Festival fever struck us hard the day we were meant to leave Race for Rhino’s. After such a fabulous time at this epic event we knew we had to leave but something was holding us back. We wanted to sit by the water filled pan and soak up the beautiful view for a couple more hours so we were joined by a good group of people and one legend that provided meat and a couple cold ones for the lunch time Braai. What a way to finish and depart the event, bellies full and having fully enjoyed our last sight of the Sua Pan we packed the beast up and began making our way towards Nata.
Fortunately, we met a lady at the Race for Rhino’s who owned the Shell petrol station in Nata, which had so generously gave us a small ‘Rondawel’ (traditional round houses) to stay in as well as a hot meal from the kitchen. We spent the night chilling around a big fire with all the Nata locals exchanging stories and having a good laugh. When we finally resided to our room, we shared a queen bed between three of us snoring in each other’s ears while the fourth cosied up to the wall on the mattress.
We now began our drive up to Pandamatenga where we to meet an old friend of ours, Angelo. It is an extremely straight road, beautiful scenery but can get quite tedious so the large amounts of Elephant herds we came across kept us very entertained and in awe at the beauty of these animals. We slowed down to as much as we could without coming to a complete stop due to the risk of an Elephant deciding that it didn’t like the Tuk Tuk and charging us. Obviously, we are not in the best getaway vehicle and coming into contact with one of these majestic animals would certainly mean being flattened. We safely came into Panda where we were offered free accommodation at Panda Rest Camp before heading out with our mate to check the beautiful and vast farm lands in Pandamatenga, which not only host a variety of crops but also animals. It truly is a beautiful part of Botswana and the life lived out here is truly a special one indeed.
We now made our way to Kasane where we planned to meet Kelly Landen who is the Program Manager at Elephants without Borders (E.W.B), one of our beneficiaries. We sat down with her in the afternoon for a good chat on the work E.W.B is doing and is involved in. Walking into the compound where the office was located, several old Elephant collars rested on a horizontal pole. Kelly began to explain how these were the collars collected from deceased Elephants, mostly natural and one poached. They are a vital part of monitoring elephants, allowing the team to constantly track the migration routes of the animals as well as keep eyes on them for protection. These things are not cheap. The cost of one collar is around US$4,000 for the device itself, then there is the attributable cost associated with applying,collecting and maintaining these collars making the total cost to track one Elephant around US$10,000, a valuable and important use of such money.
E.W.B was officially founded in 2004 in Botswana by Mike Chase, a scientist and dedicated conservationist. Prior to this no collar tracking or monitoring was done in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The team uses the collars and an aeroplane to monitor Elephants migrations but are not limited to this one animal but a variety of animal species such as hippos, giraffes and many others. Their goal is to maintain sustainability continually because an initiative like this doesn’t have an end goal but rather a constant need to do the hard work required to maintain the livelihood of the beautiful animals in Southern Africa. Having collected over 15 years of data including personally collected data they use trend analysis to understand migration patterns and animal behaviour adding extremely valuable information for preservation and conservation in these areas.
While monitoring is a huge part of the work E.W.B does they are not limited to just that. A lot of research has gone into the land conflict problem that arises when a community such as the town of Kasane grows. As the community grows and developments arise Elephant migration corridors are affected forcing them to find alternative routes and in some cases come into contact with humans in the area. Huge amounts of work are being done to educate the surrounding communities about living alongside these animals and being respectful and mindful of their space. E.W.B is identifying land for open access whilst working with local communities on this issue so everyone is aware and works together to maintain a positive, friendly relationship with these majestic creatures who have roamed this area long before humans arrived.
It was an extremely educational meeting we had and we fully support the fantastic work an organisation such as this is doing in preserving and protecting several valuable animals. Without E.W.B, who knows how long some of these animals would last so a very warm hearted and appreciated thank you to Mike Chase, Kelly Landen and the team at E.W.B for the great effort they are putting in, we salute you.
E.W.B put us up at Chobe Safari Lodge for two nights which was a fantastic treat to stay at such a wonderful establishment right on the Chobe River. We met a great bloke who offered us a game boat cruise on the Chobe River to witness some of the wildlife in the area which is always a fantastic experience. One can never get sick of seeing Elephants in their natural habitat as we came across a huge heard frolicking in the mud and water. While being distracted by the epic sight no one seemed to notice a slight issue that developed itself at the rear of the boat. We noticed the commotion happening so being the intrigued souls we are we went to have a look only to discover that we had lost one of the two engines for the boat! A genuinely amusing moment at first but then came the issue of trying to retrieve the engine. For someone who doesn’t know, the Chobe River is rampant with crocodiles and hippos so this was no easy or safe task. Luckily one brave soul, either ballsy as hell or a bit daft, offered his services as he dove to the depths below to search for the engine. After a few dives, he was successful in locating the engine and hauling it up as a large roar from the crowd erupted in cheer, for this man was a hero. We all helped secure the engine by holding it up with chains attached to the boat. Unfortunately, the engine was temporarily buggered so we had to return home with just one engine which also had to be man handled as the turning power of one engine made it difficult to steer. So, as we cruised home in the sunset, slightly slower than before with a man literally riding the engine as if he was controlling a horse, we all made it back to shore in one piece. What a way to finish the second leg of our expedition and we were extremely grateful for all the memories Botswana offered us.