Why Climbing mountains is good for you

The thing about climbing a mountain is that you have to do it






Like the way you would eat an elephant – one bite a time. Although it’s not clear why anyone would want to eat an elephant (unless starving with no other option) some folks may similarly wonder why it is that people climb high mountains. Why put yourself through all that physical pain and strain when you could be, say, reclining by the poolside? Instead of clambering up rocks, you could be sipping a rock shandy, marvelling at the equally spectacular view of the mountains from below…

Here are 6 reasons why climbing mountains is wonderful…

(Inspired by a recent hike to (almost) the top of Cathedral Peak in the exquisite Drakensberg mountains)


Although the Drakensberg extends from the far north-east of Southern Africa, all the way down to the Eastern Cape, it is in Kwa-zulu Natal (over a distance of about 160km) that the mountains are most spectacular.
Cathedral Peak is whole days hike, starting from an elevation of about 1450 metres above sea level, it took us about 6 hours (with a lot of photo stops) to get up (the Cathedral is 3004 metres) and about 5 hours to get down…

1) To be silenced

About half way up the mountain, I stopped. In an attempt to express my new-found freedom I decided to shout. I opened my mouth wide and bellowed  ‘WOOHOOOOOOO!!! HELLOOOOO MOUNTAINS…’

But it wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped. In fact, it just didn’t feel right. My voice was like the sound of a clanging kitchen pot in the middle of Mozart’s piano concerto. Humbled, I continued softly, delighting instead in the sound of the wind whistling off the wings of a Jakal Buzzard. The raptor swooped above my head, teasing me as it glided gracefully toward the mountain peak.

2) Endorphins!!! Those happy little chemicals that are released during exercise. Even if your legs are swearing at you and you feel exhausted, they squirm and wriggle inside you, rejoicing with happiness that you just can’t hide, especially when you reach the top!🙂


3) To overcome negative thoughts

Bugger Gulch is the name of one of the highest, steepest parts of the Cathedral Peak climb. It’s a suitable name…

‘Are you crazy Rach, you can’t do this, you’re not even that fit, you will NEVER keep up with Scott (my mountain goat boyfriend) you can’t do this!!!! ‘ 

It took all my strength to say ‘NO I can. Thank you legs for getting me this far, I know you can do it! Nearly there,you have come so far already, just one more step… I can do it, I can climb this mountain…’

Being able to talk to yourself kindly and encouragingly is an important skill in life. Not always something I find easy!

4) To appreciate the small luxuries

Half way up the mountain I ate a kit-kat chocolate. It seemed like the most delicious thing I had even eaten. In my tired state, water was like honey and to my dried cracked lips (The air is very dry here in winter) lip-ice was like a gift from heaven!


Scotty enjoying a well deserved lunch!!

5) To make discoveries

Ok so this photo was taken on a different walk, but still in the Cathedral Peak area. How incredible to think that these paintings, done by bushman on the wall of this cave, with only natural materials have survived for thousands of years?? Wow.



Beautiful waterfall behind the cave paintings!!🙂


To a photographer the world is full of wonder

6) To know your place in the world

There is nothing more humbling than turning to face a mountain as you begin your climb. With each step my heart beat a little faster, adjusting its rhythm to my determined feet.

To climb a mountain is to glimpse our rightful place as humans. As I watched two beautiful klipspringers bounding effortlessly along the rocky cliffs, I knew that I was just one out of millions of animals on Earth. I could tumble off a rock and be gone for ever, but the mountain’s spires would continue to praise the sky as if nothing new had happened that day.

Yet, I still have a place in the world. We all do. I realise how small I am. I am small and world is big. But my small heart beats even if nobody else can hear it, just as a flower opens at day and closes at night, even if no one notices.

From now on I am determined to notice little flowers,  just as I was determined to climb this beautiful mighty mountain. I feel at home here in nature, it’s where I belong.

© Rachel Lang

© Rachel Lang

“Go out alone on the hills and listen. You will hear much. The winds will hold for you something more than sound; the streams will not be merely the babbling of hurrying water. The trees and the flowers are not so separate from you as they are at other times, but very near; the same substance, the same rhythm, the same song that binds you to them. Alone amidst nature, a man learns to be one with all and all with one.”

(Frank S. Smythe)

Categories: South Africa, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

Sibling rivalry in the African bush

If I was born into a family of Verraux Eagles, my sister would have pushed me out of the nest a long time ago.

Beth and I had a love-hate relationship growing up. Sometimes we were best friends, other times we wanted to rip each other’s hair out.  Although she is younger than me, she is fierce and feisty. I even remember my brother having to stand in between us to protect me from her! But, to be fair, I wasn’t entirely innocent! (and we do love each other very much!)

Tussles between siblings are common in the African bush too. Youngsters often compete for food or attention from their parents. Sometimes, what appears to be a display of aggression is nothing more than ‘play fighting’. This is especially true with bouncing, pouncing, biting, tackling cubs or pups of predators. These games of rough and tumble play an important role in developing a young predators muscles and coordination, preparing them for the more serious ‘game’ of hunting.


© Marcus Westberg (Life through a Lens Photography)

But some babies of the bush are not so lucky…

‘Siblicide’ is the behaviour of siblings killing each other. It’s most commonly seen in large birds – raptors such as the Verraux eagle, that hatch their eggs a few days apart. The dominant (usually the first-born) chick instinctively kills the weaker one – sometimes by pushing it out of the nest, or by pecking and battering it to death with its sharp little beak. Other times, the weaker chick will die indirectly, from starvation, bullied out of eating from it’s older sibling/siblings…

As awful and cruel as this all sounds, siblicide gives the strongest nestling/nestlings the greatest chance of survival – the complete undivided attention of the parent birds who can then focus all of their energy on the remaining stronger chick (It is likely that the other chick was born as an insurance policy, incase something should happen to the first-born or stronger chick)

Siblicide can also occur between Spotted Hyaena pups. Hyenas have a matriarchal society, which means social competition is especially rife between sisters, and this rivalry can result in the stronger sister bullying, attacking (and sometimes killing) the other for dominance, using their fully erupted teeth and powerful jaws which are present from birth. The social hierarchy between sisters is usually established after two or three weeks.


Here the weaker pup has been pushed out of the prime spot, and suckles from between the mothers back legs
© Scott Ramsay


© Chad Cocking


© Chad Cocking

It’s bad enough arguing over clothes, nevermind having to compete for dominance over a whole family! I’m glad I’m not a hyaena, yet sometimes, as kids, we did behave like them. Luckily we are all so grown up and mature now, like these adolescent lions here…


© Chad Cocking

Photos thanks to Chad Cocking (Chad Cocking Wildlife Photography), Marcus Westberg (Life through a Lens Photography), and Scott Ramsay (Year in the Wild)

Categories: Animals, Family stories, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Wild Moments

Today I’m writing something a little different – a little daring – yet still very much from my bush-girl heart.

