Monday, January 28, 2013

Mozambique Updates from New Frontiers Tours

Mozambique has not been without its issues over the last month, with the withdrawal of the Federal Air flights to Vilanculos (but good news with the addition of SA Airlink in March!) and the closure of Marlin Lodge owing to fire. New Frontiers has been in constant communication with the involved parties on both fronts to come up with the best viable solution, and they have offered suggestions and recommendations below at this stage.

MOZAMBIQUE VISA UPDATE 
There are mixed messages coming out of Mozambique regarding tourist visas and whether they will be issued upon arrival. Lodge owners like Rani Resorts, Azura and Nuarro are looking into exactly what the situation is and will advise accordingly. We recommend that pax acquire visas prior to departure from their home country wherever possible until clarification has been received.

Marlin Lodge before the fire in December

MARLIN LODGE - POST-FIRE UPDATE 

We are still awaiting clarity from Marlin Lodge but we understand there will be an initial refund payment of 30% made to all clients whose holiday arrangements were affected by the fire. We have been assured all clients will be refunded in full but when the balance payment will be made is currently not known. Marlin Lodge is still in discussion with insurers, architects and builders which means they are not in a position to give an opening date. Realistically it is unlikely the lodge will open before August. We are in regular communication with Marlin Lodge and will update you as and when there is more news forthcoming.

Marlin Lodge fills a much needed mid-range gap on the island, sandwiched between Nyati Lodge (a notch below) and Azura Gabriels (a notch above) and these remain really the best alternatives on the island. We have had patchy feedback on Benguerra Lodge and for the moment are still reluctant to sell it unreservedly, while Indigo Bay is very much a larger resort that lacks the individuality of Marlin Lodge. If Nyati or Azura do not fit the bill, then we recommend looking at an alternative Mozambican region, either Coral Lodge or Nuarro (accessed via Nampula) or White Pearl in the far south (accessed from Maputo or northern KwaZulu-Natal). We continue to get excellent feedback on these options, all of which are similarly priced to Marlin Lodge. Again, your consultant will be happy to help on a per case basis with clients affected by the temporary closure of the lodge.

FLYING TO VILANCULOS 
Federal Air stopped flying to Vilanculos from Johannesburg and Kruger Mpumalanga Airport effective 15 January. The great news is SA Airlink has confirmed that it will commence scheduled direct services on two new over border routes, Johannesburg and Kasane (Botswana) and Johannesburg and Vilanculos (Mozambique) from Friday 22 March 2013.

Jetstream 41 turboprop
Johannesburg - Vilanculos will operate initially on Monday, Wednesday and Friday departing ORTIA at 10:30 and arriving back at 15:40. Tuesday and Saturday flights will be added in August 2013. Operations will initially be on one of Airlink’s 9 BAE 29 seat Jetstream 41 turboprop aircraft, as the route develops this will be upgraded to Embraer ERJ 135LR regional jet aircraft. 

Johannesburg - Kasane will operate initially on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday departing ORTIA at 11:45 and arriving back in Johannesburg at 15:50. Flights will operate on one of Airlink’s 12 Embraer 37 seater ERJ 135 regional jets. Daily service will be achieved in August 2013.

Between now and 22 March the only airline flying into Vilanculos from Johannesburg is LAM. The LAM schedule is as follows:
Johannesburg - Vilanculos Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays: depart 10h45, arrive 13h45 (via Inhambane) Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays : depart 11h00, arrive 12h55 (direct)

Vilanculos - Johannesburg Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays: depart 14h25, arrive 16h20 (direct) Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays: depart 13h25, arrive 16h20 (via Inhambane)

We do not recommend that clients connect onto an international flight off the LAM flight - in our experience, the airline has difficulty adhering to scheduled times. If there is reluctance to book LAM on this routing, then bear in mind that Nampula (for Coral Lodge and Nuarro) is well serviced by SA Airlink, as is Pemba (for Azura Quilalea, Vamizi, Ibo, Matemo and Medjumbe) For clients staying in the Kruger who previously would have caught the flight to Vilanculos from here, White Pearl remains the easiest same day option:
Short hop from the lodge clients are staying at to Kruger Mpumalanga Airport (25 mins)
Road transfer to Maputo (3 hours)
Helicopter flight from Maputo to White Pearl (25 mins).

Your consultant will liaise directly with you on affected bookings and existing quotes on issuing LAM flights. 

EXPLORE GORONGOSA 
The Explore Gorongosa camp is currently closed and we have not been given a date as to when it will re-open, nor under what guise. We currently have a stop sell on the property.

Both Sally (Regional Product - sally@newfrontierstours.co.za) and Craig (craig@newfrontierstours.co.za) are happy to assist with any specific questions you may have about Mozambique or any of the lodges.

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