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The Vic Falls Bush Telegraph, issue 6
April 11, 2011

 
www.victoriafalls-guide.net  11th April 2011
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Victoria Falls Destination E-Guide

Victoria Falls Bush Telegraph


Hi there everyone
 
Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter!

We have had lots and lots of new subscribers since our last newsletter, so if this is your first issue we sincerely hope that you like it and if you are a regular we thank you for hanging in there and trust that you like it too.

We have just returned from another tour around Zimbabwe this time we visited Great Zimbabwe Ruins and Kariba. Incredible places both worthy of a detailed report when time permits. Zimbabwe is just the most incredible country. So diverse with so many amazing attractions, it is just such a sin that visitors from around the world are being robbed of the opportunity to visit us because of political uncertainty. Its resources are so bountiful, there is more than enough to go around twice, if only those in control could see this.

We are excited to announce that Pete Roberts a local conservation researcher and writer in Victoria Falls has agreed to write several exclusive articles for us, which we feel will add real interest to our website and this newsletter.

Please interact with us by letting us know, what you would like to see and also what you don't like, and of course share with us any stories you have that our readers will enjoy - Its easy click here and submit your story.


 
Destination Update

This latest update from the Victoria Falls comes to you as the rains are coming to and end. In fact this morning’s rain may well turn out to be the last for a while. Evening temperatures are beginning to drop a little, and the green of the bush beginning to look a bit tatty and tired as leaves begin to drop and the grasses die back.

The river is swollen and in full flood, and the Falls thunder away with a presence which dominates the town. In the early mornings the spray cloud is spectacular, and even in the gardens up in town you can feel the spray from the Falls on your face. As ever the talk is of record breaking floods, but as our article (Click here) explains, accurate prediction of the river flow is a challenging task.

The spray from the Falls, and the rainforest it supports, explains why this area has always been a favoured feeding area for elephants, buffalo and other herbivores. Whilst the rainforest itself remains fenced off to these larger animals, elephants in particular are still to be found throwing their weight around town (see our article here).

Summer migrant birds, such as the Yellow-billed Kite, which appear so characteristic of the area during their stay, all but disappeared about a month ago. Soon all our European migrants, such as the Barn Swallow, will be well on their way back to their summer breeding haunts. Not traditionally known for such long migrations, even resident birds such as vultures can move big distances within their home ranges. Recently two tagged vultures from South Africa were found frequenting the town’s ‘Vulture Restaurants’, a story which is investigated (see our article here).

Traditionally not the best time of year for a bush safari, which are promoted mainly during the dry months when animals gather near water sources and the bush gives better opportunities for game viewing, summer is however a great time to experience the African bush. Bird-life abounds, trees, bushes and shrubs are in flower, and for those who still venture into the bush the possibility is always there for seeing something special. For example a recent quick trip to Sikumi Tree Lodge (see report here) rewarded the writer with cheetah and lion sightings, as well as many other species of mammal and bird.

The first three months of the year have, in keeping with recent years, been quite quiet on the tourism front. After the highs of new year (see write up on the Falls Fest here), the town has rested - ready for the next tourism wave. Easter this year is late and tourism operators have had to wait patiently for trade to pick up.

There is always something going on however, with a good traffic of independent travellers coming through and looking to explore the country. Hotels, as always, have clients, and it’s not surprising when one compares their cost with that of a few nights on the Zambian side.

Zimbabwe remains best value for money, not only in terms of holiday experience, but also on the cost in your wallet. Hopefully we’ll see you soon!

Thanks Tony and Boo


News And Events

Rations for Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit:-

In our last issue we announced the launch of our Victoria Falls Destination E-guide. Initial sales have been very good, so thank you to all those who have purchased it, we have had very positive feedback.

20% of the proceeds from the sale of our E-Guide are donated to VFAPU (Vic Falls Anti Poaching Unit). This money has been used to buy food rations for Game Scouts going on 7 day extended patrols into the Zambezi National Park. Picture left is of our son Dan handing out the rations to two of the scouts.

