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Friday 28 April 2017

SAA strike leaves hundreds stranded at Victoria Falls Airport

A strike by South African Airways cabin crew has left hundreds of passengers stranded at Victoria Falls International Airport.

The passengers who were booked for the Tuesday flight could not travel and were booked at a local hotel while some have been transferred to a British Airways flight this afternoon.

More passengers are still stranded as the flight failed to accommodate all the passengers.

Source: SAA strike leaves hundreds stranded at Victoria Falls Airport (27/04/17)

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Tourist arrivals to reach 2,2 million by year end

TOURIST arrivals in Zimbabwe are estimated to reach over 2,2 million by the close of 2017, a development in line with global trends projecting tourism to be the fastest growing economic sector internationally, an executive has said.
In emailed responses to NewsDay, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive, Karikoga Kaseke, said the local tourism industry was expected to continue growing despite numerous challenges besetting it.
“The tourism industry in Zimbabwe is expected to continue growing in line with global trends, which project that tourism will continue to be the fastest growing economic sector internationally. Arrivals in Zimbabwe are estimated to reach over 2,2 million by the close of 2017 and over 2,5 million by 2020, assuming the current conditions will continue to obtain,” he said.
"However, it should be noted that history has shown that the tourism sector tends to be affected negatively by the election year. As such, it is our hope that prospects for 2018 will remain positive despite it being an election year.”
Zmbabwe will hold general elections next year.
Kaseke said although the tourism sector has faced a number of challenges in recent years, the sector has been resilient.
For instance, in 2016, the country received 2 167 686 tourist arrivals, 5% up from 2 056 588 received in 2015, he said.
He said the sector also generated an estimated $819 million in revenue in 2016 and is estimated to contribute 10,9% to the gross domestic product.
Kaseke lamented that numerous police check points and roadblocks have for a long time tarnished the country’s image, as they project a negative security situation.
“These roadblocks have also resulted in highly prejudicing and inconveniencing the tourists. These have also been raised under Ease of Doing Business reform initiatives in tourism,” he said.
Kaseke said Zimbabwe was largely a driving destination and, as such, good roads were necessary. Apart from the Plumtree-Mutare Highway, Kaseke said other roads — particularly Beitbridge-Harare — need to be rebuilt.
"Because of the bad state of this road, Zimbabwe lost a huge market of self-drive tourists from South Africa who are now preferring Botswana and Namibia. The high levels of carnage on our roads now termed “death traps” inhibit travel by both domestic and international tourists,” he said.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Vic Falls hotels occupancy rate up

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

The occupancy rate for most major hotels in Victoria Falls is about 80 percent during this Easter holiday compared to 70 percent last year.

The Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) however said occupancy by local visitors had fallen to 15 percent from 22 percent last year.

The fall in local visitors has been attributed to macro-economic challenges that include access to cash.

The Government, through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has been pushing for the “Know Your Zimbabwe” campaign, which seeks to promote domestic tourism.

HAZ and Employers Association for Tourism and Safari Operators (EATSO) said they hoped more local travellers will visit the resort town taking advantage of the new look Victoria Falls International Airport.

HAZ Victoria Falls chapter chairman Mr Chris Svovah said:

“The occupancy rate for most major hotels has gone up from 70 percent in 2016 to 80 percent this year for the Easter period. This is a result of new look airport, which has seen more airlines flying directly to Victoria Falls.

“This trajectory should continue and we expect Kenya Airways from Nairobi and Airlink from Cape Town, South Africa to join other airlines that are flying directly to Victoria Falls,” said Mr Svovah.

He said another reason for renewed interest in visiting Victoria Falls was the re-launched KAZA Univisa, which facilitates entry to tourists from 65 countries using a single facility.

Mr Svovah however said the challenge was to promote domestic tourism which he said has traditionally been the backbone of the tourism sector.

He urged tourism players to come up with attractive promotional packages to attract locals to visit resort areas through the ‘Know Your Zimbabwe” campaign.

EATSO president Mr Clement Mukwasi said the introduction of an evening flight by fastjet would attract more locals into Victoria Falls.

“We are confident the introduction of evening flights from Harare will be a game changer because that’s something that domestic tourists have always been crying for. The new evening flight will come in handy for visitors from Harare who constitute the majority of domestic fly-in tourists to Victoria Falls while those from Bulawayo drive because distance is shorter,” he said.

Mr Mukwasi said the majority of domestic tourists this Easter are Zimbabweans with relatives based in the Diaspora and also church people coming for conferences.

He called upon public transporters to embrace plastic money to enable locals to travel.

Source: Vic Falls hotels occupancy rate up (17/4/17)

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Shearwater News April 2017


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

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

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

rafting high water

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

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

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

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

helicopter flight

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

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

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

rafting canoe

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

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


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

explorers villageexplorers village

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

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

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

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

chobe game drive

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

overnight camping

shearwater sessions

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

corporate social responsibility

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



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


kaza is back

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


ethopian airlines

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

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

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

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

Sunday 2 April 2017

Massive corruption unearthed at National Parks

There is suspected high level corruption at the national parks allegedly committed by some board officials names supplied amid calls by stakeholders for a probe to be instituted to further expose those who are involved.

