Expedition Okavango is a three month canoe descent of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin; which will involve battling six crocodile and hippo infested rivers, three African countries (Angola, Namibia and Botswana) and navigating some of Africa’s least explored areas.
The journey will cover the 1,700km length of this river system in May this year. This will be the first expedition to canoe the entire length from the source to sea (of sand); the Kalahari desert.
Many have heard of the world’s 1,000th UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Okavango, but few think about or relate to where the water comes from. Until ten years ago Angola struggled through a thirty year long civil war that caused destruction, poverty and large scale exploitation of wildlife out of desperation and hunger. Expedition Okavango will bring to light the untold story of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin.
From the source in the highlands of Angola, Daniel Dugmore and Josh Iremonger will document the journey by using video, photography and written journals.
Josh and Daniel are using their expedition to raise awareness for the charity Rhinos Without Borders. The charity, a co-operation between the safari tourism industry and the Botswana government, will translocate rhinos from high poaching areas in South Africa and southern parts of Africa to safe havens in Botswana. These incredible creatures are critically endangered in Africa. To support Rhinos Without Borders Josh and Dan have set themselves the target of raising US$75,000 through their expedition.
Who is Expedition Okavango?
Josh Iremonger and Daniel Dugmore are Expedition Okavango. Josh has lead safaris all over Botswana, from the luna styled landscapes of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans through the luscious wetlands of the Okavango and on to the Chobe. He also has led safaris through Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. Josh loves to guide by foot and canoe and has racked up over 3,500 kilometres, guiding Africa’s waterways. He has also worked in the rainforests of the Loango National Park in Gabon tracking gorillas and monitoring other wildlife. Josh also spent months mapping over one million acres around the Niger National Park in Guinea, West Africa. He has circumnavigated Lake Malawi in his kayak (1450km) as well as kayaked the length of Lake Tanganyika the longest lake in the world (over 800km) with only 6 weeks break in-between, both trips unsupported! In November 2014 Josh walked from Kazangula to Maun (within Botswana) to raise money for Mens Health issues and Movember.
Dan comes from a long line of African pioneers, his ancestors sailed from England to South Africa in 1828, later emigrating to East Africa where his grandfather started the safari family tradition. Daniel moved to South Africa in 2012 to become qualified as a field guide, later moving back to Botswana. In Botswana Daniel has been and still manages Kalahari Kavango Safari Company, leading safaris into the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans and Nxai Pan National Park.
How did they come up with the idea?
Josh has been planning on descending the length of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin for longer than he can remember, planning every detail to the smallest degree.
Dan will be leaving Botswana in August to go back to the classroom with the hope to achieve a degree in Ecology in the UK to build on his passion for wildlife and conservation in Africa. As a farewell to Botswana for four years Dan had started planning a canoe trip down the 300km long Boteti River, the southernmost extension of the Okavango that connects it with the Makgadikgadi.
In mid-2014 Josh and Dan were working on a television series on the edge of the Makgadikgadi when they learnt that they were both itching to do something spectacular, the weekend after the film crew had left they started planning Expedition Okavango.
We asked Josh and Dan what they hope to accomplish and why is this expedition so important to them:
“We obviously hope that we can bring $75,000 to Rhinos Without Borders to fund the translocation and protection of rhinos however more than that would be the story of the Okavango from source to ‘sea’.
It is a story that is so important to both of us whom both earn a living from the Okavango and both are so intrinsically passionate about. From our experience of living in Africa, and we are sure that lots would agree, the protection of wild places like the Okavango hangs in the balance, even with world heritage status. The Okavango really is a shining example of how wilderness can be sustainably utilized and economically driven.
It has been a bit of a whirlwind since we went public with the expedition as more and more people get involved, which is exactly what we wanted. Cooperating with companies like Passage to Africa, Great Plains, &Beyond, Wilderness Safaris, Meno A Kwena Tented Camp, Earth Ark Safaris and Okavango Still helps us celebrate how the tourism industry is able to collaborate and drive the long term protection of this awe inspiring place.
We hope that by using the Okavango as a model that, marginal wildlife areas can be developed for wildlife tourism to safeguard their long term protection.”
Josh and Dan tell us what elements they’re most excited about:
“It goes without saying that we are both very excited about Angola, we really don’t know what to expect, as there is virtually no information about canoeing down it. What we do know is that it will be an adventure!
The southernmost extension of the Okavango – The Boteti River that is fed by the Thamalakane River in Maun is another underexplored part of the river system. Many people live along it and many people know about it but it has only been flowing for 6 years after a 17 year drought and subsequently there has only been one known trip down its length, led by John Sandenburg from Maun.”
With a target of US$75,000 to raise for Rhinos Without Borders, donations can be made via the Passage to Africa 4 Rhinos page on the Trevolta crowd funding site.
To help with the donation process Josh and Dan have organised to take members of the public down certain sections of the famous Okavango Delta. Camping on remote islands, the costs have been kept to a minimum to make sure that the majority of the profits will go to Rhinos Without Borders. More detail on the trip can be found here.
Once the expedition sets off in May, Josh and Dan will be updating us on their whereabouts via satellite and feeding us adventure stories via their blog. They will be filming on-the-go and at the end of each country, and will release a short film onto their website