Tembe's Painted Dogs
Tembe was verdant and lush when the ‘Painted Dogs’ were released into the wild. It was a day long awaited and nature joined in the celebration by sprinkling the scene with soft rain. For the first time in many years, these predators again ran free in this part of Zululand.
The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) became extinct in KwaZulu-Natal in the 1930s, following the pattern of diminution that was happening all over Africa. Because wild dogs roam over very large territories, there are only a small number of national parks in Africa large enough to contain them. With an ever decreasing habitat due to human population growth, the dogs became hunted, eventually endangered, and presently are the rarest carnivore in Southern Africa.
Fishing in the Ugab
The ma in purpose of our expedition into Namibia was to catch fish. Or should I say, to let the men do some serious angling. Fishing is big along the Namibian desert shores. From the coastal town of Swakopmund, with its German architecture and history, the C34 cuts a straight line northwards to Henties Bay, then Cape Cross, and eventually into the desolation of the Skeleton Coast. Our fishing destination was Cape Cross, and the road – constructed of sand and salt – took us through monochrome plains brought to life by floating mirages.
Doing the Elephant Walk
The November rains had revived a drought-stricken Zululand. A constant low rumble of thunder animated nature with electrifying energy, and as the gamedrive vehicle navigated the slippery hill, the rain came down in straight jets. At the pinnacle a lone elephant stood. “It’s Mabula,” Siya said from the tracker seat. “He’s in musth”.
Sossusvlei for a Day
The Namibian coastal expanse
skirts the Atlantic Ocean and for more
than 50 million years the forces of nature
collaborated to create the Namib Desert
– a fascinating wilderness of contrasts and austere
beauty. The cold air rising from the Benguela current
turns to rolling mist as it meets the rising heat of
the desert, bringing vital moisture to the plants and
animals that have evolved to survive the searing heat
of this parched terrain.
Africa’s allure lies in her feral
nature. For centuries her wild animals
captured man’s imagination and fervour,
a passion that created some riveting
stories and impressive images. One species stands
out, Loxodonta africana, the world’s largest living
Their crowning glory, the African elephant’s tusks
brought this species to its knees during the era of
the ‘Great White Hunter’ and ivory poaching in the
first half of the 20th century.
The French Connection
The main reason people stay in
South Africa is because they cannot stand
boredom. They have become addicted
to this cultural stew that simmers with
bewildering pungency – piquant, spicy, tangy, zesty
– never, ever bland.
Those were my thoughts when I started gathering
the details of a recent trip to the fairest Cape, so
I could write a cohesive story. Under a family tree that
stretches its branches from Zululand to Franschhoek,
and even to Europe, were gathered a weird and
wonderful collection of people, places, animals, facts
and folklore. How many strands of this network can
be woven into one narrative? Well, one can only try…
The Valley of Duiwenhoks
No GPS can ever capture the
intrepid traveller’s imagination the way
a road map can. The joy is the journey
that begins with tracing undiscovered
avenues and places on the paper landscape
and continues with frequent roadside stops to
reconsider, reroute and refresh.
My MapStudio Road Atlas shows that the Bay of
St Sebastian is flanked by Cape Infanta to the south
and Cape Barracouta to the north – names that
evoke the era of Portuguese exploration of more
than 500 years ago.
Cameos of Kosi
The last glimmer of day had
faded and there was no moon about.
The sky turned to black velvet, pierced by
a million stars. Guided by the lacy white
curl of the waves, four pairs of eyes scanned the
wet beach sand for tracks that would lead to one of
nature’s most ancient biological rituals.
The site was Bhanga Neck on the untouched
Maputaland coast of KwaZulu-Natal. We had
departed from the western shores of Nhlange, the
third and largest of the four Kosi Bay lakes, at sunset.
A Walk along Ancestral Paths
It was September, winter was flirting
with spring and the Tulbagh Valley – enclosed by the
Witsenberg and Winterhoek Mountains to the east
and north – was at its most enchanting.
Meandering through Impressionist landscapes
painted yellow with canola fields, we were on
a roundabout trip to the West Coast with a stopover
in the historical town of Tulbagh. The three of us were
not only enjoying a happy reunion but a walk along
ancestral paths as, for us – a Theron, a Le Roux and
a De Villiers – life on the African continent could be
traced back to the arrival of the French Huguenots at
the Cape in the 1680s.
A Fine Faraway Farm: Vergelegen
One would have to travel
far and wide to find a place more
enchanting than Vergelegen.
Throughout its chequered history this
verdant stretch of land at the foot of the Helderberg
Mountains on the fringe of Somerset West has
captivated all who set eyes on it.
The farm’s history dates back to the early 1700s
when the Cape was governed by the Dutch East
India Company. It is written that Governor Willem
Adriaan van der Stel ‘lost his heart and reason’ and
became obsessed by this place, which he called
Treasure of the West Coast
The water and sky form an
almost seamless aqua cocoon as our sleek
white vessel sails out of the harbour in
Saldanha Bay. The term ‘yachtie’ is bandied
about by the jolly crew. Ignoramus is moi, arriving
with too much luggage for the compact cabin and
asking my host, Ernst Hugo, what a yachtie is.
“Well, it’s someone who knows his way around
yachts. Ahhhh, no it’s more – it’s sort of a way of life.”
“Do you get women yachties too?”
“Ohhhh, I suppose so – yes – it depends . . .”
Depends on what, I wonder, hoping over the
next two days to get some clues, as this is certainly
a lifestyle to covet.
Cherry on Top
the emb roidery on the cushion
of the most lived-in chair in the cavernous
drawing room of Kersefontein manor
house said ‘Julian’s chair’. Grand piano,
fireplace, antique furniture, books stacked high on
a central table, glass vases holding giant proteas – all
are bathed in the broken light filtering through the
old glass panes of the high sash windows.
Julian Melck, the master of the chair, has gone in
a search of tea and I, the intimidated journalist, sit
Alice‑like, waiting for the Wonderland of this historic
home to reveal itself.
Editorial's by Anita de Villiers.