Monday, October 26, 2009

Khama Rhino Santuary, Botswana- Summer 2004

In June Hannah Bambridge was one of Concordia's first volunteers to take part in a project with our partner organization BWA in Botswana. She joined a team of 15 international volunteers to assist at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, a community based wildlife project formed to project the diminishing numbers of white rhinos and to bring economic benefits to the local community through tourism and a sustainable use of natural resources.

The idea of throwing 15 strangers from 8 different countries and expecting us to get on is a strange fact it felt rather like big Brother at time…but it worked and it was an awesome experience!

The days started early (if you wanted to or later if you wanted to sleep) and we got up before dawn and went with the rangers on duty to check on the rhinos and other animals in the park (zebra, wildebeest, impala, giraffe, and ostrich). The rest of the day was theoretically filled with work which varied a lot from painting fences and cutting down undergrowth to teaching the rangers about how to make a website. I spent most of my time making a booklet for local school children about trees in the park and their traditional and medicinal uses and the importance of not cutting them down. I say that the days were ‘theoretically’ filled with work because actually lots of our time was spent doing other things such as going on game drives (at night and during the day), going shopping in the local town, collecting firewood and also there were LOADS of football matches.

The rangers loved having us in the park and had arranged their whole season of football to coincide with our stay, so there were a number of matches against the local teachers, the army and the carpenters! The evenings were very relaxed, cooking was quite a long process because we cooked in massive pots over a fire, and every evening we would sit around the fire and chat and drink ‘Shake Shake Chibuki’ which is a local beer made from fermented maize and costs less than 2p/litre. The rangers often came and sat with us or we would go to their camps and we spent a couple of evenings having a crazy African-style party with loads of dancing to amazing beats around the fire.

There were two weekends whilst on the camp. In the first weekend we all just went for a local walk with one of the rangers and met some more of the locals which was great fun. It was wonderful because we were walking through these villages where everybody is living in mud and straw huts but yet the young could speak English (obviously they spoke Setswana to each other) so we could talk to the locals without the need for an interpreter…and they were keen to talk to us.

On the second weekend 5 of us from the camp borrowed a car from a man (who was quite appropriately called Choice!) who owned the local furniture shop. We went to the Tuli block which is world famous for its elephants (in fact there are more elephants in Botswana than any other country in the world and they are such a problem that the locals want to start culling them). We spent Saturday night camping on the banks of the Limpopo river listening to the sounds of lions, baboons and other unidentifiable animals all around and it was the most amazing (and scary!) night of my life!

All in all it was a brilliant experience and no, 15 of us didn’t save any dying children or bring about world peace in two and a half weeks but we did help the rangers and they were really grateful for the work we did. Not only that but we have also increased their understanding of Western culture and I personally have learnt a lot about Africa and their traditions, hardships and way of life. I am currently planning my next trip there…

Hannah Bambridge

Click here for pictures of projects in Botswana

Click here for a country profile of Botswana

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