Meet Chaz Powell: The man who walked Africa’s wildest rivers from source to sea in the battle against wildlife crime

Photo by Alex Frood

Meet Chaz Powell, the man behind The Wildest Journey.

After travelling the world on and off for eight years, he decided to combine his passion for the outdoors and travel and become an expedition leader and has lead expeditions in Zambia and Botswana. From August 2016 to September 2017 he hiked along the Zambezi River from its source to the Indian Ocean -a 3000 km journey that took 137 days by foot, joining the battle against wild life crime. We’ve asked him about his adventures and to share his thoughts on sustainability. Read on!

Why are you an expedition leader?

From The Wildest Journey Instagram: “2 stone lighter at this point, but feeling strong and confident! I was about to tackle the Zambezi gorges and by far the toughest section of my walk!”

I became an expedition leader after years of travelling the world not really thinking about any kind of career path. All I wanted to do was travel the world, and the more I travelled the wilder my adventures became. I had a passion for the outdoors and exploring, so coming back to the UK after 8 years of on and off travel, I decided to train as a mountain leader and start teaching bushcraft and survival. In 2015 I passed my Mountain Leader Award and began my dream career as an expedition leader. What a job, right?

I get to lead people through some of the most amazing places in the world, inspiring them to live an adventurous life and passing on the knowledge I have built up from my many years of remote expeditions.

What journeys have you made and what’s next?

I’ve travelled all over the world, wild backpacking through many different countries in Southeast Asia, working holidays in Australia and New Zealand, overlanding across Africa.

I’ve spent the past few years getting more and more adventurous and have pursued my love of long distance hiking: I’ve trekked many of the UK national trails, walking the length of the world’s steepest island (La Palma in the Canaries), and hitch hiked and walked to the Northernmost point of mainland Europe on a £100 budget. Most recently I took on my biggest challenge to date and walked the length of the mighty Zambezi river from source to sea, a 3000 km 137 day journey that pushed both my physical and mental limits.

 

On your journeys, what have you learned about climate change and conservation? 

From The Wildest Journey instagram: “Many times I was told that its not possible for me to walk the Zambezi, especially during the months I had chosen to walk. But I managed to walk over 2000 km in that heat and those conditions, and I only stopped in the end due to security reasons. I’m a huge believer that it’s possible to do anything you put your mind to”

During my Zambezi adventure I learned a great deal about wildlife conservation and saw first-hand the problems that are occurring along the rivers banks. I walked passed poached elephants and saw dead animals. I brushed shoulders with countless amounts of conservationists, poachers, traders and trophy hunters. It’s a strange mixture of people to have met.

The poachers are normally uneducated on the problem they are creating, and often are poor people employed by rich and greedy people. The conservationists do an incredible job to educate  people and tackling the problem.

The strangest example of conservation and anti poaching I’ve seen is the effort funded by by trophy hunters, specifically in Mozambique. But they seem to do an incredible job of increasing wildlife numbers and stopping the illicit trade if ivory and horns.  I am completely against any form of animal cruelty or destruction, but trophy hunting it’s a difficult topic to approach as they seem to be fighting the ongoing poaching battle. (For more information watch this documentary or read this article.)

What does sustainability mean to you and your daily life?

From The Wildest Journey instagram: “Camping along the river was often the only option! And with nowhere to buy fuel for cooking! Building a fire was my only way to survive!”

Sustainability is something I am hugely passionate about. The thought of the possible extinction of many endangered wildlife species throughout the world is a massive concern and something I feel dedicated to act on. I try to raise as much vital awareness through my many “wildest journeys” as possible. There is a loss of wildlife habitat due to human need for deforestation and land encroachment for agriculture and homes and villages for the ever growing population. That means wildlife is getting pushed into smaller and smaller pockets of land. It just isn’t big enough for them to live a free and wild life. Animals are losing control of their migrationary routes and coming into contact and conflict with humans more and more. Also the illegal elephant ivory and rhino horn trade is an ongoing battle and the more wildlife numbers decrease, the higher the value is placed onto ivory and horns, and thus the more threatening this devastating industry becomes.

It’s so important we all start taking this as seriously as possible, otherwise we will only be reading about these animals in the pages of history books. It really does make me extremely frustrated and sad.

Read more about his efforts and adventures on his website.

From The Wildest Journey instagram: “Escaping the heat… One of the biggest challenges I faced during my trek, was the fact I chose to walk during the hottest time of the year. In Sub Saharan Africa from September until December, temperatures can often reach 50°C. I chose to walk during these months because I wanted to get access through the Barotse floodplains when they were at their lowest level (I was still wading through swamps even then). Any other months along the Barotse floodplains it is completely underwater and not accessible. I knew that this was a dangerous decision and it nearly cost me my life on more than one occasion… Finding shade in the open plains was often a struggle, and any opportunities to seek that shade were greatly met.”