Jamie Oliver triumphs at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge; true wilderness on the edge of serenity, Christmas 2018

Jamie Oliver triumphs at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge!!

Jamie Oliver and Chilo Christmas pud lo res.jpg

We wait on the edge of true wilderness, Gonarezhou, for life giving rains that will fill our Save River, as in this photo from last year..

chilo in the wet season.jpg

Meanwhile, we wish we had had Jamie in person – (Maybe next year?!)….but our chefs did an amazing job of creating his Nan’s Christmas pud!!

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Rum n Raisin delight…Perfect!

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What a feast, for the stomach and the eyes…

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Our waiting staff created table decor using our indigenous, edible Crossandra flowers…and cloth from Mozambique..

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I am tickled that our Crossandra flowers match the Pantone Colour of the year for 2019, “Living Coral” !!

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Cyclone Idai hits Zimbabwe; Save River in Full Spate at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge

A day spent at Chipinda Pools Tented Camp on the tranquil Runde River, sketching and meeting fellow conservationists and safari operators, (little do I know that this is the lull before the storm….)

Inspired by the riverine vegetation and by some ant-eaten boards that I have rescued from my bush cellar, which suggest undergrowth and vines to me…

I sketch the amazing shapes and deep tones of the jungly rivers edge, using my favorite palette knife which belonged to my dear dad before being passed by him on to me!

a work in progress, once I stop traveling I will finish these sketches…

We arrive at Chilo Saturday and catch up with staff and the magnificent view from the deck, commenting on how low the river is for this time of year. how rainfall so far has been patchy and below average…

BUT, Cyclone Idai, sweeping in from Mozambique, and impacting Malawi and Mozambique, is predicted to affect Zimbabwe by Friday and Saturday night, and our talk is of how much the Eastern side of Zimbabwe may or may not be affected. Although our internet and mobile network is hardly functioning, we begin to get disturbing reports of Beira on the coast being badly compromised…

Sunday morning finds us on the high Chilo deck overlooking the Save River, with a cup of coffee. Suddenly a roaring hissing sound reaches our ears- and before we can see anything, I know what to expect…here comes a flooding river! There it is, a bow-wave sweeping around the curve of the gorge upstream of our deck, and all our staff tumble onto the deck to stand in awe as this force of nature engulfs sand and hippos alike in its path…the frightened hippos try to surf against the tide below us and fail…they are tumbled and scattered, desperately trying to reach the river banks and a baby separated from his mum and washed away downstream…

Within minutes the wave has swept past our deck and begins eating the expanse of sand downstream, slowly but surely covering the huge area of sand that leads to Mahenye Island, and spreading deeply into the acacia trees colonizing the sandy expanse.

The river rises steadily as we measure it against rocks on the far bank, rises and continues to rise throughout the morning, carrying huge logs, debris and silt past our amazed eyes.

We phone and radio downstream to Mahenye villagers and the national parks entry gate, trying to warn them, trying to check on possible casualties of the sudden deluge of water …not much rain has fallen at all and this arrival of volumes of water will have caught so many people unawares, especially those fishing or tending their low lying gardens…

view from the bar deck

Reports of devastation in the Eastern districts of Zimbabwe, such as Chipinge and Chimanimani begin to trickle, then flood in.

Tragic, cataclysmic photos pop up….

The Frog and Fern in Chimanimani reroot that they have 400 homeless people sleeping on their floor, and power supplies dwindling

The Herald report from the military says  “We are still trying to reach the affected areas and relief teams are on the ground trying to find alternative routes to reach out to the affected communities.”

Roads are damaged while bridges are washed away after Cyclone Idai has left a trail of destruction in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts.

So many sad stories out there, how many hundreds of families are impacted…

Sunday afternoon, some Chilo staff drive upstream to view the now-raging Chivalila Falls…

When you look deep into this maelstrom, it appears to be dust, not water!

During the day Thomas, head guide ascertains that three people are trapped by the rising waters, and the boat is readied but once the rough location of the trapped people is worked out, it will soon be dark, and crazy to launch a boat into the fiercely swirling current at dusk. Villagers yell into the darkness and discover that one lady has climbed high into a huge thorn tree and can shout back. She understands that she has to wait till morning light for rescue. The others are trapped on a large island, Mwachumeni, so hopefully will get through the night until they can be boated out.