To find out more or to purchase the E-Guide click on the Guide book pictured in the left hand column.

FaceBook:-

Facebook is a phenomenon that has gripped the world. Now with over 600 million users it is bigger than Google. As we try to stay abreast with this fast changing world we too have launched our own Facebook page, which you can see here Victoria Falls Guide Facebook.

We are now getting into the swing of things so please join us and become a fan, if you are a facebook member simply click on this link Facebook and then click on the Like button at the top of the page. If your are not a member of facebook yet, it's simple to register and become part of this fast growing community.

Our success relies on fan participation, so please join in. On the left hand side of our facebook page there are links for adding reviews, discussions, photos and videos.... Go wild the more the merrier!!

We will very soon be introducing some competitions, where just by being a fan you can win some really fantastic prizes, so don't be shy join us now.

Record Floods Predicted

Earlier this year five countries in southern Africa issued flood warnings following heavy rains in the region. Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe issued alerts predicting that serious flooding could affect tens of thousands of people.

However predicting the nature of the Zambezi River is not easy, with a catchment basin of 1,390,000 km² (537,000 miles²), monitoring rainfall and modelling river flow is a difficult job. Locals with a knowledge of the river often predict high floods, confident that when they do come they can say “told you so”! But rarely do these major floods materialise here at the Falls.

At the Victoria Falls records have been kept since 1906 of the level of the river at the measuring post, just over one mile above the Falls (close to the Big Tree). At this point the river is at its widest, inclusive of islands, a distance of over one and a quarter miles from bank to bank.

These records show that the Zambezi normally reaches its highest level here from about the end of March to the end of April in each year.

Read our exclusive full story here...

The Boys ( Elephants ) are Back in Town

Three o’clock in the morning and I’m awoken by the crashing and thumping of vegetation onto the roof of the backpackers room I’m staying in. After a few seconds of confusion as I try to identify the sounds, and after quickly dismissing drunk baboons falling out of trees, I realise it can only be one thing – the elephants are back in town.

Read our exclusive full story here...

New Years Eve - Falls Fun Fest Update

The New Year was celebrated in Victoria Falls in grand style with the second annual Falls Fest, held at the Victoria Falls Rest Camp. The town has not been so busy for many years, with over 4,000 people attending and bringing a welcome end of year boost to tourist operators. Rafting on the Zimbabwe side saw its biggest day in 10 years with 400 people running the rapids in one day.

The festival firmly established itself on the map this year, with a great line up, including Ghapi, Evicted, Mann Friday, Kazz Douie and lead act The Parlotones, delivering two evenings of entertainment.  Local photographer Tom Varley recorded the event and posted many of his images free online for everyone to enjoy.  Check out Tom’s photo’s on this Falls Fests’ Facebook group 

And there are even bigger and better plans for 2011… check the festival website throughout the year for latest news - www.fallsfest.co.zw – and don’t forget to book your accommodation well in advance!

We are putting together some great deals on accommodation and activities so contact us

Victoria Falls Rainforest Restaurant Update

Following our article in the last issue of our newsletter, the development at the Victoria Falls Rainforest is still polarising local opinion in the town. Whilst many welcomed the development as a much needed improvement to the visitor facilities at the Falls, many local individuals objected to the development - which included a souvenir shop and café as well as a redesigned interpretation area – although their grounds for doing so were somewhat confused.

Complaints originally focussed on the environmental impact of the development and the potential threat to the UNESCO World Heritage status of the Falls. However once it became apparent that the development had been within the established footprint of the existing areas developed for tourist facilities at the rainforest entrance, and that there was no threat to the UNESCO status of the area, the real arguments against the development became clearer.

Curio traders who rent stalls in the car park area were concerned that the shop would affect their sales. However, as had been clarified previously, the shop does not stock curio items and offers no direct competition to their businesses.

Despite attempts to close the shop, matters have now been resolved and the shop is open daily for business.

