What lessons does driving across Africa teach you? Humility; check. Patience; check. But most importantly; that pre-conceptions are almost always wrong…

#EchoChamberDisruption Tanzania Landcruiser travel Africa

In the year of fake news and information overload, we at Tentsile thought it important to tell stories that can make a global difference, with real meaning, and with the environment, conservation and communities at the forefront. So in 2017, we set out to disrupt the social media echo chambers that restrict our newsfeeds and strived to share information on the news that matters. 

James Borrell, conservation biologist, and Tentsile’s first resident explorer has spent most of 2017 driving his Landcruiser, Tinkerbell, across Africa. He’s shared his stories in our #EchoChamberDisruption series, keeping all of you up to date with important conservation efforts. These firsthand insights have helped to reveal topics of overfishing in Malawi, eco-tourism in Tanzania, and conservation after conflict in Mozambique to name a few...

Beginning this journey across Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique, I was probably most nervous about Zimbabwe. We’d heard horror stories of police, bribes, and corruption. Aside from the odd officer trying to boost his pay packet (after all, they’re chronically poorly paid), it turned out to be one of our favorite countries. The variety of habitats within its borders is spectacular. Six months later, it has even shaken itself free of Mugabe’s clutches. I can’t wait to see it blossom.

Turn then to Mozambique. As we trundled down Tanzania I was nervous. Were we being brave or foolhardy in trying to drive the stonkingly huge length of Mozambique? Especially given recent unrest around the Zambezi. We were confidently reassured by many people we met that a ceasefire was in place and all was well. Thank goodness - They were right! And we encountered more kindness and hospitality in Mozambique than perhaps anywhere else.

All this reminds me of something Wilfred Thesiger said, whilst travelling amongst the nomads of Arabia: “The harder the life, the finer the people”. And given the challenges facing many African countries, I think that rings true.

View From Blue Mountain

As for success stories… The one that sticks with me the strongest is the guard dogs (who think they’re sheep!) at the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The best solutions are often the simplest, and that project is simply genius – do give it a read, here. And if I could go back anywhere in a heartbeat, it would be to the Blue Mountain overlooking the mighty Niassa reserve in Northern Mozambique. That view had us in awe for three days straight, and perhaps we would have never left if it wasn’t for the sweat bees!

I write this final installment from a train trundling through London’s suburbs. It’s perhaps as far removed from the African bush as it’s possible to be. I think sometimes that the goal of travelling is to experience some sort of epiphany. If only I could draw some profound conclusions from all we saw... We will, instead, have to be content in the knowledge that many of you followed our journey – thank you. I hope you have seen a side of Africa and conservation that perhaps you didn’t know existed before.

I’ll sign off with a quote from Henry Miller. He said simply: “One’s destination is never a new place, but a new way of seeing things”.  I hope we can find a new, more optimistic, way to see conservation, too.

To catch up on the rest of the series click the links below.
Part 10: Driving Across Africa – Incredible Lessons From the End of the Road
Alex Shirley-Smith