How to start an NGO in Africa – the first month

Voor de Nederlandse versie – Klik Hier

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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Damaraland – A Red Rocky Realm

Damaraland - A Red Rocky Realm

Voor de Nederlandse versie - klik hier

It’s been a while since our last blog, but that doesn’t mean nothing interesting has happened. Quite the opposite! We had no time to write blogs, we were busy living and experiencing life at its fullest (plus it’s holiday season, time for family and friends)!

Now, where did we leave our last blog? I think we just left the Kaokoveld region in Namibia and we were heading to the next destination: Palmwag. By then we had been in the wilderness for about five days and there is only so much fresh food that fits in our little car fridge. Our next stop looked like a pretty big town on the map (based on the fact that the letters were a larger font than the other towns), so we figured we could find a store and stock up. Heading towards Palmwag, we found ourselves in a different landscape again. This time it was quite hilly, and all over the hills were loose red rocks. You can imagine it looked beautiful, and also, we could see far ahead. We rounded a corner and according to the map, we were supposed see Palmwag in the near distance…  But, all we saw was something that looked like a lodge? So, I grabbed the Lonely planet to figure out what was going on, and where we could stay in Palmwag. It said Palmwag Lodge was the main accommodation and not much more about the town. The lodge we saw in the distance turned out to be Palmwag Lodge, it also turned out to be Palmwag... That was it! There was no town, just the lodge and campsite with it! Okay, a few kilometres down the road there were a few houses clustered together, but the inhabitants all worked at this Lodge (and campsite), so that was it basically! One of the best examples we have seen so far, of a community benefiting from tourism! Oh and plus, definitely no shopping for us.

Red rocky landscape!

The employees, especially the people from the reception, were brilliant; very nice and funny! After a good welcome we found ourselves on a campsite in the heat and thus we went off to the swimming pool. Here we were greeted by a blond woman in a pink bikini who was getting in the pool meanwhile complaining loudly about the freezing temperatures of the water. I totally agreed with here, so we bounded immediately. Tamarra (her name) and her friend Denise are from Canada, which Lars and I agree is a country that is definitely in the top 3 of producing the nicest, most fun people in the world. And Denise and Tamarra only reinforced this feeling! We decided to visit the Palmwag reserve the next morning together in one car; money saving and much more fun!

All involved agreed waking up early would be best (as usual…) and so Lars and I cleared out the car to make room for Tamarra and Denise, and we left the following morning around 6 am. We had heard that a pride of lions had been spotted the day before, and after a lot of digging we did NOT get the information of their whereabouts. Our last chance was to ask the guy at the gate, so after greeting the guy good morning (no response), Lars asked the question: “Do you know where the lions are?” This was his response: he pointed through the gate… Okay… “Sooo, they are inside the park?” A nod… nothing else. You know what, we kind of figured that out by ourselves! We tried one more time to get a little more detail, chatting him up with all our combined charms, trying to keep our faces straight. Alas, no response. Then we wished him a good day and finally (!) he mumbled something that sounded like goodbye back! He just wanted us to leave him alone?!! After this last response, we couldn’t stop laughing for quite a while.

We still set out to find those lions. However, after a very long drive (way past lunch time), we hadn’t found them. We did come across three of those infamous desert elephants. This is where we learned that desert elephants (logically) are smaller than normal elephants and they have spindlier legs to support their long distance traveling for water. In short, they are cute!! At the same time, we also saw several giraffes on top of a hill. The rest of the drive we enjoyed the landscape, the company and the challenging roads.

We figured that we would try another short drive that afternoon and find them lions then! This time we entered through the other gate, and boy, we should’ve done that this morning!! This guy knew all the things that were spotted in the park and actually stopped us to point it out on the map. However, the lions had left their last spotted place and were now roaming freely. But, as I mentioned to Lars only a few days before, we still hadn’t found meerkats. You know, Timo!! And I really, really wanted to see those cute little guys. Much more than lions. And as usual, my wish was fulfilled by Lars. All of the sudden he stopped and asked for the binoculars. And all of us had no idea how he had spotted them, because they were so small and pretty far away, but there they were! A group of meerkats coming out of their hiding, and there were even young ones. Omg, it was so cute, I had a Despicable Me moment “their soo cute I’m gonna die!!”

Anyway, the visit to this area wasn’t just for fun. In this area 70% of the remaining free roaming black rhinos are found and this is mainly due to the efforts of one organization; Save the Rhino Trust. We were able to get in touch with them and visit their basecamp and it is amazing what they have done. Please read more about our visit to them here (under construction) or visit their website to help them even further!

Now we are a few more days since leaving the wilderness, and still we haven’t done any shopping. We asked where the nearest supermarket was and you won’t believe it, but turns out we had to drive for two and a halve hours to get there. Not just that, it was the same place where we had our shocks fixed. This country is at the same time very big (read distance-wise) and very small (read limited amount of shops-wise). After our visit to the shop (the size of a small shed), we headed towards the Skeleton Coast. We had planned to spend a night along the coast, inside the National Park but when we arrived at the gate, we heard that this campsite only opened the next day… So the only way was through (transit). Lucky for us, this turned out for the best, because after driving for a few hours, it was pretty much all the same. Very cool, but still the same, the landscape felt like we were driving on the moon surface. The shipwrecks you can find along this coast (where its name comes from), are pretty much all perished except for a few stumps. Plus something of which we’re not entirely sure what it was, some machinery, but all rusted and therefore pretty cool looking.

We camped at a small fisherman campsite called Mile 108, very busy with white South Africans coming down the coast for the holidays for fishing, all in very big 4WD trucks to drive down the beach. The owner was very nice; he glued my Birkenstocks back together, so I wouldn’t trip anymore every time I walked, plus he showed us a beautiful off-road track through a river bedding on our way to Brandenberg, the highest mountain of Namibia. On our way we went and again we had to make a detour, this time for fuel. The two fuel stations we thought we would come across on our way, well, they didn’t have any fuel… Fortunately it wasn’t a big detour and after a beautiful drive through a crater landscape (literally through a crater called the Messum crater) we arrived at the campsite. During this drive we had seen Dragon heads and Welwitschia’s, one of the ugliest, but coolest flower species I have ever seen, an individual can live up to thousands of years (in Afrikaans it is called Tweeblaarkanniedood)!

The following morning, we visited a rock art painting known as “The White Lady”. This painting is famous because it is one of the most detailed rock paintings you can find in the world, plus it is beautiful! It is, however, not a lady, but a shaman fully decorated to perform a ritual and the painting has been severely damaged by early tourism where people poured water over it etc. A painting that is 2000 years old! And on the same panel there were simpler, but even older paintings of 5000 years old.

But that wasn’t even the best part of our visit. This was our local guide, as soon as we had him talking. Lars and I sometimes play this game where we try to guess which country people come from. So, I asked this guide if they do the same when people come walking up. And he said yes! Well of course I wanted to know what they look at. Here’s his (I think very accurate, especially considering it is only based on experience and not prejudices) description:

  • German: they are all overly prepared; big boots, sunglasses and hats, even long trousers against the sun!
  • Dutch: very tall, not just the men but the women are as tall as the men! They always hike wearing slippers.
  • French: like the Dutch but much smaller, and the guy always wears the stuff for both of them.
  • Italian: they talk a lot and they don’t listen to each other!
  • South African (white): the men are always fat, a big belly and the women mostly skinny.
  • American: same as South Africans, but the women are also fat. Plus, they mostly arrive in big groups with a tour bus.

I’m not entirely sure if he was afraid to say anything else about the Dutch because he seemed a little bit reluctant when I asked, maybe he wanted to add something like that we ask too many questions! But anyway, it was a very interesting cultural (past and presence) walk and as it can become 40 degrees between those mountains, we were happy we went early in the morning. But now we didn’t have much to do the rest of the day, and thus we hang out at the pool, did yahtzee and drank ciders, finishing the night with a nice braai (with all those fresh veggies we just drove 500 km’s for).

