Nile River Greatness

Nile River Greatness
Cows grazing in Nile basin land

Saturday, December 26, 2009




British Airways has now launched its Christmas sales with a fare to London – no details are available for other European destinations – of US$ 349 return. However, the often criticized taxes and other charges drive the actual price of the ticket to approximately US$ 875, more than double than what the net cost of the ticket is. Outbound travel can take place on December 23, 25, and 26 while the return journey has to be completed by January 31, 2010. It could not be established if the recent introduction of yet another tax on air travel by the UK’s labor government is responsible for the extraordinarily high element of taxes and other charges on the ticket, which if true, may make the use of other carriers preferable, as they are not subject to the new fees at its home airports across Europe.


U7 flights from Entebbe to Mombasa started on December 1 are going to be nonstop and will operate with CRJ aircraft every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday afternoon. This will allow passengers from Uganda to avoid changing flights at the crowded Nairobi airport and fly straight in and out of the Moi International Airport in Mombasa, where customs and immigration procedures are taking place for travelers to and from the Kenyan coast. The special start-up promotion will offer a ticket at US$299 per person return, plus regulatory taxes and related charges of US$130, making it a total of US$429 overall. A companion fare is available for the time being, where a spouse booked at the same time and on the same flights only pays the regulatory taxes and related charges of US$130 for the return trip, i.e., a couple traveling together will then only pay US$279.50 per person, which constitutes quit an extraordinary value and makes holidays to the coast rather more attractive than they have been. It is understood that Air Uganda will work together with Serena Hotels to offer package deals for the Mombasa Serena Resort and Spa, but other probably even more eye-catching offers from a large number of resorts and hotels along the Kenyan coast will undoubtedly now open new options and generate fresh interest in visiting the white sandy beaches along the Indian Ocean shores.

March 2010 will see the launch of a new rafting product by Nalubale Rafting, offering for the first time an 8-day trip down the Victoria Nile. The 300-kilometer run down the river and across Lake Kyoga will open new opportunities for rafting aficionados. Grade 5 (and lesser) rapids, papyrus swamps, and stretches of meandering river will make the week-long trip interesting, as will the changing landscapes and different camp sites every night. The very first trip will go at US$1,200 per person, considering it is still sort of a trial run, while subsequent tours will sell at about US$2,200 per person. The price includes all meals and drinks, overnight in the “fly camps” or on the rafts, and the required gear like life vests and helmets. It is recommended that every client makes arrangements for travel insurance directly with a company of his/her own choice. Every tour member will be expected to participate in the various chores, which includes rowing, cooking meals, setting up overnight camps, and washing dishes. The trip will commence just below the Owen Falls dam in Jinja and end above the Karuma Falls, from where the participants will return by vehicle to Jinja. The expedition will be led by Reuben Connolly of New Zealand, who has over 9 years of international and local experience as a river guide and who has already done exploratory work on the new route. Write to for bookings, itinerary details, and related information.


The Mihingo Safari Lodge, located just outside the Lake Mburo National Park on private land, has confirmed that they have signed a concession agreement with Uganda Wildlife Authority to extend its horseback safaris into the national park proper with immediate effect. Up until now, the guides took tourists to areas around the lodge, but still outside the park boundaries, which were frequented by game, giving a real safari experience from an unusual angle. This way of seeing game is now being extended into the park, and Mihingo even organizes overnight trips with all meals taken at scenic picnic spots while the clients, guides, and horses for that matter, stay at a specially-prepared camp site overnight. It is gradually becoming more common now that walking safaris and even horse riding inside the protected areas of eastern Africa are being permitted by the wildlife management bodies, a trend which had taken root in southern Africa a very long time ago but took until now to break down the resistance of traditionalists among the managerial cadres, who could only think inside the box, i.e., permitting daylight game drives and shutting out walks or night game drives. It is, therefore, important to not only acknowledge the initiative of Mihingo Lodge to introduce horseback safaris to make visits to Lake Mburo National Park more exciting, but also commend UWA for its acceptance of new products demanded by the market. Mihingo presently has 7 trained horses and 4 Ethiopian ponies available for riding safaris, and while the one-, two-, and three-hour excursions will still stay outside the park boundaries, due to the time involved to reach areas rich with game inside the park, the half-day, full-day and over-night trips can now, as clients wish, go into the national park. Visit for more details or bookings.


