After a seemingly endless hike over the thousand hills of the Kabobo Massif, surviving a merciless rain and a descent of over 1800 metres of altitude, the Kabobo expedition team arrives, knees shaking, in the village of Bendera on 28 February.
We crossed the entire Massif, from the Tanganika lake to the backcountry, over 40 km of hike and an incredible variety of landscapes. Only one more week left until the end of the expedition and what we have witnessed is fixed in our minds like an enigma that, unveiling itself slightly, has not but augmented our curiosity and the knowledge that we have not but touched all that there is to be discovered in the over 100km of mountains that overlook one of the largest and deepest lakes of the planet.
During the quiet moments in the journey and in the following days we take some time for the first reflexions on this long month.
“What significance did this expedition have, do you think?” I ask Michele, “I believe that in this historic time every portion of the planet that we succeed in removing from man’s grasp is a guarantee of sustainability. Kabobo Expedition was an effort towards this goal.”
I wonder, at the end of our project, after the big expectations that his mission had created in each of us, after all the planning and organizational efforts, after a long month of unforeseen obstacles, beauty, difficulties and amazement, what aspect left the biggest impression on the key players in this adventure, the researchers.
“I’ve seen one of the most untouched and vast forests on earth and a still so abundant fauna”, says Michele, nearly more to himself than in answer to my question. He then adds ”we are talking about a defined area, little utilized but with huge potential, even for a reasonable amount of nature tourism. If DRC succeeded in maintaining an acceptable political stability, allowing the parks to be truly protected, this area would be really easy to manage and safeguard”. Every time I asked one of the Congolese team what they thought of our conservation efforts they would always answer that “it is a great opportunity, because it brings work”. The opportunity of a better life-style: this is the key that opens the way to the population’s support, indispensable factor for the positive outcome of every tutelary-based action.
“How will you describe Kabobo to you colleagues back home?”, I ask persisting with my enquiry , “I will describe a vast place, little known, intact and stable, tough, at times hostile even, but at the same time rich and breathtaking. When it comes to the reptiles and amphibians we have only started scratching the surface. We have explored various altitudinal zones, each of which we have discovered to contain a unique or unexpected characteristic, and this, rather than satisfying us, further ignited our curiosity”, he ends smiling.
“What do you think is the contribution brought by Kabobo Expedition to the creation of the Ngamikka Park?”, is my next question. “Without a doubt every factual element contributes to adding further value to this area’s nature and consequently to justifying its safeguard. However in this expedition we also wagered on another fundamental element: the communication. The name of Kabobo, its image, need to appear on the maps and on people’s minds, it needs to become a reality and find its own personality in order to become a sought after destination …. a dream”. Nothing is more effective than a dream to stimulate the desire to protect.
“What is the worst thing you will take back with you?”, Michele pauses before answering.
“The sensation that we, as men, are totally incapable of using the resources on this planet without causing devastation”