Year: 2020

Through the Eyes of an African Elephant

As published on Jabulani > When an African elephant is born, it is completely blind… It relies on its other senses to navigate its strange new world from between its herd’s legs. As its eyesight develops, allowing it to seek out delicious soft green shoots and ripe Amarula fruit, and ‘keep an eye’ on other calves, the eyes remain small – relative to its size; it is, after all, the largest living land animal. They provide only moderate vision. Even with its tiny eyes, it remains one of the world’s most intelligent animals – described by Aristotle as “the animal that surpasses all others in wit and mind.” How it navigates its world and creates its complex inner life is through their sense of touch, hearing and smell, senses that humans have become much less adept at in comparison. In the dry season in the wild, elephants travel vast distances to track down new sources of water and food, but they are far more likely to smell or hear the water than to see it. Originally they roamed as far …

Buffy the Lion Slayer

Published for Jabulani. Read the post here > The Unexpected Camaraderie of the African Buffalo We’ve all had an itch we couldn’t scratch… Perhaps, desperately, when battling a tickle on your nose or foot, when your hands are tucked away under a cloak at the hairdressers, or wrapped around heavy shopping bags, while walking to the car. Twitch your nose or shake your toes all you like, the itch just gets more tenacious. Didn’t you ever wish for that third arm, a tail, or personal assistant maybe? The African buffalo has just that – a flock of assistants, named oxpeckers. These clever little birds spend their days in all the inaccessible places that even a tail can’t reach, cleaning and combing and picking. They clean the wax out of the buffalo’s ears and peck on ticks and other parasites. They clean wounds and even scar tissue. They also act as an early warning system and hiss at approaching danger. How delightful it would be to have our own oxpecker! Buffalo the Lion Slayer Lions are …

A Creep of Tortoises

A Blog for Jabulani. Read the post here > “Oh, a very useful philosophical animal, your average tortoise. Outrunning metaphorical arrows, beating hares in races… very handy.” – Terry Pratchett Strategy, that’s what’s needed. In order to be there at the end of the race, you need a strategy. To be a participant in the race of life requires a well-conceived plan. And so the tortoise grew a shell. Of course, in that amazing, fun, random and seemingly experimental way that nature has, tortoise shells come in a multitude of shapes, colours, patterns and sizes. Some have flaps and hinges and some are made in a 3D printer. South Africa, and in particular the Cape Province, has the richest diversity of tortoises in the world. In our reserve at Jabulani and in the Great Kruger Park region, it’s mostly leopard tortoise that we encounter, as well as some hinged tortoises and the cape and serrated Terrapins (freshwater tortoises). The leopard tortoise is a member of the not-as-famous Little Five… They are so-named because of their rosette-patterned shells. Unique to …

My Chemical Romance

Written for Jabulani, published here: The Silent Language of Elephants & Other Animals ~ The Jacobson Organ Making Sense of Elephants We’ve always known that elephants relied on their Big 5 senses of taste, sight, hearing, smell and touch in different ways – senses that are essential to everyday animal life, that complement one another and help them to track down fresh new grass and leaves to munch on. Senses that are used in search of ripe marulas and underground water in the dry season, that are vital in the all-important struggle to remain safe from predators, to hear the give-away rustle and detect that invisible lion in a wind-carried warning. But these animals have a sixth sense too… One that is used in those most important of pursuits – love, romance and procreation. Animals communicate through chemical or olfactory methods, such as through pheromones. Chemicals that provide information and deliver several messages, pheromones are released in various bodily fluids, such as sweat, urine, secretions from elephant’s temporal glands and in dung. To decipher these …

The Songs of the Zambezi ~ Royal Chundu

So proud to be part of this sensational Zambezi music video collaboration! Read more about this New Project by Royal Chundu & EC Bling here > and read our post, from Royal Chundu below. A Royal Chundu music video collaboration ~ “Zambezi” by local Zambian musician, Eric Choonga, aka EC Bling. As part of our hopes and purpose to create a platform for local artists and other local producers and suppliers through Royal Chundu, we bring you another talented Zambezi resident, our own lodge security guard and longtime music-maker… Eric Choonga aka EC Bling! Eric lives in the Malambo village right next to the lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River. He’s been singing since he was a child. In fact his grandmother tells of how the family used to tell him to be quiet when he was younger. He was just always singing. Natural talent and passion like that can never be erased. It lives inside the artist for life. Eric acknowledges that music is not traditionally seen as a serious, good or …

