Monday 30 November 2015

GAMBIA: Season’s Maiden Polish Flight In Banjul

The airbus with the inscription Service Canaria Travel Boeing 737-800, which carried over 100 tourists onboard direct from Warsaw and landed at exactly 21:00hrs Friday night at the Banjul International Airport (BIA) in Yundum, was a maiden flight from the Eastern European nation of Poland for this 2015/2016 winter tourism season.

This adds to increasing tourists arrivals to Destination Gambia for this year’s winter season.

The Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MoTC) registered success on capturing the Eastern European nation market in 2013 when they received the maiden Polish tourists in November 1st with 240 tourists onboard to Destination Gambia.

Speaking on behalf of Abdoullah Hydara, the director general of GTBoard shortly after the arrival of the Polish tourists, Adama Cham, Statistics and Communication manager of GTBoard applauded Rainbow Tours – Poland and Alkamba Tours – Gambia for their relentless efforts in bringing the tourists to Destination Gambia.

He reiterated the positive step taken by the GTBoard to make Destination Gambia a tourism haven.

Kamil Juwa, the director of Operation, Rainbow Tours International, expressed delight over the season’s maiden flight from Poland. From now on and throughout the 2015/2016 winter tourism season, he announced, a tourist flight will come every week direct from Warsaw and with possibility of increasing in the future.

He thanked the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) for the welcome accorded the tourists on their arrival and affirmed that the tourists enjoyed and were happy on the sight of the cultural display at the BIA, organised by the GTBoard.

Kebba Drammeh, director of Operation, Alkamba Tours, thanked their partners, Rainbow Tours International on the arrival and as well the Gambia Tourism Board for the welcoming of the tourists to the destination.

He dilated more on the arrival of the season’s maiden Polish flight and the importance of the Eastern European nation market to Gambia.

JAMAICA: UCC Students In France For International Tourism Competition

UCC BONNE CHANCE 2 University College of the Caribbean President Troy McGrath gives advice to hospitality and management students Rowena Jones (left) and Janielle Lyne (second left), and lecturer Johnnel Smith, Thursday, prior to the students’ departure for Nice, France to participate in the 2015 Global Travel and Tourism Partnership Competition.

UNIVERSITY College of the Caribbean (UCC) tourism and hospitality management students Janielle Lyn and Rowena Jones departed the island last Thursday for France to participate in the 2015 Global Travel and Tourism Partnership Competition.

Lyn and Jones are the only two representatives from the English-speaking Caribbean to attend the event, having won the Jamaican leg of the competition.

The students will present on an off-the-beaten track activity, 'Paragliding in Jamaica', at the international conference being held in Nice, the capital of the Alpes Maritimes département.

Vice-president of academic affairs at UCC, Dr Paul Thompson, said the university is quite pleased at the students' selection to participate in the event.

"Their selection speaks to the depth, rigour and quality of the institution's programme and to the level of leadership that facilitated the students' participation at the competition," Dr Thompson said/

"At UCC, we are not only focused on preparing students to attain their qualifications, but we are also focused on providing our students with international exposure and getting them used to international bench marks. In this way, they are prepared and ready to serve both in Jamaica and elsewhere," Dr Thompson added.

Asked how she felt about travelling to France in light of the recent terrorist attacks on Paris, Jones said that she was focused on the challenge and that her preparations had been going well.

She admitted that she had never felt so adventurous and had tried paragliding for the first time to put her in a better position to speak about the product.

In Lyn's case, her preparations were more land-based and focused on sharpening her presentation skills to ensure that her "delivery was on point".

The two, who described their participation in the competition as "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity", said they were overwhelmed, but excited at representing UCC and Jamaica at this level. They believe that this initiative will provide others with an opportunity to associate the island with an activity that is outside of the norm, and increase the visibility of the existing paragliding businesses on the island.

ANTIGUA: Britain Sends £5m Foreign Aid To Caribbean To Improve Fishing, Tourism

British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a £5.6 million cash injection to help improve fishing, tourism and shipping in the Caribbean and other countries.

The 25 “small island” Commonwealth recipients include Bermuda, Jamaica, the Maldives, the Seychelles, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago/

Cameron who is attending the Commonweath Heads of Government meeting here, said he wants the countries to be able to make the most of their natural maritime resources.

He made the announcement while unveiling a £26million aid package to help tackle global warming ahead of a meeting of world leaders in Paris on Monday.

The cash will be used to manage fisheries, protect coastlines and tackle pollution, as well as extending disaster risk.
“We have a real opportunity to get the small island states that are so vulnerable to climate change on board for an ambitious global climate change deal in Paris,” Cameron said. “Britain is firmly committed to helping these countries deal with the effects of climate change.

“That’s why we’re announcing new supporttoday to help protect them from the risks of climate change and to make the most of their natural maritime advantages, which are so vital to their economies,” Cameron added.

Britain will be spending £16.3billion on its foreign aid program by 2020, more than the amount spent on border controls, immigration, police and prisons.

JAMAICA: Corruption Museum Could Become Albany Tourism Draw

A resident of New York's capital city has an unusual economic development plan to harness what he says is one of Albany's most abundant renewable resources: political corruption.

For a US$12.50 or so "bribe", visitors to the planned Museum of Political Corruption will get a tour of the state's long history of crooked politicians, shady deals and backroom power brokers, as well as a chance to learn about individuals who have fought corruption and suggested solutions to the state's chronic problem.

The museum is the idea of Bruce Roter, a professor at Albany's College of Saint Rose who is now raising money for the museum, which he envisions as both an educational institution and a tourist destination that focuses on the state Capitol's reputation for corruption.

"Let's use it as a resource. The attention is already there," Roter said, "if we can get ahead of the late-night punchlines."

That the recently disgraced leaders of the New York Senate and Assembly are now on federal trial, accused of selling their mighty influence and lying about it, doesn't make this a particularly ripe time, Roter said. He recalled a century-old newspaper story by muckraker Nellie Bly, reporting she was able to kill a random piece of state legislation by paying US$1,250.

Roter has been working on the project for two years after talking over coffee with Kathy Sheehan, who has since become mayor of Albany. The question came up: What Albany resource could yield tourism revenue? Corruption fit the bill and has a certain advantage: "It's a renewable resource," he said.

Roter has already established a non-profit museum organisation with a website, mugs for sale, and some heavies from the academic and museum worlds on its boards of directors and advisers. They include Philip Mark Plotch, political science professor at Saint Peter's University, and Zephyr Teachout, Fordham law professor and former gubernatorial candidate. Roter, a classical composer who has written compositions inspired by the Camp David Peace Accord, former New York Governor and US President Theodore Roosevelt and the first responders to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, is president.

Now the serious fund-raising begins. He's keeping close to the vest what's come in so far. But Roter believes he can get a brick-and-mortar museum running in about four years, including what he intends to call the "cozy crony cafe". It could launch sooner with an interim, mobile museum exhibit.

It's meant to be satirical and entertaining, but grounded in the rigours of research, education and museum science. Roter sees school groups visiting.

The legendary Boss Tweed and a certain Mr Phelps, who engineered Bly's bill-spiking for cash, are likely to be featured. He has already obtained vintage political cartoons from the late 1800s from the periodicals Harper's Weekly and Puck.

For the current crop of officials, entry is neither certain nor immediate. Like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, there will be a waiting period before someone can be added. Roter noted that former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who resigned while under federal investigation, was first convicted, appealed and later acquitted of two charges that he sold his official influence for money.

Since news of the project was first reported, Roter says he's received nods of support from Republicans and Democrats and no pushback so far.

Sheehan said there is much the public could learn from Albany's checkered past, as long as it is presented as a "cautionary tale" and not glorified. She said Albany as a whole has been unfairly judged by the actions of corrupt state leaders.

"The frustrating thing for me is when Albany is used as a synonym for corruption or dysfunction," she said. "Because there are those of us who live here, who say, 'wait a minute, this is a great city'."

Saturday 28 November 2015

REUNION: New Hotels Opened

A ten percent increase in bed capacity is a development worth talking about and that is what happened in 2015 as four new properties, one 5star and three 3star hotels have opened their doors on Reunion island.

This comes on the back of not only sustained demand for holidays on the island but of growing visitor numbers, giving the investors the confidence that they will reach viable occupancies very quickly.

The first of the new resorts is the Akoya Hotel & Spa, located on the beach side of the island from where it overlooks the Water Hole Lagoon. The hotel, which has 104 rooms, including 8 suites, positions itself as a third five-star resort of the island.

As for the three star properties which opened during the year, three new hotels have entered the market:

The Beating of Blades, located at the entrance of the city of Saint-Pierre and a few steps from the beach, offers 58 rooms and 2 suites;

Le Saint Pierre, is ideally located in the city center of Saint-Pierre, offers 55 rooms, including 38 suites with an own kitchenette;

The Dina Morgabine dominates the seaside resort of the Hermitage on the west coast of the island with 72 rooms including 37 of them furnished with kitchenettes.

These additional offerings have given Reunion tourism a boost and providing the capacity increases needed to cater for a rising inflow of tourists.

The lifting of Visa requirements via a waiver for South Africans, Chinese and Indian visitors, certain terms and conditions do exist to take advantage of it, have driven arrivals sharply up and the prevailing security on this French Indian Ocean island provides a perfect location for adventure but also conventional beach vacations.