Sunday night is a horribly restless one for us all, worrying about treed and marooned people. Listening to horror stories of landslides and deaths relayed from Chimanimani…

The baby hippo has been washed ashore on our side, somewhere below my room and in the early hours of the morning I can hear its mother shouting from the far bank where she has hauled herself out. The baby answers in a small voice, tugging at my nightmarish dreams in my half awake state- will the mother brave the raging flow to get to her baby?

Monday morning, and the Save is still at maximum levels – Not much rain has actually fallen here,  but  the Save is still very high and flooding – Thomas and the chilo team strapped their boat onto a safari vehicle and headed off, through the excited junior school children in the Mahenye schoolyard..

The unconventional boat transport did the trick..

Village dogs and children watched the strange apparition as it passed by…

Thomas suitably kitted for land or water rescue…!

Success, after a challenging boat ride, at last this poor lady in her large acacia thorn tree was successfully located, 4 metres of fast flowing water swirling about her perch…

her very pleased husband, who had kept vigil all night on the banks of the raging river, was part of the boat rescue….

the team delivered her to safe ground, then loaded the next two anxious husbands into their boat, and headed for the lower end of Mwachumeni Island to rescue the next two ladies…

… who had taken refuge from the flooding waters on a sandbank for the night-

two ladies rescued on Mwachimeni Island

Monday night, I sleep better, thank goodness the lucky ladies are rescued. (I have it on good account that one or two of them are seen later in the local Mahenye bar, drinking a beer or two to celebrate their survival…!)

Tuesday-I don’t hear the mother hippo calling anymore at night. The security guard at Jamande wilderness has been seeing young hippo tracks nightly, going into the woodlands to graze, so that seems like a good sign- this baby would still suckle if he was with mum but is old enough to survive on grazing…

At some stage I really hope mum will brave the waters and find her baby…. then a reunion such as this gorgeous photograph of our Chilo hippos by Catrine Russell can take place!

Thank goodness we don’t know of any other trapped people in our own area. Although the Save river is even higher tonight, Tuesday, all now seems under control in our Mahenye area, unlike the poor Chimanimani people, who are in dire need of help. How many lives lost, how many bereaved survivors left behind…?

I sadly hear that Gogo Olive, my favourite girl-team, who create incredible hand-knitted animals to provide income for women in Mutare, have had one of their team, Gladys, lose  her brother-in-law, his wife and 3 of their 4 children, who died at the weekend when flooding and a landslide wiped out the growth point where they lived. Here is a gorgeous Gogo Olive lion posing on the banks of the Save River in drier, sunnier times….

The outpouring of care and aid for the flooded eastern Districts of Zimbabwe via so many efforts, such as Econet, ZNSPCA, Executive Air Faith Ministeries, and Miracle Missions Trust in Harare and Mutare, and including people such as Bob Henson with his helicopter, has been immense, as far as I can ascertain from our limited communications…

Victoria Falls rafting guides have left Victoria Falls for Chimanimani and surrounding areas to assist with the ongoing rescue efforts following the devastation caused by cyclone Idai.

My sister in law has been part of human chains in Harare, loading lorries at The Highlands Presbyterian Church with food, clothing and mattresses; all sorts, bound for the distressed areas,

with the message going out to all Zimbabweans:

We Still Need You!
Packing of 30 tonne trucks will continue in the morning from 6:15am
Highlands Presby
112 Enterprise Road

So many heartwarming stories are out there, such as this lady without funds for public transport, who walked miles with a load of her kitchen pots on her head to contribute for the hungry homeless…

Companies like Rolling Stone Clothing donating to the disaster…

Now we worry about the low-lying towns downstream of the Save in Mozambique…how are they faring?

