Gansbaai is a modern seaside town mixed with old-fashioned platteland values and friendly residents. It has a bustling main street dotted with Norfolk pine trees and a mish-mash of old and new shops. There are numerous water-related activities in the area, such as deep sea, rock, and beach fishing, kayaking, crayfishing, and scuba diving. Of course, the heart of Gansbaai is a thriving fishing industry. Here we watched one of the fishing vessels heading off to sea on a late Sunday afternoon, while enjoying our fish and chips. Although there are a number of good eateries in town, we think it is mandatory to have fish and chips at the little restaurant in the harbour itself.
If you've come across 'Charlotte's Web' by E B White, you’ll probably have a pleasantly anthropomorphic view of this golden silk orb-weaver spider. This non-aggressive, non-poisonous species of the Nephila genus spins large distinctive webs in concentric circles that shine golden in sunlight. The orbs are repaired and often rebuilt on a daily basis to make sure any prey sticks around.
The V&A Museum in London recently acquired a cape woven from over a million webs. Fisherman sometimes use the crushed webs, which unfold in water, to catch baitfish. Seen here in the Drakensberg foothills near Maclear, these brightly coloured arachnids are widespread in warmer regions throughout the world.
These beads are made by women working from the Vhutshilo Mountain School in the Nzhelele Valley in South Africa’s Limpopo province, to supplement their own, and the school’s income. It’s a small school for small children (2, 3 and 4 years olds), in an area where money is scarce. Its headmistress, Sue-Anne Cook, is equal parts determination and compassion, and something else that’s hard to pin down.
The children who attend this school are some of the happiest kids you’ll ever encounter. Fed, stimulated, taught and loved here, they learn songs and play games with fine teachers who work here because it matters, not because Sue Anne can pay them well.
In fact, a community of people have gathered around the school, doing what they can to ensure the children’s continued health and happiness, as well as their own.
This is where the beads come in. Working with Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge (http://www.madiathavha.com) and the school, women and young people from the community can learn to sew and make glass beads from recycled glass (bottles, jam pots, broken glass from windows). The lodge then helps them find a market for their crafts by buying the beads back from them to make necklaces to sell in the lodge’s shop. The school also sell the beads and necklaces to their volunteers and visitors. Madi a Thavha also recently trained 4 young women associated with the school in sewing skills. When the new building at the school is ready, they will have their own sewing workshop.
Sue-Anne was recently featured in the Mail & Guardian Book of South African Women. You can read more about her and her school here: http://bow2013.mg.co.za/profiles/page/30/.
– Dianne Tipping-Woods
I’d been woken up early by my wet feet. In fact my whole tent was wet around the edges. Being the middle of winter in the lowveld I hadn’t bothered to pitch it properly because it doesn’t rain in the lowveld in winter.
Except that apparently it sometimes does. I took the fact that the heaven’s had unseasonably opened on the very weekend I had chosen for my solo excursion into Kruger as a sign that I should get up early and get out into the park. It was dark, cold and damp but the sky was clearing and I couldn’t get enough of how everything smelt after the rain – that mix of earthiness and freshness.
It’s the smell of a world made new.
And as the sun began to rise, just after I had left Satara, the light caught the bronze and amber tones of winter in every drop of water, on every blade of grass. The veld shimmered with light and colour. It danced in liquid shades of gold.
As well as smelling new, the world looked new, freshly hatched from the cold, dark night. Everything turned to the sun, opening to the warmth and glowing with promise and beauty.
And then these two cheetahs appeared and walked casually along the S100, gilded in the morning sun. Busy as it sometimes gets, Kruger is still an Eden.
– Dianne Tipping-Woods
Isn't this just country living at its finest? Paarl is one of those towns that is almost encapsulated by mountains, giving you a beautiful view in nearly any direction. The town is also filled with history, and well worth exploring.
– Erik on Instagram (@nightjartravel)
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah. Bryce sits at a high elevation – its rim varies from 2 400m to 2 700m. Despite its name, Bryce Canyon was not formed from erosion by a central stream, meaning it is technically not a canyon.
The main geological process at work is called headward erosion, which is a fluvial process of erosion that lengthens a stream at its head and enlarges its drainage basin by eroding the rock and soil in the opposite direction to which the stream flows.
The beautiful structures that were formed in Bryce are called hoodoos, or fairy chimneys and consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements.
There are many hiking and cycling trails that run through the canyon, and there can be few better ways to spend a day away from the crowds.
There's nothing quite like being given the hairy eyeball by a beady-eyed ostrich. Normally one has to approach wildlife - even farmed birds, as in this case - reasonably cautiously, but this guy, photographed from the roadside on the road to Witsand a few weeks ago, was part of a very inquisitive flock of birds that just kept getting closer and closer, until there were about 30 of them lined up at the fence. With our personal sprinting record at considerably less than their 70kph, we were happy about the fence.
