An all-women South African-led conservation mission into Southern Africa kicked off on the afternoon of 16th September, bringing together 13 women from around the world. Led by Carla Geyser, a Durban adventurer, humanitarian and eco-warrior, the Journeys with Purpose: Rise of the Matriarch expedition sees the crew travelling 9 000km across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.
Geyser and team members, Erin Dickson, Celokuhle “Smax” Biyela and Stephanie De Wit headed out in 4x4s from the Getaway Show at the Ticketpro Dome, Johannesburg amidst much excitement and well wishes. For the next 50 days, they will journey across four countries educating and empowering communities along the way about human-wildlife conflict, raising funds for conservation and meeting phenomenal women who either lead or are involved in extraordinary conservation projects at grassroots levels.
“It is clear that the essence of enabling real change in the world lies in the ability of groups of women to motivate and mobilise as many other individuals as possible, to align their goals, and to attract the attention of a global market,” explains Geyser, the founder of the NPO, Blue Sky Society Trust. “The women on this expedition represent different countries and backgrounds but we are united by a passion for wildlife conservation. Together, we will educate women and girls from disadvantaged communities in the region and hopefully give them a reason to join the growing number of women from around the world who are leading the fight for conservation in Africa.”
Geyser will be joined by various team members, ranging in age from 19 to 71, on different legs of her journey. They include four Americans – wildlife biologist and conservation scientist, Jennifer Palmer (below right); nurse and travel blogger, Emily Scott (left); camerawoman, Alize Jireh, who at 19 is the youngest crew member; and acclaimed business coach and conservationist, Tommi Wolfe – and nine South Africans namely Lungile Dimba, an education administrator at wildlife body WESSA in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands; Durban’s Erin Dickson, an on-air personality at East Coast Radio; Umzimkhulu’s Celokuhle “Smax” Biyela who is aligned to the Blue Sky Society Trust; conservation supporters, Laura Thomas-Gilks and Tarren Benson both from Durban; Cape Town documentary-maker, Sam Suter; Pietermaritzburg photographer and eco-warrior, Stephanie De Wit; and Bronwyn Laing, a Durbanite and past Elephant Ignite crew member who now lives in Tanzania. Real estate business owner, 71-year old Joan Arnestad, from Hoedspruit, Limpopo has also signed up for the experience.
“A journey of this magnitude and purpose wouldn’t have been possible without the support of some incredible individuals and companies,” adds Geyser. “I’d like to thank each and every one of the sponsors for helping my team and me make an impactful difference. I genuinely believe that if we receive more commitment from corporate South Africa, we can do great things to make our continent a better place for everyone – people and animals – who lives here.”
Peter Eastwood who heads up The Tanglewood Foundation, a New Zealand environment advocacy and conservation group that has funded two expedition members, Lungile Dimba and Smax Biyela, says he fully supports Geyser’s vision of aligning values of education and awareness of the serious conservation issues facing our planet. Eastwood believes that education is key to creating awareness about serious conservation issues which is why he has also sponsored the 30 000 educational books, The Wonderful Wildlife Activity Booklet. “We hope to make Carla’s expedition even more successful and effective. These booklets leave a lasting legacy of her expedition wherever she goes and are likely to each be read by many people,” says Eastwood, who also sponsored 20 000 educational booklets during Geyser’s Journeys with Purpose: Elephant Ignite expedition in 2016.
City Logistics has come on board to assist with transporting the boxes of educational books. “This is critical to ensuring the sustainability of our natural heritage and with the recent death of the last Northern Rhino we cannot allow another species to become extinct,” explains Julia Peirson, Executive Director of City Logistics. “Currently 98 elephant are killed each day in Africa. We wish Carla and her team a very successful Journey with a Purpose: Rise of the Matriarch and for initiating such a remarkable project in order to protect our wildlife.”
Jonssons workwear have sponsored the crew some clothing while Melvill and Moon helped spruce up the lead expedition vehicle with new seat covers and a tyre cover. EEZI AWN’s Jess Stuhler says, “We have always tried to align ourselves with people and companies that go out into communities to educate people about the impact urbanisation is having on our environment and wildlife.” Stuhler’s team has sponsored a roof rack and rooftop tent for the main expedition vehicle as well as other accessories, while National Luna have given the crew a fridge for the journey.
Funds raised during the expedition will benefit four causes: Elephants Alive (South Africa), Rare and Endangered Species Trust (Namibia), Eco-Exist Project (Botswana) and the Soft Foot Alliance Trust (Zimbabwe). “The sad harsh reality is that we need to support these organisations because if the poaching carries on at this rate, there is a good chance that your children and grandchildren may never get to see a lot of our Big 5 in the wild,” explains Geyser.
This is Geyser’s second all-women conservation mission. In 2016, she led South Africa’s first all-female team to Kenya, raising nearly R300 000 for various environment protection projects.
The Journeys with Purpose: Rise of the Matriarch ends on 28 October 2018. Geyser returns to South Africa on 24 October 2018.
You can follow the crew’s journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @Blueskysociety
Video highlights of the 2016 Journeys with Purpose: Elephant Ignite expedition: