All posts filed under: Africa

Do You Ride? – A Horse Safari in Kenya

First published in the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog > Do you ride? People are always asking that. It’s not good enough that we’ve bravely mounted bicycles and game vehicles and slept among roaming lion prides and night-creeping hippos. We need to ride horses too, through the greatest wildernesses in the world. I’ve witnessed many travellers scoff at such a question. I’ve also witnessed pro-riders leap gallantly at the suggestion, heading out on rides as often as time on their safari allows. I’m somewhere in between these two types. To the invite to ride, I scoff and leap at the same time. “Yes, of course I ride! I’ve been on six horses! And I’ve never fallen off! Although I did once contemplate bolting from a spooked horse during his furious downhill dash, one dark and scary night in the countryside.” The Chyulu Hills in Kenya, at ol Donyo Lodge, is no countryside, though. Nor is the Maasai Mara, at Mara Plains Camp. There are all kinds of marvellous animals hiding and seeking. At ol Donyo …

The Infinite Intrigue of Bushman Rock Art

Once a year, do something you’ve never done before, people will tell you. Just as good, though, is doing something you’ve done many times, but with people who haven’t. Because just when you think you have seen, thought, felt and captured all there is to see, think, feel and capture about a place, a young girl or a grown man come along and offer you a world through different eyes. When it comes to viewing rock art in the ancient caves of the Cederberg, there is no end to new and contrary views… Pointing to a series of painted dots winding across the rock face of the cave we were gathered in, in the heart of Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, the girl excitedly shouted, “It’s a snake! A looong snake!” Her voice echoed in the enclosure. She frowned and interrupted herself, revealing the difficulty of the task at hand, “Or it’s a whole lot of people standing in a line…” I had never noticed it before – the snake or the queue. (Or …

A Safari Morning

In the early morning, mine is the only voice I hear. You might think this odd. You’ll think, ok, this girl talks to herself. But it also has to do with reflexes. Tap my elbow and see my arm shoot out. Stand on my toe and hear me shout. Show me a sunrise from a treehouse in the wild, the sound of elephants and that coo coo of a distant dove and listen for my woahs and wows. My unbelievables and you’re kidding me’s. There’s the voice inside my head too, when the peace and quiet feels too good to disturb. This is how a morning in my villa at Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa begins. This is a morning in Africa, the wilderness. Without anyone around, my hands dance from white duvet to coffee cup, slipper to nightgown, as I slip out through the sliding doors, closing them to keep the monkeys out (I’d much rather they played in the trees). I take my place in the moving gold light as it spreads over …

The Sweetness of the Solo Safari

It wasn’t merely that the animals were all out, on this early morning in the Nambiti wilderness. Not simply that we didn’t have to search too hard to find the rhinos and buffalo, the giraffe and lions, the wildebeest and waterbuck. What made the drive something special was what was not there. That is, other people. I know, sharing is caring. But have you ever been on a game drive through the African bush, alone, just you and your guide? No voices disturb the peace. No movement interrupts the stillness. And there’s the matter of time… of being in the wild, with its animal life, its birds and plants, sounds and scents, and having no need to leave before you’re ready. There’s also the fact that I really like to take photographs. Lots of them. From all kinds of angles and with all kinds of lenses. I need time. I photograph best in silence, too, as a ranger tracks best in a quiet of his or her own. Even with the camera down, resting in …

The girl in the doorway

There are some scenes that are a little uncomfortable to photograph. Sometimes even write about. For different reasons, I find the Darajani Market in Stonetown, Zanzibar one of those scenes. The writing comes more easily, but the process, the moment of capturing it all on camera not so much… There is the dead fish problem. This is not a metaphor. It’s not that people with vegan-leanings shouldn’t go to fish markets; it’s just that photographing the departed is never easy. Whatever they are. There is also the matter of people. Photographing people who haven’t offered themselves up for photographing feels sneaky. Wrong. I can feel it in my blood and bones. This probably is a metaphor. The point is to take some kind of “natural” photo, not posed, but the minute permission is requested, the subject stiffens or smiles or shows off. There’s also the problem of why. Why am I taking this person’s image? What am I saying in the image? What am I saying about the person I’ve photographed to the person who …

