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Posts tagged ‘nature’

standing on top of the world

Dropping more than half-a-mile in five distinct free-leaping cascades, Tugela Falls (948 meters) is Africa’s tallest waterfall, and second in the world only to Venezuela’s Angel Falls. After hiking through Royal-Natal to get a glimpse of Tugela from below, D ascended to the top of the Amphitheatre on his last day in the Drakensberg to stand at the waterfall’s edge.

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day-tripping in the kingdom in the sky

“There’s not much to do in Lesotho,” a South African friend told D, “except to look at it.” This struck D as reason enough to plan a brief visit to this, the highest country in the world. Having already decided to spend several days in the Drakensberg Mountains – Lesotho’s spiritual homeland, according to another South African acquaintance – it seemed silly not to make at least a day trip to Lesotho. Getting there, however, proved a bit of a challenge.

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amphitheatre of the gods

D’s first hike in the Drakensberg also proved to be his toughest – not just because of the length and intermittent sketchiness of the trail, but also because of what it took to get there.

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dragon hunting

Work took D to South Africa a few short weeks after we had completed our Garden Route trip, presenting an opportunity to explore a little more of what is quickly becoming one of our favorite countries in the world. The possibilities were at once numerous and difficult to execute. D only had a long weekend at his disposal before he had to report for work to the consulate in Johannesburg, and all of the destinations that had piqued his interest were at least 4-5 hours’ drive away.

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last day in paradise

Mauritius is a fascinating place. Successive occupation by first the Dutch, then the French, and finally the British have forged a multi-religious, multi-ethnic nation that is Africa’s most densely populated. [With twelve million people crammed into a country the size of Maryland, Rwanda – where we live – is the most densely populated nation on the African continent. At 640 inhabitants per square kilometer, Mauritius is 40% more densely populated!] Rwanda definitely feels crowded, so it was quite a trip to visit an even smaller, even more densely populated nation.

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glimpses of Mauritius

After five days in Mauritius – three of which we spent waiting out a cyclone warning – we were beginning to feel more than a little stir crazy. As soon as the storm had passed and the meteorological service had lifted the cyclone advisory, we booked a car to take us around the island.

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in the eye of the storm

Although we enjoyed our stay in Mauritius (how could one not?!), it did not wow us in the same way that our visits to Zanzibar and Madagascar had. This is partly because we skipped some of the island’s most scenic locales and partly because the timing of our visit, coming at the tail end of the cyclone season, was less than ideal. We arrived to clear skies and flawless weather; a cyclone warning went into effect less than 48 hours later.

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island in the sun

South Africa’s coastline is beautiful but wild, with rip currents rendering many of the most scenic beaches too dangerous for young swimmers. This is why we decided to end our R&R trip with a stop in Mauritius – a week of pure relaxation after two weeks of road-tripping around South Africa during which we covered more than 2,200 kilometers.

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round the Cape of Good Hope

The very first thing we did during our first trip to South Africa was go to see the penguins at Simon’s Town. It was our “baby moon” – a long weekend escape to Cape Town tacked onto S’s antenatal screening in Pretoria. We drove straight from the airport to Simon’s Town, arriving just as storm clouds gathered overhead. We spent enough time on the boardwalks observing the breeding penguin colony to feel that the visit had been worthwhile. Leaving as the first raindrops fell, however, we knew we would have to come back to do the Cape Peninsula justice.

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ostrich outback

After bidding adieu to the Garden Route with an oyster feast, we headed inland for a two-day stay in ostrich country. Oudtshoorn – the little town in the Karoo where we stayed – is quite literally known as the “ostrich capital of the world.” Not only is it home to the largest ostrich population anywhere on the planet, but it also hosts a number of specialized breeding farms, including a show farm that features ostrich safaris and ostrich racing.

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