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nature reserves

Tswaing Crater and lake

#Gauteng52, Week 18: Tswaing Meteorite Crater

Welcome to Week 18 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Tswaing Meteorite Crater. About 200,000 years ago, a swimming-pool-sized rock crashed into South Africa. The collision created the Tswaing Meteorite Crater. Two thousand centuries later, the Tswaing Crater is a nature reserve in the far northern reaches of Gauteng Province. The Tswaing Crater is not to be confused with another nearby impact crater, the Vredefort Dome, which is thought to be the largest impact crater in the world and is about 166 times larger than Tswaing. (The Tswaing Crater is 1.8 kilometers, or just over a mile wide, and the Vredefort Crater is an unfathomable 300 kilometers wide.) Ray and I had been wanting to visit the Tswaing Crater together forever, and I’ve been really excited to feature it on #Gauteng52. Unfortunately our visit didn’t go as smoothly as planned and we didn’t experience the crater as fully as we’d hoped. I have some valuable tips to share that will make your visit to the Tswaing Crater more fantastic than ours was. The Tswaing Crater, looking way less impressive than […]

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Starfish Safari at De Hoop Nature Reserve

South Africa is a geographically diverse country with eye-popping natural wonders everywhere you look. We all know the big ones: Kruger National Park, Table Mountain, the Karoo, the Drakensberg Mountains. But if  you dig deeper into your travel book you’ll find dozens of lesser known places, offering their own unique versions of dramatic South African beauty. De Hoop Nature Reserve is one of those places. De Hoop seascape. Last weekend I spent three days at De Hoop, which is a three-hour drive southeast of Cape Town. Full disclosure: The trip was sponsored by the De Hoop Collection. (Trips like this are what blogging dreams are made of.)

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Hyenas Make Me Laugh

On my recent visit to Etosha National Park, I learned that you can’t just rock up to a game park, drive around, and expect to take fabulous wildlife photos. Good wildlife photography is a lot of work and requires equipment that I don’t have, like binoculars and a telephoto lens. It’s also difficult to take good wildlife photos while simultaneously driving a car. So instead of taking “good” wildlife photos in Etosha, I took quirky, comical wildlife photos. This shot of a mother and baby wildebeest pair is not necessarily good. But it’s funny. At least I think so.

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Return to the Swazi Mountaintop

There was a time when I didn’t believe in fate. I used to think life was one big coincidence. Then I came to Africa and changed my tune. Five years ago, if I had visited a psychic and she had predicted where I would be today, I would have laughed in her face and walked out without paying. The life I’m leading now is so extraordinary — so utterly impossible — that I don’t believe it could be a coincidence. There must be some reason, some explanation. There must be some plan, of which I’m not yet aware. A month ago, I wrote a blog post called ‘Land Rover on a Swazi Mountaintop‘. The post was about a photo I took three years ago in Swaziland’s Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, at the top of Nyonyane Mountain. I visited Mlilwane with Jon in June 2008, and it was a very special place for us.

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A 2Summers Christmas Makeover

I gave myself a new blog for Christmas. It’s a good time to reinvent myself. It’s been a heck of a year. I’ve experienced immense joy in 2011, along with unimaginable grief and despair.  The last two months in particular have left me feeling like someone removed my internal organs, beat them to a pulp with a hammer, then placed them back inside my body. And the year ain’t over yet. So. Time for a change. I loved my old header image of the South African and U.S. flags flapping in the wind. Joe shot the photo in Melville during the 2010 World Cup, just before I moved here. It was a unique image that communicated a lot about who I am and what my blog is about.

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I Can See Clearly Now (Sort Of)

As long as I’ve lived here, the view from the deck at the Lucky 5 Star has been a wall of green. It was one of my favorite things about the house — the back yard felt like a private jungle, filled with unruly indigenous plants and flowering creepers (the creepers are pretty, but invasive). Yesterday, the creepers got the best of the yard’s largest indigenous plant — a twisty rock karee tree. Here’s a shot taken from the deck, exactly a year ago during a summer rain storm. You can see a limb of the rock karee tree shooting off to the left.  The other limbs are obscured by creepers.

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Crack-a-DOOO!

Part 3 of a 3-part series about the Cederberg Heritage Route. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. When I left off, my travel companions and I had spent a magical evening in the village of Hugel-Bugel (a.k.a. Heuningvlei). We awoke early the next morning for the final installment of our Cederberg adventure: a hike across Krakadouw Pass. Our guide for the day was Abraham, an ageless, salt-of-the-earth kind of man. Abraham has lived in Heuningvlei all his life. He has worked tirelessly to encourage conservation and responsible tourism in the Cederberg. Abraham.

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Rock Art and Donkey Carts

Part 1 of a 3-part series. Read Part 2 here and Part 3 here. It’s time to tell you what I was doing in the Western Cape last week, besides bumming around Bo-Kaap. The real purpose of my trip was to visit the Cederberg Wilderness, 240 kilometers northwest of Cape Town, and participate in a hiking adventure called the Cederberg Heritage Route. The Cederberg Wilderness.

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Hogsback Packing

I’m back in Joburg, recovering from jet lag. Since I had to leave for the U.S. in such a rush last month, I didn’t get the chance to share all the stories from my road trip around South Africa. So even though it’s technically old news, I hope you’ll enjoy this post about my recent visit to the magical village of Hogsback. A slightly edited version of the post appeared on TravelWrite.co.za – you’ll notice it has more of a travel-magazine-y feel than my other posts. Thanks to TravelWrite editor Caroline Hurry for coming up with this clever headline. ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦ It’s a chilly morning in Hogsback. Joe and I just finished a pre-breakfast hike to a majestic waterfall at the top of a mountain. We’re hungry. We are the only customers in the quirky Butterfly Bistro, sitting at a cozy table next to a clay fireplace.

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Voortrekker: My New Favorite Afrikaans Word

Joe and I woke up ridiculously early one Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day. Joe had an idea for an outing but wouldn’t tell me what it was. He ushered me into the car and we headed up the M1 toward Pretoria. When I saw this granite monolith staring down at us, I realized Joe was taking me to the Voortrekker Monument. Die Voortrekkermonument. (It’s all one word in Afrikaans.) Voortrekker, which means ‘pioneer’, is pronounced ‘FOUR-trecker’, with a rolled R that I can’t replicate.

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Am I a Photographer?

This week I attended a Q&A discussion with David Goldblatt, one of South Africa’s most legendary photographers, at the Market Photo Workshop in Joburg. The Market Photo Workshop, which Goldblatt founded in the 1980s, is a school for aspiring photographers, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Workshop is currently running an exhibition of Goldblatt’s photographs that lasts until the end of July. The Q&A was moderated by three Workshop students, who asked Goldblatt a series of questions and then took questions from the audience. I was enthralled by every second of the hour-long discussion. Goldblatt, with his photos behind him, speaks before a rapt audience during the Q&A.

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Kruger at Ground Level, Part 3: Mineral

Welcome to the final blog post about my hike through the Kruger Park’s Pafuri Triangle: the mineral installment. Most of the facts in this post were gleaned from Brian, our Pafuri wilderness guide, and Wikipedia. If you’ve read parts 1 and 2 of this series, you know that the Pafuri Triangle is chock-full of majestic African wildlife and awe-inspiring trees. But Pafuri also has rocks. And water. And an amazing geological and archaeological history. Geology and archaeology aren’t my specialties, but this post is an excuse to show you some of my favorite pics from the trip that don’t feature animals or plants. Water is a mineral, right? Either way, I really like this picture.

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