All posts filed under: Africa

Nourishment for a Nation on the Rise ~ Zimbabwe’s Mpala Jena Camp

  The flames swayed and swirled in a drum beside us. Hippos went about their evening romp, on the grass on the Zambezi’s riverbank below. Golden hour had slipped past and storytelling had taken over. We had spent the first day of our safari at Mpala Jena Camp, in a private concession in the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe, taking it all in: the giant baobab we stopped the vehicle for so that I could slip out the wide lens to capture the tree’s mammoth girth. The giraffes we sat with for longer than usual, watching them devour natural salt licks, legs splayed in their awkward downward-giraffe pose, tongues flopping between mud and nostril. The skinny baby baboons, scuttering up and down stumps and flinging their bodies courageously from branch to branch in the tallest heights of the mopane trees, sausage trees, marula trees and ilala palms.     We’d spent the last hours of the day’s light following jostling elephants and their calves kicking up dust across the dirt paths of the reserve like line-dancers at …

Wellness Lessons from the Wild ~ Great Plains Conservation

  Sitting with Lara Delafield, Wellness Consultant for the Great Plains Conservation’s beautiful camps and lodges across Africa, I watch the words fall from her lips like petals from a wildflower in the wind. Petals so beautiful and intricate and complex that I gaze at each one, rapt by their individual and united beauty. Listening to her words as she talks about what wellness means to her, something in me changes. Our discussion about the philosophy of Zarafa Camp and Duba Plains Camp in Botswana, Mpala Jena Camp in Zimbabwe, and Mara Plains Camp and ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya, leads us into the woods, the wild woods, and I feel as though I am sitting on my deck watching the curious waterbuck and peculiar topi, the wildebeest herds and hippo pods, the swimming elephants and tree-climbing leopards.     Our discussion turns quickly to ourselves, because Lara’s words are universal. They apply as much to a guest in a lodge in the Okavango as to two women in a city coffee shop or a …

The Deep Peace of a Place Called Epako ~ A Namibian Safari

  “The first thing I hope to do as a guide is get guests to understand the importance of animals,” Hendrik says as we walk through the reserve on an April morning at Epako Safari Lodge. This is my first time in Namibia. I say it on the first day, the second, the third and the fourth, and I’ll say it now: I have never known such peace in a wildlife reserve. There are many reasons for the feeling of calm and stillness here, at the foot of the red cliffs of the Erongo Mountains, in Omaruru, and one of them is guide, Hendrik Adams. His nature, his kindness, his mindfulness.     We continue walking, looking at our feet, at the gravel passing beneath them, the odd track of an animal that has walked the path before us, and looking out at the immense openness between the low mountain slopes. The occasional giraffe neck calls our attention. “I want guests to leave Epako with that awareness of the importance of animals, to take it …

Be Still, My Beating Heart ~ The Peace of Esiweni

  “The light of oneness is available to all of us, present in hidden aquifers where life’s waters continue to flow, waiting in a living silence for us to notice.” ― Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee Pemba has the biggest, most constant smile I’ve ever seen on a guide. It’s one of the things I remember most about our safari in the Nambiti, at Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge in South Africa. On our game drives through the reserve, we’d talk now and again, and then lull back into a content quiet in the warmth of the day, beside giraffe moving across the open plains (be still, my beating heart), or black rhinos browsing and lions drinking from shallow pools.     In the silence, we’d look over at each other and smile. I saw Pemba’s smile more often than I heard him talk. And talking was no problem for him. His beaming face simply took over, recognising the need for quiet, while communicating all there was to communicate. And I understood each message, each unspoken sentiment. How fortunate we …

The Foraging Flâneur – The Charm of a Giraffe Named Oscar

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog.   There was talk of a tall, handsome man about town roaming the wilderness of Epako Safari Lodge in Omaruru, Namibia, where we found ourselves one April afternoon. The man went by the name of Oscar. Oscar Wilde in the wild. Yet, he was in fact not a man, but a giraffe, and not a he, but a she. Oscar’s name was given to her more in the way of Johnny Cash’s song, “A Boy Named Sue”, than any traditional gender-appropriate naming strategy. And in case we were in any doubt, there was proof. When we arrived at the lodge, Oscar had just given birth. For the second time. Where her infant was we did not know.     Just as she was eluding my gaze so was she hiding her new-born in a secret location out in the 11,000 hectare private reserve at Epako, while she went about the duty of the foraging flâneur, eating furiously from every bush that passed her approval, to provide …

Your Helicopter Has Arrived, Ma’am, Sir…

As published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. Three Ultimate Helicopter Rides In even the small events of our lives, the fleeting everyday moments, we are capable of feeling great waves of inspiration, excitement and love. They’re not to be discounted, the simple things. But let’s not deny the overwhelming thrill of the big and grand displays and adventures too. We can find ourselves overwhelmed by the gentle touch of a child’s hand or the silence of wide open African plains.  But in taking daring leaps – into or out of a plane, into wild Cape seas or a boat through the lower Zambezi rapids – there is a deep exhilaration and sense of pride that takes over us. The kind you might imagine a swashbuckler like Don Diego de la Vega to feel, with his sombrero cordobés, as he swipes a stolen locket from a thief to return to his damsel. Or English archaeologist, Lara Croft as she rope-swings into ancient tombs and ruins around the world.   “A famous explorer once said …

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 simple countryside, though. Nor is the Maasai Mara, at Mara Plains Camp. There are all kinds of marvellous animals hiding and seeking. At ol …

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 …