|FRANCE: Travel warning: Safety at France’s Christmas markets|
The UK FCO has updated its travel warnings for the busy Christmas market period.
There may be increased security in place over the festive period, including at Christmas markets and other major events that might attract large crowds. Travellers are advised to remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities as the current terrorist threat level in France sits atsevere
|New visa and travel changes coming to South Africa – here’s what you need to know. |
Department of Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has announced a number of new visa changes heading into the festive season. In a presentation on Sunday (1 December), Motsoaledi provided an update on some of the key pronouncements made by the department in July and confirmed government’s readiness to facilitate traveller and goods movement at South African ports of entry over the festive season.Some of the most notable changes are outlined below.
Motsoaledi said that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has started with the testing and piloting of its electronic visa application system. “The decision to introduce e-Visa was informed by observable benefits of this system. It is reliable, client-friendly and convenient for visa applicants, airlines, trading partners and Home Affairs officials,” he said.
Once fully rolled-out, prospective visitors will apply online for visas, at home, office or place of work.
It will lessen administrative burdens, including those involved in receiving applicants at visa offices, printing visa stickers and returning passports to applicants. Motsoaledi said that the department is currently testing the new system with Kenya. He added that as part of the pilot, a team of DHA immigration and IT officials visited Kenya.
“This team is scheduled to return to Kenya next week on 9 December 2019. The first Kenyan tourist who applied for the visitors’ visa on the new e-Visa system arrived yesterday afternoon and more are expected this week as part of the pilot.
“We are continuously monitoring this pilot process to ensure that user experience is not compromised. In early 2020, we’ll include China, India and Nigeria to the pilot which will run until March 2020.”
| Visa-free access|
As part of efforts to attract tourists to South Africa, Motsoaledi said that his department has added the Republic of Tunisia to the list of countries which enjoy visa-free status to South Africa.
This means that tourists from this country will come to South Africa without requiring a visa and South Africans can visit Tunisia without a visa as part of reciprocity.
“The implementation date of this agreement will be decided and communicated after the two countries have agreed on a date,” he said.
“South Africa now has 83 countries which it has granted visa free status to. These countries are among the highest tourist sending nations globally.”
| Festive Season|
Motsoaledi said that his department is working with border law enforcement agencies to ensure ease of movement for travellers over the festive season.
“We want travellers to enter and leave South Africa without hindrance in this peak period, and to do so in a manner that is legally permissible, without breaking any law of our country,” he said. Motsoaledi said that capacity will be increased between Wednesday, 4 December 2019 and 13 January 2020.
“The ports of entry with traditionally high volumes of movement will have their operating hours increased by between one and seven hours.
“Border law enforcement entities have confirmed readiness to handle increased volumes of travellers and goods at all ports of entry. This increase in movement of people and goods, across borders, is due to the inflow and outflow of travellers such as tourists, cross-border workers, business, academics and those on educational activities.”
He said that Home Affairs will deploy close to 400 additional officials at selected ports, to assist with delivery of immigration services and offer technical support at the borders.
Most of these officials will be posted at the Beit Bridge Port of Entry with Zimbabwe, Lebombo, Maseru Bridge Port of Entry with Lesotho and the Ficksburg Port of Entry with Lesotho.
“We implore all travellers leaving and entering South Africa to ensure all their travel documents are in order to avoid unnecessary delays at ports. These include passports, visas, health certificates, permits for specified goods, plants and animals and vehicle insurance and bank authorised cross-border documents for vehicles.”
| MSC Cruising – Gets Accessible!|
MSC Cruises has launched customised tours in 20 destinations for guests with reduced mobility.
Guests who have a disability, limited mobility or are slow walkers, now have a choice of shore excursions in its Accessible Tours Programme, suited to their physical capability.
The cruise line is rolling out accessible shore excursion programmes to five more ports in the Northern hemisphere winter 2019 and three additional ports for summer 2020. These tours are now available for booking in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
Tour routes are step-free, accessible to wheelchairs, and have shorter distances and longer duration.
