Waking up in a chilly canvass tent in Sua Pan was a painful albeit soothing experience. Agonizing in that sleeping in a tent during Winter season especially in far-flung places is not usually my cup of tea. However, it was also comforting in the sense that there’s always a first time for everything.
As I undid the zip to check out the weird and wonderful view, the cold wintry air smacked my chubby cheeks, as I stretched and yawned my way out of the wobbly slumber. My eyes could not believe the omnipresent beauty of Botswana. There was water everywhere, vast amounts of water I dare say!
It was extremely cold but somewhat I managed to step outside and immediately headed towards the showers. As the hot water hit my naked flesh in rivulets, I couldn’t help but imagine how the rest of the day will be like for me.
It was my first time attending this epic show dubbed #RaceForRhinos organised by Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), Matsieng Flying Club and Chris Briers, with the full support of His Excellency the President of Botswana, Seretse Khama Ian Khama and Tourism Minister, Tshekedi Khama.
As I rubbed the soap and shower gel on my stark-naked body (TMI, I know), I could still feel my body moaning courtesy of the travel toll it endured and the previous rhino capture exercise which took place at Khama Rhino Sanctuary (KRS) yesterday.
The hot water from the shower did wonders in appeasing my sore body. I was done within minutes and headed back to my tent, and at this time, the sun was already emerging from the Sua Pan horizons. I quickly dressed up, took my camera and headed out to the nearby shore for some orgasmic picture moments.
As I clicked away, looking for that specific fine shot, I couldn’t help but drool at the serenity and beauty of our beautiful Botswana. I was at this moment convinced that, “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries,” as vividly spelled out by Aldous Huxley; an English writer, novelist, philosopher, and prominent member of the Huxley family.
Botswana is indeed a beautiful paradise and the sooner we all realize that the better for all of us. Philanthropist Danny Kaye once said, “To travel is to take a journey into yourself,” and for me visiting Sua Pan for the Race for Rhinos showdown recently was an epic realization of self.
Let’s just say, Sua Pan in the Makgadikgadi district offered us, first-timers an eclectic mix of topics. Popularly known as Sua Pan, or Sowa Pan, this majestic place is a large natural topographic depression within the Makgadikgadi region and is located near the village of Sowa, whose name means salt in the language of the San.
The Sua salt pan is one of three large pans within the Makgadikgadi, the other two being Nxai Pan and Ntwetwe Pan.
Currently, Sua Pan is a seasonal lake; it fills with water during summer rainy season and retains water until April-May. However, this time around due to the recent heavy rainfall generated by Tropical Cyclone Dineo, the lake was still filled to the brim giving the area a striking and picturesque view all around.
Add to that the buzzing of light aircrafts, animated spectators and wildlife conservation, and you’d just be amazed how Botswana as a country has more to offer.
Among the more successful wildlife conservation projects in Botswana was the community-initiated Nata Bird Sanctuary in the northeast of this area, opened in 1993, which was awarded that year the “Tourism for Tomorrow Award” for the Southern Hemisphere.
Sua Pan is also the site of sodium carbonate (soda ash) mining company Botash; half owned by government and produces over 300, 000 tonnes of soda ash and 450, 000 tonnes of salt per year.
The event was bigger and better this year with seventy one aircraft, including two entries all the way from Alaska, starting the race on day one. I have never in my entire life seen so many aircrafts in one place. It was truly a colourful marvel seeing light aircrafts taking off and landing as part of Botswana’s dedication to conservation.
The Race for Rhinos has aligned itself with destinations that are home to some of Botswana’s rhino population, including Serowe and the Khama Rhino Sanctuary and Orapa’s Game Park.
The national endangered wildlife trust, Tlhokomela Trust supports this event as it brings awareness of the good work that the Botswana government is doing towards promoting the country as a safe haven for these critically endangered species. The trust also raises funds through an auction at the event in support of the Central Operations Unit.
Through a generous sponsorship, with the support of the Minister of Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama, and the Botswana Civil Aviation Authority, the organizers were able to host a successful event in the Botswana skies.
Botswana being centrally situated and a conservation hub for Southern Africa is just the right place to host this prestigious event and also touching a subject that has become an international concern for everybody that loves nature and aim to preserve the Rhinos for generations to come.
With the guidance, support and commitment from the Matsieng Flying Club and Chris Briers, the air race has proven to be a unique and successful event and continues to grow from strength to strength.
Quite rousing was the relocation of four rhinos and a few elands to the reserve, which were released on race weekend as part of an initiative to the area’s natural wildlife population.
Kudos go out to Chris Briers and Tammy McAllister for successfully hosting an exhilarating 2017 Race for Rhinos. Stay tuned for news on Makgadikgadi Epic and the Gaborone Airshow coming soon!