Footprints of Hope

Specialist guide Daryl Dell and game tracker Bernard Mnguni of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal rarely get the chance to put their feet up. But these days the pair get even less chance to take a load off and relax. The pair work for luxury safari operator &Beyond and have both recently joined its new ‘Footprints of Hope’ initiative to raise awareness of the plight of Africa’s rhino. As a result the duo have already garnered blisters by trekking across the reserve‘s seven distinct ecosystems, a mere stroll of 40 kilometres in just one day, to promote the rhino‘s cause.

Accompanied by Swiss guest Lucas Brunner, himself now a valued member of the ‘Footprints of Hope’ team and a regular on Daryl’s unique specialist safaris, they spent a total of 11 and a half hours walking in the bush,  through the heat of the day, circumnavigating the Big Five, including a herd of elephant and some black rhino.

‘Our average speed with all the stops was a leisurely 3.9 km/hour,’ said Daryl, admitting, however, that when they were confronted with the elephant herd the GPS showed they speeded up to 18.9km/hour – before adding his customary chuckle.

We were fortunate to spend three days with Daryl (himself a keen wildlife photographer) and Bernard last year on an &Beyond specialist leopard tracking safari for a magazine assignment.  Their passion for Africa’s wildlife is inspiring and hugely infectious so when we caught up with them again on our current South Africa visit for this project we weren’t surprised to learn that with blisters barely healed they were about to embark on yet another demanding physical challenge to help promote awareness of the rhino crisis.

‘We hope it will help spread the word to the US and Europe about what is happening to Africa’s rhinos,’ explains Daryl. This time round they’re planning a series of one day hikes for ’Footprints of Hope’ this August in the country’s stunning Drakensberg mountains. They hope to attempt a number of tough challenges including finding a protea that’s one of the rarest flowers on earth and hiking to what’s claimed to be the world’s second highest waterfall. ‘We’re really looking forward to it – now that we’ve recovered from the earlier trek, he, he,’ laughs Daryl.

Their efforts are typical of many working on the ground here in conservation, the eco-tourism industry ‘and beyond’, throughout South Africa (which is home to 90 per cent of Africa’s rhinos) and who are doing whatever they can, whenever they can to help reverse the rhino’s fortunes before it’s too late.

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