‘Deeply connected to this place’: Why Botswana is so important to Prince Harry

By Zach Harper

Prince Harryreturned to Botswana on Sept. 26 – a country deeply close to his heart.

The Duke of Sussex arrived in Kasane in the country’s northeast, a region called the “Four Corners of Africa.” It’s a place where the nation’s borders almost intersect with Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the area has some of the richest biodiversity on the continent. The gorgeous gateway to the Okavango Delta that eventually gives way to the Victoria Falls is also known for being the place where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor remarried in 1975.

While there, he participated in a tree planting at a reserve in the Chobe National Park and then visited a Sentebale project in the area.

PUSH! Harry helped plant trees of all sizes on Sept. 26. Photo: © Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Harry loves Botswana, and while standing on the banks of the Chobe River, he told reporters he feels “deeply connected to this place and to Africa,” partly because he discovered Botswana during one of the most difficult times of his life.

“Fifteen years I’ve been coming here,” he said. “It’s a sense of escapism – a real sense of purpose… I have some of my closest friends here over the years.”

After his mother, Princess Diana, passed away in a tragic car accident in Paris in August 1997, Harry needed to deal with his grief and connect himself back to who he was. But he also wanted to remember and reconnect with his mother, who had visited nearby Angola in January 1997. So he travelled to Botswana and fell in love with the country.

“I came here in 1997 or 1998 straight after my mum died, so it was a nice place to get away from it all,” he said.

MORE: How Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan fell in love with Botswana

Harry maintained his connection with the country over the years, and it has also become a huge part of his relationship with Duchess Meghan. The two visited Botswana early in their courtship in 2017. When he proposed to Meghan, he gave her a custom ring fitted with two diamonds from Diana’s collection, along with a huge centre diamond that came from Botswana.

Harry received a very sweet and lovely welcome at a Sentebale project in Botswana on Sept. 26! Photo: © Getty Images

But Botswana is also important to Harry because it reconnects him with his charitable work. The duke founded Sentebale, which works with vulnerable children and youth living with HIV, in 2006 with Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso. Its name is Sesotho for “forget me not” (also the name of Diana’s favourite flower) and is intended to remind both princes of their mothers. At the 2007 Concert for Diana, Harry said the charity’s name is an additional “reminder to us all not to forget Lesotho or its children.” Sentebale expanded its operations into Botswana in 2016.

Plenty of hippos were out on the Chobe River on Sept. 26! It must have been amazing for Harry to see them. Photo: © Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Botswana is also one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet, boasting high numbers of elephants, giraffes, hippopotamuses, African wild dogs and antelopes in the Chobe National Park alone. Harry is a passionate conservationist, so it also reconnects him to his charitable work in this way, too.

PHOTOS: The best pictures of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s royal tour of southern Africa

On Sept. 26, he spoke out about climate change, saying humanity is in a “race against time” that “we are losing,” saying protecting the planet is everyone’s responsibility.

“I don’t think there’s anyone that’s not involved in conservation that shouldn’t be involved in conservation somehow,” he said.

On Sept. 27, Harry will reconnect with his mother in an incredibly deep way when he visits Angola, including Huambo, the town where Diana famously walked through a minefield in 1997. We’re sure it will be very powerful to see.

MORE: Full coverage of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s royal tour of southern Africa

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