told that the Victoria Falls Bridge will be closed before and during the signing ceremony of the Trilateral Host Agreement by President Mugabe and his Zambian counterpart Michael Sata, they had no right to tell the outside world that the signing ceremony was going to derail or stop tourism activities at the bridge and between Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

“We have heard that some players had written to the Secretary General complaining about his coming here. While we might not have communicated with them they should not have done that. We will do things and involve the people of Victoria Falls,” he said.

“We cannot blame them for trying to discourage the secretary general from coming but they should have come to us. This was an element of sabotage and we say no to that, it is a very bad behaviour and we need to rein them in,” said Mr Kaseke.

Meanwhile, Mr Kaseke said his authority was going to consider giving back another star to Elephant Hills resort after Mr Rifai commended the facility as first class.

The hotel had been downgraded to a four-star from a five-star after a fall in standards.
However, Mr Rifai described it as a first class facility after inspecting it.

“Yes they have impressed the secretary general and if they continue we will give them another star,” he said.

Source: Tour operators in ‘sabotage’ attempt (4/6/12)

Thursday 24 May 2012

‘More hotels needed in Vic Falls’

Addressing the media in Victoria Falls on the sidelines of the Africa Travel Association (ATA) 37th World Congress, he said tourism investment was now a major priority to allow for more investors to provide accommodation.

“Victoria Falls is under-hotelled. We are far below in terms of the available rooms for tourists. In the next five, seven to 15 years the present numbers will be little. We need to invest in accommodation as the tourism industry,” he said.

He said there were slightly over 2 200 rooms in Victoria Falls — a number, he said, was far too low compared to the projected increase in arrivals in the country’s tourism hub.

“If we maintain this level, we will be crying. We need to increase by 1 000 to 1 500 in the next five years.”

Mr Kaseke also said there was a need to invest in night life in the resort town.

Meanwhile, Mr Kaseke said Zimbabwe had broken the ATA record by having the highest number of tourism ministers and delegates attending the 37th congress.

He said there were 13 ministers from countries such as Senegal, Ghana, Central African Republic, Gambia, Chad, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Uganda.

“We are very happy with the development and this is an endorsement of the country after a rough patch that saw arrivals nosedive to as low as 1,2 million tourists from a high of 2,2 million arrivals,” he said.

Mr Kaseke said the country was still second in arrivals in the region after South Africa and was number four on the continent.

ATA executive director Mr Edward Bergman said the organisation had endorsed the country as a place for tourists to come and do business.

Source: ‘More hotels needed in Vic Falls’ (23/5/12)

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Storm over Victoria Falls raincoats

OUT-OF-POCKET vendors in Victoria Falls have threatened to block tourists from visiting the resort after tour operators started supplying clients with raincoats, denying the traders a key source of income.

Local vendors claimed they have supplied raincoats to tourists keen to avoid getting drenched by showers at the Falls for more than 20 years and were stunned to see business suddenly nose-dive in recent days.

Said Rainforest Indigenous Traders Association chairman Arthur Mutava: “We have been providing this form of service over the years and no touring company has been providing it.

“Tourists have been paying about US$3 for hiring raincoats but business suddenly took a nose dive when the operators started providing the same service.”

Another association official Matthew Muleya added: “In a way they are sabotaging the black empowerment programme because we cannot all go and work in their companies.

“In addition to that, most of them ran away when tourism was at its lowest and now that arrivals are on the increase they come back and put us out of business.

“This is a natural resource we proudly own but some elements among us want to grab everything for themselves.”

The row escalated last Friday when the major tour operators snubbed a meeting called to resolve the dispute forcing the traders to threaten to block entry to the Falls.

Some of the major tour operators in the resort include Wild Horizons, Tourism Services Zimbabwe, Silver Tours, Bush Track, Mapopoma Cruises, Dingani Tours and Victoria Falls Anytime.

Only Victoria Falls Anytime turned up for the meeting and company spokesperson, Lungile Ndlovu said they had stopped supplying raincoats to their clients to enable small scale businesses to benefit from the tourism industry.

