Month: January 2016

Paying It Forward on the Zambezi

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” ― Ansel Adams I had heard about Charlton long before I met him. I had seen the photographs of him, Royal Chundu’s handyman, out in the field, photographing the faces of the Zambezi. I knew the story behind it all. A guest staying at Royal Chundu, a man working at Canon Inc., had noticed Charlton’s enthusiasm for photography and organised Canon sponsorship for him, donating a camera and on-site training to the budding Ansel Adams. Charlton, who grew up in the city of Livingstone, Zambia, has been working as a handyman at Royal Chundu since the lodge opened. It is his home. When I finally met him, I was a little taken aback. The thing about photography is that it is like a growing child. It needs constant attention and food, and quickly outgrows its clothes and toys. We met up for a morning stroll through the village around Royal Chundu, stopping …

The Parrotfish Run

Read the full article here. Everyone has their own criteria for what makes an adventure. For me, it is often about my camera and the rare moments it manages to capture. The Parrotfish Run in Zambia, the Zambezi’s Great Migration, is one such moment, and it is one wild and wonderful adventure. After watching mokoro after mokoro glide past my deck at Royal Chundu‘s Island Lodge, Gerard and I joined them on the Zambezi, our vehicle an inflatable canoe, and Royal Chundu’s Head Guide, Sililo, or “SK”, our ‘in’. The Parrotfish Run is a decades old tradition. Each year, from around June to August, millions of these fish are pulled downstream by the main river current. The usually serene upper reaches of the Zambezi transform into a lively harbour with women and children on the sidelines and the fishermen spread across the channels – often thigh-high in the water itself, sometimes even immersed up to their necks. Hessah Silwebbe, GM at Royal Chundu, a lodge set on a private waterway between the two rapids where the fishing takes place, explains, “Once the fish hit the smaller rapids, they make for an easy catch for fishermen …

Midnight in Johannesburg

Full article here. “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” ― Ernest Hemingway In the rush of wild mushroom fricassée, espresso martinis and winter moonlight, each second feels like a feast. A Moveable Feast. Champagne and cigars, a fire sizzling in the bar. I have to pace myself, remind myself of the limits. Is there ever any middle ground in a feast? It is midnight in Johannesburg, at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, in the eddy of the City of Gold, a retreat that merges the higher and lower frequencies of the city, leaving it up to you which to choose. The initial frenzy settles as morning comes, as the hadeda take to breakfast on the lawn and the sun shimmers through the oak trees. Morning is part of life’s natural feedback system to keep you from the edge. Slowly faces start to stand out, you learn everyone’s names and histories and love affairs and it becomes less like …

The Season of the Whale

Read the full article here. The truth about whalesong is like much in life. Elusive, if not wholly unknown. We can philosophise and theorise but the truth about the enigmatic voices of whales and dolphins evades us. Nobody knows its true purpose or meaning. As the BBC documentary below states, “Scientists may one day find out the whole truth behind these extraordinary voices of the sea, but for now the private life of these ocean giants remains wondrously mysterious.” All we can do is look on, watch these creatures on their cross-oceanic journeys, from land, water or air. We can deduce a little more from their body language, their lobtailing and spyhopping and breaching. But between the fact and fiction of their wonder, all we have to do is be amazed by the simple joy of something we cannot fully grasp.   In African waters, you can glimpse whales on the east and south-east coast of South Africa on their own version of the Great Migration. On the east, they often flock to the Sardine Run, from May through to July, as captured on film …

The House of Health

Health is one of the stealthiest of animals to pin down, a state of being we spend our lives seeking to acquire or hold onto. Some believe that the mind is the answer to all health, that, like time, it can heal all. But there are occasions when our bodies, as external entities, require something that the mind cannot provide. Since the Roman era, men – yes, even the manliest of men, legionnaires and the like – have visited spas. ‘Sanus per Aquam’, health by or through water, or SPA – a word that is believed to originate from the hot, natural springs that fatigued troopers sought out for rejuvenation, relaxation and to treat their sore wounds and tired muscles. As much as the meaning of the word “Health” may fluctuate with changing fads, the word “Spa” remains reliable. It is a place to heal, even when you don’t realise you are in need of healing. The masseuse manages to uncover the aches you’ve ignored and bitten your tongue through, the subtle tension you’ve hidden from the world in the muscles in your back, …

Life Lessons From Leopards

[published here] She did not want to be found. Were it not for the herd of impalas surrounding her, she wouldn’t have been. The young female leopard’s spots made her almost undetectable behind the low branches of the bush, as she hunched over her kill – the impala that didn’t get away. The herd, as if tattletaling on the leopard, barked loudly to alert others of the danger. We followed the call in our safari vehicle in the Kapama Private Game Reserve around Camp Jabulani, and locked eyes with the big cat through the trees. About ten metres from us, she sat unmoving, heavy panting and startling eyes giving away the life inside her. One of us shifted in the vehicle (not the experienced ranger), trying to focus the camera lens on the cat, but spooking the leopard in the process. The leopard darted instantly, leaving her prey behind. We idled the vehicle a little closer to the site of the kill. To get a better look at the leopard we had to be just as stealthy as this big cat. We placed a GoPro camera beside the lone impala and continued on our way. A …

How To Be Quiet – Unexpected Lessons From Unexpected Guests

A dispatch from the Royal Chundu blog We are very grateful for this blog and are greatly saddened when the noise of the outside world keeps us from it. Partly because it allows us, as Anaïs Nin wrote, to taste life twice, and partly because it reminds of the little things that bring us joy, the odd ‘aha moment’ that is easy to forget in the flurry of daily life. For instance, the subjects of today’s blog… Recently, we had two of the quietest guests we’ve ever come across. They arrived in a uniquely quiet week at Royal Chundu – as if they had sensed the stillness of the lodge, even months before when they booked their trip. They stayed with us for just over a week on a birding safari. Sure, birders tend to be a characteristically quieter breed compared to the rest, but there was something special about this couple. They were so quiet that we didn’t know how to entertain them. But therein lay the answer – they didn’t need to be entertained at all. In the way of the books by …