Archive for the ‘Flying Safaris’ Category

Kenyan Game Park threatened by Construction

NAIROBI-A construction boom risks destroying a game park on the Kenyan capital’s edge, where lions hunt in the shadows of skyscrapers, a wildlife official said.

Nairobi has a population of about three million people but that is expected to surge to eight million within two decades, fuelling demand for housing and commercial property.

Analysts say sky-high land prices in the capital are forcing Kenya’s middleclass to seek affordable plots on the outskirts.

Julius Kipng’etich, the managing director of the state-run Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), says human settlement expansion and growth in industries pose a threat to Kenya’s oldest national park next to the city.

Tourism is Kenya’s number two foreign exchange earner after tea, while construction was the fastest growing sector in east Africa’s biggest economy in 2010. The economy is projected to grow by 5.7% this year, from 5.2% in 2010.

“The upswing of the economy brings its own challenges, such as human settlements encroaching on protected areas. So the encroachment of the park comes from high class settlements and the slums that follow them,” Kipng’etich said.

Hundreds of acres around the park are mainly owned by nomadic Maasai, who sub-divide and sell land to outsiders eager to build, he said, as a family of warthogs roamed outside the KWS headquarters. The occasional spine-chilling roar from the park’s lions could be heard.

Established in 1946, the Nairobi National Park provides a chance for visitors to experience a safari game drive and view Kenya’s famed wildlife between meetings, Kipng’etich said.

Reuters

Dr.Richard Sezibera is the new EAC Secretary General

The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State have appointed Ambassador Richard Sezibera from Rwanda as the new secretary General of the Community on a five-year term with effect from last week.

A communiqué issued at the end of the Heads of State summit held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last week said Dr. Sezibera replaces Ambassador Juma Volter Mwapachu who completed his term of office on April 24, 2011.

Speaking after being sworn in, Dr Sezibera said that his focus will be to strengthen and bring the Community’s programmes to success. He said his main duties will be to push for the complete establishment of the East African common market and put it into practice.

“I expect the partner states to support me in ensuring the implementation of the Community programmes,” said Dr Sezibera.

He added that another duty will be to facilitate integration and make sure all the residents of the EAC area well informed and aware of the EAC programmes and activities.

On what EAC people should expect from him, the new secretary-general said his commitment to work for the Community was among the important issues that would move the Community’s development ahead.
“I am committed to work for the East African people, it makes me very proud and courageous,” said Dr Sezibera.

Until his new appointment, Dr Sezibera, (47), the youngest person to hold the top EAC post since the revival of the regional bloc in 1999 has been Rwanda’s health minister since October 2008. He has served in many capacities in the Rwandan government including Presidential Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Ambassador to the United States and Senior Adviser to the President where he worked on peace and security, conflict management and resolution, as well as regional integration issues.

He is the author of many university journals, mainly in the field of politics and international affairs, and has published numerous articles and interviews in major national, regional and international media houses including Voice of America, CNN, BBC, The Washington Post and Foreign Affairs magazine.

Dr. Sezibera holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree and practiced medicine for many years in Uganda and Rwanda. He also holds a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University.

Summit Chairman Pierre Nkurunziza told the new leaders that the mission is to lead the Community in its second decade of integration, with a calendar of great commitments because the peoples of the community have become very demanding, and require concrete results from the integration.

Hailing the choice of Sezibera, officials in the Rwandan Senate said the appointment was a sign that the EAC’s integration would be fast tracked.

“It’s great to have someone who has wide experience in politics; it’s good for Rwanda and the wider Community,” Senator Agnes Mukabaranga said. “Dr Sezibera has vast experience considering the posts he has held before. He is very innovative and industrious.”

Mukabaranga said Dr Sezibera has the spirit of innovation that is needed to fast track the region’s integration process. He becomes the fourth secretary-general of the EAC.

Omusinga Charles Mumbere to Trek Mount Rwenzori

THE Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA) has organized a seven-day Uganda trip to Rwenzori Mountains so as to increase awareness about Uganda’s tourism potential among Ugandans.

