Editorial Comment

April Cover Story

Kenya’s Maasai warriors can certainly jump high – but perhaps our cover image is overtly optimistic.

With 01 April being notorious for April Fools’ Day pranks, we thought it appropriate to publish our own myth on a new frog species discovered in South Africa, which can be read HERE.

The tradition of April Fools’ Day goes back to medieval times. Precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, held on March 25th, and the Medieval Feast of Fools, held on December 28th, still a day on which pranks are played in Spanish-speaking countries.

In Scotland, April Fools’ Day is traditionally called Hunt-the-Gowk Day (‘gowk’ is a Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person). The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message requesting help of some sort. In fact, the message reads “Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile”. The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this person with an identical message, with the same result.

The 1 April tradition in France, Romandy and French-speaking Canada includes poisson d’avril (literally ‘April’s fish’), attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being noticed. This is also widespread in other nations, such as Italy, where the term Pesce d’aprile is also used to refer to any jokes done during the day. This custom also exists in certain areas of Belgium, including the province of Antwerp. The Flemish tradition is for children to lock out their parents or teachers, only letting them in if they promise to bring treats the same evening or the next day.

In Poland, prima aprilis (‘April 1’ in Latin) is a day full of jokes; various hoaxes are prepared by people, media (which sometimes cooperate to make the ‘information’ more credible) and even public institutions. Serious activities are usually avoided. This conviction is so strong that the anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I signed on 1 April 1683, was backdated to 31 March.

In 1957, the BBC pulled a prank, known as the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest prank, where they broadcast a fake film of Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti. The BBC were later flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the video as a prank on the news the next day.

On April 1st, 1976, British astronomer Patrick Moore took to the BBC radio waves to make an out-of-this-world announcement. At 9:47, he explained, Jupiter, Pluto, and the Earth would align. This rare occurrence would interfere with Earth’s gravity and people would weigh less.

Sir Richard Branson has a penchant for April Fools’ pranks. His 2014 post on Virgin.com introduces Virgin Buildings − a new generation of ultra-green skyscrapers and states “After these first Virgin Buildings, we are working on taking a unique Tubular Bells design into space. Why not become the first company to put a hotel on the moon?” Judging by the comments to the article, many have been taken in by this prank.

Last year, Virgin Atlantic made headlines with the “world’s first glass-bottomed plane”. Images of the new aircraft were broadcast far and wide, with promises of a glass-topped aircraft to follow, so passengers could see the stars at night. The prank was bound to succeed because it was such an appealing concept and because if anyone was going to launch a glass-bottomed plane, it would be Richard Branson. “This technological innovation coincides with the start of Virgin Atlantic Airways first ever domestic service to Scotland”, said Branson.

The prank, published on Virgin.com, garnered 57,000 Facebook ‘Likes’. It was followed up with Virgin Balloon Flights saying that they’d introduce glass-bottomed baskets for Scottish flights. Virgin Active declared it would host diving classes for would-be dinosaur hunters to prepare for a Loch Ness dive, while Virgin Experience Days said they would host ‘Spot Nessie’ diving experiences. Virgin Trains said they’d paint a giant Nessie on one of their Scotland-bound trains for airborne passengers to spot and Virgin Wines suggested a nice glass of their exclusive Merloch wine could be served onboard.

Humour aside, in this edition of the magazine we look at how the Seychelles is leading the way in Private Sector Relations (page 18), we feature Kenya’s Maasai Mara Conservancy as our April Destination Review (pages 19 – 22) and visited Mdumbi Backpackers in South Africa’s Wild Coast for our April Property Review feature (pages 24 – 25). A new article series on Photography, by professional photographer Peter Wickham starts in this edition (page 28) and Richard George looks at Special Interest Tourism (page 29).

Yours in Tourism, Des Langkilde Executive Editor.

April Fools' pranks: the BBC's 1957 Spaghetti Tree, Virgin's 2014 Greenest Skyscrapers and 2013 Glass Bottom plane pranks.
April Fools’ pranks: the BBC’s 1957 Spaghetti Tree, Virgin’s 2014 Greenest Skyscrapers and 2013 Glass Bottom plane pranks.

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