Victoria Falls is the country's premier tourist attraction and vendors have made a living from selling various items including curios and bottled water as well as renting out binoculars and raincoats.

Source: Storm over Victoria Falls raincoats (23/04/12)

Friday 30 March 2012

Barotseland kingdom seeks to leave Zambia

The Barotseland royal household in western Zambia has demanded independence, accusing the government of ignoring a 1964 treaty.
Barotse Ngambela, or Prime Minister, Clement Sinyinda told the BBC that successive Zambian governments had failed to honour the deal for the kingdom to enjoy autonomy.
Mr Sinyinda said the independence movement would remain peaceful.
The government has denounced the call as treason.
Barotseland, the kingdom of the Lozi people, was a protectorate under British colonial rule and became part of Zambia at the country's independence in 1964.
The area is now known as Western Province, although the BBC's Mutuna Chanda in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, says before national independence, it also extended into other areas.
Our reporter says this is the first time the Barotse royal household has backed the calls for the region to become independent, which have long been made by activists who accuse the government of ignoring the region, which remains one of the poorest in the country.
After two days of meetings, a group of traditional Lozi leaders, calling itself the Barotseland National Council, issued a declaration:
"We the people of Barotseland declare that Barotseland is now free to pursue its own self-determination and destiny. We are committed to a peaceful disengagement with the Zambian government," it said, according to the AFP news agency.
"We don't want to use violence - we want to use peaceful means to achieve what we want to achieve," Mr Sinyinda told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
He said that while campaigning for last year's election, President Michael Sata had promised that the the 1964 treaty would be honoured but he had now gone back on his word.
Zambian Vice-President Guy Scott told parliament the resolution was "irresponsible and unacceptable".
Our reporter says that the Lozis are the most numerous people in Western Province but that the leaders of some other ethnic groups who live in the region, such as the Nkoya and Mbunda, are opposed to independence.
Last year, two people were shot dead in the main town in Barotseland, Mongu, when police broke up a meeting of activists calling for secession.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Film icon takes a leap of faith into the Zambezi River

An adventurer, writer and television presenter Grylls put his stamp of approval on Victoria Falls Bungee on Monday.

He becomes one of the high profile people including Zambia’s Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Tourism, Mr Given Lubinda to jump off the bridge after an Australian tourist’s bungee cord snapped on New Year’s Eve.

Erin Langworthy miraculously survived the jump after a bungee cord broke, resulting in her plunging into the mighty Zambezi River from a height of about 20 metres.

Langworthy managed to swim to the Zimbabwean side of the river where she was rescued by the bridge crew and a local medical response team.

After the jump, Grylls said: “I had to come and test this out for myself since your widely publicised incident. The jump was an awesome experience.”

Some of Grylls adventures include crossing north Atlantic Arctic Ocean, in an open rigid inflatable boat.

In 2005, Grylls created a world record for the highest open-air formal dinner party, under a hot-air balloon at 7 600 metres dressed in full mess dress and oxygen masks.

To train for the event, he made more than 200 parachute jumps.

In 2007, Grylls claimed to have broken a new world record by flying a Parajet paramotor over the Himalayas, higher than Mount Everest.

Grylls, along with the double amputee Al Hodgson and the Scotsman Freddy MacDonald, set a Guinness world record in 2008 for the longest continuous indoor freefall.

In an interview yesterday, Shearwater Adventures group public relations manager Mr Clement Mukwasi said the activity was going on well adding that they had since implemented new measures to prevent a similar mishap in future.

“The steps we have taken include the daily load testing of the bungee cords to confirm their strength and thorough inspections of the bungee cords after every 75 jumps,” he said.

Source: Film icon takes a leap of faith into the Zambezi River (23/02/12)

Friday 24 February 2012

Victoria Safari Lodge pours $2,7 million into new wing

Chief executive of Africa Albida Tourism, owners of the lodge, Mr Ross Kennedy, said the wing, named Induna Club, comprised exclusive 20 luxury rooms and a club while $300 000 would be spent redesigning existing public areas.