The trip, code-named ‘Trip to the moon,’ will begin on Tuesday, January 18 and end on Wednesday 26th January. The UWA organized trip is arranged at the same time the Rwenzururu cultural leader Omusinga Charles Mumbere will be hiking the Rwenzururu trail. The hike will begin with a cultural ceremony at Ibanda-Bugoye, near nyakalengija in Kasese district.

On 19th January, His Majesty Omusinga Mumbere accompanied by members of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, representatives of several NGOs, associations and media houses will then start hiking to the Mountains of the Moon.

The trekkers will first camp at the Nyabithaba Camp as they proceed with the hike. The team comprises staff from the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry, Uganda Tourist Board, members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, representatives of the United States Aid for International Development-Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift, as well as various media houses.

Mumbere will among other things sign a memorandum of understanding with the UWA team, which will officially allow the kingdom to perform cultural activities and related duties at the Bulemba sacred site. This site houses the remains of Rwenzururu’s first king, Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzanga.

Mumbere will also open the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services building at Nyabithaba camp before continuing with the trek to Margherita peak.

Raymond Engena, the Uganda Wild life Authority Ag Director Tourism and Business Development, said the trip is intended to appreciate and market the beauty and opportunities within the Rwenzori Mountains.

It is also aimed at encouraging Uganda mountain climbing as a recreational activity among Ugandans.

Tanzania Tourist Numbers Decline

By TEA Correpondent

Tanzania is likely to miss out on millions of dollars usually expected from the tourism industry following the decline of international tourists’ arrivals which is due to the global financial crisis. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, Tanzania suffered a 10 percent decline in foreign tourist arrivals in its wildlife-rich national parks in the first ten months of 2009.

The WTO’s 2009 comprehensive report shows that the country had received about 576,643 travelers, down from 641,951 international tourists in 2008. The UN body goes on to note that the negative trends in international tourism surfaced in the second half of 2008 and intensified in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.

As a result, Tanzania, East Africa‘s second largest economy after Kenya, is currently struggling to promote domestic tourism in a bid to fill the gap in foreign tourism. Mr. Ibrahim Mussa, Assistant Director Research, Training and Statistics in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism observed that government had opted to concentrate on domestic tourism due to its potential.

“We have decided to increase efforts to woo domestic tourists as a counter to the effects of the global financial crisis because we found that it is paying off,” said Mr. Mussa. He added that findings revealed that an endeavor to pursue local tourists is paying off with a 19.3% increase in activity.

Mr. Donatius Kamamba, Director of Antiquities in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, said that a preliminary analysis conducted by his Ministry, shows that the number of visitors coming to the country for leisure had dropped due to the consequences of the financial crisis.

New Planes For East African Civil Aviation Academy

By TEA Reporter,

THE Government is to buy six new aircrafts for the East African Civil Aviation Academy - that is commonly referred to as Soroti Flying School.

Edith Mwanje, the East African Community affairs ministry permanent secretary, said this during a regional workshop for central Uganda leaders at Hotel Africana in Kampala last week.

She said the procurement of the new planes would be done under a three-year capital development project designed by the Government to rehabilitate the academy.

The six computerised single-engine planes would cost sh4b. The first batch of the aircrafts arrives this financial year, she added.

The single engine Cessna 172 aircraft has modern aviation technology. Which, Mwanje said, would equip and acquaint the pilot students with the required aviation skills.

The school has 58 privately sponsored students using the old Cessna aircraft manufactured in the early 1960s.

The academy was built as a training school for the British Overseas Airways Corporation to train British pilots in tropical flying techniques. It was later used by the East African Flying Academy to train pilots from the former community.

“Since the collapse of the East African community in 1977, this school has been neglected. However, with its revival, plans are under way to renovate it at a cost of US$900,000 (about Ush 1.73b),” Mwanje added.

The project also includes renovation of the old buildings and acquisition of new computers.

$3m Grant from US to Save Lake Victoria and Mara River Basins

By Trek East Africa Correspondent

Nairobi, Kenya

A three year funding agreement between the East African Community and the United States Agency for International Development is expected to ensure that the Mara River Basin is properly managed so as to avoid environmental degradation. The Mara River Basin eco system is considered a new wonder of the world.