Our bush house Tsavene in the south of the Save Valley Conservancy, (SVC) has had plenty of rain, and the Turgwe River has been flooding, with much distress for Karen Paolillo of the Turgwe Hippo Trust and her beloved hippo families. The Turgwe has subsided now so Karen hopes the families will be able to re-unite. The north of the SVC has been hard hit by flooding rivers and flooded camps, being almost opposite the Chipinge/Chimanimani contact zone where the cyclone had most effect on poor Zimbabweans… here is the raging Chishakwe Dam

Tuesday sees more gentle rain here at chilo, and the Save river stays at all volume, but so far the Runde River stays stable, not much rain upstream of their catchment area.

Wednesday dawn is beautiful … I have listened all night to the lessening roar of the river, and now I can see that the river is indeed lower by a few feet….

Looking downstream at dawn towards Mahenye Island from the Chilo breakfast deck

The day dawns misty, ethereal …and like the web of life, of humanity, that links us all, I find a perfect spiderweb ..

and the sun is trying to shine on the river below me….

looking upstream from Chilo bar deck

Much as our day dawns brighter on the river here near the border of Mozambique in the south eastern corner of Zimbabwe, the devastation in Malawi, Beira and Chimanimani remains of looming concern and sadness to all of us…

Africa News says:

Malawi suffered massive displacements arising from floods, scores were also killed before Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

“Almost everything in Beira is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible.

And in Zimbabwe, still help flows in…..

Today, (Wednesday), on social media, Shelley Cox of Africa Conservation Travel says:

This morning The Zambezi Helicopter Company has departed from Vic Falls for Chimanimani with perishables and an aircraft, pilot and engineer for the operations taking place. Chikopokopo Helicopters have also stepped and will be assisting. 

Air Zimbabwe have also offered free transportation of donations between Vic Falls and Harare and Bulawayo and Harare 

Thanks go to all the tourism operators rallying to assist with the rescue efforts and delivery of aid to the areas of Chipinge and Chimanimani in the Eastern region of the country 

Hundreds of organizations across Zimbabwe continue to get involved to do what they can to assist. There are so many to mention!!!! “

#CycloneIdai #Zimbabwe #ZimbabweTravel #VictoriaFalls#UnitedWeStand #ProudlyZimbabweanA


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Kgalagadi safari; Jackals and Lions; Meerkats and Flowers…

Continuing our Safari, our Adventure!….(please bear with me … many more photos are to be added in the next few weeks, but I am going offline to my bush house for a while…meanwhile I have also created a blog on the Cyclone Idai and flooding of our Save River! so keep visiting, enjoy, and watch this space!)

After leaving the Bezalel Air B n B,  we drive from Upington past increasingly desert-like dunes and red landscape interspersed by white salt pans,


we stop at Askram, a desert town with San  bushman shelters here and there at the side of the dusty road, and the occasional fleeting glimpse of a San man in loincloth and with classic San peppercorn hair. How I would value being able to converse with and meet some of these true people of the bush, with their real knowledge of arid survival and star stories, and how sad that they seem so marginalized in their own world….

At Askram Clive fills the fuel tank and I wander off to discover the local coffee shop- a treasure trove of  Kalagadi salt for sale, second hand books, filter coffee and baked treats. Two welcoming local ladies are working away in the immaculate large adjoining kitchen rolling out dozens and dozens of biscuits and laying out trays of rusks…and Oh! a cut and glistening lemon meringue pie beckons me to taste but Clive wants to press on to meet our friends Dirk and Carol at Twee Rivieren- we are already late. With a last regretful look at that pie,  I quickly purchase coffee and salt and am dragged away… but am at least partly consoled by the incredible colours of the landscape…


and heartwarming signs honouring the presence of owls…


We meet Carol, Dirk and Corrie at Kalahari Lodge, Twee Rivieren, wow wow such gorgeous desert scenery..

symphony of colour…

and are later joined by Trish and Bob all the way from Natal.  Happy reunions, meeting of new friends, and after a cool swim, I get close up to yellow mongooses..

the inquisitors….

followed by a magnificent thunder cloud sunset …

sunset at kalahari lodge

and I begin to fall in love with the desert grasses…

a love affair begins…

Whew…the stunning Sociable weavers nest on the way to Nossob…


our eyes are peeled for pygmy falcons who co-exist within these amazing nests…


30 and 31 Camping at Nossob- after a bit of discussion (!) we discover the best way to set up our new tent, then head for an afternoon drive of amazing beauty-

deep gold lion-mane grass stirs my imagination…

this amazing grass should be framing a lion’s face…perfect!

pale chanting goshawks abound…


They are watching for the lizards…..

Trish’s lizard- run lizard run!

…rats and mice that form such a huge part of their diet…

Carol’s photograph of a whistling rat…

Stately Red hartebeeste are new species for us..glorious red coats..

rich russet red…

A hyena lollops past

who’s looking at who…?

and I discover how the stately Oryx scratches an itch….

how to scratch an itch..

the weather changes…and enveloping dust storms swirling up the dry Nossob  riverbed.

Dust storm in the nossob river

Followed by heavy scattered rainfall and rainbows, rolling thunder…..

IMG_4371.JPGThis river is reputed to  run only once every 100 years or so I am told, so we are incredibly lucky to see this life-giving water lying on the thirsty earth…..

IMG_1389.JPGOne stretch of the dirt road is tyre deep in water and pools quickly collect on the Nossob sands.

Life-giving rain does not seem to impress this lioness and her bedraggled cub…

Lioness and cub in the rain in the kgalagadi.


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 We get back to camp and are impressed to find that our newly acquired tent has withstood the rushing water that deluged it! View of a sad and battered male lion with a blind right eye from the hide at Nossop. Wonder if he was the victim of a thorn or fight…



The next day, a drive reveals many Kgalagadi wonders- the previously barren three thorn Rhizogum bushes are awash with delicate white/yellow flowers…



close up beauty

a  leopard tortoise plods along on the newly wet earth,

IMG_3089.JPGa yellow Cape Cobra peeps out of a burrow and just behind it a Barking Gecko cheekily digs a hole, puffing up spurts of desert sand…

wow! water everywhere…Then we have wonderful views of a classic Kalahari black- maned lion striding along the river bed and roaring his challenge to an unseen but distantly-heard rival,

our first big black-maned lion sighting in our kgalagadi trip, with water in the Nossob, so unusual!

as a young and elegant female strolls along the river bed in the opposite direction towards our camp, peeping back at him every now and then (and he is very aware of her)!….

a lovely lady patrolling the Nossob river

All evening we are powerfully serenaded by the magnificent male and others unseen.

1 and 2 Feb we head towards Polentswa -Camping on the Botswana side of the transfrontier park, no fence, giving a sense of freedom which I know I will like!

classic photo

No tapped water and a long drop, with views forever – a Hot day when we arrive- guessing well over 40 degrees, and the mice and birds dive into the water we provide,

Trish’s photo…thirsty critters…

but we soon pitch our tent and drive to sit at the waterhole,

hot hot hot

where I sketch….

the acacia at polentswa water point

we are honoured with a sighting of the two local king cats- black- maned lion brothers-for over an hour they  lie comatose under an acacia tree but once the sun loses its bite they twitch tails, roll over, scratch themselves and get up….

IMG_1495.jpegto rapidly approach the Polentswa Pan for a long drink of water.

A lean younger male is flanked the older heavier brother, and as they approach  we can see that the older male is battle scarred and time-worn, Clive estimating that he is nine or ten years old.

handsome boy photographed by Trish

Thereafter as they approach us, we notice that he keeps twitching his right upper lip- and soon we found out why- after he drinks, he approaches a tree near us to sharpen his impressive talons ….

the scratching post- glad I’m not on the receiving end of those talons…

He collapses close to us, and yawning wide, gives us a view right down his impressive throat- maybe we can see the possible source of his irritation- a bad back molar or a gum infection …?

open wide….


for solace he rises and collapses heavily against his brother- 


brotherly love…

IMG_1557.jpegthe night brings a spectacular sunset

Returning to Polentswa Pan next morning – the lions have moved on- but we are entranced by a clever black-backed jackal lying near the pan- deceptively dozing..

patient little canid…

he acts disinterested as clouds of doves, who are flying in and waiting in the surrounding acacia trees build up critical mass and courage and descend to drink en masse,

thirsty birds…

but he has a plan… as they sink their heads to drink he trots forward then dashes madly at them, surprising them to frantic flight …

nearly there….

and wow! He catches a flapping bird!


