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Aftermath: Khawa Dune Challenge

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In the wee hours, the soft winter breeze whistles about as we drive through the countryside to one of the breathtaking places in Kgalagadi - the beautiful village of Khawa.

The small village is endowed with natural resources and boasts unique landscapes such as its signature towering sand dunes of varying hues and a host of flora and fauna. 

On the way, playing on the 4X4 Toyota Land Cruiser radio, Jimmy Reeves is flexing his voice cords to produce a melody which is just perfect for the journey. 

The tune, the drive and the distinct view of the country side congeal seamlessly with the winter colours to make a picturesque scene.

The view also reveals brisk winter notes, which cause the branches to dance with rambunctious joy to release tiny caramel coloured and brown leaves. 

The curled leaves fall softly to the ground perhaps soon to be hidden beneath a sea of sand. 

Catching one’s eye is a scenic light green tussock grass, which cheerfully basks under the beauty of the clear blue skies. 

Clearly, nature has arranged them freely under canopies of emerald deciduous acacia trees, mixed with some wide spreading low shrubs. 

On the road, a peep into the horizon reveals a beautiful picture which looks as though it was removed from a tourism postcard. 

While traversing this expanse of dunes, I notice that there are more hues and calming shapes which expose all sand dunes, with windward sides and slip faces in a medley of natural, untouched beauty. 

Each time I feast my eyes on the beauty of Khawa and its environs, I am engulfed by a frisson of joy at the fusion of nature in Botswana’s best kept secret by far, which boasts of an extravaganza of wildlife in harmony with an untouched landscape.  

As my eyes wander about, soaking in the beauty, Jimmy revs up the journey with his string ballad 

‘I Love You Because’ …every time I walk by your side; I love you because the future is bright; The door to happiness you open wide; No matter what the world may say about me; I know your love will always see me through…”

The lyrics resonate with the unfolding safari expedition but I quickly reduce the radio volume as a dramatic scene, where a dozen elands are effortlessly jumping over the Botswana/South Africa border fence, about 112km before Khawa.

In response the driver, Benjamin Madube frowns and slams the brakes of the 4X4, then attempts to drive the fresh looking, prime elands back into Botswana but the animals prove relentless as they keep running along the fence. 

Flapping their protruding ears and exuding greatest alertness, they appear hell bent on crossing into South Africa. 

We become helpless and give in. We continue with our journey albeit disturbed. At this juncture, Jimmy is now singing in a whisper. 

This road curves and curls just along the South African border, spotting mostly game farms. 

It dawns on me that we are driving in between the fences of the Botswana and South Africa border on a road that runs through the dry Molopo River. We are driving on the fringes of the border line and South Africa is just a stone’s throw away.  

I have heard and read about animal migration, but I have never seen it, and seeing it happen live for the first time gives me an adrenaline rush. 

A flashback of Khawa Kgosi Piet Manyoro comes to mind where he expressed concern about wildlife migrating into neighbouring countries and never returning to Botswana, especially during drought seasons.

After leaving spot of the dramatic scene, the countryside stretched before me like a great cover of brown and green, dotted with wild animals, birds and domestic animals. 

Occasionally sheep and goats ramble through the deficient pasture.

I get Jimmy back to sing slightly louder lest the journey becomes dull. 

After the two-hour safari expedition from Tsabong, where our eyes feasted on various wildlife such as, elands, springboks, ostriches, gemsboks, guinea fowls, meercats, different bird species, we finally reach our destination, the heart of the village called Khawa Village Trust. 

Committee members are waiting to share their experiences of the 2019 Khawa Dune Challenge, which took place in May. Coming from his nearby cattle-post, Kgosi Manyoro shortly joins us. 

Without wasting any time we get started. The main reason for retracing my footsteps back to the village was to find out the difference that the 2019 Khawa Dune Challenge had made in the village and what the trust was doing to improve the livelihoods of the people.

After exchanging pleasantries, Khawa Trust secretary Mr Moseka Seitshiro expressed appreciation to the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) for working with the trust to put together the annual event. 

He says while the event was about promoting sport tourism, they make use of the opportunity to make money, which they use to finance some village projects.

During the event, the trust makes money from the Do It Yourself (DIY) campsites, where they work hand in hand with BTO, at the entrance gatehouse, and the food stalls. This year, the trust made P9 000 from the 30 stalls allotted to it.

He however said this year the trust did not make much money as tourists who were supposed to  pay a  P75 per person fee at the gatehouse were not well managed. 

Some of the people entered free of charge, he added. 

Therefore, this year they made only P8 000 compared to the P13 000 made last year. The DIY camp raked in P27 000 in 2018 but this year it only managed a paltry P8 000. On management of this camp, he calls for improved working relations between BTO and the trust. 

He says some tourists who entered the camp said they had paid BTO in advance yet accounts of the trust had been availed in the media. 

Mr Seitshiro says some people paid directly to the trust while some said they had deposited into a BTO account but did not have receipts. 

He does not rule out the possibility that the people could have pulled wool over their eyes.

 “We don’t really know what was happening here,” he says, stressing that they will manage it better next time.

On all campsites and areas designated to the trust last year, BTO paid out P75 700 which he says took longer than expected to reach them thereby affecting timely execution of some  projects. 

“To date we have not received our payment after the 2019 dune challenge and we are still waiting for BTO with hope,” he says.

Ms Annah Velskoen, who is the trust’s treasurer, calls for improved gatehouse management as this year they did not make much money. 

She called for the tightening of security so that the trust could make more money to get its projects running. 

Kgosi Manyoro is delighted to announce that during the just ended Khawa Dune Challenge, the people who had thronged his village had clean fun and no reports of abuse had reached his office. 

However, he is concerned about tourists who stay in the village, without camping at the designated accommodation areas during the Khawa Dune Challenge. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Calviniah Kgautlhe

Location : KHAWA

Event : Feature

Date : Jul 17 Wed,2019

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