Blog by Sue Watt, Award-winning Travel and Conservation Writer.
On November 6th in the Riverside Studios in west London, Thuza and Kusasa had a taste of fame, although they remain totally oblivious to it. Outside it was dreary and rainy, but inside the mood was distinctly celebratory as photos of the rhinos came up on stage and the CRCI was announced as the winner of the British Guild of Travel Writers’ International Tourism Award for the best tourism project in the awards’ Wider World category.
The two white rhino bulls and the project that brought them to their pioneering new home were up against some stiff competition, among them a new long-distance hiking trail in Mexico, a sustainable Camping with Custodians project benefiting the Djarindjin Community in Western Australia, and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in starstruck Los Angeles, USA.
We didn’t need to go to LA for A-list stars though: Sir Michael Palin of Monty Python fame and a renowned TV presenter for BBC travel documentaries was there to collect his own award for Outstanding Contribution to Travel Journalism and also to present the International Tourism Awards. Helen Simmans representing CRCI (from Imvelo’s UK marketing company Marketing Worldwide) and I had waited anxiously for the announcement, not really expecting it to be ‘our’ project, and we walked up onto the stage absolutely elated (and slightly starstruck ourselves) to claim the certificate from Sir Michael. It was a moment of sheer joy, and one we’ll never forget.
Back in May, my partner Will Whitford and I had come to Zimbabwe to report on the long-awaited translocation of these two rhinos from Malilangwe to Hwange. I was commissioned to write articles for The Daily Telegraph, Travel Africa magazine and BBC Wildlife magazine (due to be published in January) and Will would be taking the photographs. We’d worked with Imvelo Safari Lodges before and knew its excellent work with the communities and conservation, but this project blew us away.
Over three weeks, we met community leaders and the Cobras around Ngamo and the Tsholotsho region, saw the work involved in setting up and supporting the new Imvelo Ngamo Rhino Sanctuary, travelled to Malilangwe and witnessed the work of their rhino experts, then joined the convoy that drove through the night across the country to bring Thusa and Kusasa back home, the first white rhinos to set foot in the Hwange area for nearly 20 years.
Having seen the dedication and commitment of all of those involved in the project, I felt I wanted to do my bit to help and as a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, was able to nominate the CRCI for this award. Although I may be biased, I do believe they are worthy winners and that they deserve many more moments of fame.
Sue Watt (pictured left) Sir Michael Palin, Helen Simmans (tourism representative in the UK for Imvelo Safari Lodges) and Meera Dattani (Chair of the BGTW) with the Award.