Latest / page 2

Number Four

Last week, I went to prison.

Everyone told me I had to go—that’s just what you do when you go to Johannesburg. So I took a cab to the top of the hill and paid my ticket and joined the group.

They were all South Africans—all young, all black, and all very fashionable. And then there was me, American and white, lagging behind, listening to the guide who was too young to remember what it used to be like in his country.

He told us the horrors of life in this prison, known simply as “Number Four,” where political prisoners were locked away for months and years. He took us into the communal cell and showed us the concrete floors where more than 30 men would fight for blankets and a place to sleep. Read More…

Maboneng

Nothing beats a local introduction to a misunderstood place, and for that, I owe everything to Meruschka. I am no stranger to South African cities. Last year I spent six weeks exploring South Africa’s schizophrenic East Coast-West Coast divide, delving equally into Cape Town and Durban for this year’s National Geographic documentary, “The World in…

Monday I’ve never been so intrigued by the sex lives of animals as to gawk at the television when David Attenborough is narrating mammalian copulation, but TV is quite a different matter than sitting ten feet away from a grown male lion as he impregnates one of the lionesses in his pride, with a growl.…

The Big Tree

With every new mile, South Africa continues to surprise me. One minute I am watching a thousand black-feathered ostriches kicking up the pink dust of the dry Karoo. The next, I see the ocean, wild and white, thrashing the immense sand dunes along the coast, and then, just as the road sign welcomes me to…

Elephants are big creatures, weighing up to 15,000 lbs (much more than a car), and while they are intelligent and gentle, they can also be potentially dangerous to humans, simply because they are so big, versus our own species which is relatively small. Seeing elephants on safari is always remarkable and exciting, and occasionally (if…

The Cave

Limestone caves are like McDonalds—they’re pretty much all the same and they’re pretty much everywhere. The overbearing similitude of karst caves dissuades me from prioritizing them as tourist attractions—when you’re underground and it’s dark, you could be in France, Vietnam, Mexico, or the Luray Caverns of Virginia—all places where what’s happening on the surface is…

I Heart Ostriches

I admit that my job lands me in some pretty special situations (in the lap of a panda, next to mountain gorillas, or among several thousand baby fur seals), but nothing prepared me for the marvelous wonder and utter cuteness of a little newborn ostrich as it breaks out its giant shell.

South Africa offers some of the very best scuba diving in the world, and in my opinion, any passionate diver should make it a priority to travel here and explore the extraordinary underwater landscapes on offer. For example, diving the Aliwal Shoal is incomparable—nowhere else in the world will you encounter the massive schools of…

“Actually—I just finished high school!” explained the boy behind the counter. He was tall, and young—only 19 years old, standing alone in the shaded stone farm building with shelves of wine bottles that shone, gold, pink, and red. He wanted to call in one of the wine experts, someone who knew “more about wine than…

“This is not the real Africa,” she said, peering over the tops of her glasses—as if her eyes were searching for the real thing, somewhere out there. “It’s not?” I wondered aloud, tired of this clichéd slant against Cape Town. “What is it, then?” “This is more like the Riviera—La Côte d’Azur,” she motioned vaguely…