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East Africa Tourism

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

Wolfgang H. Thome  Aug 14, 2008

The latest addition to the stable of Wild Places Africa / Uganda commenced operations last weekend, when Clouds opened the doors for the public. The first weekend was graced by the presence of two magicians and their parties, when guests named Merlin and Prospero checked in to the delight of management and the reception staff. The guests, however, did not need to wave their magic wands to have their every need attended to, as all the staff were at their Sunday best, according to reports from another visitor, and treated their first guests to excellent meals and perfect service. The lodge is providing access to both the Nkuringo gorillas as well as to a nearby group of chimpanzees in a rare combination of tracking both primates from one place. Clouds joins the sister operations Semliki Safari Lodge, Apoka Safari Lodge and of course the 5 star boutique hotel Emin Pasha in Kampala’s fashionable Nakasero suburb.

The new up-market ecolodge is located high up in the hills, surrounded by rainforest on land provided by the Nkuringo community, who are the major stakeholder in the venture. The venture was supported by USAID’s ‘Prime West’ project in a deal put together between the African Wildlife Foundation, USAID, the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Nkuringo Community Development Trust Fund in a ground breaking agreement aimed to empower communities living near protected areas in exchange for good will, conservation participation and a sustainable income plus employment opportunities. Visit the ‘Clouds’ website at or write to for more information and bookings.

Information has been received that Uganda will participate in the World Tourism Congress in Tokyo in September this year. The tourism trade show is organized by the Japan Association of Travel Agents and participants from Uganda will be trying hard to promote the country’s tourism attractions and bio-diversity. Enquiries or requests for meetings with the Tourist Board personnel or private sector participants can be made in advance through the Uganda Tourist Board office in Kampala via

The country will later in the year also participate once again at the World Travel Market in London and inquiries can be made through the Uganda Tourist Board for meeting appointments or for details of expected participants.

During a recent visit to the East of the country as part of his nationwide poverty reduction policy President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni denied a request passed to him by the minister for Tourism, Trade and Industry to use 7,500 hectares of Mt. Elgon forest land for resettlement purposes. The president, however, demanded to know first what impact the forest reduction would have on the environment and how it would affect the ecological balance in this important water catchment area. The National Environment Management Authority was instructed to prepare a scientific study to that effect and no decision will now be taken by the minister until those studies have been produced and checked out. The President also directed that human resettlement could in the meantime be done in other more suitable areas. Mt. Elgon National Park was long a hot spot for the Uganda Wildlife Authority in trying to evict illegal settlers and the top level support will be most welcome news for conservationists.

Political groups in the area also joined the growing chorus of political, business and civic leaders across the entire country, for President Museveni to seek another term of office come election time in 2011, leaving opposition groups squabbling and trailing in the wake of the ruling National Resistance Movement party. President Museveni came to power in January 1986 when driving out the dictatorships of old as then head of the National Resistance Army and has since then won general elections in 1996, 2001 and 2006.

While Barclays Bank Uganda now has to wait until the main case is heard and determined by court in a few months over a massive debt incurred by the owners of the infamous Entebbe road hotel, and was temporarily restrained from selling off the assets of the owners given as loan security, more woes just crept across the horizon. A kitchen and furniture supplier has now also gone to court over large sums of outstanding money, which were not paid after the botched (non)opening of the hotel prior to the Commonwealth Summit last year. The extensive office and shop arcades along the main road to Entebbe are also still glaringly empty and a number of buildings which can be seen from the main road are lingering in limbo, without roofs or any visible signs of building work.

Tullow Oil has just announced a new major producing well they drilled in one of the designated oil exploration areas along the Albertine rift. Conservative estimates put Uganda’s oil wealth to an assured 300 million barrels but present exploration activities could raise this figure multi-fold in coming months and years. A mini refinery is presently being planned to process around 4.000 barrels of crude oil a day, initially for the production of heavy fuel oil needed to power a thermal power plant in the area. The news were greeted with relief by the business community in Uganda which has been suffering of exorbitant fuel cost and high electricity prices, all of which in the medium term should be contained once oil production starts some time in 2009. Government too will be relieved at the prospect of seeing a sustainable income enter the budget equation from next year onwards, which can be used to fund health, education and infrastructure projects and developments, amongst many other urgent needs the country has. In a related development it was also announced during the week that the construction of the pipeline extension from Eldoret in Western Kenya to Kampala would commence in September. The 350 km pipeline extension will bring relief to Uganda and the hinterland nations as the new fuel pick up point will save an arduous journey by road and reduce heavy traffic considerably from the Kenyan border into Uganda. The pipeline, to be built by Libya’s Tamoil, is expected to cost about US$200 million .