Attention is now focussed on the Rainforest Café, which remains closed as negotiations between concerned parties continue. It is hoped that the Café will soon open again for business and provide visitors to the Falls with much needed refreshments.

Victoria Falls Bridge Toll

Emerged Railway Properties (ERP), the body responsible for the Victoria Falls Bridge has announced that it is currently engaged in consultations with the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia to commence tolling at the Victoria Falls Bridge as it moves to raise funds to maintain the bridge. Read the full facts and figures here

It is understood that the proposals currently under consideration involve a toll only for heavy vehicles using the bridge. Smaller vehicles and pedestrians will remain toll free.  This move has been welcomed by many residents of Victoria Falls who see the heavy vehicles that pass through the town centre and across the bridge as an unsightly nuisance. If they want to use the bridge it seems right that they should pay towards its maintenance.

Shearwater Adventures who operates the Bunjee jumping activity off The Victoria Falls Bridge pay a levy on every customer they have to the Railways of Zimbabwe. This goes a long way towards the current maintenance of the bridge.

When the bridge was first opened, in 1905, it was designed for rail traffic only and carried two lines of rails. A toll of one shilling was introduced for foot passengers who were keen to view the Falls from the new vantage point of the bridge. A complete reconstruction of the top deck was undertaken in 1930, and involved the replacement of one of the rail lines with a tar road and pedestrian footways. 
The current proposals again include a complete replacement of the top deck, a move which will hopefully see the bridge extend its lifespan by another 100 years.
 
Controversial New Airport Tax
 

Zimbabwe's Civil Aviation Authority announced on 9th March 2011 that all outgoing airlines will be required from 1st April 2011, to charge a new "Aviation Infrastructural Development Fee" (AIDEF) on all departures. Passengers will have to pay an extra US$30 if they are departing on an international flight, and an extra US$10 for domestic departures.

The announcement makes it clear that that these new fees are to be levied in addition to previous taxes charged. This means that the total departure tax (passenger service charge and the new AIDEF fees) will be:

International Departing Passengers: US$65


Domestic Departing Passengers: US$20

Exempt from AIDEF levies will be children aged 2 years and below; diplomats; visiting Heads of State and Government and their spouses; passengers in direct transit who do not leave the transit area and all Airline Crew on duty.

Pilots of non-scheduled and private flights are required to collect AIDEF fees from their non-exempt passengers and pay at the airport payment office before departure.

The introduction of this additional tax is extremely controversial. The travel industry objects to the fact that it will deter tourism to Zimbabwe because airline taxes in Zimbabwe will now be much more expensive than elsewhere in the region. The General and Commercial Aviation Association of Zimbabwe and the private air charter companies are fighting it.

However, a technical glitch appears to have delayed the proposed start date for this new tax. In the meantime, for more details, or to voice your opinion on this new tax, contact the CEO of the Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority, Mr David Chawota at ais@caaz.co.zw Tel: +263 4 585018; +263 4 585073-88; Fax: +263 4 585100

 


New Activities

Sikumi Tree Lodge - under new managers

Sikumi Tree Lodge is a well known name in Zimbabwean tourism circles. Part of the Touch the Wild group, the lodge has been operating on its private estate on the Dete Vlei, just outside Hwange National Park Main Camp, for many years. In recent years the Lodge has been forgotten and its secrets witnessed only by a lucky few, but it is now enjoying a renaissance under new managers Brian and Marleen Sabeta-Post. In the year since they arrived at Sikumi the couple have gone about reinventing the Sikumi experience. Welcomed with a friendship that really makes you feel one of the family, Sikumi is that rare example of a safari lodge where you really do feel at home.

Read our full exclusive story here

If you would like to make an booking enquiry Click Here


Coming of the Railways - By Pete Roberts (courtesy of the Victoria Falls Bridge Company)

We will feature in this and upcoming Newsletters a series of articles on how and why the Railway line reached Victoria Falls.

