The Dtours Africa Expedition of 2014 was spectacular. From June 5-16, 17 vehicles filled with brave adventurers embarked on a journey of a lifetime... Starting in Namibia's capital, Windhoek, the 55 participants journeyed through Namibia into Botswana and along into Zimbabwe where the expedition ended at Africa's proud Wonder of the World, Victoria Falls. To say it was amazing would be an understatement and to try to put the whole trip into words.... impossible.
The fundraising expedition was put together by Imake A Difference (now known as Tanglewood Foundation), a New Zealand based charity who together with the passion of Peter Eastwood, is working with a finely selected group of projects to help save the Rhino from extinction. Well over one million Rang was raised by the participants and 100% of the money raised went towards these amazing projects. Here are some of the images from our trip of a lifetime....
Rhino Art at Rukonga Vision School, Caprivi Region, Namibia
The Dtours group, excited and dressed up in their Save The Rhino shirts, arrived at Rukonga Vision School to the most beautiful warm welcome. Songs by Rukonga Vision's choir were extremely moving, their beautiful voices echoing off the high ceilings of the hall gave it an etherical quality and ensured there wasn't a dry eye in the house! Our team talked to the children about conservation and the importance of saving the Rhino of Africa. The kids seemed to know a lot about conservation already, but as soon as we mentioned that the Rhino Art Competition winners received new bicycles, we certainly had their full attention!
This project uses art to get the message about the value of rhino to entire schools at a time in "risk" areas around parks.
We spent about an hour with the students explaining the poaching problem and how important the Rhino had been to their ancestors, how important they are in the “circle of life” in the bush and how they help provide income to the community by bringing visitors who provide jobs in the tourism industry. Tourism is one of the major sources of employment in the remote areas around the game parks.
The children then moved into their classrooms and we spent an hour in the classrooms with them, passing out crayons and encouragement while they created their works of art. It was heartwarming to see how how much effort was put in to perfect their pictures, and there were many that included thought provoking poems and passionate statements about the Rhino. It was such fun to interact and chat with the kids, they were so interested to learn where we were all from, and hear stories of our homelands. Finally, 2 winners and 20 runner up winners were chosen and the prizes were handed out amid whoops and cheers from their friends. The two bike winners were so cute, their mouths dropped open in absolute disbelief and shock when they learnt that they'd won.
The Rhino Art Competition is a wonderful concept, started by Kingsley Holgate and Project Rhino.
Kingsley Holgate and his Lebombo Expedition had used it as a theme to engage the communities lining the Mozambique border of Kruger park. This is ground zero for Rhino poaching in the famous Kruger National Park. Imake a Difference provided seed funding for this programme when Kingsley first approached Peter about the concept.
This programme has also been taken to Vietnam which is considered the main user of rhino horn as well as a corridor into other Asian markets. It has also been taken to Namibia and Botswana on Dtours expedition and has spawned Elephant Art in more northern countries where Elephants are under threat.
It was amazing to allow our Dtourists to get involved with the project firsthand and to see the results in the eyes of the children. For very little cost we reached 450 kids at Rukonga Visions School, who we believe will be committed to conservation and rhino protection for the rest of their lives, and will spread the message to their friends and family.
While at Hoada Community in Namibia, we came across a kid who had cut his hand badly with a machete and needed urgent medical attention. So fortunate we were to have an amazing team of doctors and nurses on our expedition that could give him emergency surgery and save the use of his hand.
Dtours 2014 was an incredible journey that words and pictures fail to capture completely. So many incredible landscapes, wildlife, local people we met, and life-long friendships made along the journey. The expedition concluded with a memorable Sunset River Cruise along the Zambezi.
Sante Sana (Thank you very much) to everyone who came along and made the expedition possible!