East African Safari Classic Rally

The East African Safari Classic Rally started at the weekend and runs until the Monday 28th of November. The classic rally takes place every 2 years. It started in 2003 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first running of the Safari Rally, itself first held to celebrate a certain coronation in some far-away land…

I found this clip of the rally which brings back some good memories.  The Safari was always held around Easter, so we would throw our bags in a car and rush off over the long holiday weekends to catch a few stages – Vic Preston Jnr, Shekhar Metha, Patrick Njiru, Björn Waldegård, Ari Vatanen, in Ford Escorts, Datsun 240Zs, Porsche 911s, Toyotas, Peugeot 504s… Lots of dust and mud, and always fun.

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Festival Tourism award

Congratulations to Loreen Gachambi and Peris Kamau, students at Kamahuha Girls High School, who will be  representing the Kenyan tourism industry in Monaco, from the 19th to 25th November 2011. The event – which is organised by the Global Travel and Tourism Partnership – brings together high school students from around the world to talk around this year’s theme of “Festival Tourism“.

The Global Travel and Tourism Partnership Kenya  (GTTPK) holds a competition each year for the best school research project.  The winning school sends two students and their teacher to an international conference, where they meet students and teachers from the other GTTP-member countries.  Loreen and Peris won this year’s award for their essay on Kikuyu Ceremonies, competing among 15 high schools.

Timeless is proud to be associated with the GTT Partnership Kenya whose aim is to assist teachers deliver academic and vocational curriculum relating to travel, tourism and hospitality more effectively, so as to encourage students to start into careers in these industries.

You’ve got to get your first tackle in early, even if it’s late.

16 teams are taking part in this year’s edition of the rugby 7s. The tournament, which began in 1996, is being sponsored by Safaricom.

Timeless is an official travel agent for the Kenya Rugby Union and made the travel arrangements for the teams from Samoa (who won the title in 2005), France (semi-finalists last year) and Spain. So good luck to them.

Of course, we’ll be cheering Sydney Ashioya’s Kenya too.  The team has a potentially tough draw against fellow East Africans Uganda and Rwanda, plus the French.

For a number of sides this year’s Safaricom 7s is also a warm-up for the upcoming HSBC Sevens World Series.

POOL A

Kenya, Uganda, Grenoble, Rwanda

POOL B

Emerging Boks, Bristol, Auckland Vikings, Mwamba RFC

POOL C

Samoa, Spain, Belmont Shore, Goshawks

POOL D

Zimbabwe, Samurai, British Army, Tanzania

The pool games begin on Saturday at 10 am

UPDATE: Mon 7th Nov

Congratulations to Samoa for winning the title on Sunday afternoon. Timeless wishes them and the other teams a safe journey home.

The young home side made to the semi-finals, losing to the Fijians …

… but the ladies’ team won!

Holidays on Lamu

Lament for Kenyans

We are going through difficult times. The sudden death of one of our heroines Wangari Mathaai is simply an unimaginably huge loss. We were blessed by her, and give our tears and prayers to her family in thanksgiving.

We can try to follow her example as best we can – by planting trees, supporting community-based development. For all of us in Nairobi Karura Forest is a living legacy. She will inevitably be claimed by everyone, but let’s hope that the force of her radicalism remains undiminished:

In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.

Recently, brand “Kenya” has not been looking so good.

The parade of Kenyans at the ICC accused of the alleged crimes against humanity –  is bad enough.

The on-going suffering of the poorest of the poor continues in many parts of the country and across the region.

The recent pipeline tragedy is appalling both in terms of the loss of life and suffering, and because it was as avoidable as the daily carnage on our roads.

The shooting and kidnapping of the British tourists at the Kiwayu Safari Village resort on Lamu is shocking also, and it also starkly reveals the vulnerability of our tourism industry (and we are not isolated from the potentially tourism-busting world recession…) – and not least the tens of thousands of people and their families who depend on the industry for their jobs and livelihoods.

Some potential tourists and other visitors may chose to go somewhere else, which would be a pity, but understandable.

Lamu and Kiwayu are very very special. In the last year the most popular resorts for Timeless‘ customers have been Peponi Hotel and Kijani Hotel. Timeless will continue to help holiday-makers make bookings to Lamu and Manda Islands

We have had many happy customers stay at Kiwayu Safari Village, and we hope that it re-opens soon.

Bostonians in Kenya

Don’t even consider staying at another hotel when in Nairobi! Rose Muya of Timeless Tours in Nairobi organized the trip for our party of six to the Aberdare Rhino Retreat and the Maasai Mara, with stays at The Fairview when passing through Nairobi. The Fairview is a welcome oasis in a noisy, traffic-clogged city. The location couldn’t be safer, even for women traveling alone (across from the Israeli Embassy; The Fairview compound is enclosed behind a secure wrought-iron fence w/ security checkpoints on the street). The entire Fairview family – Reception, First Class lounge, restaurant, and housekeeping staff – is gracious and accommodating. The elegant and always-present Vicki, one of the senior managers, ensures the operation runs flawlessly. The First Class lounge offers free Internet access and tea with cookies until 11pm. The breakfast buffet includes food to please every taste and the staff will make omelets at your request. And a real treat: the daily New York Times Digest is available every morning in the breakfast restaurant! Our rooms had a/c, a ceiling fan, and – a rarity in modern hotels – windows that we could open so we weren’t hermetically sealed at night. The Fairview is modern while retaining its old world charm. Timeless Tours will make sure your journey goes off without a hitch. Don’t settle for anything less.

