Following my much-loved time in Namibia, our tour continued east to next door, Botswana. Take a look at the map. Botswana is the yellow, landlocked country in the south central part of Africa. Unlike some of the neighboring countries, Botswana is an economically stable and thriving country with interest in protecting its environmental resources. Before we get too deep into all of that, let me give you a very brief history about the country.
In response to uprising violence and the threat of war in the mid-to-late 1800’s, the leaders of Botswana requested protection assistance from Great Britain. The country remained under Great Britain’s umbrella for over eighty years until 1966 when the country was granted independence and transitioned somewhat smoothly to a democratic nation.
Within a few short years after Botswana received independence, diamonds were discovered. Mining began in 1972 and today, Botswana is one of the world’s leading distributors of diamonds and other precious metals, like uranium. The discovery of diamonds so quickly after gaining independence helped stabilize the country’s economy. While Botswana’s population is comparable to Namibia’s with approximately 2.2 million residents, it remains in the top ten countries in Africa for lowest unemployment rates. The government has continued to encourage job growth and economic stimulation throughout the country.
You know, I always thought the United States of America was the “melting pot” of cultures. However, the African countries have blown my mind in the way their very different cultures have learned to survive together. Some of them are not in peaceful survival but they have survived nonetheless. How does a country survive with tribal Bushman living along side European westernized cultures as well as those who still happily live in bamboo huts? Now that is really a melting pot.
Obviously Botswana has far more history than I am able to know or provide. I encourage you to do a little Google browsing to learn more about their past. When you do, also check out the story of current president, Ian Khama. His journey is quite fascinating from living in exile to breaking racial barriers to wildlife protection. Although many of his decisions have been met with controversy and some have viewed his policies as extremely harsh, he continues to maintain a firm stance with serious repercussions for law violators.
One of the many things that makes Botswana so wonderful is their goal to protect the environment. I am not going to get into the politics behind the anti-poaching laws and other environmental protection efforts because as I mentioned, some of President Ian Khama’s laws have been viewed as controversially too harsh. I will let you make a researched decision for yourself. But what the ordinances have created is an environmental “safe haven” for animals, especially elephants and rhinoceros.
Several of the surrounding countries have tried to take protective widlife measures by bringing the animals into large and small nature reserves protected by fences. Botswana has chosen a different approach by allowing the animals to roam in their wild, natural habitat. It is not uncommon to see elephant or giraffe on either side of the road while traveling along the highway. Drivers may have to slow down or even stop to give the animals the right of way as they cross from one side to the other.
We had the great opportunity to stay at a facility called Elephant Sands which offers tent camping sites as well as stilted safari tent accommodations. With the goal to have an up-close encounter with nature, the campsites and safari tents surround a watering hole where wild animals can wander in and out at will. From our beds, we were able to hear the lions calling to each other in a deep, grunting growl. A couple of elephants came to drink from the watering hole and walked right into our group’s campsite. Nothing separates visitors from these magnificent animals, not even a fence. Can you imagine a more exhilarating encounter?
Chobe (pronounced “Cho-Bee”) National Park is also home to abundant wildlife, especially elephants. According to the park’s website, over 120,000 elephants roam the land. The park is bordered by the Chobe River which offers unique, day trip cruises to see water animals like hippopotamus and crocodile but also land animals as they come to drink fresh water and bathe. Again, we were able to get close as the animals just do what they do.
I was thinking about these animals and the controversial approach Botswana has taken to protect them. I have this uncanny knack to compare various concepts to my own life and as I started pondering, I realized I want what these animals have. I want to be free to roam about – eating, playing, and basically doing my day-to-day life while being protected, without even being aware.
I get weary from protecting myself. I get exhausted from gathering my emotions and running from potential danger. I get tired from having to constantly be on watch for threats. I get discouraged from being fenced in a small, sheltered environment. I want to be loved and cared for so deeply that my protector will stop at nothing to keep me safe as I live life to its fullest. Ultimately, that is what I want. I want to live life to its fullest.
When I was in South Africa, I happen to notice this scripture reference on the back of a car. Out of curiosity, I looked it up. It has become one of my favorite chapters simply because it describes the protection and care my heart longs for. Check this out:
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from every disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot against a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet.
The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
Psalm 91 (NLT)
Take a minute to sit back and imagine the scenario Psalm 91 just described. Put yourself in the shoes of the character being described here. I do not really care if you believe in God or not. Feel free to be skeptical but just for a moment, let that go and put yourself in the shoes of the one who gets to trample on lions and snakes without fear. My friends, this is why we love super hero movies. Besides getting to wear a fashionable cape, we either want a hero looking out for us or we want to be a hero. When I read this passage, I see the opportunity for both at the same time. We get live outside the mundane fences to have an adventurously close encounter with the wild and fearlessly be victorious. Now that is living life to the fullest!