Tag archives for South Africa

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…

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…

Back in ZA

I thought I’d been selected for a secondary search. The man motioned at me from behind the table, lulling me away from the security line at Johannesburg’s Oliver Reginald Tambo International Airport—and so I grabbed my bags and dropped them on the table. But it was all just a ruse—as I stepped closer, his uniform…

Exactly one year ago I was traveling in South Africa, exploring the disparate coastal cities of that magnificent country while filming a documentary for the National Geographic Channel: “The World In Two Cities”. As someone who normally stands behind the camera, it was a terrific honor to host such a well-made film in such a…

No matter where I travel in the world, it’s the people I remember most. More than any other aspect (food, architecture, nature, history), it’s the people who make a place. Nowhere is that more true than in the great city of Durban. My week-long exploration of this city-by-the-sea revealed many things, beginning with the realization…

Umlazi

Everyone kept telling me the townships were so dangerous, but I think that only applies to cows and goats. A lot of cows die in the townships—every time there’s a birth, or a wedding, or a funeral, a cow gets stabbed in the back and then cooked on a fire. Among the Zulu in Durban,…

A dead, dried-up monkey hangs from the shop, next to a gaping set of shark jaws. Strips of dried animal skin dangle in a row, and as I walk past, I guess at each remnant’s former animal life: a crocodile, an antelope, a vulture, and several long black mambas. Beneath the display, on a hand-constructed…

I’ve only eaten one bunny so far, but I am sure to devour at least one more before I leave. Bunnies are delicious. Bunny chow (or “a bunny”) is classic Durban cuisine: a hollowed-out square loaf of soft bread, filled with rich, spicy HOT curry that you eat with your fingers. It’s messy, very yummy,…

Gandhi’s neighbors are very loud. It is a sunny Sunday morning and sane people are in bed with the paper and a cup of tea—or else in church or on their way to the beach. But way out here in Inanda township, the house next door is blasting earth-shaking drums and wild marimba noise that…

New city, new language. That is the beauty of South Africa. Just drive a few miles and everything changes. Cape Town is lovely but now that I’ve arrived on the other side of the country, I must switch gears. Durban is the center of KwaZulu-Natal, the great Zulu kingdom and the western fringe of the…

Travel is such a personal thing: one man’s art museum is another man’s prison. Personally, I can feel highly entertained just browsing in a bookstore (though if you want to kill me with boredom, plop me in the middle of a golf course.) This is precisely why I shy away from instructing readers what to…

Show me your graffiti and you’ve shown me your city. What people scrawl on the walls of the place they live says more about that place than any guidebook. That’s why I love good graffiti — I look for it almost everywhere I go and when I find it, I rejoice. In that vein, the…

Good Hope

Six hundred and fifty shipwrecks lie off the Cape of Good Hope. I prayed that we would not make it six hundred and fifty-one. I had already read enough to be good and scared—I knew about the oil tankers and cargo vessels, the clipper ships and iron-hulled battleships of old and not-so-old. Many large and…

Pink, yellow, green . . . . . . orange, red, purple, pink, white, mustard, turquoise. My mind reads each new color my eyes encounter, this wonderful wall of bright stripes along the street–each one a different house with a different family living inside. The Bo-Kaap is a bouquet of flowers–from the first time I…

I offer my sweat as a gift to the earth. Jethro tells me that my sweat is enough—the important thing is to always give back. If we take something, we must also give. We take water into our bodies and we give it back. He says this while pulling out the fuzzy black end of…

Hello! Goeie Dag! Molo Kunjani! Welcome to beautiful Cape Town, where I’ve landed my feet for a good little while. From the moment I stepped off my ship and ventured into this city by the sea, I’ve been amazed at how friendly everybody is. And I really mean that. Cape Town is a city of…

Welcome to Cape Town . . . again. I’m back! So welcome back to this colorful seaside port that I only just recently came to know and which I’ve been desperately missing ever since I left. Since first landing here two weeks ago (aboard the National Geographic Explorer), I have clocked some 25,000 miles by…