All posts filed under: Animals

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 …

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 …

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 …

Waddler, Waverider, Wingman. Meet the Bird of Love…

First published on Relais & Châteaux Africa’s blog. “… Once a penguin finds its perfect other penguin, they stay together pretty much forever.” ― Anna Staniszewski This is a whole other kind of birding safari. There is no waiting for the bird to take flight, so to better capture the details of its outstretched wings. There is no scanning the trees for the shake of a tail feather or the rustle of a nest. These are birds of the sea. Aquatic and flightless and known as the African Penguin. And here, at Boulders Beach in Simonstown, Cape Town, is the only place in the world where you can get up close to them in the wild. Their tuxedo outfits and characteristic waddle aside, what makes these birds so charming is their unique love for each other. Penguins pair for life, climbing into their nests beneath the trees here at Boulders Beach with their loved one at night, every night (for better or for worse). Between ancient granite boulders, Boulders Beach is itself a declaration of love – set up to protect …

At One with the Wild Things of Madagascar

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. If it is true that fear is the opposite of love, Anjajavy is one place your heart can be sure to find itself again. There are many things that scare me – the more tangible in nature, like baboons, the big cats and black mambas, but also matters of the heart, like love, truth and trust, and the possibility of losing them. Because of this, because I value courage, because I am in awe of the wonders that exist on the other side of fear, I challenge myself to cross over. Travelling to wild and remote spaces in Africa, my courage is put to the test constantly. And each time I make the leap, I am rewarded. By an excitement that makes the skin on my arms blush – from a gaze shared with an animal much larger than me. By the honour of nature’s acceptance – when a snakes slithers into my space and lingers, gently, before moving on. By the greater understanding that comes with seeing …

How to Collect Wild Elephants

Published first on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog There is a joke that goes, Five people — an Englishman, Russian, American, Frenchman and Irishman were each asked to write a book on elephants. Some amount of time later they had all completed their respective books. The Englishman’s book was entitled “The Elephant — How to Collect Them.” The Russian’s book titled “The Elephant — Vol. I.” The American’s book called “The Elephant — How to Make Money from Them.” The Frenchman’s book was “The Elephant — Its Mating Habits.” The Irishman’s named his book “The Elephant and Irish Political History.” Despite not being French, but perhaps heavily influenced by the roots of Relais & Châteaux, I gravitate toward the Frenchman’s title on the proverbial book shelf. Being South African, there isn’t a title suggestion from our camp, but I could offer the cruder, “How to Braai an Elephant”, or, rather, “An Elephant’s Guide to the Vuvuzela”. Once wisened to the mating habits of these rather unsexy individuals, I’d go the Englishman’s route. Which brings me to today and …

The 10 Commandments of Lemur Life (Or, How To Be A Lemur)

Published on Relais & Châteaux Africa’s blog There are many things lemurs can teach us about life. Like how to keep the mystery alive (new species of lemur continue to be discovered even to this day); how to dance like no one’s watching (case in point: the coquerel’s sifaka that make the garden at Anjajavy l’Hôtel their own dance floor, while guests look on from afternoon tea); and how to look at life from different angles (the sifaka are wont to dangle upside-down languidly from tree branches). Here are 10 more lessons in lemur life that can be observed while at Anjajavy l’Hôtel and exploring the greater island. Consider it The Law of the Lemur, the only self-improvement guide you’ll ever need. Thank you, lemurs, thank you very much. 10 Commandments of Lemur Life 1. Learn to raft It is believed that lemurs first arrived on the island of Madagascar eons ago, via raft – in the most basic sense of the word, “raft”, as in large buoyant logs or floating carpets of vegetation, according to National Geographic. Following their arrival, they continued to …

You Never Forget An Elephant

 “You know, they say an elephant never forgets. But what they don’t tell you is that you never forget an elephant.” – Bill Murray in the film, Larger Than Life I remember the elephant’s ears, waving outward to make him seem much larger than he was. Although, let’s not beat around the bush (that’s an elephant’s job), he was large, very large. Frighteningly so. The dust beneath him even tried to flee his gait. As he stamped the earth it rose up around him and fluttered to freedom on the back of the wind. It was the game vehicle that carried us away, quickly, but not too quickly. We were here for him, after all. This was Chobe in Botswana, home to more elephants than anywhere else in the world. Moments like this, flapping elephant ears and trumpeting trunks and flying dust are all part of the landscape – as are the calmer moments. I remember these moments best. The languid amble of the herd through the low waters of Botswana’s Selinda spillway during a trip …

An Ode to a Hippo

First published on Royal Chundu’s blog. It was morning, becoming late morning quickly. As it does when your head is under the duvet, denying the intrusion of sunlight. And you, an early riser, always, you let me lie in. You didn’t make a sound. I would have heard; I was listening closely, waiting for you. It was the last morning and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Perhaps you weren’t either. Perhaps that explained your silence. Words are never enough, are they? With soulmates we hope that mind-reading will suffice and in a way, at least for that moment, the head-under-the-covers moment, it did, even if I misread the signs, painted them with my own hopes. What was I hoping for? I guess that you were sad too. I would never know; you didn’t even have the sleeves to wear your heart on. I hoped that you would miss me and that even though our homes were in separate parts of the world, our connection would remain. I hoped that part of you would stay with …