All posts filed under: Travel

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 …

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 …

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 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 …

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 …