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CS Phyllis Kandie returns from US tourism promotion tour


By Philip Mwakio
 July 17th 2015 
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie addresses investors during her tour of the US.
Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism, Phyllis Kandie, has concluded a tour of key US cities, where she met with trade representatives, travel agents and the travel media.

Ms Kandie's charm offensive to Washington DC, Los Angeles and New York, which comes the week before President Obama's much anticipated visit to Kenya for the Global Entrepreneur Summit (GES), is part of a wider engagement programme being run by the ministry to actively promote Kenya’s tourism and investment from key markets.

The visit was coordinated jointly with the New York based African Travel Association (ATA) as part of concerted effort to raise awareness for the upcoming ATA congress, which will take place in Nairobi from the 9th to the 14th November. Over 1,500 key travel agents and tour operators, mainly from the US, are expected to attend the five day event.

During a presentation at the New York Times offices, Kandie praised the strong relationship between Kenya and the US and the continued faith and confidence that visitors from the US have in Kenya.

"For decades, Kenya and the US have enjoyed a very strong and special relationship and I am delighted that this has stood the test of time and is today stronger than ever,” she said.

"The US is Kenya's second most important source market for tourism with over 100,000 visitors every year, and we are looking forward to direct flights from the US to Kenya starting soon. This will not only help increase visitor numbers but will significantly boost bilateral trade and export," she added.

Ms Kandie's presence in the US at this time had special significance given that it comes the week before President Obama makes his visit to Kenya, the first by a sitting US president since the country gained independence in 1963.

The GES is a White House initiative that was instigated and fostered by Obama.

It will bring together entrepreneurs, social innovators, business leaders, venture capitalists and philanthropists for an intensive conference to network, learn from each other, and identify ways to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Kenya will provide a unique environment for this year's GES, not only as a beautiful country with warm and welcoming citizens, but also as a country to invest, visit and do business in.

GES will also provide an opportunity to showcase the breadth of entrepreneurs, especially within ICT, that the country has to offer – both President Obama and President Uhuru Kenyatta will deliver keynote speeches at the opening ceremony.

The Cabinet Secretary said that the visit by President Obama and the fact that Kenya was selected to host the GES is a huge boost to the country's global reputation as major tourism, investment and entrepreneurship hub.


Thanks to her 50-plus national parks and reserves, sweeping plains, abundant wildlife – including the spectacular annual migration of wildebeest in the Maasai Mara – Kenya holds the title of the World’s Leading Safari Destination, winning the accolade at this winter’s World Travel Awards held in Qatar. GILL MARTIN discovered why as she visited the magnificent savannah that captured Prince William’s heart during his gap year, drank in intoxicating African landscapes and sundowners, was wowed by teeming wildlife encountered on dawn game drives, trekked, swam and relaxed around campfires under the stars...  

Call of the wild: Playing hide and seek with leopards, sky safaris and fine dining in the foothills of Kilimanjaro at three luxury Kenyan camps

  • High-end stays at Tortilis in Amboseli National Park and Sand River Mara, in the Masai Mara savannah
  • Bedding down at Elsa's Kopje, the arid desert wildlife gem in Meru National Park and the location of Born Free
  • A champagne start and sky safari jaunt offered a chance to see Africa's big five game animals with minimal effort

The night was cool and dark, a vast expanse of sky, pulsating with a million pinpricks of starlight.

A guard escorting us to dinner, his torchlight puncturing the blackness, confirmed it was the leopardess that regularly prowled the camp. But no problem, he assured us. 'She'll be here but you are lucky to see her. Sometimes you spot her lying on a rock at sunrise.'

And there were tell-tale prints by the outside shower by the bedrooms.

But the leopard, one of Africa's Big Five, was to prove elusive. We came, we heard, we smelled  but it was the leopard that conquered in our game of hide and seek.

Close encounters with the other Big Four more than made up for our lack of a sightingWe watched a lion mating on top of a rock, his windswept mane framing glittering tawny eyes then later a cheetah cub climbed onto the bonnet of our Land Cruiser. 

We had the privilege of dancing and praying with Masai Mara villagers and witnessed the silent march of 60- plus elephants, walking shoulder to shoulder, a black line on the horizon before their huge bulk engulfed our vehicles and passed in puffs of dust from soft footfalls.

A chef in his whites prepared our bacon and scrambled eggs breakfast in the middle of the bush and we sipped spine-stiffening sundowners in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain. 

These are all unforgettable and emotion-charged highlights of a thousand safari experiences.I have never felt so spoilt. 