Upon completion of the project attention will turn to the existing pipeline from Mombasa’s main oil depot at Kilindini Harbour to Eldoret, which is already running at full capacity and requires a substantial expansion in order to serve both Kenya and the African hinterland for years to come.

The birthday today of Zakayo, UWEC’s oldest chimpanzee with now 44 years on his back, has been turned into a major event to promote more visitors to the wildlife education center. Zakayo was kept at the Entebbe Zoo, which in the mid ‘90s turned into the Wildlife Education Centre with support from the World Bank’s PAMSU program and from the EU, besides generous assistance from the Ugandan corporate sector.

Following the recent withdrawal of Air Uganda’s morning flight to Nairobi, Kenya Airways (KQ) has now through the usual diplomatic channels requested to up their own frequencies from presently four a day to five a day, just as soon as the bureaucratic steps have been taken and a new schedule been approved. This will be good news to theKQ faithful, who can earn mileage credits on their frequent flyer program with every flight, either between Entebbe and Nairobi but more importantly beyond, when using KQ’s extensive network. Information was also received that KQ might for some of their flights permanently substitute the present B737NG aircraft with the larger B767 to allow for more passengers but also facilitate the shipping of palletized cargo between the two airports.

Kenya Airways in the meantime has taken delivery of yet another brand new B737-800 (NG) when the aircraft arrived from the Boeing factory in Seattle / USA earlier in the week. This latest addition to the fleet will allow Kenya Airways, according to their press release, to resume flights to Madagascar and add more frequencies to Luanda / Angola in coming weeks and meet growing traffic expectations now that the economic recovery has taken full hold and passenger numbers on all routes are once again climbing.

The Justice Abdul Majid Cockar led official inquiry into the circumstances of the highly controversial sale of the Grand Regency Hotel to the Libyan government got another month time to complete its report, after it was established that a complex net of allegations needed to be investigated and many more individuals may have to appear for interviews and to help with the investigations. In parallel a parliamentary committee is also scrutinizing the sale, which has developed into a major scandal and already cost the former Finance Minister his job.

Libya has in the meantime also calmed down after an initial round of diplomatic broadsides and strongly worded comments trying to sweep the commissions aside, which included a message from Libyan leader Gadaffi delivered to the government in Kenya by a personal envoy.

In a related development it was learned that the Tanzania Airports Authority is to become a fully autonomous body.

The much-awaited ruling by the High Court to have the implementation date of the new Kenya Civil Aviation Regulations delayed until the main case is heard, was read out today. The court in its Ruling declined to vary its initially issued orders and grant the prayers sought of staying the implementation of the Kenya Civil Aviation Regulations pending the hearing and final determination of the suit, on the basis that such a variation of the orders might be detrimental to the interests of the public. So, the KCARS are now in force, with all its consequences for air operators and pilots.

A Kenya-registered aircraft, carrying ‘miraa’ or ‘khat’ to Somalia, reportedly crashed yesterday not far from Mogadishu, while attempting to land. Early reports from the scene indicate that there were no survivors and the crew on board died at the scene. Miraa is a major export item from Kenya’s Meru area and consumed in large quantities in Somalia. No cause for the accident was available.

Considering the recent outbursts of regime leader Joseph Kabila against Belgian “meddling” in the region, Kinshasa has now in a surprise move appointed a Belgian citizen to assist them in reducing poaching and corruption in the country’s wildlife management service. Earlier in the year was the head of the Virunga National Park – Parc de Virunga – arrested for his alleged involvement in the killing of more than half a dozen of the endangered mountain gorillas, illegal tree cutting and other illegal activities. Emmanuel de Merode, reportedly a descendant of Belgian royalty, was recently appointed a the new head of the park, bringing some hope of restored sanity and true conservation efforts to the region, where national parks in the border triangle and along the frontiers from Congo, Rwanda and Uganda meet.

Said Environment Minister Jose Endundu: “We do not have any hang ups in that respect’ and ‘Congo wants to preserve its protected areas. It needs best expertise.”

What a remarkable turn about but too late to save the now extinct Northern White Rhinos in Garamba National Park, where an ignorant and arrogant predecessor in the same portfolio in a last moment change of heart had halted an airlift that was lined up to evacuate the few surviving rhinos to a safe location in Kenya a few years ago.

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report
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