Today was a delicious rainy day in South Africa – the perfect kind of day for some virtual window shopping. (I chose not to think about the Rand-Dollar exchange rate.)
Every March for at least the last five years I have spent a long weekend in the Kruger National Park. I’ve come to expect the same thing each year – high temperatures, high humidity, and thick, green bush.
Not so this year. With much of Southern Africa caught in the grip of a severe drought, Kruger has been badly hit. With scorched earth, intermittent clumps of brown grass, and record-breaking high temperatures, the Park is terribly changed.
The most obvious victims are the hippos. Bone dry riverbeds and dams has meant hippos gathering in tiny pools, and also grazing during the day in an effort to find food. We saw a few carcasses in the Lower Sabie area, and if there isn’t a lot of rain in the next few months before winter, I cannot imagine many hippos will survive.
It was a tough few days. We saw a lot of game, due to the scarcity of vegetation and the concentration of game around water sources, but it was heartbreaking to think how things may get worse over the next five months.
Highlights were seeing tons of ellies, two sable (which I’ve never seen before), at least eight white rhino, and a spotty heap of panting hyena.
You can read more about the impact of the drought in Kruger over here.
The vast Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, with its shimmering salt pans and endless horizons, offers views and landscapes I’ve never encountered before. It really is a magnificent place, and when there’s more rain about, there are flocks of flamingos and pelicans which make the pans their home for the summer months.
Planet Baobab offers excursions into the pans, with visits to habituated meerkats (more petite than I thought they would be) and winter nights sleeping out under an enormous canopy of stars (definitely something to return for!).
I fell in love with the camp. More of a budget option compared to its more famous sibling Jack’s Camp, Planet Baobab offers a fun, stylish and comfortable stay in this dry, beautiful part of the world. The enormous, sparkling pool and eccentric open-air bar were highlights for me, as well as the many huge, ancient baobabs scattered around the camp.
A magic moment was discovering a hammock strung up under an enormous baobab near our chalet. This beautiful tree must’ve been 2000 (3000?) years old, and swinging beneath its majestic boughs (and imagining all it had witnessed!) made me feel very small, very calm, and very grateful.
All travel via Made in Africa Tours & Safaris.
We started our journey with one night en route to Maun at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. It was utterly wonderful to see so many rhino safe and sound, and flourishing, when our rhinos in SA are being poached at such a devastating rate.
We spent two scorching days in Maun (think mid-40s during the day!), with sadly not a raindrop in sight. (The drought is as severe in Bots as it is in South Africa.) And then it was onto a very small plane and off to Pom Pom Camp in the Delta!
Botswana has been on my must-do list for years and years, so I was incredibly excited to see the spectacle of the Delta, and to do it from some pretty fabulous accommodation. Luxury permanent tents, high thread count sheets, an outdoor shower, delicious food, exceptional guides, and views for miles over floodplains that every day delivered elephant, red lechwe, tsessebe, bushbuck, monkeys and heaps of birds. The mornings were filled with excitement as we studied the tracks of animals that had made their way through the camp in the night, a few metres from our tents – hippos, buffalo, ellies, lion and hyena!
The Delta really is magnificent, and offers such a completely unique bush experience – pristine wilderness, enormous floodplains, towering ilala palms and snaking water channels.
We visited in the wet or green season, which usually means high temperatures and thunderstorms. We certainly had blistering temperatures, but because of the drought, the area was the driest anyone has seen it in years. Although there was thankfully still some water around, the area was more ‘savannah’ than ‘watery wonderland’, and we were limited to game drives and short mokoro excursions. Luckily the game viewing was still exceptional!
A classic Delta experience is a mekoro ride through the reed-lined channels. We managed to find some water, albeit pretty shallow. The slow poling through the clear water, and viewing the Delta from just above water level, really is something special.
Just one reason to go back would be to experience the serenity of a mekoro trip when there’s plenty of water!
Part two, and the stunning Makgadikgadi Pans, over here.
All travel via Made in Africa Tours & Safaris.
I love everything from Evolution! Everything! After all, can you ever have too many cushions? And the chairs are seriously beautiful and inspired.
I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and attachment lately. These were concepts I first heard about when I started practising yoga a few years ago, and I’ve thrown words like ‘non-attachment’ around plenty of times, without actually really delving much deeper.
But life, and things like illness, injury and ageing, all offer the perfect vehicle for an experimentation with identity. What happens when we are used to our bodies responding in a particular way to exercise, and then we become injured? What happens when we receive a certain amount of pride and affirmation from the work we do, and then we’re retrenched? What happens when we’ve always identified with being ‘attractive’, and then we begin to age?
I’ve always loved make-up, and over the years when my skin was problematic and red and angry, make-up was an essential barrier to the world and a weapon to conceal imperfection. Luckily these days make-up is more of a nice addition, rather than a perceived necessity, although realistically I prefer myself when I’m made up. I feel prettier, I feel more self-confident, and I feel like I’ve got my shit together. And although these aren’t necessarily bad outcomes from applying a little mascara, what’s wrong with bare skin?
So lately I’ve been experimenting with going make-up free. It’s certainly a work in progress (I haven’t yet rocked a work meeting without mascara, and a night out bare-faced, feels, well, too bare), but I’m interested in investigating how much of my identity resides in how I look, and how attached I am to looking a certain way.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts! Do you feel comfortable wearing not a stitch of make-up to work, or are you never bare-faced except when sleeping?
So a few weeks ago (time flies!) I visited Rosendal, a tiny little village in the Free State, for the first time. It sits on the edge of the Witteberge, which forms part of the foothills of the Maluti mountains, and is home to many artists and writers.
The Free State has a bleak beauty to it, especially in the freezing winter when it is every shade of dusty brown. The scenery around Rosendal is stunning, and ‘golden hour’ in the Free State is really something else!
We stayed on a farm about 5km from the village, and although it was lovely, I think next time I’d prefer to stay in Rosendal itself. The village lends itself to wandering its wide, dusty streets, having long lunches at its one and only restaurant, and sitting lazily on a patio watching the village’s pack of friendly dogs go past.