TURKEY: Russia Suspends Visa Free Travel With Turkey, Arrests Turkish Businessmen

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned Russia on Friday not to "play with fire", citing reports Turkish businessmen had been detained in Russia, while Moscow said it would suspend visa-free travel with Turkey.

Relations between the former Cold War antagonists are at their lowest in recent memory after Turkey shot down a Russian jet near the Syrian border on Tuesday. Russia has threatened economic retaliation, a response Erdogan has dismissed as emotional and indecorous.

The incident has proved a distraction for the West, which is looking to build support for the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State in Syria. The nearly five-year-old Syrian civil war has been complicated by Russian air strikes in defence of President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey, which has long sought Assad's ouster, has extensive trade ties with Moscow, which could come under strain. Erdogan condemned reports that some Turkish businessmen had been detained for visa irregularities while attending a trade fair in Russia.

"It is playing with fire to go as far as mistreating our citizens who have gone to Russia," Erdogan told supporters during a speech in Bayburt, in northeast Turkey. "We really attach a lot of importance to our relations with Russia. We don't want these relations to suffer harm in any way."

He said he may speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a climate summit in Paris next week. Putin has so far refused to contact Erdogan because Ankara does not want to apologise for the downing of the jet, a Putin aide said.

Erdogan has said Turkey deserves the apology because its air space was violated.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday Moscow would suspend its visa-free regime with Turkey as of Jan. 1, which could affect Turkey's tourism industry.

Turkey's seaside resorts are among the most popular holiday destinations for Russians, who make up Turkey's largest number of tourist arrivals after Germany.

An association of Russian defence factories, which includes the producers of Kalashnikov rifles, Armata tanks and Book missile systems, has recommended its members suspend buying materials from Turkey. That could damage contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Russia's agriculture ministry has already increased checks on food and agriculture imports from Turkey, in one of the first public moves to curb trade.

Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said on Friday Turkey's council of ministers was also discussing which measures to take, but that he hoped that these would not last long. "I couldn't imagine that Russia would completely abandon its relations with Turkey over such an incident," he told a news conference. "For us it's impossible for Turkey to abandon its relations with Russia over such an incident."

Erdogan said that Turkey did not go looking to shoot down a Russian jet but acted after it strayed into Turkish air space. It was, he said, an automatic reaction to standing instructions given to the military. Moscow insists the jet never left Syrian air space.

Lower house speaker Sergei Naryshkin called the incident an "intentional murder" of its soldiers, saying Russia had the right to mount a military response.

The incident has worsened the outlook for the Syrian peace process, dashing recent optimism following the Group of 20 meeting in Turkey where U.S. President Barack Obama held an informal meeting with Putin.

"It certainly did not help," U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said.

However, Putin did ask France to draw up a map of where groups fighting Islamic State militants operate in Syria in order not to bomb them, France's foreign minister said.

Turkey and Russia have also traded blows over Islamic State, with each side accusing the other of being soft on terrorism. Lavrov, Moscow's foreign minister, said on Friday Russia had more and more questions about Ankara's commitment to eradicating terrorism.

Erdogan has rejected Russia's accusations that Turkey is buying oil and gas from Islamic State, calling it "slander" and saying Turkey only made purchases from known sources. He also accused Russian companies and Islamic State of selling oil to the Syrian regime.

Separately, warplanes believed to be Russian carried out several air strikes on a Syrian town near the Turkish border on Friday, a monitoring group said, one of several reported close to the boundary this week.

TURKEY: Russian Travel Agents Stop Selling Package Tours To Turkey, Reimburse 6,000 Tourists

Britain's U.N. ambassador says Turkey's downing of a Russian fighter jet must lead to redoubled efforts to end the Syrian conflict.Matthew Rycroft said that the longer the conflict goes on, "the more scope there is for these sorts of incidents to happen, and they are very dangerous."

He said the way to end the conflict is by implementing the 2012 Geneva communique calling for a transitional government in Syria and the way to speed this is through the Vienna talks involving about 20 key parties which have spurred "some momentum."

Rycroft said a lot of work is taking place on defining terrorism, uniting the opposition, preparing for a cease-fire and who would monitor it ahead of the next round of talks in December.

Israel's Tourism Ministry is investing an extra $2.6 million to attract Russian tourists after crises in Egypt and Turkey.

Ministry spokeswoman Michal Gerstler says Israel has focused on Russia for a month "in an attempt to create an alternative."

Russian tour agencies suspended sales of packages to Turkey after Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian jet along the Syrian border on Tuesday. Some 4.5 million Russian tourists visit Turkey each year.Russia suspended passenger flights to Egypt after the Oct. 31 crash of a passenger plane in the Sinai Peninsula that killed all 224 people on board, nearly all of them Russians.

Russia said the plane was downed by a bomb, and the Islamic State group claimed the attack.Gerstler said Wednesday that Israel will woo Russians through online ad campaigns and other marketing channels.

European Council President Donald Tusk has ruled out the possibility of a coalition with Russia in Syria as long it targets moderate Syrian opposition groups. Tusk said Wednesday that the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey on Tuesday "underlines the difficult situation in Syria where there are different actors with different interests conducting different operations with different aims."

He said there is only one way to avoid such incidents in the future and that is to concentrate all resources on the fight against the Islamic State group.He said "this should be a common objective" and "there will be never be a coalition to fight the moderate Syrian opposition. Everybody needs to understand that."

Iran is lashing out at Turkey over the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border, saying Ankara is responsible for heightened tensions in the region. Iran and Russia are key allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Turkey is a leading supporter of the rebels fighting to overthrow him.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said these "provocative actions and their many legal consequences are the responsibility of the initiator." He adds that "on the basis of the information we have up to now, the plane was involved in operations in the Syrian airspace."

Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, as calling the downing of the Russian jet a "big mistake." Turkey says it fired on the jet after it intruded into its airspace.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg says the downing of a Russian plane by alliance member Turkey "highlights the need to strengthen the mechanisms to avoid such incidents in the future."

Stoltenberg wrote in an op-ed piece scheduled to be published Thursday in a number of leading European newspapers that "we should not sleepwalk into unintended escalation." Stoltenberg said the incident Tuesday requires "calm and diplomacy," and shows the need to update longstanding agreements meant to guarantee a maximum degree of transparency and predictability for military activities in Europe.

The NATO chief accused Russia of walking away from some of those accords, or exploiting their loopholes.

He added that "this is not a new Cold War," but it is "a wakeup call."

Turkey's state-run news agency and Syrian activists say airstrikes on the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish border hit an aid convoy. The Anadolu agency says seven people were killed and 10 wounded in strikes that it said hit a convoy taking supplies to refugees in Azaz on Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear if the strikes were carried out by Russian or Syrian warplanes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported earlier intensive Russian airstrikes in Azaz.

France's lower house of Parliament is debating whether to extend airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria after the group claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks in Paris. The government is trying to rally global action against the group.

French fighter jets joined the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State extremists in Iraq in 2014, and expanded their mission to Islamic State targets in Syria in September. President Francois Hollande cited specific threats against French interests stemming from IS in Syria.

France's National Assembly is debating whether to extend the campaign in Syria, and the Senate is scheduled to debate it as well. The measure is expected to pass in both houses, amid national concern following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris.

A Russian pilot who has survived the downing of his warplane says Turkish jets did not issue any warnings. Capt. Konstantin Murakhtin said Wednesday on Russian television that his plane was flying over Syrian territory and didn't violate Turkish airspace.

Muravkin was rescued early Wednesday by Russian and Syrian commando and was speaking in televised comments from the Russian Hemeimeem air base in Syria

Syrian rebels say Russian forces are pounding insurgent-held areas in Syria's Latakia province, unleashing a wave of airstrikes on mountains near where a Russian jet was shot down the previous day.

Jahed Ahmad, a spokesman for a rebel brigade in the region affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, says the Russians appear to be taking "revenge" for the plane's downing by Turkey, a key backer of the rebels in the area.

Speaking from inside Syria via Skype on Wednesday, he says the Russian jets were providing cover for advancing Syrian ground forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies. Syrian TV also reported advances by Syrian forces in Lattakia province Wednesday.

The Russian Association of Travel Agencies says several Russian agencies have stopped selling package tours to Turkey.

Turkey, along with Egypt, has long been a top destination for Russian tourists.

The travel industry group said in a statement Wednesday that several major travel agencies are no longer selling tours to Turkey following an official travel warning about a potential threat to Russian citizens there. The move comes a day after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border, provoking Moscow's indignation.

Travel association vice president Dmitry Gorin was quoted by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency as saying he expects the agencies will have to reimburse to 6,000 tourists whose vacations will be cancelled.

Protesters have hurled eggs and stones at the Turkish embassy in Moscow a day after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane Tuesday near the Syrian border. Windows at the embassy's compound were shattered and eggs pelted against the walls on Wednesday after a protest there went sour. Police cleared the area and made some arrests shortly after the protest began.

All the protesters seem to have left by Wednesday late afternoon, and the utilities services were cleaning the area.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry says the foreign ministers of Turkey and Russia have agreed to meet for talks over the downing of a Russian warplane. Russia's foreign minister, however, said that a meeting hadn't been confirmed.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said in a written statement that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov agreed to a meeting "in the coming days," during a telephone conversation Wednesday.

