Sustaining Ecosystems Across Southern Africa:
Nambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe

last updated 31 December 2016 at 2:24 pm

Interim 2017 with

Dr. GR Davis
McCalla Professor of Biology and Chair
with 3 prior trips to Namibia, 2 to Botswana, 3 to Zimbabwe, and one each to Kenya, Rwanda, Morocco, and 4 to South Africa.

Dr. John Moeller
Associate Professor of Biology, Vice Chair, and recipient of the Milliken Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Science
with 2 prior trips to Namibia and South Africa and 1 to Zimbabwe and Kenya.


Academic focus:

Desert ecology and animal behavior
The human history of southern Africa with emphasis on the
effects and after-effects of colonialism.
Local and Global Efforts to Sustain Southern African Ecosystems

Student Presenters and their Topics for Jan 5-7

The travel portion:
Namibia: Windhoek - Sossusvlei - Swakopmund - Brandberg - Damaraland - Etosha National Park -
Etosha National Park - Waterberg Region - Kavango -

Botswana: Mudumu National Park - Chobe River Front -
Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls


All flight information: Dates, times, airlines and flight numbers here!



Packing List



17 Days / 16 Nights with only two nights in a bed! The rest are camping in tents.




Just a few of the animals we'll see! (And the on-site Presenters!)

Cape Fur Seal (Jessica Meggs)
Black and White rhinoceros (Annie Rang)
Flap-neck chameleon
Mopane caterpillars
Spotted Hyena and Brown Hyena (Adrian Rentz)
Leopard tortoise
Rock dassie = hyrax (Austin Jones)
Warthog (Nick Sheely)
Banded mongoose
Common Namib Day Gecko
Kudu (Drummond Koppernaus)
Baboon or Chacma Baboon (Alex Chambers)

Oryx = gemsbok (Carter Rief)
Lion (Cal Butler)
Black-back Jackal and Side-striped Jackal (Kara Shacklette)
Springbok (Pep Brown)
Black-faced Impala (Charlie Heffron)
Giraffe (several subspecies) (Blake Gantt)
Burchell's Zebra and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra (Rylie McCrackin)
Termites with mound 10 feet tall! (Helen Cribb)
Over 30 species of birds including the Lappet-faced Vulture
Wildebeest = brindled gnu (Alex King)

Each student will research one of these animals and become an expert so that when we encounter the animal on the safari, the student will:

Tell us about the lifespan, reproductive cycle, parental care (if any), diet, habitat and position in the food web. We'll also want to know about some of the animal's behaviors, their adaptations to their habitat including how they're equipped anatomically and behaviorally to deal with water and thermal stresses, and potential predators. We'd also want to know what threats they face and how humans have used them for various purposes, if any. For example, is your animals important for ritualistic or commercial purposes? What are their prospects for survival, both long and short-term? Is this species in any way threatened or endangered? What management practices are in place to assure the species is sustained? Are there differences in management practices across the three countries we'll visit?

Make your presentation interesting, educational, and even entertaining, and be sure to keep a list of the sources you consult as you gather your information. You should have your detailed notes with you during the trip and an electronic version to share with the class upon our return to campus.


Here are links to two websites with photos from previous Wofford Interim trips
showing many of the landscapes, animals, campsites and safari vehicles:


Photos by Dr. Davis from the 2010 Interim

Photos from the 2008 Interim



Here's all the fine print:

Project Description for January 2017

For our 2008 Namibia-Botswana January Travel Interim, Drs. GR Davis, Ab Abercrombie, and Ron Robinson contracted with Wild Dog Safari Company of Namibia. Their guide proved to be quite an expert in animal behavior, wildlife identification, geology, and the cultures of native peoples. For our 2014 Namibia-Cape Town project we contracted with Wild Dog Safari again. Our certified guides functioned as co-instructors along with Drs. Davis and Moeller. Wild Dog regularly leads safaris in Namibia for Darthmouth College and are thus quite familiar with the particulars of working with college-age students. Thus, Wofford students will be exposed to local experts who effectively share their knowledge. For 2017, we have modified our itinerary and our academic focus to emphasis issues of sustainability in Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. We have replaced the Cape Town segment with travel to national parks in northern Botswana and end the trip in Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls. Doing so allows us to compare wildlife and habitat management policies from three southern African countries.

