(eTN) – Open Africa is an NGO which puts together tourist routes for the self-drive, with several routes in the Zambia–Mutinondo Wilderness area near Mpika, Kafue National Park, Barotseland, and Banguelu. The routes are all wonderfully described on their website, and although I have been wanting, all year, to do the Kafue route, so far I have failed miserably. Instead, I am stuck in Livingstone working… how horrid.
Livingstone was originally joined with the Barotse route, but it has been decided that it will now stand alone and be the center for taking off on the Barotse and Kafue routes.
The Barotse route will definitely be easier to negotiate when the new road is done between Sesheke and the Sitoti Ferry. This is expected to be done in 2011. The bad news about this road is that the contractors have cleared large areas of bush in order to extract the stone and to crush it for the road. There are some big complaints from conservationists as no concern seems to be given to the environment. The villagers, of course, are just happy to see the road being built. I am told that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) have been done, but I think it is a case of some EIAs being different from others.
Open Africa is a great way of showcasing cultural activities on the way between lodges – this being one of Open Africa’s main aims. So many times we speed through villages not knowing what the people have to offer in terms of cultural activities. Open Africa promotes these activities by mentioning them on their website and helping the villagers to explore ways of exploiting their own heritage. Having identified cultural possibilities, Open Africa will assist with some advice, but they do not hand out money. The villagers are left to develop their own businesses. However, Open Africa, provides the marketing support for free.