Bilgic said during their conversation, Cavusoglu briefed Lavrov on Turkey's action. The two agreed to share details on the incident through "diplomatic and military channels."

But Lavrov said during a live TV interview that they had no concrete plans for a meeting. Lavrov said that Cavusoglu suggested they could meet at the sidelines of some event, but added that he has no such plans.

Russia's foreign minister says that "terrorists" have used Turkish territory to prepare attacks in other countries. Sergey Lavrov didn't name specific groups or countries. He said Wednesday that the downing of a Russian warplane on Tuesday followed Russian airstrikes on the oil infrastructure of extremists groups in Syria near the border with Turkey.

Russia's foreign minister says the downing of a Russian war plane by Turkey was a "planned provocation."

Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow will re-consider relations with Ankara following the shooting down of the plane on the Turkey-Syria border on Tuesday, but he didn't say what specific measures Russia would take.

Lavrov said "we have no intention to go to war with Turkey." Lavrov added that "our attitude to the Turkish people hasn't changed. "We only have questions about the Turkish leadership." He also said that advice to Russian citizens to refrain from visiting Turkey issued on Tuesday was based on extremist threats in Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is seeking to reduce tensions with Moscow, saying that Russia is Turkey's "friend and neighbor" and insisting relations cannot be "sacrificed to accidents of communication."

Davutoglu told his party's lawmakers on Wednesday that Turkey didn't know the nationality of the plane that was brought down on Tuesday until Moscow announced it was Russian. He again defended Turkey's action, saying Russia was warned on several occasions that Turkey would take action in case its border is violated in line with its military rules of engagement.

Davutoglu also said Russia is an "important partner and tops the list of countries with which we have shown great sensitivity in building ties." The Turkish prime minister, however, also criticized Russian and Syrian operations in Syria's Turkmen region, saying there is "not one single" presence of the Islamic State group there. Davutoglu demanded that operations there stop immediately.

Syria's army is confirming that it has rescued a Russian pilot whose plane was shot down by Turkey in an overnight qualitative joint operation with Russian forces.

A statement issued Wednesday by the Syrian armed forces says Syrian and Russian forces penetrated into areas where "terrorists" are entrenched at a depth of 4.5 kilometers (2.7 miles) to rescue the pilot. Syria's government refers to all rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad as terrorists.

The statement added that the rescued pilot is in "good health." Russian officials have confirmed the rescue operation.

The other pilot of the Su-24 jet downed Tuesday by Turkey was reported dead and his body captured by Syrian rebels in an area known as the Turkmen Mountain in Syria's Latakia province.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the downing of a Russian warplane "has further aggravated the situation in Syria." Merkel told lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday that "we have to do everything now to avoid a further escalation."

Merkel says she had spoken to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a telephone call Tuesday. She adds that only a long-term political solution will end the conflict in Syria. She says "there is no other way that will bring us closer to a lasting solution

Russian President Vladimir Putin says a second pilot from a Russian warplane that was shot down by Turkey near the Syrian border has been rescued. Putin was speaking in televised comments on Wednesday after Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian news agencies that the man was rescued in a 12-hour operation which ended in the early hours on Wednesday and is now "safe and sound" at Russia's air base in the government-controlled area in Syria. The other pilot of the Su-24 jet was reported dead.

Russia's defense minister says that Moscow will send its news anti-aircraft missiles to Syria following Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane on Tuesday. Russian news agencies on Wednesday quoted Sergei Shoigu as saying that the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems would be sent to the Hemeimeem air base in the government-controlled area which Moscow uses for its Air Force sorties.

S-400s were first put on active combat duty in Russia in 2007. Shoigu's statement comes a day after Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 on mission near the Syria border. One of the pilots was killed by ground fire as he parachuted from his crippled plane, the Russian general staff said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country does not wish to escalate tensions with Russia over the downing of the plane. Speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Erdogan said Wednesday that Turkey favors "peace, dialogue and diplomacy."

Erdogan however defended his country's move to shoot down the plane saying "no one should expect Turkey to stay silent to border violations or the violation of its rights." Turkey said the Russian warplane was shot down on Tuesday after it ignored repeated warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced what he called a "stab in the back" and warned of "significant consequences."

A Syria watchdog says a Russian military pilot whose plane was shot down by Turkey has arrived at a Russian air base in Latakia province after being rescued by the Syrian army.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a Syrian army commando unit staged a rescue operation for the pilot after pinpointing his location. It said the pilot is alive and arrived Wednesday morning at the Hemeimeem air base, near the city of Latakia. No other details were immediately available.

Syrian TV only quoted Russia's ambassador to France as saying the pilot is in the hands of the Syrian army. The Russian warplane was shot down by Turkey Tuesday. A second pilot was killed.

Russia's ambassador to France says a Russian military pilot shot down over Turkey is in the hands of the Syrian army.

Ambassador Alexander Orlov said on Europe-1 radio Wednesday that one of the pilots was wounded, then killed on the ground by "jihadists."

He says the other "managed to escape and be rescued by the Syrian army." He didn't elaborate.

Orlov denied Turkish government statements that the Russian plane had been warned repeatedly about an airspace violation before shooting it down plane. Orlov accused Turkey of being an "accomplice" of Islamic State extremists and playing an ambiguous role in Syria's civil war.

However he played down concerns of escalation of violence among the international players involved in Syria.

UGANDA: Viva Papa, Viva Papa, Viva Papa - Pope Jets Into Uganda

17:03pm: Anne Jasmine Bamwine, 6, is among the three children chosen to hand flowers to Pope Francis as he steps on Ugandan soil.

17:07pm: Pope Francis' shepherd one lands at Entebbe International Airport.

17:12pm: Bishops make their way to receive the pope, the team to receive the pope on behalf of the government also moves forward. President Museveni leads government, Diplomats and religious leaders in welcoming the Pope to Uganda.

Bishops head out to meet Pope Francis at Entebbe Airport.

17:28: Pope Francis alights the Shepherd One, exchanges pleasantries with President Museveni. Now the Vatican anthem playing. Meanwhile a gun salute for the pope.

17:40pm: Pope Francis greets bishops and other dignitaries.

17:41pm: Archbishop of Gulu diocese Odama has had his day in the sun, and enjoyed it, introducing all Bishops to the Pope. Now president takes over.

After the pope made his way to the VVIP lounge towards his waiting official car. Meanwhile, people could be heard chanting: "no change, our man." The Pope then got into his car (KIA) and set off for statehouse.

The Holy Father rides in a small KIA Soul from Entebbe Airport, supplied by The Motorcenter EA, the KIA distributors in Uganda.

18:22pm: Pope Francis arrives at State House Entebbe, he and Museveni have a one on one. Vatican Spokesman Federico Lombardi in the room too.

18:35pm: Vatican secretary of state, Archbishop Parolini and Cardinal Turkson for peace and Justice of the Holy Sea enter State House room. House rises and claps.

18:36pm: Pope enters room at State House to address diplomats and senior government officials.

18:41pm: President Museveni invites Pope Francis to address diplomats at State House.

18:51pm: Pope says he is happy to be in Uganda, calls for unity, justice and reconciliation

Pope Francis last night declared Africa a “land of hope”, urging Uganda to invest in its young population and use the country’s “abundant” natural resources to benefit both current and future generations.

In a brief speech at State House Entebbe, which assembled diplomats, senior government and cultural leaders repeatedly interrupted with cheers and hand-clapping, the pontiff described Uganda as a “great nation”.

He praised the country for opening its doors with compassion to receive refugees and allowing them rebuild their lives in “security and dignity”.

The Pope said Uganda’s national motto, For God and My Country, reminds of the role moral rectitude and a commitment to common good have played and continue to play in the social, economic and political life of the country.

“This reminds us to seek truth, work for justice, reconciliation and respect and protect one another as members of one human family,” he said.

He told the officials, including Opposition leaders, to ensure just distribution of the dividends of Uganda’s God-granted resources.

The Pope said his six-day, three-nation maiden Africa tour was to draw global attention to the continent; its hope, promise, travails and achievements. “

The world looks to Africa as the continent of hope,” he said, and cautioned government officials of the “challenges” of managing the blessings of abundant natural resources to benefit all citizens.

Speaking with excitement about his scheduled meeting with 10,000 youth at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds, the Holy Father extolled the role of young people as the future and hope of the country, and the world, if well-educated and assured of gainful employment. It was a striking message for Uganda grappling with 80 per cent youth unemployment. The elderly, he said, need better care as reservoirs of wisdom and their knowledge and experience, like a compass, should help illuminate decisions-making when confronted with evolving problems.

“It is these small signs that we see the true soul of people,” he said in reference to his call for care and help to the sick, the poor and underprivileged.

The Pope’s meeting followed his one-on-one meeting with co-host President Museveni.

Mr Museveni said former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, whose widow was in attendance, was the “greatest African who lived”, citing his lead role in liberation of almost half of African countries from colonialism.

Pope Francis landed in Uganda Friday on the second leg of a landmark trip to Africa, with huge crowds, choirs and dancers celebrating as he touched down.