From Eddie and Vera we had heard that the riverbeds around this region were especially pretty and after advice from the locals, we set out to follow the (mostly dry) river the next morning. And wow, it was amazing! You can’t imagine just sitting in a car and having such a beautiful day, it’s insane! At one point we had to leave the riverbed, because we were being submerged by reeds and we weren’t sure if we would be able to get back out if we went any further. Plus, there might have been some elephants in those reeds. But then the rest of the drive was along the Brandenberg and the view was amazing. We ended at the local SRT base camp (as they are also attending this area).

The next day we decided to go back to civilization, but not after one last drive through the riverbed. The thing is, if you want to get out of the riverbed you basically need to go straight up the rocky and steep slope surrounding the riverbed valley. With the help of Tracks4Africa we found the trail that would lead us out and it was insane. And a lot of fun!!! And a little bit scary. You can’t imagine what people call roads, but slowly we made it out!

After this adventure we drove back to the coast to visit the Cape Cross Seal Colony. That was another experience. I wouldn’t say it was fun, but it was definitely something. There were hundreds of thousands of fur seals at this cape and it was the most horrific stench I have ever, and I mean EVER, smelled. This was not just because there were so many seals, or so I assume, it was also because all of them just had young’s (about two weeks old) and a lot of young don’t survive the first few weeks. I won’t dwell on all the different reasons, but what it comes down to is that besides the many cute alive ones, there were also a lot of dead pups thereby increasing the smell of death. But hé, that’s live! At least all the brown hyena’s and jackals do not have to worry about food. We found a lot of tracks and even saw several jackals along the coastline.

Our final destination that day was Swakopmund, a pretty big tourist town along the coast. The first thing we did that night was visit the cinema! Never thought I would say this, but it was good to be back in civilization! And so, to make up for this feeling, we spent five nights in this town. Read about the friendships we made here and our visit to the surreal Sossusvlei iin our next blog!  

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Mayuni Conservancy Namibia – And a way to build up some good karma!

Mayuni Conservancy – Some “good karma”-building

A blog about our adventures ánd a conservancy project!

Voor de Nederlandse versie – Klik Hier

After our beautiful wildlife trip in the Okavango (read about it here), we went for a cultural experience. From Maun, we traveled the long distance to the deserted area of the Tsodilo hills. An area also known as the Mountain of the Gods. We drove up around sunset and we could feel why this area is and has been a sacred area for many different cultures over thousands of years. The mountains arise out of nowhere in an else-wise flat and dry country. In these mountains, there are about 4500 different rock art paintings of which many are over 3000 years old!!

Sun was setting behind the Mountain of the Gods when we arrived. Beautiful!

We arrived at the campsite where we met Craig, a South-African bloke who had been travelling on his own for a while. He and we were happy with the company. We enjoyed a beautiful chatty, star-gazing night together and the next morning we woke up early to hike the hills in the cool of the dawn. We were guided by two local men, Tshebe and Phetolo, who told us everything about the paintings and the area. Besides visiting the paintings, we also did some rock climbing and caving. Okay, I might make it sound a little bigger than it was, but it was very nice for a change to do some active things instead of sitting in a car the whole day! During the hike, and in one of the caves they showed marks in the rocks. These marks in the shape of holes, were made by the many, many tools that were sharpened so long ago. It was very weird and at the same time impressive to see something so touchable and real like the paintings and these marks, and then realize it was made thousands of years ago by people so alike and yet so different from us. Nowadays, however, they still use the holes in the rocks, only not for tool sharpening, but for a game! It’s called Diketo, and works like this: you repeatedly throw a rock up in the air, and while the rock is in the air, you scoop several smaller rocks out of the hole, after which you try and put them back in one by one. Phetolo showed us and made it sound and look very, very easy. But this hand-eye coordination is a lot harder than you might imagine! Lars and Craig both tried, but were failing miserably, throwing rocks in all directions except into the hole! It was kind of dangerous! And I guess, after that, I was afraid to even try. Plus, I might have been a bit more interested in exploring the cave (even though we were told there might be snakes…). By the time we finally got back from our supposed-to-be-2-hour-walk, it was very hot and we took a refreshing shower before we hit the road. As Craig planned to go in the same general direction, we convinced him to join us to the campsite we booked. What we didn’t know was that it was only for 4×4 cars…

When we arrived at the gate, the guy told us we still had to drive about 13 km on a road with a lot of soft sand. And looking at Craig’s car All-Wheel Drive Sabaru, the guy said he probably wouldn’t make it. I suggested he could pack his gear in our car, but with an uncanny amount of faith in his car, Craig said the car could do it! It was sort of a 4×4 after all! The gate guy looked at us sceptically, but let us in anyway… All right, we figured to just give it a try then! And it worked!!! His car kept going, even at the parts I really thought he wouldn’t manage.  But then, about halfway to the campsite we had to drive uphill in deep sand, and the clearance of Craig’s car simply wasn’t high enough. So instead of reaching the top of the hill, he ended up on top of the sand just before the top, without any grip with his wheels whatsoever. As this was the third car (and the fifth time) we had to dig out someone else’s car, we were, what you would call, experts. We knew the problem was the clearance and that we had to remove the sand under the car. We knew we had to get some sticks to put under the wheels for some grip. And we knew that if we would push hard enough, while he kept hitting the gas, we would probably be able to get it out. Of course, Craig didn’t know all this, so he was in a bit of a worry, walking around his car frantically, while we were digging the sand from under his car. Then we told him to hit the gas while we pushed. At first, he hit the gas, stopped and hit it again. If you let go of the gas, you just roll back in the hole. We started shouting loudly at him to keep it going and very slowly we pushed the car out and on to the side of the road. As we were only halfway there, we decided to get his gear and leave the car behind. You should know that all of this happened while we were within a game area, were wildlife roams freely. I was explaining to Craig that our experience is that after a shitty ride (or a stuck car) something good is bound to happen here in Africa, especially in game areas. And not even a minute later we almost drove into a pack of wild dogs! And this is a very, very rare sighting, especially as this was a group of about four adults with nine pups! And there they were, right in front of us on the road. The pups were fighting over a kill that had just been brought over by one of the adults! Beautiful! And there is so much interaction amongst wild dogs, we saw one adult arrive and the pups went running towards her and just jumped on top so she rolled over by the force of the pups. After that, she gave them the kill and they ran off and five of them started pulling it in different directions. Lars and I were so happy and excited! At first, Craig was still with his head in worry mode for his car, but he got dragged in by the wild dog’s behaviour and our enthusiasm. And only after we arrived at camp and the staff told us how few wild dogs they saw, and how envious they were, he finally realized how rare this sighting was (even though we had told him). And it hit him (and us) how much luck we had that his car got stuck; we might have missed them if we would’ve been able to continue!

By the time we did arrive at the campsite, it was already dark, but we were lucky enough that the manager had not given our spot away. Again, we had the best spot of the whole campsite right on the edge, next to the river, and some other people kept on insisting they wanted to move there! I don’t know why we are so lucky with these things, but I am really happy we are. We went to put up the tent when Craig finally realized he had forgotten to take the box with his tent in it! It was so funny, and luckily the managers saw the humor as well when we walked back over to the lodge and he booked one of the luxury tents there. After that, we just got a beer at the boma (fireplace) and called it a day. The next morning, we went on a game drive with a local game ranger named Justus who had been working in the conservancy area since 1992. Besides the regular impala, lechwe and hippo, there was not a lot of game that morning, but we almost found lions! And even more important, Justus told us everything about the area. Which was one of the reasons we wanted to visit Nambwa and the Mayuni Conservancy in the first place. We wanted to know more about how this conservancy was set up, and the fact that, in part of it, hunting is allowed.


