Browsing Tag

nature

Cosmos in Delta Park

#Gauteng52, Week 12: The Cosmos of Delta Park

Welcome to Week 12 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 Delta Park, which explodes with pink and white cosmos flowers every autumn. This #Gauteng52 post is cheating a little because I’ve been to Delta Park — a huge city park bordering the suburbs of Craighall Park, Blairgowrie, Victory Park, and Linden — before. But up until yesterday I had never been to Delta Park during cosmos season, which transforms this park into a totally different place. Fields full of cosmos in Delta Park. Cosmos are wildflowers that made their way to South Africa in contaminated horse feed during the Anglo Boer War; the flowers are native to the Americas. The cosmos took to the dry climate of the South African highveld and everywhere the horses fed, the cosmos grew. The flowers seem especially fond of ditches along rural South African roads and highways, and they grow like wildfire in Delta Park. Cosmos: Johannesburg’s Autumn Leaves March is the beginning of autumn in South Africa. We might not have the same abundance of fall leaves that I grew up with in America (there are some, but not […]

Continue Reading

Heather on Hennops

#Gauteng52, Week 1: Hiking the Hennops Trail

Welcome to the #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. On Week 1, Ray and I went for a walk along the Hennops Hiking Trail. Setting out on the trail. I read about the Hennops trail, which is named for the Hennops River it crosses, on my friend Hitekani’s blog a couple of years ago. I’ve been meaning to do it ever since. (This is one of the great things about the #Gauteng52 challenge — it will motivate me to do lots of things I’ve been meaning to do.) I finally got around to it on the last day of 2016. The Hennops Hiking Trail The trail is on a private farm about 50 minutes north of my house in Melville, only 20 minutes from Joburg’s northern reaches of Fourways and Diepsloot. Even though it’s close to town, the Hennops farm is idyllic and made me feel like I was well away from the city. Admission to the hiking trails is R60 (about $5) and there are three routes to choose from: the Krokodilberg route is about 12 kilometers; the Zebra route is 6 kilometers, […]

Continue Reading

Ray walking at Stone Hill, a dog-friendly self-catering property in Magaliesburg

A Dog-Friendly Getaway for a Dog-less Couple

I recently received an assignment to book a stay on Accommodation Direct, go stay at that place, and write a review of the experience. Accommodation Direct is a new accommodation booking tool and has listings throughout South Africa and a few other southern African countries. This was a pretty great assignment. I could choose to stay wherever I wanted (with the understanding that I was responsible for getting myself there), I could bring Ray, and my only instruction was to have a good time. The only hard part, as it turned out, was choosing where to go. Accommodation Direct offers everything from low-budget backpacking hostels to expensive safari lodges (I had a budget of R5000 — about $350 — so I had to be smart), with listings all over the place. Ray and I scoured the site for a couple of days, growing increasingly confused and indecisive, until settling on a self-catering guest farm called Stone Hill in Magaliesburg, just an hour or so from Joburg. People are always asking me for recommendations on weekend getaways that are close to town and this seemed like a good excuse to try one out. Plus Stone Hill is dog-friendly — we don’t have a dog but like […]

Continue Reading

White and purple jacarandas on Herbert Baker Street

The Quest for Pretoria’s White Jacarandas

I’m in America right now and I had really been looking forward to seeing the fall leaves here. I came home at exactly this time last year and the leaves were spectacular. Alas, it’s been a warm autumn on the East Coast and that seems to have slowed down the color change. The leaves have only just begun their transition in Maryland and Virginia. Not to worry though. While I don’t have any good fall leaf photos yet, I do have good pictures of white jacarandas in South Africa. The white jacarandas of Herbert Baker Street. Two weeks ago I went to Pretoria with my journalist friend Marie-Lais Emond, who writes a weekly column for the Citizen called “Other Side of the City”, to find the legendary white jacarandas. Marie-Lais had known about Pretoria’s white jacarandas for years but had never been able to find them before. Finally this year, someone gave her their exact location on Herbert Baker Street in Groenkloof. What’s the Big Deal About White Jacarandas? A bunch of white-flowering trees in early summer might not seem like a big deal to those of you on the American East Coast and in Europe. But if you live in Africa or […]