Francis arrived in Uganda after three days in neighbouring Kenya, where vast crowds turned out to an open air mass, and where the pontiff lashed out at corruption and wealthy minorities who hoard resources at the expense of the poor.

Large crowds gathered in Entebbe some 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the capital Kampala where Francis will meet Museveni at the presidential palace later on Friday.

Crowds gathered along the roads, four deep in some places, while street lights were draped with black, yellow and red banners, the colours of the national flag.

"I'd like him to talk about corruption, which is too much in Uganda. And we hope he can bring political change. He must talk to Museveni: if a pope can stand down why not a president?" a lady said.

Police and soldiers, all armed with assault rifles or batons, lined the road and military pickups raced up and down the street.

"This latest pope, Francis, he cares for all the people, the whole universe, regardless of political or religious affiliation."
Security has been ratcheted up for the visit over fears Islamist rebels from Al-Qaeda's East Africa branch, the Shebab, could use the opportunity to stage attacks.

But chief of the defence forces Katumba Wamala has said measures are in place and expressed confidence "all will go as planned."
Francis has shrugged off safety fears, joking that he was "more worried about the mosquitoes".

Pope itinerary 28th Nov 2015

•Arrives at the Anglican Shrine in Namugongo at 8.30am.
•Arrives at the Uganda Catholic Martyrs Shrine at 9am, says a short private meditative prayer not exceeding 15 minutes and begin Mass.
•The Mass starts at 9.30am.Those intending to attend should have assembled by 6.30am.
•Addresses the youth at Kololo Inndence/Ceremonial Grounds at 3:15pm
•At 4.30pm, Pope will arrive at the Bakateyamba Home, Nalukolongo.
• Arrives at Rubaga Cathedral at 5pm for meeting with bishops and priests.

Pope Francis arrived minutes ago at the Namugongo protestant shrine-Nakiyanja where he is inspecting the martyrs museum led by ArchBishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda Stanley Ntagali.

The pope is blessing the Anglicans amidst cheers

8:58 a.m The pope waves to the cheering believers as he drives off to the Catholic shrine where he will celebrate a mass to mark the 50th anniversary of the canonisation of the Uganda martyrs

9:03 am The pope's convoy approaches the Catholic shrine, believers cheer him in excitement

The President of Uganda H E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the first lady arrived almost an hour ago to Namugongo Shrine. Presidential aspirants Amama Mbabazi, Dr Kizza Besigye are also at the Shrine. South Sudan's Salva Kiir and Mama Nyerere are also present.

9:10 a.m Pope's team arrives in four vans to loud and frenzied cheers

The choir ushers in the pope as they sing "Matching together" a famous catholic hymn

9:23 a.m Bishops stand in a long procession waiting for the pope to join them so that the open air mass celebration at the Catholic martyrs shrine begins

The crowds are so big i have never seen in my life.

If Jesus or Holy Mary came to Uganda, a predominantly catholic country, i wonder if any one would remain in the villages

Viva Papa, Viva Papa, Viva Papa.

Friday 27 November 2015

UGANDA: Pope Francis Eagerly Awaited

When Pope Francis’ plane touches down this late afternoon in Entebbe will President Museveni take time out from his re-election campaign and be Uganda’s Statesman when receiving His Holiness in Uganda.

Tens of thousands of Catholics from the region have arrived in Uganda already from South Sudan, Eastern Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania, and even Kenyans who hosted the Pope on this first stop of his first African tour, are expected to travel to Uganda by air and road to catch another glimpse of the Bishop of Rome, successor to Peter the Apostle.

Key of the visit will be a Papal Mass being celebrated at the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine, some 51 years after the 22 Ugandan Catholic victims of a cruel king Kabaka Mwanga II were pronounced saints. They were brutally killed alongside 23 Anglicans who are also remembered at the Martyrs Shrine.

Pope Francis will also visit the other memorial site near Munyonyo, where another shrine, though less known and popular, has been created.

This visit is arguably the highest profile visit of the year and the publicity generated is bound to drive Uganda’s tourism industry forward.

Pilgrimage tourism has already found its niche, not just for the annual Martyrs Day celebrations, when thousands of Catholics from across Africa congregate in Uganda, but also establishing the everyday sort of pilgrimages as seen in Lourdes and other places of Catholic worship. Travelers from as far as Nigeria and South Africa have been flying into Entebbe to be in Uganda when Pope Francis arrives and then hope to be allowed to be in attendance when he celebrates a public Mass.

From Uganda will Pope Francis then travel to the Central African Republic for a short visit before returning home to the Vatican.

Kampala has been placed under security lockdown and police announced the city’s major roads would be closed ahead of Pope Francis’s visit today.

The Pontiff had a first stop-over in Kenya mid this week as he began a six-day, three-nation maiden pastoral visit to Africa since his 2013 election. The Central African Republic, to which Francis flies on Sunday, is the only other country on his itinerary.

Organisers expect between 1.5 to 2 million faithful at the Holy Father’s scheduled Saturday open-air Mass at Uganda Martyrs Shrine, Namugongo, 15kms outside Kampala. It is unlikely the venue, revamped at billions of shillings, can accommodate such a population.

An advance team comprising the Pope’s Swiss Guards and Vatican officials, who have made four evaluation trips to Uganda since August, cleared the security arrangements at the site and in the country.

Uganda’s foreign partners and allies, particularly the United States and Britain, are understood to be providing intelligence to ensure the Holy Father’s visit goes without incident amid world-wide threats of terrorist attacks.

Mr Chris Brown, the public affairs officer at the US embassy in Kampala, said: “As a matter of policy, we do not talk about Intelligence and security matters.” When the Pope lands at Entebbe, Uganda’s only international airport at 4:50pm today, he will find the first evidence of a nation palpable with joy and pride about his visit.

About 1, 000 animated men and women, most dressed in colourful traditional or African attire, will sing and dance on the tarmac as he disembarks from the Alitalia.

At hand to receive the 78-year-old pontiff will be President Museveni, and the two, according to official programme, will have a brief conversation at the airport’s presidential lounge before proceeding to the nearby resplendent State House.
His entourage will include thirty Vatican officials and some 70 international journalists who will be joined at State House by a battery of Ugandan colleagues.

The Uganda Catholic Martyrs shrine honours now 24 Catholic converts killed in the late 19th Century for defying a traditional king’s orders for them to abandon Christianity.

The apostolic voyage is, according to the Catholic leadership in Uganda, to belatedly commemorate the golden jubilee anniversary of the 1964 canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs.

Officials told a press conference in Kampala on Wednesday, November 25, that the shrine would be opened to the public twenty hours before the Saturday 9:30am papal mass.

Thousands of foreign guests are descending on the Ugandan capital, bringing in foreign exchange as they snap up hotel rooms for accommodation and spend on local travel, when they visit the country’s national parks and other tourist sites.

Although the pontiff has advocates care for nature and mercy for the poor, Ugandan authorities razed shacks along his mapped routes to seclude fabricators, carpenters and the underprivileged from sight.

“All our kiosks have been demolished. They have even chased us from where we used to do business as if the Pope is coming for the rich,” said Mr Moses Isabirye, a mechanic near the martyrs shrine.

In place of the makeshifts, from which struggling vendors eked a living by selling groceries, officials concerned about security and aesthetics have planted grass and flower beds on the widened road reserves.

His message will focus on hope, peace, love, reconciliation, peaceful elections, forgiveness as well as care for the underprivileged, the Uganda Episcopal Conference and the Vatican said in separate statements.

With fourteen million out of the 35 million Ugandans Catholics, Francis will find a church, like in other developing countries, that is growing but not at the same pace as its population or expanding secularity among particularly the young.

Officials hope his evangelisation and outreach to fringe and vulnerable populations will give fresh momentum to grow a following among Uganda’s predominantly youthful demographics.

In keeping with the Pope’s wish of non-profligate ceremonies, Uganda’s General Duties Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere, said the government had acquired a cheap, small car to chauffeur the Holy Father.

Besides spiritual renewal, the pontiff’s visit has provided some sprinkling of dividends. Dirt roads in previously ignored city suburbs have been upgraded to bitumen, street lights fixed and law and order enhanced. Many of the works in the pope’s name have been done in haste, raising questions about their quality.

Police warned of possible widespread travel disruptions in and around the city since many roads, including the highway to the country’s only international airport, will be a no-go for motorists, raising the specter for individuals flying into or out of the country.

KENYA: Pope Francis Condemns Land Grabbing In Kenya On His Last Day

He spoke Friday morning when he visited Kangemi in Nairobi where he called for the provision of basic services to the poor. “Let us pray and work to ensure every family has access to dignified housing, drinking water and other basic services”, the Pope said.

He added: “I am aware that faceless developers have attempted to give themselves the playgrounds of your childrens’ schools”. The Pope further said the suffering of the poor is occasioned by the greedy minority in power. He urged Christians and pastors to renew their calls and take up their neighbors problems.

Pope Francis is in Kenya on a three-day tour. This is his maiden trip to Africa and he will also visit Uganda and Central African Republic.

"These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries," the 78-year-old pontiff told crowds in the Nairobi shanty town of Kangemi. Francis, whose visit to the slum is a highlight of his three-nation Africa tour, condemned the "dreadful injustice of urban exclusion."

