All posts filed under: Africa

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 …

Safaris and the Things That Really Matter in Life

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog.  We have been inspired this week by a simple sentence. One shared by the Great Plains Conservation, the organisation encompassing a few of our favourite safari lodges and camps in Botswana and Kenya. The image accompanying the sentence, posted on Facebook, showed an elephant in the Selinda area, where Zarafa Camp can be found, lifting its trunk to its mouth for a drink from the river. In the foreground, a few hippos bob, while in the background a swathe of trees, alive and fallen, and bush, hopping a ride on a growing termite mound, fade into a blur. The sentence with it reads: “Maybe the best thing about spending time in the wild and observing the animals who willingly share their space with us, is being reminded of the things in life that really matter.” The words perfectly capture what it is that more and more of us are searching for in life – a feeling of purpose, an experience that goes deeper, that transforms, and that takes us …

Like a Rolling Stone

First published on Relais & Châteaux Africa’s blog. The beauty of going slow when on an adventure is the gift of time, seeing more and seeing it more fully. I read somewhere recently that the smallest moments contain the whole universe if we just slow down enough, are present enough, to recognise them. This is what I love about Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat. On the journey to the lodge, in its remote mountain valley in the Cederberg, travelling by car from Cape Town, my mind can wander through the clouds and the faces of the people we pass and the lyrics of Rodriguez and Bob Dylan that play over my speakers as the city slips away. As the red rocks of this part of the country come into frame through the window of the car. I like things slow. Some of us simply do… our natural rhythms flow to a gentler tune. We get to see the little wonders that connect to the larger ones this way. You don’t have to do more …

When in Wonderland

First published on the Royal Chundu blog here. “Day by day and night by night we were together, — All else has long been forgotten by me…” – Walt Whitman We were together. It was that last day of the year feeling, day by day, night by night. How were we meant to hold back? With the whole of our past flying quickly from us and the brilliance of our future burning ahead. What were we to do but dance between the two and say yes to it all? To hold back the river and look in your eyes, to hold back the river and be by your side… What were we to do, with James Bay singing softly somewhere and the Zambezi swimming its eternal swim around us? And with that sweetness placed before us, a single spoon beside it, filling in the dots, leading the way. It was wonderland and I was Alice. And “all else has long been forgotten by me.” Indulge with us, why don’t you… Here is a look at a …

In the Garden of Togetherness

First published on the Royal Chundu blog. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. And the village of Mushekwa, alongside Royal Chundu on the banks of the Zambezi, has many children. Even the children help in raising children. Young boys that reach only to my hips walk with a child propped upon their own sides. Everyone here is a mother and a father, a sister and a brother, a teacher and a nurse, a friend. When we enter into their space, when we visit the village, the people, Edith Mushekwa and her greater family, beside their homes, we are at once at home ourselves. It’s the village way. The spirit of community. It gets you and it changes you. Each visit to the village takes us away from everything. Literally, yes, it being a short boat ride away from the lodge. But also away from what most of us are used to… back home, in the city. Edith and her extended family, and their extended family, are constantly working. But working together. …

20 Seconds of Insane Courage

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo I remember hearing these words for the first time, watching as Matt Damon, playing Benjamin Mee in the film, We Bought a Zoo, imparts some fatherly advice to his son. I remember my chest suddenly feeling unsteady, taken over by a sort of vertigo, waiting to fall. Not because I so was taken by Damon. And not, I told myself, because I was a big softie. It was because the film had managed to do what all art attempts to do. It spoke to me. Right to my core. To the adventurer in me that longs for new and wild experiences but sometimes needs a little push out of the plane. There are certain times when the brave soul inside each of us is called into action. For some of us, it is the simple act of making the first move in love. For others, it is …