Wilderness, along with Venture Media and our main sponsors RMB, hosted the 2022 Ride for Rhinos in the Damaraland area from 22-26 June 2022. Now in its eighth year, it proved to be a wonderful success.
In epic style, we went back to basics after the luxury of staying in lodges for the last two years. The participants camped for three nights in the spectacular setting close to our remote Damaraland Adventure Camp.
The amazing sandstone ridges formed a spectacular backdrop, and we had our last evening in style at Damaraland Camp.
Each day’s ride was around 30 – 35 km, along various tracks in and around the Huab Valley. This is one of the most scenic areas in north-western Namibia, and we crossed dry riverbeds and sand dunes, and enjoyed spectacular views across varied terrain. It is a mountain bike event after all, so did our fair share of climbing in the rocky terrain as well.
We focused on cycling during the morning hours, followed by a nature drive in the afternoon.
The three days of riding proved fun-filled and exciting in the rough terrain for the group of 16 riders, and three support riders.
We even all managed to survive for three days without mobile phones, email, WhatsApp, etc., focusing purely on having fun. We were very fortunate that the weather also played along, giving us cool days without too much wind.
The event aims to bring together members of various corporates, as well as individuals, with Save the Rhino Trust creating a platform for collaboration and future partnerships between the parties. The tour also provides a direct financial benefit to Save the Rhino Trust and Children in the Wilderness.
This year we were accompanied by two cyclists from Save the Rhino Trust – Ephraim and Noah – who traded their patrol mules for Scott bicycles generously sponsored by Cymot. It was a lot of fun to have them around, riding and sharing stories with us.
Tommy Hall leads the intelligence and anti-poaching efforts for SRT, and the rest of his patrol team joined us for the four evenings, helping with the event support, and sharing the challenges SRT faces and the innovations and concepts to keep the rhino safe.
Despite an upsurge in rhino poaching, the area we visited has been incident-free for an extended period.
At a time when many challenges confront biodiversity conservation in Namibia, the cycling adventure was fruitful and enriching.
The challenges in conservation include the devastating effects Covid-19 had on the tourism industry, which supports various conservation efforts and livelihoods, especially in the remote north-western parts of the Kunene Region.
The area remains a world-leading stronghold for black rhino conservation in areas outside national parks. We met up with the local community at De Riet to gain an understanding of how communities live with wildlife.
Communities, through the conservancies, NGOs like SRT, IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation) and other vitally important partners and operators like Wilderness, play a significant role in looking after the iconic desert-adapted black rhino population, along with other iconic species.
The reality of the situation and success achieved by conservation efforts in this area is in stark contrast to the devastating news of 11 rhinos being poached in Etosha National Park a little over a month prior to our event. By October 2022, Namibia had lost 55 rhinos to poaching during the year, the highest number yet.
The challenges and approaches differ significantly between these areas, though the financial value of rhino horn is a source of constant temptation for poachers.
There is a small collaborative group of people and corporates driving the event.
- Elzanne McCullough and Rieth Van Schalkwyk (Venture Media) came up with the concept for Ride for Rhinos in December 2014, at a time when Namibia was enduring a bad period of rhino poaching.
- Conrad Dempsey from RMB (at the time) got in touch with them and the event started taking shape. The current CEO of RMB, Phillip Chapman, has continued to support the event in full.
- Wilderness jumped on board, with Gerhard Thirion and Johan Fourie providing the cycling and other logistics. A big thank you to Alexandra Margull for the sponsorship of bed nights, and the logistical support of vehicles, and equipment and staff from Wilderness Damaraland Camp.
- Cymot provided essential skills in the form of one of the best bicycle mechanics in the business, Martin Ngilifavali.
- This year Cymot Chairman, Axel Thiesen, joined the tour for the seventh time, along with his cycling team.
- Dr David Webber also joined us, as the Tour Doctor and Chief Gameviewer DJ.
The 2023 tour is set to be even more exciting and we will run two back-to-back tours, with Wilderness, along with RMB, being the title sponsors of the event.
REGISTRATIONS HAVE OPENED FOR THE 2023 EVENT. WITH ONLY 18 PLACES ON EACH TOUR, BOOK NOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT! FIND OUT MORE AND BOOK YOUR PLACE HERE.
Report by Johan Fourie, Wilderness Namibia Land and Natural Resources Manager