Wild singing and ululating broke out as he arrived early on Friday, his popemobile weaving through streets in a sea of tin-roofed homes. "I am here because I want you to know that I am not indifferent to your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows," Francis told the packed congregation in the church of St Joseph the Worker in Kangemi. "I realise the difficulties which you experience daily. How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?"

People arrived long hours before dawn in the hope of catching a glimpse of the pope, who has made efforts for social justice a hallmark of his tenure. Francis criticised the lack of "infrastructures and basic services", including sewerage, electricity, good roads, school and hospitals. "They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste," he added.

"This situation of indifference and hostility experienced by poor neighbourhoods is aggravated when violence spreads and criminal organisations, serving economic or political interests, use children and young people as 'cannon fodder' for their ruthless business affairs," he added, singling out the role women play in binding such societies together. "I also appreciate the struggles of those women who fight heroically to protect their sons and daughters from these dangers."

Pope Francis visited Nairobi's Kangemi area on Friday, calling such informal settlements "wounds inflicted" by a wealthy and powerful elite and urging Africa's governments to do more to lift their people up from poverty.

The pope, making his first visit to the continent, has championed the plight of the poor both in public declarations and his own way of life, shunning the institutional perks of the Vatican. Even before he became Latin America's first pope in 2013, he was known as the "the slum bishop" because of his frequent visits to the shantytowns of Buenos Aires.

Kenya is the first stop on his Africa tour, which also takes him to Uganda and the Central African Republic, a grindingly poor nation riven by Muslim-Christian sectarian conflict. While calling for religious dialogue and appealing for steps to address climate change when he visited the U.N. offices in Nairobi, Francis has regularly returned to his concern about inequality and poverty in his homilies and speeches.

On his last day in Kenya, the pope visited Nairobi's Kangemi district, a neighbourhood of potholed roads, open sewers and jerry-built shacks for homes, lying a few hundred metres from smart apartment blocks and gated residential compounds.

Addressing slum dwellers, charity workers and clergy in St. Joseph the Worker Church, the pope spoke of the "dreadful injustice of urban exclusion" represented in such poor areas.

"These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries," he said. Debt to the poor He criticised "faceless private developers who hoard areas of land and even attempt to appropriate the playgrounds of your schools" but he said communal values in poor districts showed there was an alternative culture to the "god of money."

Children from a school run by the Catholic nuns and priests sang for the pope in the simple church of cinder blocks and wood, built across the road from a row of homes made of corrugated metal. Francis said one of biggest challenges was a lack of basic amenities. "Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water," he said, adding no "bureaucratic pretext" should deny a family clean water.

Welcoming the pope Musonde Kivuva, archbishop of Mombasa and president of Kenya's branch of the Catholic charity Caritas, thanked the pope for setting an example of humility with his simple life and for his calls for change. "More can be done and should be done in all our slums. We do not need to wait for the Holy Father to come," he said.

Later on Friday, he travels to Uganda, which like Kenya been struck by Islamist militant attacks. On Sunday, he flies to the Central African Republic, where dozens of people have been killed in violence since September.

MALAWI: National Geographic Goes Mad For Malawi

One of the top magazine brands in the world, National Geographic, has been recently going wild for all things Malawi. This includes featuring Malawi in a full length article and holiday prize competition in National Geographic Traveller magazine and having a 6 page spread in the current issue of National Geographic Kids magazine.

Reading the National Geographic traveller Magazine is a great way to help you plan the best time to go on your next jet-setting adventure and will inspire your choice of destination with amazing photography and passionate articles. With Malawi having much to offer i.e. Wildlife, Culture, Adventure and the third largest lake in Africa it’s no wonder that the magazine is now focussed on the country. The December issue contains an 8 page feature and a competition to win a holiday in Malawi. The compettion can be entered online: click here. The feature covers Malawi’s cities: Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba; two of Malawi’s most popular parks Liwonde National Park, Majete Wildlife Reserve; and of course the scenic wonderland that is Lake Malawi.

Chris Leadbeater, who wrote the Malawi feature, was clearly very taken with the country:
"A tiny pocket of Southern Africa, with its very own Lake of Stars, Malawi is warm, welcoming, yet hard to pin down. With a ragged beauty, lantern-lit boats trawling its waters and wildlife-packed parks, this is Africa at its most endearing."

The article features some of Malawi’s top lodges in Mvuu Lodge, Pumulani and Mkulumadzi and the trip was put together by the high-quality UK tour operator, Expert Africa, with Chris’s flight provided by the ever reliable South African Airways.

The National Geographic Kids magazine has always been a great way to help children learn about different cultures and traditions. Plus they can also read about all the different animals from all over the world – and now Malawi’s animals are in the limelight. The October edition featured an interview with bat expert, Dr Emma Stone, who runs a bat conservation project in Malawi, African Bat Conservation. And the November edition covered the wonderful Satemwa Tea Plantations in the Thyolo area, and Malawi’s importance to the UK tea trade.

At a time when Malawi’s wildlife is hot news, the current December edition of the magazine contains a massive 6 page spread of Safari experiences in Liwonde National Park. It’s a brilliant showcase of Malawi’s biggest animals. Hippos, Elephants and Rhinos get the most attention in a feature that is a great read for kids and adults. It ends with an exciting rhino-tracking adventure lead by Hungarian rhino specialist Krisztián Gyöngyi and expert rhino tracker Christopher Kanyange at Liwonde National Park! You can read that article online here.

Organised by passionate travel experts, Mahlatini, and flying in with one of the leading africa airlines, Kenya Airways, it’s clear to see why the trip was such a success. Georgia Harrison, writer of the Nat Geo Kids articles, was full of gushing praise on her return from her 'incredible' trip to Malawi: “Wow – what an experience!… I had a blast … such an action-packed itinerary. So much to write about! Please accept my overflowing gratitude.”

And the magazine hasn’t had enough of Malawi yet – keep your eyes peeled in 2016 for a Lake Malawi feature!

Don't forget to enter the Malawi Holiday Competition (click here) and to pick up copies of the current editions of National Geographic Traveller and National Geographic Kids to read all about Malawi!

MALAWI: Upgrades At Makuzi Beach Lodge

Makuzi Beach Lodge, on the northern shore of Lake Malawi, have been hard at work upgrading some of their Standard Chalets. They’ve recently completed upgrades to one standard chalet up to a Superior and will have finished another 3 by January. Superior Chalets have full bathrooms, a large living space and a mini-bar fridge. Also by February they will have completed 2 new family chalets which have 2 rooms that are inter linked by a lounge and small verandah and set individually in the gardens with a lake facing view close to the beach.

The second chalet to be upgraded is nearly finished and Makuzi have begun the upgrade on the 3rd standard chalet. The upgraded chalets are going to be extended and new furniture will be put in, bed sizes will be upgraded from a double to queen size, plus new bigger modern bathrooms with showers will be added. They will also make double glass doors on the front of the chalets leading to a small veranda. All of the chalets will now have tea and coffee facilities.

Makuzi Beach Lodge is located along the northern shores of Lake Malawi, 5km south of Chintheche and 7km north of Kande Beach. The lodge is perfectly positioned to offer guests spectacular views of the lake while enjoying a quiet drink at the bar. The Restaurant has an excellent reputation for outstanding cuisine and guests are encouraged to enjoy the full African experience while dining under the stars.

There’s a wide variety of activities: swimming, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking or just wallowing in the lake. Makuzi holds Yoga and Meditation Retreats offering daily classes from its on-site Yoga Teacher or you can relax with a massage.

MALAWI: Find Blue Zebras In Malawi

It’s true, Malawi really is home to Blue Zebras, not quite like the one in the (retouched) picture above. You might have to look a little closer for these zebras, as they tend to be quite small. Nor do they have legs but gills instead, as they’re stunning little fish that live within the sparkling waters of Lake Malawi.

The Blue Zebra originated in deep rocky waters of Lake Malawi in Africa and is one of the cichlid species. It is also known as the Mbuna Cichlid. The word “Mbuna” means “rock fish”, which refers to its habitat. Blue Zebras can be as small as 2.5cm in length, with larger species approaching nearly 15cm in length.

Blue Zebra are endemic to Lake Malawi, where they are most commonly found living in the north and north- eastern areas of the lake, in rocky formations along the shoreline, and around rock caves and crevices. Many cichlids are primarily herbivores, (at least they have something in common with typical Zebras!), feeding on algae and plants.

More than a thousand species of African cichlid live in Lake Malawi, and of these, several hundred are endemic. In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified 184 species of cichlid as vulnerable, 52 as endangered, and 106 as critically endangered. At present, six species are listed as entirely extinct, but it is acknowledged that many more possibly belong in these categories.

Lake Malawi is one of the largest in Africa, boasting a unique aquatic ecosystem that contributes to such a diverse palette of fish life.

Although a lake of crystal clear fresh water, Lake Malawi’s size and depth gives it a sea- like appearance, with one side barely visible from the other, and long stretches of totally uninhabited golden sandy lakeshore. The lake is a real life aquarium, and home to more species of fish than in all the lakes and Rivers of Europe and North America put together!