Under the agreement signed two weeks ago, East Africa Community’s Lake Victoria Basin Commission is expected to implement the Mara River Basins 2009 Bio diversity Action Plan that was recently adopted by the EAC Ministers.

Aimed at addressing threats to bio diversity hotspots in the Mara River Basin, the projects implementation will involve Kenya and Tanzania government agencies where the $3 million grant will be provided under US Aid Africa’s Tran boundary Water for Diversity.

The Mara basin water shed extends from Kenya to northern Tanzania covering areas of Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Serengeti National Park and also makes up part of the eastern rim of the Lake Victoria basin.

This eco systems survival depends on the flow of the Mara River. With less water flowing in the Mara, there is a possibility of less water to drink for wildlife and this could easily lead to human wildlife conflicts.

Rotich, the Deputy Secretary General in charge of Finance and Administration at the East African Community emphasized the importance of the Mara River Basin eco system. He said the intervention on the Mara River Basin was timely, since environmental issues in particular global climate change are affecting all people.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to convince people about the environmental devastation that is being experienced. Rains are failing, rivers are drying up or getting polluted. We have all contributed to environmental degradation. And now we must do something about it”, he added.

Lake Victoria Basin Commission was established in 2005 as a specialized institution of the East African Community responsible for coordination of activities aimed at sustainable development of the basin.

Single Tourist Visa for East Africa

By Arthur Baguma

The East African Community plans to start a single tourist visa for the region. The member states are discussing a protocol to create and market the region as a single tourist destination. Member states have started to coordinate their policies in the tourism industry and were establishing a frame work that would ensure equitable distribution of resources. In addition the partner states are establishing a common code of conduct for private and public tour and travel operators, standardized hotel classification and professional standards of agents in the industry.

A collective policy for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wildlife and other tourist sites in the region is also in pipeline.

“They include harmonizing policies for the conservation of wildlife within and outside protected areas, exchanging information and adopting common policies on wildlife management and development, coordinating efforts in controlling and monitoring encroachment and poaching activities,” information at the EAC states. The policy encourages joint use of training and research facilities and developing common management plans for trans-border protected areas.

These developments are good news to East Africa tourism potential. From some of the world’s finest beaches to unique wildlife sanctuaries East Africa is a tourism hub. In Uganda the unique wildlife sanctuaries East Africa is a tourism hub. In Uganda the unique Bwindi National Park home to some 340 mountain gorillas, the Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park are also preferred sites for tourists. In Kenya, the magnificent Maasai Mara reserve, among 48 wildlife parks and reserves, including the amazing Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks attract tourists both local and international. In Tanzania, the world famous Ngorongoro crater, the breath taking spectacular Serengeti plains, wildlife conservation areas and Mt. Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain are just the tip of the ice berg of what Tanzania can offer tourists.

Apart from the scenic attractions, East Africa has a lot more to offer. Hotel and beach tourism is at its peak. The region offers a large number of historical sites spread through the region. It boasts of interesting traditional culture, the Makonde sculptures and Akamba wood crafts as well as the Uganda Kingdoms, cultures and tradition. The Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania is the site of discoveries of the traces of early humanity.

There is, however potential for development, expansion and promotion of East African tourism, taking into account on going development of tourism and other potential of the lake Victoria basin. The world’s second largest fresh water body is shared by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

The number of tourists to the East African region increased significantly between 1995 and 2002.In Tanzania the number increased from 285,000 to 550,000 while in Uganda it increased from 160,000 to 254,000. In Kenya there was a slight decline from 896,000 to 838,000 but the figures rose to one million in 2003.

Currently the three countries attract more than two million tourists. The figures indicate a vibrant trend of the tourist sector in East Africa. With joint promotion of the industry, tourist visits in East Africa are expected to double in the near future. In 2005, the East African Community countries launched the plan for joint tourism and wildlife development including joint marketing and promotion of East Africa as a single tourist destination.

Starting with the Internationale Tourismus Borse (ITB), Berlin 2006, the tourist boards of East African countries participate in international trade fairs under one roof, the East African Village exhibition area. On going activities aim at developing both short and long term measures in the joint promotion and marketing of East Africa as a single tourist destination.

