The Big 4, Protecting the 5th: a blog by Mandela H. Shitambi(a member of the Statesmen Initiative)
Day 1: The Arrival
16H00: We were met by two robustly intimidating-looking gentleman who were sporting camouflage uniforms & bullet-proof vests along with all the “nitty gritties” we see in movies and immediately they introduced themselves as the head rangers. They went about letting us know exactly what it was we were about to get ourselves into and the seriousness of the excursion that we would be undertaking.
16H30: We were then loaded onto a Land Cruiser and taken to the Rangers barracks, where we would spend the night.
17H00: Our food rations & gear were completely unpacked and re-checked and finally “okayed” for the excursion.
22H00: Lights out with the strong roars of a lioness in the background.
Day 2: Alpha & Bravo Team
06H00: Like clockwork, the head rangers woke us up & gave us exactly 30 minutes to get our gear ready and report for an operation briefing.
06H30: Team designations were done: Alpha Team (Mandela & Frederick) and Bravo Team (Dwaine & Lyrischia), along with a briefing on the locations where the teams would be patrolling during the excursion.
07H00: Team drop off’s took place and the adventure began!
09H11: After a long walk, Alpha Team come across an unidentifiable fresh human spoor that seemed to have originated from the reserve’s fence that was obviously breached. Immediately, Ranger Buddy 1 & Buddy 2 (Names Retracted) call it in to the head rangers.
09h45: The head rangers show up and investigate the scene and quarantine the area and alert Bravo Team of the possibility of poachers being on the reserve and they send for trackers to report to the area.
10H12: The trackers arrive and immediately we jump onto the spoor and begin to track the suspected poachers who have infiltrated the reserve.
12H30: After a gruelling two and a half hour track through all sorts of challenging terrain, accompanied by spotting Oryx and Leopard tracks, Alpha & Bravo team along with the Rangers had now cornered the poachers who were taken into custody.
12H47: The head rangers reveal that this was a simulation and all parties of Naankuse were aware of it. This was hands down the best and most exhilarating thing most of us have ever done!
13H10: Alpha and Bravo Teams are sent back to their original patrol posts, where both teams had to now return to their operations and await to transmit their situation reports.
15H00: Situation reports from all teams on the reserve were communicated with Alpha & Bravo Teams having had the most active first parts of the day.
18H00: A delicious dinner of fried canned beef & tuna along with 2-minute noodles is served.
19H00: Lights out and the first shift (Mandela & Buddy 1) is deployed to ensure that the operation post is safe.
02H00: Second shift (Frederick & Buddy 2) transmit the situation report and it is “November, Tango, Romeo” (Nothing to report).
Day 3: The Calm
06H00: Breakfast is served: a warm cup of coffee and some crackers along with instructions from the rangers to be ready by 07H00 for deployment.
07h10: We receive instructions from a head ranger to wait at our operations post.
07H30: Head Ranger arrives with Mrs. Marlice van Vuuren, co-founder of Naankuse, who checks up on Alpha Team.
08H00: Alpha Team sets out and heads toward another post, where we will be stationed for the day.
10H12: We arrive at our second post and set up operation’s base, close to the watering hole with a 360 degree view of any incoming animals & people.
13H00: After a fairly quiet patrol to our second post, we begin to track back to our original station.
15H00: Situation reports from all teams on the reserve are communicated and Tango team reports some unauthorized movement in their vicinity and are ordered to go inspect and report back.
18H00: A “dangerous dinner” of canned fish & beans along with 2-minute noodles is served and the after-math ensues.
19H00: Lights out and the first shift (Frederick & Buddy 1) is deployed to ensure that the operation post is safe.
02H00: Second shift (Mandela & Buddy 2) transmit the situation report and its “November, Tango, Romeo” (Nothing to report).
09H00: Pom Pom (Extraction) takes place and all teams are dropped off at Rangers barracks.