In tourist-Africa, safari-leaders typically assume responsibility for packing and unpacking and meal-planning and cooking and cleaning throughout their trips. We believe, however, that through such activities students could learn a great deal about how Africa "works." Therefore, during the travel portion of this project, students will erect and take down their own tents. Under the supervision of the safari guides, they will assist in the preparation of meals. (We suspect that cooking with nothing more than a fire or camp stove will be an intense learning experience for some students.) While traveling in Africa we are under the protective guidance of our full-time tour leaders and a camp assistant in two self-contained safari vehicles (each with a capacity of 15 passengers.) Students will come to appreciate the simple life and the satisfaction that comes from living without what they might consider essential amenities. In an effort to assure that daily chores are shared equitably amongst all participants, groups of students form teams whose duties will be rotated (i.e. food preparation and cooking, dishwashing, etc.) Thus every student will have multiple opportunities to assist with the various chores and yet have intervals of "time off" when other groups will be responsible.

We expect the participants in this project to develop knowledge of the adaptations by which the plants, animals, and peoples thrive in these arid environments. To obtain this knowledge requires investigations of the anatomical, physiological, and behavioral strategies the plants, animals and people employ to assure their survival under conditions of intense sun and scarcity of water. Thus our investigations will require forays into biology, geology, anthropology, physics, chemistry, sociology, religion, government, history, and economics. In other words, this project might at first glance appear to be predominantly biology but will involve a synthesis of many academic disciplines. Therefore students from every major at Wofford should be able to contribute from their own academic training--while also learning about the relevance of other disciplines. In two previous interims, it was an economics major that consistently provided remarkable insights for the entire group.

For each day in Africa, students will produce a journal entry consisting of a photograph or drawing accompanied by an essay that (1) demonstrates the mastery of course content (e.g., factual information) and (2) reflects individual observations and insights. We have found that this form of synthesis facilitates the sharing of information among students and with friends or family. This format also prepares students to submit entries to various Wofford competitions that are related to study abroad. (At least 5 of the 17 students from our January '08 Namibia/Botswana project submitted entries to Wofford's "Beyond the Northern Border" competition. And one of these students received a top award!)

The range of topics would appear far too vast for each student to pursue so we adopt the strategy of dividing the issues into smaller parcels, each one of which will selected by a student who will thoroughly research the topic and prepare a presentation for the entire class during the pre-departure sessions. In so doing, each student develops some expertise on a topic and shares that information concisely in a presentation.

Student Presenters and their Topics for Jan 5-7 (as MS Word document)

Ecology Topics
1. Blake Gantt: Geologic and geographic features in Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
2. Drummond Koppernaes: Ecosystems of deserts with an emphasis on the Namib and Kalahari regions.
3. Pep Brown: Ecosystems of African Savannahs.
4. Kara Shacklette: Ecosystems of marine environments off the coast of Namibia and the freshwater environments in the Northern regions of Namibia and Botswana (e.g. Okavango drainage basin).
5. Nick Shealy: Adaptations of plant life for survival and reproduction in arid environments.
6. Cal Butler: Adaptations of invertebrate life for survival and reproduction in arid environments.
7. Rylie McCrackin: Adaptations of vertebrate life for survival and reproduction in arid environments.

Conservation and Sustainability Topics
8. Helen Cribb: Conservation and sustainability efforts in Namibia.
9. Alex King: Conservation and sustainability efforts in Botswana.
10. Annie Rang: Conservation and sustainability efforts in Zimbabwe.

History and Culture Topics
11. Carter Rief: Colonial history of Namibia.
12. Charlie Heffron: Colonial history of Botswana.
13. Jessica Meggs: Colonial History of Zimbabwe.
14. Adrian Rentz: Ethnic groups: Herero, Himba, and San.
15. Austin Jones: Races and racism across southern Africa today.
16. Alex Chambers: The role of diamonds in the history of southern Africa.

Students are responsible for learning for themselves and teaching each other. This is true even for the 17 day travel portion of the project where each student will develop expertise on one of animals in its setting and will prepare for an on-site presentation that explains the particulars of that animal in that system and connects that to our overall academic theme of sustainabililty. Thus each student must pursue the appropriate resources for each of their presentations, organize and condense the information, and deliver it to the group in an interesting fashion. Thus learning is shared and success is built upon the cooperative exchange of information. To assure that the academic work is pursued with sufficient rigor, photographs and accompanying explanatory essays will be compiled into a book by the students with professorial assistance upon our return to campus. Books will be distributed to each participant. We have found that the publishing of a book motivates students to work more conscientiously on a final product. Such a book is a permanent and accessible record and a form of accountability that drives most students to achieve more than they might otherwise.




Schedule and Itinerary

Predeparture Meetings

Three days on campus, prior to departure. Standard orientation-issues about safety, health, conduct-expectations, cultural sensitivity, response to emergencies, etc. will be addressed during pre-departure sessions.

Topics for Pre-Departure Student Presentations There are 16 topics, each one to be adopted by a student in the course.

Draft of a book by Ab Abercrombie for which we will provide photos and short essays to be inserted between each chapter. Begin reading this book (here as a .pdf) over the holidays. We hope you'll find it stimulating reading, informative, insightful, and inspiring. It should begin your preparation for experiencing Africa!

Thursday 5 January: Collect Passports, Behavior Contracts, Expectations, Student Presentations ( 15-20 minutes on topics claimed from a list by students.)
Friday 6 January: More Student Presentations
Saturday 7 January: Last of the Student Presentations, Check notes for safari presentations, Final preparations for travel.
Sunday 8 January: no class meeting
Monday 9 January: depart from campus 6am in college vans to Charlotte airport (see flight plans above.)

Our group will discuss readings about the following topics: (1) geology of southwest Africa, (2) origins and characteristics of deserts, (3) biota typical of deserts, (4) physiological, anatomical, and behavioral adaptations to desert life, (5) general desert ecology, and (6) cultural and colonial histories of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe with special emphasis on the indigenous cultural groups we will encounter in Namibia. Because much of the safari involves watching wildlife, students will read about and develop expertise in animal behaviors and each student will research in depth an animal that we will see on the trip so as to be ready to provide a 10-15 "lesson" in the field as we encounter those species.

Daily Itinerary for the Travel Study Segment

Each student will select from a list of topics and prepare a presentation to be delivered on-site during the travel portion of the project. The content of this presentation can be supplemented by information obtained in consultation with our tour guides.
10 January Arrive in Windhoek, Namibia (Chamelion Backpackers Guesthouse)
11 January Namib Desert (Sesriem campsite)
12 January Namib Desert (Sesriem campsite) Sossusvlei dunes and River Gorge
13 January Swakopmund (Amanpuri Lodge) with township tour
14 January Brandberg (Brandberg White Lady Camping) with Cape Cross Seals
15 January Damaraland (Hoada Campsite) with community conservation expert
16 -17 January Etosha National Park (Okaukuejo Campsite 2 nights)
18 January Etosha National Park (Namutoni Campsite)
19-20 January Waterberg Region (Cheetah Conservation Fund campsite)
21 January Kavango (n'Kwazi Lodge)
22 January Mundumu National Park ( Camp Kwando campsite)
23-24 January Chobe Riverfront (Chobe Safari Lodge campsite in Botswana)
25 January Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls Restcamp.)
26 January Return to US

Sessions upon Return to Wofford Campus

Class meetings: Three full days upon return to Wofford Campus. Students work on essays to accompany photographs (described below). Students will assist sponsors in editing and selecting essays and photographs for inclusion in the book that is to be published. Students are to assist where possible with the layout of the book. All course items submitted for grading no later than noon on the final day of interm.
Final day of class: Students present two photos and essays to the class and complete work on their portfolios and turn in their extended Personal Essay (described below.)
Choose one of the following questions to address in an extended personal essay. The length is not specified: make sure to address the topic comprehensively whether it takes several paragraphs or several pages. You may include a photograph with this essay if you wish.

1. As a result of your experiences in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, how has your perspective changed?
2. What aspects of southern african culture would we do well to adopt as Americans and why?
3. Why is saving the desert important?
4. The Constitution of Namibia in unusual in that it includes mandates for the protection of the natural environment. Why do you suppose the people of Namibia place such a high priority on the protection of the environment?
5. Why do some Africans (i.e. Himba and Herero) still choose to live traditionally and what challenges do they face?
6. What challenges does southern Africa face as it moves into the future in terms of the preservation of its unique habitats and ecosystems? How can conflicts between local communities and global expectations be resolved?

Our group will have stayed at twelve different locations during our travels. Choose eight locations to write about in an essay of about one page each that is associated with a photograph or drawing you made. (You may substitute one photo made by someone provided you credit the photographer.) The essay should serve as an extended caption of the photograph and provide clear evidence of what you have learned, heard, observed, and experienced as a personal insight. Examples of appropriate daily entries can be reviewed from our project website.

Of the eight locations selected, the following categories of essays should be allocated with each one addressing sustainability:
2 entries on an animal or a set of animals at a particular location
1 entry on a plant or set of plants
2 entries dealing with landscape or geology
3 entries addressing cultural issues which might include historical, political, economic, tribal, racial, or educational.

On the final day of class on campus: Students present excerpts from essays with photographs to the class and complete work on their personal essays and the 100 page book project.


In preparation we'll read African Light by Ab Abercrombie (manuscript of ~135 pages in preparation for publication) based on his 20+ years of experience in southern Africa. Professor Emeritus Abercrombie is very pleased that this text has been selected for our project. It is especially appropriate because it addresses issues of sustainability on the African continent.