On Trip Adviser: Stayed July 2011, traveled with friends

Holidays in the Time of Famine

There is no way getting around this issue: how do we feel about taking holidays in the midst of suffering?

The ‘official’ or party line from the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) is that “yes, there is a drought … it won’t affect your safari … think of the jobs that your trip supports”.

Statement on drought

The difficulty is not the drought per se. This is not an unexpected crisis. The Kenyan Red Cross and others have issued repeated warnings: the rains failed early this year in Kenya and Ethiopia, and there has been almost none for two years in Somalia.

Rather it’s the extent of food insecurity across the region and the widespread hunger and suffering. Some 10 million people are said to need food aid across this area of East Africa, and about 10% of Kenyans are directly affected at this moment.

Humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa

This is clearly a humanitarian crisis. On the BBC map above is marked the Dadaab refugee complex. This is on a dirt road near the Kenya-Somalia border in what may quite reasonably be called the middle of nowhere: at present it has an estimated population of between 3-400,000  – that is the equivalent of cities the size of Pittsburgh, Riverside and Cincinnati, or Strasbourg in France, Coventry in the UK, and Bonn in Germany. Dadaab is also now Kenya’s third largest city.

UPDATE: Aug 12. Dadaab is now officially past the 400,000 mark and will will exceed half a million people by late October

Click here for an Economist slideshow on Hunger in the Horn of Africa, and the BBC on who’s to blame.

Frankly, you would have to be a particularly thick-skinned holiday-maker to be indifferent about the scale of the suffering.

The roots and solution to the famine are almost entirely political. We have taken the first step by voting for our new constitution, we will take another by voting out the present generation of politicians at the forthcoming general elections. It is their short-termism and lack of political accountability, and in this instance their disinterest in pastoralist communities’ livelihoods that has brought about the famine. The lack of structures and mechanisms to deal with the crisis explains both the pitiful state of the refugee camps, and need to request international assistance (again, and again). And generally it is mirrored by the absence of a social contract – between the political class and the Kenyan people – of the sort that sustains a modern nation state.

Tourism is a lead growth sector in the economy, it does bring in much-needed foreign exchange and investment and it has created thousands of jobs. Yet rather than reducing the high levels of inequality and instability in the economy, growth has exacerbated them.

Moreover, the sanguine attitude of the KTF seems also to reflect a widespread inability or unwillingness to understand the additional  importance of the rangelands for wildlife.  The slowly growing crisis of pastoralism in the region has seen livestock herding decline as a viable way of life over the last two generations. Climate change will make the rangelands a harder place in which to live in the future. Pastoralists have been steadily marginalised and discriminated against by successive governments. The expansion of national parks, and game reserves and private conservancies can also be a threat to their well-being if this results in taking away their dry season grazing grounds or blocking their traditional routes to pasture land. We break at our peril the links between pastoralism and wildlife.

As visitors to our country what can you do?

Open your hearts, wallets and purses.

Please think about giving generously to the efforts to alleviate the suffering. Timeless is asking all its clients to consider making a donation when booking. Timeless is contributing to the Kenyans for Kenya campaign also.

KENYANS for KENYA brings together individuals and companies in a fund-raising effort aimed at raising Sh1000 million (about US$ 10.8m, Euro 7.6m), in four weeks, towards famine relief for over 3 million Kenyans suffering from hunger and at risk of starvation. 

100 elephants a day – Ivory Warfare

Vanity Fair's investigation into the black market for ivory

magazine has published an article Agony and Ivory on the slaughter of elephants that is currently being driven by the Asian demand for ivory. Alex Shoumatoff traces the trade from Central and East Africa, to Seattle and China, and the efforts of those institutions (such as our own Kenya Wildlife Service) and individuals – including Iain Douglas-Hamilton the founder of Save the Elephants, and Paula Kahumbu the Executive Director of WildlifeDirect (who recently was awarded the 2011 National Geographic Society/Buffet Award for Leadership in African Conservation) – trying to halt the carnage.

There is also a short video.

UPDATE: 20 July 2011

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki sets light to a pile of tusks and ivory carvings. The event was the highlight of the first ever African Elephant Law Enforcement Day celebrations observed by Kenya and seven African states that have come together under the Lusaka Agreement on Cooperation Enforcement Operation Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora.

President Kibaki lights ivory pile

The 5 tonnes of ivory is estimated to have been worth $16m (Euro12m). Iain Douglas-Hamilton hopes that the destruction of the ivory would seen as another warning that elephants are again being hunted. He said the economic loss from the ivory burning was part of the message:

This is a clear signal that it’s worth a lot more money than you could get on the market. We have to stop the buying if we want to stop the killing.

The Daily Nation made the point that selling the ivory would be unethical but also that more effort needs to be put into combating the criminal cartels are behind slaughter.

As an aside it turns out that the burnt ivory was not from Kenyan elephants. The government has stockpiled to date about 65 tonnes of ivory from poaching and illegal trade, which is somehow classified as a ‘national asset’, and which therefore cannot be  – or has not been – destroyed like other items of seized contrabrand (drugs, weapons, pirated CDs, etc.). This is a story that will run since it simply does not add up.

Cyril Cristo, who took the magnificent photo-portraits of elephants for Vanity Fair, has organised a petition against the ivory trade and to pressurise the Chines government to act. You can sign here.