A little while ago, my boyfriend Scotty and I went for a walk along Noordhoek beach. The air was nippy and I wrapped my scarf around my head to warm my ears, feeling the wet crunchy sand under my bare feet. The beach was empty, and, as we walked, we were surrounded by a wall of dense salty mist that seemed to wrap around us. Empty mussel shells lay washed up and split open like broken hearts.

We sat on the beach in silence, watching gulls swoop through the air, mesmerised by the ocean’s rhythm – the constant spilling and gathering. But somehow, it just didn’t seem enough to sit and stare at the sea, I wanted to be in it! It’s the same feeling that comes over me when I’m having sundowners in the bush and watching a beautiful sunset. Sometimes it’s just not enough to sit and watch, and I’m overcome with the urgency to embrace it more fully, to pass into it or through it, to shake off the limitations of my human body and fly right into the middle of it.

And then Scotty and I both had the same idea at exactly the same time.

He looked at me, his eyes wide and wild, ‘a swim Rach?’

The waves were thundering.

‘Yes!  Let’s go!’

Without hesitating we ran into the waves. It was a moment of wild abandon. Adrenalin pumped through my veins as I submerged myself from head to toe, diving into the foamy white waves. I felt my body being pulled by the strong currents, but emerged light and free. I looked up at the seagulls and felt that, for a moment, they were old familiar friends and I could swoop and glide beside them. It was a beautiful moment – a glimpse perhaps – of heaven? It may sound too sentimental, or silly even, but I’ll explain it better by sharing one of my favourite quotes, by C.S Lewis.

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world, eternity in heaven.”

(C.S Lewis)

Except the swim did satisfy. A wild moment of freedom in a place of overwhelming beauty.

It’s not possible to fly into a sunset but the desire is still there, burning inside me – the longing to move as life moves me. I don’t have all the answers and I wander (in my head and with my feet) to different places every day. But today I wonder whether the heaven we talk about is not so far away, and that by caring for our wild places – the beautiful African bush, the ocean, and the whole Earth’s rich wildlife heritage – we are doing our part in helping God restore Heaven on Earth. Maybe even through joyful spontaneous moments! One day we’ll be able to fill those empty spaces, those unfulfilled and unexplainable desires that Earth, in its present state, cannot satisfy. To me, God is wild and adventurous. I can tell this by his creations – his artistic flair for majestic mountains, deep oceans and intricate, somewhat absurd little creatures like seahorses. Elephants too – they may be the weirdest of all don’t you think? And giraffes… what person could ever dream up a creature like that? The world is full of weird and wonderful things.

So go and have a wild, wonderful weekend. Swim in the ocean, admire a seagull (or an elephant), stand on top of mountain and know that these small breath-taking moments in life point to something bigger (I call it God, but you may call it something different) and this bigger thing has a bigger plan than we can imagine. And maybe – just maybe – one day we’ll fly through sunsets.


Categories: South Africa, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 15 Comments

Tents, blood and Okavango lions – a family story

In every bush-loving family there is the story. That legendary tale that gets told again and again around the campfire to new friends on full moon nights, when buffalo-shaped bushes shift in the wind, casting shadows that look like stalking lions…

This is our family’s story, set on a night just as I have described, in the beautiful Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana, at a campsite called Third Bridge. As it’s name suggests, the camp is accessed by a bridge – a rickety bamboo crossing surrounded by reeds that filter the water, making it pure and perfect for drinking – an essential stop for filling up water tanks. The water collects in a clear pool which is wonderful to swim in (But beware of crocodiles and don’t say that I told you too!)

Anyway, back to the story … I was about eight years old on this particular bush holiday.  The motto for our trip, as suggested by my brother (who is two years younger than me), was ‘We walk on the wild side, we laugh in the face of danger, hahahaha…’ (from Walt Disney’s The Lion King) These words were fully embraced by us three barefoot bush hooligans and chanted repeatedly, whenever we remembered to do so.


Crossing Third Bridge © Lang family archives


Swimming in the clear, beautiful Okavango with Dad © Lang family archives


Beth and I waving through the window as Dad and Grandad fill our water tanks.


Caiden, Beth and I with our friends, the Davis family, dipping our heads in the cool water at Third Bridge.

One night, exactly like the one I’ve already described, Dad had been telling us a bedtime story – the spine-tingling true tale of the man-eating lions of Tsava, and their sorry victims, which occurred during the construction the Kenyan-Uganda Railway in 1898. While we were listening, the resident Third Bridge pride of lions began roaring. As the roaring got louder, our circle of five camping chairs got smaller and smaller. I even remember taking off my gumboots so that they didn’t melt in the hot coals. Lions walking across the bridge and roaring was an almost nightly ritual at Third Bridge (My favourite sound in the world!) But, that night, Mum had a ‘funny feeling’ and we were sent to bed earlier than usual.


All set and ready for a bedtime story … a scary one please Dad! © Lang family archives


Our lovely camp (this was taken at North Gate, another camp in Moremi but gives an idea of camp life) © Lang family archives


My brother Caiden in camp © Lang family archives


The three kids with our lovely Mum © Lang family archives

Lying in our rooftop tent (We had two tents, one for our parents and one for us kids) we listened to the lions. In an excited whisper my brother would ask, ‘Dad, do you think they’ve reached the bridge yet?’ 

And then there was a thud and the whole Landy bumped sideways. My brother Caiden, taking the role of protector over his sisters, whispered, ‘It’s ok Rach and Beth, that’s just dad rolling over.’

I tried to go back to sleep but something was wrong, perhaps it was because the bush had become silent. But I must have drifted off to sleep eventually because I suddenly woke with a torch shining in my eyes and my dads voice, unusually tense, ‘Caiden, Rachel, Bethany, are you all here? Answer me … Caiden? Are you ok Beth, Rach? You are all here … Ok… ok good.

‘Stop shining the light in our eyes Dad!’ we groaned.

‘Yes, we are all fine’ I said, ‘what’s going on?’

I could hear my parents talking and my Mum’s voice was full of panic. What I couldn’t see from my little cosy tent was blood smeared all over the side of our Landrover, which was also a bit dented.

