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You have probably seen him on the National Geographic Channel or read his books. He is considered one of Africa`s most colourful modern day explorers. An adventurer, author, TV Personality and fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Getaway Magazine calls him their Explorer in Residence, the most travelled man in Africa.
His family adventures, many of which are world firsts, have included:
A Cape Town to Cairo crossing of Africa in open boats, the Zambezi and Congo Rivers in the footsteps of Livingstone and Stanley, and a circumnavigation of Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake.
He has sailed the Makgadigadi Salt Pans in land yachts and in another expedition called ‘Extreme Latitude’ they travelled on foot, by bicycle, bullock cart, dugout canoe and Land Rover circumnavigating the globe by land following the Tropic of Capricorn.
Their year long “African Rainbow” expedition to the Somali border and back in an Arab sailing dhow allowed them to distribute tens of thousands of mosquito nets to pregnant mothers and children under the age of five in a campaign called “One Net One Life”.
Using adventure to improve lives, “The Outside Edge”, a 448 day 33 country geographic and humanitarian expedition to track the outline of Africa has been hailed as the most successful expedition ever undertaken in support of Malaria Prevention.
Other adventures have included a number of journeys in the footsteps of the early explorers in which he and his family team have survived countless attacks of Malaria, the threat of bandits, wild animals and the danger of unexploded landmines. After a lifetime of travelling Africa he has just returned from a dangerous and difficult journey to complete the entire African continent.
“I feel blessed to be born under African skies and with my family and team of fellow adventurers to be privileged to live the life of a modern day adventurers and with your support to be able to continue to use these adventures to improve and save lives. Good luck and thanks for all the support
Life is a great Adventure.
Siyabonga, Asante Sana.”
Land Rover Dispatch 32 – 'Welcome to the Kingdom'
It's 36 days since we took off to track the Lubombo Mountains from ancient Thulamela, Crooks Corner (where Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa meet) and Pafuri. South by mountain bike and Landies. What an adventure it's been into the heart of the 'Rhino War' zone, giving Project Rhino KZN soccer games and Rhino Protection Art competitions to schools and keeping up the Land Rover supported United Against Malaria and Mashozi’s Rite to Sight work. Always so much to do…and now at Mananga Border we cross into Swaziland. What a welcome as district and conservation officials line up to welcome the Land Rover Expedition by adding their signed messages to the ' Rhino Landy'. Tonight at Mbuluzi we meet up with the mountain bike team, haven’t seen them for days. It will be a celebration. Thanks everybody for the great support. Will keep you posted.
The Honarable Prince Wisdom Dlamini, whom we
met on the Boundless Southern Africa Exhibition,
once again gives us great support in Swaziland
and signs the Rhino Landy
What a welcome as district and conservation
officials line up to welcome the Land Rover
Expedition by adding their signed messages to
the 'Rhino Landy'
Land Rover Dispatch 33 – The Talking Stick
It's an old African tradition, and tonight, around the hardwood campfire at Mbuluzi, it's Mike Nixon, the tough leader of the mountain bike team, who holds the heavy hand-carved Induku that gives him the power to speak. ' It's been challenging,' he says, ‘mud, rocks, rain, stories of Rhino poachers and peddling through endless soft sand .... all the way through the Rhino war zone, following the Kruger fence line on the Mozambican side from South of Massingir.’ They are cycling all the Lubombos. It's something of a world first. We haven’t seen them for 5 days. We celebrate. It's always great when the mountain bike and Landy teams meet up. Tomorrow they must carry their bikes down into the Shewula Gorge and then wade across the Mbuluzi. 'Be careful, it's full of crocs', we’re told. Will keep u posted…
The local Sangoma and the Rhino Landy in
Mountain bike team Shaun Forster and Mike Nixon
giving soccer lessons to orphans in Swaziland
Mike Nixon and the Mamas of Shewula on the
top of the Lubombas
Catarina Magagula playing the bow stringed
A Swazi Mama playing the Sitwe le Twele
Mashovashova Mike peddles his mountain
bike all day and dances at night
Joining in the fun
The Shewula community presents the
Greybeard with a cockerel
Land Rover Dispatch 34 – Mountain Bike team Missing…
Across croc-infested water
As arranged, we wait with the Landies up on top of the Lubombo's at Madzivikane...Nothing. No cell phone or radio calls from Mike Nixon who heads up the Mountain Bike team. No normal hand-scribbled note with a runner. The hours go by. We send a Landy down to Mlawuia gate... Nothing... I have scary visions of one of them being taken by a croc as, deep down in the gorge, with their bikes above their heads they are forced to wade across the croc-infested Mbuluzi... We had been warned. We will give it 3 hours and if we've still heard nothing, we'll drive up to Shewula where they left from and launch a search party.