A raptor, a hungry juvenile lanner falcon, hurtles past opportunistically, hoping to catch an unwary fleeing dove… (or pinch the Jackals catch?!), and it takes clever Mr Jack only minutes to devour the whole thing, feathers and all…

hopeful raptor…


Doves gather in droves on nearby trees, building up the courage to try drinking,

like fruit, ripe for the picking…

Mr Jack returns to his dozy looking vigil and makes a few more dashes as we watch, but seems to lose impetus, merely scattering the birds without coming near to gripping one in his jaw. Has his first dove meal slowed him down slightly!?

surrounded by deliciousness, just out of reach…

To make matters worse, the juvenile lanner falcon perched on a nearby vantage point keeps bombing the drinking flocks and sabotaging the little canid’s efforts!

The gorgeous Namaqua sandgrouse seem more clever than the doves, more wary, perhaps because there are less of them, and they have a faster reaction time or take-off than the doves? They drink their fill, but with cautious eyes to the skies…

speckled beauties


An evening dinner of homemade Naude boerewors and Sadza around the camp fire ends the day, with a delicate young Cape  fox joining us and Tree mice nimbly clambering around in the Acacia tree above us as the sun sets.

the sun sets in a happy camp…Carol, as photographer is not in the picture…

3,4, and 5th Nossob Camping

Early morning on the 4th, two opposing prides of lions roar and rumble at each other just outside the camp site, the roars bouncing off the canvas of our tent..and each time the yodels and songs of the jackals rise in a crescendo to finish the serenade. An early morning drive reveals multiple lion and jackal tracks then we observe over 30 jackals parading and nibbling at unseen things, (insects?) on the newly sprung green grass on the Nossob riverbed.

Driving along the river bed, baby wildebeest abound…new signs of life everywhere


we then spot a cheetah crouched in thorny kalagadi thorn scrub staring longingly at a herd of springbok who graze on the newly spring green grass, courtesy of the rains we have been experiencing, but the antelope seem to sense the intent and move steadily away down river….

heads down….

The cheetah crosses the road in front of us to pace past me between the thorny bushes following a parallel oath to the springbok. Wonder if she’ll be successful today?

exquisite spots…


For dinner I heat Buffalo Bolognese

of course, my buffalo bolognese sauce is made with Painted Wolf Wine…mmmmmm

and we drink the Pinot noir wine from Belzalel Estate. A Pearl spotted owlet roosts right above our heads in the shade tree- he moves to wherever we are, posing for photographs and peering down past us- is he looking for bugs in the light or just enjoying our company?!

IMG_1815.JPGThe clever and opportunistic jackals that usually arrive at dusk and weave sinuously around the camp chairs and tents are strangely absent- then we hear multiple Jackal voices singing in the river bed nearby- an amazing chorus. Perhaps the Jackal convention that we observed earlier in the day is ongoing?!

I love sleeping with that glorious sound as the yodeling snd yipping continues off and on for most of the night. Song Dogs of Africa, I call the Black-backed jackals. Barn owls and white faced owls call constantly, a lovely addition to the Jackal-Song

Carol’s photograph of a barn owl earlier in the day

5th February at dawn finds us enjoying La Lucie filter coffee and Denise Sparrow’s homemade rusks in our car as we leave north from Nossob and almost immediately we are rewarded for our early start by the view of two elegant Cape Fox kits playing and grooming each other in the sandy road.

cute Kits!

I am enthralled by these delicate creatures as they tumble and lie flat than pounce on each other, breaking off their game to patrol a thorn bush for possible unwary mice, than resuming their games of catch and tag on the road. The epitome of grace and beauty.

such elegant little hunters, this one is very keen to catch an unwary mouse…

New found friends Alan and Sally, (with whom we shared a drink and chocolate last night round the campfire), are back in camp as we arrive late morning and report that they have patiently again watched and followed our female cheetah. As a gift for their patience after two and a half hours of observation, they watched her successfully stalk and bring down a springbok, fight off the descending jackals and eat. Of course they have a vantage point in spotting the spotted cat, being a head taller than all other vehicles in their glorious Iveco Italian home-on-wheels. I want one of those. What a mobile art studio that would make….. dreams dreams….

6,7 and 8th Rooiputs camping,

glorious sunset

6th February – many tortoises abound -trundling the roads after the sporadic rains..some with sun-bleached shells


others more colourful….


we find a suricate colony with multiple burrows on the far side of the road, and one suricate enthrals us- standing apart on our side of the road it calls an alarm, staring into the blackthorn bush next to my window…


then runs onto the road in front of us, with a companion, to summon help!

calling for backup…

and immediately the rest of the team join it, dashing across the road from their burrows with tails erect and ready for action….

into battle!


the hunt is on…but for what?!

after a lot of scrabbling and lots of vocalizing within the thick bush suddenly an eruption occurs on our side….out pops out a young cape fox!

there it goes!

The suricates are in co-ordinated attack formation, hot on his heels…


but the fox is clever, disappears in a flash and leaps to hide in another  bush…the suricates are confused! (I begin to get the feeling they are easily confused?!)

where did it go??!!

but they know something I don’t…back to the black thorn bush they dash, more scuffling and chattering from the depths…

back to battle!

and out pops another fox, an older animal this time, perhaps Mum, and again hotly pursued by the intrepid team!

second fox flushed!

The suricate team chase her across the road but she disappears so fast that they lose focus, and clearly distracted by the sound of crispy beetles or some such delicacy rustling in the grass, they start rooting around and digging… short attention spans! 

7th February

we have outdoor showers, long drop and no fencing, with a shower outlet at which the resident lions and a jackal regularly drinks. Lion rumbles have been our wake-up call this morning, but the only trace of them we have seen so far is their footprints between our tents and the ablutions I am entranced with a bat ear fox den, three foxes stare- incredible wide ears directed at us, first flat and then pricked upright in our direction. They soon move away, joined by a fourth, and disappear over the dune.


9th February-We take a rolling dune road through red and pink dunes traversed by stately oryx against the Cobalt skies, purple grey scrub and yellow grass, to get from Rooiputs to the Kgalagadi Tented Camp on the Auob river.

10th Kalahari Tented Camp – luxury tents …and  yellow mongooses cheekily join us at dusk, as we sit on the verandah of our lodge, hoping for a taste of our birthday burgers…


On this day, the 10th,  we start early and find a wild cat kit staring at us with blue eyes in the fork of an acacia tree which adorns the banks of the Auob River – nestled on a stacked heap of dry thorn twigs which was probably a long-tailed tree mouse nest…

Further down the road I spot a

Giant Eagle owl, face to the trunk of the huge Camel thorn tree he roosts in…

Leaving the ranted camp after a night of thunderstorms and rain we depart en route to Mabuasehube.

Two young male lions recline on a dune flanking the

Two cheetah preparing to hunt purposefully pace  past us up the river bed…

Turning onto the dune road to Nossob, we spot a fat Puffadder oozing across the road and just further on a egg-yolk Golden Cape Cobra slithered in front of our car, fast disappearing down a joke at the base of a small thorn tree, then rapidly climbing its way up through the thorny branches, mobbed by excited little birds.

We sleep the night at Nossob.

Mabu 12/13/14th feb

On the 12th February we depart at dawn For 3 nights camping at Mabuasehubu Pan -along 4c4route they the dunes with a few halts along the way to pull our following vehicle and caravan up a few steep dune slopes. Wonderful puddles of rain on the roads near testimony to last nights storm- eagles and antelope loving the fresh water—we are a mixed herd of Hartebeestw eland and Oryx I. The deep yellow grass- and another heard ifhartebeestw with many many babies at heel. Jackal and lion floor everywhereon the roads then stop  for a padkos lunch at Matppe Camp site en route . Arrive at Mabuasehube Pan via Mapya Ozanne – stunning scenery with the Ian’s holding patchy sheets of water.

