After the recent tragic events of a suffocated elephant and pregnant buffalo killed by a speeding motorist I thought I’d end “7 Things You Didn’t Know About Vic Falls” on a high note. The truth is all these events are typical of life in Africa. On an assignment with BBC Scotland filming local fishermen (who make their living by selling the fish they catch in the rapids on the edge of the Victoria Falls), I asked the producer what he thought of the Falls: “I’ve never felt so simultaneously close to civilisation as I have to death.” Like the fishermen whose lives he was recording, they risk life and limb trying to survive ‘on the edge’ and minutes away on the river front is the five star hotel the Royal Livingstone.
A perfect example of this contradiction and not far from the waterfall is the Stanley and Livingstone lodge and game reserve. Your crystal cut service shares the same property with Nakavango, a conservation programme that offers you the chance to get to know the other side of Africa. The unapologetic Africa that walks unarmed through a minefield. Probably one of the hardest won battles on this continent is that of the conservationist. A vital but brutal role requiring extreme fortitude and patience. Volunteers from around the world get actively involved in hands-on African conservation with people like Dean McGregor who have lived this life for decades. Courses range from 2 weeks to 3 months and cover everything from alien vegetation removal, anti-poaching snare sweeps to reserve clean-up operations.
Badza in hand Dean shares his love of the African bush and 28 years experience of professional guiding with fervour. In school car park chats with Dean I have learnt that baby baobab leaves are as good if not better than rocket in a salad, something anyone with a baobab in their gardens will be happy to know! He has taught our children at the boat club that if they are hungry enough the Ilala palm vegetable ivory has the same roughage as their breakfast cereal. On bush walks my kids will gnaw on them like a dog gnawing on a bone! An education that is boundless and imparted with humour like this is as rare as the rhino that live there.
Befitting for a country renowned for its drinking, conservation in Zimbabwe is much like the AA’s serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”
Let’s take our first step to change the things we can.
*badza – Shona for hoe
Photo by IAPF