The Lion King!
By: Renato A. Avenido
Founding/Chairman, U.S. News Agency
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
For this year, Ilocos Sur Governor and Governor’s League of the Philippines Chairman Luis “Chavit” Singson decided to celebrate his birthday differently from the usual giveaways and meeting with his constituents. He went to the Kalahari Desert, a large semi-arid sandy savannah in southern Africa, together with friends, relatives and loved ones.
Chavit went there to hunt wild animals, a sport requiring a license. He intently waited for his shooting license for about a year, just like all other hunters visiting the Kalahari. This is his other favorite sport, apart from boxing.
The Kalahari Desert extends 900,000 square kilometers (350,000 sq mi), covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa.
A roughly 10,000 kilometer distance from Manila, and approximately 6,000 kilometers more when coming from Nevada, it is a vast tract of land that extends from the Northern Cape Province through Namibia and most of Botswana.
It is said to be also historically significant, the place being known as a fossil desert, dating back some 500-million years.
Despite being a desert, it receives rainfall, enabling it to support a surprisingly rich and diverse plant life. The South African part of it is actually a dry savannah with many dramatic Acacia thorn trees and grasses. Its dunes, unlike the Namib Desert’s, do not move.
The San (Bushman) are Southern Africa’s original inhabitants. They are synonymous with the Kalahari Desert.
Many years ago, these hunter-gatherer people roamed the plains of the Southern Kalahari. Today, there is a small number of San people living near the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, but they have left behind unique attractions, such as the remains of permanent settlement on the farm Bitterputs in the Verneuk Pan near the town Kenhardt.
In this way, like the Orange River, they bring life to the region in the form of many visitors interested in the origins of the San people. From the earliest days, people have been attracted to the region because of the river running through it.
These people were from local tribes such as San, Nama and Koranna, and included white travelers such as the great explorer Robert Gordon, the missionary Christiaan Schröder, and renegades from the Cape.
Back then, the river was known as the Great River and Gariep, but was later changed to the Oranje (Orange) River after Robert Gordon decided to row to the middle of the river’s mouth and drink a toast to the DutchPrince of Oranje. The reverend Schröder built the first church at Olyfenhoutsdrift.
With the onset of more settlers in the region, irrigation potential of the Orange was soon utilized and the first canals made their appearance ten years after a church was built.
Again, the Reverend Schröder dug the first canal. Three years later the first water- driven mill was introduced to the region, further stimulating commercial activities. In this way, the Orange River, as the region’s only reliable of water source, gave even more life to the area. It stimulated early development of farmlands as its water was now spread far wider than the confines of its banks.
The history of the Southern Kalahari blends with the history of the people. Today, among the region’s historical attractions are San Rock engravings, Schröder’s and other old mission churches, his original home, the first water-driven mill, hand-built irrigation tunnels, an Egyptian-styled hydro power transformer station, waterwheels, a historical camel thorn tree under which the first town in the region was found, war graves and a date palm avenue. Tourists can visit all these sites and buy locally made San Artifacts.
One of the showcases of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the first Transfrontier Park in Africa. This giant park extends between Namibia and Botswana and is a superb game viewing destination with massive herds of antelope and predators, notably the Kalahari lion, cheetah and leopard. The region is famed for its dramatic sunrises and sunsets and its sense of space. The Kalahari Desert climate is dry and hot in summer with limited rain that mostly falls during awe-inspiring thunderstorms.
The Augrabies Falls National Park with its spectacular waterfalls and moonscapes is also in the Kalahari and is open to day visitors and for longer, book-in stays. Culturally the area is renowned for the San people, or Bushmen, who have been living in the Kalahari for thousands of years and are one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer cultures in the world.
Many of the guides in the area are San, and every tour offers a glimpse into the secrets of this ancient culture and mysterious place. Camel rides through the desert are also available and a novel way to experience the dramatic red dunes.
Day tours to Augrabies Falls National Park and the town of Upington and the surrounding area are also available. All visitors to this region need to bear in mind that although the summers are extremely hot, the winter mornings and evenings can be bitterly cold.
CHAVIT AND THE KALAHARI
Hunting in the Kalahari Desert requires a hunting license that is not easily issued. A waiting time of at least one year is needed to be able to legally hunt in the desert. Lots of animals are present in the savannah for the hunting.
Being a low-profile person, none would’ve expected that Chavit is into hunting and shooting. And when he did hunt, he struck it lucky.
And of all dates, right on his natal day, June 21.
His hunting rifle took down a male lion and an antelope, highly valued targets. Needless to say, he couldn’t be happier.
His feats were celebrated in his birthday bash in Spear Safari, also in the savannah. An image of his prized catch is printed onto his cake, making the celebration go down in history as one of the most memorable.
From managing the province of Ilocos Sur to simply being a hunter, Chavit indeed excels in all that he does. His still-remarkable marksmanship and positive influence over his constituents and in big parts of the Philippines further attest to this.
We wonder if his catch will go into the Baluarte or in his living room?