The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 Oct 2022
The /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park’s management committee is always looking for innovative ideas to lure visitors to the park and the idea of kayak trails was mooted. The image of kayak trails in the arid barrenness of the transfrontier park may be difficult to visualise until one sees the mighty Orange River flowing through the desolate canyons.
A proposal for the establishment of a kayak trail on the stretch of river between Gamkab and Sendelingsdrift was submitted to the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), which approved funding under its Income Generating Opportunities for Communities programme. Plans are afoot for a fully guided and catered kayak trail, ranging from one to four-day trips, with local communities doing the catering and assisting with camp attendant duties and river guiding. With this in mind, the African Paddling Association was approached to assist with the selection and training of river guides. Thanks to funding from GIZ and Peace Parks Foundation, the training took place during February 2014.
To support the operation of the Sendelingsdrift pontoon and the transfrontier park’s joint river patrols, additional training for skippers was also deemed necessary. This was undertaken by the South African Marine Safety Authority. Training costs were sponsored by Peace Parks Foundation and a four day-training commenced in McDougall’s Bay on the West Coast of South Africa on 10 February. It was with great trepidation that the ten men and one woman to be trained arrived at McDougall’s Bay, as many had never learnt to swim, let alone see the sea before! Training started with a day’s theory and thanks to life jackets and repeated overboard exercises, the trainees mastered the skill of diving in and out of the water with no time to spare, thereby lessening the chances of hypothermia. The next day was spent learning how to skipper a boat and all trainees passed the skippers’ training course with flying colours.
Once back in the transfrontier park, staff underwent Geographic Information Systems (GIS) training, conducted by Peace Parks Foundation and the Southern African Wildlife College. The training took place over a few days and consisted of both theory and practical work. One of the practical exercises was to find alternative routes for the Desert Knights mountain bike tour. The GIS training will stand the staff in good stead as a proficient user of the QGIS software would be able to create management maps of his/her area of responsibility, as well as the monitoring tools needed in conservation processes.