Ranger Wellness – Expedition Africa
Wilderness Foundation Africa supports ranger wellness with Expedition Africa 2017.
Wilderness Foundation Africa is supporting the SANParks/ Team Ubhejane (meaning black rhino in Zulu) to take part in Expedition Africa 2017, a 10 day adventure race taking place in the Baviaanskloof this year. The event covers 500 km, involving a number of disciplines including mountain biking, canoeing, hiking and swimming from 10 – 20 May 2017. While a high degree of fitness is required, the event also demands that participants are able to navigate under challenging conditions during the day and at night.
The training, preparation, teamwork and personal growth associated with this and similar events are in line with the desired outcome of fit and motivated field rangers capable of managing protected areas effectively.
Matthew Norval, Chief Operations Officer of Wilderness Foundation Africa, explains the rationale behind this sponsorship: “Protected areas are a key strategy to conserving biodiversity. In addition to the protection of entire landscapes and wildlife, they also offer considerable social benefits. There is general agreement that the concept of protected areas does work and that they not only need to be expanded, but that mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure their long term maintenance and effectiveness. This said, the people responsible for the management of these areas have a critical role to play.
WFA supports the promotion of staff wellness in general and that of field rangers in particular. Wellness encompasses a wide range of physical and mental factors that enables individuals to remain fit and motivated and in a position to reach their full potential personally and professionally”.
Follow Team Ubhejane online through social media as they navigate by map only their way between Control Points through the Baviaans and Kouga, the Klein Karoo and Tsitsikamma, with the Baviaans (home to the well-known Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve, an UNESCO World Heritage Site), being the highlight of the 500km route.
Wilderness Foundation Africa managed the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve Project from 2004 to 2009 which saw the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve grow significantly in size as well as being listed as a World Heritage Site. As part of the project WFA worked closely with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency staff on the ground to ensure that the reserve reached its full potential both from a biodiversity conservation and tourism and recreational perspective.
- 273 km MTB
- 161 km running | trekking
- 86 km kayaking | orienteering | ropework | swimming | canyoneering
View a short video on Expedition Africa 2017
Meet the Team
Team Abhejane is focussed on promoting a helath, outdoor lifestyle and wellness amongst conservation employees, inspiring passion for the environment in which they work, as well as creating awareness about the plight of conservation. Team members include Dr David Zimmermann (Team leader and navigator), Marilyn Zimmermann (Team nutritionist and motivator), Ben Makaloi (Team technician and overall athlete) and Dan Leeuw (Team strongman and inspiration). WFA assisted Team Abhejane by funding the entrance fee for Dan and Ben.
Dan was born on 2nd May 1984 in Zastron, South Africa. He grew up in Kimberley and went to school at Pescodia High School. Although he wanted to be an Engineer when leaving school, Dan started working for South African National Parks Veterinary Wildlife Service’s Game Capture unit based in Kimberley. The core function of the unit is to supply capture support to implement animal capture and relocations in all the National Parks outside of Kruger, Marakele and Mapungubwe. Dan works as a specialist capture assistant. His strength is his commitment to not giving up. Dan keeps pushing forward and this has shown in his passion to get fit and pursue learning to swim efficiently. When Dan was approached in October with the idea to compete in Expedition Africa, his immediate thoughts were that this is what he have been waiting for and an adventure that he would love participating in. Dan’s inspiration is his family.
Although Expedition Africa does not specifically entail a swimming leg, it is a requirement that participants be able to swim 100m comfortably and be able to tread water. In order to ensure his safety, Dan has been taking swimming lessons.
“I first thought I know how to swim but I would get very tired after about 20m. So we got a chance to be trained by a professional swimming trainer and I came to realise that I have been swimming wrong since my teenage years (the beginning). Now I am so glad to get this opportunity to be a part of the Ubhejane team and be exposed to all of these different opportunities. Kealeboga.”
Ben was born on 18th August 1977 and grew up in Barkley West in the Northern Cape, attending school in Delportshoop. He initially worked on an open cast mine in the Delportshoop area. Ben wanted to be a boilermaker after school, however he never followed that path and instead started working for South African National Parks as a Capture Assistant. The VWS Game Capture unit based in Kimberley has afforded Ben the opportunity to visit many interesting places. His favourite capture operation is Giraffe capture, where he feels that he has learnt a lot from the Capture Unit manager, Rudi Williams.
Ben’s initial thoughts about Expedition Africa were that although he was extremely keen, he was also a bit nervous about the different disciplines. His first passion is mountain biking and swimming. Running and paddling were somewhat further down on the ladder. A couple of months down the line from embarking on the journey to Expedition Africa, Ben is a lot more at ease. He participates in the swimming lessons; he has run two half marathons comfortably and is quite a strong paddler. The people that inspire Ben are a local group of men from Delportshoop whom he goes mountain biking with.
Ben’s first thoughts on swimming were “this is going to be interesting”. He admits to not feeling comfortable at all with this prospect in the beginning. “I feel a lot more relaxed now than when I started swimming”. He says he has enjoyed the lessons and is extremely happy to have this opportunity to learn to swim properly. One can immediately notice that he is much more confident especially when paddling on the water. Kealeboga, thank you, dankie, nkosi.
A message from our team leader
Ben and Dan have shown immense dedication to everything that has been asked of them. They have run, mountain biked, paddled and swam ,often doing something completely out of their comfort zone. Once they both started swimming lessons you could see that their confidence levels rose. If our journey to Expedition Africa highlights one thing, that is by learning to swim properly is a major milestone on its own. They continue to inspire me with their passion and strong willpower. Adventure racing is much more expensive than other sports due to its multi-disciplines and equipment requirements. Ben and Dan have not once asked for anything, they have made it happen with what they have. Along the way we have had support from family, friends, colleagues and people we barely know, we are extremely grateful for the extra mile each and every one of you have gone for all of us. Our aim is to finish Expedition Africa 2017 Baviaanskloof and we hope we make you all proud.
- Matthew Norval
- 041 373 0293