9th -14th November
A spot of bad luck.
One of the great things about this road trip is seeing how the terrain changes.
Heading into the Kavango region and things are looking a lot greener than the warm hues I left behind. Unfortunately, all this beauty has been slightly marred by theft.
In Rundu, a town I was initially quite taken with, some jerk broke into the landy and stole not only some precious camera equipment and my Parisian mirror (I used it to set up photos at the Sossusvlei dunes, remember?), but my music box too! It had been hand-decorated by my friend Paul Du Toit. It sure pisses me off to lose all that stuff, but I suppose it is just stuff. Maybe I have too much anyway.
The amazing people on the Okavango River
My next destination, Shamvura Camp, is situated on the banks of the Okavango – a good post-robbery spot. I spent the evening being massaged by a goat called Bokkie (he nibbles your clothes thinking he’s grooming you), while sipping drinks with the lodge owners, Mark and Charlie.
In the morning I went with Charlie to get a feel for the uplifting work she is involved in. The outing involved transporting women from a weaving workshop they had attended (the idea being that they will implement the skills learnt in their own villages and hopefully make some money out of them) to their respective villages.
It struck me just how rural these villages are, and how self-sustainable they all seem. They are about 100 km’s away from the nearest town and everyone has some kind of veggie garden going. It also dawned on me me that everyone was out working including the kids. I saw men stamping the sorghum while women were separating the husks from the seeds and young girls collected water. I feel like a few months of this hard-working, rural lifestyle might knock a bit of sense into us urban yuppies.
While at the lodge I also got in some great boat-based bird watching, ticking off Paradise Fly-Catcher, Cape Teal and African Skimmer to name a few. Apparently the calls Mark heard were infinite but I didn’t see half of them owing to my unaccustomed eye and camera fumbling.
We also came across a pod of Hippos in the water but I was terrified, I imagined them coming up below us and tipping the boat…I think I’ve seen too many Hollywood movies! I could have spent 2 weeks here not two days. Mark and Charlie are extraordinary people whom I’d love to get to know better.
My next stop took me into the Caprivi region to hook up with some rock star chicks, Lisa Hanssen and Nadja Le Roux. Lisa works on the Caprivi Carnivore Project researching the Spotted Hyena and Nadja is involved with the Intergrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation project (IRDNC).
They live on the banks of the Kwando river, where life is a little different. For example, there is a little cordoned-off section of the river for use as a plunge pool, but they recommend you keep your dips quick. Lisa recently came face to face with a large croc with nothing but some mesh wiring between them!
Lisa took me for a walk to the latest hyena den she had found, where she’d set up some cameras for research purposes. She gains info on distribution, mitigating measures, group size and has managed to get the Hyena off the hunting list, which is a huge achievement.
The same afternoon, Nadja and I went out to meet a few guys that she works closely with in the Conservancy to chat about the project… In the 80’s a group of conservationists joined heads and managed to convince the government that wild animals are an important resource for the country.
They even got a clause put into the constitution. Now the IRDNC helps the local people to manage the conservancy and ensures that the profits go back into the communities. The process is democratic and they can choose to use the money to invest in infrastructure or for their own pocket. The point is that the community feel they are benefiting and are thus less likely to harm animals in human-animal conflict situations. It is a real ‘power to the people’ plan and one I think South Africa could learn from.
Africa, you may have heard, is the realm of chiefdoms. And chiefs and their tribes play a vital role in the conservancy. I went with Nadja to meet the chief of the Mafwe people, and in the process learnt a lot about traditional structures.
Each village consists of a hierarchical structure, with the chief at the top. Below him is the Nduna, and a group of 12 ‘lower’ headmen – 6 senior and 6 junior. They form the Khuta – or traditional supreme-court – with the chief making the ultimate decision.
Normally to visit the chief one should do so via the Khuta first, dress appropriately and bring him a gift, however Chief Mayuni spoke to us despite our ignorance of this important process. We spoke about how he convinced his clan to adopt the conservancy plan (by stressing the financial benefits to them) and also about his various travels to Paris, Mexico and Argentina in the name of conservation. He enjoyed the trips.
Our visit ended with a photo-session, but not before he ducked behind a sheet to put on a suit, his leopard hat and sash.
From there it was off to Guts and Kerstin’s home on the banks of the Chobe River, Botswana, for my Pangolin Photo Safari. Stay tuned…
East of Rundu Namibia
+264 66 264007
+264 66 258297
Katima Mulilo, Caprivi, Namibia
+264 66 252 108
+264 66 252 518
+264 81 339 0233
Sijwa Environmental Centre
Mayuni, Caprivi, Namibia
+264 66 252 108
+264 66 252 518
+264 81 339 0233