Land Rover Dispatch 35 – Still No News
They are an incredibly capable team. Something must be wrong. Mike Nixon who’s leading the mountain bike team has climbed the 7 summits of the world to include Mt Everest. He's won the Cape Epic several times and is the only man to have cycled the Great African Rift Valley. Shaun Forster his cycling partner is a Springbok mountain bike downhill champ. We will give it 1 hour and then our plan of action will be to send expedition member Bruce Leslie with a hand held radio and a group of local Swazi men who know the gorge to go and search for them .... Will keep u posted.
Land Rover Dispatch #29 – Farewell from Bhejane
‘A Good Omen’
What a treat, a good omen, as we come off the Kruger National Park fence line towards Crocodile Bridge. A ' Bhejane 'mock charges the journos’ Landy. What a privilege to end this section with a rare farewell from a Black Rhino, a species now threatened with extinction. But I worry that he's too close to the fence line. Will he survive the next full moon? That’s when the poachers from Mozambique move in to kill.
Bhejane - will he survive the full moon?
Land Rover Dispatch #30 – An extraordinary experience – a massage from Di Robertson, expedition volunteer
I have just returned from the extraordinary experience of joining King and his team on the Izintaba Zobombo Expedition on the leg through the Kruger/Mozambique border and through Swaziland. I travelled with my sister Debbie and her husband Martin Finch in a convoy of seven Land Rovers into the areas where rhino poaching has become so extreme that the Kruger Park is currently losing on average two rhinos a day – 270 since the beginning of the year. In a week we saw only two white rhino – and one of those ran away and hid in the bush. Heart wrenching.
Kingsley’s approach on this journey is to take the message of the importance of saving the rhino to remote schools in Mozambique, Swaziland and the areas of South Africa that adjoin. He has organized an art competition at each school that he visits along the way – the children are to draw a picture of rhino accompanied by a message. Debbie and I judged one of these competitions and were blown away the graphic pictures of rhinos being approached by poachers in hooded masks with huge saws, bloodied horns dropping to the ground – and soldiers in combat uniform dropping out of the sky from helicopters with guns to shoot the poachers. The poachers are quite likely known to the children.
At the end of this expedition all the entries from all the schools will be judged and there is a prize of R1000 for the best message and picture combination.
Debbie and I found it difficult to choose between the great artwork and the wonderful messages. I was inspired by the following message to donate a further R1000 to the Kingsley Holgate Foundation so that a separate prize can be awarded for the best message:
From a Grade 7 pupil:
Rhinos are being butchered all around us
We are all upset to see this happen
But since we are not game rangers, or millionaires, or powerful politicians,
Cane we really make a contribution to save a rhino?
For our children’s children,
Yes You Can
I was deeply moved by the effort Kingsley is making to reach out to the children and make them understand that it is their futures that are risk if poaching is not stopped. Once the precious wildlife heritage of this region has been decimated, the economy will be destroyed. Joining this expedition was an experience I will treasure and it has really got me thinking and reading about this subject. Recommendations for reading are Laurence Anthony’s book The Last Rhino – and in particular a devastating book called Killing for Profit by Julian Rademeyer.
Land Rover Dispatch #31 – Blowing in the wind
An aerie place
Greetings from Mbuzini on the western slopes of the Lubombos, close to the point where SA Mozambique and Swaziland meet in the north. It's an aerie place where the wind whistles mournfully through the incision in thirty five tall upright rust red steel tubes each of which symbolizes the number of lives lost in the air crash that took place here on Sunday 19 October 1986 when the Tupolev -134 carrying president Samora Machel of Mozambique and thirty four others perished when the plane crashed into the Lubombos in the night. Brightly coloured plastic flowers lie between bits of the wreckage, framed pictures of the dead line the walls and there’s the story of Samora Machel, founder of the nation.
The cause of the crash is yet unresolved. Was it a false navigation beacon planted by the South Africans? Was it shot down or as many believed was it the fault of the Russian pilot high on vodka? We leave to sound of the wind in the pipes in Bob Dylan's words: The answer my friend is blowing in the wind....the answer is blowing in the wind…
Plastic flowers among the plane wreckage,
the crash which killed Samora Machel
Kingsley Holgate and William Gwebu at the Samora
Land Rover Dispatch #26 – Following the fence
‘A message from Mike Nixon’
From the Elephant River gorge and along the infamous "8 mile road" atop the Lubombo's, the expedition cycling team continued along the Mozambique border parallel to the Kruger Park fence, before dropping down to Xhongile bush camp. This is the epicentre of the Rhino War. We were shown the new homes of Masingir's "Mr Big". It seems everyone knows who they are, it's just that they ply their trade and display their ill-gotten wealth with impunity. Concession owners of the parks next to Kruger’s fence tell of the difficulty they have in the relatively simple task of securing a firearm license to protect their animals. Our route now follows the fence south.
Land Rover Dispatch #27 – Large holes and rough sand tracks
‘A message from Mike Nixon’
The DuPont Game farm sits 80 km south of Xhongile and is our destination today. For 30 km we follow the fence. Large holes, some man-made are numerous. The Lebombo 4x4 eco trail inside Kruger runs right against the fence with a perfectly graded road whilst we, cycle on a non-existent track! We take the opportunity to slip into Kruger and leave a "bush message" for Kingsley and team. The trail turns east away from the fence and descends the Lubombo's to the vast plains below. Rough sand tracks take us towards Mapulanguene to a deserted campsite surrounded by Hippo where we are hosted by Riaan and Paul, the farm managers. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch #28 – YES WE CAN!
‘A message from Kingsley’
Everyday is full of exciting challenges. As the Izintaba Zobombo expedition slowly inches its way along the Lubombo's, the mountain bike team headed by Mike Nixon is pedalling south down the Kruger National Park boundary on the Mozambique side. The Landy team, now joined by Land Rover SA’s Lesley Sutton and a team of volunteer journalists, is tracking the range through 'Kruger' on the SA side. Volunteers Martin and Debbie Finch and Di from New Zealand join in with an extra Landy. This means more support for rhino art, soccer and Mazhosi's Rite to Sight in the west of the park. Once again we amazed at the kids messages on the rhino art. Relief Mgiba, a grade 7 student from Lisbon Secondary School near Kruger Gate, writes: "Rhino's are being butchered all around us and we are all upset to see this happen, BUT since we aren't game rangers, millionaires or powerful politicians, can we really make a contribution to save a rhino for our children's children?"
She ends with writing in big bold letters "YES WE CAN!"
Lesley Sutton and her team of visiting journalists
who endorse the Project Rhino KZN Landy that
carries 100's of signatures.
Izintaba Zobombo Expedition Land Rover Convoy
following the Kruger Park Fence, the epicentre
of the Rhino War.
Once again we were amazed at the kids
messages on the rhino art.
Lunch! Kingsley, Vanessa, Di, Martin and
William tucking in.
Land Rover Dispatch #24 – What will we tell our grandchildren?
‘The butchering continues unabated’
The Land Rover supported Expedition is still operating in that part of Mozambique that's referred to as the ' Rhino War Zone '. It's from here that most of the senseless killing takes place, the bloody butchering of these prehistoric creatures that have been with us for over 50 million years, continues unabated. Will we tell our grandchildren that we just stood by and did nothing?
Today, at the village of Cubu we are setting up to run a 'Rhino Art competition with over a 1000 kids many of whose family members are known ‘Rhino Horn' poachers... and then a Project Rhino KZN soccer game, all good ‘hearts and minds' stuff. But don't quite know what reaction we will get in an area where many of the poachers have been fetched back from the Kruger National Park in body bags. Will keep u posted.
Art depicting the Rhino Killing Fields where elephants are the next target
Land Rover Dispatch #25 – A bit tense
‘Not only are the rhinos dying but also our brothers’
A bit tense at first in this village where the Rhino poachers strut around like un-touchable Al Capones. Here there seems no real will from the Mozambique government to put an end to this slaughter. Still we do what we came to do, Rhino art competitions for the kids, Mozzie nets for every pregnant mum and a 'Protect the Rhino Soccer game'. Graham Harman and his rangers from Xhongile Game Reserve give a realistic 'Rhino poaching' skit in which the poachers come of worst, leaving no doubt in the spectators minds that it is a foolish game to be in. One little artist reads her message out to the crowd: "please stop this terrible thing. Not only are the rhinos dying but also our brothers........
Cubu village kids take part in Protect the Rhino day
There's a Project Rhino KZN soccer
match with floating trophy and medals
for the winning team
Graham Harman and his team of rangers put up
a rhino protection skit where the poachers
come off second best
Each Cubu mom receives a lifesaving mosquito net
Land Rover Dispatch #23: World Malaria Day – a Message from Anna McCartney-Melstad, United Against Malaria
‘Malaria Warriors unites in the Fight Against Malaria’
We’ve just received this Dispatch from Anna McCartney-Melstad who joined us for World Malaria Day 2013 in Bilene.
As the mums with their babies tied to their backs gathered near a dusty football pitch in rural Bilene, Mozambique, a buzz filled the air. Footballers from two rival teams warmed up and the cheering section grow exponentially as the time grew nearer for kick-off.
This was no ordinary football match. Although the rivals duked it out on the pitch (home team won!), this day was special for another reason. The match fell on World Malaria Day, a day that although global in scope was celebrated in this small village in rural Mozambique with all of the gusto as the events commemorating the event in Geneva and New York City.
Nets were distributed to pregnant moms to be and mothers with small children. The mothers, identified by the village chief then watched net demonstrations given to the entire community. Excited that they would be able to protect themselves and their little ones from malaria, a disease that plagues Bilene, the moms happily returned home with a spring in their step.