Tangled Up in Blue ~ Fish Eagles

The only thing I knew how to do Was to keep on keepin’ on Like a bird that flew Tangled up in blue. – Bob Dylan The scientific classification of the African fish eagle, Haliaeetus vocifer, gives a clue to its nature. Derived from the ancient Greek words hali, “at sea” and aetos, “eagle”  and vocifer, which refers to the vociferous call of this African eagle. It was named by the French naturalist François Levaillant, who called it ‘the vociferous one’ The mighty African fish eagle is a star of stage and screen, its film-star good looks giving it an air of superiority, its regal bearing leading us to fall head-over-heels. Its singing voice is known throughout the world, the haunting screech that lingers in both the endless African sky and, somehow, in our souls. Once heard it remains trapped in our memories, a lonely plaintive wail that resounds across Africa. Our shivering spine and erect hairs are a reminder of a long past time when we were the hunted. A primeval memory stirred by a …

Lessons in Starry Skies

Published here for Royal Chundu > “A still more glorious dawn awaits, not a sunrise but a galaxy-rise, a morning filled with 400 billion suns, the rising of the milky way.” ~ Carl Sagan There is nothing quite like gawking up at the dark African sky to put us in our place. It’s when we realise not only how little we are and how little we know, but that what we know is not true. The stars in our African sky appear to twinkle, but they don’t. They appear to form meaningful patterns, but they don’t. They look as though we could reach out and touch them. And yet… It’s all about light. Light is made up of individual particles called photons that journey in waves from the sun to our Earth in 8 minutes and 20 seconds. Light from our next closest star, Proxima Centauri would take roughly 4.22 light-years to reach Earth. What we see when we stare up at stars is what they were light-years ago. We are looking back in time, …

How Do You Build a Nest? One Strand at a Time…

Blog published for Royal Chundu here > Resting, Digesting & Weaver Nesting From around November to April, the European and North African migratory birds are back on the Zambezi and the river’s resident birds get all dressed up in their breeding plumage. During this time, it is nesting season and the weaver-birds get right to plying their trade. When it comes to feathering their own nests, the male southern masked weavers simply don’t. They’re adept at the basics: a secure fixing, a waterproof roof and an entrance that keeps intruders where they belong, but the fluffy bits are up to the Missus. Location, location, location Nests are often positioned on out-of-reach branch tips or water-surrounded reeds to ensure that raiders, in search of eggs or hatchlings, go unrewarded. Kivu Boomslang, African harrier hawks and vervet monkeys are among the trouble-makers and so the spot chosen by the male weaver will be one of the prerequisites that inform the females’ willingness to move in. Attracting the female requires a combination of finding the best available site, …

A time for thinking and thanking

Sitting here, on Scarborough beach, I started to ponder. I thought about whether my cat is getting pudgy, how I’ve been wearing the same flip-flops all week, about the smell of the sea when the air is cool and misty, and then, as passers-by smiled and winked and nodded over at me, I had a thought about journalism. Journalism has transmuted tremendously since my childhood nights and lecture days spent hungrily dissecting Rolling Stone and National Geographic articles that made me feel as though I was a member of The Doors or a remote tribe in the Amazon). In all its forms, the media has such a poignant way of connecting us even when we aren’t on the same continent, in the same tribe or band. There are many things haywirey and soul-crushing about it. Journalists have been called terrible names, not only by Hunter S and my own writery father. Many of them get things wrong, they sensationalise, they invent fake realities. But the good ones, they’re what pulled me. I’ve never seen the …

Leave wildlife alone. Eat berries. Wash your hands.

We live in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy (to quote C.S. Lewis), and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship. I’ve never known a time like this, of enforced solitude, silence and privacy. But I’ve known the joys of it when chosen. Sometimes the things we don’t ask for have a way of teaching us lessons we need most. Maybe all the time. I’ve never known a time like this where a revolution of global consciousness felt so possible and so widespread (I wasn’t around in the 70s and South Africa wasn’t particularly woke then anyway). I’ve only read about this kind of chaos, perhaps even the word anarchy could apply, in books. I’ve never lived through war or rations or curfews but I’ve felt my own war, my own rations, my own curfews. Having the world hand these over, having our grip on the future and present so drastically shaken, is terrifying and annoying and saddening, but in some way, and it feels blasphemous to admit, it’s also resurrecting. It feels …