His words bounced around my head that night around the fire as Timbavati warden Edwin Pearce briefed us on the next day’s adventure. ‘Not on our watch.’ He was referring to the scourge of rhino poaching and the fear amongst us all that rhinos would be poached to extinction in the wild. Unfortunately, the Kruger region has buckled under a massive rhino poaching onslaught, and rhinos need all the help they can get – from us all. One of the fund-raising activities to finance the ever-increasing costs of fighting the rhino war is the Timbavati Traverse – a unique walking and running marathon held in the reserve.
I was thrilled to be invited to cycle the event as an assistant guide – to help keep the runners safe from dangerous wildlife. Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is, of course, home to the Big 5…
As a veteran of many mountain bike events, I have to take my hat off to Timbavati for how well managed this event is. The race village buzzed with vibey entertainment, the food tables along the route groaned with delicious treats and the armed rangers who accompanied each running and walking group were very professional. This is one slick, superbly managed event.
And the animals certainly played along. My group had close (but safe) encounters with herds of elephants and buffaloes and with two crashes of rhinos – how serendipitous! One group of four white rhinos was so close to the track that we waited about 20 minutes before they headed off. The chilly morning mist was lifting, the robin-chats were announcing the new day with their sweet melodies, and hornbills were catching the first rays of the sun high up in the knobthorn trees. And four rhinos were parked about 30 meters away. It was a surreal moment for us all. Later that morning, we saw another three rhinos heading for cover after we disturbed their mud bath next to the track. So, rather than the usual race, this is a journey – something to be enjoyed at a gentle amble.
You and I need to step up to help our protected area managers raise the cash required to fight this war. Every little bit helps. Of course, the tourism industry plays a huge role, and many fantastic NGOs move mountains daily. But the diminishing importance that governments worldwide place on wild matters makes efforts such as this vital. It’s up to the private sector to play the role our political leaders are paid to do but fail dismally at. It is what it is.
If you enjoy walking or running, why not train up and book your place in this epic event or sponsor someone less able to afford the price ticket. Or train and raise sponsorship from friends or one of the many online crowd-funding platforms. The two distance options are a 45km run and 21km walk.
Can we win this war? Hell yes. But we must move beyond the social media chatter and the blame game. So start now – click here and learn more about the Timbavati Traverse.
This story is dedicated to Timbavati ranger Anton Mzimba who was recently murdered in what is suspected to be a poaching gang hit, and all anti-poaching staff who put their lives on the line to keep rhinos safe.
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