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Published in the Northglen News on Friday 30 March 2018

The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino

Umhlanga resident and conservationist, Carla Geyser, has expressed her sadness at the death of Sudan, the world’s last surviving male northern white rhino. The rhino died after months of poor health, his carers said in a statement. Geyser is the founder of the Blue Sky Society Trust, an NPO working to preserve and improve life for people, animals, and communities in need. Sudan, who was 45 when he died, was suffering from a string of infections in his advanced age.

His death comes as rhino populations around the world teeter on the brink of extinction, largely due to poaching. According to reports, only two now remain – his daughter, Najin, and granddaughter, Fatu. Sudan was brought to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya from a zoo in the Czech Republic in 2009. Geyser, who met Sudan during the Elephant Ignite Expedition in 2016 said meeting Sudan was an unexpected honour for both her and the team.

Shock and sadness at the death of Sudan

“It was a bittersweet experience, as we all felt completely embarrassed and disappointed in the human race that we had done this to him. I cannot describe that feeling to you in words, when you are there staring extinction in the eyes, listening to his heavy breath which is now no longer. It`s a very emotional and helpless feeling. It was also a wake-up call for us. If we don’t act now this is what could happen to our southern white rhino, our elephant, our pangolin, our lions and the list goes on. Extinction is forever.”

Save these species from extinction

“I firmly believe that each and every one of us has the power to make a difference. I try to do my part by leading humanitarian and conservation expeditions in and around Africa. You may be involved in education or online media. Together we are stronger and we need to work hand in hand and come up with solutions to try and solve this open festering wound that we have created. We still have so much worth fighting for.”

Elephants Alive Carla Geyser
“My life is insignificant…I need to do more.”

That’s what I was thinking when I started Blue Sky Society Trust in 2012. I’ve always been a big dreamer, but it was time to do something – something big. There had been a strange emptiness in my soul that I needed to fill – that void that lives in some of us; what’s sometimes referred to as a ‘mid-life crisis’. I was on the downhill slope to 40, and the time for change was now or never…  I thank my lucky stars every single day since making that frightening, life-changing decision.

The thing is, I had no financial support, no backup plan; I just knew that I needed to do something sooner rather than later. Some people go out and buy fancy cars, or go on lavish holidays … my big leap was to jump feet-first into starting a non-profit organisation that raises money for humanitarian and conservation projects! I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew in my gut that it was the right thing for me to do.

Ever since an early age, I remember wanting to go and join Greenpeace, and throw myself in front of Chinese shipping trawlers in the hope of saving a whale. Fast-forward a few years, and I’m making a difference in my own little unique way. I like to think that I am a person that tackles life’s little challenges in a very distinctive and creative way…Carla Geyser adventure travel

Life-changing decisions and adventures

I have a very active mind that never stops planning means and ways to raise money for worthwhile projects. As you well know, one of these ideas was my Elephant Ignite Expedition that I headed up last year. I cannot believe that it’s been nearly a year since we left South Africa, turned the key in the ignition, and pointed our Avis Safari 4×4 vehicles (aptly named Courage, Hope and Love) north, for a life-changing adventure…

My eyes were opened to so many organisations, people and projects that are doing incredible work, with a never ending flow of challenges that are thrown at them on a daily basis. I was inspired by the work these brave people are doing. It left me wanting to do more.

This year, I’ve been cabin-bound, plotting and planning incredible expeditions for next year. It has been a challenge, both emotionally and financially. Africa always seems to clear my head and feed my soul, but this year I haven’t had my fix. As you know, I’ve started a fundraising project called ‘Journeys with Purpose’ where I’m linking adventure travel with conservation projects, and I am currently working on four exciting unique adventures for 2018.

Elephants Alive Carla GeyserAdventure Travel and Conservation in Africa

I’ve also partnered with Want Expeditions, who are a tour operating company based in USA. I’m not a tour operator – I’ve always just wanted to take people into Africa to experience her beauty and raise money for projects whose stories need to be told. One of the organisations that I’m currently raising money for is Elephants Alive, and we are running a Givengain campaign at the moment – trying to raise money for a 40-year-old male bull elephant called “Matambu”, who is partially blind in both eyes and needs an eye operation to save him.

I’m not sure why I’m so desperate to help this guy. We all know that I LOVE elephants and that their compassion and family orientation inspires me; maybe it’s that, but maybe I feel Matambu is heading towards that 40-year-old ‘something’ crisis that a lot of us go through, and needs our help. If you are able to assist in any way, please donate? Even if it’s a few pennies, cents, or quarters. Every bit helps.

In the next few weeks, I will be blogging about my Elephant Ignite Expedition – I haven’t had the courage to put our trip into writing yet. It’s something that I need to do ……but something I have been reluctant to share because it was such a personal life-changing experience for each and every Elephant Ignite Crew member. I still sometimes feel like it was all a dream. I hope to give you some insight to the incredible work that we did and to the wonderful, brave unsung heroes we met along the way.

Carla Geyser Sunset cruise LivingstoneI look forward to travelling with you someday and letting Mama Africa creep into your soul!

Asante Sane,

Carla Geyser

elephant collaring
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“You just have to get in your car and turn the key to travel into Africa.”

Those were Kingsley Holgate’s words to me, and it really is that simple. People are often afraid to travel through Africa, completely unaware of the vastness and beauty that lies beyond what they’ve seen on TV.

I started Blue Sky Society Trust in 2012 to raise funds for humanitarian and conservation projects around Africa, and started taking people with me on expeditions, to share my passion and open people’s hearts and minds to what Africa has to offer.

elephant collaring

Conservation Expeditions

With Kingsley Holgate as a mentor, I learned how to keep a sense of humour when travelling through border posts or road blocks, as well as why you should avoid travelling in the dark (animals tend to migrate to the road for warmth). Along with the tricks of the trade, he also taught me to slow down and enjoy the experience.

So in 2016, I led the Elephant Ignite Expedition, travelling 15,787km over 100 days, through 10 countries (South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya) – proving that an all-female expedition could safely travel through Africa.

It was incredible to see the life-changing effect that the journey had on people. Africa gets under your skin…into your soul. And I realised that I wanted to share this with more people, to share the life-changing experience of adventure and travel combined with hands-on work that makes a difference in the world.

Kasungu Waterpump

Adventure + Travel + Making a Difference

The purpose of the Elephant Ignite Expedition was to raise awareness and funds for elephants to fight the ongoing elephant poaching crisis, and in 100 days, we visited 37 different wildlife organisations doing incredible work, and donated over R400,000 to six elephant projects where we met the teams on the ground, and saw first-hand the wonderful work that they’re doing.

And now in March 2018, I’ll be leading the Journeys With Purpose expedition through remote parts of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, taking a limited number of people to some extraordinary places and conservation projects.

Every expedition is once-off; never to be repeated. It’s not for everyone though – it’s a fundraising initiative so you might have to get your hands dirty, help paint a school, or build a beehive fence. But it is a unique experience – sitting under the African sky, taking in the sunset and stars, cooking over a campfire, and listening to hyena cry in the night alongside the call of jackals…

Don’t miss out

If a 4×4 self-drive adventure gets your heart going, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to journey with purpose. We’ll be collaring elephants, visiting Tuli Wilderness Camp and the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, canoeing at Mana Pools, and taking in a few world heritage sites along the way…

Contact Carla Geyser on carla@blueskysociety.co.za to find out more!

* Originally published by Embark on a journey with purpose through Africa