Spring 2016 Issue III - A Trip Up North : Orapa-Serowe Excursion
This past weekend, CIEE staff and students enjoyed a wonderful weekend excursion to northern Botswana. They drove 6 hours north to Orapa (Botswana’s oldest and most successful mining town) and Serowe (Botswana’s largest village). All in all, it turned out to be an educative and enjoyable couple of days. Here’s what’s in this issue:-
Our first stop was to Orapa - Botswanan’s mining capital. We departed from the University of Botswana at approximately 11 am, and enjoyed a 2hour drive north, to the small town of Mahalapye. We stopped to grab lunch for the day and snacks and treats for the remainder of the journey. With four more hours on the road, many played games and engaged in conversation till we finally arrived at our destination!
Orapa is an extremely secure town. It produces an immense quantity of diamonds per annum (11 million carrats to be exact!) and as a result, it is the only town in the country that has 24 hour surveillance. Orapa was created as a result of diamonds being discovered in the area, the processing plant at Orapa processes the Ore minded at Orapa and two other mines namely Letlhakane and Dampthsaa Diamond Mines (that’s a lot of Diamond).
In order to enter the town, each individual must apply for a visitor’s permit prior to arrival (Program Assistant Tania Phiri did an awesome job ensuring we were all set), the permit is issued to at the entrance check-point. Each student and staff member was required to bring relevant identification before they could receive their permit. It was made very clear to us that if the permit for any reason was misplaced, we would not be able to EXIT the town!
The next morning, we woke bright an early for to begin the Mine tour. Before we entered the mine, we sat through an educative presentation about the discovery of diamonds in Botswana, the origins of the mine, its benefits to the people of Botswana and the economy, and safety and security measures that must be maintained whilst in the mine. As a precautionary measure, we were provided with protective mine gear which included mining overalls, a hard hat, protective goggles, and gloves! It was pretty exciting to dress like a miner for the day. Finally, We were ready to enter the mine!
Don't Move, There's a Rhino
Once we were done with the mine tour, we had a late lunch at Wimpy and where off to our new destination. Serowe Village is a two hour drive from Orapa, where we would be spending the night at Khama Rhino Sanctuary.
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. The sanctuary provides a prime habitat for white and black rhino as well as over 30 other animal species and more than 230 species of birds.
We arrived at 6pm and were allocated dormitories for the night. We had a wholesome dinner before departing on what turned out to be a remarkable night game drive.
We were lucky enough to spot several animals which included the glorious rhinoceros (they are massive when seen close up), impala, zebra, wildebeest, Jackals and many many more!
A large Rhino we spotted on our game drive!
This was indeed fulfilling as Khama Rhino Sanctuary is one of the only places you are guaranteed to see rhinos in Botswana. Despite the cold weather, we had a wonderful experience and the beautiful stars added to the picturesque escapade.
The next morning took us to a monumental location in Serowe, the Khama III Memorial Museum. The museum is one of the most sought out cultural attractions in the village and is loceated in the northwest region of the village, not too far from Thataganyane Hill. The museum was opened with the aim of promoting cultural awareness and pride among the people of Serowe. It was opened on 19th October 1985, and still serves as an educative center to many about the village of Serowe, its history and people.
Upon arrival at the museum, we were greeted by our friendly guide, KB. He did an excellent job reiterating the history of Serowe. He showed us distinct moments in the history of Serowe, the Khama family (which happens to be one of the most important dynasties in Southern Africa). The museum houses some personal artifacts of Chief Khama III, his family and other significant memorabilia to the village of Serowe. The museum is extremely thorough with the information it holds, it has been used for research by many and was the cornerstone for information for the soon to be released blockbuster move : A United Kingdom!
The museum is also home to famous writer and internationally acclaimed writer Bessi Head exhibit. The museum showcases a replica of Bessi Head's bedroom/office where she wrote some of her most famous stories and books. The images on the wall showcase her life and times spent in Serowe. The walls are decked out with some of her international awards and some of her important writings.
After we explored the museum we were taken on a tour of the Thataganyane Hill, which ended with us at the the royal cemetery where Khama III and some of his descendants have been laid to rest. Overall the trip was packed with wonderful sights and was a great highlight of a couple of Botswana's hidden gems. Till next time Sala Sentle (Stay Well).