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Through the Eyes of an African Elephant

As published on Jabulani > When an African elephant is born, it is completely blind… It relies on its other senses to navigate its strange new world from between its herd’s legs. As its eyesight develops, allowing it to seek out delicious soft green shoots and ripe Amarula fruit, and ‘keep an eye’ on other calves, the eyes remain small – relative to its size; it is, after all, the largest living land animal. They provide only moderate vision. Even with its tiny eyes, it remains one of the world’s most intelligent animals – described by Aristotle as “the animal that surpasses all others in wit and mind.” How it navigates its world and creates its complex inner life is through their sense of touch, hearing and smell, senses that humans have become much less adept at in comparison. In the dry season in the wild, elephants travel vast distances to track down new sources of water and food, but they are far more likely to smell or hear the water than to see it. Originally they roamed as far …

Mom, Dad, I’m Hiking an Extinct Volcano!

Tales To Write Home About “To those who are enthralled by mountains their wonder is beyond all dispute. To those who are not, their allure is a kind of madness. What is this strange force that drives us upwards? This silent song of the summit…” – Mountain, Documentary on Netflix All the mountains I had ever explored before had started with an ascent, a path leading up, up, up. But that day, standing on the rim of Cirque de Mafate, on Réunion Island, looking into a great crater below, our first steps would lead down. Down a steep and intimidating decline. For those enticed by the some 1000 kilometres of hiking trail on Réunion, the immense volcanic amphitheatre of Mafate is perhaps the pinnacle of a hiker’s visit. We stood on a cliff knitted with plants clinging to rocks, looking over an expanse that felt much more like Machu Picchu or the Himalayas. On and on the range of peaks went.     Mafate was formed when the magma chamber of Piton des Neiges, a …

The Spirit of the Great Heart ~ A Night With Johnny Clegg

The world is full of strange behaviour Every man has to be his own saviour I know I can make it on my own if I try But I’m searching for a great heart to stand me by Underneath the African sky A great heart to stand me by   December saw a return to a time when music was used for something greater than itself. When a concrete cause was connected, in the way of the great international gigs that have stood out through history, like Live Aid or the 46664 concerts that shook the world with their selflessness and humanity. Held at Ellerman House in Cape Town, South Africa, the 5th of December was a night when humanity won, the beginning of something truly special. It was the reveal of the biggest South African music collaboration ever to honour the icon, a hero of South African music and a man of indisputably great heart, Johnny Clegg. But more than that, it was the launch of Friends of Johnny Clegg, a fund created in Johnny’s honour …

What People Mean When They Say Madagascar is Beyond Words

As written for the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. Anything I have ever said about Madagascar before this was just words. Before I boarded a plane and flew over her curves and glimpsed her rugged red hills separated by winding rivers gold with the reflection of sunlight. Before I came to meet her, slipping through her narrow roads, past a world where time seems to have stood still, with its French cars from the 60s and 70s sharing the road with man-drawn and pushed carts, past rice paddies, past man, woman and child all out with somewhere to go or someone to share going nowhere with. I feel foolish for ever thinking I could write or talk about the country in any real way before. I hope to I remember this the next time I try to write about a place I have never been. The truth of a place, its spirit, is lost on you until you see it in person. On my first night at a hotel in the capital of Antananarivo, the Ibis Hotel, …

Travelling is not like riding a bicycle

My latest article in the Sunday Times Travel section… Published 15 October 2017 Haven’t had a holiday in ages? Travelling is nothing like riding a bicycle, writes Tamlin Wightman. We hadn’t travelled all year. Not as a family or individually. Cabin fever had been setting in for months. During times like this, my aptitude for adventuring doesn’t just take a leave of absence. It goes to meet its maker. So as the nomad of the family, I was of no help as we headed, Mother, Father, Only Child, from Cape Town to the Grahamstown Arts Festival. As the organiser of the trip, Mom was even more lost. For one, she thought that overnighting in a backpackers was a good idea. And a closed one at that, because booking the right date is only something the frequent traveller does. The entrance hall of the Mossel Bay Backpackers taunted us with bright lights through a locked, bolted, security-barred door. It was 11 pm, the sky was black and the air cold. We paced the empty parking lot, wrapped in …

The Hunter’s Last Days

Last night I sat next to my grandfather on a bench in his garden while he told me of the ways he planned to kill himself. He said that the pain some days gets too much to bear and he imagines how to end it all. My grandfather is a hunter. His outside shed is filled with guns, bullets, gunpowder and other paraphernalia. In the locked safe are about five rifles and two shotguns. If memory serves me. When I was a child, growing up, he’d show me how to put together a bullet in that shed. A little after-school project. He sat over his tools like an artist over a water painting, lamps arched over his hands to illuminate the small casing and fine, fatal powder. I can’t remember much of what he told me. If I tried to construct my own bullet today in that same shed I’d fall short. I’d create something closer to a birthday cake sparkler. But my grandfather, he was a weapons expert. Is. His guns have been with …