In 24 hours we will be on our way to Botswana. This will be my second visit to Botswana but for Rob it will be his third trip. Our primary reason for heading off to Africa is to volunteer as veterinarians with two amazing organizations. Well, honestly the reality is that we LOVE Africa and being able to offer our skills to these two great organizations is a bonus! Being animal nerds we both grew up watching Wild Kingdom and dreaming of someday visiting Africa. For us, it is magical to see, smell and hear the wildlife on this continent and putting in long days as volunteer vets is well worth the pay off of time in this amazing country.
During our time in Africa we will be representing the Canadian Animal Assistance Team or CAAT which is partnering with a local organization, the Maun Animal Welfare Society or MAWS. CAAT was founded in 2005, in response to the overwhelming need for veterinary care in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Since this time, CAAT has expanded an its primary focus is on running animal health care projects in low-income communities with limited or no access to veterinary services for their animal both in Canada and abroad. This organization is completely volunteer driven and does amazing work. If you are interested in learning more about CAAT or donating, check out their website and know your donation dollars are being put to great use www.caat-canada.org
Located in Maun Botswana, MAWS provides free veterinary services to low income villagers across Botswana. The primary focus of our time in Maun will be providing spay, neuter and vaccination clinics to reduce pet overpopulation in the area as well as emergency veterinary services and treatments. We will also visit rural areas and set up mobile outreach clinics on an as needed basis. In Botswana, villagers live side-by-side with Botswana’s rich and varied wildlife. MAWS work helps to prevent the transmission of rabies and canine distemper: diseases which can decimate wildlife including the African Wild Dog, lions, leopards and cheetahs. In addition to veterinary care, MAWS works to reunite, rehome, and rehabilitate lost, found, and stray animals. Check out their website at www.maunanimalwelfare.com
So how do you pack for 7 weeks in Botswana? We find travelling with just a carry on is the best option. No worries about lost luggage and easy to make your connection gates when you like to travel cheap and have multiple connections enroute to the final destination. We will fly from Spokane WA to Seattle WA, Washington DC to Addis Ababa Ethiopia, then on to Livingstone, Zambia and finally to Gabarone Botswana. After an overnight in Gabarone in order to get our veterinary licences in order with the Botswana authorities we will fly to Maun. Hey, the price was right and as Rob says if you aren’t having fun, then you better have a good story! After a short overnight rest we will start work the following day.
Nigel helping us pack
After traveling with different types of luggage from traditional suitcases, duffel bags to backpacks we are firmly in the backpack camp of travellers. As our age increases our pack size and weight decreases. This is lucky as our flight from Washington DC to Addis Ababa Ethiopia allows only one 7 kg carry on and one 5 kg personal item. In addition to the clothes I will wear, here is my packing list: 3 short sleeve t-shirts, 1 long sleeve sun shirt , 2 pairs of shorts, bathing suit, socks, undies, pair of sandals, sun hat, rain coat, first aid kit, toiletry kit, spare reading glasses, sunglasses, eReader, various charging cables, water bottle stuffed with Kind bars, a headlamp with spare batteries and a small bluetooth speaker to rock out during surgeries! Rob’s pack is pretty similar but includes a couple big bags of monocryl suture, bug spray, sunscreen and our laptop.
Initially we had planned to spend Christmas in Africa with our cool and amazing kids, then continue traveling after the holidays and see more of Africa. However plans have changed, as it was not possible to get the entire family to Botswana so we have booked our return flights to Canada in order to spend Christmas together. We do have some fun things planned for 2018 but will keep them secret for now (don’t want to jinx it)!
More to follow in the weeks to come. Next post will be from abroad!