This experience got me thinking about the true meaning of World Malaria Day, taking time out to appreciate all of the immense progress that has been made in the fight against this disease and also to recognize the significant investment in time, resources and energy it will take to wipe this scourge out for good. I am so thankful to Kingsley and Co. for the opportunity to join them for their World Malaria Day celebrations. King’s specialty is taking global ideas to the community level and he truly shone this World Malaria Day. Thanks all!
Land Rover Dispatch #22: Shocking Rhino News
‘The end of the game’
It’s with great sadness that our Izintaba Zobombo Expedition reaches the heart of the Rhino War Zone where uncontrolled poaching over the last couple of years has resulted in the last rhino being killed. That means that not a single rhino is left in the Limpopo National Park’s vast 1.1 million hectares. The last of these great prehistoric animals that have been around for over 50 million years is no longer and we need to take note of these words written by Dr. Ian Player:
‘Rhino have a particularly plaintive cry which once heard is never forgotten. The screams of agony from rhino that have had their horns chopped off while still alive should reach out into the hearts of all of us.’
On the black markets of South East Asia, rhino horn is worth more per kilogram than gold, platinum, cocaine or heroin.
Little did we think at the time that we first envisaged this expedition to track the Lubombo Range from Crooks Corner in the North to Ghost Mountain in the South, that we would end up in a Rhino War Zone. Poachers still cross from here into the Kruger National Park and rhinos still wander over to the Mozambique side. And so we continue with our ‘hearts and minds’ work of using rhino art competitions and Land Rover supported ‘Man of the Match’ football games to educate school children in the area and for more hard-nosed stuff, support anti-poaching units wherever we can.
Land Rover Dispatch #16 - Mission Accomplished
‘But no comms from the cycling team’
Travelling with conservation icon Mabarule and Kruger National park educational officer Vanessa Strydom, the Landies don’t miss a beat, we complete the first half of the parks 4x4 eco trail that runs down the Lubombo Mountains. This fascinating Kruger National Park run, Lebombo Eco Trail, can be booked by small groups of conservation minded 4x4 enthusiasts. It’s well worth it and gives participants a deep insight into the somewhat unknown Lubombo Mountains.
We get hit by a rain storm and still no comms from the mountain bike team who left us at Crooks Corner Pafuri to track the Lubombo mountains South through the Parc de National do Limpopo. I'd overheard them asking their team leader what they should do when confronting elephant or lion. His typical response was: "oh that’s easy, we just go into a huddle, hold our bikes high above our heads and scream blue murder ". Around the fire at night we talk of nothing else but the Rhino crisis. We'll keep you posted.
Vanessa Strydom and the Greybeard
Through the Kruger National Park
The Lebombo 4x4 Eco Trail
Inzintaba Zombombo Expedition convoy
Land Rover Dispatch #17: A Plan Comes Together
‘Through Rhino War territory’
Rhino Conservation education for the kids, handed over to the local teacher
It’s always great when a plan comes together. We pick up the cycling team on the radio and all meet at a village to do more Rite to Sight and United Against Malaria work. The head of Parc National do Limpopo and his team give us a hero’s welcome and buy 100% into Project Rhino KZN's art competitions and soccer games we'll be hosting throughout the area.This Land Rover supported Izintaba Zobombo expedition is throwing its weight 100% behind Rhino protection and education and where we are now on the Mozambique side of the Kruger National Park fence line, is at the heart of the Rhino war territory. We'll keep you posted.
The Kingsley Holgate Foundation reaches children en-route
Land Rover Dispatch #18: Two Village Men Shot Dead
‘Don’t want to be here after dark’
Izintaba Zobombo Expedition leader Kingsley Holgate explains how the art competition works
Are you prepared to go and do some work in a village that has been subverted by rhino poachers, it could be dangerous, says our contact, who would rather remain anonymous. I see a look of extreme embarrassment in the eyes of the village headmaster when we hand over rhino education and conservation magazines as well as the art papers, each with the outline of a rhino. Of course, he knows exactly what’s been going on in his village. We request him to ask the kids to fill in the page with what they know about rhinos. Just last week 2 young men from this village were shot dead by a Kruger Park anti-poaching unit. The interpretation of the kids art will be interesting!! We push on - we don’t want to be here after dark.
Land Rover Dispatch #19: Unsung Heroes in the Rhino War
‘We all need to do our bit’
It's one of those typical expedition campfire evenings, sparks fly into the night sky under a giant chamfuta tree. The famed talking stick is passed from hand to hand. The best are Rafael Chomane Chauque words - he's a Shangaan ranger at Shongile Game Reserve on the Mozambique side of the Kruger Park.
‘I love the rhinos,’ he says, ‘and when we find them we heard them like cattle back into the Kruger National Park once for 7 days through the thick bush even at night with the poachers and their guns behind us waiting like vultures...’