Our beautiful campsite with a deck looking out the river. We heard the hippo’s and saw some lechwe’s right across from us!

This is what we learned. First, let me just say it is a very successful cooperation between community and lodge owners with the aim of conserving nature so they can benefit from tourism. We had not realized this before we visited, so that was a very interesting finding. Mayuni conservancy was the third community conservancy set up in this region, after Salambala conservancy in the East and Wuparo conservancy in the South. It was started by IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation), an NGO which works in Namibia and has pioneered one of Africa’s leading models of community-based natural resource management. This is apparent from the successes of the conservancies we have seen in the Caprivi strip region (now called Zambezi-region). Hopefully we will be able to meet with someone from this organization, as we haven’t been able to get in touch yet, but we will try visit their office in the coming month ?.

Anyway, back to the Mayuni conservancy, the area where we saw the wild dogs (yaay!). When IRDNC came in, people were skeptical and suspicious of these people and their plans. However, four volunteers started with demarcating the conservancy area, thereby patrolling the border sort of as anti-poachers. However, in the beginning, they did not have any ammunition besides their hands. Locals just laughed at them. But over time, they received ammunition and even a vehicle and the community came to respect them. In the meantime, a meeting was organized, one with food and beers to make it attractive. And a lot of people showed up and the community came to understand what the conservancy would be all about. For example, if someone has a good well-substantiated idea to start a project, e.g. farming or small craft business or whatever, they can ask money from the conservancy. But they can also ask money for a guiding education, where the conservancy will see it as a way of investing in them. So, the money from the conservancy is coming back into the community. Take for example the campsite we were staying at, Nwambwa. This is a community owned campsite of which the profits all went to the community. Three years ago it was expanded with a lodge, which is partly owned by the community and partly by a British-Namibian investor. But besides the managers and a few game rangers, the rest of the employers are from the community.

Then another part of this conservancy is used for professional hunting. However, oppositely to how they do it around Kafue NP (read it in this blog), here they hunt sustainably. Hunters are not allowed to go without a guide and they can only kill old males; old elephant bulls, kudu’s or old hippo’s. If you ‘accidently’ shoot a female, you’ll have to pay a fine. And if you kill two instead of one animal, you must pay double the amount. And the beautiful thing here is that the conservancies in this area work together: at the end of the year each area does an animal count and if it turns out that for example no elephants are in one area, they will refer to the neighbor. Smart!

Justus, who worked for the hunting company in this area for a few years, told us that he thinks in this region they will probably stop hunting within two years, even though they earn money from it. He says enough money will come in from ‘plain’ tourism just like in Botswana. The main reason however, is that if they continue, they will enter a difficult relationship with their neighbors. In Botswana, hunting is not allowed and without fences separating Namibia and Botswana, the Namibian people are killing the animals that wander across the border. And for Botswana this feels like they are killing ‘their animals’, which makes sense. Furthermore, Justus mentioned that lodges are not the only thing that can provide money or the community. The area also needs for example a fresh vegetable garden, a restaurant, a shopping center and even a bakery. So, there will be enough jobs coming around when tourism picks up! And to show that this model has worked, I can quote Justus: ‘People from the village let lechwe and impala walk in their house and don’t see them as meat, but as a way to earn money from tourism.’ And that is a very good way to preserve nature!!

– Kellie –

Posted by bylifeconnected in Blog, Projects, 4 comments

The Okavango Delta – Another check off the bucketlist!

The Okavango Delta - Another check off the bucketlist!

Part II of the elephant paradise, and much, much more!

Voor de Nederlandse versie - Klik Hier

Where did we left off in the last blog… Oh right, Savuti in Chobe NP, and Sisi’s not so slowly and very steadily draining fuel tank due to the deep sand (if you missed it, read it here). Depending on how you look at it, Lars would say her bottom is too big (like a real African woman). I would say it is too small (like a Japanese woman, which, as you know, she is). Her bottom, also known as the fuel tank, is the lowest part of Sisi. Thus it is the part that drags on deep-sand roads. It slows us down, causing more fuel use. However, compared to other 4x4 cars her tank is much smaller, only 70 litres, which is what limits the amount of kilometres!

Anyway, one unsolved discussion later, we are still in Savuti and we know that we are not even half way. We are not sure what the road conditions will be in the Okavango, so we’re a bit nervous. Would we be able to drive another 2,5 days in Okavango? Would we even be able to make it in one go to Maun, in case we need extra fuel? We simply didn’t have a clue and decided to gamble a bit. YOLO!

The little hornbill (aka Zazoo) that frowned upon our YOLO attitude!

We set off and by the time we finally reached the gate, we still weren’t sure. So we made use of our "amazing" math skills, after which we could make the educated guess that we would definitely not be able to make it back to Maun if we went into the Okavango straight away. That was decided, we had to go back to Maun, and we had to be fast because we needed to call the booking office to cancel our campsite. We made it in time, or actually Lars did, with insane driving skills and a lot of major ass bumping that might have popped anyone else’s tyre but Sisi’s. We called, but.. the booking office did not pick up. Unfortunate, but not unsolvable, we stayed at Maun for the night at a campsite, picking one with WiFi so we could turn this bad luck in some good use; we downloaded an app called Tracks4Africa. It is a navigation app which can be used offline with aaaallll the roads on it (well almost all), including the small 4x4 tracks you can’t even call roads in, for example, the National Parks. Vera and Eddie had used it their whole trip and told us it was definitely worth the price. We agreed after only one day, and are even more convinced by now. It really gives us a sense of freedom as now we  always know where are and how long it will take us to arrive at our destination.

The next morning we drove back those 130 km’s, thereby passing through the south gate of Moremi NP, so we could watch some wildlife around the so-called Black Pools. But we had to be in Khwai village before 16.30, because that’s when the booking office would close. So we arrived there around 16.00… And only then did we find out it was Sunday…. Somehow, it seems to be Sunday everyday here, or at least, always when we need something! And of course, on Sunday they are closed. What to do! Okay, we just went to the campsite. Thank God, we downloaded that app so now we were able to find it! And we took a detour along the river, because it looked interesting. And interesting it was, it made us find out that the whole Khwai area, even though not officially a National Park, is as much a wildlife area as Moremi or Chobe. In fact, it is the connection between the two parks. So it was beautiful! We drove along the river, and every 50 meters we saw an elephant drinking or grazing. By the time we finally got to our campsite, we were so happy! And then it turned out we had the best campsite, again!! We were on the edge with on one side a plain and on the other side the river. Wauw, it was the best place we’ve stayed so far. Because we had some time before sundown, we did a little tour, where I sat on top of the car (ssshh don’t tell anyone), and it was soooo much fun! And then we watched the sun set from our rooftoptent. It was just perfect, not even changed by the fact that a mouse bit my toe when I was hugging Lars.

A beautiful view on the river and the setting sun as an elephant passes by to elevate the beauty to a whole new level!

When we sleep in a wildlife area, our ears always seem to attune to the sounds of the animals. That night we heard many; hippos, elephants, baboons and even lions and a leopard. We heard them in the morning, both not too far away. Excited as we were, we left without breakfast to find these animals. Even though we were unsuccessful, it was a good drive through a beautiful water rich area. In the afternoon, we finally made it to the booking office and were told we could stay the night we missed, without paying extra! So nice! We also made a booking to go with a mokoro that afternoon. This is a small, traditional boat used for hundreds of years by the locals. Imagine the boats in Venice, but then one size smaller, they do include a gondolier as well! Because we had some time before the Mokoro would leave, we thought we should try and find the place. So, we arrived there early and were greeted by the manager of a camp and also, supposedly, a trained guide… We thought to just put our chairs under a tree and relax a bit, make our lunch whatever. That was all good, but this guy joined us… As well as the elephants we mentioned in the previous blog (read it here). And so, as well-raised as we are, we talked with the guy even though it was quite awkward. He talked a lot about himself, and maybe he thought we were some naive, credulous tourists, but he tried to convince us that elephants live about 15 years. 15? We double-checked, making sure we heard right, that he hadn’t said 50... No, 15 years, sometimes a little bit older…. Which is simply not true. Elephants, and hippos as well, they can become as old as 50, and elephants even 60 years old. I don’t know if he realized his lie, or if he simply didn’t know any better. But it was clear he was definitely not a trained guide... And he would be the one taking us on the mokoro?? But just as we were about to leave, a game vehicle with a lot of people arrived. Lucky for us, because it included the official mokoro guide. Even though he smelled a bit like alcohol (and the rest of the group acted like insane drunks), he didn’t act like it and he showed a lot of knowledge and breathed an air of peace. Which is perfect if you go on a mokoro ride, I assure you.