A little later, Dad came back in, ‘Come into our tent guys’ We wriggled our way through sleeping bags and blankets and huddled, the five of us, in one tent, peering out through the mosquito net windows over our moon drenched campsite. Then I saw something, a hyena? It was chewing on our rope swing. But as my eyes became more accustomed to the night, I saw it was a lion. Shadows began to emerge from all corners of our camp –  there were nine of them in total, nine lionesses in our little camp. I started to cry out in nervous exhilaration but was quickly told to ‘ssshhhh’.

 ‘Dad, do you think the lions could climb up the ladder and tear open our tent?’ asked my little sister Beth. ‘No love … well, they could but they won’t, we are safe up here.’ 

But all I remember thinking was, ‘all that stands between me and the lions is a thin layer of mosquito net!’

For an hour we watched as the lionesses playfully pulling our camp to pieces, tugging the washing off our line, chewing on our rope swing, and eventually, exasperating my dad enough to make him throw his takkies at them, trying, in vain, to prevent further damage to our camp.  I squeezed Mum’s hand as a large lioness strolled right underneath us, almost touching the Landrover. It was an incredible night, almost a dream. When the big cats finally tired of our camp and moved on it was with takkies and torn up clothes hanging out of their mouths.

The next morning, we surveyed the crime scene. As well as the blood on the Landrover, there were drag marks into the bushes and it was clear that an animal – probably an impala or lechwe – had been killed against the vehicle. Yet, the lions had been very playful, and didn’t really seem to have been in a hunting mood, could it have been a leopard perhaps? But would a leopard have hung around if there were so many lions nearby? It was difficult to tell by looking at the tracks as there were lion tracks everywhere. Perhaps, now that I know a bit more about tracking I could have worked it out, but at the time it was a mystery.

I could then understand why my parents had been so frantic, counting us and shining the torch in our eyes. They had heard the thump against the vehicle, shone a torch and seen the blood and thought it had been one of us kids who had fallen and been killed. What a horrific, nightmarish thought for any parent! From that night on, for the rest of the trip, and many trips to come while we were still kids, Mum would stay up at night ‘keeping watch’ through the tent window.


Getting ready for bed, we loved these rooftop tents! © Lang family archives


Caiden, Beth and I © Lang family archives

Being so closely surrounded by these incredibly powerful cats was an amazing experience that has remained very close to me – my first really wild encounter with the King of Beasts (or should I say ‘Queens’) Perhaps the best part is that I got to share it while ‘walking on the wild side’ with my special family.

Do you have a favourite family bush story? Please email me : rachielang@gmail.com and perhaps we can share it with the rest of the Bushbound readers in a blog post…

Categories: Animals, Botswana, Family stories, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

When my Grandad was a kid in the Kruger National Park

One of the best things about a holiday in the Kruger is the feeling that I am partaking in a family tradition – my Grandad has been going the Park since he was just a little baby, and my Dad too. On a recent family trip, while having ‘sundowners’ at Lower Sabie rest camp, looking over the beautiful Sabie River, Grandad began telling me about his memories of the Park in the ‘old days’. I’m sure many of  you/ your parents/ grandparents, have similar stories to share…

 Game Viewing…

Kruger, 1953 © Lang family archives

When I was a little baby, my mother and I were sitting on the back seat of the Chevy when we met a big lion in the road. In those days, motor cars didn’t have proper windows, just cellophane covers that you had to clip on at the side . The lion put his feet on the ‘running’ (step on the side of the car) and  came right up and sniffed inside the car. My mother had to pick me up and put me on the other side of her. It was getting dark and the lion wouldn’t let us pass. Each time it walked around the car, my mother would have to pick me up again and move me! Eventually, we took a chance and managed to get past it. We arrived late at the camp gate, but because of what had happened to us, we didn’t get into trouble.”

GAME VIEWING IN 1930's  © SanParks archives

GAME VIEWING IN 1930’s © SANparks archives

GAME VIEWING  © SanParks Archives

GAME VIEWING © SANparks Archives

“We hardly ever saw elephants in those days. I remember one time – we on our way to Letaba – there were lots of cars stopped in the road, and a ranger was there who said we should all get out and walk with him. We walked a little way, and there in the river bed, was an elephant. It was very exciting! Even if you saw one from miles away, it was a big event.”

[This is because there was still a lot of hunting going on,  after the hunting stopped, elephants moved back into the Park from Mozambique]

GAME VIEWING IN THE 1950'S by CECIL HOLMES © Kruger National Park archives

GAME VIEWING IN THE 1950’S by CECIL HOLMES © SANparks archives

GAME VIEWING IN THE 1930'S from © SanParks Archives

GAME VIEWING IN THE 1930’s © SANparks Archives



Before the Park was proclaimed (1926) people rode around on ox wagons, buggy carts, pack donkeys, horses, and used the Selati railway line. In 1927 the first road was built from White River to Pretoriuskop, connecting to the first ranger post. The first motor vehicle in the park (a model-T-Ford) was bought by ranger CR de la Porte in the mid-20’s.
The building of the road between Skukuza to Lower Sabie started in 1928. By the end of 1929, 617km of tourist roads had been built as well as three pontoons. By 1945, causeways replaced the pontoons.

PONTOON AT SKUKUZA 1935,© SanParks archives

PONTOON AT SKUKUZA 1935,© Lang Family archives




LETABA, SEPT 1953 © Lang Family archives

LETABA, SEPT 1953 © Lang Family archives

© Lang Family archives

© Lang Family archives
In 1928, the first three “rest huts” were built. These ‘rondavels’ were designed according to the “Selby” style – round rondavel huts, with a gap between the wall and the roof and a small hole in the top half of the door (Have a look at the top of the picture) This was supposed to be a peephole to see if there were dangerous animals before walking out of the huts (Camps were still not fenced, and, I presume there were no man-eating-lions about) However, there were complaints that huts were too cold and that there was a lack of privacy, because people could peep in at the door! In 1931 new rondavels were built, that also included mosquito nets.

 “The huts didn’t have windows, but were open at the top, and there was a hole in the door. As a little kid I used to peer out at the moon, expecting to see a lion jump out at any minute! There were still no fences in those days.” [Camps were fenced for the first time in 1932]





“I remember that we used to hang outside the bathrooms in the evening and watch the ladies walkng out with their paraffin lamps that would shine through their long white nightgowns…it was very naughty!.” [In 1939 it was thought necessary for the Park to provide hot water for overnight guests, but the rule was that only ladies could have hot baths (available daily from 17:00 to 12:00) and men were entitled to showers only!]

“In those days there weren’t a lot of people visiting the Park, so they used to have communal fires. In the middle of the camp there would be a little brick wall with a sheet of corrugated iron that you cooked on, and you would make your fire underneath it. In the evenings, everyone would gather around to cook and tell stories about the animals they had seen that day. There would only be about 20 – 30 people in the camp at a time.”

