How to start an NGO in Africa – the first month

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It’s been a little over a month since we left the Netherlands on Kingsday, the birthday of our precious King Pils, to start an NGO in Africa. And what a month it has been, true to the African style it has been a month with a lot of frustration, huge amounts of patience and waiting. Quick update, we haven’t arrived at our actual destination yet and in this blog, I’ll explain why not!

The flight

It started with our flight at Schiphol airport with Egypt Air. They didn’t allow us to check-in… The reason? Because we had a one-way ticket and did not have a flying ticket for leaving South Africa. Funny thing is that South Africa was not even our final destination. We wanted to visit friends near Kruger NP, then take a bus to Botswana, get our car and get to Zambia to settle down in Kafue NP. We had booked the bus ticket from Johannesburg to Gaborone (capitol of Botswana), which is what we did last time and then it was fine! But for Egypt Air it wasn’t. So, with frustrations to the max, we had to book two flying tickets of 250 euro’s out of Jo’burg right then and there. In the end, we couldn’t take that flight, because we still had appointments in Jo’burg, PLUS we would have had to pay a lot extra for our luggage (as it was a small flight). A WASTE OF MONEY AND TOTALLY UNNECESSARY.

Border Security

Egypt Air was convinced that they wouldn’t allow us in South Africa on a one-way ticket. This made us totally upset the whole 16-hour flight, afraid we might have to come back again, my heart was in my throat the entire flight. Let me tell you what happened when we entered the country. The guy from border security got our passports, said “hey you’ve been to South Africa before”, we said “yes we love the country”, he gave us a stamp for three months and wished us a pleasant journey. THAT’S IT! So, thank you Egypt Air for wasting our money, a very stressful flight and on top of that, no distractions. Why, you ask? Because, guess what, there wasn’t even a private screen to watch movies… WE WILL NEVER FLY WITH EGYPT AIR AGAIN.

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One pretty cool moment in the airplane. This was the view when we flew over Caïro!

South Africa

Anyway, a huge relief when we entered South Africa, so we went to pick up our rental car. You need a credit card for this, which I have, but I hadn’t checked the balance. Apparently, I used it a lot the last month in the Netherlands. I had to put money on it again to be able to get the bond for our rental car. That’s when I found out I had forgotten my Identifier to transfer money… I can tell you, by then, I was about done with everything. Luckily for us, I did download the Credit card app and we could use Ideal to transfer money from Lars his account. So, a few hours later than planned, we were finally on our way to the community operated Wild Olive Tree Camp (WOTC) next to Orpen Gate at Kruger National Park. Oh right, I forgot to mention before, a few hours later, because our flight with Egypt air, was also delayed a few hours…. Anyway, we arrived at WOTC just after dark (which is around 6 pm), had a small chat with our friend Clifford and went straight to the tents. Finally, rest! And the wonderful sounds of the bush around us; we had missed the night call of the hyena!

The Wild Olive Tree Camp

We had a few wonderful days at WOTC. Lars had done his thesis research there a few years back and we were eager to see them again and wondering how they were doing. Turns out, great! We definitely recommend staying there. It has become a beautiful tented camp fully operated by the locals, all the facilities you need and a brilliant game driver, Patrick. And Hazel, the cook, made us a wonderful meal!

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Happy to use our camera again at the WOTC. Plus saw 4/5 from the Big Five at our game drive!

However, we didn’t have any internet here to get in touch with people, so we decided to go to Graskop, a small tourist town next to Blyde River Canyon. Here we stayed in our own little apartment for a few days from where we called with several people from Zambia to find the best way to get a work permit. Our conclusion in the end… Get to Zambia as quickly as we can on a business permit and figure it out from there! We had booked a bus ticket to Botswana already and luckily, we ‘finished’ one day early with everything we wanted to do, so we took some time to visit the Blyde River Canyon. And I’m so happy we did. We had seen it once, but it is just such an amazing landscape!

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Couldn’t decide which pictures we liked the best! It was all beautiful and brilliant modelling work. 

The car

Then we arrived in Botswana for the next thing of the list. Remember the last time we were in southern Africa? We had bought a Toyota Landcruiser Prado together with our friend. It had done us well during those three months driving, except for the one time when the shocks broke on a horrible road in Etosha NP (read about it here). Unfortunately, during the time our friend used it, several things broke and we had to invest a lot more money than we intended. And then you have to figure out a price to buy each other out. We had discussed it and our friend agreed that he would buy us out and we would fix another car in Gaborone, Botswana. Or even in Zambia, we weren’t sure yet.

However, when we suggested a price which we thought was fair, our friend started thinking and asked us to buy the car from him. Unfortunately, Lars and I didn’t agree on the fairness of this whole process, so that was a rollercoaster of intense discussions between us, advice from car mechanics and some more from family… Alas, in the end, friendship and practicality went over money and we regrettably spent much more of our budget on the car then we intended to. What we learned; it is smart to buy a car together, but properly think about the rules in advance, put them in black and white and sign them. Don’t just trust on your friendship, because in the end you’ll have different views on what’s fair and what’s not.

