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Nelson Mandela International Day | Take Action! Inspire Change

July 18th, 2017, by Katherine Chin

Nelson Mandela Day 2017

In May, staff from African Travel, Inc. and Lion World Travel had the opportunity to visit Robben Island in South Africa. Located nine kilometers from the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is most infamously known for detaining many political prisoners from 1961-1991, including Nelson Mandela who spent 18 years of his 27-year prison sentence there.

It was an eye-opening visit to Robben Island, where we learned how many political prisoners were often kept in separate areas of the island to prohibit contact with other prisoners, their letters (received and sent) were controlled and any content that was deemed unacceptable would be cut or blacked out. There was also a uniform class system based on racial classification – Indian, colored or black. Indian and colored prisoners were given long pants and socks and black prisoners were given shorts and no socks. Meals were also based on race with the black prisoners receiving only maize meal and the least amount of meat or fish.

A censored letter


The difference between meals for B and C diets

The visit to Robben Island really puts into perspective the commitment and fight for human rights and development by South Africa’s freedom fighters. Thirteen years into his incarceration at Robben Island, Nelson Mandela was offered to be released on certain conditions. He refused. He did not want to be released with any conditions and so he spent another 14 years in prison before being released unconditionally in 1990.

Nelson Mandela's cell

Today, July 18th, marks Nelson Mandela’s birthday and is also recognized as Nelson Mandela International Day. This year, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has dedicated this year’s day to Action Against Poverty. After visiting Robben Island and learning more about the sacrifices Mandela and many others made in order to change the world for the better, we ask ourselves, what are we doing to make the world a better place?

At African Travel, Inc., we are very passionate about supporting and working with organizations that work to develop local communities and leave behind a positive impact. These organizations include: The Amy Foundation, Uthando and ME to WE. Learn more about our #AfricanTravelCares projects and how you can help on this Mandela Day.


Building a Rhino Boma

July 4th, 2017, by Katherine Chin

What’s a rhino boma?

A boma is an enclosure for an animal or animals. The rhino boma at Shamwari Game Reserve is used as a safe haven to rehabilitate injured or orphaned rhino until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild.

African Travel, Inc. and Lion World Travel staff recently traveled to South Africa and had the opportunity to help build a rhino boma for the current rhino “crash,” – Noelle, Winston and Chip at Shamwari.

Noelle, Winston and Chip.


Learn more about Noelle, Winston and Chip and their journey at Shamwari here.

From digging to drilling to nailing, staff helped build a larger enclosure for the rhino crash. Here are a few photos of their labor.

Lucille Sive, CEO of The Travel Corporation’s Africa Division hard at work helping to assemble a new fence.


Lion World Travel Safari Consultant, Hanene and African Travel, Inc. Product Manager, Susannah working together to take down a fence.


Mirlin, African Travel, Inc. Product Manager digging a hole for the new enclosure.


A team photo in front of the new enclosure.


Thank you to Shamwari for the opportunity to help with rhino conservation. Are you interested in learning how you can help? In 2017, when guests book Majestic South Africa for travel in 2017, we will be donating $50 per couple, in their name, to go towards building a new rhino boma at Shamwari. 

Micro-chipping a Rhino

July 4th, 2017, by Katherine Chin

Out of all the amazing adventures we experienced during our staff educational trip in South Africa, micro-chipping a rhino was definitely the most special.

Our day started bright and early with a wake-up call at 5:30am. The schedule of the day was a surprise as the team at Shamwari were unsure if they would be able to find the rhino that needed to be micro-chipped in the time allotted. We met with the other half of our group in an open field and also met with Dr. Johan Joubert, head veterinarian at Shamwari, chief ecologist John O’Brien and Rodney Visser, head of Shamwari’s group security.

Dr. Joubert explained the process of micro-chipping a rhino and the importance of doing this type of work so that their team is able to monitor and locate rhinos to prevent poaching. Rodney explained that fortunately, in the past five years, there have been no poaching incidents at Shamwari. This is largely due to the success of his anti-poaching unit that is always on patrol.

In order to micro-chip the rhino, Dr. Joubert explained the type of drug that needed to be used and how the dosage was important as too much could affect the rhino’s blood levels and we could also have issues waking the rhino up after the implantation of the micro-chips. In addition to micro-chipping, DNA samples would also need to be collected from the hair from the rhino tail as well as from shavings from the rhino horn.

Shamwari has an extensive rhino conservation program. To assist the local anti-poaching team with identification, all rhino's will have their ears notched. Additionally, rhinos are also fitted with three microchips and DNA genotyped. The resident veterinarian will immobilize a rhino once in its lifetime to do the procedures. For the rhino’s safety, there was a helicopter on site during the darting process. 

Dr. Joubert explaining the process of darting and micro-chipping a rhino.

Did you know 95 per cent of rhinos have been wiped off the face of the earth in the past four decades?

After speaking with the team at Shamwari, we received the great news that the rhino had been located! Everyone hopped into their vehicles and off we went to the location where we spotted three white rhinos.

Dr. Joubert pointed out which rhino we needed to micro-chip and he took aim with his tranquilizer gun. With a swift “pfft,” sound, Dr. Joubert shot the gun and the rhinos took off running. We watched from a distance as one of the rhino slowed down and after a couple of minutes eventually laid down. We quickly drove over to where the rhino was and Dr. Joubert and John ran out from the vehicle and quickly covered the rhino’s eyes and plugged his ears. Although tranquilized, the rhino is still coherent so a mask and earplugs help keep the animal calm.

The team at Shamwari working to ensure the rhino is as comfortable as possible for micro-chipping.


In what seemed a flurry, but organized process, the team at Shamwari guided us as we helped to implant three micro-chips, one in each horn and at the back of the rhino’s neck, collected DNA samples and tagged his ear. After what seemed like five minutes, the team at Shamwari asked us to make our way back to our vehicles as Dr. Joubert injected the rhino with an antidote to the sedative it was darted with earlier. We watched from our vehicles as almost instantly, the rhino stumbled to his feet and walked off.



Katherine, African Travel's Digital Marketing Manager, drilling a hole into the rhino horn in order to implant the micro-chip.
The rhino horn is made of keratin, the same protein that makes up hair and fingernails so drilling the hole into the horn is not harmful.


The rhino, walking away after having been micro-chipped. 


We all watched in wonder and with disbelief that we were able to participate in something so special.

To see us in action, watch this video of the micro-chipping process. 

Thank you to the team at Shamwari for letting us help in this initiative to conserve this amazing species. I know for all of us who had the opportunity to participate in this amazing, life-changing experience, it is one we will never, ever forget.

Looking to stay at Shamwari Game Reserve and help with rhino conservation? On our Majestic South Africa safari vacation, you will stay three nights at the luxurious Eagles Crag Lodge and for every booking we will be donating $50 per couple, in your name, to go towards building a new rhino boma at Shamwari. 

What’s a rhino boma? Read all about how staff helped build a new boma at Shamwari.

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