05 August 2022The Nedbank Tour de Tuli made a phenomenal comeback this year for its 16th edition and an official return after a 2-year COVID-19 induced hiatus. 350 riders and over 200 crew, support and organisers made their way into Botswana as part of the 3-country tour of some of Africa’s most pristine wilderness in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA), including South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, all in the name of charity. After all, the Tour remains the primary fundraiser for Children in the Wilderness(CITW), the non-profit organisation founded and supported by Okavango Wilderness Safaris in Botswana. As the riders entered Botswana on day 3 of the 5-day Tour official route, the spirit of tomagano (togetherness) and botho (respect) were clear for all to see, hear and feel. in true Botswana style, with the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Honourable Philda Nani Kereng; Acting CEO of BTO, Tshoganetso Carl Ponoesele; and Chairman of Okavango Wilderness Safaris on hand to ensure a truly Botswana welcome..The 2022 tour, held between the 19th and the 24th of July 2022, saw riders traverse usually off-limits areas of pristine wilderness all in the name of charity. This included 3 development riders from Botswana passionate about getting involved in this adventure and experience of a lifetime. With riders coming from far and wide to participate, the 2 days riders spent in Botswana as part of the Tour in the specially erected Loensa Camp were curated to be a true taste of the warmth and hospitality Botswana has to offer. There was also a very clear theme for all to appreciate: sustainable impact..Said Honourable Minister Kereng, “It is a commitment that we have made, the three countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, as part of our agreement within the Transfrontier conservation areas that we are going to promote tourism, diversity and biodiversity, preservation, protection and also economic growth for communities around here. Diversifying also means going into the communities, leaving a tangible impact in our communities, and making sure that our communities are part of this as actors and as beneficiaries”.Sustainable impact was seen from the overarching eco-friendly direction of the Tour as a whole, as well as the engagement with the local community in the Tuli region, support of local supply chain, recognition for the importance of continuing to champion biodiversity, sustainable tourism and conservation, and engagement with the nearby Lentswe-Le-Moriti Primary School as, on behalf of the Tour, the Honourable Minister handed over a donation aimed at supporting the children’s academic journey. This was yet another demonstration of the Tour’s commitment to the children of Africa..“Insight, care and commitment are required to conserve Africa’s wilderness and wildlife. If we are to ensure that these places continue to exist, we need children across Africa to understand the importance of conservation and its relevance in their lives. Hence, the CITW programme: an environmental and life skills educational programme for children, focusing on the next generation of decision-makers; inspiring them to care for their natural heritage and to become the custodians of these areas in the future. The Tour is built around this important mission, and it is incredible to see how we come together as a community collective to make this real. Together, we really can continue to play a meaningful role in developing this next generation of environmental leaders”, said Okavango Wilderness Safaris Chairman, Kabelo N. Binns.Lentswe-Le-Moriti Primary School was without a doubt a true highlight for all in the Botswana leg of the Tour. Children waited with anticipation for riders to arrive, playing games and having fun with all in attendance and enjoying a morning different to their usual schedules as they met and engaged with riders to hear thrilling stories about the experience thus far. Honourable Minister Kereng, on behalf of the Tour and all involved, handed 95 school bags to the school, fully packed with stationary for students, as well as additional donations of educational puzzles and other games and maths sets for older children. Teachers received hand-made, locally produced bags with gifts within, and, two riders, Pete and Jeremy Powell, also personally donated t-shirts to the school..“On behalf of the entire school community, our profound appreciation to yourselves for popping into school and putting smiles on our beloved learners. It was incredibly heart-warming to see our kids beaming with smiles and screaming with joy when the riders showed up. As for the gifts, we are most sincerely thankful. They are quite relevant and adequate, a sure morale booster to the learners and teachers. Our stakeholders joyfully witnessed when we distributed these gifts, marking a closure to an amazing event that will be engraved in the memories of our kids for a long time”, said Mr. Monakwane, Headmaster of Lentswe-le-Moriti Primary School..The Tour has to date hosted approximately 3,900 participants who have been able to have an adventure of a lifetime in Africa’s amazing wilderness. Thus far, over P17 million has been raised towards Children in the Wilderness to date. In fact, 2022 marks 21 years of CITW, and, during this period, it has enriched the lives of more than 40,000 children in eight countries – Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, South Africa, Rwanda, Seychelles, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – creating armies of young eco-warriors. CITW programmes are currently being implemented in eight schools in Botswana’s Northwest District, six schools in Bobirwa, and at Tshwaragano Primary School in Old Naledi, Gaborone. CITW Botswana in 2021 also partnered with the FNB Foundation at Parakarungu Primary School to facilitate a three-year partnership designed to further expose children to sustainable environmental conservation.Sustainable impact continues to be felt from the Tour, and Botswana is no exception. A true Botswana welcome was just the beginning, as CITW, through such fundraising efforts, continues to invest in the children of Botswana and indeed of Africa.ENDS.