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Low water levels frustrate Lake Manyara tourism
Friday, August 29, 2003

August 29, 2003

Jo Mhawi , Arusha

Declining water levels in Lake Manyara has compelled the operators of canoe excursions across the lake to halt their services to tourists, Business Times has found out.

One excursion service provider, Serena Active, sees this as a sad day indeed for all, as the tourist revenues that should otherwise have accrued to stakeholders, including the Government, are indefinitely put on hold.

With the deepest point on the lake hardly being knee-deep, the dream of canoe-borne tourists drifting past buffalo, giraffes and elephants on-shore, as well as hippos wallowing in the mud and aquatic bird life all over the place is now a nightmare.

According to the company's director, Derek Lilone, most underground streams that pour their waters into the lake from the Rift Valley escarpments are increasingly drying up. The highlands had only a small amount of rainfall last season.

Tourists in two-passenger canoes who used to view wildlife as they hazy-lazily paddled along the lake hugging the shoreline for five hours at a time are no longer the common sight they were in the recent past.

At the local level, the Manyara National Park Authority and the surrounding villages invariably benefited from the revenue collected from the canoe excursions.

Village governments receive a five per cent cut of the money paid by tourists for their boating pleasure.

Undeterred, Serena Active continues to offer other tourist services such as a three-hour forest hiking package along footpaths leading to the Manyara National Park gate and through a thick forest. Serena Active also offers a short, yet interesting walk along the edge of the Great Rift Valley. A trained environmentalist guides tourists, taking it as part of his tasks to inform them a thing or two about nature, birds, geology, insects and medicinal attributes of local plants.

Serena Active also offers village cultural walks to tourists at US$20 (Tsh20,000) per person. In this package, tourists get to learn the cultures and traditions of various tribes which inhabit the Mto wa Mbu area. According to Lilone, these include members of the Bantu group to Nilotics, Khoisans and Cushitics.

In another development, Serena Active and Tanzania Hotels Investments (TAHI) have introduced a weekend product that is especially designed to promote tourism among residents of the Arusha municipality and surrounding areas.

A local tourist can spend a night, full board, at Lake Manyara before enjoying a hive of activities. These include those offered by Serena Active, as well as horse riding offered by Farasi Safari based at the Kirurumu lodge next to the Manyara National Park.

Tahi operates the Lake Manyara Hotel, Novotel Mount Meru Hotel, the Seronera Lodge and the Ngorongoro Lodge.


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