November 28, 2007

Sex on the Beach and Birds in Hand? Kenya's Tourist Trap

Miles of shoreline, coastal forests, mountains, plains and the continent-spanning Great Rift Valley all make Kenya a world-class tourist destination.

But the complications of this burgeoning trade are abundant.

Kenya’s beach towns, notorious for an illicit sex industry involving thousands of regional girls and boys, now have a new wrinkle to consider — older caucasian women seeking uncomplicated dalliances with young African men.

Critics say the practice revives a colonial past of white women “serviced” by “black minions,” reports the Mail & Guardian of South Africa, and also note the health risks of casual encounters in a nation with a high incidence of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

One British woman told the newspaper that the “social arrangement” is nothing more than a role reversal on older men wining and dining younger women, though a hotel manager said the liaisons, while legal, are “unwholesome.”

No less morally complex is Kenya’s eco-tourism dilemma, in which preservation and development are at stark odds.

According to The Nation, Kenyans are beginning to recognize the huge profits nations such as South Africa are reaping from bird tourism. Kenya is home to more than a thousand bird species, making it, potentially, one of the continent’s premier birdwatching destinations.

Nairobi has recorded over 600 species, which the newspaper says is more than any other capital city in the world.

But mining, clearcutting and the illegal timber trade, irrigation and overgrazing are all cutting into bird habitat.

The “million-dollar question” is whether Kenya can decrease these impacts and still boost its ecotourism sector.

Sources:

“Older white women join Kenya’s sex tourists”
Mail & Guardian (South Africa), November 28, 2007

“Turning to birds to boost revenue”
Daily Nation (Kenya), November 28, 2007

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