Friday, February 26, 2010


There’s a first time for everything. In decades of guiding I have never had guests from Malta – until this week. I am currently escorting the Zammit (extended) family around Cape Town. Yesterday we travelled along The Atlantic Seaboard, over Chapman’s Peak . . .

. . . to The Cape Point Nature Reserve. We were extremely lucky with wonderful weather and I think everyone enjoyed it (even Amanda who was not feeling 100% healthy).

We stopped above Smitswinkelbaai to enjoy the views across False Bay and learn a little about this incredible Nature Reserve.

From here we went over to The Atlantic Ocean side

We saw some wildlife – a couple of angulate tortoises, a distant Bontebok and this Rock Kestrel enjoying the coast.

We could not resist a last stop to enjoy the dramatic scenery before leaving.

On the return journey some of the party got “up-close-and-personal” with an African Penguin.

Then Caroline managed to squeeze in some retail negotiation before we headed off to Canal Walk.

Check-in with us tomorrow to see what we get up to at Kirstenbosch, Green Market Square and The Lion.

If you are interested in our walking holidays visit our affiliated website at

Monday, June 22, 2009

Walking Safari in Parque Nacional do Limpopo, Mozambique

There are several reasons why I am extremely excited to be conducting this walking safari to Parque Nacional do Limpopo.

Firstly I find the concept of transfrontier parks to be so positive in the face of so much negativity. For many years I have gazed at maps of southern Africa and fantasised about a wildlife refuge that could stretch from The Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Obviously others shared my fantasy and over the past few years a momentum has built up, and this fantasy is rapidly becoming a reality.

In an ever-shrinking world (particularly for wildlife) it is extremely exciting to see land being reclaimed for conservation, and for use in a sustainable manner for humans as well as for wildlife, and it gives me a sense of contribution to be using these areas.

The Kruger Park was where, as a child, I laid the foundation of my knowledge and passion for wilderness and wildlife. But over the years Kruger has grown too busy for me. It is an incredible wildlife preserve but until now I have not found a way in which to run my style of safari (look at, which focuses on maximising the personal wilderness experience – primarily on foot.
In keeping with my “untamed” identity, this safari will go to one of those few remaining gems where the wildness is palpable.

And this is a pioneering safari. The Limpopo Park in Mozambique is not a well-known park. It is new and it is fresh. It is growing and improving all the time and NOW is the time to experience it!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Picnic with whales

There are often beautiful days in Cape Town . . . and then there are days of heaven. Today was such a day, with mild temperatures of 20 deg C, cloudless skies and barely a breath of air. Both False Bay and The Atlantic seaboard were as still as wishing-wells.

I was fortunate to host Mike & Pip Tait from Newcastle on a tour of the Cape Peninsula. Mike was particularly keen that we would see whales and other wildlife. He has traveled elsewhere three times in the vain hope of seeing whales.

We visited the Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach, and by the time we reached the gates of Cape Point Nature Reserve we had seen five whales – all fairly far away.

We saw Eland, Bontebok, Red Hartebees, Ostrich and Cape Mountain Zebra before stopping for a delicious picnic lunch and bottle of Tanzanite Cap Classique (by Melanie Van Der Merwe). We laid-out the picnic on the rocks, with three southern right whales lazing less than 50 metres away. What a day!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

God’s winter palette

The Protea family is named after the Greek God Proteus who repeatedly changed his appearance. One of the forms that our Cape Proteas take is that of the Leucadendrons or Cone Bushes. This group of proteas has separate male and female plants, often looking quite different from one another. The female plant produces woody cones which protect the seeds. There are 83 known species of Leucadendron in the southwestern Cape.
In spite of their relatively large size these bushes are an inconspicuous green during the summer. However at the onset of winter, the terminal leaves surrounding the flower of many species change colour and become vivid yellow. For this reason these species are commonly referred to as the sunshine conebushes.

At this time of year these Leucadendrons seem to have appeared from nowhere to dominate the terrain in the loveliest way possible. Where previously there was no colour in the landscape, it is suddenly blanketed in vibrant yellows. Where these conebushes are particularly abundant it appears as if entire mountainsides have been draped in a stitched yellow quilt. And at times like this, the warmth of colour from the sunshine conebushes compensates for the paucity of warmth from the sun!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Aloes and winter in South Africa

Aloes and winter. These are synonymous for me. I cannot think of Aloes in flower without feeling the crisp winter air or imagining the chill morning mist. In some parts of the country, when not in flower the vast stands of Aloe ferox appear as an army of warriors marching over the hills, and when in flower their mass of deep red flowers gives the appearance of flames sweeping across the mountains.

