On a recent visit to Zinave National Park, the team wakes up to another beautiful day in Africa. The endless blue sky is dotted with clouds that bring with it the promise of two seasons in one day. However, this is the perfect weather for a scouting mission as the team needs to find ideal spots to develop tourism infrastructure.
Packed for a new day of adventure, Peace Parks Foundation’s Johalize Koch, Siewert Groenewald and Richard Davies are taken to some spectacular sites by two men who know the park best, Zinave’s Project Manager, Bernard van Lente and Senior Project Manager, Antony Alexander.
As Bernard drives the crew around in his 4×4 vehicle, herds of plains game and flocks of birds can be seen frolicking about on the lush, green plains, which have been transformed after the plentiful summer rainfall. Instead of the red, sandy soil that one might typically expect to see during the drier winter months, these open grasslands are now teeming with life of all shapes and sizes. Not only are the grasslands in full colour, but the seasonal pans scattered throughout the park are filled with water and, as a result, now host a variety of water-dependent species.
The 408 000 ha Zinave National Park is situated in Inhambane province and extends all the way to the Save River in the south. Despite water levels dropping quite significantly during the dry season, the Save River is an important year-round water source for animals living in this landscape, and a camp along the banks would certainly make for a scenic spot to spend the night. As many of these beautiful riverside spots are hard to reach by road, the team must continue their explorations on foot which leads them to an area tucked away in the dense riverine forest.
With the ever-changing landscape going from a dry arid savanna in winter to a wilderness marshland in the rainy season, mapped roads are often difficult to find. This is one of the biggest challenges people face when working in remote locations such as this because the lack of an established road network ultimately leads to a lot of hiking and bundu-bashing.
Although it might be tough on the calves, the work being done here is very rewarding as proper tourism infrastructure means more people from the communities living just outside the park’s boundaries will find meaningful employment, which means food on the table and kids in school, helping to alleviate poverty in the area.
The team’s search is halted when a proper downpour has them seeking shelter under Zinave’s magnificent tree canopy, where they wait it out before heading back to the comfort of camp. It’s not long before the crew is dry and settling in to enjoy a peaceful scene overlooking the Save River with a crackling fire in the background – the trials and tribulations of the dedicated Peace Parks’ members on the ground!