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Explorer The Intrepid • Winter 2013

Live the life of Adventure

into the wild


Our Top Parks & Reserves

The Rhino wars Braam Malherbe speaks up

on safari with spud

Traversing the Kruger

NEW endeavours with our Intrepid Contributors

Wilbur Smith His real life exploits & escapades

virginia mckenna

A life of Passion & Compassion

life’s a breach

Chris Fallows and Great whites

trailblazers SA’s first-class hikes

• Ryan Sandes • Chris Moerdyk • Ronnie Muhl


The official Cape Union Mart magazine



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contents 10


Foreword  Andre Labuschaigne, Cape Union Mart CEO


Editor’s Note It need not be your winter of discontent







 COMPETITION Win a trip worth R20 000 with The Intrepid Explorer and !Xaus Lodge

A TIME TO LIVE Celebrated novelist Wilbur Smith relates his real-life travels and adventures


LIFE’S A BREACH Chris Fallows shares his jaw-dropping personal encounters with great white sharks

ON SAFARI WITH SPUD Kruger is bigger than adventure


INTO THE WILD Scott Ramsay’s top 10 national parks and reserves




The biggest fish in the sea captivates Graham Howe




Roy Watts describes how Born Free’s Virginia McKenna got the lion’s share




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BONELLO Justin tells us how it all began

C on ten ts


A WHOLE ‘OTTER FUN Evan Haussmann gears you up for a no-fuss Otter Trail adventure

54 66


62 THE RHINO WARS Braam Malherbe searches for sustainable solutions


The Ultimate Braai Master judges share their favourite outdoor recipes


LIVING ON THE EDGE Ain’t no mountain high enough for Rachel Colenso





TRAILBLAZERS Fiona McIntosh walks us through her pick of SA’s most adventurous day hikes

News from the outdoors


62 52


TWO TO TANGO Ryan Sandes and Vanessa Haywood – partners in life and sport

HIT THE ROAD, JACK The Big 5 – catch a sighting of the latest motor vehicles


LIFE THROUGH THE LENS In this edition, we feature the photographic masterpieces of Jeremy Jowell





You’re never too old for adventure, says Chris Moerdyk


Goddess Mother of the World enchants Robbie Muhl again and again







Graham Howe’s passport to adventure



THE LAST WORD We get down with 5FM’s DJ Fresh

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Explorer The Intrepid

Live the life of Adventure

Publishing Editor ROBBIE STAMMERS Advertising Sales Director KEITH HILL Art Director STACEY STORBECK NEL Chief Sub-Editor TANIA GRIFFIN Staff Writer and Social Media Liaison SHAN ROUTLEDGE Editorial Contributors Graham Howe, Braam Malherbe, Fiona McIntosh, Ryan Sandes, Scott Ramsay, Evan Haussmann, Chris Moerdyk, John van de Ruit, DJ Fresh, Vanessa Haywood, Roy Watts, Ronnie Muhl, Justin Bonello, Jeremy Jowell Photography Cover – Chris Sanford; Used with permission: Wilbur Smith

foreword Andre Labuschaigne


his latest edition of The Intrepid Explorer hits Cape Union Mart shelves just as South Africa starts the slow journey from winter to spring. This is not to say that the bad weather is behind us, but it does feel as though spring is in sight! I’m trusting that you did not let the cold and wet keep you inside: spending time outdoors in the thick of winter is an invigorating thing!   The hero of this issue is none other than the celebrated Wilbur Smith, a man who has been writing about African adventure for almost 50 years. Millions of readers worldwide have been introduced to the African bush through the pages of a Wilbur Smith novel. It is an honour to feature such an accomplished writer in our humble magazine.   Mr Smith is joined by other new quality contributors including arguably the world’s foremost expert on great white sharks, Chris Fallows, as well as Fiona McIntosh and Scott Ramsay, two of South Africa’s finest outdoor adventure photojournalists (and Cape Union Mart ambassadors).   Lastly, and importantly, August marks Cape Union Mart’s 80th birthday month. Although we’ve been celebrating the entire year, things crescendo in August with our birthday sale. On behalf of our company, I must extend a huge thank-you to all our loyal customers – it is because of you that we have been exploring for eight decades!   Yours in adventure,  

Andre Labuschaigne

Chief Executive Officer Cape Union Mart P.S. Don’t forget to download your digital version of The Intrepid Explorer on the official website:


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Julia Clarence, Graham Howe, Jeremy Jowell, Chris Fallows, Shaen Adey, Matthew Holt, Andrew Brown, Bill Travers, Bryan Adams, James Morgan, Scott Ramsay, Fiona McIntosh, Getty/Gallo Images Back Office Support and Accounts Solutions BOSS (PTY) Ltd Managing Director: Rita Sookdeo Account managers: Lucindi Coetzer, Ohna Nel Cape Union Mart Group Marketing Manager: Evan Torrence Marketing manager: Nick Bennett Printer Creda Communications Distribution Universal Mail Link Special thanks to: Greg James and the entire Sagitta Group team, Sabrina Hill, Jenneth Pillay, Tony Diekmann PUBLISHED BY

Managing Director: Robbie Stammers Physical Address: Block K, Steenberg Office Park 1 Silvermoon Close, Tokai, Cape Town 7945 Telephone: +27 (0) 21 702 7880 Postal Address: PO Box 20, Constantia 7848 Web Address:

No article or any part of any article may be reproduced without the prior written consent of the publisher. The information provided and opinions expressed in this publication are provided in good faith, but do not necessarily represent the opinions of Cape Union Mart (PTY) Ltd, Insights Publishing or the editor. Neither this magazine, the publisher or Cape Union Mart can be held legally liable in any way for damages of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from any facts or information provided or omitted in these pages, or from any statements made or withheld by this publication.

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Our Intrepid Explorer


Fiona McIntosh, a freelance photojournalist and the editor of Nightjar Travel magazine has an enviable life of travelling and adventuring all in the name of work. When not at her desk, she can be found out on Table Mountain hiking, rock climbing or enjoying a sundowner. She’s skied to the North and South Pole, stomped up a few continental peaks and dived the world’s most iconic dive sites. McIntosh is the author of numerous books on the Indian Ocean Islands, hiking, scuba diving, mountain biking and other adventures. Scott Ramsay is a freelance photojournalist focusing on African national parks, nature reserves and conservancies. For the next year, the 37-year-old Capetonian is exploring many of southern Africa’s protected areas as part of his Year in the Wild expedition. His goal? To tell the stories of these sacred spaces, and to inspire others to travel there themselves. “Africa’s biodiversity is in serious trouble, and iconic animals like elephants, lions and rhinos are facing extinction in the wild. Community-based nature tourism is the best chance for Africa to conserve the last of its wild heritage.” Scott is a K-Way sponsored environmentalist. Shan Routledge was born into wanderlust, so it’s hardly surprising she found her way into the travel and adventure industry, interning for The Intrepid Explorer! Shan has worked on the snowy slopes of Aspen, sat on the edge of the world somewhere in Utah, dove in Borneo, hiked volcanos in Indonesia and watched the sunrise from Borobodur. She survived the infamous Laos tubing, swam with elephants, cried in the Killing Fields of Cambodia, island-hopped through Thailand and couch-surfed Europe. She is always looking for the next exciting heart-racing experience so watch this space. Graham Howe is one of South Africa’s most experienced lifestyle journalists; he has contributed hundreds of food, wine and travel features to South African and British publications over the last 25 years. When not exploring the Cape Winelands, this adventurous globetrotter reports on exotic destinations around the world as a travel correspondent – and for the weekly travel show on SAfm.


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Roy Watts is one of South Africa’s top adventure and travel writers – always seeking the ultimate sunset, the definitive bush experience and the perfect lodge.

Braam Malherbe is an extreme adventurer, conservationist, youth developer, motivational speaker, television presenter and author of the best-seller, The Great Run. He has been involved in counter-poaching operations as an honorary ranger for SANParks, co-founded the Table Mountain National Park’s Volunteer Firefighting Unit, and is actively involved in numerous non-governmental organisations and conservation groups. Malherbe has run the length of the Great Wall of China as well as the entire coastline of South Africa, and has taken part in an unassisted ski race to the South Pole. Ronnie Muhl is the  managing director for Adventures Global. He is an athlete, adventurer, author and inspirational speaker who hold talks both locally and internationally. In recent years, Muhl has climbed Mount Everest thrice, twice leading international teams to the Roof of the World. In 2007, he became the seventh South African to summit via the northeast ridge. Ronnie is a K-Way sponsored athlete.

Ryan Sandes is a South African trail runner. In 2010, he became the first competitor to win all four of the 4 Deserts races, each a six- to seven-day, 250-kilometre, self-supported footrace through the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara Desert in Egypt, and Antarctica.In addition to trail running, he is an active mountain biker, paddler and surfer. Evan Haussmann is an award-winning copywriter, travel writer, gear blogger and consumate photographer. In his career he’s searched for lost tribes in the Amazon, sailed a leaky dhow through the Querimbas, ridden dogsleds in the Arctic circle, hitched a ride on a Harley around Australia and sought the source of the Zambezi. He lives in Kommetjie but can’t think of anything else to write about himself right now because the surf is perfect and there’s nobody else in the water... Justin Bonello is a South African filmmaker, chef and television personality best known for starring in his own cooking and travel show, Cooked, since 2006 and more recently the popular show, The Ultimate Braai Master. He has combined his three favourite things – southern Africa, food and friends – into his daily work.

Chris Moerdyk is chairperson of two media companies and former head of strategic planning at BMW SA. He loves fast cars, motorbikes and going off-road in the bush. He is currently on a mission to prove that in spite of just turning 70, he can still do what he did at 35.

Vanessa Haywood is the lead actress from Oscar-nominated District 9, Survivor contestant, radio and television personality, as well as an avid cyclist. She now spends most of her time involved with cycling and sporting foundations – twotime ABSA Cape Epic finisher and a JAG Foundation ambassador. She is also the founder of “Vanessa and Friends”, which manages social rides on- and off-road and hopes to launch ladies’ mountain bike clinics later this year.

John van de Ruit is the author of the highly successful Spud series of novels, of which more than half a million copies have been sold in South Africa alone. They’re laugh-out-loud tales of life at boarding school, told through the diary entries of John “Spud” Milton. Spud, the first in the series, broke all sales records for a debut novel in South Africa. Van de Ruit is now The Intrepid Explorer’s very own ‘Bill Bryson of the Bush’, whereby he takes us on wily adventures visiting some of the finest bush lodges that southern Africa has to offer.

Jeremy Jowell is an award-winning travel writer and photographer who has travelled extensively around the world. But it’s Africa that holds the biggest appeal. Some of his most memorable adventures include hiking up volcanoes in Cape Verde Islands, tagging turtles in Aldabra and being detained by police while waiting in a queue for a ferry to cross the Gambia River. Back home in Cape Town he climbs Lion’s Head twice a week before sunrise and is soon to take part in his 20th Argus Cycle Tour.

editor’s note

It need not be your winter of discontent


ndrew Wyeth said, “I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.” While I can agree somewhat with the above quote by the American artist, I’ve always been more of a summer child and am more partial to the words of author Robert Byrne, who said: “Winter is nature’s way of saying, ‘Up yours’.” Though many of us spend wintertime dreaming of a sunny beach escape, some travellers have discovered there’s only one real secret to enjoying the chillier season: getting out in the cold and embracing it. Sure, braving the icy wind and the loss of feeling in your ears and nose requires a little gumption (and a lot of layers), but for those of you willing to try it, winter outdoor adventures offer some truly unique opportunities for communing with nature. Those of you who are lucky enough to head across the seas and experience snow sports on alpine slopes (like Chris Moerdyk, see page 60); dog-sled through rough terrain or go penguinspotting in Antarctica, will naturally love the wintertime – but I’m talking about us lowly ones left behind who also require our dose of adrenalin. So this season I’ve left the hot-water bottle at home and ventured forth – to my amazement, I’ve actually come to enjoy the winter outdoors. On a simple hike, for example, you won’t bump into a horde of other weekenders doing their thing, and most busy mountain routes become quiet places of contemplation. There are also so many wonderful places to visit all over our country, where one can enjoy winter weather while still enjoying the surrounds during the day and then grabbing the bunny slippers and a bottle of great merlot and sitting around the fire in the evenings. Why not try Sutherland in the Northern Cape, one of the best places in the world to stargaze? Or the majestic Drakensberg area of KwaZulu-Natal, where the mountains often get snow in the winter months? The South African winter season is one of the best times to view game, when water is scarce in the reserves and animals flock to the waterholes. So I urge you to get out there this cold season, as there’s no reason you – or even a sun worshipper like me – wouldn’t be dazzled by a winter adventure. As someone once said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear!” (and Cape Union Mart takes care of that for you, so no excuses!) Once again, we have been blessed to have some incredible contributors to this winter edition of The Intrepid Explorer. Among our regulars, we had the honour of chatting with Wilbur Smith for our cover feature and welcomed Scott Ramsay, Fiona McIntosh, Chris Moerdyk and Jeremy Jowell into ‘La Familia’. Bringing out each issue of The Intrepid Explorer is like climbing a mountain – a lot of preparation, a lot of pulling together of supplies and provisions (stories and advertisers) into a load you can carry, and then biting off vertical chunks in a series of focused efforts that slowly begin to add up. And always, no matter how methodically we’ve climbed, there’s a final summit push that really tests our endurance and perseverance. We’ve managed now to summit a few impressive peaks and, while there are still many more in front of us to climb, it is good to savour the view and consider our achievement! So until next edition, when we can celebrate the coming of spring, dust off the braai tongs, squeeze our winter belly into a swimming costume and grab an iced Mojito, take care. Live the life of adventure!

Robbie Stammers

Winning letter

Dear Robbie I picked up the new edition of The Intrepid Explorer at Cape Union Mart. As a new and aspiring trail runner, I thoroughly enjoyed the article in this edition of your magazine. I found the article informative and inspiring and was itching to get my shoes on afterward, despite the rain outside! Much of my trail-running experience has been in and around the town of Stellenbosch, mostly within the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve. I strongly recommend this area to any runners in Stellenbosch, as the scenery is beautiful and the trails are excellent and challenging, with a variety from which to choose. The article on the Amazon explorer Davey du Plessis I found interesting and passed on to a friend, as I know we have had a long-standing dream to paddle unaided down the Lugenda River, which runs through the Niassa Province of Mozambique. This area in northern Mozambique is beautifully wild and untouched. After reading the article, I was slightly more nervous about embarking on this adventure, considering the harsh landscape and potential dangers that could be encountered with regard to Renamo taking up arms again. However, this has only slightly dampened our resolve! #KeepExploring Regards, Nic

Editor: Thanks for your great input, Nic, and congrats on winning this edition’s R500 gift voucher! We hope it helps you get some gear for your exciting paddle down the Lugenda River – and let us know how it all turns out!

Congratulations to our winners of the last edition’s competitions! STEVEN VIENINGS wins the incredible trip to Jock Safari Lodge, worth R20 000 PIETER DE VOS & OWETHU NGEMA win signed copies of Kingsley Holgate’s book, Afrika – Dispatches from the Outside Edge ANNE CARRE & MICHELLE ARENZ win copies of Justin Bonello’s Ultimate Braai Master recipe book JACKIE ROMANOV & GRAHAM CUNNINGHAM win copies of the awardwinning All the President’s Elephants DVD

Publishing Editor

Well done to you all!


a trip worth R20 000!

The Intrepid Explorer and !Xaus Lodge have teamed up to offer a prize of 12 nights’ accommodation at this marvellous 4-star lodge.


he prize can be taken in any configuration you prefer, for example: four people for three nights, or six people for two nights. It will include transfer to and from the lodge from the Kamqua picnic site; accommodation, all meals and all activities (including guided walks, game drives, sunset drives, night-sky viewing through telescopes and interaction with the local Bushman community). Excluded from the prize value is transport to Kamqua picnic site, SANParks fees, bar bill and gratuities. The winner must book and use the prize before end May 2014. You travel over 90 red sand dunes to get to !Xaus Lodge, which is perched on the 91st dune, overlooking a large saltpan. Situated in the southwestern corner of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the four-star !Xaus Lodge (pronounced ‘kaus’) is a place to experience the Kalahari, and not merely observe it from inside a motorcar. Individual chalets, linked by boardwalks, provide cosy en-suite accommodation and viewing. Your day starts with an optional early-morning walk through the dunes with the local Bushman trackers, ‘reading the newspaper in the sand’. This is where you will learn about the small things, tracks and desert plants that are as much part of the ecosystem as the large animals that live in the Kalahari. Afternoon and night game drives provide an opportunity to spot animals such as the Kalahari’s famous black-maned lion,


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gemsbok or eland. With no close towns, !Xaus Lodge is perfect for stargazing, and the Milky Way cuts a swath through the blackness of the Kalahari night. !Xaus (meaning ‘heart’ in the local Nama language) offers a welcome opportunity for guests to unwind from their busy lives, and truly relax. Reality TV plays out at the flood-lit waterhole at night and the lapa fire serves as your very own Bush TV.  All meals and activities are provided by the local Mier and Khomani San community staff, who own the Fair Tradeaccredited !Xaus Lodge. Under the guidance of management operators, !Xaus Lodge offers a memorable and relaxing way to visit the heart of the Kalahari. To enter, all you need to do is answer this simple question and send it along with your personal details and contact number to The Intrepid Explorer editor at, with the subject line: !Xaus Lodge competition. The competition closes on 30 September 2013 and the winner will be contacted by the editor. Good luck!  

Question: What does !Xaus mean in the local Nama language?

For more information on the lodge, telephone 021 701 7860, email or visit

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The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

Wilbur Sm ith

live life is a holiday all the time

A time to

Robbie Stammers had an intimate chat with one of the world’s most

celebrated novelists, Wilbur Smith. This was not to talk about his books

or characters, however, but about his own real-life travels and adventures.


ewind all the way back to 1998. I was still wet behind the ears and was nervous as all hell when I was given the opportunity to interview my first ‘Big Fish’. It was none other than Wilbur Smith, the writer who inspired and created the Courtney family sagas and whose global book sales back then, if piled on top of one another, would reach beyond the top of Table Mountain – so I had read! Quite a daunting task, but off I went – stomach butterflies and all – to meet

Smith at his home in one of Cape Town’s most upmarket leafy suburbs in the shadow of the very same mountain. As it turns out, I’d had nothing to worry about. An hour and a half later, there I sat smiling in the most splendid ‘man cave’ of a study I have yet to see matched, while Smith spoke animatedly and flipped through albums of his photos of intrepid fishing trips from all over the world; African safaris, riding camels through Egypt, and a host of places and pursuits that seemed almost otherworldly to me. I remember the interview so fondly

and recall how it made a long-lasting impression on me as a young, budding writer. And I still want that study… Now fast-forward to 2013. It was with a bit of trepidation and excitement that I contacted Smith 15 years later to ask if he would consider doing an interview with me for the cover of my now very own magazine, aptly titled The Intrepid Explorer. I recounted the time we had met so long ago and, to my amazement, he remembered it well and was more than happy to oblige. These are the questions I put to him.

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Wilbur Sm ith What are some of your earliest and fondest memories growing up in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia? Well, the earliest memory I have is hearing the beating of the drums at night. Once the sun had set, the drums in the nearby village would start their rhythm, followed by melodic singing. I remember as a child of five or six years of age, lying in bed and listening to those wonderful sounds. The other strong memory has to do with my father, who was an avid hunter. Every year he would plan a safari and take the whole family with him. It was in winter because it was much too hot in summer. We used to go down the Luangwa Valley and the northern part of Zambia up along the Lualaba River, where we would spend a month to six weeks in the bush. We had an elaborate camp setup. Those were some of the best experiences of my life.


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Can you tell us about the time you as a young lad apparently got lost in the bush for a number of days while chasing a kudu bull? (Chuckles) That was out of Mazabuka in Zambia. My dad had a cattle-farming ranch there. Whenever I had a chance, I would borrow his old Willys MB army jeep, even though I was only 13 or 14 years of age. I would go off with my pal, Alwyn Botha, and we would go hunting and camping in the bush and spend our time together on the weekends. This one particular time we had heard about a legendary kudu bull that lived in the mountains on the other side of the river. We went down with the jeep as far as the river, left it there and then took to foot. Sure enough, after about an hour or two of walking, we picked up the spoor of a big kudu and we started following it. We came upon the bull; he was on the

opposite side of the valley about 400 or 500 yards away and we could see that he had this really incredibly big set of horns. I remember we ran after him and tracked him until it was dark. I then said to Alwyn, “Okay, we need to call it a day – so now where is the car, do you think?” We pointed in different directions! So it was no surprise we slept that night in the bush, with no food or water. The next day we made our plan to try and backtrack, but we had lost our own spoor. Toward the afternoon of the second day, we heard an aircraft going overhead and I instinctively knew it was my dad looking for us. He flew right over our heads, while we urgently waved and screamed – but still he did not see us. We literally felt like we were dying of thirst at that stage, but we then found a lot of spoor going in one direction, which we hoped was in the direction of water. We tracked the spoor and, sure enough, it was a waterhole. The problem was that the elephants had been in it that night. Now elephants have this thing they do when they are in the water: they go and stand in the middle of the waterhole and urinate. So it was not really water – rather, 50% elephant pee. I need to tell you that it is really strong stuff and you have to be really, really desperate to drink it! Sadly, we were that desperate (laughs). The following day we still had no idea where we were, when we heard the aircraft coming again. We took off our shirts and everything else that we could wave and we ran out to a little vlei and waved madly. Then the old man saw us. He gesticulated from the cockpit with a wave that I could tell sternly meant: ‘Stay where you are!’ About four or five hours later, he arrived again. He was furious, as he had thought he had lost us forever. Whenever my father was cross, he would take the belt out from his pants and give me a good thrashing. So I got a damn good hiding on top of almost dying of thirst in the bush.

