Ultimate Africa travel and wildlife news archive
Cape Towns Mount Nelson Hotel Voted Best in Africa, December 19 1999
The Mount Nelson hotel in Cape Town has been voted the "Best Hotel in Africa and the Middle East" and the eight "Best Hotel Overall" by readers of the popular US magazine Conde Nast Traveller. In addition, the hotel was named the "Best Hotel in Africa" at the 1999 World Travel Awards in London last month. The Mount Nelson Hotel is part of the Orient Express Group.
Cape Town Airport Voted Best in Africa, December 19 1999
Cape Town International Airport (CIA) has been named the Best Airport in Africa for the second consecutive year at the World Travel Awards at World Travel Market in London.
Cape Town is One of Safest Cities, December 19 1999
Cape Town is one of the safest cities in the world for tourists, according to international police statistics.
Dramatic Fossil Find in South Africa, December 19 1999
South African anthropologist, Dr Ron Clarke has announced that he has made another dramatic fossil discovery, further boosting Africa's claims to be the cradle of mankind. The complete arm and hand of an Australopithecus ape-man believed to be 3.3 million-years-old has been excavated at the Sterkfontein caves in Gauteng, which in early December was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. On December 9, 1998, Clarke announced the discovery of a complete ape-man skull and associated skeleton at the same site.
World Heritage Sites Declared in South Africa, December 19 1999
UNESCO's World Heritage Committee officially declared Robben Island, the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park and the fossil hominoid sites at Sterkfontein World Heritage Sites at a ceremony in Morocco earlier this month.
The fossilhominoid sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs, west of Johannesburg, are a complex of palaeoanthropological sites that contain some of the most valuable evidence about the origins of modern man - from the 2,5-million-year -old skull of Mrs. Ples to the 3,3-million-year-old set of bones of Little Foot.
The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, in northern KwaZulu Natal, is a natural site of five interlinked ecosystems in an area of almost unrivalled natural diversity. It is one of the largest protected wildlife areas in South Africa and the largest estuarine system in Africa.
Robben Island, off the Cape coast, is the site of the prison in which former president Nelson Mandela was held for 27 years. Its inscription by the World Heritage Convention is being hailed as a global icon of human rights and reconciliation.
The World Heritage Convention of UNESCO, established in 1972, recognizes World Heritage Sites as areas of outstanding universal value. Its present list includes the Acropolis in Greece; the Pyramids in Egypt; Great Zimbabwe; the Great Wall of China; the Taj Mahal in India; the Grand Canyon in the United States; and the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.
Zimbabwe is 4th Best Tourism Destination in World, December 19 1999
Zimbabwe has been voted the fourth best tourism destination in a survey of 177 countries conducted by Wanderlust magazine.
Elephant Poaching on Rise in Zimbabwe, December 19 1999
At least 84 elephants have been killed by ivory poachers in Zimbabwe this year - 31 of them in the past two weeks, officials and conservation sources have said. The death toll is likely to lead to renew pressure by wildlife activists for the re-imposition of an outright ban on ivory dealing.
Zambezi Society conservation group spokesperson Dick Pitman criticized the government's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management for failing to support its game scouts, who are poorly paid and badly equipped, "while the department's bosses are reportedly planning so spend millions of dollars on new vehicles for themselves."
Zimbabwe National Parks, director, Willas Makombe, dismissed reports that there was an increase in poaching, saying the reports were being fuelled by a number of alarmists with no concrete proof of their claims. He added that it was not true that the Cites decision to allow the selling of ivory had resulted in an increase in poaching. "Our figures show that there has been no significant increase in poaching. You should also note that it is traditional that during this time of the year, poaching levels are always higher," he said.
He said although there were mechanisms to ensure that only legally acquired ivory was sold, the poachers managed to sell their illegal ivory because they worked with international syndicates. "We can arrest or even kill these small poachers, but that is not the root of the problem. If we arrest one poacher, it is easy for the big dealers who are sponsoring them to just deal with a replacement. We cannot eradicate poaching unless we eradicate the recipient," he said.
Makombe dismissed reports that the department was inadequately equipped, saying the department was actually in a better financial position than at any other time. He said there had been a turn around in the department's fortunes since it had been converted into a fund. Because the department is now generating its own money, it is operating under a bigger and more efficient budget. From operating within the limits of a budget of US $1.4 million from government in 1996, the department this year operated under a budget of over US $12 million.
Victoria Falls Border Times Extended, December 19 1999
With effect from December 1, 1999 operating times at the VFA border post (with Zambia) have been extended until 10:00 PM. The Chirundu border post between the two countries was expected to adopt the same hours as soon as adequate lighting between the two border-posts had been put in place.
The chief immigration officer, Mr. Elasto Mugwadi, said that it was expected that the VFA border would eventually operate on a 24-hour basis.