While we are still at Wofford, students will choose animals, places, and cultural issues of personal interest. Then, in consultation with instructors, they will select readings appropriate to these topics. During our fieldwork, students will teach their peers about these topics-and students may assign brief readings from our shared traveling library.

Students will be expected to locate references that address issues of sustainability as it relates to their pre-departure presentations and on-site "lessons."

Each student is required create eight photographs (or drawings) accompanied by an extended reflective essay. Essays are expected to integrate factual information obtained from texts, guides, and other sources with personal observations and insights. The instructors will provide examples of essays written by former students to serve as models. Periodically throughout the project, students will write and read excerpts from their essays to the group to promote discussion and reflection.

Note: Students will be encouraged but not required to keep a personal daily journal in which private thoughts and reflections may be recorded.

Thus, students are expected to
a) Attend all orientation and concluding sessions
b) Participate in all aspects of the project, to include
i) providing effective team leadership on their appointed days
ii) interacting with tour guide(s)
iii) becoming knowledgeable of the biota and landscape of southern Africa including human ecology
c) Contribute one entry for each of eight days of travel and an longer more general personal essay described elsewhere. Essays and photographs are to demonstrate what the student has learned by participating in this project and must include personal reflections and observations that relate academic content to field experience. Several exemplary student portfolios from the 2008 Namibia/Botswana interim will be provided as models.
d) Read excerpts from their essays on a regular basis to the entire group. The purpose of this activity is to promote reflection and synthesis of information and to stimulate thoughtful discussion amongst the participants.
e) Prepare (for a pre-departure class meeting) a presentation about a special topic selected from a list that the instructors will prepare. (Potential topics would include animal behavior, habitat, cultural group, ecosystem, etc.)
f) Prepare a presentation to be delivered on-site during the travel portion of the project. Topics are to be selected and investigated prior to departure from the USA; presentations will be finalized in consultation with our local guide.
F = failure to complete any of a-f above
P = satisfactory completion of a-f above.
H = excellent performance in the completion of a-f above.




Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is our luggage limit? Number of bags? Weight?
A soft bag of about 15kg per person plus 1 carry on/hand luggage, plus a sleeping bag, plus a camera bag

2. How much spending money should I bring? Should I carry cash, traveler's checks, an ATM card or a combination of all three?
ATM cards are preferable and our guide will get us to a bank every now and then. However, we don't expect on need or spend much money.

3. Will we get to shower every day?
Showers should be available most days, but not every day.

4. Would you recommend taking a video camera?
Personal choice, same charging opportunities as for a computer.

5. How much will I be moving my luggage? Would it be easier to pack in a backpack?
A back pack is a good option. You will need to load up the vehicle with your own bag each time we move camp.

6. Do we need to worry about (buy and bring) mosquito repellant?
Always a good idea to have a personal supply.

7. Are towels a necessity to bring?

8. What kind of clothing should we bring?
Shorts, T shirts, long trousers and long sleeves for the evenings and something warm (jacket).

9. Do we need Dramamine or other such medicine for the bus rides?
Bring a sufficient supply of any personal medicine you might need.

10. What is the average temperature of Namibia and Botswana during January?
Hot, up to 40* c in the day, about 10*c / 15*c at night.

11. Will we be able to wash clothes at some point during the trip?
Yes, hand washing.

12. Will our personal belongings be safe (i.e. cameras and other valuables)?
Cameras will probably be with the owners/ passengers most of the time. Otherwise, personal belongings can be left in the locked safari vehicle.

13. Do I need a mosquito net?

14. How much freedom are we going to have to explore and investigate on our own?
Quite a bit, actually. Generally we get started about sun-up and accomplish a great deal before noon. In the early afternoon, there is usually some "down time" and often in the late afternoons before and after dinner there is free time to investigate about the campsite.

15. Do we need hiking boots?
A light weight pair is a good idea. Sometimes the sand is hot. On most occasions sandals will be fine but bring some socks to avoid irritation that comes when walking through deep sand.

16. Are we going to be able to call home?
Yes, occasionally. Don't expect cell phone coverage while we are on safari. Our guide will have a personal cell phone for emergencies but not for personal use.

17. Should we bring filters or water treatment tablets?
No, they are not necessary.

18. Should we bring our own sleeping bag?
Yes. Bring a light weight bag.

19. What happens if I get sick or injured?
We take you to a doctor, if it is serious. In a worst case scenario, you will be evacuated.

20. What happens in the case of a family crisis back home?
It is a personal decision as whether to leave the trip or remain.
If you have supplemental travel insurance, the insurance policy should cover the cost to get the passenger to the airport and back to the USA if there is a medical crisis with a family member.