The main credit for designing the Victoria Falls Bridge must go to George Andrew Hobson of London based consultants Sir Douglas Fox and Partners (later to become Freeman, Fox and Partners), not as is often stated, Sir Ralph Freeman, the engineer who would later design of the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 (and also the Birchenough Bridge across the Save River in 1935). At the time of the design of the Victoria Falls Bridge, Freeman was still only an assistant in the firm

Several leading firms tendered for the construction of the bridge but most were daunted by the task and in the end, only two firms, Dorman, Long & Co. and the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company of Darlington, were in the running. In May 1903 both parts of the contract were awarded to The Cleveland Bridge Company, to construct and erect the Victoria Falls Bridge for a price of £72,000.

The bridge was made, and assembled in sections to ensure accuracy, at the steel works in Darlington, England, and shipped in knocked down pieces to Beira on the S.S. Cromwell and then put on the Beira and Mashonaland Railway to Bulawayo, and on to the Victoria Falls on the new rail-line.

Read the full story about the bridges construction here

Please visit Pete Roberts's very informative website about Victoria Falls.. Click here


Conservation

Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit ( VFAPU ) 2010 report

By Charles Brightman

Dear VFAPU Supporters and potential Supporters

Firstly, on behalf of all of us VFAPU, I would like to thank you all for your continued support, which is so vital to our operations against the menace of poaching in our region. You are all playing a vital role in this challenge that faces us. The role that VFAPU is playing is crucial – the poaching situation would be far worse without all of our joint efforts to fight the crime of poaching.

It is very encouraging to report that there has been a marked improvement in game sightings in the region, with good sightings of sizable herds of elephant and buffalo, giraffe, zebra, kudu, eland, waterbuck as well as other plains game including sable. There have also been sightings of lion, leopard and wild dog recently.

VFAPU would also like to express our gratitude to the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Victoria Falls Municipal Police and the Tourism Police for this opportunity to work together in a combined effort to conserve Zimbabwe wildlife for everyone’s benefit, present and future.

Please refer to our report below for details for our operations during the year 2010. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.

SUMMARY OF STATISTICS FOR 2010:

• Snares located: 443
• Persons apprehended within National Park estate: 328 (5 x mammal poachers, 20 x illegal miners, 256 x wood poachers, 19 x Illegal vendors, 10 x Illegal entry into parks estate, 2 x drug dealers, 2 x thieves, 9 x fish poachers, 4 x border jumpers and 2 x smugglers)
• Mammals darted: 14 (4 x buffalo, 5 x warthog, 1 x elephant, 2 x kudu, 2 x impala)
• Mammals poached: 44 (12 x buffalo, 12 x impala, 2 x elephant, 2 x kudu, 2 x eland, 3 x waterbuck, 8 x warthog, 1 x sable, 2 x spotted hyena and 1 x wild dog).

Please support VFAPU - Support Wildlife Conservation!

Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit ( VFAPU ) Jan to March 2011 report

SUMMARY OF STATISTICS - Jan to March 2011:

Snares located: 51 Persons apprehended within National Park estate: 97 (3 x mammal poachers, 14 x illegal miners, 51 x wood poachers, 18 x Illegal vendors, 2 x Illegal entry into parks estate, 1 x drug dealers) Mammals darted: 2 (1 x warthog, 1 x elephant) Mammals poached: 3 (1x kudu, 1 x elephant, 1 x hippo)

Read the Full report here

Victoria Falls Vulture Restaurants Attract South African Clientele

By Pete Roberts

In a story first published in the Zambezi Traveller, staff at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge were very interested to discover that two of the White-backed Vultures (Gyps africanus) feeding at its Vulture feeding restaurant had been tagged by researchers in the Pilanesberg Northern Province in South Africa, 900 km south of the Falls.

One had been tagged with a GPS tracking device, allowing researchers to pin-point its location at the Lodge’s waterhole. Staff at the Lodge had recorded sightings of this vulture, with two noticeable yellow tags on its wings, and another vulture with a non-GPS tag, during June and July last year. The researchers did not realise that the Lodge ran a Vulture restaurant, and so this was important additional information for their research on the habits of this species. Tagged birds were also seen at a second Vulture feeding restaurant on the nearby Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve.

