2020 has certainly been a rollercoaster year, on a global scale. It has sometimes been hard to remember the positives, amongst the doom and gloom of the news stories and lockdowns. Despite all that has happened, we feel it is important to take stock and spend some time remembering just how special Africa is.
Remember the red hues of the sunrises, the continuous call of the cape turtle doves, the rumble of the elephants, the clink of the gin and tonic glasses at sunset and the crackle of the fire after dinner. Africa is waiting for us to return.
It has been a tough year in Africa, but there have been some superb positive stories coming from our suppliers in Africa with news of the wildlife still thriving.
Gorillas in Uganda have had a very successful year – gorilla conservation efforts have been going from strength to strength over the last few years, and the “Baby Boom” of 2020 is testimony to this. As of September 2020, fourteen new babies have been born in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park this year alone, with five being born in just six weeks – read more here. Since then, there has been reports of three more babies! The Uganda Wildlife Authority has been posting some amazing footage of “virtual gorilla tracking” on their Facebook page.
In Lewa Conservancy in Kenya, the rhino population continues to thrive. Over the last four years, the population has increased by 25% and in the first half of 2020, three black rhino calves were born. To put that into perspective, black rhino have a gestation period of 16 months and wait 2.5-3 years between calves! To read more of the fantastic work of the Lewa Conservancy this year, you can read the Impact Report here.
In Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, Nick Murray of Vundu Camp has reported of consistent wild dog sightings throughout the year. He reported a new litter of puppies in June 2020, accounted for a healthy population of 90 dogs in July 2020, and as of September 2020, he reported two new packs sighted. If you’d like to give yourself the best chance of seeing wild dogs, Mana Pools and Vundu Camp are one of the best places for it.
The huge herds of the wildebeest migration did not get the COVID memo and continued to migrate though the Serengeti/ Mara eco-system throughout the year. The theatrical river crossings happened without the hundreds of spectators, but with the same sense of drama as every other year. The Serian guides posted incredible video footage throughout the year.
In the Okavango Delta in Botswana, we were concerned after the drought of 2019, but the water levels bounced back in 2020 and we’ve had reports of amazing game viewing from the camps who remained open for local residents. The wildlife grew accustomed to the camps being quieter than normal and made themselves very comfortable, like this lion guarding the drinks fridge at Splash Camp or the “Lockdown leopard” of Mombo Camp.
In the South Luangwa in Zambia, Kaingo have reported that the carmine bee eaters have put on an amazing display this year, with their noise and colour a very welcome break to the quiet of the valley.
African tourism doesn’t just benefit the wildlife, the local communities are also key to ensuring the conservation of wildlife and the sustainability of tourism moving forward. Through a tough year, many of our trusted suppliers have continued their fantastic work empowering and supporting local people in a number of different ways.
In Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, Remote Africa’s Nick Riddin conceptualised and organised the Walk Luangwa. This 17 day walk of 365 km started in North Luangwa National Park and worked its way along the Luangwa River to the southernmost camps in South Luangwa. Many camps got involved and over US$ 35,000.00 was raised to support conservation and community projects in the local area. These included funding additional anti-poaching patrols, concrete community grain stores and chilli blasters (which will aid in food security and reducing human-elephant conflict), and funding the annual Football for Wildlife League which supports 250 female and male players across 9 communities to name but a few.
Many of the suppliers in South Luangwa have also taken advantage of their quieter camps and joined the Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) game drive for local communities’ initiative. This is a wildlife awareness and education programme to show the local people the value of wildlife in the local area to prevent poaching and human wildlife conflict moving forward. They have managed to bring over 544 people into the park, with ages from 5 to 85.
Many protected areas are reliant on the fees paid by tourists. The lack of tourism throughout Africa this year has threatened to jeopardise the safety of the local wildlife and impact local communities. In the Mara Conservancies, the member camps got together and started the Conservancy Guardian scheme, to raise money to cover ranger’s salaries, welfare and medical fees, predator monitoring and patrol costs. Offbeat Safaris managed to raise over US$ 56,000.00 to date, through donations from suppliers and guests across the world. Kicheche put into action a similar scheme raising an incredible total of US$ 136,730.00! Many thanks to those of you who joined the scheme.
From April to August this year, Wilderness Safaris managed to deliver over 6,000 food parcels to over 35 communities across six countries. One food parcel feeds a family of four for a month.
These are just a few of the positive initiatives that have emerged in 2020 as it is crucial that local livelihoods are protected alongside the direct conservation of the wildlife.
There’s never been a more exclusive time to travel to Africa – take advantage of these special offers available for travel in early 2021.