A source close to the goings on said the corrupt activities involves a Mrs Mupamhanga  a depute chair of the board  the wife of Justin Mupamhanga a senior Government official in the President Robert Mugabe's office.

He said also the Chair of the Conservation committee  Cephas Mudenda  who is allegedly part of the racket is related to the speaker of parliament Jacob Mudenda and is former National Parks employee.

"National Parks has not yet paid workers salaries for the past four months while ranger field allowances has not yet been paid for the past 5 years," said the close source.

"When the board was ushered in the office workers were very happy thinking that things will change for the better but alas it is changing to the worse. The new Board have leased 19 lodges at Zambezi camp in Victoria falls for peanuts to George Pangeti former Parks Board Chair person. Pangeti is a front man for Mark Bosh a South African."

He said the lodges which were generating income for National Parks of about $300 000 annually are being leased by Pangeti effective 1 April 2017 for $60 000,00 per annum.

"They will not employ the current staff but will employ their own workers. They were given the lodges as they are for just $60 000, 00 per year. The front man for the Board Vice Chair is Councillor Muleya a Parks employee who is ward 19 concillor," he said. 

"Pangeti company promised to construct a school at Zambezi and the ceremony was officiated by Minister Muchinguri in September 2016 but there is nothing taking place at the construction site. Councillor Muleya misinformed the Minister and the Minister fall to the trickery of Muleya and Mrs Mupamhanga. Apart from the 19 lodges given for a song Pangeti has three other sites in the National Park and is paying peanuts. The lodges were given without going to tender and the lease period is 25 years."

He said that's corruption at its best. What is the logic of leasing  19 lodges for  $60 000,00 when the Lodges generated over $300 000,00. 

"Thats corruption. Why was it was not given through tender as per procedures," he said.

"The Board members are more of National Parks Director who go to National Parks on a daily basis for them to get allowance.  When travelling on business trip they want to fly in business class when the ranger is not getting salary. Pangeti has been given other areas in Matusadonha National Park, Mana Pools. The park is being evaded by foreigners please highlight this if you need more information will avail or send me your number for more information."

The efforts to get comment from the authorities and those concerned in the alleged corruption were fruitless.

Source: Massive corruption unearthed at National Parks (01/04/17)

More: $3 million rhino horns missing at ZimParks (15/5/17)

ZRA delegates tour Batoka Dam site

Leonard Ncube in Livingstone, Zambia

THE proposed Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme (BGHES) which is expected to generate 2 400 megawatts of electricity will boost power generation at the Kariba Hydropower Station as it will help increase water levels and storage, a top Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) engineer has said.
Tendering for the $4 billion project is expected to start before the end of the year with implementation set for next year, once the feasibility study is completed.

Yesterday, ZRA officials led delegates, mostly potential investors who attended the BGHES investors’ conference in Livingstone on Thursday, on a tour of the dam site.

The site of the dam wall has been pegged on either side of the river while the two power stations will be about 700 metres downstream.

Briefing delegates, ZRA engineers, led by the chief executive officer Engineer Munyaradzi Munodawafa said the Kariba Dam has potential to match generation levels at Cabora Bassa in Mozambique once the Batoka project is implemented.

“The Batoka power station will help boost Kariba Dam power generation as the dam will naturally increase storage downstream. The Batoka Dam will slow down water speed hence increase water levels in the Kariba Dam,” said Mr Munodawafa.

Engineers said this would boost Kariba Dam generation capacity to about 1 200MW from about 750MW.

Eng Munodawafa added: “That’s the beauty of conjecture operations. We will have a situation whereby power generation will be increased and this is how Cabora Bassa manages to have more electricity because the dam relies on Kariba Dam upstream which slows water flow and enhances higher levels and storage downstream.”

Low water levels at the Kariba Dam have over the years led to acute electricity shortage resulting in load shedding as authorities capped generation capacity at Kariba Hydropower Station at below 750MW.

Eng Munodawafa said while the BGHES will take about five years to complete, generation of power will start as soon as construction starts.

“Generation will not wait for the dam to be completed but will start as soon as water levels rise when building of the dam wall starts,” he said.

Engineers said the dam wall will be 180 metres high while the length will be 300 metres, adding that any height above 180 metres would flood upstream up to Victoria Falls by 90 metres.

A bridge will also be constructed downstream as part of the project to facilitate access by construction vehicles as well as enhance ease of travel between Zimbabwe and Zambia thereafter.
African Development Bank vice president Mr Amadou Hott and representatives from Ernst and Young were some of the notable development partners who visited the site.

Zambia Minister of Energy Mr David Mabumba said implementation of the project was critical to both countries who can export excess power while also supplying citizens who have suffered a lot due to power deficit.

Source: ZRA delegates tour Batoka Dam site (1/4/17)