Safaris & the Art of Being Yourself

First published in the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – e e cummings This is not a topic that concerns animals, but it is one that they so naturally teach – the art of being yourself. It is a topic that separates us little bipeds from the wild world of our animal brothers and sisters. Sure, who knows really what a woodpecker mum gets up to when hidden inside her nest. But I doubt she is worrying about whether she is being a good enough mother, or if her feathers still have their youthful lustre. She is beyond even the stage of acceptance – she simply does not think about it. Sure, she doesn’t quite have the brain structure for such neuroticism. And we do, which gives us the task of overcoming self-doubt and learning to accept and embrace, all through life. On the subject of neuroticism, let’s take my morning face, for instance. …

In the land of lions and leopards

As published first in Instants, the Relais & Châteaux magazine. “You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.” ― Karen Blixen, Out of Africa. Once you have had a taste of life, real life, as Out of Africa author, Karen Blixen saw it, it is impossible to turn your back on it. It holds onto the deepest parts of yourself and starts you on a journey to even greater depths. More than 80 years after Karen published her tales of life in the Ngong Hills of Kenya, I ventured to the Great Plains Conservation’s Ol Donyo Lodge, where the Chyulu Hills stretch out and touch the plains of Kenya’s Amboseli, and to Mara Plains Camp, in the private Olare Motorogi Conservancy, on the edge of the Maasai Mara. And those tracks Karen wrote of, the trails left by our safari vehicle moving across the land in search of wildlife, they still continue to wind themselves through my mind, long after I have returned home. Because to live, for a moment, among lions and …

Cycling with the Wild Things of Kenya

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. No matter how many times I get on a bicycle and head out on city streets or country roads or mountains trails, it is always Einstein I see. With his big lawless mop of white hair and his goofy “spent too much time in the lab” smile. And I hear his words about how cycling is just like life. “To keep your balance, you must keep moving,” the great physicist said. It’s useful advice should you ever forget how to ride a bicycle, or, simply, how to do life. How to keep your balance in the continuous play. You truly feel this balance when you’ve conquered something, like incline after incline, and when the smooth ride of the flats leads into a fast and glorious downward soar. It’s a feeling that is all the stronger when out in the wilderness, in big sky country like Kenya’s Chyulu Hills at ol Donyo Lodge. Here, vast stretches of uninterrupted land surround you in every direction. Wild animals roam beside …

The Secret to Travelling and Travelling Well

Published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. There have been two significant moments on my yoga journey. Two occasions that made my myriad attempts to stand on one leg, one arm, one toe, a journey at all. There have been two teachers and two destinations. After those moments, that was it, my body and mind found the rhythm, entered the flow. After years of falling around, of furious shaking (ok, I still shake), and having teachers give me that look, I finally, simply, instantly, understood what all the fuss was about. Perhaps all those former failures weren’t failures, but rather the first cobblestones of my yoga path. Perhaps, I just hadn’t found the right teacher. It happened first in a quiet corner of the lawn, beneath trees that hid the sky, at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg. I sat beside Julia Geffers, a yogi much further along on her journey, but a runner, like myself. We had a connection. It was just the two of us. And not once did she give me that look. …

This Must Be The Place. This Must Be The Zambezi.

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. Home, is where I want to be But I guess I’m already there I come home, she lifted up her wings I guess that this must be the place – Talking Heads We all have a place. A simple name on a map that we have traced with our fingers more often than any other name. A place in the country or city, the sea or river, jungle or forest, a place of snow or sand, water or rock. A place that has, over the years and the holidays, taken on a sort of humanity, an intimacy, a nature beyond how most of us see, well, nature. It’s not uncommon, either, for such places, these special enclaves that pull on our hearts a little more than others, to be seen as something living, something more like a friend, like family. The Whanganui River in New Zealand and the Yamuna and Ganges rivers in India, for instance, were granted human status and named “living entities” this year. By law. But it …