The wording in the US Travel Warning is not particularly scary, but it cites civil demonstrations, riots by soldiers and an overall deterioration of government services and infrastructures, including, of course, the collapse of public health systems and the recent cholera outbreak. Add to this the very scary news coverage of supposed assassination attempts, "plots of terror" and a ploy by the government to call a state of emergency, and one just may be inclined to follow the State Department's advice to bypass Zimbabwe right now. Fortunately, the Travel Warning was issued at the end of the safari season when few hunters are traveling there. But what does this mean for anyone booking a hunt this coming safari season?
I called Sally Bown, executive secretary of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ) for her on-the-ground perspective at press time. While she did not want to contradict the US State Department and admits there are severe problems, she says that the safari industry continues to operate as usual. "The stresses that we have to deal with, such as telephones not working, power outages and shortages of supplies, are not anything the client needs to handle, as it is the operator's job to ensure the client isn't even aware of these," Bown says. As for security, she says that short of a revolution, hunters should have no trouble as long as they do not get involved in political activities and demonstrations in urban areas, and they stay out of areas where humanitarian efforts are underway.........(continued)