The plan and strategy for joint development and promotion of tourism envisages steady growth due to stable political and peaceful conditions prevailing in the region coupled with modernization of infrastructure, transport and communications facilities and links to all parts of the world by major world air lines and ocean cruises.

The Shoe Bill: Africa’s most saught after bird

By Geoffrey Baluku

Uganda is more than just Gorillas. With 23 years of dramatic tourism growth Uganda has now been voted the number one birding destination in Africa. Travelers to Africa have unanimously consented that Uganda not only has a great diversity of wildlife but also a profusion of bird species.

Sir Fredrick Jackson, a former Governor of the Uganda protectorate and keen ornithologist once described Uganda as a “hidden Eden….and a wonderland for birds”.

He was right as no other area in Africa can match Uganda’s amazing diversity of habitats and this richness is reflected in the available 1056 bird species that include the rare shoebill stork – arguably one of the world’s most sought after birds.

Also known as Balaeniceps rex translated as “King Whale head“; the shoe bill is remarkably a striking bird with certain pre-historic looks. It is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves and order Ciconiiformes.

The shoe bill has a large head and unusually long and wide colored bill, which ends in a hooked tip. Standing at 1.5 m in height and sharing attributes with both herons and storks, shoe bills with broad wings, long legs and unwebbed feet live alone in widely spaced pairs.

Some of the places known for viewing of this rare bird specie include Mabamba swamp on the shores of Lake Victoria, the banks of the Nile River in Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Kikorongo in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Kyoga and the southern fringe of Lake Albert that adjoins with the Semliki wildlife reserve.

Their stealthy movements over rafts of floating vegetation, enable them to get hold of prey that include lung fish, water snakes and small crocodiles.

Partially nocturnal and sluggish, the shoe bill obtains its diet by probing the mud with its boot like bill. They also fly with their heads and necks folded back.

As the breeding season approaches usually in the months of April to June, the male and female start engaging in a bill clacking courtship prior to mating and putting up a nest of broken reeds and other aquatic vegetation.

Two eggs are usually laid with both the female and male taking turns incubating them for a period that takes about a month. Two silvery brown chicks are hatched – and do remain helpless for some time. The young birds are dependant on the skilful hunting of their parents.

This goes on for about four months – till the young bills are properly developed. Shoe bills life span usually ranges between forty and forty -five years. Approximately 1000 shoe bills are still believed to survive in different parts of Uganda.

With increasing human population characterized by continued habitat destruction and encroachment the survival of the shoe bill stork is paramount considering the increasing number of dedicated ornithologists as well as the novice bird watcher to Uganda who are coming in big numbers to get a glimpse of this rare bird.

Kidepo Valley National Park Speaks to the Soul

TEA & Agencies

Tucked into the corner of Uganda’s border with Sudan and Kenya, Kidepo Valley National Park is truly one of Uganda’s spectacular parks.

It is an area of classic beauty with vast and myriad herds of wildlife roaming freely through untamed nature. Dare go there: it will really astound you! The park can be reached from Kampala either by air or road.

Although the journey can be tough, taking up to two days, the diverse landscape enroute makes the journey worthwhile.

There are three routes that can be used by road and these include the route via Karuma, Lira and Kotido which is approximately 705 kilometres; the route via Mbale, Sironko and Kotido that is around 740km; while the 792km route takes you via Mbale, Soroti and Moroto on to Kidepo. A 4×4 wheel drive vehicle is recommended for any of the routes to Kidepo.

In as much as the drive to Kidepo is exciting, most visitors arrive at the park’s headquarters at Apoka by charter flight.Gazetted in 1962, this 1442 square kilometre park though less frequented does offer a kaleidoscope of memorable images. There is something wild and starkly beautiful the traveler goes to feel in Kidepo.

That something extends beyond the open tree savannah, Acacia Geradi forest, scenic landscapes, vast herds and Karimojong manyattas (huts): it’s something that speaks to the soul.

The best time to visit Kidepo is during the dry season that runs from December to late March. In the rainy season from April to September travel is often not easy and game is not easy to locate as a result of the overgrown grass. Whatever your idea of a real Africa, Kidepo will match it as the park offers a tantalizing glimpse of Uganda’s unique wildlife.