Excursions in the programme are in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, St. Maarten, Italy, Malta and France.
|‘BUDDYMOONS’ A RISING TREND |
‘Buddymoons’ are a rising trend and a clever way for tour operators to package post-wedding travels including friends and family.
This is particularly appropriate for Southern Africa as it’s a long-haul destination.
Operators and wedding specialists say the buddymoon concept is catching on and agree that it’s a great opportunity to market the destination.
Most couples enjoy a ‘wedding week’ (or longer) in Southern Africa with their chosen guests, rather than just a wedding day.
There are so many wonderful options in terms of locations and venues for couples choosing to say their vows. Pre and/or post-wedding buddymoons are a good idea – maybe to the winelands or a safari experience.
This is a huge trend worldwide, and South Africa is definitely catching on.
South Africa has the benefit of the currency exchange rate and world-class services to ensure we create the most incredible celebrations
The buddymoon trend is also proving popular with the LGBTQ market and sees this as a big growth area for her wedding business.
| The movement of Elephants|
Everyone loves telling stories about the elephants they have seen while on safari and naturally enough guests returning from Chundu Island will proudly tell their friends about the beautiful elephants they saw in Zimbabwe. And this is correct – look at the maps and they will show that Chundu is indeed in Zimbabwe. The stamps in your passport will prove this too.
But for some elephants, and many other mammals and birds, the area around Chundu is merely part of a much larger landscape where political boundaries are largely ignored and through which they move in accordance with their needs.
For an elephant getting to Livingstone on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, 15 kilometres away from Chundu as the vulture glides, is an easy walk, no passport required. Walking to Chobe National Park in Botswana takes a bit longer, it’s about 50 kilometres away on the vulture-glide scale, but some elephants do it year after year and the recent research shows that this is all part of a much larger elephant movement pattern across vast areas of this part of Africa.
“The research has shown that the elephants of northern Botswana have the largest home ranges (24, 828 square kilometres) recorded for African elephants and has conclusively confirmed that the elephants of northern Botswana are part of a large contiguous elephant population encompassing western Zimbabwe, the Caprivi Strip (now known as Zambezia) in Namibia, south east Angola and southwest Zambia,” researchers at the NGO Elephants without Borders (EWB) state on their website.
This is a home range larger than the whole of Israel, Wales in the U.K. or the state of New Hampshire in the U.S.A.
Many of the elephants fitted with satellite tracking collars moved, researchers have deduced, in response to a variety of factors including rainfall, which stimulates plant growth, elephant population density, conflict with humans and, some scientists believe, even in accordance with an individual animal’s own likes and dislikes.
In addition to regular movement of elephants from the Zambezi National Park (Chundu Island falls within this park) and Hwange National Park into increasingly the large areas of Botswana, other animals have moved even further afield.
Over the past few decades thousands of elephants have followed ancient migration routes and “recolonized” some formerly war ravaged areas of southern Angola. Elephants were virtually wiped-out in south eastern Angola during the conflict and only 31 elephants were counted there in 2001.
The Great Elephant Census, published by EWB in 2015, estimated that there were about 3 400 elephants in the area, a 21% decline on the number estimated in 2005.
Although elephants don’t pay attention to borders drawn on maps there are in reality many obstacles facing the animals when they attempt to move from one area to another or from country to country.
“Political boundaries, rapidly expanding human settlements, veterinary fences, farming, poaching, and civil conflict have contributed to blocking migration and dispersal routes which are essential for wildlife to access natural resources,” EWB say.
Many elephants in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Angola also move through areas that are not formally protected and the satellite tracking data shows how the animals use corridors of natural vegetation to move from place, an important factor in relieving population stress and pressure on habitat.
So while you’re looking at your holiday pictures and videos, or even better, sitting on the deck at Chundu, remember that the elephant quietly feeding on the banks of the Zambezi near the lodge might have wandered large distances to get there and that, in reality, it belongs to nature alone.
Author: Mike Cadman