Letters to Editor

Special Supplement in
ATA World Congress Edition

 .Author's Bio

Africa in One Country
by Jerry W. Bird


What I truly love about the many Cameroonians I've come
to know - is that they "Accentuate the Positive."

The final leg of our journey was to Cameroon's Northern reaches, where Savannah meets desert near Lake Thad, brought us to Waza National Park. We stayed at an unforgettable site which resembled a native village in that the individual units were round with conical roofs. They were connected to the main dining room by a network of stone steps. All in all it would make a great place for a medium sized seminar or group event. We received an attractive area map which contained the following comments:

The park was established by the Cameroonian government in 1968 to protect the available natural resources, to encourage tourism and to develop educational and research activities. Thanks to the worldwide reputation of the Park UNESCO decided in cooperation with the government to grant it biosphere reserve status in 1982. Three main vegetation types can be recognized in Waza National Park: a wooded Savannah, an Acacia seyal forest and the flood plains of the Logone. These plains are flooded each year from mid-August until mid-November, which leaves until mid-November, which leaves them inaccessible. Hardly Partners in Eco any height differences can be found in the Park, which is situated in the bed of the former Lake Thad. The characteristic rocky outcrops at Waza village form the only exception. However, the small gradients that do exist are responsible for the annual retreat of the inundation waters towards Lake Tchad. More about the Northern part of Cameroon will follow.

Our purpose and goals: Another important step in a long march towards investor awareness of tourism's potential to transform Africa's economies was taken at ATA's 5th Ecotourism Symposium. The topics of Commerce and Investment were uppermost on the agenda. this was something I was very pleased to see, having participated in Globe 2002 and its predecessors for the last ten years, where the whole focus is on hands-on solutions. The venue was Yaounde, Cameroon in early December and it was followed by an Eco tour of the country by North American travel agents and journalists. As we continue to celebrate the International Year of Ecotourism, Africa Travel Magazine is proud to add its voice to the program. During our time in Cameroon, which included almost two weeks of travel inside the country we took several hundred photographs many of which are on the photo gallery pages on this web site. Others have been provided by the ATA official photographers, the Cameroon Ministry of Tourism and fellow ATA members.

tourism: Africa Travel Association has been building bridges between the developed and undeveloped world for almost 30 years. ATA is an 'Eco Pioneer,' staging Ecotourism Symposia in Senegal, South Africa, Morocco and Nigeria. A close partner (SATH), Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, shares similar ideals and a common founder. Fighting for handicapped and senior travelers, SATH has made huge strides. ATA and SATH work closely with the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism ( IIPT). All three associations joined forces in Cape Town South Africa in 2001 with Ecotourism as a leading topic on the menu.

Land, Culture, Wildlife: A more active, involved, compassionate and caring type of visitor has evolved in recent years. According to Nigeria's Tourism Minister at last year's symposium, "Ecotourism conserves the natural environment and sustains the well-being of local people. The continent is endowed with a vast potential of human and natural resources. Its tourist locations include wildlife parks, non-polluted beaches, hills and mountain ranges, waterfalls and warm springs. There's also a rich culture; heritage, as expressed in our arts and crafts, songs and folklore, paintings and architecture, exotic cuisine and numerous historic relics and monuments." We echo those encouraging words.

Ecotourism & Investment : As stated at the 2000 ATA Ecotourism Symposium, "Economic benefits to be gained from tourism linked to natural areas have long been recognized as significant for conservation. By providing the nation an economic return, it can justify setting aside large areas of land. Secondly, entry fees can generate substantial funds for support management. Thirdly, tourism expenditures on logging, transportation, food, guides and souvenirs are a key source of income for communities." This year, Africa Travel Magazine is developing a series of Forestry Maps, showing how the forestry and tourism industries are so closely connected, with many aims in common. It will feature hiking trails, national parks, historic sites, even logging train rides and mill tours for tourists. We expert support, we will help develop forestry promotion linked to tourism in your area.

Cultural Treasures: Throughout this edition and on our website you will see examples of successful presentation of "Cultural Ecotourism," an area that focuses on preserving the languages, customs, costumes, family values, beliefs and lifestyle features of this diverse continent. We welcome your photos and items on the topic. Visit us anytime at www.africa-ata.org, or contact ATA head office at africatravelasso@aol.com.

Agricultural Tourism: Watch our next edition for major features on agricultural developments and Agri-Exchange and Blossom Tours facilitated by this magazine.

Editor's Comment: We thank our tour supervisors Ebenezer Elimbi, Jean Npombo and Boniface Piga. They were great companions throughout my 30 days in the country. Our travels in Cameroon will eventually be compiled in a book that will help future travelers from North America enjoy this fascinating country to the fullest. It was a month we will treasure forever, and even as time passes, the images and voices of Cameroon have not faded one iota - they've become even more vivid in the theater of my mind. What I truly love about the many Cameroonians whom I've come to know - is that to a person, they "Accentuate the Positive."

Jerry W. Bird is President of ATA Canada Chapter, Editor and Publisher of Africa Travel Magazine, and Webmaster for the ATA site www.africa-ata.org/. He is also Publisher of Air Highways Magazine, the Journal of Open Skies, featuring aviation, tourism, transportation and business worldwide. His career began with the Edmonton Journal Daily Newspaper, and expanded into the full spectrum of media - radio, television, magazines and Internet. He has won international awards for creativity in audio visual and print production.