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Reunited with Sisi! (These are old pictures from our last trip)

More car trouble!

Hold your horses, this wasn’t the end of our car issues. We drove a day to pick it up, get it registered on our name and drove a day back again to have everything checked. The mechanics found some other parts that were broke. They weren’t essential if you’re just driving on tar roads, but they are essential in the bush. And thus, we had to have them fixed. These parts had to come from Johannesburg and that takes three days… And of course, there’s the weekends. When they arrived, the girl from the Toyota dealer had accidently ordered the same part twice, instead of two different ones. In short… it took another two weeks in Gaborone before we could leave with our car.

Luckily for us, we were staying in a great Airbnb with a local family and two sweet dogs (find him here on Airbnb). Our host, Tumo, who is the same age as us and a traveler as well, took us out on several occasions. And on Mothersday, his mum told us she would be our substitute mom while we were there! We’ll miss them and definitely stay there again when we’re back in Gabs.

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Tumo took us to Gabs game park, out for Mothersday and clubbing!


Now, when our car was fixed and ready, we could finally head to Zambia! However, Gaborone is not around the corner from Zambia, it’s about a 1000 km’s driving. In Africa, you don’t drive after dark, so we took our time and spread the distance over two days. We stayed overnight at a beautiful place called Nata, where they have a bird sanctuary. We went to the sanctuary during sunset and have never ever in our lives seen so many flamingo’s, or birds for that matter, in one place. It was amazing! These are the things that remind us what we’re doing it for; to keep our beautiful planet alive so generations to come can enjoy these views.

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The amount of flamingo’s was incredible, we couldn’t capture it in one picture. So here’s multiple to give you an idea!


By the time we got to Kasane, which is the border town to Zambia, it was Saturday. There is absolutely no use getting into Zambia before Monday, so we made the most of our time in Kasane. This little town is placed next to Chobe, one of the most beautiful wildlife parks in southern Africa. It is home to about a quarter of the world elephant population. It is also the area where the whole world now has an opinion and apparently expertise about as well, because this is the main area where the Botswana government is going to lift the hunting ban. Want to know our opinion based on our experience and background in conservation? Read about it here.

In the meantime, we saw a whole herd of elephants along the road towards Kasane. And in Kasane we went on a very relaxing boat trip on the Zambezi river to enjoy the elephants and all the other wildlife around the riverbanks ?.

So far it seems we pretty much made most of our time here. And we did, but with a good balance of working and fun. I can tell you; it is pretty hard when you’re in an area and all you want to do is go into the wildlife parks or relax at a swimming pool just like everyone else at the campsite! The ‘work’ we were doing was mainly figuring out how to set up the NGO and get work permits in Zambia. Prepare before we arrive in Zambia.

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Herd of elephants along the road to Kasane and a two-hour boat trip on the Chobe river, very relaxing and beautiful.


And then we finally crossed into Zambia. We left our vehicle behind at the lodge for now, as we wanted to figure out what to do with it before paying all the import fees. In Zambia we stayed in Livingstone at Jollyboy’s Backpackers. They were conveniently located next to PACRA, the place where we had to register our NGO. For full details on how you register an NGO in Zambia and apply for a work permit, read our other blog specifically focused on this. Find it here.

In short, it took us about one day to get the NGO registered (PACRA is amazing!), two days to get our TPIN, the tax registration (which should have been so much faster, but TIA) and two weeks plus several visits to immigration before we could finally APPLY for our work permit. Applications have to be done online, but you do have to go to the office (several times apparently) to get your online account unlocked so you can actually use it. The logic behind it? Nobody knows… Anyway, we have finally applied and now we’ll have to wait if we receive the permit. If so, we’re set for the next two years, if not… Well, we’ll figure that out if it comes.

Victoria Falls

During these two weeks there were also weekends in which you can’t do anything if you need officials. So spent your time well! We went to Victoria Falls. We had only been in October, which is the end of the dry season and the waterfall had dried up on the Zambian side. But now it was the end of the wet season and my, what a difference. IT WAS AMAZING. We got totally soaked and there are water droplets showing on every picture we made, but so worth it!

It is mesmerizing and humbling to see this quietly flowing river being turned in such a magnificent force when it makes a drop of 108 meters. We also went down to the so-called boiling pot. This is the bottom of the 1.7 km long falls where all the water is pushed through a gorge of 110 meters wide. After this narrow gorge, the water enters the second gorge where it has carved out a very deep pool that seems to ‘boil’, hence the name.

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We spent the whole day at Victoria falls, that’s how beautiful it was. As you can see from (the amount) of pictures ?!


And now we are in Lusaka! We’re staying with an amazing Dutch couple who have been in Zambia for a long time and help newly arriving Dutch expats. We’ve met several interesting people already and went to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to get permission to talk to all the stakeholders in and around Kafue NP (official route, we don’t want to offend people by approaching it the wrong way). Hopefully we manage to get this permission quickly and then we can head towards the park and start our research of the area and the best way to implement our plans ?.

That’s it for now! We’ll keep you updated through our newsletter. Haven’t subscribed yet? Do it now, click here! For more regular updates, please check our Instagram account and Facebook page.

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