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Kingsley Holgate Visits Zimbabwe 

Kingsley Holgate said to be the most travelled man in Africa

THE Zimbabwe Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to manage and develop Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) with nine Southern African countries and a team lead by world-renowned explorer Mr Kinglsey Holgate (KH), who is currently touring the TFCA.

Reporter Kudakwashe Mutandi  caught up with Kingsley Holgate in Victoria Falls to highlight the expedition where they are currently exploring the Okavango Zambezi TFCA.

Mutandi : "One thing that has been outstanding on you is your beard, can you tell us more about it?"

Kinglsey Holgate: "Well, Kudakwashe, put it this way — it’s older than you by a long way. I’ve had this ridiculous beard for well over 40 years — it was short and black, now it’s long and grey. I suppose that’s why some call me the Greybeard of African adventure — it’s certainly a well-travelled beard."

Mutandi :"You have been referred to as the world-renowned explorer — Zimbabweans know nothing about it — can you fill us in?"

Kingsley Holgate:"Getaway Magazine calls me the most travelled man in Africa. I’m a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a well-known author and a bearded face that’s often seen on the National Geographic Channel.

But the truth is we are just an ordinary family, friends and volunteers with an extraordinary passion for Africa. We’ve spent our lives adventuring in Africa. We’ve crossed the continent along the waterways in open boats from Cape to Cairo, travelled in the footsteps of explorer (David) Livingstone and Stanley from the mouth of the Zambezi to the mouth of the Congo, circumnavigated the globe along the Tropic of Capricorn and more recently in an expedition called the Outside Edge. We tracked the entire coastline of Africa through 33 countries.

Kingsley Holgate on the Heart of Africa Expidition

Kingsley Holgate and his team on the Heart of Africa Expedition in 2015
(source: Africa Geographic)

Our point of difference is that we use our adventures to improve and save lives, distributing long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets to pregnant mums, those with babies, spectacles to the poor sighted in our Rite to Sight campaign, box libraries, lapdesks and learning materials to schools and lifestraws for purified water.

Mutandi:"Can you give us a brief background of the Boundless Southern Africa Expedition?"

Kingsley Holgate:"Backed by the governments of nine Sadc countries, the Boundless Southern Africa Expedition is all about nature, community and culture.

It is a single symbolic Land-Rover journey from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic to link two oceans, nine countries, 30 game parks and nature reserves, seven transfrontier conservation areas and the communities that live within or alongside these conservation areas.

These rural communities need to be part of, and see benefit from, conservation tourism. The Boundless Southern Africa Expedition aims to entrench the peace parks transfrontier conservation vision initiated by Dr Anton Rupert and former South African president Nelson Mandela.

The 120-day journey has the full support of the Peace Parks Foundation, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and the conservation and tourism bodies of the nine Sadc countries.

Mutandi :"Which places have you visited in Zimbabwe and what has been your impression?"

Kingsley Holgate:" Despite so much news about Zimbabwe, we have had an outstanding time here.

Travelling from Mozambique where we were met at the Sango Border Post in Chiredzi by the director-general of the Zimbabwe National Parks Wildlife and Management Authority, Dr Morris Mtsambiwa, and his team; Edson Chidziya, the national co-ordinator for transfrontier conservation areas in Zimbabwe; local conservationist Clive Stockil and wildlife artist Lin Barrie, all of whom introduced us to the beauty of Gonarezhou, its wildlife, the beautiful baobabs, the Runde, Save and Mwenezi rivers and the sunset colours as we made an expedition camp under the Chilojo Cliffs — there is so much beauty here and the communities are welcoming."

Mutandi:"Is there any life for TFCAs after the expedition or are they just going to close doors after your expedition?"

Kingsley Holgate:"There is life indeed. One of the clear objectives of the Boundless Southern Africa Expedition is to map, create and market a Boundless Southern Africa Route which other adventurers will follow, there is already a great deal of interest and media support which will bring more tourists to Zimbabwe — we believe that this route to join two oceans and nine countries has the potential to become one of the greatest adventure routes in the world, especially when you think of joining iconic places like Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, and Gonarezhou to other iconic places like the Chobe, the Okavango, the Mighty Drakensberg, the beauty of Southern Mozambique, the Kruger National Park and the other transfrontier conservation areas across Africa."

Mutandi: "In the areas you have travelled, are there any loopholes which you have identified that need attention from relevant stakeholders? If there are, what are your suggestions?"

Holgate: "To be truthful, Zimbabwe has suffered from a great deal of negative publicity and we have to start changing that image and attracting visitors and investors to come back and be part of the future.

We have an expedition saying that reads: there’s no point in viewing life in the rear-view mirror, we have to concentrate on the road ahead. Zimbabwe, too, has to work on this image. As always, whenever visiting this country, we realise that its greatest asset is not just places like the Victoria Falls, but it’s the wonderful people and the friendliness of Zimbabwe — so best wishes for the road ahead."

Mutandi:"I notice that you opted to camp rather than to stay in lodges or hotels. Is it a deliberate move to stay away from comforts?

 Kingsley Holgate:"Not entirely. We love the bush. And having spent so much of my life on the Zambezi River, having travelled it from source to mouth and mouth to source, I wanted to sit and watch the sunset, the African skimmers, the hippo and the elephant, the cry of the fish eagle — it’s special.

But the other night it was a hot shower, great food and a bed at Matetsi Lodge. We mix and match as the journey takes us, the last one was 448 days around the edge of Africa, sleeping wherever we end up."

Mutandi:"When did the expedition start and when is it going to end?"

Holgate:"On Monday May 11 2009, Miss South Africa cut the ribbon at a massive send-off from the International Toursim Indaba in Durban and the convoy of Land-Rovers was led out of the city by a mountain bike team that marked the start of the 120-day Boundless Southern Africa Expedition, crossing the continent from East to West, to end on the 19th of August at the mouth of the Orange River on the Namibian Sperrgebiet side.

Mutandi :" Do you have a family?"

Kingsley Holgate:"Absolutely, There’s my wife Mashozi, that’s Gill Holgate’s Zulu name.

As always, she’s the expedition bursar and is in charge of juggling the budget and all the paperwork and supplies.

Ross Holgate, my son, is in charge of logistics and filming the journey.

Anna, Ross’s girlfriend, types up the notes from my expedition journal and then there is my grandson, Tristan Holgate, he just loves expedition life and is a young explorer in the making.

In fact, he’s here with us today at the Boundless Soccer Challenge at the Chinotimba soccer field outside Mosi-oa-Tunya — the smoke that thunders, the World Heritage Site of Victoria Falls.

Mutandi:"A word or two to Zimbabweans?

Kingsley Holgate:" Wonderful God’s country you should take great care of it."

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