The ride itself was beautiful, we slowly floated forward, surrounded by gorgeous waterlilies, meanwhile enjoying the peace and quiet and the sounds of the birds. We also stopped to stretch our legs. The guide showed us a Hamerkop nest (full-on villa!), and he also explained that they use the clay from termite mounds to pave their houses. This is a very old tradition done by many, many generations before this guide. The people from Khwai village are part of the San people (bushman) and used to live in Moremi Game Reserve, way further into the Okavango delta, for hundreds of years. They were relocated to the Khwai area, on the edge of the Okavango, were they actively participate in the conservation of the environment. And what a beautiful area it is, full with wildlife!

After our relaxing mokoro tour we went back to the campsite. It was a bit after sunset, so we started cooking in the dark. We hadn’t seen a shop for a while, so it was time to break open one of the cans with salmon in it. Now, you think, what has our dinner to do with the story?! Let me tell you! Lars had emptied the extra fluids from the can about five meters from where we were sitting. He had just finished his dinner and I was still eating, when he heard something behind him. He turned around… then turned back to me and said: “Kellie, hyena!” WTF! The hyena was just within our light circle at about five meters, and we saw him sniffing around, not even seeming to notice us. He was definitely trying to find that salmon! And when he couldn’t, he just walked away into the dark… We got our big torch out and tried to find him, but he had disappeared. It should have been scary, because I know hyena’s are dangerous. But at that moment it was more exciting than scary, mainly because its absolute lack of interest in us! I think Lars felt the same way, although… after the hyena left he did keep walking around with the torch, shining into every bush. And then of course another important part of this story… Both me and Lars had to go to the toilet for a number two, so to say… And this was after we had seen the hyena in our camp. At this campsite, this would be your toilet: dig a hole in the ground, do your business, cover it up. Now normally, I would do that a little bit away from the camp.. but this time though, I couldn’t give a shit about privacy, Lars had to be near! But the circumstances made it absolutely the hardest shit (not literally, luckily) I have taken in my life.

Let’s get back to some civil conversation. The following morning we had to say goodbye to the area, but not after another morning drive. This was our last chance to find that leopard in a tree, you know, the one that had been on our bucketlist since we set foot in Africa three years ago, and which we had hoped to find in this area! The highest chance of finding carnivores is during the early morning hours, and as these hours were fading, our hope faded as well. Even though we had a beautiful game drive, we couldn't escape that touch of disappointment.

Just when we were about to move on, we saw the game drive vehicle with the people we had met the day before. Out of good manners we didn’t just drive by, but stopped to say goodbye. And I’m soooooo happy we did, because believe it or not, they had seen a leopard in a tree not even fifteen minutes ago. They were sure she would still be there and so the game driver was so kind to take us there. It was so close, but the drive there felt like hours to us (five minutes tops). When we rounded a corner, and saw another game vehicle, we knew she was still there! We looked up in the tree, and there she was, a very young female looking at everything going on below her. Beautiful! We couldn’t believe our luck. What an amazing goodbye. Or so we thought…

Finally, there she was, waiting for us to find her! What a beautiful animal, so elegant!

The leopard wasn’t our only goodbye! We had decided to take the scenic route back, so we followed the river area a little further. When we rounded a corner we were overwhelmed by a valley full of elephants! There must have been at least 500 within our sight, and probably a lot more in the surrounding bushes. And as this was obviously a road not well driven, we were the only ones there. It was amazing. We parked the car under a tree, climbed on the roof and just enjoyed. There were males and females of all ages, some grazing, some bathing, some fighting and we even saw two little ones playing with each other. There was so much to watch, and so much interaction. Luckily, we had gotten to know how to move around elephants by now, because we had to manoeuvre through this valley filled with elephants to get to the other side! There was only one point where it got a little bit excited, because on the track we had to take, were three elephants with a younger one.. and they didn’t seem inclined at all to move for us. We tried to push them very slowly, but then two big bulls decided to put their trunks in someone else’s business; they came at us with their ears wide, trumpeting! Even though we knew it was a mock charge, it is still scary, because these animals are huge!! And because we were surrounded by them, so we did not want them to infect the rest with their excitement. So instead of following the track, I decided it was okay to just move a bit around it for this time. I’m pretty sure people will understand.

Botswana had shown us one last time that they are the perfect elephant paradise. And this whole morning had been the perfect ending to the most amazing wildlife experiences in our lives. Now we can move on to the next stop, a cultural one this time; Tsodilo Hills (read it here).


Posted by bylifeconnected in Blog, 4 comments
Chobe National Park – Een Waar Olifanten Paradijs!

Chobe National Park – Een Waar Olifanten Paradijs!

Chobe National Park - Een Waar Olifanten Paradijs!

Deel 1 van ons wildlife avontuur in het noorden van Botswana

Tijdens het schrijven van dit verhaal, zie ik een olifant langzaam, stukje bij beetje, op me af komen. Ik vraag me af of hij dichterbij komt (en ik vraag me af of ik dat wel zou willen zo in m’n stoeltje)…  Maar hij is gewoon lekker ontspannen de struiken aan het slopen, ondertussen met zijn vijfde been tegen z’n onderbuik aan het slaan. Ja ja, je hebt een grote piemel, opschepper! Wij zijn geen match voor je, en zelfs onze lokale 'gids' (meer over hem in de volgende blog) is onder de indruk. Hoe dan ook, terwijl een volgende kudde olifanten aan komt en langzaam om ons heen de struiken leeg eten, staan ​​we versteld van het enorme aantal olifanten hier in Botswana. Vijf dagen geleden zijn we Chobe National Park in gegaan, om vervolgens helemaal naar beneden door Savuti en verder naar Khwai / Moremi NP te reizen, waar we nu zijn. Dit gebied staat bekend om de grote diversiteit en hoeveelheid diersoorten, en we hoopten dan ook dat dit de beste natuurervaring van de reis zou worden! De verwachtingen waren hoog en we begonnen in Kasane met een relaxe ​​boottocht over de Chobe-rivier. Rond half vier gingen we aan boord van de boot, wat net zo goed een Duits bejaardentehuis op het water had kunnen zijn; naast ons en een jong Duits stel, waren de resterende 40 personen hoogstwaarschijnlijk hun pensioentje aan het opmaken. Gelukkig had dit in z’n geheel geen effect op de ervaring.  Het was verfrissend om zoiets als een boottour te doen na zoveel kilometers in de auto. Ongeveer drie uur lang voer de boot ons langs nijlpaarden, olifanten, krokodillen, antilopen en vogels die in en langs de rivier leefden. Onder het genot van een koud cidertje hebben we hier een aantal prachtige ”sightings” gehad.