Breakfast at Rabelais, 1953 - Granny & Gloria ©Lang Family archives

Breakfast at Rabelais, 1953 – Granny & Gloria ©Lang Family archives


“I remember when they put up ‘bell tents’ at Letaba. Your Granny and I stayed in one, overlooking the river. There were metal beds in them and it was so hot in the day that we couldn’t even go into them. But at night – your Granny and I were newly married – it was so cold that we had to sleep in the same single bed!”



Read an official SANParks account of the history of the Kruger National Park here.

I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to share your own stories below…

Categories: Family stories, History, South Africa, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

10 things I learnt on safari with Chad Cocking

Who is Chad? Read the interview I did with him for Africa Geographic’s Blog


© Johannes Mkhari

1. It’s about the person, not the camera.

Chad: ‘I’m not really that good (at photography) Rach, I just have a lot of opportunities and a great camera.’

me: ‘Ya, whateverI’ve used fancy cameras before and all my photos still come out smudged…’

Chad: ‘In photography the correct term is out of focus. Don’t worry, it’s easy, you’ll see, I’ll teach you.’

me: [suddenly excited] ‘Really? Awesome!’

Chad: ‘Ok so, to begin with, let’s look the composition of an image;  the golden rule is not place the subject at the centre of the image … now lighting is the most important factor affecting your photography, sunrise and sunset are called the Golden Hours, and are the best time to be out shooting’.

So far so good🙂 But a few minutes later…

… ‘so if you meter off the sky and then recompose the image, increase the shutter speed by opening up aperture; F/xx to widest aperture (f/2.8, f/5.6, f/6.3) and change the ISO.

me: Huh??? [blank, overwhelmed look]

A fancy camera doesn’t make a fancy photographer. Even if you have great opportunities, there is a lot more involved than you may think.

Luckily, during my week at Motswari, I was able to sit next to Chad on game drives and ‘look after’ his camera for him. While he took care of all the complicated bits, I just looked through the lens and snapped away to my heart’s content. Someday, when I can afford a good camera, I’ll learn about apertures and ISOs, but in the meantime, I am content with drawing pictures and sitting next to brilliant photographers.

Chad in action

Chad in action.

2. Little male elephants are the cutest and funniest creatures in the world.

At two years old, this little fellow was going all out to impress, flapping his ears clumsily and pushing his little trunk against the ground, determined to show us how strong he was. Each time our vehicle edged forward, he would burst towards us with his trunk in the air, thinking he was winning at frightening us away. For me, keeping a serious look on my face while watching him do this was just not possible!


© Bush-bound Girl …with Chad’s camera

© Bush-bound Girl with Chad's camera...

‘This is how my mum does it, so why aren’t you scared of me?’
© Bush-bound Girl with Chad’s camera…

3. Khaki fever is for real🙂

The first time I came down with khaki fever was a few years ago, whilst working at a lodge in the Sabi Sands. I mean, what young, wildlife-loving girl, presented with a gorgeous khaki-clad ranger can say no to a midnight drive to see a leopard? Motswari was no different.

Not sure what I’m talking about? A good friend of mine, Christie, explains it a lot better than I do…

‘If you’ve ever visited a game reserve in Africa and been driven around by a hunky game ranger, you might be suffering from this too, it’s a fairly easy “fever” to contract. It’s the phenomena of falling head over heels in lust with your game ranger – the man responsible for rescuing you if you ever get in harm’s way out in the perilous African bush.’ Read her full story here. 


Chad, Petros and I.

Chad blushing

Chad blushing, he would rather be behind the camera!

4. How to rescue a terrapin

The Lowveld has had some heavy rain lately, providing a paradise for terrapins. These aquatic, clawed, flat-shelled cousins of the tortoise, love paddling around in static muddy pools on the road, far away from crocodiles (I’d do the same). We didn’t want to drive over this one (in the picture below), so I volunteered to help him off the road. If you have ever picked up a terrapin you will know that they secrete a very smelly liquid (if this is used to deter crocodiles, you can only imagine what it does to humans!) However, luckily for me, this little one didn’t smell too bad.


Usually, if you drive very slowly, terrapins will swim out of the way, but I thought I’d give this one a head start.


How could anyone not want to pick you up? You are so cute!

5. Breaking the ranger code:

The ‘ranger code’ is used by Chad and his tracker Petros (and other guides in the area) to communicate to each other during game drives. It’s a mish-mash of Shangaan (the local language), Zulu, English and local slang. It’s especially useful when discussing sightings announced by other guides over the radio. There is less pressure when the guests don’t know what you are talking about, especially if, for example, a pride of lions has been called in, but the sighting is too far away to get to.

But soon enough, (because I really don’t like being left out of conversations when there are lions and leopards involved) I started picking up some words…

ingwe: leopard (we saw so many beautiful leopards at Motswari.)

gula: sick in the head (I first heard this word when Petros said it to Chad, because he had driven too close to an elephant, although I still haven’t figured out if it was the elephant or Chad who was goola!)

Vhondo: cane rat (Chad’s nickname!)

ngala: lion

xikhankanka: cheetah, (also used when referring to a pretty girl)

famba: go

bamba: kill

inkombi: rhino

mapimpane: small one

mpho: friend

mlungu – guest

6. How to tell if an elephant is in musth: 

Elephant bulls go through a period of time – this can be a few days or a few months depending on age – where their testosterone levels rise for mating. This is called ‘musth’. Usually, when you see an elephant / herd of ellies on a game drive, it is safe to switch off your car and watch them. However, this is not the case with an elephant in musth!! We encountered quite a few of these big boys at Motswari, and it was important to learn how to tell them apart. An elephant in musth has strong-smelling urine dripping down, and staining, his back legs. He also secretes liquid from his temporal glands, which looks a bit like tears (although this alone is not enough to go by, because elephants also do this when they are stressed) Elephants is musth have a swaggering walk and are a lot more aggressive than usual. Don’t make the mistake of getting in the way of one!


Don’t mess with an elephant bull in musth.

7. How to set up a bush bar:


Having drinks in the bush while the sun is setting, with good company, and animal sounds in the background is one of my favourite things in the world.

A dry river bed will do just fine :)

A dry river bed in the Timbavati will do just fine🙂

8. Rhinos do talk

About a year ago, I interviewed Dr Ian Player, a man who dedicated his life to rhinos. I remember very clearly, him describing the heart-wrenching scream of a rhino. On one of our afternoon drives at Motswari, we came upon three female rhinos, one of them – a little baby – was making a strange squealing sound.  It was a noise that I would never have placed with a rhino. Although this baby was not distressed, it was the first time I had ever heard a rhino ‘speak’, and the experience definitely helped me to better understand what Dr Player was referring to. It made me feel incredibly sad and hopeless knowing that this little rhino could very soon be just another number on a growing list of rhinos that have been killed so far this year.

