World Travel Watch: Elections in Sri Lanka, Shark Attack in Cape Town and More
World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news
01.20.10 | 12:59 PM ET
World Travel Watch is a weekly report designed to help you make informed judgments about travel. Conditions can change overnight, so always make your own inquiries before you leave home. The U.S. State Department and embassies or consulates are good places to start.
China: Let’s Text Again, Like We Did Last Summer: China Lifts Messaging Ban in Xinjiang
Authorities restored text messaging in Xinjiang province Jan. 17 more than six months after shutting it down during riots in the provincial capital of Urumqi. Restrictions still apply, however: text messages cannot be sent outside China, and individuals can send no more than 20 messages a day. Cell phone use is also restricted, with roaming services for phones from outside the province blocked. Internet access is limited only to approved web sites such as the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Malaysia: U.S. Sees Threat at Sabah’s Isolated Resorts
The U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur warned Jan. 15 that it has received indications that criminal and terrorist groups may be planning attacks on foreigners in eastern Sabah, a Malaysian state on the northeastern side of Borneo. The warning said the places of greatest concern were resorts in isolated areas, including Semporna, the islands of Mabul and Sipadan, and transportation to and from these resorts. The Malaysian government vigorously denied that there was any threat and said the police and armed forces had secured the borders, but vowed to increase security, especially in coastal areas and nearby islands. Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group based in the lawless Sulu Sea region of the Philippines, has kidnapped foreign tourists in this area in the past.
South Africa: Great White Takes Swimmer Near Cape Town
The beaches of Cape Town are overseen by the world’s only shark-spotting network, but it was no consolation for a swimmer who was killed by a great white shark Jan. 13 off Fish Hoek beach. The man was attacked three times by a shark described as immense by witnesses as he swam about 100 yards offshore. The spotting network dispatches workers with binoculars and radios to nearby hillsides who alert lifeguards when they spot shark silhouettes in the water. The seas around Cape Town have one of the world’s highest concentrations of great white sharks, and the beaches are on high alert.
Sri Lanka: Violence Mars Run-Up to Presidential Election
The first presidential election since the army defeated the Tamil Tigers in a decades-long civil war will take place Jan. 26, pitting the incumbent president who pushed for a military victory against the general who carried it out. Passions are high and violence has already claimed two lives, prompting the military and police to go on alert across the country. Riot police broke up rallies with tear gas and more violence is possible.
Tanzania: Zanzibar Power Blackout to Last Until Feb. 20
The archipelago of Zanzibar, now in its peak tourist season, has been without electrical power since Dec. 10 when the undersea cable that carries power from the mainland failed. The government now vows to have electricity flowing again by Feb. 20, but that doesn’t help travelers who will be there between now and then. Most hotels and other businesses have been running generators to address their needs, but the cost of keeping the machines going 24 hours a day is unaffordable for many. Expect spotty electrical service unless staying at top resorts.