Elephant Ignite Expedition – A Journey of Courage, Love And Hope By Carla Geyser

Twenty-three months ago, I started planning an expedition that I wanted to do from South Africa to Kenya. I had heard about the current elephant poaching crisis and I knew in my heart that I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing about it. Fast forward to December 2016 and this dream has been accomplished….and wow, what an incredible journey it has been!

When sitting in Hatari Lodge in Tanzania, I looked up on the wall and there was a quote which resonated so close to my heart:

“May the shine of far-away lands be with you like a sun ray in the rain. May your journey be crowned by poetic beauty. Look into each direction, even if it causes you dislike. Only then you understand the weight of problems in this world. Use your mind on all your journeys, be empathetic, show respect. You will be a welcome guest, loved as a soulful person.” – Alfons Pillach

Ours was most definitely a journey of Courage, Hope, and Love. The all-female crew of the Elephant Ignite Expedition arrived safely in Nairobi on the 16th of November to mark the end of our 15 787km, 100-day incredible drive. We started off as a group of empathetic ladies with the aim of raising awareness for the poaching crisis that is destroying Africa’s elephant population at an alarming rate. We ended up as a close-knit family more determined and focused on helping these magnificent animals, supporting the organisations that are doing incredible work to protect them and to educate the communities that live adjacent to them.

We have all heard the devastating statistics; we are still currently losing one elephant every 15 minutes and sadly, the demand for ivory remains high; therefore, elephants continue to be at risk of being wiped out from the landscapes which they have roamed for millions of years. These statistics are shocking and the consequences are terrifying.

Too often, people get trapped up in the idea that there is someone else out there that will save these animals so they become numb to what is happening in the world around them, and before you know it, that animal is extinct. We need people to wake up and realise that we are the only generation left that can save these animals. There is no future group that we can depend on – there is only us. We need to act immediately before it’s too late and before these animals have disappeared. Extinction is forever – and we cannot give up and let this happen.

Our journey was focussed on community upliftment, youth conservation education, public awareness for wildlife crime and poaching; and a fundraising drive to support the courageous organisations that are fighting the battles on the frontline every day. The expedition traveled safely through 10 African countries (South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and Kenya) distributing over 20,000 educational booklets to schools and communities whilst visiting 37 organisations that are involved in conserving African wildlife to report on the work they do.

These organisations are a candle of hope in a world of fast-approaching devastation. They say it’s better to light one candle than to just sit back in the darkness and do nothing with the attitude of “what’s the point” or “the world is screwed” or “what difference can I make.” My hope is that this candle will attract more people and that together we can stand stronger, with a louder voice, and before you know it, we have started a movement of change.

The crew all self-funded their participation costs and all proceeds from the fundraising campaigns were directed to the nominated beneficiaries. We will continue to raise funds for the various organisations and to share their stories. It was one of the many highlights to finish in Nairobi National Park and get to meet the “Matriarch” herself, Dame Daphne Sheldrick, and Angela Sheldrick from DSWT. Daphne was one of my inspirations for this expedition and proof that one candle can make a difference.

The earth is crying but the human race has stopped listening. We need to reconnect with nature and be more aware of our daily choices in life. The small choices we make every day can lead to a more loving and conscious world. There truly is so much we can do and there is still a lot that is worth fighting for. I have made the decision to make a difference no matter how small. I hope you will join me. Together we are powerful and we can face the ever-changing challenges that await us and hopefully, pave the way to securing a future for our elephants in the beautiful places they live on this planet.

To all our sponsors – Avis Safari Rental 4×4 / Overland360; Cape Union Mart; The Spar Group LTD; SATIB; Sibaya Casino and Entertainment Complex; Earth Touch; SBK Eyewear; Antalis; IMakeADifference (Dtours2016); Art Printers; Natasha Barnes; Venter Tours and many, many more – I cannot thank you enough for your support and for helping make this happen.

To the accommodation places that housed us, the families and friends we made along the route, and to anyone out there that has followed and supported our journey, I say “Asante Sane.” An expedition of this greatness is only as strong as the people that are involved. Thank-you for stepping up to the plate and for helping make this happen. We hope that the Elephant Ignite Expedition crew has sparked a flicker of hope, courage and love in your hearts and that you will continue to donate and support the work that we do.

To my exceptional crew – Isabel, Bronnie, Yolande, Penny, Shannon, Kennedy, Yvette, Natalie, Nikki, Nicky, Glenda, and Ildiko (and my support crew that helped get the vehicles back), I cannot thank you enough for being a part of my dream. Thank-you for your passion, determination, dedication and mostly for your sense of adventure and for making Elephant Ignite what is was….

For further information, go to www.elephantignite.co.za.