For this was no Spartan under-canvas safari, bouncing around for mile after dusty mile on journeys between our three camps: Tortilis in the salt plains of Amboseli National Park; Elsa's Kopje, the arid desert wildlife gem in Meru National Park and the location of the movie Born Free, which celebrates its 60th anniversary next year (2016); and Sand River Mara, in the fertile savannah of the Masai Mara.

Ours was a five-star luxury safari where we were whisked through Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta airport to our personal transport: a Cessna Grand Caravan executive twin-engine plane with Peter the Pilot waiting to greet us.

This was a champagne start to our SkySafari jaunt, a just-launched (June 2015) hassle-free programme designed for those wanting to pack in as many animal sightings in different settings in the shortest time. 

And to enjoy all the creature comforts - soft pillows, swimming pools, hot and cold running water and beer, excellent fresh cuisine, massages, friendly service.

We sank back in our wide leather seats, revived with a flute of chilled bubbly as we soared over the capital's notorious traffic jams and towards Mount Kenya, craning to spot elephants cooling off in swampland, a dazzle of startled zebra and grumpy-looking water buffalo.

This felt so Meryl Streep and Robert Redford from Out of Africa as we trundled along the dirt runway.Sensory overload followed as our group were ferried to Tortilis Camp. 

We fired a fuselage of questions at our patient driver: how many of the 400 species of birds would we see, is that wart hog receiving Wi-Fi on his antenna of a tail, how big in that bachelor herd of wildebeest, is the tawny eagle feasting on a hare, when will those hippos emerge from their murky pool? I spied a dung beetle doing what dung beetles do: undertaking a Herculean task of rolling provisions uphill to the larder.

Our guide Eric was a more seasoned spotter, picking out a roll-call of giraffes, lilac-breasted roller bird, superb starlings, water buck, hippo with just their twitching ears visible above the water surface, baby elephants trundling behind their mother and aunties. 

He knew most of the adult elephants by names given by the research teams. Rangers are on constant patrol to guard against the scourge of poaching to feed the lucrative and insatiable market for rhino horn in China.Even that 5.30 a.m. wake-up call for the first game drive arrived with a smile, a cup of green tea and home-baked shortbread. (Zip your tent carefully or the cheeky black faced vervet monkeys will steal them).

And knowing there would be a lavish breakfast in the bush, full English with HP sauce bearing the royal crest, gave us heart. There was even an (unplumbed) lavatory discreetly shielded by a bush, with a shovel, in case we needed to mark our territory.

Eric treated us to an 'African massage,' his description of fording rivers and bouncing over volcanic rocks from Kilimanjaro's last eruption three or four million years ago, as we headed back to base for a swim in our infinity pool, lazing on sun loungers before a Tusker beer, lunch and a doze before the evening game drive.

The refreshment highlight was sundowners, when barman Kibaki dispensed liberal measures of Gilbey's Gin as we watched a dying apricot sun turn blood red against a bruise blue sky.Emboldened by the second sundowner I asked Eric if we could walk back to the lodge, whose lights glowed amber in the distance. What animals would eat us, I enquired. 'Lion and hyena. But with Eric you are safe,' replied the scarlet-robed Masai senior 

tribesman armed with a spear.

False courage deserted me and we opted for the Land Cruiser rather than a two hour scramble through clumps of spiky acacia bushes.

If the Masai men are strong warriors- they breakfast on milk mixed with cow blood collected from a nip in the animal's neck- the women are equally formidable. On our visit to a Masai village they showed us round the huts they build from cow dung and hide in just three days.

And Phanice, the masseuse at our lodge, showed a similar fortitude, travelling 23 hours by bus every two months from her home to work, leaving her eight year old son and six year old daughter in the care of her mother to fund their education. 

She radiated good humour, saying: 'You have more days if you smile and are happy and appreciate Nature.'

Africa does things on such a big scale: big continent, big sky, big landscape, big game, big heart, big problems, big danger.

Kenya is but a part of that enormous continent, with a buoyant economy marking two historic visits this year. American President Barack Obama visited in July and Pope Francis has spoken of his hope to visit in November during his first trip to Africa since becoming pope. 

Our visit to just three of these parks left me wanting more of the action - and determined to spot that elusive leopard.


Kenya is getting ready to present two important events in the next few months. Here readers will find information about each event, both being held in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.


Nairobi set to host ecotourism conference in September

(eTN) - The Seventh Annual Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) will take place in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi between September 24-27 this year, bringing

 together stakeholders from Africa and around the world to discuss sustainable development and how tourism can help developing countries to fight poverty among fast-growing populations.

