Ebola fears affecting African tourism, says guide during Del Mar event

Although the main safari destinations in eastern and southern Africa are thousands of miles from the Ebola virus-stricken countries of the west, safari guide Jackson Looseyia said fears of the disease are keeping tourists away.

“I’ve never seen tourism so affected as it is now by the fear of Ebola,” said Looseyia, who takes groups of two to 12 on weeklong safaris most months of the year.

A recent survey conducted by African booking company Safaribookings.com found that as of late September, more than half of safari operators reported a 20 percent to 70 percent decline in bookings. The survey was based on feedback from more than 500 safari operators.

Nevertheless, popular destinations, such as Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, are thousands of miles from the West Africa Ebola outbreak area.

“Don’t be worried about traveling, but travel responsibly,” said Looseyia before his Nov. 13 talk at the Powerhouse Community Center in Del Mar. “Be aware of it, but it should not stop you from traveling, and from Kenya, in particular.”

Solana Beach-based Aardvark Safaris, which arranges custom safari trips, has worked closely with Looseyia for 15 years.

During the event in Del Mar, Looseyia talked about his nearly 30 years of experience as a safari guide on the Maasai Mara, where he was born in 1967. He encouraged attendees to travel to Africa, where he also works as a conservationist and an educator, and is best known as the host of the BBC’s “Big Cat Live” television series.

“Kenya is an extraordinary destination for people who would like to see the abundance of wildlife and some of the best sceneries in Africa, from high mountains to the deserts and everything in between,” Looseyia said. “Kenya has a lot to offer, and Aardvark Safaris has always been our No. 1 supporter.” Visit www.aardvarksafaris.com.

For more event photos online, visit www.delmartimes.net

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