De volgende ochtend kwamen we precies om 7 uur (openingstijd voor zelfrijders) aan bij de toegangspoort van Chobe National Park. Het plan voor de dag was om langs Chobe Riverfront (een route van ongeveer 50 kilometer) te rijden. Er waren echt mega veel antilopen soorten in het park, maar de beste dingen die we gezien hebben waren een leeuwen-stelletje (een beetje verborgen in de struiken), een baby-baviaan op de rug van haar moeder (Jiihaa!), veel visarenden en een enorme kudde van ongeveer 200 olifanten. Vooral dit laatste verbijsterde ons; we hadden al een heel aantal olifanten in de bosjes gezien en toen we een heuveltje op reden,  betraden een heuveltje dat ons een uitzicht gaf over een open gebied naast het water dat vol stond met olifanten. Later kwamen we erachter dat veel kleine kuddes olifanten samenkomen op plaatsen waar water en / of voedsel in overvloed zijn. Hier kunnen mega-kuddes vormen van honderden tot zelfs duizend olifanten. Ze kunnen dit echter alleen in deze regio doen, omdat Botswana ongeveer 250.000 olifanten herbergt. Dit is ongeveer 25% van de gehele wereldpopulatie! Een absoluut olifantenparadijs!

Later die middag kwamen we aan bij Muchenje waar we de benzinetank voor de laatste keer konden vullen. Ook hebben we hier overnacht op camping Muchenje. Zittend op een terras met ons diner, hadden we een prachtig uitzicht over de vlakte en een prachtige Afrikaanse zonsondergang. Een van de eigenaren kwam bij ons zitten, een voormalige Britse man (hij verliet het VK ongeveer 40 jaar geleden), en we spraken over het gebied, Botswana en zijn presidenten. De volgende ochtend hebben we eerst even gerelaxed bij het zwembad, waarna we vertrokken naar het resterende deel van Chobe NP (Linyanti en Savuti). Bij de grens van het park stond er een bord met: "engage 4x4, deep sand ahead". Dit was iets wat we wel vaker gehoord hadden, en toen lukte het ook allemaal zonder, dus logischerwijs negeerden we dit bordje. Maar het zand werd dieper en dieper en na een paar kilometer besloten we om te stoppen en de banden een stuk leeg te laten lopen voor meer tractie. Dat maakte een groot verschil en we reden rustig door totdat we op een voertuig stuitte dat vastzat in het diepe zand! Het grootste probleem met het zand is dat tussen de sporen van de banden het zand een stuk hoger ligt, vandaar “deep sand”. Voertuigen met een relatief lage bodem zullen dus over het zand slepen, hierdoor onstaat meer wrijving, de auto wordt afgeremd en met te weinig kracht, of een te lage snelheid, kom je uiteindelijk tot stilstand. Dit was ook wat er gebeurd was met het Australische (Eddie) en Noorse (Vera) stel dat we tegenkomen. Als goede burgers stapten we uit de auto en liepen op hen af, uitgerust met onze schop en een grote glimlach op onze gezichten. Zij reageerden soortgelijk. Ken je die mensen die alles nemen zoals het is en proberen er het beste van te maken? Maak kennis met Eddie en Vera. Wat er was gebeurd was dat zij gestopt waren in het diepe zand zonder hierover na te denken, want er waren olifanten naast de weg! Zodra de olifanten vertrokken probeerden ze te gassen, maar er gebeurde letterlijk helemaal niks... Ze zaten vast. En toen kwamen wij op het hoekje kijken. Samen hebben we de auto uitgegraven, en terwijl we dit deden, ontdekten we dat het eigenlijk best leuk is om de auto van iemand anders uit het zand te graven (het scheelde ook dat de zon was verdwenen achter de wolken). Eddie vertelde ons over dat hij gelezen had dat "deze weg auto’s opeet als ontbijt". Dat was een mooi vooruitzicht, aangezien we ongeveer 20 meter van de 10 km gereden hadden! Ach ja, eerst maar deze situatie oplossen. Na een paar pogingen en hard duwen van Vera, Kellie en ik, was de auto los. Nu was het onze beurt... Kellie nam een ​​aanloop... en ging er in één keer door! Aan de andere kant waren we allemaal even gestopt en kregen we van Eddie en Vera een koud biertje als bedankje. We kwamen erachter dat ook zij onderweg waren naar de camping van Linyanti en dus vervolgenden we onze weg in konvooi.

Bij Muchenje hebben we een heerlijke maaltijd tijdens zonsondergang gegeten, met uitzicht over een prachtige vlakte!

Slechts een paar kilometer verderop moesten we weer stoppen. Deze keer niet voor Eddie en Vera, maar voor een auto gevuld met vier hollanders. Nu klinkt het misschien net alsof er veel auto's op deze weg staan, maar deze twee waren de enige auto's die we tegen waren gekomen sinds Muchenje. En ze zaten allemaal vast in het zand (behalve Sisi natuurlijk). De Nederlanders vertelden ons dat dit de derde keer (!) was dat ze vast zaten. En in de volgende 5 km hebben we hen nog drie keer uitgegraven... Welkom in de Afrikaanse wildernis! Uiteindelijk hebben we hen maar even instructies gegeven, ten eerste dat ze de auto in de lage 4x4 versnelling moesten houden. Ten tweede dat ze, waar het kon, moesten proberen over de zijkant van de weg te rijden in plaats van in de sporen, zodat ze de wrijving van het zand kunnen ontwijken. En ten slotte dat ze niet moeten stoppen met gassen, ongeacht hoeveel lawaai de auto maakt, het is toch een huurauto! Vervolgens hebben wij voorop gereden, omdat onze bodem wat hoger lag, dus wij konden in de diepste stukken alvast wat zand wegschrapen voor de volgers! Hierna zijn ze er uiteindelijk in geslaagd om de laatste 5 km in één keer door te rijden.

Onze auto had het fantastisch gedaan, en we bereikten Linyanti dan ook vol zelfvertrouwen en trots; onze zelf gekochte en aangepaste Landcruiser uit ’98 kon alles aan wat Afrika te bieden had, beter nog dan de vele nieuwere en heel veel duurdere huurauto's! En achteraf gezien hadden we met onze ervaring in Australie (Fraser Island, alleen maar zand) en Kellie’s ervaring met 3 maanden 4x4 rijden in een game reserve, toch wel wat skills ontwikkeld. We voelden ons goed! Bovendien hadden we de beste plek van de camping, ​​op een verhoging onder een boom, met een geweldig uitzicht over een riviertje en de aangrenzende moerasvlakte. Bij aankomst zagen we olifanten grazen in het licht van de ondergaande zon. Het wordt niet beter dan dit! Vanwege het geweldige uitzicht hebben we Eddie en Vera uitgenodigd om bij ons te verblijven. Ze accepteerden gewillig en we hadden een heerlijke braai; een echt Afrikaans feest met bietensalade, aardappelsalade, paprika, maïskolven met boter, kip en boereworst. De rest van de avond hebben we lekker gekletst en gelachen rondom het kampvuur; de perfecte afsluiting van een opwindende dag!

Onze prachtige camping by Linyanti. Als je goed kijkt zie je de olifanten in het moeras lopen!

