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Game Warden posted a topic in ZimbabweOn the final day of my visit to Zimbabwe, I met with Benson, (whose Safaritalk interviews you can read here and in Issue 2 of the Magazine here) who was taking me to the pre school and community project which he has built on his his own in a village close to Victoria Falls. Situated halfway between the town and the airport, the small community is in an arid area in which there is little water and children walk with their parents up to 8km there and back every day so they can attend school. All the materials used for the construction of the school building were locally sourced by Benson, using scrap and discarded materials - in his own time and on his own initiative he then built the classrooms, the shop, the toilets, the slides, swings and even bought an old VW Beetle in which the children pretend to drive round Zimbabwe. One of the students was keen to model the pith helmet. I was introduced to the class, everyone knows Benson, and there is obviously much love and respect for everything he has done. The children sang a number of songs which I joined in, (and don't mind admitting brought a tear to my eyes), recited the alphabet and numbers 1-10 and we had a question and answer session where I asked the children their names, some tried on the pith helmet - I was immediately called Mr Mdevu, (Mr Beard), which made everyone laugh. Some of the children are HIV positive and are growing up in extremely tough conditions, but here at school, with their red and blue uniforms, Benson is providing them with a chance. Some of you will remember the Happy Readers initiative: Benson has been provided with a series of books, (thanks to a donation from a US client), for the children through the organisation - and it was through us here at ST that Ngoko learned of the initiative.. At present the school is for children of pre school ages, but it is Benson's hope to upgrade so year one can be taught. If not, some of these children will never go to a proper school. However the beaurocracy in trying to establish a first grade school may be insurmountable... The hard working and enthusiastic teacher. Not only is the classroom built from recycled materials, so are the slides and swings - everything has been salvaged by Benson, put on his truck and brought to the site. The kids love it... People think Benson is crazy when he takes old car tyres from the side of the road. "Where are you taking that rubbish?" they ask him. Well, they are to be made into swings. Benson still has some more frames to weld up: he saw that the children were climbing the trees, swinging on the branches and breaking them down, so the "new" swings provide much more fun and also save the trees from being damaged. His plan is to put many more activities up for the children to play on and in, and recently bought this old VW Beetle in which they pretend to drive round in. It's all about stimulating their imagination - later that day when Benson dropped me at the airport we met with the airport manager to arrange a day trip for them so they could see the aeroplanes close up, taking off and landing. Some of the mums take turns to cook lunch everyday: for some of the children it's their only proper meal. The school charges 8 US$ per month per child, which is spent on ingredients and to help pay the teacher's wage. Even that is sometimes hard to find for some families. Alongside the school Benson built a small shop which sells basic supplies, otherwise it's maybe a 10 km walk into town. Again, using salvaged materials and some old concrete sleepers which he bought from the railway company. Alongside, a toilet block with urinal and toilet, hand basin: Benson highlighted the importance of hygeine and handwashing for the children. The school is giving these children a chance. Benson is giving them a chance. But it's not just the school. He is setting up areas for chickens, a small pig farm, employing young local people to look after them, as the soil is unproductive for crops. The jobs provide the young people with an income, and Benson pays for some of them to get their driving licenses. To be honest, I don't know how he does it. Away often guiding safaris, then back briefly with his wife, then helping out at the school and the village. Then, helping young student guides with their studies, taking them out on birdwatching trips, advising them, encouraging them, all without pay in his spare time. Everyone you met knew Benson: it wasn't as this great safari guide, but it was as someone who is an inspiration, someone who puts back into the community, works hard to empower people and make their lives better. Sure, he is a well respected guide, as some recent "Top Guides lists" acknowledge, but off duty, at home, he doesn't relax, he walks round in shorts, tee and flip flops trying to make people's lives better. Selflessly - he doesn't seek reward or accolades - most people don't know what he does for a living, they think he's just some crazy guy, but, he's just some crazy guy making more of a difference than I ever can, and they love him for it. I left Benson at the airport giving him 100 US$ to buy whatever he thinks is essential for the school and I know that he will choose wisely. My last view of him was whilst he was in conversation with the airport manager and I knew his school children would have an exciting day out watching the aeroplanes very soon. Matt.