The feel of Kidepo stems from the wide variety of things to do and see. For those interested in wild game, Kidepo Valley National Park provides a wealth of wildlife including 86 species of mammals of which 28 are not found in any other Ugandan park. Some of the wild game includes the dik-dik, cheetah, lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, zebra, eland, Bright’s gazelle and greater kudu.

Game drive loops through Narus Valley and around Kanangarok hot springs across Kidepo River will most likely enable you get the opportunity of seeing the eland, zebra and giraffe feeding together.

For the ornithologist, over 462 bird species have been recorded among which are the ostrich, kori bustard and the giant ground hornbill.

The trip can also be spiced up by attending either the ekaharo or emuya dance of the Napore and Nyangea ethnic groups. These traditional dances are some of those few experiences that you will surely live to remember.

If you simply want to relax and enjoy your holiday, the luxurious Apoka Lodge provides the perfect setting.

With the ever increasing visitor numbers to Kidepo, there is need for more accommodation facilities to supplement Apoka Lodge.

Opportunities abound for construction of new hotels in Katurum and other areas of the park.

All that can be said of Kidepo is that not only does its terrain alternate between seducing inselbergs and small hills but also from rocky outcrops to open tree savannah.

Get the Feel, Thrill of Mount Mgahinga

TEA & Agencies

Nestled in the south western tip of Uganda on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Mgahinga has an area of just 34 square kilometres and is the Uganda’s smallest national park.

It encompasses the Uganda side of the three Bufumbira volcanic mountains of Mgahinga at 3400 metres high, Sabinyo at 3645m and Muhavura at 4127m.

Mgahinga can be reached from Kampala either by air or road. From Kampala the park is about 540 kilometres and is punctuated with scenic views while charter flights to Kisoro Airstrip take approximately an hour from Entebbe.

Gazetted as a sanctuary in 1930, this park has 76 mammal species with the most notable being Uganda’s trump card; the mountain gorilla. Nyakagezi, one of the habituated groups or gorilla families, in this park keeps moving back and forth across the boundary of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 1964, the northern boundary of the sanctuary was changed to a lower altitude of 2280m extending into heavily encroached zones and gazetted as a game reserve which made an area of roughly 47.5km² that has gone on reducing to 38.6 square kilometres. This game reserve was later gazetted to its present status of a national park in 1991.

Other key species of primates known to be in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include the golden monkey and the black and white Colobus monkey. Considering that this park is a gem amongst Ugandan parks, other animals to look out for include golden cats, giant forest hogs, Caruthers’s mountain, Boehm’s, side stripped jackal, honey badger, buffaloes, elephants and 12 bird species among which are the cinnamon chested bee eater and the globally threatened Grauer’s rush warbler.

Being an Afro-montane tropical rainforest, it has abundant bamboo that is one of the delicacies for the mountain gorilla. Mgahinga National Park has three extinct volcanoes. Though no special mountain gear is required, it is recommended that one has to be physically fit. The three extinct volcanoes are Mt. Gahinga, Mt. Muhavura and Mt.Sabinyo.

Mount Sabinyo commonly referred to as “Old Man’s Teeth” is the point where you will be in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the same time. The hike takes approximately eight hours for the round trip that covers the 14 -kilometre stretch.

Mt. Gahinga, locally known as a “Small Pile of Stones” is another of the hills that make up the Virunga ranges while Mt. Muhavura meaning “The Guide” is a volcano that acts as a guide since it is seen from all over Kisoro. The hike to Mt. Gahinga takes approximately eight hours for a round trip to cover the 12 km stretch.

Another principal feature in the area are the caves. Most notable is Garama cave where the Batwa are believed to have once lived. This 342-metre long and 14-metre deep cave three kilometres from the park headquarters is now inhabited by bats. Kisoro town offers a wide range of accommodation facilities ranging from basic campsites to luxurious hotels.

Recommended hotels and lodges include Traveler’s Rest Hotel and Mount Gahinga Lodge. For the avid hiker, Mt. Mgahinga is the place to go. However, there is need for more shorter and varied walks that can be promoted around or within the park.