Recently I attended a talk hosted by Africa’s last great explorer, Kingsley Holgate. Sitting two rows from the front, after a short video clip documenting his recent adventures, Holgate proceeded to transport his audience very far from the Mother City. “We’re going on a trip. For the next few minutes we are not sitting here, but we are in the Kalahari huddled in our camp chairs around the fire and we are going to tell a story, because around the campfire is the best place to tell a story isn’t it? It crackles and dances in front of us, and in the distance you can hear the jackals call.”
Holgate proceeds to regale us with stories of Africa, which he fondly refers to as “Mama Africa” the craziest place on earth. He strokes his beard as he enthusiastically recounts how he deterred men with AK47’s by stuttering, pretendeding to be drunk, “ wwwould yooou l-like a co.. like a co…a Fanta?”
Holgate has traversed the continent backwards. He’s best known for his iconic team of Land Rovers and his beaded calabash delivering mosquito nets to vulnerable African communities where a child dies from malaria every minute. He has been to the most dangerous places on earth, including Somalia and Libya where he sampled illegally brewed alcohol with SA expats. He is one of the best story tellers I have yet heard, and he is both fearless and inspiring. His story telling is as messy and as colourful as a map of Africa.
But Holgate doesn’t adventure without reason. He has made the delivery of these vital anti-malaria supplies his mission in life, and has recently taken on a new challenge: to raise funds and awareness for the rhino. On a recent trip, Holgate and his team drove between Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa’s Kruger National Park. These are the very areas where the rhino poachers come from. Holgate says that there are young men drinking and playing pool in these destitute villages now being funded by Asian Ivory buyers. “It’s not just about the toll on the rhino’s. One little girl we met has had both her brothers killed by anti-poaching units. Many of these children have never even seen a rhino.”
Holgate is a great, flamboyant and boisterous character. If you ever get a chance, go to one his talks, support his work, read his books or even go on one of his trips!