Continue Reading

Sunrise over Albasini Dam

Chasing the Sunrise in Limpopo

Beautiful sunsets are easy to come by in South Africa. The light fades slowly through the afternoon, giving us plenty of time to prepare. The clouds are usually spectacular (except during the highveld winter, when clouds are scarce). Best of all, we tend to be awake already when the sun sets. Sunrises are much trickier. We must wake up well before the light to catch the sunrise, and if we’re a few minutes late, forget about it — within minutes the sun is hot and blinding. During summer, when the clouds are best, the sun rises at a ridiculously early hour. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set my alarm to catch the sunrise, lingered in bed a little too long, then given up because I know I’ve missed it. Not to mention the number of times that I’ve gotten up on time, struggled my way outside (or worse, driven somewhere) and found that the fog is too thick, or that the sunrise is blocked by a mountain or building, and by the time the sun becomes visible it is way too bright. Last Friday morning, at the Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge, I hit the sunrise jackpot. A crisp sphere of orange flame rises […]

Continue Reading

Man flyfishing in Stanford Lake

Magoebaskloof: 13 Pictures of a Beautiful, Misty Morning

Magoebaskloof, a mountainous region in South Africa’s Limpopo Province between Polokwane and Tzaneen, is referred to on its tourism website as “the Land of the Silver Mist”. It didn’t take me long to figure out why. Fly-fishing at sunrise on Magoebaskloof’s misty Stanford Lake. I arrived in Magoebaskloof on Friday afternoon with a bunch of Instagrammers, on a mission to visit as many interesting places as possible in less than 48 hours. On our first morning we rose at the crack of dawn (actually before the crack) and walked down to Stanford Lake, where a magical, misty dreamworld unfolded before us. Reflections and lily pads on the glassy lake, just before sunrise. I’ve got hundreds of Magoebaskloof photos, and I’m actually still here (I decided 48 hours wasn’t enough) and accumulating more and more. But for now I’m just posting my favorite pictures from that first morning. Morning Mist in Magoebaskloof Fly-fishing is the most beautiful thing in the world to photograph on a misty morning. Who knew? A teenage boy fly-fishing.  I don’t think he caught any fish. But really, who cares? Mist, reflections, and a hint of sun. More fly-fishing. I’m glad I wasn’t the one in that freezing water. But it […]

Continue Reading

White lion sitting up

The Astonishing, Confounding Story of South Africa’s White Lions

Last weekend I visited the Global White Lion Protection Trust, a private reserve devoted to protecting white lions and returning them to the wild in South Africa’s Timbavati region. Almost from the moment I arrived, I began to think about how I would write this blog post. I’d been expecting a typical fun weekend in the bush — hanging out with my blogger friends, eating good food, and seeing wildlife in a beautiful place far away from the big city. Sunrise at the Global White Lion Protection Trust, which borders the Timbavati Nature Reserve, which borders Kruger National Park. I got all of those things, and a lot more: Dramatic tales of near-death experiences; an outspoken fashion-model-turned-lion-woman; scientific discussions; mystical stories of spirits and stars; horrific accounts of evil lion-hunters, past and present; a sunset parade through the wilderness with a giant white lion puppet; adorable children singing about the majesty of the Star Lions; and half a dozen Shangaan medicine women stomping the dry, brown earth, gasping through perfumed smoke and screaming into the heavens. I got all of this in just over 36 hours, book-ended by two seven-hour journeys in the back of a van between Johannesburg and Hoedspruit. Several days later, my mind is […]

Continue Reading

Elephants in the fever tree forest

The Land of Elephants and Baobabs

The Pafuri Triangle — a piece of wilderness in the very northern corner of South Africa’s Kruger National Park — is a land of giants. The trees are huge. The animals are huge. The beauty of the landscape is beyond comprehension. This elephant looks small in the photo (which, incidentally, was shot from the doorway of my tent at Return Africa’s Pafuri Camp). Trust me though — he’s huge. I spent three days at the Pafuri Camp, run by Return Africa, in the Makuleke Contractual Park. This section of the Kruger has a fascinating history, which I’ll describe in a future post. Elephants and Baobabs: Kruger’s Photogenic Giants I saw so many elephants during this trip and it’s been a struggle for me to narrow down the number of elephant photos I want to share. Same goes for the baobabs: I love these huge, ancient, topsy-turvy trees — which can only be found in the northern part of the Kruger — and I photographed them profusely. So before I go into the whole story of my trip, here are my favorite photos of the giants. This is my favorite baobab photo because you can also see the shadow of our […]

