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One of the Cobras' biggest fans: Jack Fleckney

From 4 - 7 June 2022, Jack Fleckney undertook a challenge as part of his Africa Expedition to help raise money and awareness for our Cobras team and our community rhino project…and what a challenge it was!

This challenge took him across Hwange, running, walking, cycling, horseback riding, with some occasional hopping onto a safari vehicle or even Imvelo Safari Lodges’ Elephant Express rail cart!

4 June - Day 1

The challenge kicked off at the Cobras Community Wildlife Protection Unit’s Headquarters, on their Parade Square. In the early hours, you could spot the silhouettes of our two new rhino Thuza and Kusasa, a reminder of why both the Cobras and Jack were here. A flag raising ceremony was followed by a “Morning Routine” in which the scouts do a circuit of press-ups, dips, sit-ups, pull-ups to warm themselves up…and soon after they headed for the first leg of Jack’s journey: a 30km run through the local villages and bush.

The run took place on communal land with Jack being accompanied by 6 scouts. They had all had “stag duty” during the night, so some were running on little sleep, but still chanted their way through, warning any animals of their approach, including some feasting elephants. The run took them past village football grounds, the local primary school, the village water pump, Headman Johnson Ncube’s homestead. Jack took time to stop and have chats with people along the way and even managed to encourage some local kids to join him for a bit of his run!

“10km in and we reached the local village where all the Cobra’s come from. The village has benefitted massively from all the support from Imvelo who run the Cobra’s. They have provided food aid, schools, water, a medical centre and now new job opportunities via the lodges and Cobra’s. The head of Village is given their role by it being passed down through their family. Johnson said to me how grateful the village are for the new White Rhino project and how excited they are to see it grow and offer more jobs!” (Excerpt from Jack Fleckney’s online blog)

The run continued through some wilder terrain, and the scouts had to be better equipped for any dangerous traffic. The team passed zebra, wilderbeest and giraffe through the deep kalahari sands, under the blazing sun.

“The pace was holding well, and I felt ok……until the team decided to speed up. They were flying and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say I was holding on for dear life. This continued for 5km. Lucky we stopped as we hit the railway line for some water and to gear up. Gear up meant donning weapons. This is because we were entering an area full of wildlife. Lions, elephants and so on. The short rest helped, and we had 10km to go. We sang the whole way mainly to make animals aware we are coming. Luckily for us we didn’t see anything too dangerous.” (Excerpt from Jack Fleckney’s online blog)

The team at the Elephant Express finishing point!

Jack finished off the 30km, leading the singing and finally arriving at the Elephant Express, Imvelo’s rail cart, where he said goodbye to the scouts and went on through to his next stop. After 15km on horseback through the bush, Jack arrived at his sleeping spot for the night.

15km on horsebike after a 30km run

5 June - Day 2

Jack’s day 2 was a 60km bike ride following the road running parallel to the railway line, spotting wildlife tracks along the way, reaching the Lukosa river and finally a short vehicle ride to the night’s accommodation.

“The sand really made it difficult to keep control of the bike and to maintain any kind of speed. Which wipes out your legs. I’m sure the marathon with the cobras across the sand had an influence too. Following a train line and in Africa made me think it would be flat. How wrong I was. The whole 60km consisted of constant up and downs. You would get the chance to fly down a hill to hit deep sand and go flying. In fact, I went over the handlebars at one point. Never in my life did I think I would be cycling dodging Elephant dung. But today was the day. It meant we had to keep our wits, looking for any immediate danger.“(Excerpt from Jack Fleckney’s online blog)

6 June - Day 3

“This huge National Park is so exciting because of it massively changing environment. We have been in a desert, quickly moved into bushland, switched into a forest, reached the open plains (Like you see on documentaries), found palm trees and now find ourselves in the dead centre of Hwange. Another big day tomorrow as we trek further North. Before hoping back on my bike for over 100km to Victoria Falls!” (Excerpt from Jack Fleckney’s online blog)

Day 3 was a a long hike in the wild. Jack crossed hippos, lions, crocodiles, got lost in the tall grass and was entirely reliant on an old map and a compass to find his way through; even for the expert guides who were with him, this was no easy (or reassuring) feat!

“Everything was going smoothly until we heard some elephant noises and a flap of ears. We were in high grass so stopped immediately. It was a warning to back off, but we couldn’t see where the Elephant was. Staying still, we changed our course slightly and evaded any danger. Moments like that remind you of the real danger in the wild and got me excited for the real adventure and challenge we are facing.

By this time, it was midday and we still had to cover a lot of distance. Our goal to find a small river and handrail it for around 6km until we reached an elephant track. The grass got so tall we couldn’t see anywhere and lost out bearings. Luckily, we had a compass and old map from the 1950’s!! A compass never lies, and we managed to get back on track. It got a little nerve-racking at some points as we pushed our way through the long grass, having no idea what was around us.” (Excerpt from Jack Fleckney’s online blog)

7 June - Day 4

The challenge’s final day took Jack all the way to Victoria Falls, with a 100km bike ride through Robin’s camp, coming across baboons and some difficult terrain. So difficult in fact that the support vehicle got stuck and, despite intense efforts in the mud to help it out, it was not moving. A couple members of the team hoped back onto the bikes, and turned around in search for help and, fortuitously, found a vehicle that eventually managed to pull the support vehicle out of the mud. Despite their delay, the team made it to the Black Rhino Sanctuary near Victoria Falls, where he was welcomed by three black rhino!

A typical bush sighting...

Jack’s challenge started with rhino and ended with rhino and his efforts for the Cobras and the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative have been inspiring; we can’t thank him enough for his support!

“A marathon in the sand, a horse ride, a day’s cycling in the sand and now a days trekking. But spirits are high, and I am more motivated than ever after seeing first-hand what we are fundraising for!”

We wish Jack the best of luck with the rest of his Africa Expedition…now onto Zambia and Botswana! More about Jack and his challenges here:

Contact us for more information on the CRCI project or read more of our blogs here too.


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