All posts filed under: Travel

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 …

A Wine Gallery Gig with Arno Carstens ~ at Ellerman House

I recently covered the Arno Carstens’ wine gallery gig at Ellerman House for the launch of the hotel’s second year of Ellerman Sessions ~ for the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog published here. I wish you had seen the way he shook his legs about. I wish I had captured it to show you but I couldn’t look away. No one could. No one did. You’d have seen them, those legs, if you were there with us, up close to the stage, with the wine gallery at Ellerman House behind and below us, a few intimate rows of chairs between us. Arno Carstens and his band: front and centre. You’d have seen that crazed Elvis leg shaking that powered the night in short bursts with unexpected energy – between the trumpet, guitar, drums, and that iconic voice once belonging to the South African cult rock band, The Springbok Nude Girls. While you were sleeping I had a vision That gently took the pain away Am I still dreaming I search for meaning You turn my …

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 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 Art of Embracing Life – and the Sea

Header image: 20 Degres Sud, Mauritius. First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. The Indian Ocean… it sinks beneath your skin and starts to alter the very ways you define yourself, the way you see life. I’ve never considered myself much of a sea person, opting for the mountains and forests instead, but perhaps the things we love most are simply the things we’ve given more of our attention to. In the name of embracing life, in all its intricacies and dimensions, my mission has been to learn more about that which I don’t know, that which I sometimes even fear.  For instance, the ocean. There have been a few muses on my escapade. The first was an ocean unlike any I was used to. One much warmer and with several islands to hop to and from. The Indian Ocean. Starting with Madagascar… At Anjajavy le Lodge on the north-west coast of the island, a new world of sea life I’d never before glimpsed showed itself to me. And, beside my guide, heading down, down, …

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 …

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 …

Things I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Want to Know

Published first in the Sunday Times’ Accidental Tourist – 13 May 2018 They say there are things we know we don’t know and things we don’t know we don’t know. The unknown unknowns. Before going to the Seychelles, I knew there would be blue sea and white sand and coconuts and I had heard talk of bats and turtles. Other than that, I knew I was going in blind. And that excited me. I like not being a know-it-all. Perhaps I have no choice in the matter, but the surprise element was very appealing. I wasn’t prepared, though, for the things I discovered that I didn’t know I didn’t know. The best case of this came one evening on a beach on a private island in the archipelago – the remote North Island that had taken three planes and two boats to access from Cape Town. We had been hiking through the jungle terrain of one of the island’s peaks, slipping down fallen palm fronds and scrambling up giant black boulders. The guide led the way …

The Peculiar Virtues of a Cactus Garden

When we speak of gardens, we all imagine different things. Some of us conjure up images of wild jungle-like spaces with towering palm trees and human-size ferns taking over ponds, or secret paths winding under pockets of cool shade from giant oaks and dappled light created by ancient cedar trees. These kinds of garden lovers are the dreamers and adventurers of the horticultural world and, like their gardens, they prefer not to be tamed. Their fingernails, toe nails, nostrils and brows are all marked with the soil they excitedly embrace with a whole heart. They are easily distracted by the call of a bird – one wonders if they have not created their garden solely for the enjoyment of these winged vagabonds. As a place for the birds to enjoy and for the garden lover to enjoy the birds. You can detect this with the countless bird baths, handmade suet balls and seed feeders scattered around the greenery. And the chairs set up beside them. Some of us settle on an image of a prim …