Continue Reading

Wendy and David sitting on the Melville Koppies

Quick Photoshoot on the Melville Koppies

Last week Wendy Carstens, the chairperson of the Friends of the Melville Koppies, asked me to take a portrait of her and her husband, David, at the top of the Koppies. The portrait is a gift for their daughter’s birthday. I have huge respect for Wendy and the work she does maintaining and promoting the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, with a small amount of money and a massive amount of determination. So I was honored when she asked me to take the portrait, but also nervous. I don’t do many assignments like this and I was scared of messing it up — that Wendy and David wouldn’t like any of the pictures I took and I would feel like a miserable failure. Luckily that didn’t happen. Wendy and David at the top of Melville Koppies Central, with the northern suburbs and Sandton City behind them. This is the picture they chose. Another option, with Melville in the background. Wendy liked this one too. This one was my favorite but I don’t think they wanted such a close-up shot. Anyway, this is a super-short post. But I thought I’d show off some pictures I’m proud of and remind you that the Melville Koppies is (are? Subject-verb agreement […]

Continue Reading

the wilds Johannesburg

The Wilds: Joburg’s Controversial Garden of Eden

There is a big park in Johannesburg, very near to the city center, called the Wilds. For many years I didn’t go there because everyone said it was dangerous. Even the name — the Wilds, bwahahahaaaaa — has a menacing tone to it. I assumed the warnings were legit. I’ve now been to the Wilds twice over the last several months, and damn, is it beautiful. The Wilds is so stunning and peaceful and well landscaped and immaculately maintained that it puts most other Jozi parks to shame. (I don’t say this lightly, as I’m a serious fan of Joburg parks.) The park was opened in 1938, after the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company donated it to the city on the condition that the land remain in its natural state. The park is hilly and planted with thousands of indigenous trees and other native flora, crisscrossed by several kilometers of winding stone paths. Walking on the wild side, through the Jozi Wilds. Walking on the Wild Side I don’t want to totally discount the perception that the Wilds is dangerous. I’ve visited lots of quote-unquote dangerous places in this city — Hillbrow, Alexandra, Yeoville, and many others — but none of them seem to elicit quite […]

Continue Reading

That Day When I Flew Over an Erupting Volcano

I’ve just returned from a weeklong trip to Reunion Island with six other blogger/writer/photographers, as part of a camapign called #GoToReunion. We experienced so many amazing things during those seven days; by the end of the week I was already struggling to remember what we’d done at the beginning. Yesterday I began the long, slow process of sifting through my pictures from Reunion, trying to wrangle them into some kind of order so I can edit them and put them into my blog. I started with our first major activity — a 40-minute helicopter tour of the island with Helilagon. As I scrolled through the pictures, the memory of that experience returned, and my jaw slowly dropped. If not for these photos I might have convinced myself that the Reunion helicopter ride was a dream. It was that surreal. I haven’t yet sifted beyond my photos of the helicopter ride. I need to blog about it before the memory fades. Did I actually fly over a lava-spewing volcano on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean? Well yes, it appears I did. I’ve been lucky enough to ride in a few helicopters in recent years (see here and here), even as recently as last month during the […]

Continue Reading

South Africa’s Wild, Wild Coast: Part 2

Read Part 1. After 12 hours of driving, a flat tire, and a minor head injury, Ray and I pass through the gate of the Dwesa Nature Reserve. We would weep for joy if we weren’t so traumatized. The gate is abandoned. But at least it’s open and we can drive in. The road changes immediately — from hard, uneven, and rocky to soft, flat, and sandy. The landscape changes too; we’re plunged into a dark, quiet forest. Ray keeps driving and I fumble for the park map that I printed out yesterday. The map indicates six different gates, but I can’t tell which gate we entered through. Eventually we come to a fork in the road, with a sign. Left to Gate 6, the sign says, and right to Gate 1. I look at the map and deduce that we entered via Gate 5, on the northeastern side of the park. Gate 1 — the main gate, where we should have entered the park if we’d taken the easier route that we don’t yet know about — is mysteriously not marked on the map. Via process of elimination I deduce that Gate 1 is where the chalets are. We follow the sign to Gate […]

Continue Reading