9.  How to give your guests a story to tell… 


February 09_52

Stuck in the mud with guests (some cheerful, and some not so cheerful…)

February 09_51

Attaching a tow rope to another Landy so that they can be pulled out.

Chad has been stuck 6 times in the last two months!

10. How to fall in love with a place

There is something really special about Motswari. The closest words that I can think of to describe the lodge are peaceful and authentic African. 

Thank you Chad, Petros, Dave and Thea, and all the wonderful staff for looking after me and making me feel so at home. I will be back one day (and if you who are reading this get the chance, you should too. I have been to many game lodges in my life, but Motswari is my favourite one so far.)


I  LOVE Motswari


The name Motswari means ‘to conserve and protect’ in Tswana

Visit Motswari’s awesome website, blog (Updated daily by Chad) and Facebook page.

Categories: Animals, Inspiring People, South Africa, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

Dr Ian Player: interviewing the wilderness man

(First Published on Africa Geographic’s Blog)

Growing up brought with it a certain disappointment for me. Perhaps because, as a child, I always believed that the hero wins, that the good guy comes through in the end. And even if he dies it’s always for a greater good. After all, isn’t that how all great adventure stories end? Frodo destroys the ring, Tarzan rescues Jane and David defeats Golliath…

Operation Rhino in the 1970s was one such adventure story, led by a small team of die-hard men who refused to accept defeat. It was due to their tireless work translocating rhinos that new populations could be established and that the white rhino was brought back from the brink of extinction. In the 1960s there were an estimated 650 white rhinos in Africa; by 2010 the population numbered 18 800. The very man in front of me initiated and led this operation along with his right-hand man, Magquba Ntombela. It is because of Dr Ian Player that there are still rhinos around for us to save.

But life is not fair, despite some inborn conviction that it should be. Once again we face despair with the grave reality that, despite various efforts, we may lose our precious rhinos – our prehistoric dinosaur friends that should be able to share the earth peacefully with us. At the age of 85 Dr Player is watching his life unravel, his life purpose shredded to bits, not unlike the horns of his beloved rhinos.

© Ian Player Archives

© Ian Player Archives

© Ian Player Archives

© Ian Player Archives

The Interview                                                                                 

I catch myself following the furrowed lines on his face, but always returning to his eyes. As he speaks, they burn likes coals. If only I could write down his every thought and freeze his deep, wearily passionate expressions. It’s only two minutes into the interview and I am in awe of this man. As he pauses between words, I see him drift off to another place and wish he could take me with him. I sense both comfort and pain in his contemplations. Is he remembering the past? A time, perhaps, when hard work paid off against the greatest odds? When the monster of human greed could still be overcome with a benevolent heart and a passionate will? And can we still save our rhinos or is the poaching too great for us this time?

‘Could there be an Operation Rhino two?’  

‘It is a different world now, it is a different world …’ Again, a deep thoughtful silence overcomes him.

‘You see, what is happening to the rhino is symptomatic of the environment as a whole and I have a deep sense of a crunch approaching now. The Greeks have a name for the earth, Gaia, which means mother. I think Mama is getting a bit tired of us now and she will make us all listen. I mean, what is it that makes us so destructive? It’s quite terrifying; the amount of sewage that’s going into rivers and dams, the acid water that is rising from old mines in Gauteng and other parts of the country… There are rainforests being cut down to plant crops, and there are species in those rainforests – not only birds, animals and insects but also trees – that could be of enormous benefit to humanity. It’s a very lamentable story and we are the ones writing it.’ And the tragedy of our species is that we don’t pay enough attention to what happened in the past. If we did, we certainly wouldn’t have gone to war. During World War I 40 million people were killed and 60 thousand men were wounded on one day. It still hovers over us like a spectre. Only 20 years later and then there was World War II … history was staring at us in the face and we didn’t pay any attention! History should be our teacher and that’s the same with the environment.’

Dr Player is a hero, strong and dignified, and yet he is just a man. As we chat, I suddenly get the urge to hug and comfort him, but we have only just met and I decide it would be inappropriate. I search for relief in a more uplifting topic.


‘What does the word “Wilderness” mean to you, Dr Player?’

‘Wilderness is for me salvation. I started the Wilderness Leadership School and we’ve now had 60, 000 to-70, thousand people who have gone into the wilderness and come out deeply moved. You are not human if you aren’t changed by the wilderness. It is because of this fact that I have fought for wilderness areas as opposed to just National Parks. In a wilderness area you can’t go in by motorcar. You go on foot, on a horse or in a canoe. There’s a big difference between a canoe and a motorboat. In a canoe you can hear everything … and our psyche resonates with it. People suddenly realize that these places are different, they are the New Temples – you go back into an archetypal world, a world where we once lived in what is commonly called The Garden of Eden and that world is still within us. Just as CG Jung the psychiatrist said, “We don’t come into the world a clean slate, we come in with a million years of evolution.” And that is why dreams are so important. Not daydreams but dreams of the night. They are a constant guide to us and you will find that even in the most remote parts of the world people dream of African animals, because this continent is where we all came from originally.’

I am deciding whether to ask him about his own dreams, perhaps the question is too personal. But curiosity gets the better of me.

‘Do you ever dream of rhinos?’

‘Yes I do. In fact quite recently I had two dreams: one of a young rhino climbing up and lying on the bed next to me, and another that had it’s horn and jaw chopped off  – it was ghastly, it kept coming towards me and I tried to chase it away but it refused to go. And I know what the dream was saying – I’m 84 now, I’m very tired of fighting and I’m tired of making enemies. In order to do these things you do make enemies, often people who don’t understand what one is trying to do. Somebody else has got to do it, somebody else has got to fight all this stuff now. But the dream was saying that I can’t give up.’

‘So you think about rhinos a lot?’

‘During Operation Rhino when we were darting and relocating we got very close to the rhino. On one particular occasion a dart burst and hit me in the eye. I lost my sight in that eye, so I am conscious of the rhinos every moment of the day.’

I think of Dr Player in the hazy black and white photos that I have seen in books, standing beside one of his beloved rhinos, his trousers rolled up and worn, his arms strong and his eyes determined and alive as they are now, yet without the faraway look. As he gets to his feet, he wobbles unsteadily and I joke that it is all the rhino capturing…

There is no doubt that I am standing before a hero, a true rich-spirited man of the wilderness. Dr Player I salute you. You have shown us that the impossible is possible. It may be a different world, but we will not give up fighting for the survival of the rhino. We will carry on your legacy.

Read the original interview as it appeared in Africa Geographic Magazine May Issue, 2012

Categories: Animals, History, Inspiring People, South Africa, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Ocean theatre at Port St Johns

The annual Sardine Run, which takes place off South Africa’s rugged Wild Coast, is known as one of the ocean’s most dramatic events, or ‘The Greatest Shoal on Earth’. Every winter (from May to July), shoals of sardines leave their feeding grounds and bravely embark on a somewhat treacherous journey. They are aided by a cold current of water that moves up the coast from the  Eastern Agulhas banks to the Kwa-Zulu Natal coastline. Here begins a great theatrical performance starring predators of all kinds – sharks, whales, dolphins and sea birds gather in their numbers to feed on the delicious bait fish.

But this year (2013) has been particularly special. ‘We are starting to call it “the whale run” said Rob, with a proud grin. Rob is an ocean guide and veteran skipper and owns Offshore Ocean Port St Johns.  We were lucky enough to join him on his boat for a morning of unforgettable adventure.

After some expert manoeuvring to get the boat beyond the breakers, the action began!

First to take the stage were the very entertaining Cape Gannets, airborne acrobats hovering and diving for their breakfast. Gannets can submerge themselves as deep as 30 metres to grab sardines under the water

Silaka Nature Reserve - Eastern Cape - South Africa
And then – dolphins!! Dolphins as numerous as impala in the Kruger Park. I gasped as a large bottlenose dolphin flung itself from the wake of our boat. There were Common dolphins too, that synchronise their breeding when food is plentiful, so the water was full of youngsters, which, amazingly, can keep up with the pod from birth.

A large oval shape moved just below the water … what was it? ‘A turtle, ‘probably a Hawksbill’, said Rob.

Even before the Grand Finale, my head was spinning, tipsy from the waves and all the excitement. In the distance, a large spray of water erupted and we made our way closer to the whales. All together, we spotted about 5 or 6 Humpbacks. Two of them came really close, curious and completely at ease with our presence. I was overcome with joyful awe  ‘Look! …Under the boat!’

The whales swam right under us! We marvelled at their dreamlike shapes gliding and sailing through the clear water. ‘This is something really special’ said Rob, ‘Every whale has a different character and it’s not every day that they come so close to the boat.’

I gaped at their powerful tails, the knobbly bumps on their bodies and how a creature could be so huge yet so graceful. I would have loved to jump off and swim with them!

Silaka Nature Reserve - Eastern Cape - South Africa Silaka Nature Reserve - Eastern Cape - South Africa

Offshore Africa Port St Johns run daily whale watching trips – the best time to go is during the sardine run in winter.

Contact Rob: 084 9511325 or Debbie: 082 256 9414 (http://www.offshoreportstjohns.com)

Animal Ocean, based in Cape Town also run awesome dive packages in Port St Johns during the sardine run which come highly recommended.

Categories: Animals, Birds, South Africa, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Namibia… here I come!

Adventure is just around the corner, what a wonderful feeling!  I can see it, feel it, and almost taste it already…

In a few days time (23rd of August) I’ll be leaving for Namibia (my first visit to the country), taking part in ‘Go BIG Namibia’, a 10 day tour organised by the Namibia Tourism Board to discover first-hand, why Namibia is one of the world’s top destinations for the adventurous, thrill-seeking traveller.

After burying my head in everything Namibia over the last few days, (trying to kit myself out with as much info as possible) I am completely overwhelmed by how many interesting articles have been written about the country. Is there anything I can write that hasn’t been written already?! Probably not! So… I’m going to do my best by focussing on the EXPERIENCE and ADVENTURE, which is what this tour is all about (Except for a short introduction below, a brief summary of what I have learnt so far)  Oh man, now I’m getting really excited🙂

Namibia has the surface area of 824 268 km squared (almost 4 times bigger than the UK!) yet, as one of the most arid countries of Southern Africa, it has a population of only 2 million people. With such a low density of people, Namibia’s cultural diversity is remarkable – 13 different ethnic groups (including the much photographed bushmen and Himba people) I can’t wait to learn more about these interesting cultures and their history, art and language.

Known as the ‘land of contrasts’, Namibia boasts 14 vegetation zones, a kaleidoscope of landscapes! The Namib Desert (after which Namibia is named) is the world’s oldest desert, stretching 2000 km’s from the Orange River in the South to the Kunene in the North. It is also the only desert in the world where rhino, giraffe, elephant and lion can be found, there are also some incredible smaller species that have developed ingenious ways to survive the tough environment and hopefully I will see some. There are 120 species of tree in Namibia and 200 endemic plant species, including the Welwitchia mirabilis, one of the oldest plants known to humankind. Apparently, it is also one of the best places to view stars (being unpolluted with few clouds) and that, in itself, is a good enough reason for me to visit!

So…here I go! I’ll be sharing my adventure with you every step of the way (holding thumbs for good wifi!) so follow what happens via Africa Geographic’s Facebook page, Twitter account and Blog as well as my contributions to Namibia Tourism Blog and Facebook page and Bush-bound-girl of course. The awesome itinerary that I’ve received will be kept as a surprise!

Climbing to the top of 'Big Daddy' as Sossusvlei © Sean Messham Photography

Climbing to the top of ‘Big Daddy’ as Sossusvlei © Sean Messham Photography

 A BIG thanks to Namibia Tourism and Africa Geographic for this amazing opportunity

Categories: Namibia, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Cannibals in the Drakensberg mountains

“It would seem as if periodically a strange, unaccountable madness seizes on certain races, a madness which supresses all decent human instincts, all reason, all natural desire of fellowship, all intellect and compassion, everything which raises a human above the brute beast.”

(Barrier of Spears, R.O Pearse)


Painting by Francisco Goya ‘Cannibals preparing their victims’
Courtesy Bridgeman Art Library.

Cannibals … for me it’s a word that conquers up images from movies and books like Robinson Crusoe and the Swiss Family Robinsons – of savage humans tribal dancing around a big boiling pot where an unfortunate human victim dangles, inches from a fiery death.

While on a walk in Royal Natal National Park, in the uKhahlamba -Drakensberg, I was surprised to learn that there were once human flesh-eating people living in these mountains.

The cannibalism began – so the story goes – when King uShaka of the Zulus, a fierce and brutal leader, began to expand his kingdom. When his army reached the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains, they began annihilating the people who lived there.  Apart from the Bushmen, who were the original inhabitants of the area, there were other cattle herding, crop-planting communities who had settled there, enjoying a relatively peaceful existence.  Suddenly, however, with the arrival of the ‘impi’ warriors, their world became one of tremendous turmoil. After the attacks, the few small bands of survivors fled westwards into the mountains, taking refuge in caves. However, without crops and livestock and having never hunted before, the people turned to cannibalism. The Basotho people call this period of time “Lifaqane”, one of the darkest parts of their history.


The most famous drawing of King uShaka

Chief Sidine was one of the cannibal chiefs and had his headquarters in what is now the Royal Natal National Park. French missionaries, upon returning to France, reported that victims were hamstrung and left in a “panty”. They were then killed by a twist of the neck and cut-up and skinned on a flat rock and then roasted or grilled on a fire. If victims were scarce, men were found feasting on their own wives or children or exchanging them with each other to eat. It must have been a terrifying time! To avoid the pot people began moving around in large groups and usually only at night.  Even Moshoeshoe, who was the acclaimed “father” of the Basotho tribe (and still a highly celebrated figure of the Basotho people today) had his own grandfather, Old Peete, eaten by cannibals.


‘Cannibal Cavern’
Picture taken from http://www.cavern.co.za


Our guide in Royal Natal National Park, Mathiba Mncube. This photo is taken in Sigubudu Shelter, where I first learnt about the Drakensberg cannibals…

The most famous rock over hangings where cannibals were known to have taken refuge is aptly called ‘Cannibal Caves’.

The Cavern Resort and Spa offers guided walks to the Cannibal Caves 

For more information: +27 36 438 6270 / Mobile: +27 83 701 5724  or email: info@cavern.co.za

Categories: History, South Africa, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Little treasures of Mkambati and the Wild Coast

Here are some of the pictures I took while adventuring in the Wild Coast –  I was especially enthralled by the small treasures I found , the perfect dainty flowers beneath my feet – all the quotes I have used are from the book, ‘Mkambati and the Wild Coast’ by Div De Villiers and John Costello. A truly wonderful and important book.


Lampranthus fugitans

“Pondoland is a paradise, and hidden within it lies a Garden of Eden, a largely undiscovered little gem called Mkambati. The name conjures up an image of magic and mystery. It flows off the tongue like waves lapping at rolling grasslands teeming with game. It imitates the sound of Eland hooves on rocky gorges – ravines where vultures sour, waterfalls churn and endemic plants cling. How apt that it is the name of a nature reserve that holds all these treasures.”


Scadoxus puniceus, commonly known as the paintbrush lily

“The outcrops of the Msikaba Formation have long been known to harbour numerous plant species which are uncommon or absent from surrounding soils. (Due to the unique stretch of sandstone in the area) … these soils created unique conditions (together with temperature, the amount of daylight and moisture) for a group of specialised plants to evolve.”


Wild Pomegranate, Burchellia bubalina

“The Pondoland Centre has been adopted by Conservation International as a global plant ‘hotspot’, only the third in South Africa, along with Cape Fynbos and Succulent Karoo.”


Patterns made by sand, wind and rock


Bottlenose dolphin seen off Port St Johns

“Who is not moved by the dolphin and it’s long mythical association with our own species – this lovely creature which is said to have saved people from drowning in the sea?”

(Dr Ian Player, in his forward to the book ‘Mkambati and the Wild Coast’)


Coral Tree, plentiful this time of year!


Taken on an evening walk at Hluleka Nature Reserve


Small waterfall and rock pool along a tributary of the Mtentu River

“And who is not impressed by waterfalls? Mkambati boasts no fewer than 21.”


At least 28 species of frogs possibly occur at Mkambati, known as the ‘heart of Pondoland’. Although amphibians are still understudied, 20 frogs have been identified in the few surveys that have been undertaken in the nature reserve.

IMG_0731 IMG_0672

“The name ‘Wild Coast’ was originally given to the Transkei coastline by early European mariners because of the treacherous seas that wrecked many ships and claimed the lives of countless sailors …   freak waves have been known to exceed 30 metres in height, and are what ship captains keep a wary lookout when sailing off the Wild Coast.”


Beautiful lichen on a rock in the Mtentu river


Taken near the Mtentu River


Beautiful patches of indigenous forest grow along the WIld Coast. Some trees, such as old yellow woods (Podocarpus falcatus) and the forest apple leaf (Philenoptera sutherlandii) grow taller than 30 metres.


Taken at Mtentu River Lodge


Taken at Mtentu River Lodge

“Here the ancient spirit of Africa still dwells, crying out for protection so that it may help mankind in this long, often perilous journey to the understanding of the earth and ourselves.”

(Dr Ian Player,  in his forward to the book ‘Mkambati and the Wild Coast’)


Taken near Mtentu River in Mkambati Nature Reserve


Taken at Mkombati, along the Mtentu river


Taken on the beach in front of Mtentu River Lodge


Mgazi river meets the ocean

“This special area, unique on the African continent, stands at a crossroads. Should it be conserved and remain the Wild Coast, or should it be developed into another sprawling seaside playground with high-rise hotels, shopping malls and industries?”

(‘Mkambati and the Wild Coast’, Div De Villiers and John Costello)

Categories: Animals, South Africa, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mkambati – where waterfalls and oceans meet

In the Wild Coast of Pondoland there is a wild delight of a place that not many people have heard of (Well, I hadn’t) Twelve kilometres of unspoilt coastline, waterfalls that tumble straight into the ocean with magnificent rock pools, rolling grassy hills dotted with African plains game, patches of indigenous forest (home to Narina Trogons and Samango Monkeys) and steep sandstone cliffs where a colony of about 100 Cape Griffon Vultures nest.

Mkambati Nature Reserve, between the Mtentu and Msikama rivers, owes much of its exquisite beauty to its interesting history. It was once set aside as a refuge for lepers,  which prevented locals from settling there. This preserved the beautiful grasslands from the impact of agriculture and grazing livestock.

We stayed at Mtentu River Lodge, in lovely rustic luxury on the Mtentu river. The lodge is just across from Mkambati,  which can be accessed easily by canoe.

Rach's best photos-3

View from our bungalow at Mtentu River Lodge.

Rach's best photos-5

Gorgeous little bungalow at Mtentu River Lodge

A perfect day at Mkambati goes something like this…

Set out early (with swimming costumes, cameras and a picnic lunch) and canoe from the lodge across the Mtentu River into Mkambati Nature Reserve. Make sure you drag your canoe high enough up the bank so that it isn’t washed away by the incoming tide! (We learnt this the hard way!) Then spend the morning hiking to breath-taking waterfalls and swimming in welcoming crystal rock pools.