Chauque, together with the delightful managers of Shongile, Graeme and Danni Harman, scribble messages of solidarity on the "Rhino Landy". There are so many individual unsung heroes in this rhino war, but what we also need is the will and commitment of Governments to put an end to this despicable trade in rhino horn that will lead to the extinction of a species!!! We all need to do our bit and act now. We'll keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch #20: The Brave Team at Xonghile
Whilst tracking the Lubombo Range on the Mozambican side of the Kruger National Park, we’d met with Greame Harman and his team from Xonghile Game Park. One of his men, a Shangaan by the name of Rafael Chomane Chauque, had shared the story with us of how they had bravely herded rhinos that had strayed onto Xonghile back into the Kruger National Park to stop them being butchered by poachers and we posted the story as a dispatch called: Unsung Heroes in the Rhino War. Now, some days later, we receive this more detailed dispatch from Graeme:
Rhino herding (only to be done with white rhino )
Rhino disperse with the first rains and thus move out of KNP and into Xonghile Game Park We have had 18 rhino come on to Xonghile this year both bulls and cows with calves
Even though Xonghile have a pan system of over 28 pans these rhino are restless and just walk in a bee line straight through the park in to the surrounding community areas
This is extremely detrimental for their health as the villages Cubo, Massingir and Covane have a very high density of rhino poachers living in them.
If the rhino are not protected they are normally shot with in 48hours.
The scout on Xonghile have perfected a technique of herding the rhino back in to the KNP.
It normally takes 6-9 men to get in front of the rhinos and form a ragged wall of smell and sound, this does not always work the first time and has to be repeated until the rhino turns and starts heading back to the KNP. We have learnt to the detriment of our skin and uniforms that there is not much tougher then rhino hide. The rhino crash their way through the bush until they get used to the man smell staying some 100m behind them and then the long walk begins.
The rhino somehow become relaxed with us behind them and over the days will start to feed and then when tired will even ly down and sleep for 2-3 hours before moving off a gain. This sometimes gives us chance to change the team for fresh legs as some days the back and to wonder can get up to 40km.
The real worries come when the rhinos are outside the park and the rhino and the team are shadowed by armed poacher in pickups. We have had one incidence when the poacher came within 200m of us and the rhino and kept this distance for 3 hours until dusk. Once the sun has gone down we can’t stay with the rhino for fear of getting to close but we have put the poachers of the spore so if the rhino is not visible we try and lead the poacher away from the real tracks and hope that the poaches on a dark night want find the rhino till morning then our walk begins again.
Land Rover Dispatch #21: World Malaria Day
‘Mosquito nets, education and soccer – getting the life-saving message across’
Moms line up for life-saving mosquito nets
Apart from the project rhino work attached to this Land Rover supported Izintaba Zobombo expedition is also our Rite to Sight and United Against Malaria work which we have been doing for years. Once again we get around to commemorating world malaria day. Game stores from Maputo travel all the way to bring bicycles as man of the match prizes. Pregnant mums and mums with kids under the age of 5 all show great appreciation for their life saving mosquito nets and we do crossover stories with a number of South African radio stations all looking for stories about what’s happening on world malaria day. We'll keep you posted.
Malaria education is essential
Land Rover Dispatch #14: An encounter with Benardo
‘A message from Mike Nixon’
Through knee high water, the mountain bikes crossed the Singwedzi River - its flood ravaged banks still scarred after the devastating floods of January. As a small demonstration of what it must have been like, the cyclists received their own dose of torrential rain turning sand into mud and forcing them into the vehicle to take them the final 25 km to Gaza Safari Camp at the foot of the Lebombo Mountains and just 2 km from the Kruger Park boundary on the Singwedzi. What greeted us was a devastated safari camp, years of painstaking work washed away in the January floods.
Shelter from the storm was provided by an open shed shared with a broken caterpillar bulldozer! Bernado - the camp manager and an ex ranger, had spent 18 years in the Park and over warm 2M beers he told us he was very aware of the Rhino poaching over his boundary. When asked what the solution is, his answer was 'Get the people out the park. There's no other way.'
We went on to ask him if this was a big task. He responded, 'Many more people coming into the park - they make too much money hunting.'
Through the villages we passed on our bicycles we were told of new 'immigrants' from Xai Xai, Inhambane and Maputo coming into the park. Many being transported in music filled GP registered Toyota double cabs which crossed our path.
Bernado looked into the fire and confirmed our thoughts, 'In the Park, it's not an animal problem, it's a people problem.'
Tomorrow sees us headed to cross the Limpopo.
Land Rover Dispatch 15: Slow going
‘A message from Mike Nixon’
Cycle Team cycles through Parc National De Limpopo. (PNL) After hard fought permission being granted to leave South Africa through the flood damaged and closed border gate at Pafuri, the expedition cycling team was after 3 hours of frustrating negotiations turned back on the Mozambique side were heightened tension was visible by the Mozambique authorities, apparently in reaction to SA's continued closure of the border after the floods in January.