Lake Malawi provides the opportunity for almost any water sport you care to think of. The lakes size, its warm freshwater and its beautiful surrounding beaches make it a magnet for those seeking an all-year round location to swim, scuba dive, snorkel, water ski, sail, kayak parasail or simply potter about in boats.

For a traditional experience of the lake, take a trip on the famous mv Ilala, the local waterbus.

MALAWI: Umodzi Park - Malawi's First Ever 5 Star Hotel

Malawi's first ever 5 star hotel is about to celebrate 6 months of welcoming guests. Officially opened on 1 May 2015, the Umodzi Park business precinct in the heart of Malawi’s capital of Lilongwe, includes the world-class Bingu Wa Mutharika International Convention Centre (BICC), the five-star 130-key President Walmont hotel and nearby, is the private estate featuring 14 Presidential Villas for dignitaries and long-term stays.

This multi-faceted development forms a vital part of Malawi’s plans to boost the tourism sector and is managed by Peermont Hotels, Casinos and Resorts. Peermont was awarded the management contract by the Umodzi Holdings Board in October 2014. Peermont already operates a number of large resorts and convention centres in South Africa and Botswana, and brings with it a proven operations and marketing track record, including a substantial business network of customers.

Umodzi Park stands majestically in the central business district of Lilongwe, in close proximity to the government and presidential buildings, and 20 minutes’ drive from the Lilongwe (Kamuzu) International Airport.

The sweeping entrance to the business precinct, with over 2500 secure parking bays, leads up to the statuesque double volume and twin buildings of the BICC. The magnificent structure includes the Lilongwe Auditorium, which seats 1500 delegates and is accessed by a large volume foyer, which can accommodate the same number of guests. The Heron, Ibis, Pelican, Sparrowhawk and Sandpiper conference rooms can be combined or used individually to cater for up to 70 delegates each, and are perfect for company meetings or plenary sessions.

Njobvu (Elephant), Mbidzi (Zebra) and Mvuu (Hippo) are banqueting venues that can be used individually to house 200 delegates, or combined to cater for over 1 000 guests. A further four multi-functional venues, Mphasa, Mbuna, Chambo and Usipa (all local fish species found in Lake Malawi – Africa’s largest fresh water lake, just over an hour’s drive away) offer varying configurations, that each cater for 15 people, in a boardroom set-up, or up to 60 people in cinema style set-up. Mafuma (meaning royalty) is an exclusive VIP boardroom, lounge and holding room that has a separate entrance and dedicated lift, providing an unparalleled level of safety and security for senior government or corporate dignitaries.

The BICC also features the Mseko Bistro that serves speciality coffees and light snacks, sandwiches and salads for delegates. Both buildings of the BICC open out onto the massive Malawi Square, a large paved outdoor exhibition and event area. The square displays the sun of the Malawi flag that is etched into the vast paved brickwork expanse.

Flanking the square is the Pabwalo Amphitheatre, another outdoor facility with superb acoustics, ideal for smaller concerts and theatrical events.

Guests are welcomed to the new 5 star President Walmont hotel via an expansive reception area. The impressive hotel overlooks Malawi Square and offers 130 rooms and suites, with 60 Classic King Rooms, 59 Classic Twin Rooms, a Special Assistance Room and 10 Presidential Suites. The rooms are designed to reflect local Malawian influences with a distinctly continental African flair. All rooms include air-conditioning, 40-inch TVs with local satellite channels, a writing desk, international plugs, Wi-Fi, a mini bar that is stocked on request, and a tea and coffee station.

The signature Wild Orchid Restaurant, which serves local and international delicacies and a superb selection of wines, offers elegant indoor seating and outdoor pool deck terrace dining and serves an international breakfast buffet and à la carte lunch and dinner menu. For light snacks and refreshments, the relaxing and beautifully appointed Lobby Lounge and Bar is open throughout the day. The ‘afropolitan’ Afroma Terrace Bar on the first floor, offers a soothing respite where guests can enjoy laid-back music and sweeping views, of Malawi Square and the BICC – perfect for sundowners and sunsets. The hotel also offers a Spa and Wellness Centre, a curio shop, hair salon and meeting rooms.

Just a short drive from Umodzi Park are 14 Presidential Villas, housed in a secure estate, affording the ultimate in privacy and security. The Presidential Villas are an ideal option for discerning international government delegations, long stay guests, and royalty. The Villas offer a private clubhouse, as well as relaxation and sporting facilities.

Whether it’s an international conference for heads of state, an important product launch, unforgettable wedding, a music concert, an outdoor exhibition or festival, an exclusive cocktail party or merely an intimate boardroom meeting, Umodzi Park is able to cater to all needs... it can truly lay claim to where Africa’s leaders meet and stay.

NAMIBIA: Swakopmund Sits On Tourism Gold Mine

Swakopmund which is already a key tourism destination could generate an additional N$450 million if the town embarks upon aggressive marketing, rejuvenates its cultural tourism activities and African restaurants and extends the opening hours of shops.

This is according to Professor Dr Rainer Trede, a development consultant for southern Africa, who presented a draft policy on the proposed tourism growth and development strategy for Swakopmund.

Trede says Swakopmund is very un-African while real African experiences are almost non-existent at the town that is only distinguishable from Germany’s North Sea and Baltic coasts by its wind-blown sand and palm trees.

Trede is contracted by the Swakopmund Municipality to do a detailed study and come up with a tourism strategy for the town to promote the town as a prime urban tourist destination in southern and eastern Africa.

The draft document was presented on Wednesday to the municipality and various tourism stakeholders for scrutiny and recommendation.

The tourism strategy will be a key document towards tourism development, hence the document was shared with stakeholders for recommendations.

Stakeholders’ inputs and comments will be incorporated in the final document that will be implemented to develop the town into a true tourism magnet.

Presenting his findings, Trede said vigorous marketing means the town will have to venture into key areas such as marketing and advertising in foreign languages targeting countries such as Russia and France, apart from already existing tourists who include Germans and South Africans.

“Locals must be encouraged to venture into unconventional tourism activities such as donkey cart rides, cultural tours through townships while at the same time encourage tourists to stay longer. This can only be done when we prolong our opening times of our shops, sell quality products at reasonable prices, promote traditional food restaurants and activities and unconventional trips to places such as the desalination plant and uranium mines, to allow our tourists to see how Namibia is also developing,” he explained.

He says if Swakopmund implements the proposals at least 3 300 new jobs would be created while the current 10 000 jobs created through tourism would be sustained.

According to him tourism activities such as donkey cart rides and cultural and township tours will be a great idea to incorporate the German heritage with Namibian culture.

“Such activities are not expensive and will be a hit with tourists who are always in search of an African experience when coming to Namibia. Namibia is marketed well internationally. The Namibia Tourism Board is doing an excellent job in this regard. However, Swakopmund itself is not really marketed as a tourism destination. Apart from that there is simply not enough activity to keep tourists at the town,” he said.

NAMIBIA: Namibia And Egypt Strengthen Tourism

Egypt’s Ambassador to Namibia Mahmoud Fawzy Abou Dounya says Namibia could replicate the best practices from Egypt’s tourism sector, the largest in Africa, which in 2010 generated N$162.5 billion in revenue.

Although Egypt was among the first African states to establish diplomatic ties with independent Namibia, Dounya said there are still areas of cooperation that the two countries are not fully exploring.

“I’m not satisfied with the current level of relationship between the two countries, with the exception of training courses between the two foreign ministries. There are often only congratulatory messages for Christmas and New Year. This is not enough.

“There were treaties that were concluded after Independence, but I discovered that these treaties lapsed and those in existence are not legally binding,” he said yesterday when Namibia and Egypt signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on tourism.

Dounya said he is dissatisfied that the current level of bilateral cooperation between the two countries has been reduced to the annual exchange of diplomatic pleasantries in the form of Christmas and New Year’s messages.
The latest MoU is aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries, recognising the importance of tourism in economic development. The main areas of cooperation include the exchange of information, tourism promotion and marketing, training, trade and investment.

Dounya explained that Egypt never stopped assisting Namibia and other African countries financially, but said the relationships is “weak and does not match the ambitions of the two countries.” He said it is the two countries’ responsibility to look into exploring all development fields.

Tourism in Namibia is the fastest growing sector and the third most significant contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Namibia is praised internationally as a global leader in conservation and community empowerment and it thus was felt that Egypt can also learn from Namibia’s sound conservation tourism strategies, which have been widely commended.

“We provide the best practice story through tourism and thus a model worth replicating. This is particularly true, considering the remarkable achievements in our protected areas and sound conservation strategies, as well as the community-based natural resource management programme, which devolves rights for the consumptive and non-consumptive use and management of wildlife and natural resources to the local communities – a practice which is not found in many countries,” Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta said.

According to Shifeta, Namibia does not only encourage conservation but also the sustainable use of resources, thus there are also things Egypt can learn and replicate. Egypt thrives on cultural tourism, built on the country’s complex history, multicultural population and importance as a regional centre, something the minister of environment and tourism said Namibia can tap into.

Shifeta shared Dounya’s concern that despite all the areas of cooperation with Egypt, dating back to 1990, the tourism sector was not part of it. He said it is time for both countries to make the necessary interventions in the tourism sector and learn from each other in order to attract investors.

Egypt provided Namibia with moral and financial aid, including training of the first battalion during the struggle against the apartheid regime, at the invitation of the late president Abdel Nasser.