The reserve has an impressive 21 waterfalls in all, the most legendary being Mkambati Falls which plunges straight into the sea! It is one of three waterfalls in Pondoland that flow into the sea and there are only about twelve in the world! ) The falls are most impressive during summer when the rivers are full. Soak up the sun on warm rocks and admire magical dainty flowers. Take a little ‘bundu-bash-style’ walk through the forest, looking out for and listening to rare endangered birds. You can then hike back to your canoe along the beach.

We only had two days to spend in this little place of paradise but one could easily spend a week or more just hiking, exploring and frolicking about the awesome rock pools. I wanted to be there forever!  As I jumped joyously along the rocky shore toward our canoe, I felt incredibly grateful for this little taste of a world unharmed by man.

Rach's best photos-13

An awesome place to stay: Mtentu River Lodgewww.mtenturiverlodge.co.za/ Bridgette +27 (0)83 234 0436/ Russel +27 (0)84 209 8543 /Email: info@mtenturiverlodge.co.za

Click here for more about Mkambati


Read more about Mtentu River Lodge and “Six Green things to love” about them by my friend Kelly🙂

Categories: History, South Africa, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mystery of the Missing Guineafowls

I knew that getting guineafowls wasn’t a good idea, especially with my boisterous Jack Russel Sammy prowling the house. But once Dad has fixed his mind on something, there is very little that anyone can do to change it. Besides, ‘it will be so cool to have them roam about the lawn, and make sounds that remind us of the bush’, he insisted.

But, we would soon see that this was not so ‘cool’ for the thirty-two guineafowls that Dad brought home (and their raucous squawks are far from the romantic calls of fish eagles…)

When the guineafowls were old enough to leave the safety and warmth of the stables and venture forth into the garden, their numbers began rapidly diminishing. At least one guinea went missing every week, and feathery remains began appearing in nearby fields and under bushes in the garden.

‘Your bloody dog!!’ said Dad on the phone, having found Sammy dragging one of the dead guineas.

Warned  you.’ I replied, not the least bit surprised.

But reports of dead guineas kept coming. I know my dog enjoys playing the occasional game of chase and pounce, but was he a mass murderer??? I wasn’t convinced.

When I arrived home on the farm last week, there were only five birds out of the original thirty-two left.

What could be killing them? jackals? civet? We found another dead guinea, half eaten, at the bottom of the garden. Sammy got excited and picked it up, but I didn’t think he had killed it. We retrieved the half-eaten bird and set up a camera trap, hoping the culprit would return…

And return it did.

A SERVAL!!! Soon the excitement of seeing this beautiful cat far outweighed the disaster of the dead guineafowls. How lucky we are to have them on the farm!🙂


Categories: Birds, Family stories, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Little poems from my African heart


When a lion roars the residing orchestra is silent.

The owl holds its breath

And my heart alone is a



I am but a lowly intruder in the land that belongs to him.


Burst open Africa! Rejoice!

Slurp on nature’s joy and

suck on stringy pleasure

Taste with your tongue the slimy sweet flesh-

the juicy delight on your fingers

And when you reach the middle

again rejoice!

And spit out the pip for the squirrels



A Kingfisher levitates over lazy blue




He dives-

into watery jewels, emerging  with his prize

and I –

remember how to breath again.


© Chad Cocking WIldlife Photography

Categories: Animals, Birds, Poetry, Trees, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Magnificence and mystery at Cape Point

As far as cities go, Cape Town is a winner for the outdoorsy type. After spending a year and a half exploring this wonderful city and its surrounds, I’ve finally concluded that the place I love most is Cape Point. 

I love watching waves throw themselves wildly against the rocky mountain cliffs, spotting seals lazing in the ocean with just one flipper sticking out of the water, and breathing in the salty clean air, letting the wild wind tangle my tresses and sing through my ears.

Cape Point, Table Mountain National Park, Western Cape, South Africa

Marvelling at magnificent mountain and ocean scenery


© Bush-bound Girl


With thanks to Scott Ramsay

If you’re a nature lover like me, then you’ll be in your element. Cape Point (Table Mountain National Park) is part of the Cape Floral Region, a National Heritage Site containing more than 1 1000 plant species – the smallest but richest of the Worlds six floral kingdoms. It’s also home to a large chattering array of birds – (250 different species), Cape mountain zebra, eland, and the only shellfish-foraging baboon population ever recorded.

© Bush-bound Girl

© Bush-bound Girl


With thanks to Scott Ramsay


With thanks to Scott Ramsay


With thanks to Scott Ramsay

And then there are the anemone’s… swaying sea delights, colourful clown heads, treasures dancing in underwater gardens…


© Bush-bound Girl
Taken at Venus Pools

“There were water-flowers there too, in thousands; and Tom tried to pick them: but as soon as he touched them, they drew themselves in and turned into knots of jelly; and then Tom saw that they were all alive – bells, and stars, and wheels, and flowers, of all beautiful shapes and colours; and all alive and busy, just as Tom was. So now he found that there was a great deal more in the world than he had fancied at first sight.”

(From Charles Kingsley’s ‘The Water Babies’)


©Bush-bound Girl


© Bush-bound Girl

One third of ALL marine species in Southern Africa occur at Cape Point. In winter months, it’s the place to view Southern Right whales that arrive to mate and give birth. The rich variety of marine life here is due to the unique merging of two ocean currents – the Cold Benguela and the Agulhas current.

Cape Point’s famous lighthouse, built in 1859, stands 249 metres above sea level, surrounded by beautiful greenery, meandering rocky paths and perfect places to picnic and marvel at the magnificent views.


© Bush-bound Girl


© Bush-bound Girl


© Bush-bound Girl

Cape Point is also a place of stories. When the explorer Bartolomeu Dias arrived in 1488 he named it ‘The Cape of Storms’. Violent wind, thick fog, sharp cutting rocks and gigantic wild waves made it a dangerous place for sailors. Along the whole of the Cape Peninsular, 650 ship wrecks occurred, 26 of these wrecks at Cape Point.

There are also tales of a legendary ghost ship called the Flying Dutchman. One of the first recorded sightings was by the future King George V of England when he was 16 years old…

“At 4 a.m. the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars, and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm.”

A painting of 'The Flying Dutchman' by Albert Pinkham Ryder, currently being displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (found on Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flying_Dutchman,_the.jpg

A painting of ‘The Flying Dutchman’ by Albert Pinkham Ryder, currently being displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flying_Dutchman,_the.jpg)

More about Cape Point:



Categories: History, South Africa, Travel Adventures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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