The Induna Club is scheduled to open its doors in August.

Mr Kennedy said the investment by his company was part of the general development taking place in Victoria Falls as players showed confidence in the sector.

He said many “good news” stories were coming from the tourism sector.

He said tourist arrivals in Victoria Falls grew by more than 19 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.
Some of the main hotels in the resort reported their best years since 1999.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge had the best July occupancy in 10 years in 2011 at 70 percent.

“At the group’s award-winning Boma-Place of Eating restaurant located on the same resort, only July 2007 had better covers with 183 covers per night, and July 2011 delivering 163 covers per night,” he said.

Mr Kennedy said statistics coming from the sector were the more impressive because they were driven by revenue per room available and not low rates.

He attributed the resurgence of the tourism sector to the introduction in 2009 of the American dollar as the base currency and political stability which was making Zimbabwe a viable and popular holiday destination for tourists.

“With a wealth of natural treasures, including the magnificent Victoria Falls, luxurious and affordable safari and hotel accommodation all serviced by reputedly the most hospitable people in Africa, Zimbabwe has so much to offer local and international visitors. People, culture, history, monuments, wildlife, art, sport — Zimbabwe has it all,” he said.

Source: Victoria Safari Lodge pours $2,7 million into new wing (23/2/12)

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Zimbabwe tourism continues to grow