The team made a spot decision to dash for the southern border post at Giriyondo where PNL's Park Warden Antony Abacar made all the arrangements for a smooth entry into Mozambique’s park. Mountain bikes prepared, the team followed by the Land Rover Disco 3 support vehicle, immediately set off to cycle the park along the 4x4 track following the Singwedzi River. Numerous washed out river crossings and some sand patches made the going slow until the village of Machamba. Here the riders, with the help of Bennett, the head of the local clinic, distributed nets to pregnant mothers who were in need of replacement nets from the "Land Rover supported Boundless Southern Africa Expedition" which distributed nets 4 years previously to the village.
The cyclists came across a group of "young hunters" resplendent in gold chains and new Barcellona football shirts near Charambe. They viewed the Landy’s "Project Rhino" stickers with suspicion but any tension was dispatched when their dilapidated push bikes were swapped for our carbon fibre race machines and a glass of "utchema" - the local hootch made from the seeds of palm bushes- was shared. With heavy rains approaching, the expedition team rode on North towards the Kruger border - will keep you posted.
‘A conservation icon’
Kruger Park icon Johan Oelofse is a giant of a man, built like a Baobab, on his neck he still wears the scars of a leopard attack. He's named Mabarule after a well-known chief who like Johan left his size 14 tracks all over this area of the Lubombo's.
We had first met years ago when he led us across the Kruger Park as part of a Land Rover journey to track the Tropic of Capricorn around the world.
Now we are back standing amongst the ruins of an ancient settlement above Shilowa Poort. "I once had the honour", says Mabarule, "of bringing Sam Shilowa here to meditate with the spirits. The old man sheepishly explained that in the early days his forefathers would have brought snuff and a calabash, he had now brought a bottle of wine and a cigar. He had gone up near that old Baobab while I sat with my rifle across my lap, he'd come here to investigate a land claim on behalf of his people. Fortunately sanity prevailed, let's protect this place and keep it unspoilt", he said, "like it was at the time of our forefathers". So it is today as we sit on the rocks on top of the Lubombo's, looking west across Kruger, one of the greatest wildlife reserves on earth.
Earlier Mabarule had showed us 2 remote bush camps where he is being redeployed with a group of men to help save our Rhino's in that area!
Mabarule paying respects to an ancient baobab
‘An iconic place’
Hippos grunt and giant crocodiles sun themselves on the sandbanks where Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe join at the confluence of the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers...
Years ago this was the hunting grounds for many a curious and lawless scallywag, many of them poachers who would dodge the law by hopping from one country to another. The road has been closed for ages due to flooding but because of the Expedition's link to Rhino protection we get special permission to reach this iconic place known as Crooks Corner.
It’s from here led by Kruger Park stalwarts Vanessa Strydom and Johan Oelofse that we tackle the Lebombo 4x4 trail south leaving Mike Nixon and the mountain bike team to peddle the Mozambican side...never a dull moment.
‘Getting the message to children’
We have given hundreds of soccer games across Africa, it's a great way of getting a message across to kids. We swop their soccer balls made from waste plastic and twine for quality balls. There are whistles, trophies, medals and even a man of the match competition with a bicycle and certificate as a prize. On this Izintaba Zobomobo Expedition we're using kids soccer as a way of getting across the Rhino Protection message.
And then to help with the "hearts and minds" side of what we do there are Rhino Art competitions, malaria prevention for mums and the Rite to Sight campaign in which thousands of spectacles will be distributed to poor sighted people along the route. It's all about using adventure to improve lives. Thanks Land Rover for making a difference.
‘Into the hearts and minds of children’
In camp we once again go through the art pieces from the Project Rhino KZN competitions.
They tell a fascinating story of armed poachers complete with helicopter patrols and anti-poaching units, Grade 7 student Abel Mtileni of Phahlelo school writes "I wish God could create a world without poachers". In his art there is a centre piece of a White Rhino and Elephant talking, "let's unite against poachers"
Show Marlinele draws poachers hacking off a horn, his message reads "we need to take our Rhino's to a safe place, it's too easy for poachers to kill...we want Rhinos forever in South Africa"
12 year old Forest Nobela writes "people must not kill Rhinos because our grandchildren will only see them in pictures, let them not join Dodos in extinction"
Sailes Tshibambu's message is short "chinese stop killing our Rhinos".
Land Rover Dispatch #8: Getting into hearts and minds
‘Doing what we came to do
The Project Rhino KZN man of the match football challenge, the Protect our Rhinos Art competition, the Rite to Sight for poor sight people and the Malaria Prevention work attached to this Izintaba Zobombo Expedition are already a great success.
Doing what we came to do and getting into the hearts and minds of communities adjacent to the reserves protecting our Rhinos. The art tells a story, by the end of the Expedition thousands of pieces of children’s Rhino Art will be judged at the end of Expedition event at the Ghost Mountain Inn.
Land Rover Dispatch #9: A turbo charged event – a Message from Mike Nixon
‘Four local schools participate’
The Makuleke community schools adjacent Kruger Park Punda Maria Gate came together for the Izintaba Zobombo Expeditions first major community event on 18th April. Sanparks’s Vanessa Strydom helped coordinate a combined soccer, rhino art competition, malaria prevention and Rite to Sight. Four local primary schools together with Makuleke community leaders participated in what was a turbo charged event.
Boxahaku Primary School in green (the black rhinos) played a very competitive game of soccer against the Makuleke Primary School in white (the white rhinos). The game went to a penalty sudden death with the white rhinos winning the floating trophy and Pretty Plulwane winning man of the match. Rhino conservation was emphasized by a rhino art competition judged by expedition volunteer Ankia.
Malaria prevention bed nets and Rite to Sight completed a full day of Makuleke hospitality.
Land Rover Dispatch #5: The Horror of it all
‘Another has fallen’
One behind the other, 5 expedition Landies cross the Shingwedzi, then north on a loop we see the harsh reality of it all, a poached White Rhino lying in a pool of water, a bullet hole through the head probably shot down as he was drinking, his horn hacked off. This is what we are up against!
On the black markets of South East Asia rhino horn is worth more than gold and the poachers will stop at nothing. We all need to help the survival of a species that has been around for more than 50 million years.
In the afternoon we visit the Makuleke community to distribute Project Rhino KZN art materials and set up for a big Rhino Conservation man of the match soccer game. We are doing what we came to do.
A Tragedy: The harsh reality of it all
Majestic, all powerful and part of our natural heritage.
This is how we’re supposed to see our Rhino’s
Izintaba Zobombo Expedition convoy
Land Rover Dispatch #6: The Path to Ancient Thulamela
‘The place of King Ingwe’
Tough as nails with 18 years in the Kruger Park, her .458 calibre rifle at the ready, Vanessa Strydom leads us up an old elephant pathway. Grey Headed Parrots flit between the baobabs, "be quiet", she wispers "you can get anything up here, buffalo, lion and elephant".
She tells us how an archaeologist working on the site, after having discovered the skeleton of the King of Thulamela, found a Leopard lying next to his vehicle, it looked at him knowingly, stood up and walked off into the bush. "It was spiritual" he had told us, so no wonder that they now refer to the grave as the place of "King Ingwe", the Leopard! Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch #7: The Golden Rhino
‘The place of Giving Birth’
So here we are, the entire Izintaba Zobombo Expedition team, amongst the ancient stone walls and the elephantine baobabs of a lost city that once housed some 2000 people and ‘carbon dates’ back to around 1240 AD. Thulamela is a Venda word that means ‘The place of giving birth’.
Fitting don’t you think for the start place of a new adventure. So out of respect for this ancient place, we place the flat of our hands on the gnarled grey trunk of a timeless baobab, one of many that grow amongst the ruins of this once great city that lies at the edge of a plateau bordering the floodplain of the Levuvhu River in the far north of the Kruger Park.
Archaeologists have found evidence here and at nearby Mapungubwe of early gold smelting, with the most famous object being a small, beautifully crafted ‘Golden Rhinoceros’ made from thin gold leaf pinned with cold tacks to a carved wooden base. I wonder what the long since disappeared inhabitants of these ancient cities would have thought of the present day slaughter of the species.
Let’s truly hope that our children’s children will still be able to observe rhinos in the wild and not only a small gold ornament in the Mapungubwe museum. Will keep you posted.
‘Toxic infusion – the latest weapon’
And so sitting in an open sided rondawel, Andrew Parker, CEO of Sabi Sand Wildtuin Association, tells us of what they are up to in the fight to save our rhinos. It’s called ‘infusion’.
Toxic infusions are the latest weapon to counter the thriving industry of rhino poaching in the big game areas adjoining South Africa’s Kruger Park. Consumers of the powdered horn in Asia risk becoming seriously ill from ingesting a so-called “medicinal product” which is now contaminated with a non-lethal chemical package. The 49,500 hectare Sabi Sand Wildtuin has launched the country’s first large-scale operation to toxify the horns of its rhinos, together with an indelible pink dye which exposes the illegal contraband on airport scanners worldwide.
The Sabi Sand Wildtuin Association’s game-changing toxification campaign is as much about sending a message to the illegal trade worldwide as it is about rendering the rhino horns inside its perimeter both worthless and hazardous as traditional medicine.
Andrew Parker, 41, CEO of the SSWA, says that compromising the product is the most effective deterrent to the illegal market.
“Sabi Sand is leading this programme because we are located at the epicentre of the problem at the southern end of the Kruger Park, which suffers up to 70% of the rhino killings. Poaching syndicates are here in large numbers and we are vulnerable as a western buffer between them and the Kruger Park."