Camp site 2abd 3 are delightful -Aframes shelters ( that lions live to lie in to escape the heat of the day!) and a long drop with a grey scarred toilet seat ‘why the scars?’ you ask- well definately lion toothmarks by the size of them…some bored cat was obviously chewing on the plastic recently. I hope any human occupants were long out of the toilet area at that stage…

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Upington on the Orange River; Vineyards and Sultanas…

Continuing our journey from Madikwe towards the Kgalagadi Trandfrontier Park, the nights of Sunday 27th and  Monday 28th January are spent  at an oasis in the Northern Cape desert! Martiens Place is an air bnb cottage, on Martien’s family land,  Bezalel Wine & Brandy Estate, Upington. A delightfully restored gabled cottage nestles near a bird-filled dam,

a swimmable place…the estate dam

surrounded by vineyards,

with confiding  Cape Sparrows nesting on the  beams of the cottage verandah. A stack of aromatic vine wood nestles ready for a braai!

vinewood makes the best fires to cosy up to…


As a bonus there is a garden restaurant attached to the winery, and homemade delicacies flow therefrom…no garden is complete with dwarves, a child’s delight! and more Cape sparrows nest in the phoenix palm..

bezalel estate garden


Walking in the vineyards, and a lovely breakfast  to start the day on Monday, then we visit Augrabies Falls and buy golden sultanas. Plump and yummy. We then buy the actual sultana grapes from Martiens  – sun-warmed ultra sweet and fresh-cut from the vines,  to travel into the Kgalagadi with. Have a delicious tasting of Tawny Port and Mampoer,  pilotage and Pinot noir wines and homemade food at the Bezalel Estate.

sultana grapes and port

Buy homemade fig jam and onion marmalade. Admire the vintage barrels…Clive’s well-travelled hat is right at home…

wine barrels and clives hat

Visit the Augrabies Falls,

Augrabies falls

surrounded by spectacular Quiver trees,

Quiver tree

I have to paint these guys! and buy some babies from an accredited nursery to take back to my bush house…

I can not get enough of these sculptural natural masterpieces

This arid landscape is just the beginning, preparing us for the arid heat we will soon experience further away into the desert from the cool green orange River!

as soon as you move away from the Orange River valley…

a wonderful arid landscape awaits us in the Kgalagadi…so be sure to follow the next posting to catch up with our further Kgalagadi Safari adventures…..

Posted in adventure travel, Africa, African flora, African Safari, african wildlife, art, bio diversity, birding, birds, boutique hotels, cooking, culture, Desert, eco-tourism, edible plant, fire, flowers, food, food culture, gardens, gardens and flowers, grapes, landscape, Madikwe, Northern Cape, Rivers, safari, travel, Uncategorized, wilderness, wine tasting, wines | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Madikwe and Porcupines: African Wild Dogs and Lin Barrie Art

I have always wanted to visit Madikwe Game Reserve –  one of South Africa’s biggest wildlife sanctuaries, a Big Five Reserve with 66 mammal species, (including Wild dog populations, aka Painted wolves or Painted Dogs..my favorite painting subjects…) and approximately 300 resident and migrant bird species.
Madikwe Hills Game Lodge is our destination, and we drive from Polokwane off-road and through fascinating rural areas towards Derdepoort Gate, (noting diverse eating/drinking places such as this quaint place, jakkalsgat pub and grill….!)
My large oil painting of wild dogs has hung in the dining area of this stunning lodge for many years, and this is the first time I get to visit it!…

Lin Barrie painting on display at Madikwe hills Game Lodge

Arriving late afternoon Friday  25th January, we are treated to a sudden hailstorm mixed with sunshine from the dip pool and deck of our luxury lodge.
Large hailstones add atmosphere to the sunset and panache to our whisky sundowner…
what a room!

bathtub with a view…

sundowner…dip pool and hailstones!

Within the elegant lodge (which even has a dedicated wine room, filled with Painted Wolf Wines!), we later meet up with Leonore, a friend from way back in the days when we hosted a  Boundless and Kingsley Holgate expedition.
elegant interiors, tasteful decor, embrace a few more of my paintings…such as these in the library/video room of the lodge…

interior inspiration

Swopped some of my art for our stay in this glorious luxury safari destination, and left these three pieces below on consignment, for sale in the gorgeous gift shop curated by leonore.

