Kingsley Holgate - Mama Africa's Ambassador

29 May 2016 15:10pm
By Francois Lottering

WINDHOEK, 29 MAY (NAMPA) - Venturing into the unknown to see what lies beyond the beaten path is but a dream for many. In fact only a few dare to take the bold steps required to do so.
One such person was Dr David Livingstone, born in Scotland in 1913, who left his footprints in what is today known as the Zambezi Region – one of many places he explored.
Another is Kingsley Holgate, whom many consider a modern day Livingstone. Adventurer, explorer, author, legend, story-teller and above all humanitarian and ambassador for Africa, Holgate was born in Durban, South Africa in 1946.
He got his love for the continent and exploring from his parents, whose missionary travels took them all over southern Africa.
He has over the years visited every country on the continent he calls ‘Mama Africa’ during his expeditions. Unlike Livingstone who trekked mostly on foot and ox-wagon, Holgate does so in Land Rovers, inflatable boats, bicycles, on foot - the list goes on.
Holgate was in Namibia recently during the Namibia Tourism Expo on invitation by several local business such as Cymot, Land Rover Namibia and the Namibia Scientific Society (NSS).
His short trip hardly allowed him any free time for an interview with Nampa – in fact the spare few minutes the legend with the grey beard had was while driving to the expo to address other adventurers – in his Land Rover, naturally.
His size and huge beard might be intimidating, but once you are introduced to him and he starts to speak, you realise the man is a true people's person with endless knowledge of ‘Mama Africa’ and the people who live here.
Fitting a lifetime of adventures into 10 minutes is impossible, but even the few minutes driving through the streets of Windhoek was more than enough to get a glimpse of the adventurous man described by many as “the most travelled man in Africa.”
Where does one start such an interview – do you talk about where was he born? Why the love for Land Rovers? All these answers can be found by anyone with access to the Internet.
What I can say is that his love for this continent and its people is tangible. It is this same passion which sees him reach out to others during his adventures through the Kingsley Holgate Foundation (KHF).
“Life for us (the Kingsley Holgate Foundation) remains a great adventure,” he says while steering the vehicle through heavy Windhoek traffic.
“Our motto is clear - 'We use our adventures to safe and improve lives'.”
This means whenever they embark on an adventure they incorporate campaigns like 'One Net - One Life' or 'Rite to Sight'.
Bearing in mind that Holgate has had malaria more than 40 times, one understands his passion to help others to ensure that a similar fate does not befall them.
The 'One Net - One Life' campaign distributes mosquito nets to pregnant mothers and children under the age of five, while the 'Rite to Sight ' campaign donates spectacles to elderly people in remote African countries where health services are not readily available.
As his destination draws closer, our conversation turns to conservation, something Holgate is passionate about, and the importance of Africa to mankind.
The foundation amongst others is involved in a children’s art project to combat rhino poaching – just one of many initiatives to help save the rhino.
He also speaks of his expedition to the “true centre of Africa.” Starting off in South Africa late last year, Holgate and his team trekked all the way to the Republic of Congo to reach the geographic centre of the continent.
Along the way they had humanitarian outreaches. The last few kilometres had to be undertaken on foot due to the dense forests and inhospitable terrain.
“It was an incredible, gruelling and physical journey made possible by a group of Ba'aka people who were able to lead and guide us. They made it possible for us to place a big beacon of hope for Africa in the very geographic centre of the continent. On the beacon there is an outline of an African elephant,” Holgate said.
The Ba'aka pygmies are nomadic and live in south-western Central African Republic and in the Brazzaville region of the DRC.
Holgate recalled the taste of wild honey collected by the Ba'aka from the tall tree tops in the jungle – one of many ways in which they got their nourishment from nature.
As we get out of his car to meet other Land Rover enthusiasts, the 'Bearded Traveller' leaves me with the words of world renowned conservationist Dr Ian Player, who said “If we do not pass over the baton of conservation to the youth, we are doomed.”
After a sturdy handshake, I wonder where and how one starts to walk in the footsteps of this modern day explorer.
Only the heart's desires can take you where this extraordinary man has wandered.