In the closing pages of his book The Full Circle, Dave Varty lays out an inspiring vision for the largest wildlife corridor in Africa. Running from South Africa’s Western Cape straight through to the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, this continuous corridor would be a game-changing development in the history of the continent, reopening millennia-old migratory routes and restoring freedom of movement for Africa’s wildlife.
As I reached the end of The Full Circle, I imagined a safari up the same corridor Dave describes, stretching across the whole of southern and eastern Africa and encompassing a breathtaking variety of landscapes, wildlife, and natural wonders. Though the Cape-to-Selous wildlife corridor is still a work in progress, there is indeed a different type of corridor linking the Cape with the Selous and beyond: the railway. Following the rail line north from Cape Town alongside (and in some cases through) Africa’s existing national parks offers a window into the size and scope of Dave’s vision for a Cape-to-Tanzania wildlife corridor.
Today, the only way to ride these rails continuously from South Africa to Tanzania is onboard Rovos Rail’s luxury cruise train, which runs between Cape Town and Dar es Salaam a few times each year. But for the people who call this corridor home, public train service remains as fragmented as the national parks that sit astride the tracks. The building blocks are there for a transport network connecting hundreds of millions of people; all it takes is a vision for a future that’s greater than the reality of the present.
As Boyd Varty says, the source of most animal species’ troubles boils down to lack of space and inadequate freedom of movement. As humans we feel this acutely in cities, in tight office spaces and crowded subway cars, and we feel that stress melt away the moment we touch down in the natural openness of Londolozi. Having stuck my head out the window of the Bulawayo-Vic Falls sleeper and experienced the magic of flying through the African bush on a moving train, I hope to see Africa’s vital transport links revitalized and brought into the modern age. It’s a dream that mirrors Dave’s vision for Africa’s wildlife: restored networks of movement for Africa’s people and animals, linked by symbiotic economies of wildlife, together moving the continent into a new era of connectivity and prosperity.
As Dave says in The Full Circle, time will tell whether this vision becomes a reality, but living at Londolozi in harmony with animals and each other is a constant reminder that this is a dream worth chasing and a train worth jumping on.