© Bentley Archive/ Getty Images/ Gallo Images

Wilbur Smith’s first, dynamic best-selling novel, When The Lion Feeds, was an epic of the early days of South Africa

That is true, but we also used to go down to the Durban coast for Christmas. We would take the train down from Zambia and stay at the Imperial Hotel on the beachfront in Durban. I remember that clearly. We would spend most of our time fishing on the beaches of Natal. Apparently there was another intrepid adventure you undertook as a young student, when you hitchhiked all the way across the Namib Desert to Walvis Bay and then spent some time working on a fishing trawler? Yes, that is true. It was the long holiday from Rhodes University, six weeks or two months after Christmas time. A pal of mine and I decided that we would hitch from Grahamstown up to Walvis Bay. That took us a couple of days. When we got to Walvis Bay, we spent two days walking up and down the docks, asking for work. We wanted a job on one of the pilchard boats and, naturally, the

first thing all the skippers asked was what experience we had. When we answered that we had none, they all just declined our services. Someone finally took pity on us and accepted us on a trawler called The Kingfisher. I still remember, as it was an unusual name for a sea-faring vessel. The captain took us for five weeks and it was on a ‘commission-only’ basis. The boat caught a lot of fish and once we got into the swing of things, I did really well. At the end of the six weeks on this boat, I had earned about 450 pounds, which enabled me to buy a Model T Ford. I returned to varsity with money in my pocket and a car to boot! Superb! I have heard it is really hard work on those trawlers. I lost just about all the flesh on my hands because the net was like barbed wire and one had to handle it the whole time. I became an indispensable member of the crew because when the trawl came up onto the deck, they had to put the troth right through all the rings, which were connected to the bottom of the net in the water. So if those rings separated, the net

rung in all directions. I was the only one on the boat who had a hand small enough to go through the rings. They had a long stick, and they used to push the troth through all the rings together. I put my hand through on the first time we were out there and I pulled the troth through. The trawler fishermen were all very impressed – and I was none the wiser. After I had been on the boat for about three weeks, however, we all went up to the pub in Walvis Bay and drank copious amounts of beer. The captain got bombed out of his mind and pulled me over to say, “Oh Wilbur, you are a nice guy, so I am going to tell you something: if the troth breaks when your arm is in the rings, it is going to be sliced bread!” So when we were back at sea and the troth came up, he said to me: “Come, Wilbur, put your arm through here!” I told him there was no way that was going to happen again!

Wilbur Sm ith

I was going to ask where you and your family spent holidays during your time in Zambia, but I think you might have answered this in the first question?

I remember you told me years ago that you have fished in some of the most remote places in the world. What have been some of the most fantastic excursions you have been on?

From left to right: Wilbur with his record 1 012-pound black marlin; salmon-fishing in Iceland; catches on the Bonaventure River in Canada; his catch at the Test River in Kimbrige, Hampshire even had the owner saying, “Never seen such a big fish from my own river!

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Wilbur Sm ith Wilbur in his wonderful ‘man cave’ study in Cape Town

done many camel rides along the length of the Nile River. I therefore don’t even know if this is a relevant question, but are there any places still on your bucket list?

What have been the biggest sea fish and freshwater fish you have caught?

And of the many places you have visited, which are the ones that really stand out as your favourite destinations?

The biggest freshwater fish I have caught was in Africa. Lake Victoria, of course. It was a mild perch and I think that was about 40 kilogrammes. The biggest reel freshwater fish I have caught was a salmon of 30 pounds – that was quite exceptional. The biggest seawater fish I have caught was a black marlin. It was on 17 November 1981 and the weight was 1 012 pounds. That was off Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. According to statistics, to date only 577 fish over a thousand pounds have been caught worldwide – so my thousand-pound fish is right up there! You have had your own island in the Seychelles and I recall reading you have


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

I have been extremely fortunate in my life and my circumstances. I also have time in between books, so any place I’ve wanted to get to, I’ve just gone to visit. I don’t have a bucket list – I just do it. There are no other places I want to visit to which I have not been.

Obviously, Africa is my continent so I love it there. I love Egypt because I have spent a lot of time there researching my books and I have spent time in Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia and Botswana, where I have been on safari. I had a game farm in the Karoo, which was very special. Cape Town is also still one of the greatest places to be. Outside of Africa, I actually am very fond of India. I have been invited to go to India a number of times because, strangely enough, my books sell very well in India. One does not think about it, but most Indians have English as a second language, so I have hundreds of thousands of Indian readers; when I go

there and say hello to them, it is always great fun. So you still frequent the African bush? Do you have any particular destination you like to visit? I particularly like Botswana. I gave up game hunting quite a few years ago; I suddenly discovered that a buffalo could run faster than me, and decided to give it up before the buffalo proved it to me. Botswana is really the best place in the bush where I like to be. I have also spent time in Tanzania. I remember one of my last safaris up there was in the lofty Ngozi Mountains, which is right up in the clouds. That was a hairy one: the terrain is so steep, that you are either going up a mountain that is almost 90 degrees or going down at 90 degrees. It was one of those rough safaris on which I did not shave for two weeks and did not have enough food – but had an incredible time. With your heart still firmly with our continent, what are your thoughts on the plight of the rhino and the poaching thereof? That is a very sad story, indeed. There are a lot of very devoted people trying to save

© Gallo Images/ You/Jacques Stander

I have been to more than half a dozen rivers in Russia and have fished for salmon there. I have fished on the Varzuga and the Ponoi rivers, with loads of spectacular salmon catches. Norway is another wonderful place to fly and I have had some amazing fish there. I have been to Iceland and to Canada regularly. Nowadays I only fly-fish as opposed to any other type of fishing, and soon I am going back to Iceland to fish on two rivers there.

other places I want to visit to which I have not been.

the rhino and I am afraid I think it is going to be an uphill battle. Even though there are huge amounts of money and effort being put into conservation areas to try and eradicate the problem, the Vietnamese and the Chinese have decided rhino horn is an elixir of life. That means they will pay exorbitant amounts of money to get horns over there. You then have the local people living in the areas where they can get at the rhino and many of them are under the breadline, so they will take any risks to get it. It is a hard war to win. Even the solar-powered fences that have been erected at certain places – at the cost of R25 000 per kilometre to install – merely get cut through. You have very dedicated game guards and game staff who go in there and take their life in their hands to save the rhino, but the poachers are absolutely ruthless and have even made revenge attacks. In some circumstances, where a poacher has been caught, the poaching cartel knows who the game rangers are and they then attack them and their families. It is a very unpleasant situation. I do not know what the solution is going be.

Wilbur Sm ith

I don’t have a bucket list – I just do it. There are no

Mr and Mrs Smith on safari

go to Paris. But London is such a fascinating city that we are quite happy to just float around there. Do you still have your house here? Do you spend some time of the year in Cape Town?

The last thing I’m going to write in my life is when they put me in the box and take me down to the cemetery; the lid of the box will open and out will come my hand holding a pen, and I will write on the side of the coffin: ‘The End’.

Do you still enjoy a lekker braai? Absolutely! For the last couple of years, in particular, I have been on the Tim Noakes high protein diet, so I eat meat all the time. If you show me bread, pasta or rice, I say ‘No, thank you very much – just give me a nice steak or nice piece of sausage’. Actually, I am the Great Britain Champion Braaier. I don’t know how I got the title. I think I gave it to myself! Where do you and your wife like to holiday as a couple? Are there any particular destinations? Our life is a holiday all the time because even when I’m writing a book, we can slip off and nip across to Russia, Canada or Iceland for a bit of fishing, but we like to

Yes, we certainly do. We still have the same house where you visited me in my study. We follow the sun; we are migratory birds – when the sun is shining in Cape Town, that’s where we are, and when the sun is shining in London that’s where we are. We fly backwards and forwards. You recently signed a six-book deal with Harper Collins, so it seems Wilbur Smith has no plans to slow down anytime soon? I have thought about it, but as I said to my wife: “You know, sometime I will retire.” And she said, “That’s great, but how do you see yourself now?” I said, “Well, I see myself as a novelist.” Her retort was: “So what are you going to do when you are retired?” – and I could see her point.

Lastly, any words of advice or encouragement for our readers who want to lead the life you have – the life of the Intrepid Explorer? Yes. I will give two bits of advice. The first is: make your money first and then you can afford to be an Intrepid Explorer because no one is going to pay you for being one. My second bit of advice: don’t forget the toilet paper when you go exploring! Thank you so much. That was a wonderful interview and I really am grateful for the time. It was lovely talking to you again. We should do it more often than every 15 or more years.

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3



The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

Ch r is Fa llows

breach life’s a

...and then you fly!

Chris Fallows is an expert on the great white

shark and its hunting habits. He has amassed the largest database of predatory events in False Bay involving these sharks and was the first member of the scientific community to observe their breaching behaviour. Robbie Stammers joined Chris out at sea to view these magnificent beauties up close and personal.


s we cut our way through the surf on our way to Seal Island, I ask Chris how it all began. “My fascination with large predatory animals started at a very young age, as I grew up always in game parks with my dad (who was a wildlife photographer), watching and learning about the ways of Africa and hoping that someday I could take photos as spectacular as his,” he recalls. After moving to the coast in his early teens, Chris turned his fascination from land predators to marine life. “At first I spent my time tagging smaller sharks and taking photos of them. Slowly, the sharks got bigger, until one day I free-tagged a great white shark off one of our beaches. This began my fascination with these amazing animals – the ultimate predators – which made me want to study them more,” he explains. His endeavours caught the attention of local beach net fishermen and, with their ultimate co-operation, saw him tagging, documenting and releasing more than 15 000 sharks and rays over the next number of years. The great white, though, was the one shark that really entranced Chris. Seal Island was an area close to home and was rumoured to be infested with these sharks, although people had only seen glimpses of them. No one had ever made an effort to go and explore the area to see if the legendary fish were actually there.

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


C h r is Fa llows The living torpedo is captured by Chris as it breaches with the seal decoy in its jaws.

“In 1995, as a crazy young guy with nothing to lose, I broke the rules by taking my small 10-foot inflatable raft five miles offshore to Seal Island to look for the infamous great white sharks,” Chris says, smiling. Since he did not have any bait with which to attract the shark, he came up with the idea of towing a life jacket behind the boat. The result was spectacular, to say the least, with a three-metre great white blasting out of the water with the jacket in its jaws. When it spat out the jacket, he tried the trick again, and not more than 30 seconds later he got the same result – although this time a far bigger shark had latched on, showing more interest in Chris’ inflatable raft than in the life jacket. “I left Seal Island exhilarated. My dream to see the lord of the ocean had come true. To work with and photograph this animal was my calling in life,” he says proudly. With the seed firmly planted, Chris and a partner formed African Shark Eco-Charters and started their operation with a small 18-foot boat that mostly took overseas backpackers to Seal Island. In the meantime, he started saving up for a good camera. In 1997, two years after first witnessing the incredible sight of the great white bolting out the water, Chris finally got his virgin breaching shot. It went global quickly, hitting the headlines of National Geographic, the BBC, CBS and a host of newspaper front pages from Cape Town to New York. It turned out to be a life-changing year


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

in more ways than one, as Chris met Monique le Sueur who, at the time, was a top tennis player ranked in the top 500 in the world. “Monique also loves the outdoors, and a relationship developed around our mutual interests,” Chris says. “Together we started going to the bush and taking photographs and she quickly fell in love with all nature had to offer. As well as loving nature, she is a good photographer with an eye for perfection; together with my nature of taking risks, we quickly formed a formidable team.” The couple decided to become full-time wildlife photographers, specialising in jumping great white shark images – knowing that if they got it right (bearing in mind the notoriety of the great white), their photographs would probably

become among the most sought-after wildlife shots in the world. By now they were using their special, extremely life-like seal decoy made out of a black carpet-like material. And in May 2000, it finally happened! The shot that epitomised most people’s idea of a shark was captured as a big great white blasted out of the water. That one, heart-stopping moment was captured on film and struck the imagination of all those who saw it. After Chris and Monique showed their photos to Discovery Channel, the company sent down its top crew to produce Air Jaws, a two-month documentary that became the longest in the channel’s history. Following the Air Jaws feature, the floodgates opened and Apex Shark Expeditions became the first choice for

“My dream to see the lord of the ocean had come true. To work with and photograph this animal was my calling in life” many of the world’s top wildlife photographers and film crews. Chris has now been featured on BBC’s Planet Earth; Discovery Channel’s Air Jaws 1 and 2, Ultimate Air Jaws and Air Jaws Apocalypse; various National Geographic shows; 60 Minutes, and nearly 40 other documentaries have all been exclusively or in part facilitated by Apex. In between Chris recounting his amazing life story to date, I was absolutely astounded by a horde of different great

whites that kept coming right up to the boat, and the screams of both delight and terror from the shark cage were infectious. At one stage, a great white’s head came right out of the water, trying to snap at a bird resting quietly on the water right next to us. “That is huge!” I cried out in utter amazement, only to be told that it was a young female of about 4m and that they can get much bigger than that. Some have been reported at over 6m in size. Tearing my eyes away from the

beautiful beasts circling our boat, I ask Chris to tell me more about the fish he has come to know so well. “Back in 1991, it was a momentous time for great white sharks in South Africa and, for that matter, all around the world. It was the first time any country had had the foresight to take steps to protect these magnificent predators, knowing the importance they played in the ecosystem. Since 1991, the popularity of this species as a tourist attraction has ballooned

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


Ch r is Fa llows Above: Chris goes paddle boarding, moving within close range of the predators in an attempt to dispel the theory that they pose a threat to humans. Right: Monique and Chris Fallows

beyond anyone’s imagination: today upward of 50 000 people come to South Africa to see these animals alive in the wild,” Chris notes. “Year on year this figure grows, and this form of ecotourism represents a industry worth hundreds of millions of rands – not only in ticket sales, but also to airlines, accommodation, restaurants, car hire and transfer companies, curio suppliers and other tourism establishments that tourists visit after seeing the great white. Combined, these micro industries have created a small economy around this one animal, and today it is one of South Africa’s unique attractions.” He rightly argues that it is crucial to protect the golden goose – the great white shark – and that this would surely be a priority of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (formerly Marine and Coastal Management). However, although grand websites and articles suggest the South African government is a leader in shark conservation, Chris says this is definitely not the case and illegal fishery


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has continued for over 20 years since the great white was protected. “Amazingly, some anglers proudly brag on their blogs of catching 10 or more great whites. This illegal fishing takes place right out in the open, off very popular beaches, often with big baits being cast right among bathers – and even here it can’t be policed. What chance, then, is there of stopping the illegal poaching of white sharks, which is said to take place in the Dyer Island channel at night or from False Bay’s known white shark locations, for the jaws and fins that are exported as part of illegal abalone shipments?” Chris alarmingly points out. “South Africa’s great white shark is the centre jewel in the crown of successful marine ecotourism stories but, sadly, for how much longer remains to be seen. Unless there is a major shake-up and wake-up among those tasked with managing, enforcing and protecting this valuable and environmentally important resource, South Africa will be yet another country on the ‘once had’ list of those that now have none.”

After witnessing these spectacular creatures myself, I could not agree more. It truly is a sight to behold. It is the hope of Chris and Monique to inspire others to respect the great white shark, while helping people realise that everyone can achieve success if they are simply willing to set their mind on their goal and pursue their dreams to the fullest. We leave Seal Island behind us and head back toward False Bay, where we soon come across a small sardine run and about a thousand dolphins lining both sides of the boat, jumping high into the air and all within touching distance. What a place to call your office! For more information and to experience this adventure yourself, visit

Whether you're simply looking to keep in contact with your friends driving through the Kruger Park, or you need a complex multi-site communications network for a gold mine in the Congo, LA Radio has the experience and expertise to provide the perfect solution

Tel: +27 11 346 1310 • Fax: +27 86 267 4851 • E-mail:

On s a f a r i w ith Spud


than adventure John van de Ruit traverses Kruger, south to north, enjoying some memorable game viewing


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

We were under the gun alright, no question about it. A mere five days after mastering wrong-sided driving road-tripping through South Carolina and Georgia in the States, Jules and I found ourselves in a helter-skelter race to reach the Malelane Gate at the southern foot of the Kruger National Park by no later than 17h10.

On s a f a r i w ith S pud

The luxurious Jock Safari Lodge from the riverbed


eading east from Johannesburg on the busy N4, Jules, myself, our map, Jules’ Google Maps and our GPS (which sounded like Margaret Thatcher) were all in happy agreement that we would reach our destination well within time. Unfortunately, three untimely stop-and-go’s near a place called Bambi cost us heavily. Margaret Thatcher was the first to raise the alarm that we were off the pace. In panic I spilt coffee all over the map and Jules’ Google Maps immediately recalculated itself to death. Thankfully, the British prime minister saw us across the bridge of the Crocodile River and up to the Malelane Gate just in time as the light began to fade. “Eight nights in the park?” questioned the guard after studying my booking slip. “Traversing Kruger from south to north,” I declared boldly. The guard studied my appearance briefly; the coffee-stained shirt and mad-hair-just-released-from-cap look obviously didn’t impress him. He slid a map before my face. “Kruger is a big place,” he said. “Bigger than Holland.” I nodded and pretended to be surprised – which I wasn’t. Greyville Racecourse is bigger than Holland. The boom flew up and we entered the park with the unclicking of seat belts and opening of windows. Around the first bend, an elephant stood in the road, ears flapping gently, its trunk smelling in our direction. There was no malice in him, but rather he stood as a fair yet firm warning

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


©Julia Clarence

On s a f a r i w ith Spud

I bolted back my coffee, scalded my mouth and lurched down into the riverbank. (As a general note, riverbanks in Kruger are definitely not suitable places to lag behind.)


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

that we were entering another world where humans mattered little if at all. Leaving Berg en Dal the following morning, well fed and rested, we headed north along the H3 toward Skukuza. North of Afsaal we veered off left along a dust road to Jock of the Bushveld, the oldest concession in Kruger with a main lodge, a smaller private lodge and the newly established Explorer Camp. After parking our car at the main lodge, Jock manager Louis drove us out west toward the Explorer Camp situated on the Biyamiti River, some 20 kilometres from the lodge. We walked the final stretch up the mostly dry riverbed and were welcomed to camp by the happy and attentive staff, who carried away our day packs and replaced them with cold refreshment. The tents have a modest yet luxurious feel to them, with a cunning eco-friendly toilet and a bucket shower that can be filled with hot water on demand. We were told that a reclusive writer had taken up residence in a far tent the previous day and that we would be meeting him for the afternoon walk with our armed rangers. Louis hadn’t said much more about this mysterious writer, other than he only drank grape juice and wrote during the heat of the day. My curiosity was piqued. It’s very rarely that one finds two writers in the same place in South Africa, unless it’s at a literary festival – or in court. At 15h00, the grape juice-drinking reclusive writer was revealed as David Batzofin – bloggist, broadcaster and man about town. David had interviewed me on various Spud publicity tours for his radio show. Our loud backslapping and reminders of when we had last met were cut short by our rangers, who indicated their readiness to leave camp. I bolted back my coffee, scalded my mouth and lurched down into the riverbank. (As a general note, riverbanks in Kruger are definitely not suitable places to lag behind.) The centrepiece of the Explorer Camp

is the open fireside boma where we gathered at night to eat, drink, stargaze and share surprising and terrifying bush stories. We marvelled at how small we all felt out in the bush under an electric sky. “Bigger than Wales,” added Louis, indicating wild Kruger behind him. The Explorer chef Sam assembled a carnivore’s fantasy dinner, with each potjie revealing yet another culinary delight. The night passed all too quickly and we headed back to our tents to prepare for our early morning walk. Before turning in, a terrible gargling and grating noise could be heard from the opposite end of the camp, which I naturally assumed was David brushing his teeth, but it turned out to be a male leopard establishing his rightful ownership of the land. The small portable electric fence around the camp which is erected at night felt ridiculously inadequate, so I zipped up the tent tightly and leapt into bed where soft pillows and a hot-water bottle awaited. It’s what one may call ‘civilised camping’. A marvellous morning walk reminded me of some of the benefits of hiking through great game reserves. Your senses are aroused; the sounds and smells are part of the joy. The thrill of finding lion prints in the dust where you now stand. And where else can one get the unmatchable prolonged satisfaction of removing blackjacks from the lining


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

of your socks for the next three hours? The Jock main lodge is a fantastic place to stay. Our suite felt more like a private villa with its own plunge pool, deck and sala, a thatched lookout area over the Biyamiti with a mattress, pillows and writing desk. If Sir Percy Fitzpatrick still lived today, this is how he would have done it.

behind us, we drove north into the heart of the park to Tamboti bush camp a few kilometres from the Orpen Gate. That evening, huddled around the fire clutching glasses of red wine, we heard a commotion under our bungalow. The distinct sound of scavenging grew closer and a long sinuous black-and-silver body exploded out into the torchlight.