21. Will I be able to recharge batteries (ie. for cameras, etc.)
Yes through an outlet in the safari vehicle (bring your own charger), and at some of the accommodation mains power, (220v), will be available. We will have outlet adaptors.

22. Will there be telephone and/or internet access?
Limited telephone and very limited internet.

23. Are there cultural concerns related to clothing? (Shorts?)



Project Access

This project is open to all interested students; there are no pre-requisites. Participants will be expected to walk without complaint for several miles on some travel days, to function cheerfully in all weather conditions (including chilly nights and hot days in the deserts of southwest Africa), to accumulate over 2000 miles in safari vehicles as we roam the gravel roads of Namibia and Botswana, to be prompt, courteous, cooperative, reliable, responsible, and sensitive to cultural differences. Students should be willing to contribute pleasantly to the daily chores associated with participatory camping (setting up and breaking camp, assisting with meals and clean-up, etc.) All participants must be able to tolerate unforeseen changes to schedules. Students who do not cope effectively with stress or with new or uncomfortable conditions are advised to seek other Interim opportunities. Students other than vegetarians with dietary restrictions should discuss this matter with instructors before enrolling. Participants must acknowledge that access to electricity, running water, flush toilets and cell phone coverage may be limited or unavailable for intervals that can last several days. Students who cannot cope with these conditions should look elsewhere for interim options.

The instructors are seeking students who are willing to engage seriously in academic preparation during the on-campus class meetings prior to the travel portion, who will maintain interest, energy, and enthusiasm during the travel segment, and who will engage in thoughtful reflection and discussion throughout the entire project and will jointly create a 100 page book of photographs and reflective essays as a permanent account of our experience.

Participants will be selected based in part on the following criteria:
a) Compelling expression of interest in the subject matter of this project in an essay. Simply expressing a desire to travel is insufficient. Students should (1) explain why the academic focus of this project appeals to them, (2) describe the skills and attributes they possess that equip them for this project, and (3) enumerate those characteristics and/or competencies they would like to develop by participating in this project.
b) Prior travel experience and class standing (juniors and seniors who have not traveled previously are given some preferential consideration)
c) We welcome students from all academic disciplines and recognize the opportunities for sharing and learning that this project represents. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that this project is especially relevant to students of biology, sociology, and environmental studies and therefore reserve the right to give special consideration to students from those majors.
c) Campus citizenship
d) Personal attributes (such as tact, energy, enthusiasm, willingness to contribute to discussions, tolerance of inconveniences, etc.)
e) Recommendations from faculty and others qualified to comment on applicant's attributes.



Projected Costs

$5918 billable project cost for each participant covers:

Round-trip airfare from US to Namibia/Zimbabwe.
Hotel or hostel accommodations Windhoek (1 night), and Swakopmund (1 night), with the remaining 15 nightsof tent camping at national park campgrounds or private rest camps.
A academic safari in Namibia, Botswana, and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe with Wild Dog Safari.
Transportation in 15 passenger self-contained safari trucks with all camping and cooking equipment.
All meals provided except one meal in Windhoek and one meal in Victoria Falls.
Water for drinking and hygiene.
National park and game reserve entrance fees.
Camping fees.
Two nights at an institute devoted to conservation of African big cats.
Basic tip for safari guides who will accompany us 24 hrs/day for entirety of the trip.
Airport transfers, including transportation between Spartanburg and airport of departure (most likely GSP or Charlotte.)
Cost of publishing a 100 page book and a copy for each participant.
10% contingency fund.

Note: The cost of food is included in the fee charged by our tour operator. Students may assist with the planning of meals, purchasing of food from local grocers, and preparing those meals at each campsite. Our safari guides will supervise all of these activities. Thus all food is provided with the exception of meals in Windhoek and Victoria falls and meals on days of airport travel (estimated $100 US.)

Additional Expenses:

Anticipated student out-of-pocket expenses: gratuities for tribal performances = $25, meals = $90, passport = $150, Entrance fee for Botswana = $50 for total of $315

This project fee does not include:
Passport; any medical expenses (i.e. vaccinations); Cell phones and phone cards (Note: phone access is limited at most sites.); binoculars for each participant; field guides, travel guides, and texts (none of which will be required. The professors will have a sufficient number of copies to share.); meals for flight days and meals in cities (estimated $90 US); entertainment and tips for performances by native tribes people, singers, dancers $25 *; beverages and snack foods, $60*; souvenirs: $150*; * = median as reported by 16 students surveyed in 2008 Namibia/Botswana project.