Read the very interesting full story here

International Anti-Poaching Foundation - IAPF

Damien Mander sold just about everything he owned and invested $250,000 to create the International Anti Poaching Foundation. His plans for an anti-poaching army might sound ambitious, but nowhere is it more needed than strife-torn Zimbabwe.

Back in September last year the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) led an operation on the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve to de-horn five critically endangered black rhino....

Read our exclusive full story here


Interesting Facts

On 16th November 1855, Livingstone was paddled by canoe to what is now known as Livingstone's Island, on the lip of the Victoria Falls. His own words best describe his moment of discovery:

"No-one could perceive where the vast body of water went, it seemed to lose itself into the earth, the opposite lip of the fissure into which it disappeared being only eight feet distant... Creeping with awe to the verge, I peered down into a large rent which had been made from bank to bank of the broad Zambezi and saw that a stream of a thousand yards broad leaped down a hundred feet, and then suddenly compressed into a space of fifteen or twenty yards... the most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa"


Feel free to contact us with any questions, queries, ideas or criticisms.

We're here to help you!
 
Bye for now
 
Tony and Boo Peel
www.victoriafalls-guide.net

 

 
 
African Tale


How the Ostrich Got His Long Neck

Mr. Ostrich was a sober minded, serious husband, who was always willing to assist his wife in her family duties. "My Dear", he said to her one evening, when their large clutch of eggs seemed almost ready to hatch, "my black feathers can not be seen in the darkness, so I will guard our eggs by night, and at the same time keep them warm for you. That will leave you free to relax and enjoy yourself until daybreak each morning."

He settled down clumsily to his unaccustomed task, while his flighty wife was more than thankful to be relieved of a duty which she already found a trial. She fluffed up her feathers and, to show how pleased she was, she set off in a joyful high-stepping dance among the low termite-mounds that surrounded their nest.

To read the full tale "Click Here"

Victoria Falls Gift Shop

 

See our range of Gifts from T-shirts to Posters all focused on Victoria Falls. They are available for easy purchase online and are shipped worldwide. You can even design you own stuff...

 

"Click Here" or on the image below

 

Dan's Did You Know

How young birds breeding for the first time know how to built their often complex nests?

Research has shown that nest building skills seems to be largely instinctive. For example, male village weavers hand-raised in totally artificial conditions, and without ever having seen a nest, are still able to build a passable nest.

However it is thought that the skill is refined and improved through experience. While a young birds first attempt is often unskilled, its efforts improve greatly with practice, becoming more skilled at choosing the right materials and perfecting its weaving technique with each attempt.

In many species young chicks imprint on the position of their nest site, as well as the materials used to construct the nest, and they are thought to draw on this knowledge when they reach maturity and start nesting themselves.

The Fear

Peter Godwin

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

In mid-2008, after thirty years of increasingly tyrannical rule, Robert Mugabe, the eighty-four-year-old ruler of Zimbabwe, met his politburo. He had just lost an election. But instead of conceding power, he was persuaded to launch a brutal campaign of terror to cower his citizens. Journalist and author Peter Godwin was one of the few observers to slip into the country and bear witness to the terrifying period that Zimbabweans call, simply, the Fear. This is a personal journey through the country Peter Godwin grew up in and knows so well - a landscape and a people, grotesquely altered, laid waste by a raging despot. At considerable risk, he travels widely to see the torture bases, the burned villages, the death squads, the opposition leaders in hiding, the last white farmers, the churchmen and the diplomats putting their own lives on the line to stop the carnage.

Brilliant book exposing the horrific details to which many of us were oblivious too. Many people state that the Zimbabwe people (especially the Shona) are cowards for doing nothing to stand up against this mad despot. I feel their views might change after reading this book.....

 
www.victoriafalls-guide.net | Pietermaritzburg | Kwa-Zulu Natal | 3201 | South Africa

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