Prince Harry Says Botswana Was His Escape After Princess Diana's Death

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

By Elyse Dupre Sep 26, 2019 1:27 PMTags
Prince HarryDominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Botswana holds a very special place in Prince Harry's heart.

During his royal tour stop on Thursday, the Duke of Sussex recalled visiting the country shortly after Princess Diana's death. 

"Fifteen years I've been coming here, it's a sense of escapism—a real sense of purpose….I have some of my closest friends here over the years," he said after arriving by the banks of the Chobe River. "I came here in 1997 or 1998 straight after my mum died, so it was a nice place to get away from it all."

The royal also said he felt "deeply connected to this place and to Africa."

The Princess of Wales died in 1997. During her lifetime, she made several visits to Africa. Just months before her passing, she walked through an active minefield in Angola. Diana has often been credited with raising awareness for an international treaty against landmines through her actions. The treaty was signed shortly after her death. Harry, who has continued to champion his mother's work over the years, is expected to visit Angola during the tour.

Harry has also been able to share his love for Botswana with Meghan Markle. As royal admirers will recall, Harry took Meghan there for her 36th birthday before they were married. Her engagement ring also features a center stone from Botswana. 

In addition, he has worked on several conservation projects both in Botswana and other parts of Africa over the years. On Thursday, the duke spoke about the importance of protecting the planet. 

"There's an emergency… it's a race against time and one which we are losing," he said, speaking about climate change. "Everyone knows it. There's no excuse for not knowing that and the most troubling part of that is that I don't believe that there's anybody in this world that can deny science—undeniable science and facts—science and facts that have been around for the last 30, maybe 40, years and it's only getting stronger and stronger. I don't understand how anyone in this world, whoever we are, you, us, children, leaders, whoever it is, no one can deny science, otherwise we live in a very, very troubling world."

The royal has a packed schedule for today. The Duke of Sussex started his day by joining schoolchildren and teachers for a tree planting project in the Chobe Forest Reserve. He also met with Dr. Mike Chase, a conservationist and founder of Elephants Without Borders, to learn more about the organization's education program. In addition, he is scheduled to visit a Sentebale project that is working to support young people affected by HIV later in the day. Furthermore, he is set to receive a briefing on The Botswana Defense Force, which fights against poaching and human-wildlife conflict.