Victoria Falls Balloon is Not Intrusive, December 19 1999
In response to comments that the new Victoria Falls balloon would mar the landscape, a spokesperson from the Victoria Falls Balloon Company said that while the balloon is in flight, it is tethered by a single steel cable, and while moored, it is anchored close to the ground and therefore will be barely visible. The most visible part of the machine is the balloon itself, which is being brought into the Falls in an unfinished state so that the operators can paint it in the colors, which blend best with the landscape around its mooring position. The spokesperson said that the location of the balloons mooring site is in a position where it should not mar photos taken of the Victoria Falls from either the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides.
The Victoria Falls Balloon Company mooring site and the related buildings are all semi permanent in structure and will be built so that they blend with the bush. Full Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) have been done on the project and submitted to the relevant authorities. Approval for the project has been obtained from both National Parks and National Monuments. The project has also received endorsement from Environment 2000 and leading Victoria Falls hotel operators. In support of the project, the spokesperson added that the balloon would be by far the quietest provider of scenic viewing at the Falls. "The balloon is silent and does not pollute the air with exhaust fumes. It is also capable of carrying up large numbers of passengers at a time and should therefore, indirectly, reduce the number of flights which are already operating in the area, hence reducing noise and air pollution over the Falls" he said.
New Harare Airport to Open May 2000, December 19 1999
Air Harbour Technologies (AHT) chief executive Geoffrey Lipman says the new Harare International Airport is expected to be operational by May 2000. "Not only would it be the most outstanding airport in Africa, it would be among the best in the world" he said, stressing that Zimbabwe, with so many attractions to lure the world, could not afford to make anything but positive impressions on visitors.
Zimbabwes Chimanimani Mountains Woo the World, December 18 1999
Zimbabwes premier hiking destination, the Chimanimani Mountains, may be designated World Heritage Site status. According to Jane High of the Chimanimani Tourist Association, a comprehensive bid has been put together for the Chimanimani Mountains to be so designated. "Should the Chimanimani be given World Heritage status, there will be two results: the fragile nature of the area will receive official recognition and attention, and Chimanimani will benefit hugely from the increased exposure given to World Heritage Sites. Additionally, World Bank funding has been secured for Mozambique to open up its side of the quartzite mountain range to form a joint national park. "Almost three quarters of the Chimanimani mountain range is in Mozambique," explained Ms High. "Many of the most spectacular waterfalls, gorges and lakes lie in this previously untouched area, and Zimbabwe now stands to benefit hugely because we already have the secondary services, such as transport into the park, accommodation nearby and an established tourist information center."
A further positive development for the mountain area is that Outward Bound Zimbabwe has completed the formation and training of a highly skilled search and rescue team. The voluntary team is on call around the clock and has, so far, carried out 19 successful sorties bringing lost or injured tourists off the mountains.
Hippo Dying at Lake Kariba, December 19 1999
More than 100 hippo have recently died along Zimbabwes Matusadona National Park shoreline. The lush green vegetation, which grew just above the previous waterline, had been submerged by the rising lake earlier in the year, resulting in a subsequent lack of grazing for hippo, buffalo and other species. Some hippo had thus died from dietary deficiencies. Another theory suggests that the hippo, given the shortage of their natural food, had been forced to eat different vegetation which had resulted in natural poisoning.
Given the hippo population of the lake (approx. 30 000), there was not a major problem for the species.
SOL Aviation Takes Off in Zimbabwe, December 19 1999
SOL Aviation commenced operations in October, operating air charter services with their fleet of American twin-engine light aircraft from their base at Harare International Airport, Zimbabwe.
Millennium Scare Hits Airlines, December 19 1999
Although all airlines say they are now Y2K compliant, bookings over the critical New Year period have plunged for many of the major airlines. Despite airline assurances that their planes are free of the Y2K bug, which does not recognize the double zero in the year, 2000, potential passengers are taking no chances and are either flying well before the turn to the new millennium or well afterwards.
A spokesman for British Airways says the airline has suffered a 50% drop in the number of passengers flying over the New Year period compared to last year, and both the Dutch airline, KLM, and Air Zimbabwe have dropped their New Year's eve flights. KLM has also cancelled its New Year's day flight, bound for Amsterdam. Air Zimbabwe was to have flown to London on the evening of 31 December, returning on New Year's day. David Mwenga, Air Zimbabwe's senior public relations manager, told The Standard there were not enough passengers to substantiate the flight, adding that their flight bookings up to December 28 were filling up fast.
British Firm Wins Top Award for Kilimanjaro Airport, December 19 1999
A British firm that has taken over the running of Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania has won a top consultancy award for its "groundbreaking project." CMS Cameron McKenna and Mott MacDonald took over the running of the airport after two years of protracted negotiations with the Dar-es- Salaam government, for which they received no payment.