Cairo was also the first venue for an office for Swapo in exile, hence political relations between the two countries are characterised by strong and durable ties.

In April 2008, Namibia sent its first ambassador to Cairo after it established its first diplomatic representation in the Middle East during 2007. Shifeta said there is already active technical cooperation between the two countries in terms of diplomacy, defence, police, education, agriculture, fisheries and media, in addition to sharing expertise and providing food and medical assistance.

NAMIBIA: Khorixas Targets Tourism

The town of Khorixas in the Kunene Region, yearning for development due to an avalanche of challenges, plans to revive its ailing economy by capitalising on its tourism and agriculture potential.

The town – which is home to about 10 000 residents – is challenged by limited social and business networks, a low level of effective demand in the local economy, little access to finance, lack of work experience and skills among residents, lack of role models, cultural obstacles and a lack of personal motivation.

This came to light during the town’s first ever investor’s conference that was held last week. By reviving its economy the town hopes to open up investment opportunities and create employment for its residents.

To kick-start this process the town hosted its first ever Khorixas Local Economic Development Forum last Thursday, under the theme “Driving Growth at Home to Propel Economic Growth”.

In attendance were members of the community and businesspeople from the town. Patron of the Local Economic Development Forum, Bisey Uirab, himself a native of Khorixas, said the aim was to caucus on investment opportunities that could create jobs and economic development for the town. Uirab said the town needs to build and strengthen local economic capacity, encourage value adding activities and attract investment that will translate into a conducive business development, with reliable supporting infrastructure and skilled human capacity and job creation.

“We want our young people to be the entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow. Therefore we need to develop a long-term focused development strategy supporting not only the socio-economic goals of Khorixas but the entire country,” he said.

“This endeavour can only be successful if you get buy-in and support from the local community, the regional government and national planning.”

He added that it is against this background that the conference was held.

“We could not have found a more opportune time to discuss economic development of the Kunene Region and its villages. As you are aware our ports in Namibia serve as major hubs for trade. They are connected within Namibia and to the SADC region through four major transport corridors – the Trans-Kalahari, the Trans-Kunene, the Trans-Caprivi and the Trans-Orange. Namport will also soon be conducting a feasibility study relating to the establishment of a new port in the far north of Namibia. We as Khorixas residents must ask ourselves how we can benefit through all these developments,” said Uirab.

He then urged the youth of the town to create enterprise opportunities for the development of Khorixas, focusing on local economy growth, equity promotion, gender equality and in particular the generation of inclusive growth and decent jobs for all in Kunene.

Uirab also thanked the Khorixas Town Council and its partnering stakeholders for creating the long overdue platform to rebuild the economy and infrastructure of Khorixas and Kunene Region.

NAMIBIA: Heritage Centre To Boost Tourism In Oshikuku

With the increasing number of tourists in the country, Oshikuku Town Council is engaged in the construction of a cultural heritage centre to preserve local cultures and attract tourists.

The N$5.3 million Oshikuku Cultural Heritage Centre is a council initiative to preserve and uphold the traditional norms and cultural practises of the Uukwambi and traditional boundaries within the ambit of the town.

So far phase one of the project, which includes the fencing off of the area, has already been completed. The cultural heritage centre will eventually host a traditional homestead, conference exhibition, bungalows, a barbeque area, amphitheatre, swimming pool and a campsite among others.

Finances to service the area have already been secured and Oshikuku Council is currently in the process of sourcing funds to commence with the construction of the envisaged heritage centre.

“Phase one is done. There is an engineering company that is busy with the service design, but at the moment we are engaging a number of companies to assist with the construction of the heritage centre,” public relations and local economic development officer Gerhard Sam said.

Sam said the municipality wants Oshikuku to become a place for tourists to visit and invest in the local economy. In addition, the public relations officer said council is providing tourists with an opportunity to indulge in local cuisine, traditional dances, and also to acquire traditional handcrafted products.

To date, Oshikuku has been a drive-through for tourists destined for more popular attractions in other areas in the Omusati and Kunene regions. Furthermore, the town council wants locals and visitors to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the Uukwambi. “We want the place to be functional. We will have people here showing visitors what is done at the kitchen area, the fireplace, and at all other symbolic places within the Uukwambi traditional homestead,” Sam remarked.

Moreover, the place will also be linked to the celebrated iconic eighteenth King of the Uukwambi, Iipumbu ya Tshilongo, whose grave is within the town’s boundaries.

“We will have people taken there so that they are told the untold stories of the iconic leader,” said Sam

NAMIBIA: Anti-hunting Lobbyists Cost Namibia Heavily – Tourism Minister

Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, says that anti-hunting lobbyists cost the Namibian government US$650 000 last year after pressurising the United States government on the legal auction of a black rhino hunt.

Shifeta said the hunt received negative publicity from people who did not understand the principle of conservation through sustainable utilisation.

“The permit sold for US$350 000, but could have generated more than US$1 million, which was in fact the offer on the table as confirmed by Dallas Safari Club, but which was withdrawn shortly before the auction due to pressure from anti-hunting lobbyists.

“One could therefore say that the lobby groups cost Namibia’s Rhino conservation initiative US$650 000, as the total proceeds from the auction were earmarked to go to the Namibia Game Products Trust Fund and would have been distributed among a number of rhino conservation projects,” said Shifeta at the 42nd Annual General Meeting of the Namibia Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA).

Shifeta explained that scientists from his ministry select mature, post-reproductive Black Rhino that have previously been identified as overtly aggressive and which pose a serious threat to herd growth and sustainability for the hunt.

“Such animals often charge and kill younger bulls, cows and also calves. These facts are well substantiated, and are very much at the core of our ministry’s strategic effort to reduce natural herd mortality,” said Shifeta.

Meanwhile, the hunt for the identified black rhino was delayed due to the hold-up for more than a year of the issuing of an import permit for the Black Rhino trophy because of pressure by animal rights activists on the U.S. government.

“During that period the bull, which had been scientifically select to be hunted had killed another black rhino. The non-hunters did in fact not only cost our country’s conservation efforts hundreds of thousands of US dollars, but also the life of an additional Black Rhino,” said Shifeta at the AGM, which ended at a local hotel yesterday.

Shifeta explained that Namibia is a pro-wildlife country with a progressive national constitution that has formally enshrined the sustainable utilisation of living natural resources.

“We are a hunter-friendly nation with a very proud hunting heritage, and our trophy hunting community is well respected by our government and fellow Namibians as an essential and integral part of Namibia’s wildlife conservation, tourism, agricultural and business sectors,” the minister said.

He said trophy hunting currently provides more on-the-job training and promotional opportunities, as well as pays better salaries than any other form of agricultural land employment options, and invests heavily in a variety of social upliftment and educational programmes in rural areas throughout Namibia.

Namibia is firmly established as one of Africa’s most popular hunting and tourism destinations, and all reports indicate that 2015 was again an excellent year for the local hunting and conservation community.

However, Shifeta warned that trophy hunting was currently threatened by a number of factors, exacerbated during the last five months by the unfortunate saga of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. This anti-hunting sentiment, said Shifeta, is fuelled by rabid anti-hunter sentiments based on emotion rather than fact. These had spread like wildfire on both social media and international news.

“The hype has humanised the lion and demonised the hunters. Zimbabwe, like Namibia, has a sound wildlife management policy in place, which provides rural communities with an incentive to protect their valuable natural living resources. It is up to each and every one of us to raise our voices as enthusiastically as the anti-hunting community does, in order to promote the concept of sustainable hunting as the ultimate conservation triumph,” he said.

Namibia is recognised as a world-leader in conservation, with specific focus on rare and endangered species such as the Black Rhino. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has granted Namibia an annual export quota of up to five hunter-taken Black Rhinos.

“Only post-reproductive males are hunted, and the revenue derived from such hunts is reinvested in Rhino management, including addressing challenges such as poaching, which is a real threat to Rhinoceros all over the world, and increasingly so in Namibia,” noted Shifeta.

INDONESIA: Hiking With Dragons On Dragon Land

For outdoor adventurists with love of hiking it would be a good idea to hike in the Komodo National Park, the home to the komodo dragons.

For the real outdoor adventurists this is the place to hike, because hiking on this South-East Asian islands gives a surreal feeling, of being alive and one with nature, bush on either side of the hiking trail and large dragon lizards lurking somewhere in the thickets. The national park, which is easily accessible from the Labuan Bajo on the western tip of Flores island of Indonesia, is home to about 2,500 komodo dragons, the only ones left on earth, and hence the park has been a United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (Unesco)World Heritage Site since 1991.

The endangered dragons are really large lizards - an Indonesian colleague felt the description of large is not flattering enough - but this is a lizard that when it is an adult can grow at an average length of up three metres with an average weight of nearly 100 kilogrammes.

That really is some large lizard. Yet, what heighten the hiking pleasure is the mythical legend of the dragon, its poisonous saliva, its acute sense of smell - the guide says it can smell blood from a couple of kilometres away. Hence the day before embarking for the national park the guide had dully asked if any one in the travelling party has fresh wounds or bleeding cuts. Women on menstrual cycles were discouraged from going on the island, much to the bemusement of the women folk in the group who found the public announcement too blunt.