De volgende ochtend besloten we om vroeg op te staan (5 uur) en samen met Eddie en Vera zijn we vervolgens op zoek (jacht) gegaan naar de beesten! Aangezien we die nacht leeuwen hadden gehoord, en we zelfs sporen hadden gevonden die net afsloegen voor zo ons kamp binnen liepen, was dit waar we naar op zoek waren. We hebben de leeuwen niet gevonden, maar wel enkele olifanten en een roan antilope. Van daar namen we de weg die, zo dachten we, ons naar Savuti zou leiden (gebied midden in Chobe). Na een paar kilometer vonden we een enorme dode olifantenschedel langs de weg en logischerwijs stapten we uit om er foto’s van te maken en even onze benen te strekken. Op hetzelfde moment vloog er een helikopter over ons heen.. en die begon het gebied rondom ons te omcirkelen. We zwaaiden als brave toeristen, gewoon om te laten zien dat we geen stropers waren. Welke stroper zou zwaaien naar een helikopter, toch? Maar we werden behoorlijk nerveus. Zeker toen de helikopter op nog geen 50 meter afstand begon te landen! Op dat moment dacht ik echt dat we in de problemen zaten, al had ik geen idee waarom. Maar, net alsof we vol vertrouwen zaten liepen we richting de helikopter waar drie gamewachten, eentje met een enorm geweer, uitstapten. Nog ietsje nerveuzer. Toen ze uit de helikopter waren, vroegen ze ons wat we hier aan het doen waren. We antwoordden dat we geïnteresseerd waren in de olifantenschedel. Toen vroegen ze ons of we niet bang waren voor leeuwen. Wij antwoorden dat we dat zeker niet waren! Hier moesten ze om lachen en gelukkig brak dit het ijs. Vervolgens leidden ze ons naar de schedel. Ze begonnen uit te leggen hoe je kunt zien of een olifant is gestorven op natuurlijke wijze of door stropers. Dit checken, was de reden dat ze uberhaupt hier geland waren. Wij waren gewoon toevallig op hetzelfde moment ook daar... Wel benadrukten ze dat we in het park niet de veiligheid van de auto mogen verlaten en vervolgens wezen ze ons in de goede richting (want we hadden een verkeerde afslag genomen). We hebben natuurlijk eerst even gewacht totdat de helikopter was opgestegen, en vervolgens zijn we omgekeerd en verder gereden. Nou, weer een nieuwe ervaring toegevoegd aan de lijst!

Onderweg terug kwamen we deze keer een levende, enorme olifanten stier tegen. Hier waren we even gestopt en hij bleek erg nieuwsgierig want hij kwam steeds dichter en dichter bij de auto! Maar hij gedroeg zich rustig, ondertussen een stukje gras etend, en totaal geen waarschuwingssignalen, dus we bleven staan ​​om te wachtten tot hij zou passeren... alleen dat deed hij maar niet. Hij kwam nog dichterbij en op een gegeven moment had ik zo zijn slurf kunnen aanraken als ik dat wilde. Op dat moment besloot ik dat dit me toch echt te dichtbij was, en ik reed heel langzaam de auto een stukje naar voren. Mijn hart klopte als een gek toen ik de motor startte, omdat ik niet wist hoe hij zou reageren op het geluid! Hij bleef echter ontspannen en stak vervolgens gewoon de weg achter ons over. Met grote ogen keken Eddie en Vera naar ons (zij stonden voor ons), en we hadden allemaal door hoe een bijzonder moment dit was. Na deze ervaring vervolgden we onze weg, en wat een weg was dat, verschikkelijk. De weg werd steeds slechter; diep zand voor kilometers achtereen. We merkten dat onze brandstof hierdoor een stuk sneller ging dan normaal, wat ons nogal veel zorgen baarde omdat we nog een lange weg te gaan hadden! We berekenden dat op deze wegen de auto 1 liter verbruikt voor elke 4 kilometer, wat belachelijk inefficiënt is; normaal is het ongeveer 1 liter voor elke 8 kilometer (ook niet geweldig). We dachten er niet eens aan om terug naar Muchenje te rijden aangezien we die avond een dure reservering bij Savuti hadden. Dit creëerde enige onzekerheid, omdat we niet zeker wisten of we de andere kant (ongeveer 250 kilometer verder) zouden halen. Maar voor ons was de enige optie voorwaarts, dieper de wildernis in... Toen we eenmaal bij de entree van Savuti aankwamen, hoorden we dat een leeuwen pride een olifant hadden gedood. Dus wij meteen weer op pad, op zoek naar tekenen van die vangst, die op slechts 300 meter van de poort had moeten zijn... Niet gevonden... Honger won het uiteindelijk van nieuwsgierigheid en dus keerden we terug naar Savuti en maakten we eerst een snelle lunch (nog steeds met Eddie en Vera btw). Met onze buikjes gevuld, gingen we verder met zoeken. Kellie en ik vonden uiteindelijk de leeuwen door de sporen van andere auto's de bush in te volgen. Ze lagen daar met z’n zessen onder een struik te chillen, hun buikjes nog ronder dan de onze! De zogenaamde dode olifant echter, die hebben we nooit gevonden.

Hierna gingen we nog even op pad, richting het Savuti-moeras. Hier verwacht je een nat gebied, maar in deze tijd van het jaar was er geen waterdruppel te vinden. Desondanks waren de vlakten prachtig met cumuluswolken op de achtergrond. En om onze benen te strekken, klommen we zelfs een kleine heuvel op om wat San people (bushman) kunst te bezoeken. Over het algemeen was het dierenleven tijdens deze rit nogal schaars, wat we niet hadden verwacht na het lezen van de Lonely Planet (dit boek is echt goed in verwachtingen creeeren die te vaak niet uit lijken te komen). Dus, zoals je snapt, begonnen we een beetje teleurgesteld aan de terug tocht. Maar toen we bijna bij het kamp waren zagen we plots een enorme stofwolk; het teken van een grote kudde (buffels of olifanten) in beweging. Dit bleken ongeveer honderd buffels te zijn en ze waren op weg naar de waterhole dicht bij het kamp. Dezelfde waterhole die ook heel dicht bij de leeuwen lag, die we eerder die middag nog hadden gezien! Alle buffels verzamelden zich rond de waterhole, een gat dat veels te klein was voor allen tegelijk. Vervolgens probeerde ook nog een olifant zich door de kudde buffels te dringen om bij het water te komen, en dat terwijl dat kleine gat ook nog eens bezet was door twee nijlpaarden! Maar vlak voordat de olifant het water bereikte, schrok hij ergens van en rende hij trompetterend en wel weg. Alsof ze op dit teken hadden gewacht verschenen uit het niets zes leeuwen! Ze grepen hun kans en sprintten op de buffels af. De kudde begon in één keer te bewegen en lawaai te maken. Maar dit was niet chaotisch, zoals je zou verwachten, maar leek juist erg georganiseerd, de kudde bewegend als één. We voelden en hoorden de enorme hoeveelheid hoeven tegen de grond slaan en een grote stofwolk verduisterde het actie terrein. Na een paar ogenblikken ging het stof liggen en ontstond er een slagveld tussen prooi en roofdier; de leiders van de buffels en leeuwen stonden recht tegenover elkaar. Omstebeurt waren ze elkaar aan het polsen, het was wat je noemt een stand-off. Totdat! De buffel stier gooit ineens z’n horens in de strijd en de leeuwen sprinten achterwaarts, bang voor de kracht van deze horens. Een paar meter verder blijven ze even zitten. Op dit punt zien we nog maar drie leeuwen, terwijl we weten dat ze met zes waren. De andere drie waren om de groep heen bewogen en ineens vallen ze aan die kant aan. Deze tactiek om de buffalo formatie te breken lijkt even te werken, een jong dier loopt eventjes alleen met één leeuw tussen hem en de rest van de groep. Maar voordat de rest van de leeuwen kunnen aansluiten, vallen wat buffels uit naar de leeuw en is het jong weer veilig. Zo gaat dit een tijdje over en weer, recht voor onze neus. Het voelde alsof we in een National Geographic-documentaire zaten! Het enige wat we misten, was de stem van David Attenborough. De jagende leeuwen waren met vijf leeuwinnen en een jong mannetje. Nu vraag je je af, waar zijn de volwassen mannetjes. Zoals te verwachten gedroegen deze zich als typische mannetjes leeuwen. We zagen ze ongeveer 50 meter verderop liggen; net als ons waren ze het schouwspel alleen maar aan het bekijken. De koningen van de savanne die jagen niet, die worden gevoed. Helaas, helaas werd het donker voordat de de leeuwen een kill hadden gemaakt en moesten we terug keren naar het kamp. Maar we wisten dat, al zagen we zelf de kill niet, de kans groot was dat we de volgende ochtend wel wat zouden kunnen vinden! Dus weer vroeg eruit was het motto! Bij het kampvuur bespraken we de dag, en natuurlijk vooral de avond, met Eddie en Vera terwijl we een opnieuw een feestmaal bereidden. Wat was dat fantastisch zeg!! We sliepen als baby's (werden niet eens wakker toen een kleine kudde olifanten ons kamp doorliep, Eddie en Vera wel).

De volgende ochtend namen we afscheid van onze nieuwe vrienden en gingen terug naar het strijdterrein. En we konden onze ogen niet geloven! We vonden inderdaad een karkas omringd door leeuwen, maar het was geen buffel! Blijkbaar hadden de buffels de strijd gewonnen en in plaats daarvan hadden de leeuwen een middelgrote olifant gedood! Vanwege de enorme populatie olifanten in de regio staan deze lokale leeuwen ook wel bekend om het feit dat het olifanten (kill) experts zijn, heel cool! We bleven een paar uurtjes kijken, en zagen hoe de leeuwen om beurten het karkas uit elkaar trokken om vervolgens naar de drinkplaats te lopen om te drinken. Na een tijdje werd het echter te warm voor hen (en ons) en dus zochten ze een een plekje in de schaduw voor hun dutje. Voor ons was dit een teken dat we verder konden gaan, op naar de grootste binnenlandse delta in de wereld: de Okavango Delta! Lees meer over dit fantastische avondtuur in onze volgende blog

- Lars -

Posted by bylifeconnected in Nederlands, 5 comments

Simalaha Community Conservancy – Nederlandse versie

Simalaha Community Conservancy

Een beginnend natuur behoud community project.

Zo, dit was me toch een situatie waarin we ons nog nooit hebben bevonden. In de Filippijnen hebben we al het belang van bepaalde tradities meegemaakt. Maar ik ben nog nooit zo nerveus geweest voor een eenvoudige ontmoeting! Al is dit waarschijnlijk heel natuurlijk, omdat onze ontmoeting was in het koninklijk paleis met de koninklijke familie van Barotseland. Blijkbaar is dit vergelijkbaar met een ontmoeting met onze Nederlandse koning, koning Willem-Alexander, en dan met heel veel regels. Ik moest bijvoorbeeld een chitenge dragen, wat in feite gewoon een sarong is. En onze schouders moesten bedekt zijn. De kinderen die rond het paleis woonden, waren degene die ons mee naar binnen namen. Eén jongetje hield mijn hand vast, om zeker te weten dat ik hem wel volgde. We liepen naar een dame, en alle kinderen knielden om haar heen. Het jongetje wat mijn hand vast had, trok me naar beneden.... Schijnbaar moesten we knielen voor deze mevrouw. Deze mevrouw zei dat we plaatst moesten nemen (buiten om een steentje), en we ons gezicht richting een gebouw moesten keren. Een man kwam hier naar buiten, en hij vertelde ons wat we moesten doen voor we de Mwandi Bre Kuta (het gebouw) zouden binnengaan; kniel voor de ingang en klap een paar keer in je handen, ga dan naar binnen en doe hetzelfde voordat je op je stoel gaat zitten. Dit is serieus! Gelukkig hadden we een geweldige kerel bij ons, Mike Mwenda, gemeenteraadslid voor de Mwandi-afdeling. Ik ben er vrij zeker van dat hij het jongste raadslid in Zambia is met zijn 23 jaar, en hij is erg gepassioneerd over zijn gemeenschap en alle mensen daarin.

Hoe dan ook, we kwamen het gebouw binnen en voelden ons behoorlijk ongemakkelijk bij het uitvoeren van al deze rituelen. Vijf oude mannen zaten op een rijtje langs de muur naar ons te kijken terwijl we dit deden en tegenover ze gingen zitten. Deze mannen worden Induna genoemd en maken deel uit van de Barotse Royal Establishment. Mike was bij ons om te vertalen en we werden bestookt met vragen. We gingen hierheen met het idee dat wij degenen zouden zijn die de vragen stelden, dus hier moesten we ons even op aanpassen! Maar we beseften dat ze probeerden uit te vinden of wij hen van enige hulp konden zijn. Laat me dit even uitleggen. We zijn dit gebied gaan bezoeken omdat dit een uniek Community Conservation-project is in Zambia, waar de initiatiefnemers van het natuur behoud ook werkelijk de lokale bevolking is. En het land is ook van de gemeenschap en niet van de overheid. De koning en een van de induna waarmee we spraken, waren degenen die de Simalaha Conservancy hadden opgezet met de hulp van Peace Parks en Kaza. Ze zijn nu vijf jaar bezig en zijn er klaar voor om toeristen aan te trekken. Echter is er nu nog helemaal geen lodge of camping. Ze wilden weten of wij misschien geïnteresseerd waren in het opzetten van een lodge! Wauw .. dat was wel even iets om over na te denken...


De gnoe's die geintroduceerd zijn in het gebied. Deze stonden op dezelfde vlakte als grazend vee! Erg bijzonder om ze gemixt te zien.

Maar eerst hebben we ons plan aan hen voorgelegd en wilden we meer weten over het beschermde gebiede. De manager van de conservancy werd gebeld en we konden hem de volgende middag ontmoeten. In de tussentijd heeft raadslid Mike ons rondgeleid in de omgeving. We bezochten Sikuzu Village, het dorp direct aan de rand van de conservancy, en de gemeenschapsschool. Deze school is pas een paar jaar geleden opgericht en had nog verschillende problemen, vooral met betrekking tot water. Er is namelijk helemaal geen water en door klimaatverandering waren verschillende waterbronnen in de buurt opgedroogd. De kinderen moeten 2 km lopen om water te halen uit de rivier! En dan heb je ons, de Westerse wereld, en wij vinden het allemaal maar zo vanzelfsprekend dat we stromend water uit de kraan hebben... Een soortgelijk probleem deed zich voor met een project in de gemeenschapstuin. Een zeer succesvolle tuin was hier geplant en onderhouden door de gemeenschap; ze gaven zelfs gratis groenten en geld aan de allerarmsten. Echter, de pomp naast de tuin is een paar maanden geleden kapot gegaan / opgedroogd en water halen uit de rivier is voor deze hoeveelheid planten onmogelijk. We zagen dat alle groenten waren uitgedroogd en er nog maar een paar rode tomaten aand de planten hingen. Dus ook al hadden we een gebied verwacht dat het allemaal onder controle had, ook hier vonden we toch de voornaamste problemen die je vind in Afrikaanse Derde Wereld landen. En, zoals we hier ontdekten, worden deze problemen alleen maar verergert door klimaatverandering. We kunnen dus aannemen dat deze problemen in de toekomst alleen maar toenemen in plaats van afnemen!

Na dit trieste verhaal nam Mike ons mee naar het visserskamp Mabale waar zijn vader en zijn familie in het droge seizoen wonen. Dit is precies aan de rand van het natuurpark. Hij vertelde ons dat er nog steeds mensen leven in het park waar ze vissen en zelfs vee hebben! We zagen deze koeien en de zebra’s gemixt grazen! In het visserskamp ontmoetten we zijn vader en familie, en hij toonde ons de eenvoudige, één jarige huisjes van gras waar ze in wonen. Op de terugweg hebben we nog even drie jonge vrouwen met hun baby's in de auto gepropt zodat ze niet dat hele stuk naar het dorp hoefden te lopen (kostte ons 15 minuten met de auto, kun je je voorstellen hoe lang dat te voet duurt!).

Zoals Mike ons hier vertelde horen deze kinderen eigenlijk op school te zitten, maar in plaats daarvan zijn ze bij hun ouders om te helpen met vissen. Hij wil dit graag veranderen.

Toen we eenmaal terug waren, kregen we te horen dat we konden kamperen in de lodge naast het Koninklijk Paleis. Pas later beseften we dat we in de achtertuin van de prins logeerden!!! De volgende dag zouden we om twee uur weer een vergadering hebben. En ik was al helemaal voorbereid op weer zo’n ongemakkelijke traditionele ontmoeting als de dag ervoor. Alleen deze keer zelfs zonder onze vertaler, want hij was er niet!? Maar verrassend genoeg kwamen ze naar ons toe, en zelfs een uur te vroeg. Terwijl we aan het lunchen waren, zagen we een van de induna, de oudste man die meehielp met het opzetten van de conservancy, samen met de manager naar ons toe lopen! Het was een beetje ongemakkelijk omdat we net aan het eten waren, maar ze hebben op ons gewacht op het terrasje van de lodge. Hier kwamen we er eindelijk achter dat de man die in aardig armoedige kleren rond het terrein liep, eigenlijk de prins was... Holy shit, dat was raar, wij hadden gewoon aangenomen met hoe hij eruit zag, dat het een van de jongens was die het terrein verzorgde. Desalniettemin was deze bijeenkomst veel meer casual en konden we antwoorden krijgen op onze vele vragen. De prins was zeer behulpzaam en de manager had geregeld dat een paar jongens ons na de ontmoeting meenamen naar de conservancy. Tijdens deze vergadering leken ze te beseffen dat we niet degenen waren die een lodge zouden komen oprichtten, omdat we met andere intenties naar Afrika waren gekomen. Dit was de dag ervoor ook onze conclusie, vooral omdat we van mening zijn dat dit Simalaha-project al aardig in de goede richting gaat, zowel in gemeenschapsontwikkeling als in natuurbehoud. Met de leiding van de koning van Barotse en de hulp van de Peace Parks en Kaza, zijn er genoeg mensen geïnvesteerd in dit gebied om het succesvol te maken. Als je echter iemand kent, of als je iemand bent die een lodge in Afrika wilt opzetten, dan is dit je kans!!

De jongens die ons rondleidden in het park lieten ons ook de plekken zien die gereserveerd zijn voor toekomstige lodges. En ze zijn behoorlijk geweldig!  Net als de visie van het hele project. Er is een grote vlakte die plek heeft voor een grote hoeveelheid grazers en veel mopane bos eromheen voor de browsers. Momenteel zijn ze in het proces van het herintroduceren van zebra's, impala's, gnoe’s en giraffen, afkomstig uit Botswana, Namibië en zelfs Kafue NP. Op dit moment is het gebied nog steeds omheind, maar in de toekomst zal het een kruispunt worden voor wilde dieren tussen Botswana, Namibië, Zambia, Zimbabwe en Angola. Een initiatief genaamd Kaza met als doel de verschillende natuurgebieden in deze landen met elkaar te verbinden en daarmee het grootste natuurgebied van Afrika te worden (lees hier meer over).


Omdat Simalaha precies op de grens ligt tussen Chobe NP en Kafue NP, is dit precies de verbinding die ze nodig hebben. Bovendien is het een goede plek voor toerisme omdat het aan de rivier de Zambesi ligt. In noord-westelijke richting zijn er de prachtige Ngonye watervallen die we hebben bezocht. En in de zuidoostelijke richting ligt Victoria falls. Als ze echter willen dat het toerisme zich ontwikkelt, is er één ding die ze echt eerst moeten verbeteren, namelijk de weg naar Livingstone (Victoria Falls). We hebben nog nooit in ons leven zo'n slechte weg gezien. Een reis die ongeveer anderhalf uur zou moeten duren, duurde nu vier uur! Deze weg heeft meer kuilen dan weg! Maar goed, dit heeft niets afgedaan aan de indrukwekkende ervaring die we hadden in Simalaha en we zijn blij dat we deze inspirerende plek hebben bezocht.

Posted by bylifeconnected in Projecten, 1 comment

The Cheshire Orphanage and Farm Development Project

The Cheshire Orphanage and Farm Development Project

Voor de Nederlandse versie - Klik hier

From Kafue National Park our next destination was Kaoma where we would visit an orphanage. We didn’t know however, that on that particular day it was Zambians Independence Day (from the British, as usual). As in every country, people go into town to drink, dance and ignore as much rules as they can! Luckily though, Africans are really careful around cars (probably for a good reason) so most of the time they were already out of our way when we passed. Cows and goats should learn something from that. Even though we were a little bit delayed, it was a lot of fun to see how the Zambians party!

We arrived at the Cheshire Orphanage Guesthouse around dark (which is around 18.30). The profits of this guesthouse are invested in the orphanage, a good way to spend your money! For the first time in a long time we slept in an actual bed, but I can tell you that I missed the rooftop tent. This had little to do with the awesomeness of our rooftop tent and more with the quality of the bed (it felt like sleeping in a bathtub, Kellie and me rolling towards each other all night, nice and cosy).

The wonderful ladies running this orphanage, explaining us how everything works here.

The next morning we would become very inspired. We were guided to the orphanage where we met with Sister Mary, an Irish immigrant. This  wonderful lady left Ireland about 39 years ago to set up the Cheshire Orphanage and provide orphaned children with a family. 39 years!! I think most people reading this, weren’t even close to being born (as Mary emphasized when we asked her when she came here!). Most of the children had lost their parents because of an HIV/AIDS epidemic or other diseases. Mary told us that there used to be no orphans in Zambia because everyone is family. However, after an epidemic, not all orphaned children can be adopted by their closest relatives. One family has always at least two children and most of the time more. As relatives are preoccupied with sustaining their own children, a whole new family is too much. This makes an orphanage, like the Cheshire Orphanage, a crucial facility in any region of Zambia or Africa.

Sister Mary (from Ireland) and Ruth (from Zambia). They have invested their lives in helping these children.

The original strategy of the orphanage was to take in the babies, who couldn’t take care of themselves, and provide for them until they are old enough to walk around on their own. Then they would be able to go back to their family, because family is the most important thing in Zambia. However, their family would not return to adopt the orphans. They spent a lot of time finding the families of as many orphans as possible. However, some children remained with them and now regard the orphanage as their home. After this story, we weren’t that surprised when Mary told us that the Orphanage, that at times provided a home for up to 60 babies, isn’t taking in anymore children. The reason, as almost always, seems to be the lack of funds. Ruth, the woman who has taken over charge from sister Mary, and has worked there for over 25 years, she told us that right now they only have about 40% of the income they need. Here’s what they need it for: The 23 children that live there, are currently at an age where they go to school/college and as any parent hopes to provide for its children, the Orphanage pays their tuition in full. Eight of the children go to college to learn traits such as nursing, mechanics, environmental engineering or school teacher, the remaining children go to a primary or secondary school.

A very happy picture of the children from the orphanage. As we were not allowed to take pictures due to privacy reasons, they gave us this picture!

The tuition costs in Zambia are very high. Primary school is basically only payment of the uniforms, books, etc. However, for secondary school you pay about €300 a year tuition fee and for college around €1000 a year. And this does not include costs for books, clothes, food or extras. What it means is that if you want highly educated children in Zambia, parents have to pay a  fortune. Especially if you have a lot of children, like most have. The orphanage funds it all though. They have chosen for a strategy that sustains the children until they can provide in their own livelihood.

Another big part of the orphanage is the farm. It is the vision of the orphanage to be fully self-sufficient. This is their aim, so they won’t have to depend on the irregularity of funds, because it can put the education of the children at risk. As a result, the orphanage started the Farm Development Project. By making nshima (corn meal or pap), peanut butter, farming Moringa trees and potatoes, and having chickens, pigs and ducks, the farm contributes as much as possible to the funds for the orphanage. In addition, this project learns the kids to be self-sufficient.

Do you want to know more about this project? Contact us, or visit the website; click here.

The bags prepared to take in the seeds of the Moringa trees. After some time investment, these will provide a lot of profits for the orphans.

Posted by bylifeconnected in Projects, 5 comments