56 Days in Botswana

Posted by Michael Raymundo on 21st Sep 2017

This past summer, I embarked on a truly life-changing experience when I left home and flew halfway around the world to Botswana, where I would stay for two months living in the African bush working with an organization called Wildlife ACT on wildlife conservation. They’re associated with Wildtrax Explorations, which my university (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) accepts as part of their study abroad program.

I first arrived in Maun, Botswana after three days of travel, starting from the US to Qatar, then to South Africa and finally Botswana. Throughout it all, I kept my passport, boarding passes, and wallet in the RFID-Blocking Waist Stash which worked like a charm when I needed to keep things together moving from airport to airport.

My first week consisted of various lectures and training at the Okavango Research Institute where I would learn more about the area before heading out into the field to start various research projects. These projects included tracking animals with the “first people” San Bushman to help stop disruptive government decisions and to take part in resource mapping for local villages in the area. While in town, the Adapter Plug Kit with Dual USB Charger came quite in handy to charge my various cameras and laptops before heading out into the field.

While in the Okavango Delta, we used makoros to cross the wetlands, which are traditional dug-out canoes made by the locals, and we used our research vehicles to drive through the rivers and waterways to reach our campsites. The main pack I used throughout this trip was the 40L Day Pack which kept my electronics and journals safe from the water and dust in the Kalahari and Okavango Delta so I could document this amazing experience.

Our first campsite was located near a lodge, The Lodge at Feline Fields, in the Kalahari where we set up camp for our first research project. We tracked animals in the area to understand the effects of human interference on animal migration routes. Unfortunately, this human interference has been responsible for the death of wildlife in the area, and the animals are unable to migrate to new feeding grounds because of fences put up by the government.

During one of our moves to a different campsite, we stopped by the Gcwihaba Caves, the place multiple species of bats that numbered in the thousands if not hundreds of thousands call home. These caves were formed from water flowing underground for millions of years, and it is still largely unexplored, containing various tunnels and areas that have never been mapped. The caverns and rock formations as well as the many bats and insects that inhabit found inside the caves were spectacular to see.

For our new campsite, we stayed at a local family cattle post nicknamed “Fly Camp,” for reasons I’m sure you can guess. This was our base location for another research project that involved interviewing various cattle post owners on issues they were having with livestock predation due to predators in the area. The goal of this project was to understand how livestock owners were mitigating the issue. While traveling to various cattle posts, I used the ElectroLight RFID-Blocking Day Pack to carry various notebooks and essentials while out in the field conducting interviews.

After being in Botswana for one month, we took a four-day excursion to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and stayed at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. We walked the path to view the falls, and the 40L Day Pack proved itself by keeping my electronics dry. The WaterSeals Lightweight Dry Bag also kept my camera safe from the falls’ mist. 

Along with viewing the falls from the ground, we took a helicopter flight to view the falls from above which was quite the sight to see, flying above the falls and Zambezi River. We also took a horse back safari ride where we got up close and personal to various wildlife, including giraffes, water buffalo, and much more.

The next day we got up early to go white water rafting on the Zambezi River. We hiked up and down the gorge where we climbed over rocks, ladders made of branches, and vertical rock surfaces. On the river, small crocodiles were seen basking on the rocks near the river which frightened a few of us although they were too small to do any harm.

Once we hit the rapids, we floated down the river through various whirlpools and high water, which was a thrill to have experienced. We were the only group that didn’t flip on the rapids! The WaterSeals Waterproof Floating Zip Phone Pouch worked well in keeping my phone safe from water and, if in the event it fell in the water, it could float! So, there was no worry of losing my phone. All too soon after our weekend of fun, we headed back to Botswana where we would work on our next project.

Our new campsite was located in the village of Shorohe where we would be working with the local people on helping them to create a resource map to better understand the area that they were in and to learn where others were collecting resource materials. At night, we slept among giants as we could hear elephants and hippos not too far from our campsite. At one point elephants were in our campsite!

Another campsite we stayed at was in the Gomoti Plains where we worked on camera traps to help understand wildlife population densities in the area. Being in this area was truly amazing because no matter where we traveled, we saw wildlife everywhere while we were conducting field research. Two of my most memorable experiences were seeing a herd of over 200 elephants cross our path and being able to see lions in the wild!

Before too long, my time here in one of the last places of remote wilderness was coming to an end after living here for two months and completing various research projects. While packing, the Compression Packers helped me utilize the most of my luggage space by compressing all my clothes to fit in my duffel bag. The ElectroLight Expandable Packing Cubes also helped with separating my belongings.

Once packed, we all headed off to the airport where we said our goodbyes and departed from this wonderful place. Looking back on this trip, I’m grateful that I experienced the wilderness of Africa, and I would recommend going to Botswana to anyone as it is truly one of the last places on Earth to see the vast amount of wildlife Africa has to offer.