This small stretch of water is a spring fed tributary of the Gallatin River of 'A River Runs Through It' fame. It is only a few hundred metres long – too short to have a name – but still a pretty decent flow of water. This was the last day of the trip, and the gods must have been smiling on us, because we were rewarded with the biggest fish of the trip!
- The Travelling Fisherman
Every Saturday morning, Durbanites and tourists from all over the city, make their way to Essenwood Road for the weekly market. With a variety of food stalls (healthy and indulgent), live music, a playground and pony rides for the kiddies, vintage clothes, household decor, fresh produce and craft stalls, this market is a hit amongst all age groups. It’s always buzzing with people and no matter how many weekly visits you make to it, there is always something new to buy, taste or experience. It opens at 9am and only closes at 2pm so you can have a good weekend sleep-in without missing out on one of Durban’s local treasures!
Whale watching at De Kelders
De Kelders is an excellent place from which to observe southern right whales when they come to calve in Walker Bay between June and November, and is best known for its land-based whale spotting opportunities. Here the whales come right into shore and they can often be seen right from the road that snakes around De Kelders’ coastline. These giants usually start arriving in June, so this photo (taken in late May) was an unusual surprise! Something we’ve learnt in our coastal travels is to always keep an open mind – you never know what the ocean will surprise you with.
I'm a gorgeous, rock-'n-rollin’ high-flier who enjoys nature and the outdoors. Into perching on trees in open woodland or grassland, watching for insects, snails, scorpions, frogs, rodents etc. to swoop down on, beat to death and swallow whole. Dream home is a tree cavity, would consider relocating to empty termite mound.
Seeking territorial soulmate with similar interests e.g. hunting prey that’s fleeing from fires, mile high club, aerial acrobatics a definite plus. Ideal first date: flight dive from 20-50m, rolling down with closed wings - monotonous squawking and rattling a turn-on. Must be willing to help babysit 2 - 4 kids each year.
P.S. Not afraid of stupid humans... and they say online dating is for the birds? Deleting my profile.
This little dove had been moving around the statue for at least 10 minutes before its stepped into the palm of the bodhisattva that stands in the garden at the Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit (http://www.nightjartravel.com/cultural/nan-hua-buddhist-centre).
The fact that the dove chose this bodhisattva, Kuan Yin, was appropriate. She stands pouring the essence of compassion from the vessel in her hands. The belief is that any living being that 'contemplates and whole-heartedly invokes the name of this bodhisattva, in times of trouble or strife of any conceivable nature, will be heard from anywhere at any time and answered, and the distressed being will be relieved of whatever difficulty they have encountered.'
It was a beautiful moment and, in the spirit of the place, I accepted it, ignoring the photographer in me that would have liked the dove to peek out into the late afternoon sunlight.
There were thousands of doves at the temple, which is just less than an hour’s drive from Pretoria, and is the African headquarters for devotees of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order. For the most part they were roosting in the eaves of the main temple, their cooing a constant and soothing soundtrack to my visit, which you can read more about here.
– Dianne Tipping-Woods
Ndumo Nature Reserve
A rather small and ‘quieter’ reserve compared to others, Ndumo has something unique and mysterious about it. It also has the highest bird count in South Africa at 430, and so is known to many as a birder's paradise. The wetlands, pans, acacia savannah, thick bush and sand forests provide a home to ‘smaller’ animals such as nyala, hippos, duiker, giraffe and 66 recorded species of mosquito (who knew!) If you ever visit make sure to go on a guided walk with veteran Sonto Tembe, his mimicking of bird calls is truly inspired.
– Megan Pilditch
Sky Dive Atlantis
Cape Town is known for its scenery, and tourists are often advised to get up high to take it all in, with Signal Hill or Table Mountain being on most itineraries. However, you could go even higher than that - we recently strapped ourselves to rugged looking men, crammed into a tiny plane like sardines, and then flopped out... yes, we went skydiving. Granted, the terrifying rush of adrenaline makes it hard to concentrate on anything else, but this was definitely the most beautiful way in which I've seen Cape Town yet, and I've been here for over a decade!
– Erik on Instagram (@nightjartravel)
Snow Canyon lies just outside the town of St. George in Utah. The canyon has been carved from the red and white Navajo sandstone in the Red Mountains. Other geological features include extinct cinder cones, lava tubes, lava flows, and sand dunes.
This canyon is small and intimate and best explored on foot or mountain bike. Oh, and if you take a camera, add at least another few hours to your estimated journey time. This is nature at her most creative.
Flat Creek outside of Jackson, Wyoming was an education. As we started out on the trailhead we bumped into a guide who was returning with a rather dejected looking client and muttering under his breath about the #$%#! fish. It’s not that the water was dead. The fish were rising regularly and with vigour. They were just not in the mood for imitations.
We spent the afternoon inspecting insect life and laying down our most delicate casts, and just before sunset were rewarded with a fish apiece. By far our least productive day’s fishing of the trip, but also, ironically, the day best remembered!
- The Travelling Fisherman