We’ve been lucky enough to virtually meet (that is, meet online) two amazing conservationists and animal-lovers who are embarking on an extraordinary 7000km trip through Africa this year.
Rebecca and Andrea are preparing to head off on an Africa conservation adventure at the end of March through six countries (Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia) visiting 23 national parks, protected reserves or special protected areas, camping with a rooftop tent and an igloo-tent. Their intention is to raise funds and awareness around what’s really happening in their beloved country, with particular reference to the terrible ivory trade and wildlife conservation.
Here we meet the pair, and find out about travel, animals, adventure and all that’s dear to their heart in Africa.
Who is going on this Africa conservation adventure?
Rebecca Phillips; I have had the privilege to have grown up in Tanzania and I am third generation expat living and working here. My parents and grandparents are farmers and have a dairy farm in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania in an area surrounded by true wilderness. Since my earliest memories I have been going on camping trips and adventurous explorations to remote areas which have given me a great love, respect and passion for wildlife and the African bush. It is therefore not so surprising that I chose to do a degree in tourism management which has given me the opportunity to live in the wilderness and I am now managing Mdonya Old River Camp in Ruaha National Park alongside Andrea.
Andrea Pompele; I’m Italian I grew up in the middle of the western Alps on the border with France, surrounded by a wonderful nature, incredible pine forests and the highest peak of mountains the Mont Blanc. I am passionate about nature since I was a little kid, hanging around and hiking with my father and climbing and camping with my friends. For that reason I decided to study evolutionary biology at university, after the degree I decided to keep my interests in ethology but I specialised in ecology. After the second degree I chose to finish my study in earth sciences. For a while I worked in Italy, but I left Europe to focus on my passion: African wildlife. I was working in southern Africa as a guide and I recently moved to Tanzania to manage and train the guides of the camp we run in Ruaha National Park, the Mdonya Old River Camp, a wild wild place.
How and why did you decide on this particular itinerary?
We were invited to attend a wedding in Botswana and after many a night of sitting around the camp fire discussing our dream of going on a big adventure and seeing more of Africa we came up with the itinerary of going through Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and back through Zambia which was plausible given the time frame we had for the trip.
At some point we transformed it from being a private travel adventure, to a trip with a cause.
Let people be aware of the situation of conservation in African countries, it’s important and everybody should know how much effort different organisations are putting in to actively protect this incredible richness.
They can be supported by anyone that finds this cause important.
Why did you choose to go during the wet season?
During April and May the camp that we manage closes down, giving us the time to go on such a trip. Also the fact that it meant that the places we are hoping to visit will not be so busy was a positive factor for going during the rains. And of course also because it is more challenging and adventurous.
What do you expect to be the big highlight of this journey?
Although I (Rebecca) have spent the majority of my life in Africa, I have only experienced Tanzania so I am very excited to visit other African countries and have the opportunity to see more of Africa’s incredible diverse wilderness. Planning the itinerary there are so many things that I am excited about, but I do have a fascination with waterfalls so I think seeing Victoria Falls is going to be a definite highlight.
For me (Andrea) it’s going back to the places that I already know, it’s a feeling of discovering new places and exploring new parts of the most beautiful continent. The big highlight could be considered the great adventure we will do: a Land Rover, a tent and the wilderness to explore, experiencing what we have long dreamt of.
What do you expect will be the most challenging aspects of the trip?
Driving for such long distances over rough roads in a land rover and dealing with all the bureaucracy that entails crossing country boarders.
What is your key goal of the trip?
Our main aim is to raise awareness on an international level that there are big threats to wildlife in Africa and that everyone can play a role in making a difference in protecting Africa’s wildlife.
We hope that in a small way our trip can be an inspiration for ordinary people to do something to support conservation and the fight against poaching.
It’s ethical, it’s important, it’s urgent!
What aspects of wildlife protection are you most passionate about sharing with the world?
I (Rebecca) am particularly passionate about elephants, having had the opportunity to live alongside herds of elephants watching them from a very close proximity observing their characters and their behaviour. So the fact that so many elephants in Tanzania are being shot for their ivory is a cause that is very close to my heart. The fact that there has been a nearly 60 per cent decline in Tanzania’s elephant population in the last five years is shocking and yet most people are unaware that if this trend doesn’t stop, there is a real risk that Tanzania will lose all of its elephants in the foreseeable future.
I (Andrea) love every type of life’s form. I’m passionate about carnivores and I’m confident with cats particularly lions. During my job I had several close encounters with them, even on foot. I find them majestic but they also are endangered as well as the elephants that I love, we should do something actively to protect them. We are glad and grateful to work and live surrounded by these wonderful creatures, but the possibility is not too remote of losing them and this gives me an urgency to act directly. If we don’t stop the killing and we don’t manage the human vs animal conflict, my daughter in five to ten years is at risk of not being able to admire them every day as I do. This is unacceptable for the future generations and for humanity in general. It’s a human heritage we must not lose
How are you both sharing this message?
We will be blogging and sharing photos, videos on social media pages and conducting short interviews with the organisations that we are supporting.
What would you like to see changed (for the better) in Africa in your lifetime?
A safer environment for elephants and rhinos where they are not at risk of extinction because of human greed for material wealth in terms of ivory and rhino horn. Justified protection of carnivores and all wildlife as a global heritage not only under the property of the country where they live, but in a greater scale, for humanity as well.
Where can people find you online to show support?
Please follow the adventure #africaconservationadventure on Facebook, Twitter @AdventureLifePr, Instagram @andrewbigdaddy, the blog (in English and Italian) is Adventure Life Project and its Facebook page here.
Do you consider these countries in Africa are safe to visit?
Yes, although we have done a lot of research into the areas that we are going to and we are avoiding areas which we consider dangerous. The main thing is to do your research so you are aware of the real risks and you can take the necessary precautions. People should visit these countries because each one has unique and incredible destinations to visit.
What three words or phrases would you use to describe what you love most about Africa?
Rebecca: wilderness, diversity, sense of belonging.
Andrea: authentic, free, wild.
Want more on Africa? You might also enjoy our exclusive vintage travel photos feature here.