Hosted jointly by the Kenya Tourism Board and the Ecotourism Society of Kenya, the event is organized by the International Ecotourism Society in close cooperation with the UN World 

Tourism Organization (UNWTO)  Up to 500 participants are expected to attend the event from among the 120 countries where TIES is represented through local partners and ecotourism 

societies, discussing progress since  the previous meetings and the topics dominating ongoing dialogues and on`line forums. Proposals are still invited by the conference organizers as are 

calls for potential presenters, aimed to enrich the agenda of the meeting and give communities and individuals the opportunity to voice problems encountered in their own back yard  and share their experience with their colleagues at large.

 The event will be held at the conference center of the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, which will also be the official conference hotel, although other hotels are available for delegates to stay in with regular transport to and from the venue.

For more information please contact either Ayako Ezaki via media@ecotourism.org or the conference secretariat via Edith Bosire, Conference Coordinator Kenya viaestc13@ecotourismkenya.org




New "learning safari" promotes interaction with local people.

While spotting "The Big Five" is the focus of many safaritrips to Africa, a new 11-day Ecotour Kenya is offering visitors a chance to go beyond the typical safari trail and discover local initiatives that are promoting both sustainable economic development and ecological conservation.

The first two days of Ecotour Kenya are based atSinya Omelok, a camp located 90 minutes from Nairobi. Here, visitors will meet local Kenyans and learn about new resource management systems to support income generation and food security. They will also be guided along a nature trail that explores caves, sacred sites, and the biodiversity of this unique sub-humid ecosystem.

The tour continues through Mount Kenya National Park, Aberdare National Park and Kakamega, via the Rift Valley.Kakamega Forest in western Kenya is a superb slab of virgin tropical rainforest in the heart of an intensively cultivated agricultural area. The forest is home to a huge variety of animals and birds, including the rare DBrazza monkey. Guests will overnight in the Rondo Retreat Centre, surrounded by beautiful gardens in the middle of the forest.

From Kakamega, the tour passes through the White Highlands, arriving in Lake Nakuru to witness the spectacle of millions of flamingos creating a "pink carpet" over the lake. Then it's on to the Elsamere Conservation Centre which was once the home of Joy Adamson, who together with her husband George became world famous for their pioneering conservation work and relationship with the lioness Elsa, as told in the best selling book and film "Born Free". The centre, situated on the edge of Lake Naivasha, is a functioning conservation complex providing accommodation for 15-18 people in cottages set in the gardens around the main house.

Travelling south along the floor of the Great Rift Valley, the next stop is the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, which is renowned for its extraordinary density and diversity of wildlife, including the black-maned lion, cheetah and leopard. Three days are spent in the Mara with stops at the Mara river where visitors can also see abundant hippo and crocodile. One of the highlights is a 3-hour walking safari, led by a Maasai guide who explains fascinating details about the local flora and fauna and teaches participants to identify animal footprints. Tented accommodation is at an Eco-camp where there will be many opportunities to interact with the Maasai guides.

The tour starts and finishes in Nairobi with accommodation at the Nairobi Safari Club. The price per person isCAD$1,919per person, twin share, including all transfers, breakfasts in Nairobi, most meals while on safari, accommodation in tents and lodges, all park, camp and activity fees.

Safari Seekers, a leading safari company in East Africa, has designed the Ecotour Kenya itinerary exclusively for Worldwide Ecolodges. For additional information about this unique tour, contactWorldwide Ecolodges at (403) 933-4333, or 1-888-778-2378 or www.worldwideecolodges.com.

Safari Seekers has been in business for more than 15 years organizing a variety of safaris and tours throughout East Africa. Operating their own fleet of vehicles, Safari Seekers can handle everything from short sightseeing visits to extended custom-designed itineraries. All price levels and standards of accommodation can be arranged from budget camping safaris to luxurious lodges. 

Safari Seekers is committed to introducing Canadian adventurers to the wonders of East Africa. For additional safari information, visitwww.safari-seekerskenya.com. For price quotes and brochures, please contact: Travel Marketing Experts (Safari Seekers Canadian representatives) at 55 Town Centre Court, Suite 642, Toronto, Ontario, M1P 4X4. Tel. (416) 861-1022 or toll free (888) 423-3995; fax (416) 861-1108 orsafari@travelmarketingexperts.com.

ATA Travel Business Media produces magazines, books and guides in addition to representing destination countries and travel industry member companies and agencies at selected trade shows and events. Each of our magazines has its own web site as follows:

Air Highways Magazine - http://www.airhighways.com

Africa Travel Magazine - http://www.africa-ata.org

BC Scene Magazine - http://www.bcscene.com