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Thu, 07 Dec 2017
Travelstart buys Cape Town’s SafariNow

Two of the biggest players in online travel in Africa are hooking up. Travelstart said on Wednesday that it is acquiring a majority stake in, which it said is South Africa’s largest accommodation booking website.

The value of the deal, which will see Travelstart taking on SafariNow’s 40-person team, has not been disclosed.

SafariNow, which was founded in 1999, will stick to its core business of selling accommodation and retain its current brand, CEO, Tom Williams, and team, Travelstart said in a statement.

Travelstart and SafariNow both started operations in South Africa in 1999 and are established players in Africa’s online travel booking industry.

“We want to supercharge our accommodation offering and with more than 23 000 listings on SafariNow, we can give our customers much better choices,” said Travelstart’s founder and CEO, Stephan Ekbergh, in the statement. — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media


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Thu, 07 Dec 2017
Meet Little Foot – the most remarkable fossil discovery

After 20 years of excavating, cleaning, reconstructing and casting, the oldest virtually complete human ancestor in South Africa was finally unveiled on Wednesday.

The skeleton of Little Foot, who wasn’t so little at the time of her death, was unveiled at the University of Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute.

The man behind the epic discovery, Professor Ron Clarke, said Little Foot was nicknamed by Professor Phillip Tobias.

“If that one small bone wouldn’t have been found then we wouldn’t have Little Foot,” he said.

He described the discovery as being “one of the most remarkable fossil discoveries made in the history of human origins research”.

Clarke said every hominid fossil that was discovered was important to the understanding of our ancestors.

Clarke, who began his paleoanthropology career in Kenya in 1963, said Little Foot was by far the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor, older than 1.5 million years, ever found.

It is also the oldest fossil hominid in Southern Africa, dating back 3.67 million years.

He could tell by her teeth that she was an elderly woman when she fell to her death.

Clarke took the gathering along on his journey of how he made the extraordinary finding.

Chances of finding it were remote

One day he was going through boxes of cleaned out fossils collected by Professor Phillip Thobias and Alan Hughes, when he found an ankle bone of a hominid. Three years later, in another box, he uncovered more bones of the same foot and some bones from the opposite legs.

Clarke realised that he had discovered bones from both feet and lower legs of one Australopithecus individual and that it had come from a very deep place in the Sterkfontein caves – 40km north west of Johannesburg.

“We estimated it to be more than three million years,” he said.

He then realised that the whole skeleton must still be in the cave.

“I said: ‘Wouldn’t it be marvellous if we could find it?'”

And so the task began.

The cave was deep underground and it was dark.

“The chances of finding it were very, very remote. I gave the cast to two of my assistants and said they should go into the cave with the piece and see where this piece could fit in.”

Remarkably, after one-and-a-half days of searching, his assistant Stephen Motsumi, had some news for him.

Clarke rushed to the site and when he arrived, Motsumi asked him: “You know that bone that you asked us for? Well, we think we found it.”

Clarke gasped: “What?”

Digging stopped temporarily

He went down into the cave, in the dark, and Motsumi was shining the torch and pointed to the right place.

“We got there, I tried to fit it on, I turned it around and eventually it clicked and fitted perfectly. And then I found that the other foot fitted on the other side.”

Clarke said it was dramatic because researchers had expected to find a whole skeleton lying there, but it was in very hard rock.

They continued to chisel away and uncovered the lower leg, right up to the thighs, and that was it.

“We said this is incredible. [...]

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Thu, 07 Dec 2017
Cape tourism bucks up for grabs

Capetonians, bless them, have been a little smelly recently. The water-deprived residents have been walking about with unwashed hair as they’re restricted to two-minute showers – and that’s on a good day – and their town doesn’t smell so good either, City Press noted on a trip last week.

Despite the water crisis that has seen residents of the country’s oldest city limited to using 81 litres a day each, the Western Cape provincial government is going into overdrive to save its tourism industry, which is also suffering in the drought.

Fearing that the crisis will put tourists off, the province’s tourism, trade and investment agency, Wesgro, has gone into partnership with CapeNature and Airbnb to distribute 2 300 low-flow shower heads to guesthouses and Airbnb hosts to save water (by 70%) and electricity (by 30%). This, it is hoped, will help save 70 million litres of water a year, and “forms part of our campaign to help tourists and small accommodation establishments make a measurable difference in the midst of the worst drought in recorded history”, said the provincial government.

But MEC Alan Winde is stepping this up a notch in a truly Capetonian way.

“We’ll be distributing around 20 000 hand sanitisers, branded with water-saving tips. We will be welcoming tourists into our province and making sure they are aware of the water crisis,” he said.

Cape Town is not the only water-scare tourism destination in the country. Reports this week that water levels in Durban’s largest dam have dropped to their lowest in 20 years have also sparked concern ahead of the holiday rush. Despite recent heavy rains along the coast, the Albert Falls Dam is 20% full and the entire Umgeni system is only a little over 50% full.

A spokesperson for Sihle Zikalala, KwaZulu-Natal’s economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC, said he couldn’t speak about the province’s tourism plans ahead of the holiday season because a formal announcement was due next week.

“All I can tell you at this stage is that KwaZulu-Natal is optimistic that the number of visitors will grow exponentially this festive season.”

The spokesperson added that the province had launched its “spend wisely” and “responsible drinking” campaigns, which were intended to “empower visitors”.

Tempting attractions

In the midst of the crisis, which has the country’s tourist meccas in its clutches, other provinces are lining up to tempt tourists to their attractions instead.

North West Tourism MEC Desbo Mohono said her province would see an increase in the number of visitors this holiday season.

With the “shapa round” (come around) festive campaign in place, Mohono believes their tourism industry will do well.

“People are already starting to flock into North West,” she said.

Some of her province’s tourism offerings are the Mahika Mahikeng Cultural Music Festival and the annual DJ Nation bash, as well as the Sun City and Hartbeespoort Dam destinations.

In Limpopo, tourism spokesperson Mike Tauatsoala said they had a good number of tourists who travelled up from the Western Cape, and they expected these numbers to rise.

When asked if Limpopo was taking advantage [...]

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