Afri-Leo is a Namibian Charity Organization, involved with the plight of lions in Namibia.In conjunction with Wild At Heart Safaris, the “Walk for lions-2008” was launched from the 30th of April until the 15th of May.
The aim of the trip was twofold:
1. Raise funds for Afri-Leo and;
2. Make people aware of the Human Wildlife Conflict situation in Namibia.
About the Author: Kobus Alberts is 34 years of age and is married with 2 children. He was born in Usakos, Namibia, and is currently living in Swakopmund. He holds a diploma in Nature Conservation and has spent 11 Years of his life living in most of the National Parks and Game Reserves of Namibia. He has most recently been heading up the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia in Swakopmund, a position he held for 5 years and is now a director of Wild at Heart Safaris and Namibian owned travel company unique is that it was established entirely by ex-game rangers with a love of thier country. email: email@example.com
The group that came on the safari consisted out of 14 Swiss Students, 12 Local Namibian Students, 3 Film Crew members and 5 supporters for Terre-Et Fauna, which is a Swiss based charity organization.
The local team consisted of a Wild At Heart Safaris Member, Kaurimbi Expeditions that were involved with all the logistics and Tammy Hoth of Afri-Leo
The Safari started at Kavita Lion Lodge, home of the Afri-Leo Foundation. This was to be our base camp for 2 nights. The activities in this area were mainly an introduction to the whole safari, observing lions while feeding, and the Swiss and Namibian students to get to know each other.
The following two days the group visited the communal area bordering Etosha National Park. The Khoa di //Hoas Conservancy area was the first, and the group walked from village to village and interviewed people in these different villages. The interviews mainly focused on the Human Wildlife Conflict and how it affects these people and their way of life.
That day we covered about 15 Kilometer on foot. Following two track roads all the way, that led to our campsite. The tents were pitched in a big riverbed with huge trees lining the banks. What a nice site it was.
The next day we visited the Chief of the area, and had an interview with him as well. After lunch I decided that we had walked long enough in the two track roads so we took a “shortcut” over a low lying hill. What a shortcut it was! Beautiful views, but quite rough underfoot. At once stage I thought the group is finding it too hard, but looking back I saw just smiles on the sweaty faces.
That night we camped in the Ombonde River, and once again Faan outdid himself with the site.
The next day would be our last in this conservancy areas, as we would head back home and then onto Etosha. We visited a village where a lion was shot recently, and the interviews continued. That night we were back at the Afri-Leo campsite.
The next day was spent interviewing commercial farmers to get their point of view about the lion situation in this area.
The following day we drove to Otjovasandu where we would camp 2 nights. Our campsite was in the Karos area, beautiful savannah area with granite outcrops to break the horizon a bit. Meeting the Warden of the area, we discussed the plan for the following day. We were going to repair a hole in the Etosha Fence that was used often by lions before. The next day was duly spent collecting rocks and building gabions. A gabion is a basket made from wire, in which rocks are placed. This closed the hole, and also reduces erosion. After a long day in the sun, the group headed to camp, and lo and behold a shower. This opportunity was not wasted, as every single person in that camp took a shower that evening.
To Okakuejo we drove, after saying goodbye to the Warden and Rangers of Otjovasandu. After settling in at our new camp, the whole group drove out with the Warden of the area, Mr. Kotting. A lioness was observed on a kill not far from Okakuejo, so the plan was that she would be darted and then worked upon. Once we got the waterhole the excitement could be felt in the air. Everyone was extremely silent; eyes were wary and moving the whole time. To add to all of this, there were thunderstorms in the distance. The lightning bolts added an eerie presence to the whole atmosphere. The lioness were nowhere in sight, so Shane decided to try and call her. The silent night was suddenly alive with the sound of piglets screaming. This sound, according to the Warden, works the best. Sadly that evening no lions were seen or heard.. We did see some jackal and a huge Spotted Hyena that were attracted by the sound.
The following day were spent on the back of a truck, driving around various waterholes. Game that were seen included, Oryx, Blue Wildebeest, Springbuck, Elephant, jackal, Plains Zebra, and even a monitor lizard.
As soon as we reached Okakeujo again, we were told to be ready as a pride of lions were spotted just outside the camp. The warden and veterinarian drove out of sight as we waited for the call to come and join them. Once the call came we drove up, and there he was, a huge golden mane lion. While the veterinarian was drawing blood, every one got off from the truck and had a good look up close. Measurements were taken by the Ministerial staff, and it came out that this male was about 13 years old and could weigh anything from 80 to 86 Kilograms. Its paws and legs were massive and as I knelt next to him I got goose bumps all over my body. This was nature in its purest form, an animal of such beauty and such power, totally unbelievable to be kneeling next to it.
The group left on an extremely high note, feeling content, feeling we have been in touch with nature, seeing the world with new eyes. That night around the campfire there were a lot of talk, mainly in French, but I would say it was about the day we had.
The evening was spent listening to the call of a Pearl Spotted Owl. Wilfred Versfeld, a Senior Biologist in the Ministry has kindly agreed to put up mist nets to see if we can catch some nocturnal birds of prey. At around 23:56 Wilfred came back and he had a Pearl Spotted Owl in his hand. After taking down all the necessary data, we were allowed to touch the bird and hold it. I was fiddling around with its beak when suddenly he bit me. I am not the weakest of men in the world, and have hard fingers due to pipe smoking, but I nearly fainted from the pain. That little bird digs in good and hard, and eventually I managed to loosen it. Lesson learned from that episode, NEVER, EVER put your finger into the beak of an owl. Simple and easy.
The next three days were to be spent an Okonjima, home to the Africat Foundation. This 25 000 Hectare farm currently have over 110 animals present. This ranges from lions, cheetahs, wild dog, to warthogs. Most of these animals have been captured or found by farmers. The Africa Foundation takes care of these animals and also tries and rehabilitates the ones that can be rehabilitated. A noble and just cause. Watching a leopard feed from about 7 meters out is an experience that no one can take away from you. To sit in an open vehicle and stare into the eyes of a cheetah, once again, an experience you will take with you forever.
To end off a wonderful trip at Okonjima, our campsite was close to a swimming pool, and this was ideal for the whole group.
The last night in Windhoek, the Deputy Minister of environment and Tourism, Mr. Leon Jooste, graced us with his presence. The group was allowed to ask questions about everything they have seen and observed during this last 13 days.
After the question and answering session, a great meal signaled the end of the evening.
The “Walk for Lions – 2008” was a great success. With all its little shortcomings here and there, looking at the bigger picture it was a tremendous event.
Tammy, always smiling, always having a good word to say.
Faan, stern faced, yet kind of heart.
Marius with his never ending questions,
Rodolphe that always wanted to do everything as fast as possible, because he has so much energy to spend,
Michael explaining how to cook and eat Mopane worms,
Anastasia, just enjoying life and the trip.
All of their faces I see in my mind and it bring back happy memories.
Ben, the doctor, always intrigued about his environment, yet always helpful
Little Marie with the generous smile, always kind
Anne-Catherine and Viance, helping the camp hands after each meal.
Catherine of Terre-Et-Faune, always looking and questioning, but enjoying as well.
Thank you all for a wonderful trip and happy memories. It will stay with me, and I am just so glad that Namibia taught all of you so much. Like I said around the last campfire, Namibia will get into your blood.
See you under the big tree again someday.
Kobus Alberts Wild at Heart Safaris
Filed under: adventure, africa, Conservation, Namibia, Safaris, Travel, Trekking | Tagged: 'wild at heart', afrileo, charity, damaraland, ethical travel, lions, Namibia, Safaris, switzerland, walk for lions |