On Saturday, October 18th, twenty CIEE students, two staff members, one intern, and four local student volunteers headed up to Serowe for a jam-packed weekend!
Here’s what’s in this issue:
Getting up at 6:30 AM to catch a 7 AM bus is something no one looks forward to, but we did it anyway. Leaving Gaborone that early, we were in Serowe at Khama Rhino Sanctuary by lunch hour. Serowe is one of the largest villages in Botswana, home to over 40,000 people. It is around 4 hours north of Gaborone, Botswana's capital, in between Gaborone and Francistown. Serowe is famous for being the home of the Bangwato, the tribe of three of the country's four Presidents since Independence in 1966, Sir Seretse Khama, Festus Mogae and current President Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
Serowe has many cultural attractions. One of the most popular is the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, located 20 km outside of Serowe, on the way to the mining town, Orapa.
According to its website, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary (KRS) "is a community based wildlife project, established in 1992 to assist in saving the vanishing rhinoceros, restore an area formerly teeming with wildlife to its previous natural state and provide economic benefits to the local Botswana community through tourism and the sustainable use of natural resources. Covering approximately, 8585 hectares of Kalahari Sandveld, the sanctuary provides prime habitat for white and black rhino as well as over 30 other animal species and more than 230 species of birds."
The Serowe excursion combines fun and education, as we begin the weekend with an overnight and game drive at Khama Rhino Sanctuary and visit the Khama III Memorial Museum on Sunday before driving back south to Gaborone.
After checking in at the reception, we jumped into safari vehicles and headed off to have lunch, which was delicious. After lunch, everyone was ready to relax so we went to our camping site where we were allocated a few rooms that had three bunk beds in each and two shared showers and two toilets. Student volunteers were distributed accordingly in each room with students.
We had about two hours of free time to shower, take naps, and just relax before having our planned activities. We brought along a few balls, a skipping rope, a frisbee, and there was a trampoline at the site which the students decided to use their free time reminiscing their gymnastics days on it.
It was nice to have a few hours of outside relaxation before the post-dinner game drive. After spending most of their time indoors at the University of Botswana, the students were happy to be active and breathing some fresh country air.
To spice the afternoon up, Resident Director Basetsana Maposa announced the next activity: Serowe's Got Talent! A panel of judges was selected and individuals competed for the top prize - GLORY!
There was so much talent unleashed and so many surprises. Almost everyone went up on stage performing songs, rapping, dancing, pretending to be combi drivers, swimming in the air, and hitting themselves with frisbees---yes that happened. Many students performed in duos or groups; some students felt they had so much to show so they went up not once, or twice, but multiple times. Gaone, CIEE's intern, made a great host as she kept the show running and the crowd much entertained with her humor and presence. The judges were Lebogang, one of the student volunteers, who went by Lebang bang; Braeden, who went by a weird name we cannot remember, and Alaina who was just herself. The judges were given a chance to lay out their opinions on the performances and they did not hold back. The show was thrilling and well-delivered.
Luckily, we captured all of the great talent on video (and some of the not-so-talented, but don't worry - we will keep those a secret!).
Needless to say, "Serowe's Got Talent" was a great success. Everyone was so spectacular that the judges were unable to crown a winner. After the talent show, we all headed to dinner and got ready for our night game drive.
After the earlier shenanigans, everyone was excited to get out on a game drive and experience the nocturnal wildlife at Khama Rhino. It didn't disappoint! It was challenging to get good photos in the dark, but the students still managed to capture the rhinos we saw and an owl. One safari car even saw a leopard, but it was too quick for photos!
Khama Rhino boasts both black rhinos and white rhinos. Black rhinos are known to be more aggressive. KRS only has 4 black rhinos, whereas they have 30 white ones. Despite the names, there is no difference in color between white and black rhinos. The main physical difference is the shape of their mouths. Black rhinos are browsers, which means that they eat leaves off of trees and bushes, not from the ground. Their mouths are smaller and hook-shaped to allow them to do so. White rhinos are grazers, so they have a broad, flat mouth that allows them to easily eat grass.
Rhinos are approaching extinction due to poaching. Their horns are valuable as they are thought to be an aphrodisiac in some cultures. KRS has employed a rhino breeding program to assist rhinos to replenish their numbers and eventually release them back into their natural habitat throughout Botswana.
In addition to rhinos, KRS has numerous impala, wildebeests, jackals, antelopes and other small animals. We learned all about these animals on our drive. But one of the animals that are only seen on night drives are owls, as they are nocturnal. We were lucky enough to see a beautiful owl perched on a tree.
The game drive was a great end to a fun day!
To put an educational end on a fun-filled weekend, we headed to Khama III Memorial Museum on Sunday morning after breakfast. We were all eager to visit the historical sites. The Museum's namesake, Khama III, was Sir Seretse Khama's grandfather. Sir Seretse Khama was Botswana's first President after Independence. The museum houses history and artifacts of all times and populations in Botswana, but focuses mostly on the Bangwato tribe and Serowe.
We began the tour by looking at old photos of Serowe that depicted the development of the village from a primarily agrarian society to the more town-like village that we see today.
The subsequent rooms we toured through included artifacts of the San people, the earliest inhabitants of Botswana, Bessie Head, a famous novelist chronicling her experiences in South Africa and Botswana, and the Setswana traditional household setting (the cattle post, the fields, the village, and more).
In the traditional household setting, a Motswana family has multiple homesteads. The women usually stay in the village raising the children. During planting and harvesting times, they also work at the fields. Men primarily spend their time at the cattle post. Although life is different in the city, many Batswana continue to live in this traditional way.
San artifacts: bows and arrows that they hunt with, leather clothing, and jewelry made from ostrich shells
Students enjoyed earning about parts of the history of Botswana that they hadn't been exposed to before the tour.
From the museum, we left for the royal cemetery, which is about 5 minutes drive from the museum. We walked up the hill to the cemetery which has a beautiful view of the village. The cemetery has graves of the first president of Botswana and his wife, past chiefs, their wives, and children. They have been decorated with stones and artificial grass. In consideration of respect for the people buried in the cemetery, we were not allowed to take photos on that part of the tour. After a good history lecture of the cemetery, everyone was ready to head back to the bus and leave for Gaborone.
Thank you for following us again! Until next time, sala sentle (stay well)!