Mosquito posted a topic in Trip reportsmany thanks to the Safari Talk forum for help in planning an exceptional 18 day safari in Botswana and Zambia. Special shout out to Safari dude who introduced us to Benson Siyawareva who still has us laughing..what a great guy and guide who went with us to Botswana. Also always appreciate Twaffle's help as her advice has been so spot on over the years....And Fiona at Ngoko Safaris did all the arrangements superbly...not a hitch, not even one..... arrived home at about noon and started downloading the images to my computer so will have something to post shortly..... camps were Little Vumbura, Little Kwara, Lagoon, Lebala, Kaingo and Mwamba with a one night stay at Royal Livingstone as we moved from Botswana to Zambia...stayed 3 nights at all the camps except Lebala where we split 5 days between Lagoon and Lebala.... Saw every kind of game imaginable with lots of predator action and babies as well.....and who can forget a Ferrari Safari with the wild dogs? Anyway thanks again for being such a valuable resource.... Mr and Mrs Mosquito
Ngoko Safaris is thrilled to announce the launch of a small group tour in Zimbabwe next year. This special itinerary will be guided by Benson Siyawareva and will run with a minimum of 3 guests and a maximum of 6 guests, ensuring an extremely exclusive experience. The outline of this 11 night itinerary is: 3 nights Linkwasha Camp, Hwange National Park 3 nights Changa Safari Camp, Matusadona National Park 3 nights Ruckomechi Camp, Mana Pools National Park 2 nights Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls The price of this unique safari is US$9,480 per person sharing, with a US$1,320 single supplement. With just four guest rooms available (maximum 2 singles) please contact us for further details if you are interested in joining Benson on this very special trip. Please email email@example.com for a detailed itinerary and to register your interest.
ngoko posted a topic in Lodge, camp and operator newsNgoko Safaris is delighted to announce our first small group scheduled departure with Benson Siyawareva, a guide that many on this forum are already very familiar with. Over the years we have been asked time and time again by potential guests whether there is a scheduled departure they can join, in order to allow them to travel with Benson at a more affordable price than booking him exclusively. Each time the answer has been an apologetic no. We have considered running a scheduled small group trip many times but always found reasons not to. Well for the very first time we are taking the plunge and offering our guests the opportunity to travel with Benson as a specialist guide, within a small group of maximum six guests. For this trial trip we have chosen to travel during the photogenic Green Season in Botswana, staying at the Kwando camps which are some of Benson’s personal favorites. The summer rains are a time of plenty in Africa; mammals are fat and healthy and for many species, it is a time to bring their young into the world. The bush is an emerald green, dotted with an abundance of flowers and migrant bird species arrive in their thousands. For the experienced African traveller and specialist photographer, this is the time to visit southern Africa. In brief the itinerary is: 11 March 2015: Start Maun, Botswana. Scheduled light air transfer Maun – Tau Pan 3 nights Tau Pan Camp, Central Kalahari 14 March: Scheduled light air transfer Tau Pan – Little Kwara 3 nights Little Kwara Camp, Kwara Concession, Okavango Delta 17 March: Scheduled light air transfer Little Kwara – Lebala Camp 2 nights Lebala Camp, Kwando Concession 19 March: Game drive transfer Lebala – Lagoon Camp 2 nights Lagoon Camp, Kwando Concession 21 March: Scheduled light air transfer Lagoon – Kasane, Botswana to connect with your International Flight (or we could arrange to extend your trip, perhaps with a few nights in Victoria Falls or Cape Town or even continuing the safari experience) Price: US$7,250.00 per person sharing. No single supplement (maximum 2 singles per group). Price Includes: Accommodation with all meals and beverages, including premier brands (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), all game viewing activities and laundry; Services of Benson Siyawareva as specialist guide throughout; All transfers starting in Maun (Botswana) and ending in Kasane (Botswana). We could arrange for you to finish in Maun instead of Kasane or fly direct to another safari camp in Botswana. From Kasane it is simple to arrange a road or air transfer to Victoria Falls. There are daily flights between Johannesburg/Maun and Kasane/Johannesburg. Private open game-viewing vehicle at each safari camp with a “window” seat for each guest; Maximum 6 guests. Price Excludes: International flights (to Maun and returning from Kasane); Visas; Compulsory travel insurance; All relevant entry and departure Government taxes; Gratuities; All personal purchases; All other travel arrangements pre or post the safari and any new Government taxes or levies; Fuel or industry increases which are beyond our control. We are extremely excited to be offering this special itinerary and already have a confirmed booking, so there are only two rooms still available. If you think you may be interested please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information and a detailed itinerary. We look forward to hearing from you! Contact details: Fiona Thompson Director - Ngoko Safaris Tel: +44 (0)1442 827500 Mob: +44 (0)7709 339341 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.ngoko.com Skype: ngoko.fiona