The Kampala office of Brussels Airlines is in high gear to prepare for the formal joining of the airline of Star Alliance, the global industry leader of airline alliances. Initially started by Lufthansa and United Airlines, the group grew swiftly, and when Brussels Airlines joins on December 9, the value of membership by frequent travelers under the Miles and More program will yield rich benefits for the various categories of membership. Options of even wider network connections, use of more airport lounges for the airline’s Business Class travelers or those with enough miles to their credit, priority check in, choice of seats, preference for stand-by bookings on full flights, and a lot more will ensure customer loyalty more than ever, leave alone the enhanced options to earn and burn miles under the frequent offers sent to card holders by email. Brussels Airlines in Kampala apparently plans a major PR, sales, and marketing offensive around the time of the formal entry of SN into Star to brief travel agencies, corporate accounts, the diplomatic corps, the business community, and last but not the least the all important travelers on what’s new when flying with SN to Brussels and beyond. Meanwhile, the airline also reiterated its code share arrangements with RwandAir on the route to Kigali and with Air Uganda, which permits passengers from Juba to join SN flights, while passengers from Entebbe can travel with Brussels Airlines via U7’s Nairobi evening flights on those days when SN does not serve Entebbe directly. The airline presently flies 4 times a week between Brussels and Entebbe, but under the code share arrangement with Germany’s Lufthansa on this route, there is expectation and hope that SN will add more flights in the coming seasons.


As the big hotels in Kampala have already done, the Sheraton recently released its festive season program, including an offer for an over-night stay on the December 31 for US$125 per single room or another US$25 for a second person, inclusive of a full American breakfast, the use of the spa and sports facilities, and the all-important, late checkout - as late as 1500 hours. Should anyone wish to consider spending either Christmas or New Year’s in Kampala, this is undoubtedly one of the places to be. Write to for bookings. Other popular hospitality hotspots in the city and its environs for the festive season are the Kampala Serena Hotel, the Speke and Commonwealth Resorts in Munyonyo, and the place with the best view over the lake and city, Cassia Lodge on Buziga Hill, which just celebrated its second birthday.


Brussels Airlines has been in the process of procuring a 5th A330-200 aircraft to add to its fleet ahead of a planned network and frequency expansion to the African continent, as the world is coming out of the long global recession, which has impacted on the performance of many airlines. In eastern Africa, SN serves Entebbe, Bujumbura, Kigali, and Nairobi but has no 5th freedom rights for its triangular flights, which always include a waypoint, while in west Africa the respective governments were happy to extend this privilege to the carrier to enhance connectivity between major cities.

SN’s partnership with Lufthansa and its code-shared operations to both west and east Africa has also enhanced its traffic base and may be a major factor to add another long haul aircraft to its fleet


Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), which was opened in 1978 to relieve the old Embakasi Airport – now the home base of Kenya Airways – has since long exceeded the limits of passenger and aircraft movements it was initially designed for. The airport is now handling nearly 5 million passengers per annum, twice the number it was meant to process, and regular users will affirm that during rush hour, now lasting most of the day for that matter, passengers have to push their way through the ever-growing crowds and lounges are often filled to capacity, the public areas filled to the brim – made all the worse whenever flights are delayed. The controversial expansion of the airport terminal however – with many allegations made in the early stages of the planning and tendering process – now at last seems to be set to go underway in December, after a Chinese construction company was selected to carry out the work, which is expected to last approximately 2 years. When complete, the expanded airport will be able to handle about 10 million passengers per year, twice what it is now doing, while there will also be added aircraft parking areas catering for growing traffic. There has, however, been no word about a second runway, as JKIA presently depends on a single runway, while future growth of air traffic may soon require a second one to be used concurrently or even as an alternate, should the present one be unserviceable. It is not clear at this time if Kenya Airways will go ahead with plans to build its own terminal, which would most likely also handle its Sky Team alliance partners KLM and Air France and which could provide facilities for both international and domestic operations from under one roof, avoiding the lengthy trek from international to connecting domestic flights, and vice versa, as is presently the case, instead of leaving that to the other airlines to cope with. It was mainly KQ’s success, which in recent years added to the ever-growing numbers and the all-important transit passengers from the wider region and western Africa, which is of special concern to Kenya Airways, as poor transit facilities and crowded public areas can be perceived badly by connecting passengers and may prompt them to opt for other airlines flying to and from their originating airports across west Africa.

Heads of state of the five East African Community member states signed the long-awaited protocol for a common market into effect, providing the legal basis for the free movement of labor, goods, and services between Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Effective January 2010 the internal customs tariffs will reduce to zero, and from July 2010 onwards, the provisions of the newly-signed protocol will become effective, ringing in major changes for the eastern African people. Beginning in mid 2010, four of the member states will permit the use of ID cards for citizens when crossing borders, except Tanzania, which has asked for more time to get ready. The East African Community, now 10 years old, is expected to develop into a major regional trading block with a common currency and also hopes to develop a stronger voice on the international diplomatic scene, while the emerging domestic market of over 120 million people across eastern Africa is already showing results in largely increased trading volumes between the five countries, keeping prosperity in the region at the expense of lesser growth of imports from further abroad. During the summit in Arusha, President Kikwete of Tanzania also assumed the annually rotating chairmanship of the EAC, taking over from President Kagame of Rwanda.