Now the company plans to bring the airport up to international standards. The company hopes that within a few years, large numbers of tourists will arrive at Kilimanjaro rather than Nairobi or Dar-es-Salaam because of its proximity to prime tourist sites such as Serengeti, the Ngorongoro crater and Manyara wildlife park as well as Mount Kilimanjaro itself.
Kenya Attempts to Bounce Back, December 19 1999
In reaction to a blitz of damaging publicity following global broadcasts of the Julia Ward case, the Kenya Tourism Foundation has announced the establishment of a safety and communication center, which it claims, includes the first tourist helpline in Africa. The hotline is dedicated to providing back up and assistance whenever necessary for any visitors to Kenya. Another exciting initiative from KTF is the establishment of an ecotourism rating system for all hotels and lodges in the country to encourage responsible environmental practices by lodges and hotel proprietors.
Conservation Corporation Merges with Afro Ventures, December 19 1999
The merger between Conservation Corporation Africa (CCA) and Afro Ventures has now been confirmed. The merger took effect from November 30, 1999, though a statement from CCA stated that the deal was subject to "the Competitions Board approval". A statement said that the merger "brings together Africas finest safari locations and top quality lodges with excellent ground handling, overland safari and tour designing capabilities". The combined operation has in excess of 3,000 staff and more than 1,000 beds in 26 locations in six African countries.
Kenya to Host Task Force on Illegal Wildlife Trade, December 26 1999
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Government of Kenya have negotiated an agreement to establish Kenya as the headquarters of a Task Force to curb the illegal trade in endangered wildlife and flora.
The conclusion of the agreement is an important step in the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora, an agreement adopted by six African countries in 1994.
Launched in June 1999, the Task Force has already conducted successful cross border and undercover operations that have led to the arrests of poachers and the confiscation of hundreds of tons of ivory tusks and firearms.
Botswana not bugged by Y2K, December 26 1999
If you want to escape millennium mayhem this New Year, then Gaborone, Botswana could prove the perfect destination. Reports from Botswanas capital say that there are no official millennium celebrations planned for the city.
Instead, nearly 60% of Gaborones 160,000 residents are expected to head out of town to celebrate New Year as they do every year - with their relatives in the countryside. Most of them will be travelling hundreds of kilometers to their cattle posts - the plots of land in the rural areas where families keep their livestock throughout the year, and where family members gather for Christmas and New Year. Music and dancing are the backbone of the weeklong Batswana festive season. Choirs made up of family members sing in the evenings, often in competition with other family choirs from the village. On Christmas Eve a village elder will ceremoniously slaughter a cow or goat.
Even at the busiest times, Gaborone is among the quietest of African capitals, its city center comprising a few spotlessly clean pedestrian streets. By the end of December, even these boulevards are all but deserted. With four out of five Batswana living in rural districts, ties to the countryside remain strong - especially since no one in the city can claim roots going back even 40 years.
In colonial days, Bechuanaland - as it was then called - was governed from Mafikeng, which was not even part of the territory. It was only after independence that Gaborone assumed any significance at all. So loyalty to ancestral homes remains strong.
Just to be on the safe side, Botswanas police force has announced it will be at full strength over the festive season to ensure a smooth progression into the new millennium. Deputy Commissioner Edwin Batsoe said that the force has suspended all leave over the New Year period.
Rural revelers can be assured that their money will be safe while they are away. The Bank of Botswana announced this week that it is satisfied with steps taken by financial institutions to identify potential Y2K bug problems, and that all banks have safeguarded the records of their customers accounts. It also says the commercial banks have "adequate arrangements to meet any liquidity demands by customers". So the cattle posts can look forward to a liquid New Year.
Waterfront Resort Ready for Visitors, December 26 1999
Safari Par Excellence have advised that Stage III of their Waterfront project, the ensuite lodges at Victoria Falls, will be ready for the Millennium. "The progress on this stage has been slow for a number of reasons, the main complications being border formalities and labor related problems," said Steve McCormick. "24 beds will be ready for the Christmas season, together with the 40 beds in the Adventure Village and the campsite. "The millennium party will be on the deck overlooking the Zambezi River as well as on the MV Makumbi - the largest sundowner boat
on the river, recently refurbished and licensed to take 150 passengers." Graham Nel, the resort general manager, is expecting up to 600 party animals to attend the function.
Kariba Lake Levels Update, December 26 1999
Lake Kariba is currently at 485.84m above mean sea level. The lake was at its highest in June 1999, when it reached 487.40m. It is expected that the lake will more than likely reach its full capacity in 2000. Lake Kariba was created and designed to operate between the minimum operating level of 475.5m and the maximum operating level of 488.5m.
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