An hour boat ride to the island later revealed the national park with its groves. After a short safety briefing, two guides with long fork sticks for our protection, escorted us on the hiking, with warnings not to wander off on our own. The rangers were to use the stick to shove off the lizard should they charge.

The island is also home to deer, wild pigs and other wildlife -which is food to the dragon. The manner in which the dragon walk is authoritative and majestic, almost in the same manner the lion take in its strides. We found several dragons laying in shades, including a hatchling dragon, on its own with no mother trailing it behind.

The guide warned us not to be fooled by the lazy demeanours for they are very deceptive and cannot be trusted. The dragon are said to be agile too, with the ability to sprint at a speed of 18 kilometres an hour for a short distance. The island is also home to people who have lived there for generations, and once hunted the wildlife. There is an inscription at the entrance of the park of how a queen of the island gave birth to both the dragon and a son - and hence both have co-existed as natives of the island.

It is a place worth seeing. Komodo National Park, located between Sumbawa and Flores, and is easily accessed from Labuan Bajo on the western tip of Flores island of Indonesia.

ETHIOPIA: Ethiopia Named 2015 Exotic Tourist Destination

Ethiopia has been awarded the top travel destinations of 2015 by the Russian branch of the National Geographic Traveler magazine.

The country was named as top travel destinations of 2015 following journal readers and viewers request to vote online for a specific destination of their choice, among the candidate countries in 12 different categories.

Russian viewers and readers of the journal voted Ethiopia as the winner of the award in the category of "Exotic Tourist Destination of 2015" among the other two candidate destinations i.e Vietnam and South Africa.

Ethiopian Ambassador to Russian Federation Grum Abay received the award at a ceremony held in Moscow November 18, 2015.

NIGERIA: Katsina To Boost Tourism

The newly appointed General Manager of Katsina Hotels Board Abubakar Badaru Jikamshi has vowed to re position the state hospitality industry by making it a viable revenue generating sector.

Speaking during his taking over ceremony, Jikamshi said giving the dwindling revenue accrued to the state it was only proper to look inwards and evolve ways of augumenting the shortfall for development.

According to him, hospitality and tourism are viable avenues that countries world over are maximally utilizing to fast track development, saying that we can do it here as well

He said, already a blue print has been developed to re position and upgrade the states four motels to attract patronages thereby boosting revenue base of the state.

While calling for support from staff towards this new drive, Jikamshi believes that the task ahead is enormous giving the continuous neglect of the sector and assured to do his best to uplift the board.

TANZANIA: Diamonds La Gemma dell'Est A Zanzibar Hotel Is Happy With Business

A Zanzibar-based hotel has expressed its business optimism in the archipelago as tourism grows in Tanzania.

Diamonds La Gemma dell'Est, the largest property of Planhotel Hospitality Group in Zanzibar, says the business has been impressive and that they have not been impacted by the current political situation.

"The group is facing some challenges in Kenya with our beach resorts on the coast but we are pleased to report that the Zanzibar tourism industry is maintaining its momentum and we look forward to a healthy season ahead," says Maggie Louw, regional sales and marketing manager.

Tourism is Tanzania's largest foreign exchange earner, which generated $2.24 billion in the year ending September 2015, up from $1.96 billion previously, according to data from the Bank of Tanzania.

Tanzania received 1,063,000 tourists in 2013 and the number has been increasing.

The resort recently received Environmental Champion Award from Touristik Union International (TUI, the largest German tour operator.

"We are looking ahead with continued investment, committed tax payers with full sense of utility", said Mr Andrew Cook, La Gemma's General Manager at a function of crowning the group for the only business to meet the TUI standards.

"Our vision at Diamond La Gemma dell'Est is dedicated to encouraging responsible tourism through the conservation of our natural resources and a commitment to educate our staff to make a difference in the lives of others," he adds.

"Through the implementation of various environmental, social and human resources initiatives we are committed to implement responsible and sustainable practices to protect the environment and develop the youth of the future," says TUI service delivery team manager East Africa, Mr Tim Remberg.

La Gemma, supports fully the non-profit organization 'Rinaldo Gasparini Foundation' which founded and manages a maternity clinic in Kendwa, the neighbouring village to the hotel location in Nungwi constituent.

The clinic provides free specialized health care to children from the neighboring areas to improve the quality of life and to enable successful healthy futures.

NIGERIA: FAAN Begins Passenger Screening For Diseases At Abuja Airport

The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), said it had intensified surveillance at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to checkmate "import" of infectious diseases.

Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, FAAN's Deputy General Manager, Corporate Affairs, who disclosed on Tuesday in Abuja, to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said that all agencies operating at the airport had been put on alert.

Yakubu said that the authority was working closely with the Port Health Services and other relevant agencies to ensure that all international passengers were properly screened on arrival.

She disclosed that FAAN's medical team had been put on red alert, adding that all staff had also been cautioned on the need to maintained restraints in their contact with passengers.

According to her, FAAN has sensitised all agencies' representatives in the airport on the need to watch out for any incoming passenger with either high fever, headache or body aches.

"The officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the rest have all been informed about this.

"Recently, we heard over the media that Ebola had resurfaced in Liberia; the head of the port health services in the airport consequently sent a circular to all agencies informing them to be alert.

"The circular also asked the staff to be wary of being too close to passengers," she said.

Yakubu said that health officials at the port had increased surveillance of passengers coming into the country through the international wing of the airport.

She said that the surveillance was currently being carried out at the international arrival area, but would be extended to the local wing.

An official of the port health services, who pleaded anonymity, said that the surveillance was a response to the reported case of Ebola in Liberia.

The official said all staff of the agencies at the airport had been advised to avoid close contact with arriving passengers before they were screened.

According to the official, health officials have also been reminded to always protect themselves before having contact with passengers by always wearing their gloves and other kits.

"And so far, the response has been very impressive because there is high level of compliance from the agencies.

"We will do everything within our power to make sure that the virus does not resurface in this country because we don't want to imagine that experience again," the source said, and urged passengers to cooperate with the authorities.

SOUTH AFRICA: South Africa Voted Top Adventure Destination For 2016

South Africa has been named the top adventure travel destination in the world for 2016, pipping hot contenders Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands to the post in Virtuoso International Luxury Travel’s annual rankings.

Virtuoso gives credit to southern Africa’s rise as tourism destination by including South Africa on two of its most important lists in its 2016 Virtuoso Luxe Report, which named the top global destinations for 2016, along with other destination categories.

The listings come at the same time that the Rainbow Nation country also slipped onto Virtuoso’s list of top five luxury travel destinations for next year, only being beaten by Italy and France.

Virtuoso is considered the travel industry’s leading luxury network consisting of both travel advisors and travel partners who specialise in creating travel itineraries you would not find online or plan yourself.

The achievement follows the recent announcement that Botswana has topped Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 list, followed by Japan and the USA. South Africa’s land-locked neighbour, which will be celebrating its 50th year of independence next year, is known for its rare combination of desert and delta, as well as its vast array of wildlife. A total of 17 per cent of the country is dedicated to national parks and in 2014 the Okavango Delta became Unesco’s 1,000th World Heritage Site.

Virtuoso’s results are based on the responses of elite advisors credited for being trend forecasters. While some may not be surprised that South Africa made it to the top in the adventure category, many are surprised about its ranking in the luxury category. Yet, Virtuoso says in a statement South Africa is far from short on luxury. Eight SA hotels were named in the world’s top 50 in the recent Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. South Africa also dominated the list of the best African hotels.

The top global destinations according to Virtuoso are:

1. Italy

2. France

3. South Africa

4. Mexico

5. Australia

The top adventure destinations are:

1. South Africa

2. Costa Rica

3. Galapagos Islands

4. New Zealand

5. Peru

SOUTH AFRICA: SA Dominates Top 10 Best Safari Parks

In a study of more than 3,000 reviews from safari adventurists and industry experts, four South African parks were declared amongst the top 10 best safari parks of Africa., an online marketplace for African safaris, published a definitive ranking of the best safari parks in Africa. South Africa’s MalaMala, Sabi Sands, Phinda, and Kgalagadi all ranked within the Top 10. No other country had more parks ranked so highly, which is excellent for South Africa.

A total of 2,234 reviews were contributed by safari tourists from 63 countries. The remaining 774 park reviews were written by renowned experts, including guidebook authors associated with Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Bradt and Footprint.

The study found MalaMala Game Reserve ranked second of all African parks, with an average rating of 4.81 out of 5, while the famous Kruger National Park was ranked 20th. This came as a surprise to the Safaribookings team as Kruger is South Africa's most popular park.

It has less wilderness appeal because it's fenced, has a network of tarred roads, large scale accommodations and can get crowded with self-drive visitors, but the abundance and variety of wildlife should make up for that.

When examining why the four best South African parks hold such high positions, it’s apparent each have their own special features. MalaMala, Sabi Sands and Phinda are top-grade private game reserves offering luxury accommodation and almost guaranteed sightings of the Big Five, in addition to other wildlife.

MalaMala and Sabi Sands share an unfenced border with Kruger National Park and thus both have access to this enormous ecosystem. Kgalagadi is one of the most rewarding parks for adventurous self-drives, as it is off-the-beaten-track, has a real wilderness vibe and great wildlife viewing.