Final Tasks at the End of the World
By Molly Estabrook (University of Vermont ’15)
This week we were at our Wereldsend base camp where we finished up research projects, took exams, and packed up camp before heading off to the coast. This week we also went on a fabulous night game drive in Palmwag Concession where we saw lots of springbok and Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra. After we finished up our projects we spent the next day going on an absolutely incredible last fun game drive. It was truly amazing. The six of us piled into our truck and travelled on game routes in Torra Conservancy where we saw lots of wildlife and reviewed plants and trees in preparation for our natural history exam. As we were driving we travelled along the Huab Riverbed where we saw a troop of over fifteen Chacma baboons, seven male Kudu, and one male Oryx all in the same location! Shortly after that we began seeing signs of elephants and sure enough we turned a corner and saw several elephants all snacking on Acacia trees on the banks of the river bed. After taking lots of photos we moved down the river a bit to our lunch spot. Our lunch time quickly got interrupted by five elephants traveling toward us. So we all hopped back into the truck where we watched as the five elephants, one of which was a young of year, stopped and had their lunch at our previous lunch spot location. It was amazing seeing the elephants up close. Throughout the drive back to camp we saw more baboons and a Steenbok marking its territory. After the game drive we headed back to Wereldsend where we ate dinner and chatted by the fire and headed to bed with lions roaring and hyenas “whooping” in the background. It was an incredible last day of game drives.
Additionally, at the campfire we chatted about how great the day was and we were asked to reflect again on the question we were asked 11 weeks ago about what wilderness means to us and how our experience in Namibia has contributed to this meaning. When I first wrote about what wilderness means to me 11 weeks ago I would never have imagined how much this semester in Namibia and the people who we have met along the way would have positively impacted how I view wilderness today. Our time here in Namibia has taught me so much more about wilderness and how real it is. This experience has given me a new perspective and I feel more passionate about wilderness than I did 11 weeks ago – and I didn’t think that would have been possible.
Namibia and the people with whom we have worked have taught me several things. I have learned to be patient and flexible when it comes to unexpected weather conditions, such as the river that flooded our Omatendeka Conservancy Omuramba campsite, and to enjoy and embrace whatever comes my way. Namibia has also gotten me past my fear of snakes and other insects, and now I am fascinated with them. However, I am still not a huge fan of scorpions or zebra snakes. Conducting the wildlife monitoring game routes has made me fall more in love with wildlife and has made me want to continue studying wildlife conservation.
The RRCS leaders, gameguards, and other local community members have taught me so much more about how wildlife impacts the lives of people here. I have learned about how real human wildlife-conflict is and how it affects people and conservation management at the same time. Every person that I have met throughout the past three months has impacted my experience here and I have learned a great deal of knowledge from every individual that I will carry on with me. Namibia’s history and the local people we have encountered have taught me that forgiveness is extremely important. They have showed us that there is nothing to gain from holding on to the past, that humans are not perfect, and that it’s important to move on and learn from our mistakes instead of dwelling in the past.
Namibia has also provided the absolute best sunsets and sunrises I have ever seen before. Furthermore, there is absolutely no feeling like falling asleep to lions roaring in the distance along with hyenas and jackals under the incredible night sky full of stars and an almost full moon. I also learned helpful life skills throughout the semester such as to always be prepared to change a truck tire, and that when driving through sand, letting a little air out of the tires does the trick.
This experience has been incredible in every way and we are all very grateful for having this amazing opportunity. The four of us cannot believe that we have only a week left here. A huge thank you to our Round River leaders Bekah, Vehi, and the community members with whom we have worked for making this an amazing once in a lifetime experience we will cherish for years to come.