Friday, 18 May 2018

Signs of South Africa

I've just returned from South Africa with a sizeable dose of jetlag, so please excuse me if this week's post is short and sweet.

While being driven around urban South Africa, I took a photo of the occasional advertisement or other sign on the walls of buildings.

It struck me that the ads in South Africa resemble the country's cities - a melding of African and international. Have a look at these, and see if you agree...







Friday, 11 May 2018

Saving the Rhino in South Africa


Last week our media tour, hosted by South African Tourism, spent two nights at the Madikwe Game Reserve in the far north of the country.

We saw an enthralling array of wild animals, many up close. On one occasion elephants walked right by our vehicle. I made a list of the creatures we saw over our three general nature drives, and it ran like this:

  • Buffalo
  • Lions (with a dead zebra)
  • Elephants
  • Rhinos
  • Giraffes
  • A jackal
  • Wild dogs
  • Impala
  • Kudu
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra
  • Baboons
  • A crocodile
  • A hyena

But the most impressive drive was the one which focused on one animal only: the rhinoceros.

These big animals are in grave danger of poaching; every year they're illegally hunted in reserves across Africa. One of the ways to forestall this is to create a precise biological record of each rhino, which maximises the chances of a successful prosecution of smugglers and poachers, and thereby acts as a deterrent.

We were told there had recently been a prosecution in nearby Swaziland in which a poacher had received a 29 year prison sentence, his fate sealed by the irrefutable biological evidence trail back to a specific rhino.

In Madikwe this initiative is funded largely by visitors to the reserve's various lodges, who make donations which are dedicated entirely to that purpose.

We were lucky enough to see the program in action.

This is how it worked. First, a helicopter went up to locate an untagged rhino. Then the vet with the team sedated the animal with a tranquilliser dart, and we scrambled to reach it as it went under.

At this point we were allowed to approach the sleeping animal and hand the vet the necessary jars for the samples of horn and blood to be placed into. It was remarkable to stand next to such a large, exotic creature, it seeming something like a small dinosaur at rest.

Once the procedure was over, the vet injected the rhino with an agent to reverse the sedation and it awoke almost instantly, lumbering off through the bush to be reunited with its companions.

It was a special experience, and hopefully one which will help make rhino poaching ever more difficult in South Africa. And it enabled us to get an unusually close look at one of the country's many amazing animals.  

We stayed at Jaci's Lodge, see www.jacislodges.co.za. For general information about Madikwe Game Reserve, see www.madikwegamereserve.co.za

Friday, 4 May 2018

Penguins & Vineyards: Attractions Outside Cape Town, South Africa

I'm currently in South Africa with a media group, courtesy of South African Tourism, and we've started our journey in Cape Town.

It's a great city, with a lively waterfront area and a lot of personality. It's also surrounded by interesting attractions, some of which we visited on our first day in the city.

The Atlantic coast is particularly impressive. We started the day at Maidens Cove, west of the city...


... then ascended to Chapman's Peak, with an equally stunning view. That's not my bike in the photo by the way, I'd never make it up that far! Though there were plenty of cyclists on the road, surprising in such hilly country.


At Boulders Beach we met a colony of African Penguins. They used to be known as jackass penguins due to their braying cry, and we heard plenty of that as they waddled around. They're big birds too, probably twice the size of the famous penguins at Phillip Island near Melbourne.


At Muizenberg we hopped out of the minibus briefly to take a look at the colourful bathing boxes on the beach:


Heading east, we entered wine country. We had an interesting wine tasting session at the Spier winery, matching chocolate with the varietals...


... then lunch at Le Petite Ferme came with this view:


We finished the day with a visit to Drakenstein prison, the final place at which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned before his release by the apartheid-era government after 27 years behind bars. A statue of the great man has been erected outside the facility's entrance, immortalising his triumphant stance upon walking to freedom:


It was an inspirational place at which to finish our day trip. The next day we visited Robben Island, where Mandela spent most of his imprisonment, for a grimmer look at the experience of freedom fighters against apartheid. But that's a story for another day...