A marvellous morning walk reminded me of some of the benefits of hiking through great game reserves. Your senses are aroused; the sounds

and smells are part of the joy. Over the course of our four game drives, there were some memorable sightings. A male lion loped along a road for over a kilometre, while he relentlessly marked his territory by spraying and rubbing his hindquarters on small shrubs rather suggestively. A cheetah, with her three cubs balanced precariously on an old branch beside the road, brought some high comedy and splendid pictures for the clicking and beeping cameras. Leaving an excellent three days at Jock

The honey badger, or ratel, is a fascinating creature: tough, fearless and tenacious, it embodies many of the qualities South Africans hold dear. It’s been known to fight off lions, survive deadly snake bites, and follow honeyguides to beehives. Well, this one did none of these things. Instead, the honey badger ignored us completely, leapt up five steps onto our veranda, upended our bin, opened our cupboards and stood on his hind feet to check what was cooking on the stove. He then trotted

©Julia Clarence

On s a f a r i w ith S pud

John and the rangers taking a break on the walking safari, along with Savannah Strauss, the daughter of camp manager Louis


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On s a f a r i w ith Spud LEFT TO RIGHT: Spud posing: looking out his Jock Safari lodge sala, with an authentic 1820s wagon, and with our The Intrepid Explorer Budget vehicle


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back to camp before the gates closed. Now, any SA National Parks regular will tell you that it’s not only bad form, dangerous and against the rules to saunter back to camp after the closing time. But they will also tell you Murphy’s Bush Law: when you’re running late, that’s when you’re bound to spot the big stuff. Well, Murphy was at work that afternoon near Punda Maria because a hunting leopard materialised in the middle of the road. I shut out the clock and soaked in the live moment of one of Africa’s great cats doing what it was born to do. The light was fading and the leopard crossed back over the road before disappearing into the bushes. Unfortunately, I had to declare solemnly to my partner and my mother that we had cooked the goose as far as getting back to camp was concerned. My mom, ever the optimist, threw about the idea of a 10-minute grace period, which sounded dubious but at least gave us something to fight for. The lights of the camp glimmered on the hill as we hastily approached five large bodies languishing on the road. They say cats can smell desperation on you. Well, these lions could – we were rank with it. The road was blocked and we were already at least nine to 16 minutes late, depending on whose watch or phone you believed. It was growing rapidly dark and the pride was enjoying their lying on the road. I’ve never before cursed lions in a game

reserve; instead, I should have been thanking them. When we finally sidled into camp a full 30 to 37 minutes late, with my rehearsing an impassioned defence to the girls, we found the gate locked and chained. A gate guard strode out of the security hut. Her face broke into a smile and she asked, “Did you see the lions on the road?” I nodded sadly, as if deeply upset about things. “We tried, but couldn’t get past.” With a wave she opened the gates and perhaps wondered why the occupants of our car cheered all the way up the driveway. On the final morning, in the floodravaged Pafuri in the extreme north of the park, we reached an elevated picnic site that looked southward over hundreds of miles of epic wilderness. We had reached the end of another intrepid adventure and we stood there solemnly drinking it in. The Kruger National Park: Bigger than Holland. Bigger than Wales. Bigger than all of us. Follow John van de Ruit on twitter @johnvanderuit With thanks to The Intrepid Explorer Magazine, Shamwari Group and Budget Car Rentals

©Julia Clarence

back down the steps and spent considerable time licking the trunk of a tree, which seemed to be leaking a steady stream of delicious ants. And off he went into the night. It was a delightful and unexpected visitation and a reminder that often it’s the smaller creatures closer to camp that provide even more pleasure than those sleepy lions under a tree. The following morning saw a brief detour to Phalaborwa Airport to pick up my mother, who had flown in to join us for the final leg of our Intrepid Exploring. That afternoon at leafy and languid Letaba Rest Camp, a bushbuck closely observed my unpacking ritual. Despite explaining to the doe in great detail that she was better off outside the camp nibbling on juicy bushes, she nevertheless turned up the next morning to watch me load up the car once more. Northward we travelled, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn and never seeming to reach the end of untouched bush wilderness. The oddly named Punda Maria was our chosen base to explore the north of the park. It’s a small outpost of a camp where communal braai areas attract a broad array of stories and meaty smells. We had our own story to tell when, on a brief afternoon drive, our progress had been halted by a clearly agitated young bull elephant in must. He seemed to take great delight in his longwinded obstruction, resulting in a mad dash

When boo king please quo te Intrepid Explorer 12 3


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conserving a vanishing way of life

Sc ott R a m s a y

into the wild For those of us who crave wilderness and adventure, the national parks and nature reserves are the best parts of our country.

Scott Ramsay uncovers the top 10 national parks and nature reserves in SA


n less than 200 years, humans have transformed more than 90% of South Africa’s land, yet we’re still the world’s third-most biodiverse country on Earth, and our nature reserves and marine protected areas ensure this invaluable asset is protected. We’re very fortunate to have these wild places on our doorstep in our own country, so make the most of them and start exploring. Who knows, you may lose yourself – and then find yourself again.


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

Kruger National Park – Limpopo and Mpumalanga

At more than two million hectares of bushveld, Kruger National Park is South Africa’s single largest protected area. While the park can be very busy during school holidays, particularly in the south, it’s still possible to lose yourself in the north – while more than 50% of the park is designated as wilderness, where human impact is non-existent and only wild animals roam. More than any other protected area, it has inspired countless

Sc ott Ra m s a y generations to love and care for the country’s wildlife, and it’s a living tribute to the epic work of Colonel James StevensonHamilton who, in the early 1900s, was responsible for restoring the park to its natural glory after a century of hunting had

wiped out most of the wildlife. Contact South African National Parks via email:, telephone (012) 428 9111 or visit

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Northern Cape and Botswana

Scott’s top tip

Scott’s top tip

Morning walks are the best way to start any day in Kruger. Experienced armed guides will drive you into a remote area, and then walk for a few hours through the bushveld. The emphasis is mostly on the small creatures that are often missed while in a car, but there’s a good chance of spotting Big 5 animals on foot – an unbeatable experience.

Spread across two national parks in South Africa and Botswana, this The best way to experience the Kgalagadi is cross-border semi-arid conservation simply to watch and listen. Resist the temptation area is larger than most small to drive around all day. Instead, pack food, some countries. Contained within it are drinks and a few books, then head off early to a southern Africa’s last migrating herds waterhole. Then wait and see which animals of springbok as well as hundreds of come to quench their thirst. If you’re in the wildebeest and eland, and large lion Auob River valley, watch out for cheetahs, and cheetah populations. while the Nossob area is famous It’s one of Africa’s last great wilderness for lions. areas, yet visitors can choose from a

variety of comfortable accommodation options. On the Botswana side, several unfenced basic campsites offer an even wilder experience for 4x4ers, where it’s quite possible to wake up to a lion roaring next to your tent. Contact South African National Parks via email:, telephone (012) 428 9111 or visit

Mkambati Nature Reserve, Eastern Cape

Situated on the northern Wild Coast of South Africa, between Port St. Johns and Port Edward, the relatively small 7 000-hectare Mkambati Nature Reserve ranks as one of the most untouched. Few can match it for its sense of paradise: clear rivers, tumbling waterfalls, deep gorges, rolling grasslands, pockets of dense Walk to the so-called ‘SuperBowl’, swamp forest, beautiful secluded beaches and a huge forest surrounded by high crashing waves are the ingredients to a sandstone cliffs. Or go skinny-dipping in superlatively photogenic scene. The adjacent the Mkambati River, where massive Pondoland Marine Protected Area is one of the waterfalls tumble into huge largest in the country, and the focus of the largest rock pools. animal migration on Earth – the annual sardine run. There are no Big 5 animals here, but Mkambati should be on everyone’s list. Contact Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency via e-mail:, telephone (043) 701 9600 or see

Scott’s top tip

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


Sc ott R a m s a y

Scott’s top tip

Hike to the top of Tatasberg, a massive granite pluton. It takes about three hours to walk up, and the views from the top are mind-blowing. Ask the ranger at Tatasberg Wilderness Camp for directions to the start of the hike, and remember to take lots of water, food and sunscreen as well as a hat.

Richtersveld National Park, Northern Cape The Richtersveld National Park is South Africa’s most remote and inaccessible wilderness area, and is a magnet for seasoned 4x4ers and self-sufficient nature lovers who enjoy stark yet stunning landscapes, comprising boulder-strewn mountains and sandy plains, dissected by the cool Orange River. Some of the most diverse desert flora in the world occurs here, uniquely adapted to deal with the searing summer temperatures,

minimal rainfall and cold but clear winters. It is also South Africa’s first national park to be owned by the local community: Nama shepherds and their livestock often move through the park. Contact South African National Parks via email:, telephone (012) 428 9111 or visit

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage Site, KwaZulu-Natal The mountains of uKhahlambaDrakensberg (“uKhahlamba” means ‘Barrier of Spears’ in Zulu, while “Drakensberg” means ‘Dragon Mountains’ in Afrikaans) are a World Heritage Site, covering some of southern Africa’s most demanding terrain and supplying more than 30% of the country’s freshwater. The higher altitudes are accessible to only the most determined and prepared of hikers. It is one of only 28 World Heritage Sites


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of both cultural and natural global significance. The mountains are the repository of Africa’s largest and most well-preserved collection of rock art, some of which dates back 8 000 years, while it’s also an important botanical area with a high proportion of endemic plant species. Contact Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at, telephone (033) 845 1000 or

Scott’s top tip

Visit the numerous rock painting sites that are open to the public. The most impressive is at Kamberg, which can be reached after an hour’s walk up to a rock shelter, while Injisuthi and Giant’s Castle also offer relatively accessible paintings.

Tembe Elephant Park, KwaZulu-Natal One of the least known reserves in the country, Tembe Elephant Park in northern KZN is one of the most rewarding to visit. This 300km² community-owned protected area conserves the last indigenous herds of elephant in this province. Tembe’s elephants have survived man’s

guns and bullets over the last three centuries by retreating into the dense forests, where hunters were too timid to venture. The results are plain to see: in most of Africa, the elephants with the largest tusks have been eliminated by hunters from the gene pool, but the

Sc ott Ra m s a y

Scott’s top tip

The best place to see the legendary giant tuskers of Tembe is at Mahlasela waterhole, a few kilometres northeast of the main gate. It’s one of Africa’s best wildlife-viewing hides.

absence of hunting at Tembe means the elephants have some of the biggest tusks in Africa. Contact Tembe Elephant Park via e-mail:, telephone (031) 267 0144 or go to

iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal

It was Nelson Mandela who said: “iSimangaliso must be the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale)”. It is certainly one of the most naturally diverse protected areas; there are more species of animals to be found at iSimangaliso There’s everything from scuba diving at than any other part of southern Sodwana Bay, to wildlife viewing at Mkhuze Africa, a result of two things: the and fishing at Cape Vidal, but nothing beats tropical climate, and the high watching the rare leatherback and diversity of habitats. loggerhead turtles coming ashore in It’s possible – if you time your December to lay their eggs on visit correctly – to go scuba diving the sandy beaches. among thousands of tropical fish in the

Scott’s top tip

morning at Sodwana Bay, by lunchtime be photographing white rhino at Mkhuze, and that evening be watching rare loggerhead and leatherback turtles laying their precious eggs on the beaches of Kosi Bay. Contact the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority at, telephone (035) 590 1633 or

Scott Ramsay’s Year in the Wild 2013-14 Photojournalist Scott Ramsay’s photos and articles inspire people to travel to southern Africa’s protected areas. “The easiest way to make a contribution to conservation is simply to travel to these wild places because without your tourism revenue, their long-term protection is uncertain.” From July 2013 to October 2014, Scottwill be exploring South Africa’s

nationalparks and nature reserves, as well as thetransfrontier parks. Follow his journey at Partners include Cape Union Mart, K-Way, Ford Everest, Goodyear, Globecomm, Front Runner, Eezi-Awn, Vodacom, South African National Parks, CapeNature, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency, and Birdlife South Africa.

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Sc ott R a m s a y

De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape

Scott’s top tip

One of the most underrated in South Africa, the 36 000ha De Hoop Nature Reserve with its 24 000ha marine protected area offers diverse scenery, and is a critical area for the conservation of several important fauna and flora including lowland fynbos, bontebok and Cape mountain zebra. But De Hoop is most famous for being the best place in the world to watch southern right whales. The sizeable marine protected area, proclaimed in 1985, extends 51km along De Hoop’s shoreline, and three nautical miles out to sea, and helps conserve more than 300 species of fish including great white sharks as well as mammals such as dolphins and other whale species.

Contacts: For Lekkerwater Cottage and the Whale Trail, The Whale Trail is the most famous contact CapeNature on activity at De Hoop but, unlike the Otter telephone (021) 483 0190, Trail, it’s not as tough and there is an option email: reservation.alert@ to have your bags driven between the or visit overnight huts. Make sure you book well in advance for September or October For De Hoop Village, contact De when the whales arrive. Hoop Collection: (021) 422 4522, email or see

Cederberg Wilderness Area, Western Cape

The Cederberg is undoubtedly the most rugged terrain of the Western Cape. The fortress of mountains encircles and protects the core area that covers 72 000ha. Local landowners have joined up with CapeNature to establish neighbouring conservancies, totalling 500 000ha. It’s not just about the scenery. Soaring imperiously above the mountains are more than 50 pairs of Verreaux’s eagles – one of the highest densities in southern Africa. Then Make sure you visit the Wolfberg there’s the Cape leopard, which still roams despite Arch and the Maltese Cross – both centuries of hunting, persecution and habitat loss. The epic rock formations that can be Cape Leopard Trust is one of the country’s most successful reached within a day’s walk. predator study programmes, and has certainly helped save the leopard from local extinction.

Scott’s top tip

Contact CapeNature on telephone (021) 483 0190, email: or visit

Scott’s top tip

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, KwaZulu-Natal

Two of the oldest game reserves in Africa, Hluhluwe and iMfolozi were proclaimed separately in April 1897 and Lasting two to five days, the wilderness trails in amalgamated into one reserve in 1989. Despite being the iMfolozi section are guided by an experienced, relatively small (just 95 000ha) and situated in a highly armed ranger. Be prepared for a life-changing populated rural area, it conserves a diverse and varied adventure; sleeping under the stars, walking landscape and visitors are rewarded with a wild alongside wild animals and listening to lions atmosphere. The wildlife in these different habitats is roar while keeping watch around the abundant, with a higher density than one would expect to campfire will recalibrate your find in Kruger National Park. Most famous of all is the white spiritual compass. rhino, which was saved from extinction in the late 1890s because of the proclamation of iMfolozi Game Reserve. Today, iMfolozi still protects about 10% of the world’s white rhinos, and as well as about 5% of the world’s black rhinos. Contact Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at, telephone (033) 845 1000 or

There are so many spectacular protected areas in the country, that you should also consider exploring the following:

Table Mountain National Park – West Coast National Park – Mapungubwe National Park – Garden Route National Park – Kogelberg Nature Reserve –


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Great Fish Nature Reserve – Addo Elephant National Park – Tankwa Karoo National Park – Golden Gate Highlands National Park – Ndumo Game Reserve –

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

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having a

whale (shark) of a time Graham Howe travelled to Exmouth to swim with the biggest fish in the sea


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Your first instinct when someone yells “Shark!” is to stay out of the water. But when someone spots a whale shark in

©james morgan

Western Australia, you dive in and swim straight toward it.

G r a h a m Howe


drenalin junkies like me travel from all over the world to swim with the biggest fish in the sea. These giant whale sharks come to feed on the rich plankton off the west coast of Australia every April to July. They’re so punctual; it’s like an annual vacation for them. We flew to the remote town of Exmouth, whale shark capital of the world and gateway to Ningaloo Marine Park – a new World Heritage Site declared in 2011 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). These gentle giants are one of the big tourist attractions in Western Australia, along with the loggerhead turtles, dugongs, dolphins, humpbacks, manta rays, orcas and tropical fish that swim along the largest fringing reef in the world. They call it “the reef and ranges”, after the rugged peninsula of Cape Range National Park on the coast. We all had butterflies (and big breakfasts) in our stomachs as we headed offshore with Three Islands Whale Shark Dive, one of the operators that take tourists out there daily in season. First, we did an extensive safety and eco drill before the dive as well as a test paddle among the rainbow fish in the calm waters of the inner reef. The instructor used miniature plastic sharks and diver models in a lesson that took me back to nursery school. So far, so good as we headed for deep, wild waters way offshore. You’re not allowed to swim closer than three metres, block, ride (yep, folks used to) or hug the whale sharks (duh!), and the boats have to keep a 30-metre distance. An endangered species, whale sharks are protected by a strict wildlife code that regulates dive operators in a 250m contact zone. Only 10 divers can be in the water near a whale shark at any time, swimming

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Coming face to face with a whale shark in the water is an electrifying moment, particularly when it has its big one-metre mouth wide open. For one insane moment, I was tempted to kiss those gorgeous giant lips. Fortunately, we humans are not bait in the food chain of these passive prehistoric fish. The whale shark magically appeared out of the dark and then vanished back into the murky depths in seconds. My heart was pounding, my snorkel filling up with salt water, and my legs turning to jelly. Our first magical encounter was over in a few seconds. Breaking the surface, two tourists yelled, “Did you see it?” “Are you kidding me? You didn’t see the

yelled at me for being too close. Mind the giant tail fin! A whole flotilla of pilot fish, tropical fish and reef sharks swam by with the big fish. On several dives, we saw three whale sharks of 5-8m long (weighing up to 11 tonnes!). A full-grown whale shark grows up to 18m. I had been hoping to meet up with ‘Stumpie’, the star of whale sharks, who has a big chunk of tail fin missing and who has shown up regularly at Ningaloo Reef since 1995. But it was his day off. Whale sharks live up to 100 years, but are threatened by Japanese whalers who sell the giant fins as displays at wedding banquets. Now that’s ecoterrorism. Apparently every whale shark has a

Every whale shark has a unique pattern of spots under its gills – and rows of 300 teeth used to strain krill and plankton.

biggest fish in the sea?” Turns out they had been looking the wrong way. Some people… We swam back to the boat and clambered clumsily aboard to wait our next turn. By the second dive, everyone in our novice dive party had had a close encounter with our majestic hosts. Swimming with these gentle giants is an exhilarating, emotional epiphany. Snorkelling on the surface, I watched one of these creatures speckled with hundreds of white spots swim right past me. Wanda

unique pattern of spots under its gills – like a DNA thumbprint. I learnt much about these creatures back on shore over dinner with Brad Norman. The man who heads up the whale shark research programme at Ningaloo Reef – known as the George Clooney of marine biology – was named an “ocean hero” and “emerging explorer” by National Geographic for his work on the big fish. Handsome Brad has adapted innovative Hubble telescope technology to identify and photo-tag 3 000 whale

©james morgan

G r a h a m Howe

in two channels. Now try remembering all that when you’re wildly excited, splashing around in the open sea. Our party of novice divers was led by a shark diver called Wanda, who resembled a mermaid and swam like a fish. The skipper used a plane spotter to find the sharks feeding on the reef. It’s action stations when they do – we got ready to go. Wet suit zipped up, flippers on, sunscreen applied, snorkel and mask donned, your intrepid hero courageously leapt from the safety of the boat into the big swell off the outer reef. (Actually, Wanda gave me a big push from the rear, as I had hesitated on the edge of the boat.)

Swimming with the biggest fish in the sea off the west coast of Australia is an exhilarating experience.


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G r a h a m Howe ©james morgan

Coming face to face with a whale shark in the water is an electrifying moment, - especially when you’re swimming toward that huge wide-open one-metre mouth

sharks. Eco-warriors can adopt a whale shark! Using satellite tracking from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, marine scientists are learning more about these mysterious migratory fish that travel thousands of kilometres around the globe in search of a good feed. Hey, as a travel writer I can relate to that quest. I found out that whale sharks are pretty fussy fish. These ‘filter feeders’ only swim in a band of tropical waters of between 21 and 25°C around the equator from 30° north to 30° south where they feed on

warm, nutrient-rich plankton waters, mate and give birth to live young. You can see them in the Galapagos, the Philippines, Maldives, Mozambique, the Seychelles and Thailand. But Ningaloo is one of the only places where they show up on time and are easily observed in near-shore waters. Whale sharks tend to avoid humans when we cross their radar, by avoiding swimmers, banking away and diving under. They are classified as fish because they don’t need to come to the surface to breathe, but cruise along down under.

