INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS TO RESUME
After a long pause of 18 months so far, and what will be close to two years of a hold on our African safaris, there are definitely glimmers of hope emerging and we are really looking forward to coming out of our chrysalis and spreading our wings again very soon.
This week Qantas announced it will be opening international flights to particular overseas destinations including the US, UK, Singapore and Japan in November/December once Australia reaches 80% full vaccination. We are getting very close to that mark now in Australia, catching up with our friends in Singapore, who are already at 80% fully vaccinated nationally. It's been heartening to hear from our friends at Asilia Africa in Kenya that they have been receiving lots of visitors from the United States this year. The United Kingdom has just removed Kenya from it's 'red list' which will make travel between these countries easier in future. Travel restrictions have also been eased between Germany and nine African countries, including South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, which allows for quarantine free travel for vaccinated travellers. In Australia, Qantas has indicated that its flights to South Africa will resume from April and we are awaiting further updates on this. Qatar, which has become one of my favourite airlines to travel to East Africa with and recently won Airline of the Year, has continued flying to Africa throughout the pandemic and now also operates direct flights from Doha to Gabarone, Botswana. So the options are opening up.
With vaccination rates climbing around the world, and excellent vaccine uptake among the staff in the African companies that we work in partnership with, we think things are looking up for the definite possibility of a return to African safaris next year. Our partners on the ground have in place excellent Covid-19 prevention programs and our small group safaris in the bush are really the perfect antidote to the long lockdowns that so many have had to go through. If you're wondering what going on safari is like at the moment here's a good article on it. It's not as complicated as many think, but it's never been a better time to work with an African specialist like our company to ensure it all goes smoothly.
FROM DREAMS TO REALITY
The re-opening of Australia also means that in mid-2022 we will be able to welcome overseas guests on our Australian safaris up here in Far North Queensland to share the magical Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and the rugged Outback. It's almost time to turn those dreams into reality!
This week the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest just north of us in Cairns was handed back to the Traditional Owners of the region, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people, who will now co-manage the park with the Queensland government. The Daintree is an essential part of any visit to the Far North of Queensland and who better to share their Country with you than a Traditional Owner from the area? If you are thinking of venturing up this way please contact us for a chat about how to ensure your tourism dollars are making a difference in the lives of First Nations people and for nature conservation to the greatest extent possible.
Above: Green ringtail possum, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia
Over the last few months I've been working with the Indigenous people of Mapoon in Western Cape York, the traditional lands of the Tjungundji people, not far from the mining town of Weipa, to help develop their economic and tourism development plans. This followed on from my work with the Torres Cape Indigenous Councils Alliance (TCICA) exploring opportunities for First Nations eco-tourism since mid-last year. This is a really exciting area to be working in as I am learning a huge amount from the Indigenous people of the Far North and seeing the huge potential for high-end African safari tourism and the joint venture approach exemplified by safari camps like Damaraland Camp in Namibia. We would love it if one of these days such an offering was available in the Far North, owned and run by the Traditional Owners of the area, in an eco-tourism joint venture partnership that brings real sustainable development, and we hope that we can play a small role in helping this vision become a reality in communities that want to go down this path.
Above: Black-necked stork at Janie Creek, Mapoon
GREAT REEF CENSUS 2 KICKS OFF
Calling all citizen scientists! As we speak, over the next 12 weeks, citizen scientists are diving in to survey many, many sites across the Great Barrier Reef, led by Andy's team at Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef in the Great Reef Census 2. Anyone can get involved either as a reef surveyor or as an analyst if you can't get to Queensland. Building on the success of last year's census, the team and their partners are hoping to double the area surveyed to better understand the state of the many reefs that comprise the GBR and use this data for direct management of the reef.
Here's yesterday's news story from Channel 7. To get involved check out www.greatreefcensus.org
A huge thank you!
We are so grateful to all of our guests who postponed rather than cancelled their safaris in Africa and Australia since the pandemic started as keeping these bookings in the system enormously helped us and our African partner companies stay afloat in these very tumultuous times for the tourism industry. It's also kept a lot of very important conservation and community projects going on the ground. Matson & Ridley Safaris has been able to weather the storm by going in to a kind of temporary hiberation and diversifying into consultancy. But it's never left my thoughts through all this how our loyal guests have stuck with us, in spite of all the obvoius uncertainty and frustrations of the pandemic. It means a huge amount to us. Being a small, family-owned company we know all of our guests personally and many as firm friends after many shared African journeys. We will continue to do our very best to ensure that your dream safari becomes a reality in as seamless and inspiring an experience as possible going forward and are so appreciative of your continued support. Our African travels are just around the corner and we can't wait to be sharing them with you!
Above: The Matson-Ridley family - Tammie, Andy and kids Shep and Solo. This photo was taken on our last family holiday in Namibia in 2018 when Shep was 4 and Solo was 8. The boys can't wait to go back to Namibia to roll down those epic Namib sand dunes again!