The investment of US$2.7m in a new luxury room block by Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is but one of many positive indicators that Zimbabwe tourism is on a steady revival path after a faltering past decade. Said Ross Kennedy, Chief Executive of Africa Albida Tourism (AAT), “there was a perceptible momentum in changing fortunes in 2011, backed by hard statistics, and 2012 has seen that pace quicken with “good news” stories coming in a steady stream”. Africa Albida Tourism has put its money where its mouth is by embarking on the construction of an exclusive new 20-room wing, the Victoria Falls Safari Club, and will also spend $300,000 on refashioning the public areas of the existing award-winning lodge.
Kennedy highlighted other good news stories coming out of Zimbabwe:
- A number of industry players in Victoria Falls are also showing their confidence in the industry by undertaking similar projects to cope with the international upswing. The Victoria Falls Airport is being modernised and enlarged and the runway is being lengthened to 4km to cope with bigger aircraft in anticipation of greatly increased numbers. A number of international airlines are reported to be in discussions with Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) concerning direct long haul access to Victoria Falls.
- Emirates has commenced its five-times-a-week schedule from Dubai to Harare via Lusaka to open up the Middle East to Zimbabwe for the first time and load factors are high.
- The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has enthusiastically endorsed Victoria Falls for its global summit in 2013, expected to draw 3,000 delegates and spouses from 158 countries across an 8-day programme between August 23 and September 02, 2013.
- The African Travel Association (ATA) has followed suit and will stage its conference for up to 600 delegates at Victoria Falls from 18 to 22 May this year.
- A modern conference centre and tourism “plaza” is to be constructed at Victoria Falls to lure international association events and is scheduled to be complete by August 2013.
- South African Airways (SAA) has dramatically increased its capacity to Zimbabwe by 66% by introducing a daily A330-200 flight (222-seats) from Johannesburg to Harare and more seats to Victoria Falls. SAA’s monthly capacity is now touching 70,000 as a sure sign of resurgence for tourism.
- Air Namibia are reported to be launching a four-times-a-week schedule from Windhoek to Harare in April.
- A local airline SolAir has been licensed by CAAZ and is set to announce domestic routes soon using a 90-seater Beechcraft.
It’s still a way off the heady days of 1995 but the New York Times recently rated Zimbabwe as one of three fast-emerging and worthy destinations. “Zimbabwe was once a thriving tourism magnet,” recalled the NYT, “but now the unity government, relative economic stability, brought about by the adoption of American dollars, is generating cautious optimism.”
In 2011 tourism earnings increased by almost 50% to 2.3 million visitors and that renaissance is continuing this year. The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA, USA) a significant global organisation headquartered in America has issued a January 2012 report to its members that shines a positive light on Zimbabwe.
“Should the positive upward trend of international tourists continue then the future of tourism in Zimbabwe in 2012 looks bright,” said ATTA, USA. “The year 2011 showed a marked improvement in fortunes with seven of the main lodges/hotels in Victoria Falls reporting one seven-month period as their best since 1999”.
Kennedy added that these statistics were all the more impressive “because they were not driven by low rates but are rather based on revenue per room available (RevPar) which would be the envy of many regional competitors in the current tough world economic environment.”
In 2011 most hotels in the Victoria Falls region recorded increased occupancies. Arrivals into Victoria Falls grew by 19.6% in 2011 versus 2010, with growth from existing markets, plus increased interest and arrivals from new markets such as Eastern Europe, Middle East and Asia. AAT’s flagship accommodation establishment, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, had the best July occupancy for 10 years in 2011 at 70%. At the group’s award-winning Boma – Place of Eating restaurant located on the same resort, only July 2007 had better covers with 183 covers per night, and July 2011 delivering 163 covers per night.
Arrivals in other parts of Zimbabwe are also growing. Sharon Stead, Marketing Director and co-owner of The Amalinda Collection reports enthusiastically on Ivory Lodge in Hwange and Camp Amalinda in the Matobo Hills. “Camp Amalinda had a record year in 2011 achieving 75% occupancy, with June 2012 already sitting at 90%! Ivory Lodge, Hwange recorded its best month ever in August 2011 at 87% and 2012 bookings look set to break all previous occupancy records for the Lodge”. Stead added “Together with many other Hwange lodge owners and operators, we are well advanced on the launch of a Hwange destination marketing campaign, to be known as the Herd of Hwange which will be formally launched at Indaba in May. This will help to re-establish Hwange as one of the jewels of Africa’s wildlife sanctuaries”.
With the introduction in 2009 of the American dollar as the base currency and a process of reconciliation currently underway, Zimbabwe is fast becoming a viable and popular holiday destination for tourists. And it’s no surprise – with a wealth of natural treasures, including the magnificent Victoria Falls, luxurious and affordable safari and hotel accommodation all serviced by reputedly the most hospitable people in Africa, Zimbabwe has so much to offer local and international visitors. People, culture, history, monuments, wildlife, art, sport – Zimbabwe has it all!
Over the past three years a relative calm has returned to Zimbabwe’s economy and according to the influential tourism body, World Travel & Tourism Council, Zimbabwe’s tourism economy is set to grow at 9.2% this year, making it the third fastest growing tourism economy in the world. And with political goodwill in place to foster a more stable future for the country, more visitors are predicted to make their way to Zimbabwe, reclaiming the country’s reputation as the pride of Africa.
Zimbabwe tourism continues to grow ()


Go to Victoria Falls have received the following update from Victoria Falls Bungee, in response to the bridge incident on 31 December 2011. This follows the official statement released on 2 January 2012.

We remain in contact with the Australian lady involved in the incident who is recuperating in South Africa where she has received expert medical attention. We are pleased to advise that she has now been released from hospital and although she remains bruised and sore she will shortly be free to return home to Australia.

As a matter of record we wish to highlight her bravery and survival skills, which contributed significantly to her own rescue and her continued positive disposition and strength of character has been an inspiration to us all.

It goes without saying that we deeply regret the incident, which has come as a huge shock to us. Despite the experience of the crew and parameters and procedures, which have successfully guided the operation for 17 years and over 150,000 jumpers, we were unable to prevent this accident. We take this exceptionally seriously and our objective now is to learn from this incident and review every component part of our operation to determine where we can further minimize the risk of bungee jumping from the Victoria Falls Bridge.

To this effect the following preliminary measures have been implemented:

- We have removed all bungee cords from the system, which were made with the same batch of rubber as that used to make the failed cord. These have been retained for further testing.
- An entirely new set of bungee cords have been installed on the system. These have been extensively load tested and inspected thoroughly and we are satisfied that they are safe to jump on.
- The entire bungee system has been thoroughly inspected and checked and we are fully confident that everything is safe to jump on.
- In addition to our normal checks and procedures we have instigated additional daily and intermittent checks on the bungee cords and we are fully satisfied that these checks and procedures are more than sufficient to ensure our clients safety.
- Our own crew are conducting test jumps before the commencement of daily operations and throughout the day.
- Experts in South Africa have been contacted and we expect them to be on site next week to help us with our ongoing investigations as to the cause of the incident.
- The broken cord has been carefully stored and will shortly be sent to South Africa for forensic testing.
- A qualified river guide with first aid certification and necessary safety and recovery equipment will be positioned in the gorge below the bridge.
- In light of the above Victoria Falls Bungee are entirely satisfied that everything humanly possible has been done to ensure the safety of our clients and bungee jumping operations have now recommenced without further incident.


Friday 27 January 2012

Weak cord caused bungee jumping mishap

The batch of rubber used to make the bungee jumping chord that snapped, resulting in the plunging of an Australian tourist, Erin Langworthy, into the Zambezi metres from the Victoria Falls Bridge on New Year’s Eve was weak, it has been revealed.

According to a statement from Mr Clement Mukwasi, Shearwater group public relations manager, the rubber became weaker due to age and use but also as a result of environmental issues like moisture and ultra-violet radiation.

“The forensic investigation indicated that the batch of rubber used to make the cord was weak when compared to new rubber. The assumption is that the rubber became weaker due to age and use but also as a result of environmental issues like moisture and UV degradation,” said Mr Mukwasi.
“Regrettably our inspection process, though in line with international standards and having worked successfully for us for 17 years did not pick up this weakness.”

He said the bungee rubber used in the manufacture of the malfunctioning bungee cord had been supplied by a South African company called Face Adrenalin.

“This was the only time we have ever sourced rubber from Face Adrenalin and it is the only time we have had such an accident. At the end of the day what happened here was equipment failure caused by weak rubber,” said Mr Mukwasi.

“New inspection and testing measures have now been implemented, which address this, and we are very confident that this incident will not be repeated.

“Now that the forensic findings are known to us we are confident that the new measures implemented by ourselves will prevent an incident like this happening again in the future.

“In light of this it is our intention to recommence bungee jumping on Friday, 27 January 2012. The steps we have taken include the daily load testing of the bungee cords to confirm their strength and thorough inspections of the bungee cords after every 75 jumps.”

He said the company, Victoria Falls Bungee, has very well laid down operating procedures and also comply with the Australian and New Zealand Industry Standards on the operation of bungee jumping.
“In terms of client safety we do not only constantly monitor, check and inspect our safety system but we also subject ourselves to bi-annual independent safety audits carried out by an internationally certified South African organisation.”

The investigations were conducted by a South African-based company.

Source: Weak cord caused bungee jumping mishap (25/01/12)

Sunday 15 January 2012

Australian woman Erin Langworthy survives 111m bungee fall into the Zambezi River

AN Australian tourist survived a 111m fall into a crocodile-infested river after her bungee cord snapped.
Erin Langworthy, 22, plunged into the Zambezi River, which divides Zambia and Zimbabwe, on December 31. The West Australian woman fell headfirst into the river after the jump with Safari Par Excellence.
Describing her survival as a "miracle", she told Channel 9 she blacked out as she hit the water.
"It felt like I had been slapped all over," she said. After hitting the water she started swimming downstream but her bungee cord became snagged on rocks.
"I actually had to swim down to yank the bungee cord out of what it was caught in," she said.
When she made it to rocks, her rescuers rolled her on her back.
"All the water I inhaled meant I couldn't breathe and I made them roll me on to my side and that's when I started coughing up water and blood."
The Safari Par Excellence website says the bungee experience is "111 metres of pure adrenalin!".
"Based on The Victoria Falls Bridge, the Bungi (sic) jump can certainly be classed as the most scenic in the world. Not for the faint hearted!" the website says.
Zambia's Southern Province police commissioner Brenda Muntemba said Ms Langworthy was treated at Victoria Falls clinic in Zimbabwe and evacuated to South Africa.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Minister bungee-jumps from Victoria Falls to prove it is safe

Zambia's tourism minister bungee-jumped from Victoria Falls to reassure tourists the activity is safe after an Aussie backpacker's rope snapped last week.
Given Lubinda took the plunge after footage of Australian backpacker Erin Langworthy falling into the Zambezi River was shown around the world last week, the Daily Mail reports.
Langworthy survived, despite falling head-first into the rapids when her bungee cord snapped as she leaped from the 111m-high bridge on New Year's Eve.
Mr Lubinda said he remained convinced the accident was a one-off and the attraction was safe.
Speaking after completing the jump yesterday, the Mr Lubinda said "I myself will be engaging the operator on how we can make this exciting tourism event become totally incident-free."
Mr Lubinda's display of confidence in the jump came as its operator confirmed Ms Langworthy's snapped rope had been sent to South Africa to be tested by experts.
Mike Davies, boss of the Safari Par Excellence travel company which reportedly organised her jump, said the incident was a "one off" and added that a full investigation had been launched.
He told New Zimbabwe: "There have been over 150,000 people jumping over the last 17 years without incident. So we are confident in it."
He said a team of experts had been brought in to look at improving safety on the attraction, and added: "We have replaced all the equipment, all the ropes and the elastics in the meantime."
Describing her survival as a "miracle", Ms Langworthy told Channel 9 she blacked out as she hit the water.
"It felt like I had been slapped all over," she said. After hitting the water she started swimming downstream but her bungee cord became snagged on rocks.
"I actually had to swim down to yank the bungee cord out of what it was caught in," she said.
When she made it to rocks, her rescuers rolled her on her back.
"All the water I inhaled meant I couldn't breathe and I made them roll me on to my side and that's when I started coughing up water and blood."
The Safari Par Excellence website says the bungee experience is "111m of pure adrenalin!".
"Based on The Victoria Falls Bridge, the Bungi (sic) jump can certainly be classed as the most scenic in the world. Not for the faint hearted!" the website says.

Friday 13 January 2012

Victoria Falls Council disconnects water supplies to defaulting hotel

Shop owners at Sopers Arcade have been operating for more than six months without water following the disconnection of supplies by the local authority over unpaid bills.

The move by council comes at a time when its debt recovery is just 2.9 percent when it is owed more than $4 million in unpaid rates and water charges by residents and other stakeholders such as hoteliers.

Sopers Arcade houses clothing boutiques, Internet caf├ęs, bookshops, a restaurant and a fruit and vegetable shop.

Shop owners and their clients have resorted to visiting other complexes like Galleria, Victoria Falls Rest Camp, Innscor complex or any other nearby outlets for the purposes of relieving themselves as the toilets at the arcade have since blocked because of the unavailability of water.

Some also visit the same places to collect drinking and cooking water and as a result, a health hazard is looming.

In an interview yesterday, the acting Town Clerk, Mr Philip Ndlovu, said council had resorted to disconnecting water supplies to force defaulters to own up.

He said the shop owners were given their bills but were not settling the bills.

“Yes water was disconnected at Sopers Arcade and I do not know how they are operating without water.

“In this light we are going to shut down all the shops at the arcade soon to force them to pay their water bills so that water is restored,” he said.

Mr Ndlovu added that the reason for the closure of the premises was mainly due to health concerns.

He added that there were at least 25 shops which dealt with visitors such as tourists everyday that were operating without water.

“It is just a matter of time before there is a disease outbreak at that shopping centre. It is a hive of activity yet they do not want to pay. After closing the premises and if they do not come forward, we will be forced to take legal action against them.”

Meanwhile, the Sprayview Hotel had its water supplies disconnected by the municipality because of a bad debt.

Although the amount owed by the hotel was not readily available yesterday, this paper has it on good authority that the hotel had clients booked during the festive season even though it had water problems.

According to the “reconciliation of figures with ratepayers (commercial)” update, presented at the management committee meeting held on 19 December last year, Elephant Hills resort had also not settled its debt.

“The accountant highlighted that the department was not yet through with the reconciliation but advised as follows: Elephant Hills Hotel — still outstanding, Sprayview Hotel — water supplies were disconnected and no payments were made. The rest of the bad debtors made payment plans and some had started making payments.

“Members agreed that all bad debtors should be handed over for litigation,” reads part of the minutes.

Source: Victoria Falls Council disconnects water supplies to defaulting hotel (11/1/12)

Thursday 12 January 2012

Tourists sceptical after bungee jumping mishap

Chronicle visited the bridge on Monday and witnessed that bungee jumping operations have since commenced.

Some tourists jumped while others refused even after paying for the activity mainly because they were not sure about their safety.

Bridge swing, bridge slides and bridge tours that were not affected by the accident continued operating as usual.

While some tourists jumped, some had some reservations because of the snapping of the cord that happened on 31 December.

“After learning of the accident that occurred I cannot help it but desist from jumping today. We are no longer sure of the safety of these cords,” said Mr Martin Attikinson of South Africa.

Meanwhile, Zambia’s Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Tourism, Mr Given Lubinda, was at the bridge on a fact-finding mission on Monday.

Mr Lubinda took the opportunity to take part in the bridge activities such as bridge slide and bridge swing. He took a chance and bungee jumped before bridge sliding to assure tourists and others present that it was still safe to engage in these activities.

Mr Lubinda expressed sadness at the fact that a life could have been lost on 31 December.
In a statement, the Zambezi Bridge Company, which operates the bridge activities, said this was the first incident of its nature in 17 years of operation.

“It goes without saying that we deeply regret the incident, which is the first such incident in 17 years of operations during which time more than 150 000 people have safely jumped from the bridge.

“The exact reason for the bungee cord failure is as yet unknown. We have engaged the necessary safety specialists who will be coming within the coming week to investigate the cause.

“We are treating this incident seriously and our aim now is to learn what we can from this and apply that knowledge so as to ensure that there is no reoccurrence,” reads part of the statement.

The statement further stated that preliminary measures that include removing all bungee cords from the system, which were made with the same batch of rubber as that used to make the failed cord, had been implemented.

“An entirely new set of bungee cords has been installed on the system. These have been extensively load tested and inspected thoroughly and we are satisfied that they are safe to jump on.

“The entire bungee system has been thoroughly inspected and checked and we are confident that everything is safe to jump on. In addition to our normal checks and procedures we have instigated additional daily and intermittent checks on the bungee cords and we are fully satisfied that these checks and procedures are more than sufficient to ensure our clients’ safety.

“Our own crew is conducting test jumps before the commencement of daily operations and throughout the day. Experts in South Africa have been contacted and we expect them to be on site next week to help us with our ongoing investigations as to the cause of the incident.”

Officer Commanding Victoria Falls police district, Chief Superintendent Jairos Chiona confirmed the incident saying that it took place on 31 December at around 5:30 pm. “A 22-year-old Australian backpacker, Ms Erin Langworth, fell from the Victoria Falls Bridge, 111m above the river on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. We attended the scene as the police because she managed to swim to the Zimbabwean side of the river. We, however, handed over the matter to the Zambia police since she was staying in Zambia and had been booked by a Zambian company to do bungee jumping.

“The bungee machines are on the Zambian side and therefore we treat the matter as having occurred in Zambia,” he said.

Chief Supt Chiona said after the snapping of the rope, Ms Langworth was sent plunging into the rapids below and was forced to swim through the rapids with her feet still tied together.

“The bridge crew and a local medical response team then rescued her. She sustained relatively minor injuries, mostly bruising and has no broken bones. The cause of the incident is being thoroughly investigated,” he said.

Source: Tourists sceptical after bungee jumping mishap (10/01/12)