They have around 300 rows of tiny teeth. (No, I didn’t have time to count.) They swim past really fast while you’re furiously back-pedalling to get out of their way. They can’t chew or bite, but strain plankton, krill and small fish (not swimmers like me) through the fine mesh in their gills. The first whale shark identified in the world by Dr Andrew Smith was harpooned in Table Bay in 1828. So I kept quiet about being the only visitor from Cape Town.

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G r a h a m Howe The whale shark dive at Exmouth costs A$375 per person (around R3 750) for the day trip. Some 20 000 tourists come to Ningaloo to swim with the whale sharks every season. We celebrated our big swim over a seafood barbecue back at the Ningaloo Resort on the beach in Exmouth, the tourist gateway to the reef. What do you drink to celebrate a day out with Wanda and the big fish? In a thirsty mood, I quaffed a beer named ‘150 Lashes’ after the punishment given to a convict who stole yeast and hops to brew beer illegally in the bad old days. I followed it with a racy maritime Sauvignon Blanc from West Cape Howe in Western Australia, named after Captain Charles Howe Fremantle – my namesake who founded the Swan River Colony in 1829. We spent a day with Ningaloo Safari Tours on a 4x4 tour of the Cape Range National Park on a long peninsula. Dave Mongan, who grew up around here, took us on a wildlife-spotting cruise on his boat up Yardie Creek. We spotted rare blackfooted wallabies sunning in the high red


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canyon caves, flying foxes (fruit bats) in the mangroves, emus, bustards and big red kangaroos bouncing across the range at sunset. Ningaloo Reef is part of the Cape Range National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site renowned for its rich biological diversity. It is also a popular camping oasis for overland backpackers and ‘grey nomads’ who spend months exploring Australia by campervan. I saw bumper stickers with the legend, “Adventure before dementia!” We went drift snorkelling off Turquoise Bay, where we saw brilliant tropical emperor and angel fish. You simply paddle straight off the beach onto the reef. I did spot a reef shark. But over Billy Tea and prawn sandwiches at Osprey Bay, our intrepid guide told me: “No worries, mate. Don’t bother about sharks smaller than you!” Spotting all those fish swimming in the sea whetted an appetite for the amazing range of sustainable fish caught and sold by a legendary local fishmonger, the Flying Fish Service: spangled emperor, crimson snapper, pearl perch, mangrove

jack, coral trout and Exmouth blue swimmer crabs. And here’s a tip in case you ever make it down there: The locals say you get the best fish ‘n’ chips in Australia at Blue Lips Fish & Chips café, and the best pint of beer at Potshot Hotel Resort, a legendary old watering hole. Standing at the lighthouse overlooking the gulf, Mongan spun stories about the fascinating history of Exmouth. Apparently the United States military developed a strategic surveillance post here during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s to monitor submarine movements in the southern hemisphere. We passed canyons in the Cape Range which are still called Shothole and Potshot on the map – after old secret codes. (To tell the truth, at first I thought Shothole was a toilet stop called ‘Shithole’.) We saw a forest of high-frequency aerials on a tour of the old army base with a 10-pin bowling alley, canteen and barracks, abandoned in 1992. Mongan recalled the night when the Pointer Sisters came to Exmouth to entertain the troops, and when a cyclone “cleaned out the place in 1945” – the big blow-down that destroyed all the clapboard homes. Over the centuries, Exmouth has been home to shipwreck survivors, pioneers, sheep ranchers, a whaling station, pearling fleet, and army base bombed by the Japanese in World War 2. Our guide declared enthusiastically, “We’re ready for World War 3 if it ever comes to Exmouth!” These days, the town is a sanctuary for all: the whale sharks, turtles and travellers. The good folks of Exmouth must feel quite safe in this peaceful place miles from anywhere, on the other side of the Indian Ocean.

Graham Howe attended the Australian Tourism Exchange 2012 as a guest of Qantas, Tourism Australia and Tourism Western Australia. Visit, and Also see, and

Roy Watts describes how Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers became involved in wildlife conservation

a life of passion and


Serendipity! The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “occurring by chance in a beneficial way”. We have all had serendipitous moments, when fate has intervened and sent us careening off on a different flight path. For Virginia McKenna and her husband Bill Travers, theirs was the filming of Born Free.

R oy Wa tts


leading British actress at the time, Virginia was propelled into box office demand after she won a BAFTA Award for her performance in A Town Like Alice. She also danced with Yul Brynner in the stage version of The King and I, which earned her a Laurence Olivier Award as the best leading actress in a British Musical. Virginia and Bill had appeared in six films together before they flew to Kenya to co-star in Born Free, a film that was to affect them profoundly and send them off in a completely new direction. Back in the mid-1950s, George Adamson, the senior game warden in Kenya’s Northern Frontier District, was hunting down a male man-eating lion, when his party was charged by an enraged lioness. He had no option but to shoot her and an examination of the carcass revealed that she was with milk. A search ensued and three cubs, barely a few weeks old, were discovered. Adamson loaded them into his truck and drove back to the camp and delivered them into the arms of his wife, Joy. This was the opening act of a story that was to enchant the world when she later recounted the remarkable saga of her life with one of these cubs. It was love at first sight. Joy, passionate about animals and a compulsive nurturer, revelled in the discovery that young lions had individual personalities, boisterous curiosity and great charm as they cavorted around the house like a band of overgrown kittens. As they grew, they exhibited different characteristics. Big One exuded superiority, and was the leader. Lustica, whose name meant ‘the jolly one’, was the court jester who clowned around more than the others. But it was Elsa, the smallest and pluckiest in spirit, who really worked her way into Joy’s life.

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©Bill Travers

ABOVE: George and Christian now settled into the wild

©Bill Travers

LEFT: Virginia and Bill take time out between takes with ‘Girl’

When the cubs had grown to an unmanageable size, the two bigger ones were dispatched to the BlijdorpRotterdam Zoo, a terrific wrench for the Adamsons. As compensation, they kept Elsa, who went on to form a most remarkable bond with Joy. This was a groundbreaking union with levels of affection and familiarity unheard of at the time. Even more amazing was the fact that at the peak of their friendship, when Elsa had completely adapted to a life of domesticity, they were faced with the problem of reintroducing her into the wild. Starting off with no survival skills, they managed to gradually adapt her to coping in the rough and she then led a dual existence between the wilderness and occasional visits to the Adamson home. On one occasion, she disappeared for six weeks and, to the delight of George and Joy, she returned on Christmas Day to introduce them to her three cubs.


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In the void left by Elsa’s departure, Joy sat down with her notes, George’s journals and photographs of Elsa to write Born Free. After several submissions, it was published in 1960 by Harvill Press and was a smash hit, spending 13 weeks at the top of the prestigious The New York Times best-seller list. It sold six million copies in 25 languages and brought instant international celebrity, along with the realisation that lions have unique personalities and a wide range of emotions. Joy spent the rest of her life using the money she received for the book and subsequent television appearances in a campaign to support wild animal welfare. This then was the story that awaited Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers in 1964 when they arrived in Kenya to shoot the film. The producers started filming with circus lions, which proved to be a disaster when one tried to attack Bill as he went into the enclosure for a ‘training’ session.

It was then decided to assemble several lions habituated by George, and from this group three went on to fill the main roles. They were Girl, Boy, Mara and little Elsa. This was not without risk, and Bill and Virginia often walked with the lions in an effort to encourage familiarity. On one occasion, Boy lunged at Virginia, and she broke her ankle as she reeled backward. Despite this, she and Bill really loved working with the animals and the interaction aroused in them the desire to work toward the ongoing survival of these animals. Africa got into their blood, and they fell in love with the adventure and romance inherent in the Kenyan wilderness. Added to this, they became great friends with George and Joy. The combined influence of all these factors set them off on a determined path of wildlife conservation. Bill started his own independent film company, and

Roy Wa tts ©Bill Travers

ABOVE: George and Christian The Lion from London

made many wildlife documentaries, the first of which was The Lions Are Free. This featured George’s rehabilitation work with three of the lions from Born Free which had returned to the wilds. Most of South Africa’s television audience will have seen the dramatic Coronation Fund Managers ‘Trust is Earned’ advertisement, featuring the reunion of a London-born lion cub revisited by his former custodians a few years after his packing crate journey to Kenya. In a remarkable coincidence, Bill was in a furniture shop in Chelsea when the salesmen – Australians Ace Bourke and John Rendall – invited him to take a look at something in the basement. This happened to be Christian, a lion cub they had purchased at a store in Knightsbridge and which was rapidly growing to a size that threatened his future in London. Ace and John agreed to Bill’s suggestion to send Christian to Kenya to be habituated into the wild by George. Bill and George then spent many months getting the necessary permits and searching for the right area to establish a camp. In the process, they filmed the

©columbia pictures

RIGHT: Virginia, George, Bill and Joy between takes

entire conversion saga in Christian: The Lion at World’s End. In addition, it featured marvellous footage of George interacting with all his lions – most notably Boy, the massive warrior he had helped to heal several times after savage attacks by rivals in the wild. The film also dealt with the tragedy facing him when Boy had to be put down after attacking and killing one of the men in his camp. Around this time, Bill and Virginia returned to Kenya to film An Elephant Called Slowly. The baby elephant in the cast was Pole Pole (Swahili for ‘slowly, slowly’), a two-year-old wild calf scheduled to be sent to the London Zoo as a gift from the Kenyan Government. It was loaned to them for the duration of the shoot, after which she was destined to be dispatched to Britain. After filming was completed, Bill and

Virginia approached the authorities with a view to buying Pole Pole for presentation to their acquaintances, the Sheldricks: David was the senior game warden in Tsavo and Daphne took care of the orphaned animals. The government agreed, on condition Pole Pole were substituted with another youngster from the wild. This was completely unacceptable, as they did not want to put another baby elephant through the trauma of capture and habituation, so the unfortunate elephant was packed off to Britain. Thirteen years later, Daphne heard that the zoo people were thinking of putting Pole Pole down, as she was becoming unmanageable. Bill and Virginia immediately went to visit her. Now a young adult, there was instant recognition and a show of great excitement to see them again.

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©Andrew Brown

R oy Wa tts Bill and Virginia’s initial delight changed to concern, however, when they saw the wretched life she led within the bleak Spartan concrete enclosure. Compulsively restless, with her spirit broken, she was obviously pining for the wide open Kenyan savannah. After interceding, they managed to get the zoo to agree to send Pole Pole to the Whipsnade Zoo, which had a country atmosphere as well as some elephants. The transfer was badly bungled when ‘PP’ collapsed within her travelling crate after a seven-hour confinement, and the zoo authorities decided to put her down. This was the tipping point that turned Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers into full-time wildlife activists when they started Zoo Check, in an effort to prevent abuse and to improve conditions for caged animals. Starting in 1984 with a small office in Battersea, with their son Will at the helm and a handful of spirited volunteers, they became a thorn in the side of recalcitrant zoo operators as they chased down reports of mistreatment and


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neglect. The concept struck a nerve in Britain, a country where animal welfare is a national obsession, and it steadily grew in scope and size – eventually morphing into the Born Free Foundation. Today, it spans the globe as a vigorous crusader, fighting abuse against all animals. Bill never got involved in the management of Born Free, but continued

photographing, writing about, and filming wild animals in captivity, until his death in 1994.  Virginia, who in 2009 was awarded an OBE for services to wildlife conservation, was the keynote speaker at a recent fund-raising drive at the Moyo African Restaurant at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. The foundation had previously distributed 30 life-sized fibreglass lions to various artists, advertising agencies and design studios with a challenge to decorate them to the best of their creative ability. The handsomely embellished effigies were then sold in a spirited auction that raised R300 000 for lion conservation. With passion and ingenuity, the Born Free Foundation continues its drive to protect the world’s wildlife heritage. There was no happy ending for the Adamsons, though. After a lifetime of devoted service as a wild animal activist, Joy was murdered by a servant whom she had dismissed. Heroic George was brutally gunned down in a hail of bullets from Somali poachers as he drove to attempt the rescue of a tourist under attack. Joy’s ashes were sprinkled on the graves of her beloved Elsa and her cheetah, Pippa. George lies next to Boy – his great warrior friend. Born Free website:

©bryan adams

ABOVE: Virginia with her pride of fibreglass lions at the Born Free fund-raiser at Moyo at the V&A Waterfront BELOW: Virginia McKenna is now a Born Free spokesperson


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J us tin B on ello

bush talk With Bonello Cook, traveller, filmmaker and lover-of-life Justin Bonello has done the

very thing we all dream of: taking the things he cares most deeply about and making his world revolve around them. Here he talks to Robbie Stammers about how it all came to be.

Your family tree boasts a touch of Dutch, Portuguese and even Italian. Would you say these different cultures flowing through your veins have had an influence on your cooking style? Of course! I believe everyone’s food tastes and styles are influenced by their families and by the knowledge that is passed down from one generation to the next. Case in point: my late Dutch grandmother taught me how to make the perfect crêpe (and gave me a crêpe pan that I still use to this day), my mom taught me how to make a Dutch pea and smoked ham soup, and my dad showed me how to make my vongole (Italian clam pasta dish). These are recipes that I will pass down to my own kids one day. Talk us through how you first landed your Cooked series on BBC. It is quite something for an unknown (at that time) cook to land something that big. Believe it or not, I used to be a ‘suit and tie’, slogging away in front of my computer, doing the normal nine-to-five office job. After a series of unfortunate events, I started working in the film industry as a unit manager.


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It was during that time I saw an episode of Jamie Oliver (back in the day when he was still The Naked Chef ). In that episode, he cooked a meal and then randomly invited a group of gasmen into his house to come and eat. I remember thinking to myself that never in a million years would we do that in South Africa. Not for a lack of compassion for gasmen (not that they actually exist in this country), but because in South Africa we kuier around the ‘African TV’ (fire) in the great outdoors with friends. This is when the idea of Cooked was planted in my head. Luckily I had connections in the film industry (including my mom, who used to be a producer) and before I knew it I was road-tripping with a bunch of mates, shooting the pilot of Cooked. It took me a year to edit it, and then I sent it around the world – to the SABC, the BBC and other major international broadcasters. The BBC picked it up, and that was one of the biggest fish I had ever caught in my life! The rest is history, and today I have 22 shows under my belt and very proudly producing great content locally which has global legs.

With your huge success on The Ultimate Braai Master and your reputation as a ‘South African cook’, how have your travels influenced your cooking? Funny enough, when we first started going on the road, we used to take everything but the kitchen sink with us – including a two-tonne trailer, dragging all sorts of stuff across the country. What I’ve learnt from my travels is that the only way you’ll ever open yourself up to the true joy of travelling and cooking in the great outdoors of South Africa and its neighbouring countries, is actually to take as little as possible with you, so that you force yourself to visit the local markets, go and find what the local ingredients are, supporting the local communities. So that way, less is definitely more when it comes to travelling and the food experience because, if all that you’re going to do is hang out in a hotel and eat the buffet, you’re never going to experience the culture, the people and, most importantly, the food. Throughout your travels, have you ever found something to rival the South African Braai? Never. The mistake people seem to make is that they think braaiing involves just

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J us tin B on ello

Don’t arrive at a braai without booze. Never, ever stoke someone else’s fire.

Don’t burn the meat. If you do, blame someone else. slapping some meat on the braai. It’s so much more than that. To braai is to kuier, to celebrate with friends, being in the great outdoors, cracking open a cold one, and creating umami and memories. What are your travel essentials with which you can’t leave home? A proper cooler box (turns into a kitchen table or chair when you need it), my own pillow, a headlamp, a decent map that shows all the back roads (I can’t work with GPS), a good book (although I now take my Kindle along), a good bottle of whiskey or brandy to enjoy under the stars, and my new item that I cannot travel without – my missus’ homemade crunchies. I get so sick of eating all that processed rubbish one is forced to buy on the road, that nowadays I just want things that taste good and are healthy – so proper padkos is absolutely essential. When you’re not spending months at a time on the road, what do you do for fun?

give too much away! Nice try, though... After UBM II wraps, what exciting adventures do you have planned next? We’ll be going back into the Karoo to continue filming my Magnum Opus, which delves into the life and lifestyle in the Karoo. Other than that, we’ve a couple of secret and very exciting projects up our sleeves – chat to me again later this year and I’ll tell you all about it. But to give you a little taste, here’s a hint: South Africa’s foremost foodie (if not in the world). Let’s just say it’s a travel show that takes us from South Africa into the Okavango and into the Kalahari. Where is your all-time South African destination?

Which exciting destinations can we expect to see on The Ultimate Braai Master this season? Hmmm, all I can say is that we start in KZN and end in the Cape. Don’t want to


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Over the last couple of years, this list has grown. It started with Karoo oysters back in season 2 of Cooked. Then it was mice (yes, really) on the banks of the Pungwe River in Mozambique in Getaway to Africa. And last year I got my first taste of goat’s brain in the Karoo (but luckily it was nothing as grim as you’d imagine in a scene with Dr Lecter from Hannibal). And, strangely enough, it tastes a lot like foie gras. Weber or an open fire? Open fire. Favourite game meat?

There are so many, and all for different reasons. But if I have to choose just one, it will always have to be the Wild Coast – that space just enchants me. Your favourite braai recipe?

I spend time with my wife and sons; I’m a very keen amateur gardener, and some weekends we drive to our family house on the Breede River. And then, of course, when I have a longer break, we trek down to my secret spot on the Wild Coast: there’s something about driving over that last hill just before I hit the coast – losing cellphone reception and knowing for the time I’m there that stimulation pollution disappears – that really gets me going.

Most unusual thing you have eaten on your travels?

Tomato potjie and gnocchi. Your definition of an Intrepid Explorer? Fearless dust kickers and adventure seekers. Top 5 braai tips? Don’t arrive at a braai without booze. Never, ever stoke someone else’s fire. Don’t burn the meat. If you do, blame someone else. Don’t braai alone – it’s all about the kuier. He who braais never washes up... or makes salad. Very hungry friends make appreciative diners.

Backstrap of Springbok. And if it’s not a braai, I love kudu biltong. What are the top three destinations on your bucket list? I always say that I don’t have a bucket list. I have a bucket book, into which I get to write new entries more often than most people do. If I have to choose three of the best destinations I’ve visited? Definitely Lake Malawi, Thailand and Namibia. And New Zealand also holds some interest to me. And, finally, how would you consider yourself first and foremost: a traveller, chef/cook or filmmaker? That’s kind of a trick question, but if I had to choose one, I’d have to go with traveller. It gives me all the reasons to do the things I love.


You be the

The Intrepid Explorer asked the two judges on the Ultimate Braai Master television series each to share a favourite outdoor recipe – these were the mouth-watering responses. Enjoy!

Marthinus Ferreira’s Greekstyle Braaied Lamb “I’ll even admit that Marthinus’ recipe might be better than mine! This is seriously delicious and really easy to make.” – Justin Bonello

Ingredients • A deboned leg of lamb (about 2.5kg) • 500ml Bulgarian yoghurt • 6 cloves of crushed garlic, finely chopped • 3 lemons • A small handful of rosemary, finely chopped • A couple of pinches smoked paprika • Salt and cracked black pepper

Method Mix together the yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, smoked paprika, salt and black pepper. Then think of your favourite horror movie character: take a sharp knife and stab some holes into the lamb. Go wash the blood off your hands, then take the yoghurt marinade and rub it all over the leg. Put it in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and go hide the evidence in the fridge for two days. In that time, the cultures in this yoghurt-based marinade will break down the protein, which means that once you’ve cooked the lamb, you will eat the most tender lamb you’ve ever had in your life. Two days later, when your friends arrive, start your fire. Once you have medium coals, the lamb is ready for its final execution. Braai for about half an hour (or longer if you like your lamb more cooked), basting it Marthinus draws on a wealth of experience from every now and then with the leftover marinade. You working in some of the finest dining destinations in want the lamb to caramelise on the outside, and be the UK. Whether it is working among Michelin star cooked (but still pink) on the inside. Once done, masters such as Heston Blumenthal and Gordon remove from the heat, put the lamb aside to rest and Ramsay, or expanding culinary appreciation on rustle up a quick vinaigrette (recipe follows), which home soil, there is dedication and vision deeply will break down the fattiness of the meat. entwined in all that Marthinus does. Initially having worked as trainee chef at Impalila Island Lodge in Namibia and the restaurant at The House of JC Le Roux in Stellenbosch, he Vinaigrette ingredients soon moved on to a position as chef de partie in 2002, working until 2003 • 4 brown anchovies at Franschhoek’s La Colombe Restaurant (one of the top 10 in South Africa • A drizzle of olive oil at the time). Following this, he assumed the role of head chef at Circle • A clove of garlic Restaurant in Greenside and, in 2004, he worked again as head chef at • A generous squeeze of lemon juice – use about half Schulphoek Guest House in Hermanus. In 2005, Marthinus headed off to a lemon the UK to discover a new world of cooking, as head chef at the Riverside Brasserie. Always keen to learn more, he worked as chef in numerous other If you have a blender handy (which you would if you establishments such as The Fat Duck, Hind’s Head and the Boxwood Café. were at home, or if you’re a chef ), blitz until fine. If Marthinus’ restaurant, DW Eleven-13, was voted the winner in the Eat Out you’re more like me, and find yourself in the great Restaurant Awards in 2011 and made the top 10 again in 2012. outdoors, just wing it and use a mortar and pestle and mung the anchovies, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Visit for more. Carve the lamb, drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve with whatever tickles your fancy.

About Marthinus Ferriera


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J us tin B on ello Method

Bertus Basson’s Rubbed Sirloin and Crushed Potato Salad “This is a great salad, especially for those lazy and less hungry warm days or nights, because it’s a meal in one that won’t leave you feeling stuffed and gasping for air afterward.” – Justin Bonello

Ingredients For the rub: • 50g whole coriander seeds • 25g peppercorns • 50g mustard seeds • 30g coarse salt • 15g paprika For the salad: • 2 pieces of matured sirloin steak, weighing about 200g each • 800g baby potatoes, cooked in their skins • 50g onions, chopped • 30g capers, chopped • 50g anchovies, chopped • 90g olives, pips removed and quartered • 30g parsley, chopped • Olive oil • Freshly squeezed lemon juice • Black pepper and coarse sea salt

First up, combine all the rub spices in your trusty mortar and pestle and give them a good bashing. Rub the ground spices into the meat until generously coated and leave to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours. Once your braai is ready and your guests are getting hungry, whack the sirloin onto your braai grid (hot coals) and grill on an open flame for about 7 minutes a side. You want the meat to be medium-rare. While the steaks are sizzling, it’s time to start combining the salad – but remember to keep one eye on the meat! Crush the cooked potatoes using the palm of your hand. You just want the skin to break open and to crush the potatoes lightly. Try not to flatten them completely – this is not a pancake-potato salad. Add the chopped onions, capers, anchovies, olives and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil, a generous squeeze of lemon and cracked black pepper. Taste it before adding salt because the anchovies are very salty. Mix the salad thoroughly then scoop onto plates. When the meat is done, let it rest for a few minutes, then cut it into slices about 1cm thick. Put a couple of slices of that deliciously juicy sirloin on top of the potato salad and you’re done.

About Bertus Basson

Bertus Basson started cooking at the age of 17, and by age 19 he spent three years in the big smoke of London, where he spent most of his time at the one-star Michelin restaurant, Chez Bruce, in Wandsworth. “I learnt how to cook here,” says Bertus, who believes the experience provided him with real-life training that couldn’t be learnt in a college. “I learnt how to take a proper bollocking and how to respect ingredients.”Having thrown himself into numerous successful projects since, in 2007 he opened Overture Restaurant along with business partner Craig Cormack, in the picturesque Hidden Valley of Stellenbosch. Since opening, Overture has accumulated several awards and has been included in the Top 10 of the Eat Out DStv Food Network Awards for five years running and has also been awarded 3 stars in the Rossouw’s Restaurants guide two years in a row. Visit for more info.

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Fiona McIntosh walks us through her pick of South Africa’s most adventurous day hikes

trailblazers We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to hiking trails. South Africa is blessed with a multitude of short and multi-day routes traversing rugged coastlines, high mountain ridges, fynbos-covered slopes, indigenous forests and game-rich bush. But with such variety, how does one choose the country’s best hikes?


ell, clearly it’s a very subjective issue, but for me a good day hike has to have something special: spectacular views, the opportunity to bag a lofty peak, to visit some iconic landform, or to tread where few others have trodden, in pristine wilderness. In short, while hiking is part of my job description, if I’m lacing up my boots and heading out onto a trail I want drama – and a challenge. The trail has to be tough and intrepid enough to make me feel I’ve deserved a cold beer and my dinner. These trails, which cover the length and breadth of South Africa, are my top 10. If you’re up for a bit of adventure I guarantee that you, too, will enjoy them.


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Wolfberg Arch, Western Cape

The striking sandstone cliffs of the Wolfberg in the Cederberg beg to be explored, but the rugged terrain and extreme temperatures demand respect. The full-day trail to the Wolfberg Arch and back is the ultimate challenge. Park at the trailhead near Sanddrif Holiday Resort, then follow the path up to the base of the sheer orange cliffs. Continue until you can see the main crack off to your left. This is the easiest way to the top of the plateau but, if you’re comfortable with scrambling, carry straight on until you see the sign indicating the entrance to the narrow crack. From the sign, scramble up through a rocky chimney then traverse round on a ledge and up into a big valley, on the other side of which you’ll see the marked entrance to a narrow passage.

Fion a M c In tos h ©Shaen Adey, Matthew Holt

Once through, a surprise awaits. In the crack are two enormous sandstone rock arches. Follow the cairns, scrambling over and squeezing under various boulders, until you finally emerge in the gully at the top. Turn left and walk along the plateau until you come to the trail at the top of the main crack, which will be your descent route. The marked trail to the Arch from here is undulating but straightforward, and will take around an hour and a half each way. Tel: (027) 482 2825 or check out

Cathedral Peak, KwaZulu-Natal

The 20-kilometre return hike to the summit of one of the ‘Berg’s most iconic peaks is a big day in the hills, but the trail

has everything an intrepid hiker could hope for: spectacular mountain scenery, weathered sandstone cliffs, trickling streams and waterfalls, and a final exposed scramble over slabs and rock steps, one of which is aided by a ladder. The trail starts just below the Cathedral Peak Hotel and the adventure begins almost immediately with a wade through the Mlambonja River. Initially it’s a glorious hike through the grasslands and around wonderful sandstone cliffs, then the graft begins as you slog up two relentless gullies to the summit pyramid. The view from the 3 004-metre summit, over the deeply incised vegetated valleys and across to the other dramatic peaks, is as good as you’ll get. Organise permits (and guides if you wish) at Didima Resort. Telephone (033) 845 1000, or visit

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Fion a M c I n tos h This strenuous full-day hike, which starts at Aloe Kaya Hiking Camp near Machadodorp, has virtually everything: a dramatic waterfall, some game viewing, a stiff ascent and sense of exposure, spectacular rock formations and rock pools for bathing. The first couple of kilometres are relatively placid, then the path drops steeply into the Bankspruit Canyon where it follows the river, leaping from bank to bank across entertaining and wobbly suspension bridges. There are plenty of picnic and bathing opportunities along the way, and it all seems quite idyllic. The hard work is yet to come, however – a steep 400m haul out of the canyon. Reaching the escarpment crest, you may be tempted to think you’re nearly home, but you’re not: there are still a couple more hours to go, through a wind-sculpted sandstone maze across the top of the escarpment, with the trail picking its way through gullies and fissures back to the start. Tel: 082 889 6757, or go to

Sentinel car park to the top of the escarpment, Free State The trails to the top of Drakensberg Plateau are intrepid in anyone’s books; most involve arduous multi-day hikes up the rough passes. The best way to gain the top in a day is via the well-marked, though still challenging, trail from the Sentinel car park near Phuthaditjhaba. A couple of hours of walking along a well-maintained – but at times steep and rocky – path takes


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you past the daunting bulk of the Sentinel to the foot of the intimidating-looking chain ladders. Once on top, turn left and take the short walk to the head of the Thukela Falls, where the river drops into the gorge below and where you can look down on soaring raptors and across the Amphitheatre to the Devil’s Tooth. Simply mind-blowing. Tel: (058) 713 6361 or see

Thukela Gorge, KwaZulu-Natal

This hike up to the base of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre is one of the most spectacular trails in the country. Although largely flat, it’s a testing walk with some fun to be had in the gorge, magnificent swimming holes and breathtaking views. The trail starts in open veld at the car park just below Thendele camp in Royal Natal National Park then drops down to the steep-sided Thukela river gorge. Along the river you go, past several large and very tempting crystal-clear rock pools, until you literally pop out into the riverbed and rock-hop up to the start of the mouth of ‘The Tunnel’. If the water level is low, it’s fun to wade through the 65m rock passage – otherwise bypass it by climbing the chain ladders on the right. Once on the other side, a magnificent vista of the imposing basalt walls of the Amphitheatre and Thukela Falls opens up – a view to die for. Contact Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife on (033) 845 1002 or visit

©Fiona McIntosh, Matthew Holt

Escarpment Trail, Mpumalanga

Fion a M c In tos h ©Shaen Adey, Fiona McIntosh

Port St Johns to Umngazi River Bungalows, Eastern Cape

The untamed Wild Coast is one of my favourite hiking destinations. A 280km coastal trail once ran the length of the Xhosa homeland of the Transkei, from the Umtamvuna River in the north to the Kei River. Sadly, it has fallen into disrepair, but you can still hike many of the most spectacular sections of the route, following animal paths to iconic landforms such as Hole-in-the-Wall near Coffee Bay, and Waterfall Bluff near Mbotyi. For a real taste of the Wild Coast, however, the moderately strenuous hike from the laid-back town of Port St Johns through the Silaka Nature Reserve takes some beating. The trail starts at the end of Second Beach, climbing steeply through coastal forest to cliff-top vantage points from which you can survey the rounded promontories and sandy bays back toward Port St Johns. Dark, erosion-resistant dolerite rock forms dramatic cliffs in this section, so it’s a roller coaster hike. After descending to the pristine sands of Third Beach, the trail heads up again to a high spot overlooking the wave-battered promontory of Sugar Loaf, then follows a track behind the coastal ridge until you see Umngazi River Bungalows. Enjoy a well-earned cold drink in the resort’s bar then return the same way – or if you’re feeling really intrepid, take the ferry across the wide river and keep walking! Pick up a map at the entrance to the reserve or organise a guided hike through Jimmy Selani on telephone 082 507 2256 or visit

Mountain Sanctuary Park, North West

The rugged plateau and deep gorges of the Magaliesberg range offer spectacular hiking but, since most of the land is privately owned, access is difficult. Mountain Sanctuary Park, a privately owned nature reserve only an hour’s drive from ‘Big Smoke’, is a top spot for adventurous types. Although there are numerous hiking trails to rocky outcrops along the kloofs and to magnificent pools, few of them are clearly marked. Rather, in order to keep the impact of visitors to a minimum, hikers are given a map and encouraged to head out and explore. Simply heaven. Tel: (014) 534 0114,

Wolkberg Wilderness Area, Limpopo

The beautiful but rugged Wolkberg Wilderness Area is definitely one for intrepid explorers only. The trailhead is at the Serala Forest Station, 80km from Tzaneen, where there’s a basic campsite. From the campsite a trail leads down to the valley, then you can follow the river to the magnificent gorges and distant peaks. There are few paths, and even fewer signboards, so the chances of getting lost are high. But if you are well-prepared, this is a spectacular hiking destination. The sense of solitude, indigenous forests, dramatic steep quartzite krantzes, waterfalls and deep pools are the main attractions and there’s also the opportunity to bag Iron Crown (2 126m), the highest peak in Limpopo. Tel: (015) 307 3582 or check out

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Fion a M c I n tos h Fiona uses the K-Way Advance 65 backpack. One of the best-looking backpacks available, the Advance 65 is built to perform. It includes waterproof zippers, a splash cover and side compression straps. An Air-vantage backing system allows for increased ventilation and a narrow, streamlined frame is suited for climbing and off-trail use.

Table Mountain Traverse, Western Cape

I live on the slopes of Table Mountain, so selecting ‘the best’ trail was tricky. But traversing the mountain is certainly intrepid. The classic traverse is to climb Devil’s Peak by the Mowbray Ridge route, descend to the saddle between Devil’s Peak, scramble up the exposed rock steps of Ledges (an exposed section for which you may want a rope), cross the plateau, ticking off Maclear’s Beacon – the highest point on the summit plateau – as you go and descend by way of Platteklip Gorge. Following the contour path will take you to Kloof Nek, and you can then complete your traverse by conquering Lion’s Head. But unless you know the route and are comfortable with some tricky scrambling, you’d best opt for the straightforward south/north traverse. Start at the Suikerbossie resort above Hout Bay and head up either Llandudno Ravine or, if you’re happy with some easy scrambling, Hout Bay Corner. Once on top, head north on the 12 Apostles Spine Path, past Kasteelspoort and up toward the Upper Cable Car Station. Platteklip Gorge is the easiest way down – but if you still have the energy, take the hour-long detour to Maclear’s Beacon.

Compassberg, Eastern Cape

Summitting the highest peak outside the Drakensberg range, Compassberg (2 502m) – which rises out of the Karoo Plains – is an excellent day out in the mountains. The trail, which is marked by cairns, starts on a private farm that’s a 40-minute drive from Nieu-Bethesda. The farmer will point you in the right direction, but be warned: finding the route is

The trail has to be tough and intrepid enough

to make me feel I’ve

and my dinner.


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tricky at times and involves a bit of a scramble. Don’t give up when the going gets tough. The view from the summit over the koppies to Graaff-Reinet is ample reward for your efforts. Telephone (049) 842 2420 for more information. Fiona McIntosh is the editor of Nightjar Travel Magazine and the author of Top 12 Hiking Trails of the Western Cape (MapStudio 2009) and Slackpacking (Sunbird 2010). Read more of her favourite day hikes on

©Fiona McIntosh

Get hold of a copy of Slingsby’s excellent Table Mountain map before setting out. Also visit

deserved a cold beer

C h r is M oer dy k

go skiing

When silver surfers


o, I have devoted this entire year to doing fun adventure stuff. I will be doing some paragliding (both powered and otherwise), a bit more abseiling and zip-lining, and heaven knows what else. Climb Everest? Maybe. I’ll even throw a naartjie at a Cosatu protest march. At the start of my year, I decided to go skiing – something I haven’t done for 37 years and which would be funded thanks to my membership of the aforesaid S.K.I. Club, which actually has nothing to do with skiing as in ‘snow’, but which stands for Spend the Kids’ Inheritance. This is a good way to fund an adventure lifestyle and it pretty much annoys your kids even more than doing stuff they think is dangerous. By the way, I told my eldest son – who is now in his mid-40s and thinks he is my father – that I wanted a motorised off-road skateboard for my birthday and he proceeded to inundate me with masses of emails, pointing out how dangerous that was. I deleted them and spent his part of the inheritance by going on a cruise on the Queen Mary 2 – which wasn’t exactly an adrenalin-pumping adventure until I made a rude remark about Prince Charles at a dinner table populated by black-tie encrusted monarchists.


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My daughter, in a moment of diminished responsibility, gave me the go-ahead to spend her part of her parents’ inheritance by joining her and her husband and kids for some skiing in Austria. I didn’t hesitate, not for a second. I did, incidentally, spend five months in the French Alps when I was in my 30s, so I did get quite good at it. And dammit, everyone told me it was like riding a bicycle. Well, came the day in a wonderful Austrian village called Zell am Ziller, we headed off to hire some ski equipment and hit the slopes. Skis that used to be longer than you were tall are now a lot shorter and far more efficient. Yay. No more decapitating people in ski-lift queues when you turn around to look at the view. Well, I did actually poke a buxom Nordic lady smack bang in the left buttock with my ski pole, but managed to craftily blame it on my grandson, whom she slapped on the head and whom I placated with the promise of hot chocolate. I have to say, though, that ski boot technology has not moved forward at all in almost 40 years. Though, they’re much more comfortable there was even a pair that allowed for the 69-year-old bunion on my right foot. Trouble is, getting ski boots on and off is an absolute bitch. You have to loosen

Chris Moerdyk proves that you’re never too old for adventure

two or three shackles commonly used to bind skyscrapers to their foundations and then you have to push the tongue down so it separates two stiff pieces of fibreglass, then ease your foot into an opening the size of a sardine’s anus by imitating a ballet dancer en pointe. Getting them off requires the same procedure, and it’s that pushing down of the tongue over those spring-loaded flaps that’s the killer. I eventually got it right by standing near a wall or against a conveniently placed female skier with big boobs and then slowly letting myself fall forward as I pushed down on the infernal tongue. And then, just as my head came to rest against the wall or between some solid mammaries, my foot would slip in or out of the boot. I remained in that position for as long as I didn’t start getting a headache or a slap in the face. Now, on to the ski slopes. Those bastards who told me it was like riding a bicycle were lying scumbags. Those first few minutes on the nursery slopes were sheer terror. I didn’t have a clue. Nothing came back until I rammed into the back of that same grandson who happened to be laughing like a drain until his guffaws were cut off due to the fact that his head was buried in two feet of virgin snow

As a fully fledged member of the globally recognised and very exclusive S.K.I. Club, I decided that despite turning 70 this year, I would refuse point blank to put a halt to my adventure activities just because some people, mainly my children, believe I will hurt myself.

under grandpa’s arse. However, after a rather excellent Austrian Pilsner, it did all come back to me and in no time I was belting down the reds and the occasional black slope. Of course, I fell a few times, sometimes bouncing around before coming to a stop about 50 metres down the slope from where I had lost the plot. But, not a single bruise did I have. Not a single sore knee or aching limb. Unfortunately, there were witnesses to a ski-related accident I had had which tore

all the ligaments, muscles and tendons in my left shoulder. It was agony. It happened before I discovered the wall/boobs procedure when I was trying to take off one of my ski boots and my 69-year-old left shoulder decided to head in a different direction to the rest of my torso. Having said that, I handled two weeks on the ski slopes without too much huffing and puffing, mainly because I had prepared myself with ski-type exercises for about a month before. These consisted

of going on a cruise through the Panama Canal and not using the lifts in the cruise ship, but rather the stairs. No kidding: stairs are great for getting into physical shape for skiing, especially when you fall down them after imbibing too many bottles of red stuff at dinner. And lunch. Often breakfast. So, old people can do adventure stuff. It’s all in the mind. You are as young as you want to be. I am 40. And I believe age is only a factor if you are cheese.

Geared up for adventure My wife and I decided to buy our ski gear in Austria until (a.) we saw the prices and (b.) a friend told us not to be stupid and get it locally. The Internet told me Cape Union Mart was the best place, so in we went to the V&A Waterfront store in Cape Town where I had prepared myself to explain that while I admit they are very good at camping, hiking and hot weather stuff, no South African could possibly understand the requirements of the sub-zero temperatures of the Austrian Tirol. Well, I have to hand it to whoever it was at Cape Union Mart who designed the chain’s custom snow/ski gear. My K-Way anorak and ski pants were superb: light and with all manner of well-placed pockets and even a little ‘skirt’ that could stop the snow from getting in when I inevitably ploughed into a snowbank. My wife had the same, but her jacket was in two parts – an outer and inner layer. The beauty was that I went skiing with just a T-shirt and my K-Way. I was never cold, even when it was -14 °C on the slopes, or hot when we got lower down and were standing around in the sun. So, apologies for doubting the kind folk at Cape Union Mart and a big up to the K-Way snow gear designer who very clearly knows his/her stuff.

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Br a a m M a lh er be

I have heard the sounds made by a wounded rhino, seen helpless calves defending the corpse of their dead mother against the pangas of the poachers. The fight for the survival of the species is a war, and the casualties are piling up.

rhino wars The

searching for sustainable solutions

Eco-warrior, adventurer and 50/50 television presenter Braam Malherbe looks at the precarious future of rhino in Africa, and the success of strategies to save them


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Br a a m M a lh er be


tatistics reveal that the poaching syndicates are now slaughtering more rhino than the number of calves being born. This may be a tipping point in the struggle of the species for survival. The South African statistics are illuminatingly gloomy: 668 poached in 2012; so far this year it is worse, with 350 poached by the end of May. What, then, is the economically and ecologically sustainable solution to the situation? The concept of being ‘sustainable’ is an overworked and often meaningless one. Adam Werbach says in his book, Strategy for Sustainability: “A sustainable business means thriving in perpetuity”. He goes on to say that true sustainability has four co-equal components: Social (acting as if other people matter); Economic (operating profitably); Environmental (protecting and restoring the ecosystem; and Cultural (protecting and valuing cultural diversity).


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Given the context of rhino poaching on a wholesale basis, the social aspect of this definition needs to be expanded to embrace all that live, including both animals and people. The strategies for curbing poaching are many and varied. Most of the slaughter has taken place in the Kruger National Park. Some argue for the dehorning of rhino in all large reserves, but the cost of doing so would seem prohibitive. In smaller reserves that are privately owned, this strategy is resorted to in order to save not only the rhinos but also the staff who work with them. The trouble here is that this operates as a disincentive to ownership of rhinos. Who wants to keep, visit or photograph a rhino with no horn? Then there is the notion of taking the fight to the poachers. Nearly half of the South African rhino population is found in the Kruger Park, an area the size of Israel. Seventy-two percent of all rhino poached in 2011 were in the Kruger Park. This year alone, 242 of the 350 rhinos butchered have been in the Kruger. So the issue is:

can the authorities effectively, economically and efficiently police so large an area with a view to stopping the poachers in their tracks? As an honorary South African National Parks ranger, I have been directly involved in training game rangers in the combat skills they need to confront poachers. So, we are taking the fight to the poachers. However, escalating the war against the poachers will push up the value of rhino horn and thus incentivise subsistence farmers and war veterans in Mozambique to take their chances on the rich pickings available because of the insatiable demand for horn. The idea of educating the end users of rhino horn – most of whom live in China, Laos and Vietnam – is problematic. They regard the horn as traditional medicine. Changing a long tradition, one that may have no more than a powerful placebo effect, is a big ask. Even if as few as 1% of the population of China use rhino horn, it means that 13.5 million customers are out there seeking it.

While I do not dismiss the notion that education can help, I believe it is a long-term project and the rhino need more urgent assistance. I am not convinced that poisoning the horn is a solution, either. Implemented after research into the idea of using ectoparasiticide to put off purchasers, the treatment costs between R8 000 and R12 000 per rhino, depending on terrain, numbers and the possible use of helicopters in the exercise. Naturally, the price of unpoisoned horn would rise if poisoning were reverted to widely. However, the ornamental use of horn is growing, as it is used for jewellery and dagger handles – so poisoning the horn is no deterrent. Then there is the thorny issue of legalising the trade. In 1977, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) put a ban on the trade in rhino horn. This embargo, like Prohibition before it, only serves to fuel the organised crime that flourishes whenever a ban is put on the sale of any sought-after commodity. Southern Africa could supply as many as 676 horns a year from the naturally caused deaths of rhino. Moreover, horn stockpiles amount to about 5 000 horns. If these were trickled into the market at a suitable and controlled rate then, according to my research, it would take 19 years to exhaust the supply at present rates of demand. However, for international trade in rhino horn to be legalised, CITES needs to approve a change in its rules. For this to occur, 66% of the 175 member countries of CITES – or 116 nations – need to be persuaded to vote in favour

of the change. Another big ask. I believe CITES is driven more by political game playing than by logic. Much hard lobbying will be needed in the run-up to the next CITES conference in Cape Town in 2016. We need to learn from the mistakes that were made in the once-off selling of stockpiles of elephant tusks. The buyers in China and Japan colluded to keep the price low. They are now selling off the stockpiles sold at huge profits. We need to be able to sell off horn at low volumes, add the value in Africa, so that it can be reinvested into rhino conservation and creating jobs. Hunting and conservation are a potential source of revenue to support the continued existence of the rhino as a species. The Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa claims that the hunting industry brings in revenue of R8 billion per annum and that about R7 million goes directly toward conservation projects. I spoke to the director of the Centre for Wildlife Management at the University of Pretoria, Professor Wouter van Hoven, who explained that in 1965 Africa’s wildlife was decimated, with only some 500 000 animals left. Trophy hunting was used to kick-start game ranching. Today there are about 20 million animals – a 40-fold increase, due in large measure to the popularity of hunting. Only 100 legitimate rhino hunts are allowed annually; these bring about R90m back into conservation. Only non-reproductive cows and old bulls are legally hunted. This promotes sustainability, along with the tourism and ownership value of rhinos.

If government were to invest heavily in the destruction of the crime syndicates that drive rhino poaching, along with a host of other illicit activities, a viable solution to the situation would be possible. The political will to get serious about the downside of organised crime needs to be generated in order to put a stop to a form of crime that is not only dangerous to the survival of the rhino, but also threatens to fell at the knees the form of society contemplated in our constitution. To read Braam Malherbe’s full paper, see

What can we as individuals do to fight this war? • T here is no such thing as a single solution. We need to work together: if we unite all the rhino action groups and strategies, we will have a powerful army with which to mobilise mass action. • R  esearch the subject so that you have a well-informed opinion. • L obby governments, organisations to take action. • S pread the word; name and shame. • K  now where your money is going when donating to various rhino causes so that you can be sure it directly benefits rhino conservation. • Do One Thing (DOT) to make a difference, and get involved in some way in the fight to save our rhino.

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


Br a a m M a lh er be


Living on the

Rachel Colenso believes wholeheartedly that people can achieve the seemingly impossible, if they put their mind to it Shan Routledge talks to South Africa’s first and currently only certified female mountain

Šjohn freeman

guide, and one of only four women in the world to go through the rigorous British SAS Special Forces selection process


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

Ra c h el Colen s o


uperwoman doesn’t begin to describe Rachel Colenso. Climber and South Africa’s first and only qualified female mountain guide, one of only four women ever to survive British Special Forces training, mother, motivational speaker, charity angel and Intrepid Explorer, we chat with Rachel about her infamous Piz Badile climb, life as one of the toughest and most resilient extreme adventurers in the world, and her current expedition down the Thames. Growing up in canoes on the Okavango Delta and the wilderness of a South African farm, Rachel learnt to track game and appreciate the environment at a young age. No longer satisfied with trees and boulders, her love for climbing was ignited at university when she had the opportunity to try technical climbing – and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


©john freeman

R a c h el C olen s o

Our agonising time spent on the Piz Badile Mountain made it

clear to me that I wanted to help others cope when faced with disaster The only qualified woman mountain guide in South Africa and one of only four women to survive the rigorous British Special Forces training (a military selection programme that sees a less than 5% pass rate for male soldiers), Rachel is used to being in a male-dominated environment. When asked about the difficulties of this position in sport, she was nothing but positive – saying her biggest challenge was finding shoes. “It is sometimes difficult to break in where you are in the minority, for simple logistical reasons. For instance, when I started climbing there was no option for me but to climb barefoot because the climbing shops rarely stocked shoes in female sizes.” Now recognised as one of the toughest and most resilient extreme adventurers in

the world, Rachel Colenso is a woman to be reckoned with. She has competed internationally in adventure racing, led expeditions through the Amazon and climbed some of the

most technically challenging rock faces on various mountains around the world. Her most infamous, and disastrous, climb was up Piz Badile in Switzerland. When she set out to conquer the Alps in 2003, the last

ABOVE: Climbing in the Wye Valley, Wales RIGHT: Rachel at a Red Cross Disaster Fund fund-raiser


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

Ra c h el Colen s o © Avery Cunlithe

© Jeremy Colenso

LEFT TO RIGHT: Ski mountaineering in the French Alps, climbing a cliff in the Cederberg and solo climbing in Swanage

thing she had expected was to end up stuck on a sheer face at 3 000m, in a freezing blizzard, fearing for her life. Ascending the north ridge in a fast and light method known as alpine climbing, Rachel and her climbing partner Jeremy, whom she later married, found themselves at an impassable section of mountain and had to start abseiling down. Before they were able to make the descent, though, a huge electrical storm blew in. “It was like being thrown into a huge fireworks display,” she said. They were trapped. As they tried to make their way down slowly, huge chunks of cliff face broke away and fell down the mountain, lightning flashed through the sky and night began to fall. At 1000m above the ground, they finally had to strap themselves to a tiny ledge and hang on for dear life. For the next two days, Rachel and Jeremy were trapped on that ledge. With sheer drops all around and the wind tossing the rescue helicopter through the sky, they found themselves counting the hours, the minutes and the seconds. “I kept thinking, ‘Is this really happening to me?’ I couldn’t quite believe it, or believe that we kept going for so long. We both knew that we had to keep going, and that we couldn’t give up,” she related. After two long days with no food,

water or sleep, they were finally airlifted to safety. This traumatising experience inspired Rachel to write a book titled, In a High and Desperate Place. It is hard to imagine a more high and desperate place, let alone conceive how one begins to recover from such an ordeal, but Rachel said: “I thought if I got off that mountain alive, I would dedicate time to helping others” – and that is exactly what she has done. Not only has she continued to climb – in fact, she has returned to Piz Badile – but she has also dedicated her time to raising money and awareness for various charities. She carried her baby over the mountains from Cape Point to Table Mountain for a charity against child abandonment; climbed a big wall in Yosemite in the United States and dedicated it toward raising funds for a refuge in Accra, Ghana; was part of an expedition that pushed a paraplegic man with brittle bone disease up to 5 400m on Everest in support of a charity for children in wheelchairs; and, most recently, helped in numerous events to raise money and awareness for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Fearless is a word that comes to mind when trying to describe this incredible woman, but Rachel counters that it is not about being fearless, it is about learning to control your fear and realising it is a

natural emotion that is there to help you. It’s this attitude that has cemented Rachel as not only an intrepid explorer, but also a motivational speaker, fund raiser and role model to people around the world. An inspiration to all, she strongly believes you can achieve anything you put your mind to. “Never stop believing that you can! Our brains are amazing, and we need to learn to trust our brain in making decisions. So often we doubt and find reasons we can’t do things – it is always good, especially when surrounded by doubt, to find reasons you can,” she said. Follow Rachel’s adventures on

Currently, Rachel and her two-yearold daughter Jasmine (accompanied when they can by her five-year-old daughter Rosemary and her husband Jeremy) have started scooting the entire length of the Thames River to raise funds for the British Red Cross Disaster Fund, which aids countries such as Lesotho and Zimbabwe. It is a 301-kilometre journey that has been broken down into smaller sections. So far, they have completed about 20km – so they have a long way to go!

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


R ya n Sa n des

two to


Ryan Sandes and Vanessa Haywood share their love of sport and the outdoors, and what it means for their relationship


It’s really important to have a few common interests as a couple. We are very different people, but the one thing we share is our love for sport and the outdoors, and it is this love that results in our spending quality time together and going on adventures to all corners of the globe.

he Knysna Oyster Festival is a special time of year for us, as it is where we met three years ago and where we ended up doing the Salomon Featherbed Trail Run together that week. Many exciting journeys have followed, such as our epic trip to the Fish River Canyon. We slept under the stars, braaied marshmallows around the campfire, and created vivid memories that will stay with us forever. Since we are both endurance athletes, we have a great respect for one another when it comes to training, and supporting each other comes naturally. Though, having two athletes in the house makes for some interesting times such as when there are injuries or exhaustion, when one of us gets the flu, or feeling that ever present pressure of trying to be the best. In many instances, couples ‘clash’ – particularly on weekends when one sporty partner goes off for hours on end, training for a race such as the Absa Cape Epic or the Otter Trail Run, and the other less athletic one is left to entertain him or herself. Finding balance, especially when you have children, is not easy, but having that common interest is a good place to start – and that’s where we’ve been really lucky. Sport flows through our veins, and without it we’d be miserable.


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Most weekends involve some kind of fun outing such as running or hiking up Chapman’s Peak, taking Thandi our dog for walks on Constantia Nek or the beach, and taking part in races – either together or supporting the other. Being at each other’s races, crewing and supporting is a huge boost. Most endurance races can involve a great deal of suffering, both mental and physical, and having a loved one there to share in the highs and lows is a blessing. We’ve both needed to give the other that “toughen up”, positive chat on a few occasions! Last year, we spent weeks together in the middle of nowhere: a beautiful farm called Balloch on the Lesotho border, where we did some altitude training and where Thandi worked on her sheep herding. There was absolutely no cellphone signal, Internet connection or television reception. It’s only when we escape the city and all forms of communication that we truly bond and relax. We played board games, went for walks, had braais and chatted for hours on end. At times like these, it really becomes obvious how important it is for couples and families to get away to a place with no ‘outside interference’. When we’re in Cape Town, our lives are very busy and our iPhones always present, so we cherish the time we spend away from all the craziness. We had a similar experience a few years

ago in the Matroosberg, the highest mountain in the Western Cape and only three hours’ drive from Cape Town. It was the middle of winter and absolutely freezing! We stayed in one of the very simple rustic cottages on the farm, and at night the three of us (Thandi included) would jump into bed early and snuggle up with hot-water bottles to defrost. The mountain was covered in metres of snow, and training in those conditions was a challenge indeed – but loads of fun! We sometimes train together, but focus on our separate disciplines, one of us cycling and the other running. It’s not particularly safe for women to train alone due to possible injury or safety issues, so being in close proximity of each other in Tokai Forest, for example, makes us both feel more comfortable. We’ve both injured ourselves while training, and thank heavens we have been right there for the other when it happened! Our careers have taken us to some really remote and breathtaking places, both locally and abroad. We share a deep love for Mother Nature and the respect that is needed to play with her. It’s a symbiotic relationship – a bit like ours! Meeting other outdoor enthusiasts has resulted in our making some very special friends who share our passion. And that’s exactly what sport and the outdoors do: they bring people together.

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Spea k in g f r om th e Sum m it

Ronnie Muhl’s abiding love affair with the Goddess Mother of the World

the lure of mt everest


he lure of Mt Everest is extremely powerful, and it has been felt by climbers since the turn of the last century. The mountain was first climbed by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, but the appeal of standing on the ‘Roof of the World’ has


The Intrepid Explorer issue 13

continued enticing climbers from around the world since that memorable day in May, 60 years ago. I have personally been lured by Chomolungma, the ‘Goddess Mother of the World’, for more than 30 years. On 14 September 1979, I closed the cover of a book called The Impossible Victory. This

epic story is about the journey of two mountaineers, Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler, who were the first climbers to summit Everest without supplemental oxygen. This incredible piece of writing inspired me to note in my journal on that day that I wanted to climb Everest. This was quite a bizarre notion for a young South African living in England at the time because this was the era of national climbing teams being granted permits costing millions of dollars and usually being led by some or other mountaineering icon. Sharing my new-fangled dream with my local rock-climbing mates brought lots of laughter and ridicule. “You are a South African living in London; you aren’t a good enough climber and there is no way you’re going to get onto Sir Christopher Bonington’s multimillion-pound expedition. Wake up, Ronnie, your coffee’s getting cold.” And, of course, all of them were right, but somehow I managed to keep my dream alive. In 2006, I had my first opportunity of climbing Everest from the northern side, but sadly I had to turn around 150

As I lie here on the Khumbu Glacier, dozing in my tent in a warm sleeping bag, I am brought back to reality by a cacophony of glacial sounds. The cracking of ice, the creaking of crevasses expanding and contracting, and the jet-like roar of multiple avalanches is surreal and bordering on fearful. After all, this is the Base Camp of Everest – and without anxiety, trepidation and nervous expectation, one would not find oneself in this place.

Ronnie wears and tests K-Way on his expeditions

vertical metres from the summit due to a faulty oxygen system and a change in the weather. But Mt Everest kept calling, and with my 27-year-old dream still burning deep inside my soul, I knew that I needed to go back and attempt the mountain again. I returned in 2007 as the leader of a small South African expedition and finally stood on the summit. One would think that this would be the end of the story but, as I say, the lure of Everest is extremely powerful… Two years later, I was sitting in the Cederberg mountains, doing what I call ‘big sky thinking’. This is a process whereby you allow yourself to do some expansive thinking without taking into account any limitations. What would I do if money were not an issue? I had unlimited time and other resources and the outrageous thought would not impact on any of my relationships. This is a series of very powerful questions which, if contemplated deeply, can reveal some profound ideas about your future and your destiny. At that time, I found myself writing down a number of crazy ideas, one of which was: “Climb the south side of Everest”.

Two weeks later I received a phone call from a prominent South African businessman who planned to climb the mountain and who offered to fund my expedition to the south side of Everest in 2010, in exchange for my guidance, leadership, logistical expertise and experience. I had never met this person, but I was overwhelmed by this offer and the working of the universe. There is an incredible power that lies behind positive intention. This experience revealed to me once again that as human beings, we need to become acutely clear and committed to what we desire and less concerned with how the outcome may unfold. The universe has an incredible way of supporting clarity of subconscious thought. The lure of Everest is extremely powerful, and in the Nepal spring of 2010, I found myself on the mountain once more, this time leading an international team consisting of nine members. All those climbers who pushed for the summit made it to the top successfully and they all made it down safely again – except me. I turned around on our summit push due to the cold

and utter exhaustion. I thought a lot about turning around for the second time, and once again realised that the lure of Everest is extremely powerful. I knew that I would return someday to climb the south side of the tallest mountain on our planet. That time came around this year and I have just returned from Nepal, having spent three months on the south side of Everest, once more leading an international expedition. On our summit push, however, I again made the decision to turn around, vowing never to climb above Base Camp ever again. Two days later I found myself packing up the two-man tent that had been my home for almost three months. With the onset of the monsoon, the glacial sounds were as loud as ever and again I felt the powerful lure of Everest. As I zipped up my tent for the last time, I felt her calling me once more and I knew that I would find myself on the slopes of Everest at least one more time. For more information about leading a more adventurous life, visit, or call Ronnie Muhl on 082 777 8151.

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


Tr a vel gea r


a whole


Having recently completed the Otter Trail with a few mates, Evan Haussmann shares some tips that will have you covered – from head to toe


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

which bits of gear had me well prepared for each leg. I have listed them here so that you, too, can tackle the trail with confidence.

From the bottom up Yes, we know that footwear is incredibly important. There are some obvious things that every hiker will tell you: Don’t hit the trail with new boots. Keep your feet dry and look after them as a matter of priority etc. etc.

Falke hiking socks Price: R39

What I can add, which I found made a very big difference to my feet (and state of mind), was a combination of the right socks and having an extra pair of ‘camp shoes’.


There are not many products out there that will beat a merino wool sock for a multi-day hike. They are incredibly comfortable, breathable, wick moisture and, amazingly, keep your feet warm when it’s cold or cool when it’s hot. Another benefit that’d appeal to a weight-wary hiker is that you’re able to wear them for longer between changes before they begin to smell. I take only two pairs, wash and dry one while the other does duty. I haven’t tested the limits, but my experience so far dictates I can happily wear the same pair of socks for two days running if they’re of merino wool.

Cold, wet fact

Tr a vel gea r

I came away from my trip thinking about

Any hiker should be prepared for sudden changes in weather, and this is especially true of trails along the Garden Route. It can be steaming hot one minute and absolutely bucketing down the next. Often it just buckets down. For days. In this region, keeping yourself warm and your kit dry should be very high priority if you want to increase the enjoyment factor. A three-in-one jacket, though quite bulky for hikers, provides the best protection against the cold, with a removable fleece inner and a waterproof, hooded outer. Add a set of thermal underwear to the mix (I go for merino wool every time) and you’ll be assured more than enough warmth as long as you can keep everything dry.

Camp shoes

I call them ‘camp shoes’, and they can take any form: slip slops, takkies, trainers, slippers – Crocs, K-Way men’s thermal even – as long as they’re comfortable to you. One underwear vest of our crew was cruising around camp in Stokies. Price: R350 But what I found more surprising was that one or K-Way men’s Antares jacket two of our crew only brought their hiking footwear Price: R1 599 K-Way men’s thermal and nothing comfy in which to chill at the end of the underwear long john day. This meant they had to get back into their boots Price: R350 to collect wood or go for a walk to see a man about a horse. Personally, I go for something like slip slops because they’re very light and dry fast, and mine are inevitably My boots are really well worn and so are comfortable, nicely worn and as such difficult but my toes began to take a pounding because my to beat in the comfort feet slid forward in the boot on those long, steep Otter department. Stony Trail descents. I found relief by walking sideways down bottomed river crossings, the steps. This sort of ‘reset’ my foot in the boot and thorns and stray coals provided a little respite. 
 be damned. Crocs Baya shoe, adult graphite Price: R299


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


Tr a vel gea r

Back Country honey soy chicken Price: R99

Hike on your stomach

Food, if you ask me, is vital to the enjoyment of a multi-day hike. You can cruise along day after day surviving on rice cakes and peanut butter to save weight. But you won’t enjoy each day nearly as much as if you can look forward to something delicious – and varied. The thought of a delicious spread gets me over the next hill on a difficult day. When planning a trip, I put the most thought into planning meals. Dehydrated meals are a winner for quick and easy one-pot meals and they’re available in enough flavours to keep things interesting and light.

In addition, I like to mix my menu selections of packaged food with fresh produce: cheese, eggs, butter and hard vegetables. They all last for ages without refrigeration and their freshness is key to good flavour. To cook it in, always carry an efficient gas cooker, extra fuel, nesting pots, a sharp penknife, spork, deep plate or bowl and a nice cup with which to enjoy hot drinks and morning cereal.

Kaliber buffalo knife Price: R699

Kovea Fireman stove Price: R199


If you vacuum-pack and freeze meat, you could easily enjoy a steak on day three. Just keep it insulated in the depths of your pack.


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

Suck on this

One mistake I made on this hike was to think that carrying two litres of water in a hydration bladder compatible 65-litre backpack would be all I’d need to stay hydrated. In practice, though, it became tedious to have to go over to my pack every time I needed a drink. It was also a pain to mix an isotonic drink into. Next time I’ll definitely take a smaller, separate water bottle for the convenience. It’d also be quite easy to justify carrying the weight of an extra bottle if I went for a collapsible water bottle such as that made by Vapur. Platypus 0.5L soft bottle Price: R99

There’s much chatter around the subject of whether it’s appropriate to bring cellphones into the wilderness. Honestly, I wouldn’t leave mine at home regardless of the negativity it may invoke in camp. To me, it’s a tool. Even if there’s no signal, a smartphone has the capability to get one out of a sticky situation with the built-in GPS, compass or first-aid app. It can also contribute to learning through using excellent reference guides for identifying Garmin Montana 650 fauna and flora, for example. Price: R6 199 Having said that, I seldom switch mine on, but I have peace of mind that it’s there should the need arise. To ensure its longevity, I keep it in a waterproof, touchscreen-friendly cellphone pouch that protects it from the rigours of the trail, but still allows me to use it without having to remove it from the protective pouch.


Tr a vel gea r

‘Mayday’ the easy way

Otterbox armour Price: R1 099

Any which way, but bag it

Besides the potentially inclement weather along the Otter, hikers are faced with a river crossing almost every day. Dropping your entire pack into the drink could spell disaster, so be prepared. The potentially treacherous Bloukrans River crossing will sit, gnawing your nerves in the back of your mind all the time. I have to say, though, the other river crossings are not to be sniffed at either. The difficulty of each crossing varies as each one depends on the tide, but be prepared to dry-bag everything at each of the crossings, not only the Bloukrans. There are two approaches one can take: One is to carry a big 65-litre dry bag or at least something large enough to fit your whole backpack into. The other, lightweight option is to take your chances and splash-proof your backpack with black bin liners, but carry a few smaller dry bags to waterproof only the vital kit such as sleeping bag, a change of clothes and your camera kit. I go for the latter option and, in addition to a conventional, barrel-style 20-litre dry bag, I carry the 22-litre 90g waterproof Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Daypack for its ultra lightweight, versatility and pack-ability.

Sea to Summit dry sack range Price: (xxs-m) R120-R180

Like many trails these days, an intermittent cellphone signal is available along the Otter Trail. So if you should get into trouble, there’s at least a chance of activating emergency assistance. Just remember to pre-programme the relevant emergency numbers into the device before you leave.

The Tek Towel is a classic terry-style towel in absorbent and quick-drying microfibre, and is perfect for all travel or outdoor use. Four great colours to choose from, packaged in reusable mesh bag – just stuff it in! Price: (m-xl) R180-R350

Follow Evan on Twitter @EvanHaussmann Email: Web portfolio/blog: Web Gear blog:

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


On the

wild side We give you the inside scoop on the outside world. We look at some of the astounding feats that are being accomplished by intrepid people and places and new developments and a host of events on the calendar to diarise in which you, The Intrepid Explorer reader, can become involved. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make the most of the outdoors! Compiled by Robbie Stammers and Shan Routledge

An untouchable spa treatment


dare anyone to top Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat on the experience we were fortunate to indulge in. Recently voted as one of the Top 20 Travel Experiences in the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Ocean in Condé Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Top 100 Travel Awards 2012, Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat is the ideal getaway to escape everyday life and fully restore body and mind. Situated at the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains just 270km from Cape Town, the property is easily accessible – making it even more enticing. My partner and I took the ‘Celebration of Life’ spa option, which was a 95-minute treatment for enjoyment with a partner. It includes massage of the back, hands and scalp, as


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

well as a pressure-point foot treatment and revitalising facial. We thought we had died and gone to heaven! Topping this off with the incredible surrounding flora and fauna, a restaurant menu fit for royalty, and the amazing bushman rock paintings, we cannot recommend this experience more highly. The best part? There are great winter specials on right now, ranging from The Natural Wellness package, which is the ultimate three-night winter spa breakaway, to the enriching three-night Family Fun package that allows parents to share an exceptional wilderness breakaway with their children. Visit to find out more about all these incredible winter specials and more.

Giving it horns “Strength in unity” is the motto of Rhino Knights Isabel Wolf and Lloyd Gillespie and their expedition against rhino poaching. Every day, Isabel will run a half marathon (21km); cycle 80-100km and, from Namibia onward, horse-ride ponies wherever possible. Although Lloyd trained to join Isabel, after an injury he was restricted to joining her sister and Mr P – their loyal ridgeback – as the support team and filmmaker. The team will cover approximately 10 000km in five months, and aim to raise awareness for the continued war against rhino poaching. The Rhino Knights have joined hands with the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization and the Magqubu Ntombela Foundation. Living in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands close to Dr Ian Player, he has been a mentor to the couple, helping them understand the current situation and teaching them about the environment. This has taught them not only about the rhino war, but has helped them on a personal journey of growth and discovery – which led them to begin this incredible expedition. Isabel says, “He taught us so much; still at 86 he fights for the rhino every day.” Isabel and Lloyd are passionate and dedicated to helping the anti-poaching cause and they want to make a difference. With over 200 anti-rhino poaching charities, it’s hard to stand out, but they believe it’s not about competition – it’s about uniting everyone with a common cause and solving a critical problem. “We love South Africa and the wilderness,” says Isabel. This, along with the fact that she and Lloyd have been directly affected by rhino poaching, drives them on their journey for global awareness. Throughout their trip, the Rhino Knights are not only raising awareness through their expedition, but they also do educational talks at school, partake in charity runs and awareness days, and conduct surveys at reserves and lodges along the way, collecting data and information about the current state of the rhino. They talk to all levels of people involved – from rangers, breeders, conservation groups and anti-poaching teams to the hunters, zoos and locals – posing the questions: “Why, with everything that is being done, are we still losing rhino? What is the problem, and what do you believe are the solutions?” The Rhino Knights hope to create a better understanding and hopefully contribute to finding and aiding a well-rounded solution – not just a silver bullet.

Last year, Kai Fitchen set out on his KAPE2KENYA carbon-neutral climbing expedition. The plan was to discover the beauty of Africa through sustainable travel, and share the importance of environmental awareness. To do so, Kai travelled over 14 000 kilometres from Cape Town to the jagged summit of Africa’s second highest peak, Mt Kenya, and back – taking time to share with more than 600 learners the ideals of living sustainably. The K2K journey had to have a low-carbon footprint, so for over five months Kai had to cram himself into chicken-ridden buses with 40 kilogrammes of gear; he travelled only by public transport and by foot. Not only did he accomplish this, but he also was honoured recently with the Readers’ Choice Award during the Nightjar Travel South African Adventurer of the Year 2012 finals held at Cape Union Mart’s Canal Walk store. Kai now has his eyes set on KAPE 2 ATACAMA 2014, which is the next in his MYKAPE series of environmentally and socially responsible climbing expeditions. On 4 January 2014, the KAPE 2 ATACAMA team crank up their main sails on the iconic 3 000-mile Cape to Rio Race. From Rio, they will travel only by foot and public transport, exploring some of the most beautiful and isolated areas that South America has to offer, while promoting the ideals of sustainable living within communities and schools. This route will take them to the erratic lands of Patagonia, the high Andes and the desolate Atacama Desert, and they plan to scale the second highest peak in the western hemisphere.

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Making Mountains Metaphors

Be sure to follow Kai on his next worthy adventure via his website or via as one of The Intrepid Explorer magazine ambassadors. Kai can also be reached on Twitter: @kais_kape.

Follow the Rhino Knights on or on Facebook at

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


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Stan the Man

“Live with passion and regret nothing” is the motto Stan Andrews chooses to live by. He was born with a deformed right foot and, at age seven, after noticing how motivated he was to lead a normal life, his doctors decided to amputate his foot to lower the risk of restriction and reduce the possibility of problems in the future. Stan has been living the life of adventure ever since. Mountain climbing is one of the latest adventures he has undertaken in order to show people – disabled and able – that so much can be achieved if you have the passion and will and the right attitude. He set himself three goals for 2012: to swim the Midmar Mile, to participate in the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge, and to successfully summit Mt Kilimanjaro. Stan completed all three, but the biggest one was summiting Mt Kilimanjaro. “What a feeling it was, standing on top of the highest point in Africa, knowing that I had accomplished it even though I am an amputee,” he says. “Step by step I moved forward, every step of the way arguing with myself that I can make it! Self-doubt was one of my greatest enemies while trekking to the summit. When we finally got to the top, there was only one obvious thing to do: I tee’d up a golf ball, took my stance and hit it as hard as I could!” Besides constantly having it drilled into your head that you have to ‘pole, pole”’ which means “slowly, slowly” in Swahili, Stan says he will forever remember the phrase ‘hakunamatata’, which simply means “no worries”. “Life will move on, whether you worry or not, so make the best of it while you can. “After arriving back, I realised a passion within myself to enable other amputees, especially lesser privileged amputees, to live a life as fulfilled as mine,” he adds. Stand with Stan is a non-profit organisation that does exactly that: it allows access to better prosthetics for lesser privileged amputees. Stan’s next personal adventure will be to take part and finish the full Ironman 2014. Training for this event has already commenced. To show your support for Stan’s cause, and to make a donation, visit

Beyond the Ordinary... A voyage of a lifetime - travel onboard the RMS St Helena to its remote island namesake, St Helena. Lying 1,500 miles north-west of Cape Town, St Helena offers dramatic landscapes and colonial history in abundance.

For a brochure, schedules, special offers and more information call 021 425 1165 or visit

The 155 berth RMS is a unique passenger / cargo ship perfect for those who enjoy being at sea and discovering new places.


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

Ambassador for the environment and The Intrepid Explorer magazine, Josh Ramsay is determined to make a difference. On 25 May 2013, he started his first expedition, cycling from Cape Town to Zambia in support of the social enterprise initiative, Greenpop (, and its planting of 5 000 trees in Livingstone. “I am cycling to Zambia (and beyond) because I want to rally together a group of people. I want to identify, unite and inspire a group of people who care about the world in which they live. Through supporting our environment, we as a group will support ourselves and become the change we wish to see in the world,” says Josh. Carrying the African philosophy of ubuntu in his heart and mind, Josh will cycle 75km a day for 40 days to complete the 3 000km trip to Zambia. This epic journey is just the beginning, as in 2014 Josh will begin his SailCycleTrek mission to the Amazon. SailCycleTrek will support the non-profit organisation, Fauna Forever (, in its latest and bravest initiative: the establishment of the Amazon Research and Conservation Center (ARCC). The ARCC will be a research, education and conservation initiative situated on over 10 000 hectares of pristine old-growth Peruvian rain forest in one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. It begins with a 5 800km trans-oceanic sail from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, followed by a 4 500km transcontinental cycle from Rio to Puerto Maldonado in Peru, and completed by a 65km jungle trek from Puerto Maldonado, along the path of the Las Piedras River in the heart of the ARCC territory. We wish Josh a safe, exciting and fulfilling journey!

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Sail, Cycle, Trek

Follow his amazing expeditions on Twitter @sailcycletrek and Facebook as well as on our website:

The De Hoop Stretton’s 9th Stanford Bird Fair will be bigger and better than ever – and promises an improved photographic competition jointly sponsored by the De Hoop Collection and Stretton’s. This competition is now open to both serious and amateur photographers, locally and internationally. The subject matter is ‘Birds of Southern Africa’ and there are three categories: professional, serious, and open/blue crane. De Hoop and Stretton’s are excited to announce the new category of blue crane photography. This exquisite bird is an endangered species in the Overberg region, and the organisers feel it requires special focus and attention. Another addition to the De Hoop Stretton’s Stanford Bird Fair is an exhibition centre where finalists’ photographic entries will be displayed. An internationally acclaimed wildlife photographer and journalist will head up the competition judging panel, which will include some of South Africa’s most noted photographers. Entries close on 31 August 2013, and the winner will be announced on 4 October 2013 at an evening prize-giving event as part of the programme of the De Hoop Stretton’s Stanford Bird Fair. There will be prizes in excess of R30 000 to be won. Details of the De Hoop Stretton’s Stanford Bird Fair and the De Hoop Stretton’s Stanford Bird Fair Photographic Competition can be found on and www.dehoopcollection. Rules, regulations and prize details can be found on the website. So get clicking!

BUFF® is a registered trademark property of Original Buff, S.A. (Spain)

Ready, steady, snap!

® ka B U F F Kru p i c band on trail H e a d n by A n t ltraest u rld. Wo r the b f the wo f o O n e n e rs o ru n


www.adventureinc. The Intrepid Explorer issue 3 Tel: 021 180 4000

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Top of the bucket list! Join The Intrepid Explorer on the Inca Trail in 2014

The Peruvian Andes offers fantastic hiking options, with the Inca Trail being one of the finest short treks in the world. Hikers enjoy a four-day/three-night hike on the old Inca stone paths built over 500 years ago. This network of about 22 500km of footpaths crisscrossing the Andes was once used by messengers, soldiers and administrators to serve the Inca Kingdom. The journey takes you up to an altitude of 4 200m before descending to mystical Machu Picchu. While in Peru, you may want to extend your stay with a visit to the Amazon, Lake Titicaca or one of the neighbouring countries in South America. We offer regular departures throughout the year, with a special departure planned for The Intrepid Explorer readers on 28 April or 12 May 2014. For more details, contact Wild Frontiers at or for more info and other destinations, check out

Upcoming talk evenings: Date




31 Jul 2013


Bloemfontein, Cape Union Mart Store, Loch Logan Shopping Centre


01 Aug 2013


Bloemfontein, Cape Union Mart Store, Loch Logan Shopping Centre


14 Aug 2013


Johannesburg, Cape Union Mart Store, Eastgate Shopping Centre


15 Aug 2013

Inca Trail

Pretoria, Cape Union Mart Store, Centurion Lake Shopping Centre


28 Aug 2013


Pretoria, Cape Union Mart Store, Centurion Lake Shopping Centre


19 Sep 2013


Cape Town, Cape Union Mart Store, Canal Walk Adventure Centre


Doing it for Madiba’s legacy and love An overland trip from Norway to Noordhoek, all in aid of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital – that is what Stan and Sally Hannath from Noordhoek, Cape Town will be undertaking in an adventurous road journey from the northernmost tip of Europe to the southernmost tip of Africa. From June to October 2013, they will be travelling overland to raise much-needed awareness and funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg. “Our planned and self-funded overland journey, called cape2cape4kids, will take us from NoordKapp in Norway to Cape Agulhas in South Africa. We plan to visit many hospitals and schools along the way to raise awareness

for the new children’s hospital in Johannesburg,” says Stan. One-hundred percent of the donations will go to the hospital, which will be one of only five dedicated children’s hospitals in Africa. Currently there are only four serving 450 million children on our continent. This compares dismally to Canada which has 23, Australia which has 19 and Germany which has 20. This hospital is said to be Nelson Mandela’s final legacy to the children of Africa and epitomises his love for youngsters. The Hannaths hope to raise sufficient awareness and funds through their journey to implement their goal of building a world-class children’s hospital in the easily accessible city of Johannesburg. The dedicated team is looking for sponsors, both corporate and individual South Africans, to support the cape2cape4kids cause by donating funds. All donations will go through the recognised donation sites, and “Stan and Sally’s mission to travel not only across countries but also across continents is as inspiring as it is humbling. We are honoured that they have chosen the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust as the beneficiary of their fund-raising endeavour, and we look to the global community to also consider how they can help Madiba’s wish for a dedicated children’s hospital come true,” says Sibongile Mkhabela, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust. You can follow Stan and Sally’s epic journey through stories and photographs posted on their blog, Facebook and Twitter. For information, latest updates and to donate, visit


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Out a n d a bout Rock ‘n’ roll in the Cederberg

The Cederberg Wilderness, home to one of the most popular rock-climbing sites in the world, has recently unveiled its latest gem. “Set against the backdrop of the famous Rocklands bouldering site on Pakhuys Pass, 20 kilometres outside Clanwilliam, the Kliphuis chalets and campsite are now open to the public after 10 years,” said Sheraaz Ismail, CapeNature executive director of marketing and ecotourism. There are three fully renovated and equipped chalets that sleep six to eight people each, and 14 spacious campsites that can take six people per site. CapeNature has reopened the improved facility just in time for the bouldering season, and activities may be carried out as normal. The popular sport climbing area was closed over 10 years ago due to fire damage, resulting in climbers losing one of the most unique climbing areas in South Africa. The Cederberg Wilderness Area lies some 200km north of Cape Town, stretching from the Middelberg Pass at Citrusdal to north of the Pakhuis Pass at Clanwilliam and encompassing some 71 000ha of rugged, mountainous terrain. The area was

proclaimed a wilderness area in 1973 and has grown into a popular destination for hardy hikers and mountaineers. The Cederberg is renowned for its spectacular landscapes and rock formations, as well as its namesake – the increasingly rare Clanwilliam cedar tree. Permits are available at the campsite office from 07h30 to 16h00, Monday to Friday; after hours, report at the management facilities across the road. Climbers wishing to make use of the facilities can access the reserve at no charge if they have a valid Wild Card; however, permits are to be purchased separately. Bookings are now open. If you book before 30 September 2013, you will receive a 20% discount on self-catering and camping facilities only. Campsite: R200 (6 persons per site) Cottages: from R750 for 6 people per cottage per night (R80pp additional, sleeps max 8 people) Permits: R60/day per person or R270/week per person For more information, call 021 483 0190 or email

pioneering journeysTanzania Uganda through africa Kenya Himalayas

Tel: 011 702 2035 or 072 927 7529 Fax: 086 689 6759

Rwanda Ethiopia Botswana Namibia Zambia Zimbabwe


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5 i the big

Robbie Stammers gives us a guided tour of the new, exciting vehicles that have been spotted on our roads recently

Like the Big 5 in the bush, these vehicles have unique characteristics: some may be featured for their strength and speed, and others for their comfort and size.

n Africa, the Big 5 game animals are the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. The term ‘big five game’ was coined by big-game hunters, and refers to the five African animals that are most difficult to hunt on foot.

Subsequently, the term was adopted by safari tour operators for marketing purposes. For our purposes, we have chosen this quarter’s five preferred vehicles to review. Some would be ideal for an intrepid adventure into the bundus, while others would be more suited to the concrete jungle and the school run.

Xcellent, as Xpected – Nissan X-Trail

I always say you can’t go wrong with a Nissan (well, perhaps with the exception of the Murano!) and it seems I’m not alone, as more than 22 000 X-Trails were sold between 2001 and 2012, making it by far the best-selling single SUV model in South Africa, according to Nissan. Let’s look at the facts. You get a well-equipped family car with comfortable all-independent suspension and all the powered gadgets and safety kit you need. There are six air bags, ABS with EBD and braking assistance, vehicle dynamic control, electronic limited-slip differential, hill start helper, cruise control and hill descent assistance. Of course, one also gets a radio and CD player (driving six discs in top models), Bluetooth, four to six speakers, automatic air conditioning, central locking with autolock, powered seat adjusters, more cup holders than you will ever need (including two on top of the fascia), 124 litres of tray storage under the floor of the load area and the deepest glove box (chilled, naturally) of all SUVs on offer. Rear seat backs not only recline, but are split 40:20:40 so you can load almost anything, while the cushions tumble forward to allow the backrests down to form a completely flat loading area. This extends the normal 479- or 603-litre boot space to 1 773 litres. Nissan reckons you can get a mountain bike in there with its front wheel on! Coupled with all this is a 1 995cc, four-cylinder, turbodiesel engine with power of 110kW at 4 000rpm, torque of 320Nm at 2 000rpm, and which can do 0-100km/h in 10.9 seconds with a real-life fuel consumption of about 8.6 litres per 100km. Why are you still reading this? Go get one! Price tag 2013 Nissan X-Trail – R462 900


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Hit th e r oa d, J a c k Back on track – Suzuki Grand Vitara 2013

A fine improvement – Land Rover Freelander 2 2013

Price tag Grand Vitara Dune – R298 900 Grand Vitara Dune (auto) – R313 900 Grand Vitara Summit – R358 900 Grand Vitara Summit (auto) – R373 900

Price tag 2013 Land Rover Freelander 2 – starts at R433 500

The Suzuki has been given a minor face lift recently. The front end of the SUV benefits from a revised grille, bumper, fog lights and a lower air intake. There are new 17- and 18-inch alloy rims and the car can be ordered with a bronze metallic paint job. Most buyers, however, are more likely to rejoice at the return of the bootlid-mounted, full-size spare wheel. I applaud this move, as this has always been a long-standing part of the Grand Vitara’s chunky appeal. The Grand Vitara comes in two specs: the Dune and the Summit. Standard kit on the Dune consists of a radio/CD player with MP3 and speed-sensing volume adjustment, power windows, central locking, auto air conditioning and cloth seats. In terms of safety, you have ABS, front, side and curtain air bags and Isofix child seat anchors. The Summit has all the above, but with some snazzy extras such as a sunroof, six-CD shuttle player, auto headlights with washers and front fog lights and leather upholstery. The Grand Vitara models are powered by a four-cylinder 2.4 engine capable of 122kW at 6 000rpm and 225Nm at 4 000rpm. Each trim level can be equipped with either a five-speed manual or four-speed auto. The 2.4 manual is capable of sprinting from 0-100 km/h in 11.7 seconds with a top speed of 180km/h. The auto variant can do the dash in 12 seconds and reach 170km/h. Fuel consumption is rated at 8.9 litres per 100km (manual) and 9.9 litres per 100km (auto), while carbon emissions are 212g/km and 234g/km respectively. I found the Vitara pleasant on the road, but slightly unbalanced – though that could have been due to the huge Cape storm we were experiencing that week. Off road, however, it really came into its own. So in a nutshell: if you’re looking for a tough, relatively compact vehicle that’s genuinely capable off road and doesn’t cost a fortune, this Suzuki is certainly a viable solution.

The original Freelander first appeared in 1997, and was immediately popular as the smallest, most affordable modern Land Rover – and it lasted until 2006. In my opinion, as a die-hard Landie man, that was nine years too long. I hated the ‘pretend’ Land Rover and was so glad when it was changed in 2006. For the 2013 model year, the Freelander 2 has undergone a face lift to smarten its exterior and revamp the cabin – and, I must say, Land Rover has done a sterling job. Outside, the LED lights on the front and rear have changed slightly and the front grille and fog light surrounds have been modified. But it is in the interior where the real changes have taken place: an all-new centre console, ditching the Terrain Response dial for a more space-efficient button arrangement. New ‘Dynamic’ models come in a choice of three upholstery colours, all with natty co-ordinated stitching, and there’s a 5-inch central display screen. The infotainment centre has been improved as well. An upgraded sat-nav system, voice-control and reversing camera are all now available. When reversing, the camera screen will display a superimposed tow bar to help when hooking up a trailer. Entry into Freelander ownership starts with the S, and its cloth seats. Upgrading to GS trim gets you full leather, while XS cars enjoy a gloss black grille and 380W Meridian premium Hi-Fi system. For a sportier look, the new Freelander Dynamic gets a body-styling kit, gloss black exterior trim and sportier electric seats. Plus, you’ll ride on 19-inch wheels, exclusive to the Dynamic. Opt for a Freelander HSE and the interior is adorned with wood trim, plus a panoramic sunroof, memory function seats and 825W Meridian Hi-Fi. And, at the very top of the range, we find the Freelander HSE Lux, now complete with premium leather seats, black lacquered trim, better carpets and unique 19-inch wheels. Under the bonnet, the Freelander keeps the same range of 2.2-litre turbodiesel engines, good for up to 5.9 litres per 100km and 158g/km in six-speed manual, front-wheel drive form. I found the Freelander good on the highway, bar the fact I simply couldn’t get the seat adjustment to feel comfortable enough in any position – but that all fell away when I took it off road. This Freelander can definitely take its Land Rover status to join the rest of the ranks with the Discovery and Defenders on the dirt and in the wet. Pure driving pleasure!

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


Hit th e r oa d, J a c k You gotta have faith – Hyundai Santa Fe

Bold and beautiful – New Mercedes-Benz GL

Price tag Santa Fe R2.2 Premium FWD 5-seater – R434 900 Santa Fe R2.2 Executive AWD 7-seater – R459 900 Santa Fe R2.2 Elite AWD 7-seater – R499 900

Price tag GL 350 CDI – R966 246 GL 500 – R1 106 859 GL 63 AMG – R1 669 636

Santa Fe apparently means ‘holy faith’ in Spanish, and that certainly seems to be what Hyundai has applied when it brought out this vehicle. The new Santa Fe is very difficult to fault: it’s spacious, drives well, has a pretty good diesel engine and automatic box, and prices itself very competitively. You can see why the Koreans are climbing up the sales charts so rapidly. Hyundai has incorporated the curves of the ix35 into the Santa Fe’s bodywork while still making it look like the bigger brother that it is. Under the bonnet there is one engine derivative – 145kW, 2.2-litre turbodiesel – throughout the range and runs only on 50ppm low-sulphur fuel. Peak torque is a strong 436Nm that occurs between 1 800 and 2 200rpm. The top-end SUV comes in three derivatives. One is given a choice between the front-wheel-drive Santa Fe Premium and the two all-wheel-drive derivatives – the Executive and the Elite. Both AWD versions get a third row of seats, upping passenger capacity to a full seven. In line with Hyundai’s ‘Modern Premium’ brand direction, the car is literally packed with all the comfort and luxury features you could ask for, including Dual Zone Climate Control with chilled glove box feature, automatic electric folding mirrors, an automatic rain sensor with speed-sensitive windscreen wipers, and controls for the audio system and cruise control mounted on the wheel. Range-topping Elite models also get 12-way power adjustable driver’s seats, a powered panoramic sunroof, and a rear-view camera that displays its image in the mirror itself, which complements the Rear Parking Assist System commonly known as park-distance control. Models available in the Santa Fe start with a 2WD five-seater Premium model, the middle of the range is the AWD sevenseater Executive, and the range topper is the Elite AWD seven-seater that gets items such as a full panoramic roof, heated seats and an automatic hill-hold feature. The Santa Fe also boasts Hyundai’s five-year/150 000km manufacturer’s warranty, a five-year/150 000km roadside assistance plus a five-year/90 000km service contract. Service intervals are at 15 000km.


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

Billed as the S-Class of off-roaders, the Mercedes-Benz GL has arrived in South Africa and wowed us all at an incredible launch on and over the valleys and hills of KwaZulu-Natal. The GL follows an evolutionary design path and it is generously proportioned, measuring 5 120 millimetres in length and with a 3 075mm wheelbase. Those wanting a bit more bang for their buck can now opt for an AMG exterior sport package, although a real AMG is also on the menu. Starting at the winners’ podium, the GL 63 AMG employs AMG’s latest 5.5-litre bi-turbo mill that pushes 410kW and 760Nm – enough to rush it to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. Nothing shabby about that, particularly when you consider how big this beauty is. Also more efficient are the respective diesel and petrol engines in the GL 350 BlueTec and GL 500 BlueEfficiency – aided by the fact that the new GL is 90 kilogrammes lighter than its predecessor and comes with idle-stop and low-rolling-resistance tyres. The GL 350 turbodiesel is credited with 190kW and 620Nm, sprints to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds, and sips between 7.4 and 8.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. The petrol-powered GL 500 is good for 320kW and 700Nm, a 5.4-second sprint, 250km/h top end and 11.5 litres per 100km consumption. All models come with the incredible 7G-tronic Plus automatic transmission that sends power to all four wheels via Merc’s 4Matic system, which has a special function for off-road driving. There is also an On&Offroad package, which allows the driver to choose between six driving modes. Standard on-road driving aids, in addition to the ESP stability system and Pre-Safe, include the Collision Prevention Assist collision warning system and the Attention Assist drowsiness detector, which I found quite amazing. Added to this is the fact that one doesn’t even need to park this baby, as a handy 360-degree camera system uses four cameras to calculate a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle and its surrounding area and parks the car on its own! I felt like Knight Rider behind the wheel of KITT! Inside, the new GL cabin is finished in an extensive array of high-end materials including wood (or aluminium) as well as controls in silver-chrome and upholstery in high-quality leather. It comfortably seats seven occupants. Off road, the GL is magnificent. Watch out, my beloved Range Rover: you have some new competition…

Ph oto es s a y


life through the

In each edition of The Intrepid Explorer, we showcase one of South Africa’s top photographers. Our Intrepid man behind the camera for this winter edition is jeremy jowell.

Jeremy Jowell is an award-winning photographer and travel writer based in Cape

Town. He graduated from university with a degree in Commerce and spent several years in the field of accounting before his passion for photography developed from a hobby into a new line of work. After working for a few years on a community newspaper, he began a career in freelance photography and travel writing. For the past 17 years, Jowell has been a regular contributor of both written work and images to many South African and international publications. His work has also featured in several books, most prominently in two: on luxury wildlife lodges in South Africa and upmarket hotels on Indian Ocean Islands. He has also produced a series of Cape Town postcards and annual scenic calendars. But it’s travel and nature that bring Jowell the most satisfaction and he is well known for his African images and landscapes that have featured in three solo exhibitions and several group shows. His artistic images have proved popular with investors in photographic art. Jowell has won several awards for his photography. In the 2008 Px3 International Photo Competition, he was awarded second place in the Travel and Tourism category and in the 2004 Fuji Profoto Awards, he won a Gold Award in the Landscape section and Silver in the Aerial category. He was also a finalist in the 2003 Brett Kebble Art Awards and in the 2010 Africa Photographic Awards. “Over the years, I’ve travelled extensively around the world, capturing my experiences on paper and film. But my favourite continent is still Africa. There’s a special magic being out there in the golden hours around sunrise and sunset when the colours and light constantly change. All the elements – the landscapes, the wildlife and the people – combine to make this the most photogenic continent on earth. “The most addictive country I have visited is Namibia, a photographer’s dream with breathtaking scenery, vast landscapes and sharp contrasts. But as much as I love travelling, it’s always nice to get back home to Cape Town, the most beautiful city in the world.” Website: Facebook:


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Namib Desert, Namibia. I shot this image of a field of barchan sand dunes just after sunrise from a hot-air balloon. These low sand dunes change shape with the wind. An early-morning balloon flight above the Namib Desert should be on every traveller’s bucket list.

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


Waterberg Mountains, Limpopo, South Africa. The setting sun painted the mountain shades of pink and purple when we stopped for sundowners at Fish Eagle Dam in The Marakale National Park. Aldabra, Seychelles. Aldabra is one of the world’s shining lights in natural research and species conservation. Most visitors to these isolated shores are scientists or rangers, and the occasional lucky journalist. I was fortunate to spend two weeks here and one afternoon joined the rangers on a fishing expedition. With the exception of subsistence fishing, no other catches are allowed in the waters of Aldabra. The atoll is also well known for its giant tortoises numbering over 100 000.


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

Ph oto es s a y

Arniston, South Africa. This little girl was only too keen to pose for pictures after having her hair set in curlers. Kassiesbaai in Arniston is a quaint fisherman’s village with thatched white cottages and friendly folk. The village has been declared a national monument.

Clifton, Cape Town. A few years ago, Clifton 2nd Beach was once a regular venue for Poi, the art of fire juggling. What started out as a small gathering soon began drawing weekly crowds of up to 2 000 people who arrived shortly before sunset for a night of drumming and fire spinning. The visual feast was eventually halted after nearby residents complained about the noise.

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Okavango Delta, Botswana. My dinner got delayed one evening while on safari when the mother of all thunderstorms broke with big booms and lightning strikes crashing down every couple of seconds. After rushing back from a game drive, I spent an hour photographing the storm. Using a tripod, this image was exposed for 17 seconds at f11 with ISO 100.

Zadar, Croatia. Every evening around sunset, tourists and locals congregate around the Greeting to the Sun monument in this beautiful Adriatic Coast town. The monument consists of 300 glass plates installed in the shape of a circle and a presentation of all the solar system planets and their orbits.


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Chenini, Tunisia. While visiting the ancient Berber village of Chenini, I met an old Berber woman with a wrinkled face and hennae tattoos, sitting on the stone steps of her home. Unlike other Berber villages that have long been deserted, some people still live here and she invited me in to look around her home.

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


store listing western cape STORES Bayside Mall (021) 556-3861 Blue Route Mall (021) 712-5979 Canal Walk (021) 555-2846 Canal Walk Adventure Centre (021) 555-4629 Cape Gate Shopping Centre (021) 982-2000 Cavendish Square (021) 674-2148 Constantia Village (021) 794-0632 Garden Route Mall (044) 887-0048 Gardens Centre (021) 461-9678 Knysna Mall (044) 382-4653 Langeberg Mall (044) 695- 2486 Mountain Mill Mall (023) 347-1484 Paarl Mall (021) 863-4138 Somerset Mall (021) 852-7120 The Market Square (044) 533-4030 Tygervalley Shopping Centre (021) 914-1441 V&A Waterfront (021) 425-4559 V&A Waterfront (021) 419-0020


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

West Coast Mall Middleburg Mall Killarney Mall (022) 713 4113 (013) 244-1041 (011) 646-7745 EASTERN CAPE STORES Riverside Mall Kolonnade Shopping Centre Greenacres Shopping Centre (013) 757-0338 (012) 548-9811 (041) 363-1504 NORTH WEST STORES Mall@reds Hemingways Shopping Centre Waterfall Mall (012) 656-0182 (043) 726-0908 (014) 537-3656 Menlyn Park Walmer Park Brits Mall (012) 368-1015 (041) 368-7442 (012) 250-1909 Nicolway Shopping Centre Vincent Park Mooiriver Mall (011) 706-7573 (043) 726-2900 (018) 293-1788 OR Tambo International Airport Fountains Mall LIMPOPO STORE (011) 390-3245 (042) 293-0005 Mall of the North (015) 265-1067 Rosebank Mall KWAZULU-NATAL STORES (011) 442-1959 Boardwalk Shopping Centre GAUTENG STORES (035) 789-0321 Atterbury Value Mart, Pretoria (012) 991-3171 Sandton City (011) 884-9771 Galleria (031) 904 -2318 Brooklyn Mall (012) 460-5511 The Glen Shopping Centre (011) 436 -1300 Gateway World (031) 566-5111 Carnival Mall (011) 915-0470 The Grove (012) 807-0642 Midlands Mall (033) 342-0152 Centurion Shopping Mall (012) 663-4111 Vaal Mall (016) 981- 5186 Pavilion Shopping Centre (031) 265-1666 Clearwaters Mall (011) 675-0036 Woodlands Boulevard (012) 997-6960 Westwood Mall (031) 266-6049 Cresta Centre (011) 478-1913 BOSTWANA STORES Game City, Gaberone 00267-391-0948 NORTHERN CAPE STORE Diamond Pavilion Centre Eastgate Adventure Centre (053) 832-3846 (011) 622-8788 Riverwalk Mall, Gaberone 00267-370-0040 FREE STATE STORES East Rand Mall Mimosa Mall (011) 826-2408 Pick n Pay Centre, Francistown (051) 444-6059 00267-241-0398 Fourways Mall Loch Logan (011) 465-9824 NAMIBIA STORE (051) 430-0230 Maerua Mall, Windhoek 00264-612-20424 Greenstone Shopping Centre MPUMALANGA STORES (011) 609-0002 Ilanga Mall OUTLET STORES (013) 742-2281 Access Park, Cape Town Hyde Park Corner (021) 674-6398 (011) 325-5038 Highveld Mall (013) 692-4018 Woodmead Value Mart, Johannesburg Irene Village (011) 656-0750 (012) 662-1133

passport to adventure

Howe to tr a vel

The last laugh

Graham Howe relives his intrepid adventures from the well-worn pages of his passport

Question: What do a dodo, albatross, penguin and the Sphinx have in common? Answer: You’ll find them all in my


passport – along with official entry stamps portraying tall sail ships, lighthouses, ancient ruins from Ephesus to Petra, and the legendary coco de mer seed that closely resembles a fine pair of buttocks.

hen I’m flying somewhere, I sometimes read my passport for fun. A gallery of exotic icons of destinations around the globe brightens up the pages of the official document. All these colourful stamps evoke memories of a lifetime of travel to remote places. The island’s only policeman stamped the albatross and a volcano in my passport at Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic. A lighthouse keeper added the tall ship when I rounded Cape Horn, and landed like Darwin and Drake before me at this lonely outpost in Chile. The lighthouse was stamped in at El Fin del Mundo (‘the end of the world’) in Patagonia – and the penguin by the all-girl team at the British base of Port Lockroy in the Antarctic. The poor, extinct dodo comes from Mauritius and the voluptuous coco de mer from Seychelles. You can guess where I collected the Sphinx. A few of the stamps remind me of border crossings on foot or by water. Crossing from Kasane in Botswana to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, I saw two side-by-side signs at the Chobe customs post, warning: “Please stamp your passport B4 you cross” and “Do not buy fish and veg here”. Go figure. On the other side of the river, I found a rustic customs hut – but it was lunch, and the official had gone fishing.

I treasure my old passports. They are like diaries, recording the exact date when I visited every country. (They are also useful in resolving family arguments about exactly when and where you shared a holiday…) An old passport recalls a rite of passage such as that nostalgic student trip with my mates across Europe (10 countries in 30 days), shared backpacker trips through southeast Asia, and travel assignments in remote places from the Antarctic and Borneo to St Helena and Tristan da Cunha. Travel writers make the 100 club when they notch up their hundredth country. Country-bagging my way through my old collection of passports – one for each decade – I counted just over 60 countries, so I’ve a fair way to go. A mate, Eoghan Corry, editor of Ireland’s Travel Extra, has notched up his hundredth country already: he is listed by Wikipedia as the most travelled man in Ireland, as he averages 30 countries each year on assignments. But that may be a bit of Irish blarney. Some visas greedily fill an entire page of my passport. Looking back, I suspect that the bigger the visa stamp, the more oppressive the country. Whenever the visa declares, “The people’s democratic socialist republic of…” or “The State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc)”, you can bet it was run by a military dictatorship when I dropped in. The old ruling ‘Slorc’ of Myanmar/Burma

was shorthand for the bad guys straight out of a Cold War spy series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I had to deny I was ‘a minion of imperialism’ (journalist) before they let me in. And when entering Argentina recently, veterans of the Malvinas/Falklands War held banners that read, “Ban the English pirates”. I was tempted to declare ‘pirate’ as my profession. Western countries stamp your passport from the front, while Middle Eastern countries stamp your passport from the back. When they meet in the middle, it’s probably time to apply for a new passport. Some immigration officials spend ages paging through your passport until they come to a country stamp deemed suspicious (say, Libya) or a row of Arabic stamps (in my case: Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and Tunisia) – then call over an official to do a lengthy explosives trace test on your person and your luggage. If you plan to visit Israel before or afterward, get a new passport – or expect to bend over for a body cavity search. So I’ve just received a brand new passport. The life and death of a passport is a major milestone in a traveller’s life. Ten years of intrepid travel went into my dear old passport, filling it with foreign customs stamps, visas as well as entryand departure stamps from around the world. Now it’s all gone, and I have to start over again. Where to next?

The Intrepid Explorer issue 3


©nick boulton

the last word The Intrepid Explorer gets down with 5FM’s DJ Fresh By Shan Routledge

What are the top destinations on your ‘bucket list’ of places to which you’d like to travel? A Virgin Galactic trip! I mean, who wouldn’t want to go up into space, now that it’s possible and available? I haven’t done the Great Wall of China and would still love to do that. And I’d like to visit every African country – take a year travelling to an African city every week. Which favourite places have you already ticked off your bucket list? London was one of the first I ever crossed off. The others are Miami, Ibiza, Spain, Los Angeles, New York, Moscow and Lagos. I have always heard so much about Lagos, so going there felt like I was going home! What is the weirdest food or drink you have ever tried? For me, nothing is weird as long as it’s not moving anymore and it’s cooked in the correct manner (and Nando’s sauce added where needed!). I’m pretty open to eating anything; if I go to a community where they eat locusts, then I will eat locusts – my palate is open-minded.  Are you an adrenalin junkie? Can you share any experiences of shark-cage diving, bungee jumping, parachuting, abseiling or the like? If you have yet to try any of these, what would appeal to you, and what would not? I went white-water rafting at Victoria Falls; it was quite a rush because we did the whole day and all the rapids. We spilt out of our raft about three times and the one time I seriously thought I was going to die, but you climb back on and continue the ride. It was thrilling! I believe anything that’s not death but which will give me a thrill, I’m willing to try.


The Intrepid Explorer issue 3

If you consider your upbringing, were/are you a bush baby or a city slicker? I had the benefit of both. My dad has a cattle farm, so during school holidays we were at the farm or his home village. During term, we were in the city, giving me a fair balance of the two and for which I am grateful.

is if it were marinating the meat. Bring on the tequila!

Braai or sushi? Braai – if I could braai sushi, I would.

Which music would you never leave behind when you are on a road trip? Sing-along songs are key: they have that thing about them that even if you don’t like the songs, you still hum along and tap your foot.

What is the most memorable experience you have had with wildlife? Riding elephants in Victoria Falls was the most memorable experience I have had because we got to see how gentle these animals can be. If you were stuck on a desert island, would you know how to make a fire without matches, and how to catch dinner? Ja! I could survive, and because I spent a lot of time in the wild during the school holidays, catching birds among others, I am ready. I’m wild-ready! What is your tried-and-tested signature dish you serve your friends? I can prepare a mean chicken curry and a great omelette. If it were up to you, what do you think we should do to the people running the rhino horn trade? I’m a firm believer in rough justice, if that’s what it takes to get the job done. You should be able to shoot on sight and string them up on the fence to warn future poachers what lies ahead.  Beer or wine? Neither! The only time I would have a beer

Camping or luxury lodge? Definitely luxury lodge. I believe I’ve worked hard enough to not have to live like I haven’t worked hard; I want the 5-star treatment.

What are your pet hates/dislikes in people? I’m generally a very patient person, but my big pet peeve is entitlement. People should not feel they are entitled to respect or government money. I believe the only thing we are entitled to is oxygen and a bit of dignity – the rest you have to earn. As a role model yourself, whom did you see as your inspirational role model while growing up, and whom do you hold in high esteem now? It’s always been my mom; she has always been my go-to person, my rock. Watching her juggle family and a job and handling it with such aplomb, she was always my beacon, helping me navigate questions such as: ‘Am I doing the right thing? Am I on the right track?’ Do you still get a thrill being on radio every day and doing DJ gigs?  Without fail, the minute before I switch on the microphone or turn on the first song, it’s a mixture of emotions; it’s nervous anticipation. It’s amazing – as long as you don’t let it debilitate you.

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The Intrepid Explorer magazine - Winter 2013  

The Intrepid Explorer is the first of its kind in the outdoor adventure and travel sector as a custom title linked to the oldest and most pr...