The present expanse of the Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania is set to grow from about 330 square kilometers to nearly 650, encompassing the entire lake. Presently, only a section of the lake is under the management of TANAPA, while the other half remains outside the park. Some farms and, in particular, mines must now first make way for the park expansion, a task made difficult by the issue of compensation for miners and mine owners, some of whom reportedly still have operating licenses valid until 2014, and consultations are presently ongoing to attempt to find a solution without any side having to resort to force. Lake Manyara is famous as one of the few locations where tree climbing lions can be found; the other places in east Africa being the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park, as observed and documented in the past by this correspondent. Many visitors coming to the northern circuit stop over at Lake Manyara, before proceeding to the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, where accommodation is available on top of the escarpment with sweeping views across the lake and this part of the Great African rift. No dates have been given at this stage as to when the new boundaries will be enforced and the mines and farms will be closed down, although it has already been confirmed that one village in particular will remain where it is at present.


“We need to put ourselves on the map,” was the underlying tenor of discussions at the tourism stakeholder forum, held some days ago in Mwanza, the lakeside municipality on the shores of Lake Victoria. The recent addition of scheduled flights by Precision Air, linking Mwanza directly with Nairobi – and for several years now with Entebbe, too – has brought renewed hope and enthusiasm to Mwanza’s tourism stakeholders, now hoping to promote the municipality and nearby attractions with greater ease and tap into the tourist dollars. The two-day meeting and workshop was made possible through the cooperation of the Mwanza Municipal Council, Dutch development agency SNV, and supportive tourism companies, among others. The Serengeti National Park can be reached with ease from Mwanza by air, making it attractive for tourists to fly in from Nairobi and Entebbe and board their connecting charter flight to one of the lodges and safari camps, but Lake Victoria also holds tourism attractions, which have yet to be tapped into. Diversification and the addition of new products and attractions will hold the key in future years for sustainable tourism developments in new areas of Tanzania to stay attractive for repeat business.


The annual Kilimanjaro marathon will, according to sources in Arusha, be held in March next year. No dates could be ascertained yet, but this column will publish the details just as soon as they are available. This sporting event joins a host of other major long-distance races in the region, like the recently-concluded annual MTN Kampala Marathon, which attracted 17,000 participants from Uganda, the wider region, and from further abroad.

A new 5-star property, estimated to cost about US$60 million, is apparently in the offing for Kigali, following the ground breaking recently . The hotel, to be comprised of 240+ suites and rooms, is expected to be managed by Marriot Hotels, adding another illustrious hospitality name to the region and joining such other global hotel groups like Kempinski, Intercontinental, and Hilton. The entry by Marriot is also thought to be an opener for them as it may well eye not only more management contracts for existing properties when they come up for grabs at the end of its contractual periods, but may also muscle into the market by vying actively for the development of new hotels, resorts, and safari properties. Dubai World had previously signed a contract to do exactly this in Kigali, plus establish an adjoining golf course, but the deeply financially-troubled, state-owned corporation of Dubai is not expected to become a major player in the regional hospitality market anytime soon, while they undertake financial restructuring and have to learn like everyone else to live within a limited resource envelope.


The Rwanda Development Board/Tourism and Conservation, has announced that the country is now represented on Twitter and on Facebook under the following links: and .


With the arrival of the airline’s own CRJ200 aircraft now imminent - some sources speak of a matter of days before the first of the two aircraft purchased from Germany’s Lufthansa will arrive in Kigali - the airline has formalized its capital requirements and obtained a long-term loan facility with the PTA Bank. The funding will pay for the two CRJ aircraft, which comes with complete spare and maintenance packages and may also be used to purchase additional aircraft or at least pay the required deposits. It was also confirmed that RwandAir intends to also acquire a 130 to 160-seater aircraft by the middle of next year, which will then be deployed on the route to Johannesburg and to other destinations where the 50-seater CRJs are considered too small to cater to demand. The Bombardier built CRJs will join a Dash 8 turboprop, all of which will be deployed on the present domestic and regional routes to Kilimanjaro, Entebbe, and Nairobi while also permitting network growth and added frequencies during high-season travel months.


Sources in Kigali confirmed that the Kigali Serena Hotel has now opened their new wing comprising some 44 extra rooms, a bonus for the city, which has in the part often struggled to accommodate visitors in quality accommodation during large conferences and regional/continental meetings. It was also confirmed that the new spa and a remodeled leisure area, including a newly-designed pool, are now also open for guests, while the restaurant extension is also complete. It is understood that the old rooms of the hotel will be refurbished in due course to bring them in line with the comforts and standards of the new wing. Until some years ago, the hotel was managed by a South African hospitality group under the Intercontinental brand, but after the Rwandan government terminated the contract, the hotel came under the Serena brand together with the Lake Kivu Hotel, which has also seen upgrades in the recent past.


The KIE has announced that they will add 5 masters degree courses to its present degree program, most notably one related to the tourism sector. Starting in January 2010, the institute, in conjunction with the Indira Gandhi National Open University, will offer an MA degree in Tourism Management, aimed to further support the growing sector in Rwanda and create added skilled manpower at a higher level, capable of effectively managing the tourism industry in coming years. Supported by the Indian government, the Indira Gandhi National Open University is partnering with African universities to promote tertiary education and cooperation and presently supervises some 1.5 million students in affiliated programs abroad.


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