Painted Wolf Hunt, acrylic on loose canvas, 53 x 97 cm

Painted Wolf Pep Rally, acrylic on loose canvas, 53 x 97 cm

Painted Wolf Rest, acrylic on loose canvas, 53 x 97 cm


the gift shop

Saturday 26th January

We see a Porcupine before dawn on an early morning game drive,

Porcupine by Lin Barrie

wildebeests galore,

Wildebeeste horns

Large and small varieties of dung beetles busily processing the vast quantities of dung from the many mammals and multitudinous elephants,

Busy Busy dung beetles…

Madikwe has, to understate it, an abundance of elephants. One of the many elephants’ babies mock charges us with shrill squeals and shakes of his little head and spaghetti trunk, then quickly beats a retreat behind the ample rear of his mum…

a feisty baby hightails it after shouting at our safari vehicle…

A sleeping white rhino, new birds such as the Ant-eating Chat, fascinating ground squirrels with sunbrella tails and attitude posing near the entrances to their complex and interlinked underground burrows, add huge interest to our game drives. A highlight for me- we visit six wild dogs in the Boma,

the boma

but do not get out of the vehicle or approach them, so as not to unnecessarily habituate them to humans…. they are waiting to be released shortly into the madikwe reserve -three females from the local pack  and three males imported.
Beautiful animals…
IMG_4092 copy
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10 reasons to help save the African Wild Dog

a wonderful blog on my favorite subject, Lycaon pictus- #mustread

The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is South Africa’s most endangered Canid species, and the second most endangered Canid in the whole of Africa, behind the Ethiopian Wolf.

I am delighted to announce this new and my very first blog post collaboration with the amazing Kate Stephenson; creator of Kate on Conservation. After reading about her latest set of published blog posts in the Shamwari Diaries, her blog post; Wild days and wild dogs allowed us both to come up with this collaborative blog post. We’ve collated our personal top 10 reasons that highlight the importance of saving the rare and beautiful African Wild Dog. Do you agree with our reasons, or want to add some of your own? Please leave us a comment at the end of this post!

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Waiting for the Rains in Gonarezhou, with a prime, fat Lion and a beautiful Tusker!

Hot weather greets every sunrise, no rain to speak of yet in Gonarezhou, mostly scattered showers and we wait eagerly for the real thing!

sunrise from the deck at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge

Even the small rains we have had are enough to create green grass galore,

elephant bull after wallowing …

Travels through the exquisite landscapes of Gonarezhou are a symphony of emerald and sap green combinations,

with brooding skies above Tembwehata Pan

As we roll along I spot a glorious sight, hiding under a tree and panting in the heat- a fat lion in his prime, full golden mane and yellow lion eyes staring at us….

He has killed a female wildebeest, and eaten much of her hindquarters, as a white backed vulture waits in the trees above.

Spot the lion! and his kill…

In fact the presence of the vulture was what made me look more closely for a predator in the first place…leaving him in peace, we arrive at the pink and cloud-dappled Chilojo Cliffs,

And with the fresh look, I realize how I need to finish my painting: it needs elephants!

Mirage, Chilojo Cliffs, acrylic on loose canvas, 79 x 206 cm

Elephants such as this magnificent tusker who graces us with his gentle presence

gorgeous gentle bull

Elephants such as these tired and hot ladies hiding their babies in the shade of a welcoming baobab  ….

cow elephants resting in the shade

Everywhere we go, fresh and steaming evidence of the wonderful elephants abounds, much to the dung beetles’ delight…

Dung Beetles at work

Back to the Save River crossing, a fullish moon rises and greets us…

a fullish moon rises over the Save River

… a gentle end to a HOT day

a quiet contemplation

Flowers always get my attention..

datura flower

the last rays of the sun fade…

last rays

and reflections are inspiration…

IMG_1425 lo resIMG_1425 lo res


Posted in abstract art, adventure travel, Africa, African flora, African Safari, african wildlife, art, beauty, bio diversity, Chilo Gorge, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, chilojo cliffs, clive stockil, conservation, eco-tourism, elephants, endangered species, full moon, gonarezhou national park, great limpopo transfrontier conservation Area, landscape, Lin Barrie Art, lions, photography, predators, prey, Rainy. Season, Rivers, runde river, safari, Save River, serenity, travel, Uncategorized, wetlands, wilderness, zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Parks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments