Wildlife Conservation in Botswana

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[Last updated: 15-Apr-2018]

These web pages are an electronic version of a paper diary that I kept (as best I could) during a five-week wildlife conservation project I participated in, between Sep-2016 and Oct-2016.

After returning home (following four weeks in Thailand (in Jul-2016)), I became thoroughly bored and wanted to do something else. I had thought about going to Cambodia to do some more marine conservation (for seahorses), but it was suggested I try something different. "How about Africa?" I was asked. "That way, you'll have a better idea of what you really want to do".

I had never been to Africa, and Projects Abroad (PA) had a few projects on that continent. Staying with the conservation theme, I decided to apply for the project in Botswana for a 5-week period; I realised that four weeks in Thailand wasn't long enough.

It was also suggested that, as I was 'in the area', why didn't I visit Cape Town? What a great idea! I therefore added a few extra days to my Botswana trip. Because of what I had already bought (clothes-wise) for Thailand, there was little extra I needed to buy. Therefore, I started packing my suitcase. What follows across these pages is an account of my time in Africa.

Notes:

Sunday, 04-Sep-2016 - Getting to Heathrow, and 39,000 Feet

My journey to Heathrow was very nondescript; a train to Reading and a bus to Heathrow. I had already checked-in on-line, so it was a simple case (no pun intended) of dropping off my baggage and making my way to the departure gate.

Once on board the aircraft, I thought I was lucky enough to have three seats to myself; to get plenty of sleep (like the girl in front of me did). However, at the last minute, the two seats became occupied. The passenger seated next to me seemed friendly enough, and introduced himself. Because of his accent, I asked if he was returning home to South Africa. He actually said he was from Sweden (with three other passenger friends) on their way to shoot game! I replied that I was also on my way to South Africa to shoot game, but with a camera; wildlife conservation to be precise! "Oh!" he said. Needless to say, we didn't talk a lot during the flight!

Monday, 05-Sep-2016 - 39,000 Feet to Botswana

I didn't get much sleep on the flight, but I was wide awake when we flew passed some amazing thunderstorms over (what I thought was) the Democratic Republic of Congo and/or Zambia. We landed at Johannesburg's O. R. Tambo International Airport at 08:50 (earlier than sheduled), which suited me fine. It would give me extra time to make my way to the check-in desk for my 10:50 internal flight to Polokwane. However, Air Traffic Control had a better idea and directed the aircraft to a parking area away from the terminal! Therefore, the extra time gained by the early arrival was lost! It must have been a last-minute decision because there were no steps to disembark, nor were there any busses to take the passengers to the terminal! Time was ticking!

Finally, the steps and busses arrived and at 09:20, I was on my way to the terminal. Once inside the terminal, the queues at the imigration desks were horrendous; as it is in a lot of airports around the world! But I was in a hurry. Fortunately, there was an Information Desk just before the desks, so I explained my situation; that I didn't have much time to get my connecting flight; it was nearly 10 o'clock. The assistant kindly pointed me in the direction of the "South Afrian Passports Only" queue, instead of "The Rest of the World" queue. Thankfully, my passport was stamped without any questions and I was admitted into South Africa in no time at all.

I had read about the porters at Johannesburg airport and the 'game' they play. So after collecting my suitcase from the Baggage Claim area, I was on my guard to keep my suitcase in my possession. A kind porter approached me and attempted to take my siutcase, but I kept it in my grasp. With him in front (and me following the Internal Flights signs), I made my way to the check-in desk for the flight to Polokwane (PTG). The porter then had the cheek to ask for money; even English money!

I arrived at gate E7 at 10:30; I didn't even have time to look for a Bureau de Change to obtain South African Rands. A few minutes later, loading for the 10:50 flight started. Actually, we were taken by bus to another quiet part of the airport, where our aeroplane (an Embraer RJ135) was waiting. This aeroplane only has three seats per row; Seats A on one side of the aisle and Seats B and C on the other side; I had pre-allocated Seat 3A. Being fortunate to be by a door on the bus, I was one of the first to board and quickly took my seat. As the remaining passengers passed me, it appeared that they were all 'local', except a young European-looking girl. I wondered if she was, like me, on her way to the Projects Abroad location in Botswana.

After the 50-minute flight, we arrived at Polokwane International Airport at 11:40. So much for it having "international" in its name, as there was only one other small aircraft to be seen! I collected my suitcase and made my way (through Customs) to the airport's concourse. A rather stout gentleman (holding a Projects Abroad sign), was standing against a desk, talking into his phone. Sure enough, the European-looking girl joined us, and by her accent, I thought she was American, but she was actually from the Netherlands. She said her accent was probably due to her watching too many American films!

The Bureau de Change kiosk was unoccupied (the cashier had probably gone for an early lunch), so the two of us used the ATM beside the kiosk. We finally left the airport (at 12:10) with our luggage in the rear of a Ford Ranger. In the heat, it was comforting to have air conditioning for the approximate 2-hour journey to the border with Botswana.


Photo BW-001

Photo BW-002

Photo BW-003

Photo BW-004

The tarmac roads soon gave way to dirt tracks - of varying surfaces! Within minutes, we saw two giraffes, an ostrich and a group of baboons! We passed through Vivo (Photo BW-001) where we stopped for a refreshment break, and Alldays, before arriving at the South African Platjan Border Post (Photo BW-002 and Photo BW-003) at about 14:00; a bit shaken! After the South African border formalities (including the opening of my case at the request of the duty policeman, plus having an on-the-spot repair done to the Projects Abroad (PA) vehicle), Dicks (our new driver), Caroline and I set off across the Limpopo River (Photo BW-004) and arrived at the Botswana Border Post a minute or two later. The Botswanian formalitites took a shorter time than those by the South African officials, and we were soon on our way again, along more dirt tracks.


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