Wednesday, December 06, 2006

We're making Vic Falls better says Legacy

07 December 2006

THE environment may be better off with the 220-hectare Mosi oa Tunya Hotel and Country Club golf development in the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site, says Legacy chief executive, Bart Dorrenstein. ( Tel: +27 11 806-1200 Fax: +27 11 234-1828 E-mail:

The site is presently used by picnickers and is being damaged through the indiscriminate cutting of trees, as well as the increased population of elephant crossing the river from Zimbabwe, Dorrenstein told Travel News Now recently.

According to the hotel group, bird life, flora and fauna on the site will be enhanced by the development, and game, once evident in the park, will be reintroduced. "These are all pluses for the area and environment," said Dorrenstein, who blames local stakeholders with their "own agenda or conflicting interests" for fanning the flames of outrage around the development.

The real issue, says Dorrenstein, is whether the environment on the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls will be better or worse off with the development. Legacy, he says, believes the development could be a model for others to follow, "one which sets the standard for how man, nature and wildlife can live together."

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding the development is growing, with international and local mainstream media having added their voices to the outrage. But, as Legacy points out, this is not the first tourism development to have been built in the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site. "We are surprised to note that none of the other developments on the Zambian side seem to have been attracting any of the attention ours has," says Dorrenstein.

Ian Manning, steering committee member of the Natural Resources Consultative Forum of Zambia, says there was similar controversy around these developments, including the Sun International site. "Zambia has always suffered from a weak environmental lobby. Efforts were made to fight the Sun International development at the time, but the development was pushed through by the Zambian Vice President," says Manning.

Natalia Thomson

Well, so what : Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls could go on UN worry list...

According to an article just in from Reuters "Zimbabwe's premier tourist destination, Victoria Falls, could be listed as an endangered world heritage site by UNESCO because it is not being properly managed, official media reported on Wednesday."


"Even the attraction of the Victoria Falls has failed to reverse the fortunes of a tourism industry hit hard by an unprecedented economic crisis largely blamed on President Robert Mugabe's government's seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.

Western visitors, who have traditionally topped arrival numbers, have shunned the southern African state mostly over safety fears following the often violent land grabs.

Earnings from the industry plunged by more than 70 percent to $98 million last year from $340 million in 1999, just before the land reforms started."


Victoria Falls & Zambezi River developments should be halted!

The difference between ownership and responsibility is one that few seem to grasp in today’s world of quarterly stock price reviews, Moore’s Law and Global Warming.

Ownership implies responsibility. Responsibility implies much more than simple ownership.

There have been conflicting efforts throughout the years to protect the environment. Jack Curtis, of Kasaba Bay fame, built the paths through the rain forest, with much regret, in order to protect the plants on the edges of the muddy paths.

I remember the outcry when, in contravention of Township regulations, the Casino Hotel went above tree level in height. Of course, that was before the blogosphere and instant global outrage. The casino stayed up.

Then the Sheraton, (was it?) ruined the Zambian skyline.

Then on a sacred hill overlooking the wide, lazy stretch of the Zambezi above the Falls, the Elephant Hills Hotel was i) built; ii) torn down; iii) rebuilt; iv) hit by a Sam 7 heat seeking missile; v) rebuilt; and vi) nearly burnt down again. And of course vii) rebuilt again. You’d think we’d learn.

In the meantime, Gary Player’s Golf Course gave elephant and hippo, buck and warthog an upmarket open zoo to wander through. Hardly natural, but the animals coped with change in the environment.

As they coped with Bungy jumpers, canoe safari’s, white water rafters, helicopters and booze cruises. They even occasionally got in a bite in revenge.

But let’s get real about the situation at the Falls. The animals are already too enclosed. We need to improve land planning, increase profits and give back to the animal’s land that is under used.

Move people from the numerous poverty-stricken villages that surround the area into the urban space and build an infrastructure designed to repair the damage with tree planting, intensive agriculture and other suitable sustainable activities.

Fence off the suburbs and restrict travel at night.

Hah, fat chance,

Changes coming make our stewardship more difficult. And our record so far with the Falls environment has been, lets face it, pretty appalling.

So what is to be done?

· ALL development should be stopped.
· Hotel and tourism prices should be doubled, tripled and more!
· Quality in all services should be improved until visitors get value for money.

Hah. Even fatter chance!

Too simple? One person who thought a great deal about the future of tourism in Africa was the late, great, much missed Dave Kauffman of Bulawayo. He came up with two visions, it must have been 20 years ago.

His one idea was to only let into Zimbabwe very rich people and backpackers. No tours, no groups, only small parties. But why backpackers? Because they have a light footprint and will come back as very rich people.

His other idea to save the true heart of Africa was to provide people who now couldn’t afford the outrageously expensive visit with a virtual reality experience that would make the environment and grandeur of the “Smoke that thunders” available and real to everyone.

Bit ahead of his time, but now the time is here, I hope the reality is still worth saving.

Check out for something to do to help.

And as Nick Drake said, “if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”