Inserting a toxin into the horns of rhinos is a process which has been used on 100-plus animals in the past 18 months, pioneered by veterinary surgeon Dr Charles van Niekerk at the Rhino and Lion reserve at Kromdraai north-west of Johannesburg. The results have proved to be non-harmful to the rhinos, cost-effective, and an immediate and long-lasting solution for private game reserves which are seen as easy targets for poachers.
The only possible danger to rhinos having their horns infused is the stress caused by being immobilised. For this reason, says Andrew Parker, the Sabi Sand treatments are performed outside the hottest part of the day, and the up to 2 ton animals are brought round as quickly as possible. The toxin-dye injections are administered into the horn’s inert (painless) keratin by compressed air.
The Rhino Rescue Project’s Lorinda Hern explained to the authoritative conservation magazine Scientific American in 2011 that the toxin is a compound of parasiticides which are used to control ticks on farm animals like horses, cattle and sheep. It is also ox-pecker friendly. While the treatment is for the benefit and improved health of the animals, she said, it is toxic to humans. Symptoms of ingesting the drug cocktail – in powdered rhino horn, for example – would include nausea and vomiting.
Says Andrew Parker: “We are not aiming to kill the consumers, no matter what we think of them. We want to kill the illegal trade which is preying on our herds. Once the poachers discover that rhino horn from Sabi Sand has no value they will move on. Once the risk/reward balance changes, making incursions against our own very experienced security counter measures will no longer be worth the risk.”
“The media in South Africa and globally maintain a close watch on the shrinking herds of our rhino. The same platform can expose exactly what the poachers are up against from now on. They’ve had an easy ride so far, running a vast and brutal, hugely profitable trade under the noses of government authorities between here and Asia. Now we are forcing them to answer to their consumers about what they are passing off as medicine.”
‘Amashova shova takes on the challenge’
Kingsley's upcoming Great Izintaba Zobombo Expedition to follow the length of the Lubombo Mountains will once again be joined by "Amashova shova" Mike Nixon and a small team of mountain bikers and support crew, including expedition veteran and fellow "7 summiter" Andre Bredenkamp.
The bike team, Mike and fellow KZN north coasters, Marc Jason and Nic Jordan will cycle over 1000km off road to follow the entire expedition. With a large part of the early bike route being in Mozambique's Parc National de Limpopo, soft sand will be major factor, " having just come off Citrusdal's infamous sand mountains on my 10th Cape Epic, we hope the technical ability in the sand will hold up," Mike commented, as his team checked and loaded their bikes in Zinkwazi on a the purpose built expedition bike trailer.
"This expedition throws up some interesting logistics for the bike team," Mike added, "To cycle in the shadow of the Lubombo Mountains for their entire length, and be true to the expeditions name, we will need to split from the main group and be completely self-sufficient for several days at a time, this will take us into Mozambique's remote regions where Rhino Poaching in the adjacent Kruger Park has become endemic".
Besides riding over 6 hours a day the bike team will engage in satellite humanitarian events in support of the main expedition and will provide Malaria Education and Rhino conservation Art competitions along their route. "It's essential to get into the hearts and minds of the school kids living in these remote areas, to make them aware of the benefits of Rhino Conservation". Mike added, "Expedition stalwart, Babu, as our interpreter and guide will be invaluable in these interactions. Mike's bike team will provide regular updates and blogs on what will be yet another world first element to this Kingsley Holgate Foundation adventure.
Mike Nixon, leader of the mountain bike team on the previous Great African Rift Valley Expedition.
‘Together in the fight against rhino poaching’
Before an adventure it feels like a rat gnawing at ones stomach, that feeling of nervous anticipation. So much to do, so much to plan.
Zinkwazi village turned out for a farewell bash, and more signatures of solidarity added to the Rhino Landy. Then off the beach, what a surprise! Camilla, Mike and Peter of Trekking for Trash arrived. They are walking the entire SA coast line from Alexanderia to Kosi Bay, as a beach clean-up initiative. Adventure has such energy.
Travelling North to commence the expedition we are greeted with16 Rhino as we enter the Kruger National Park, it's a good luck omen.
At Skukuza General Johan Jooste, who heads up the anti-poaching unit, signs the Rhino Landy with the words 'Think big , start small, act Now '.
The message on the Landy from William Mabasa, PR Head of Sanparks, is to the point. It reads: 'Let us all protect our Rhinos.' Kingsley Holgate with expedition members Babu Cossa and Hugh Roe in the back.
Now we meet Andrew Parker, Ceo of Sabi Sands (on the right). He and his team have arrived to tell us more about the Rhino horn infusion process. This renders the horn unfit for consumption, the horn is then useless to the poacher and end user. Could this be the solution? Will keep you posted…
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