Most aloe flowers are rich in nectar and provide much-needed sugar to our birds in the lean winter months. The sunbirds, in particular, delight in their sweet offerings and the bright iridescent colours of a sunbird on a flaming aloe flower is a joyous image unique to Africa.

Aloes also have important traditional and medicinal uses for humans.

There are approximately 400 different species of Aloe and while Aloe vera is a species that is well known for its use in the cosmetics industry, man has used many aloe species for centuries. In fact the Aloe is mentioned as a medicine in The Ebers Papyrus, one the oldest preserved medical documents dated at about 1500 BC, and also in the New Testament (John 19). The Egyptians used it as one of the ingredients in embalming fluid. Africans have also long used aloe extracts cosmetically as a hair bleach or skin lightener.

In addition to its use in the cosmetics industry, aloe is used as an effective laxative, an external application for wounds and burns, for the treatment of diabetes and hyperlipidaemia, and as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal preparation.

In parts of rural Africa aloe ash is used as an insect repellent to protect stored grains, and the bark of A. dichotoma was famously used as a quiver by bushmen for their arrows. The roots of the stemless spotted aloes are used extensively in rural south Africa to produce dyes for wool or basketry.

So before you denigrate our winters, come and enjoy the spectacle of our unique aloes, and spare a thought for their enormous contribution to humans and animals alike.

See you in South Africa this winter!

(Photo credit: Sunbird on Aloe - Geoff Nichols)

Monday, June 30, 2008

After the Wine and Wildlife Safari

The much-awaited Wine & Wildlife Safari has come and gone.

“Passionate”, “Exciting”, “Intense”, “Fresh”, “Sensual” and “Colour” are words that are often heard associated with the bush, but could equally be associated with wine. It is therefore understandable that Steve Bolnick and Peter Finlayson cooperated to design a safari-with-a-twist at Umlani Bush Camp in the Timbavati.

The safari held over the extended weekend of 19th – 22nd June was an indulgence in wine and wildlife. While Steve is an expert bush guide and Peter is a renowned wine-maker they are both passionate about wine and the bush and therefore make for the perfect team to host such a unique safari experience.

By day Steve led walks and game drives (assisted by the talented Umlani guides) through the Timbavati. The highlights were seeing a lion-kill and cheetah on game drives, tracking lion on foot and seeing a civet on a walk. In general the game viewing was excellent. The Nhlaralumi River runs through the Umlani property and provides for beautiful walking and great diversity of trees. The walks provided the perfect opportunity for birding and discussions about ecology as well as more esoteric debates about the state of our planet. One of the participants summed it up - “I enjoyed meeting Steve & Peter as well as the whole wildlife experience. I very much enjoyed Steve’s in-depth knowledge of the environment and his ability to share it in an interesting and entertaining fashion”.

In the evenings over dinner, Peter took charge, introducing the participants to superb wines of the world on three themed-wine-evenings. On the first evening elephants milled around the dining-room, while the guests sampled classic German Riesling from Kloster Eberbach in the Rheingau. Over dinner the theme was “Bordeaux styled wines” and featured Chateaux Giscours, Margaux, Bordeaux 1998 vintage -3rd Growth (France), Beyerskloof Blend 1998 (Stellenbosch) and Oak Valley Blend 2004 (Elgin) for comparative tasting. For additional comparison Saronsberg’s “Seismic” 2004 was tasted. The latter is not a classic Bordeaux blend, being composed of a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec, and its introduction prompted an animated discussion regarding the importance of “structure” in wine and the need to balance tannins.

On the second evening everyone relaxed with The Oak Valley Sauvignon and Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer. At dinner the focus was on the influence of the principal Italian grape from the Piedmont area - Nebbiolo and featured one of Peter’s own iconic wines – Bouchard Finlayson “Hannibal” 2003. This was contrasted with two blended wines from Barolo in the Piedmont area of Italy, which is also dominated by the magical Nebiolo grape. These were Barolo 1998, Cascina Ballarin, Tre Ciabot and L’ Insieme, 2004 Elio Altare.

The night of the winter equinox was welcomed with two of Peter’s whites (Bouchard Finlayson. Kaaimansgat Chardonnay and Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay 2007), and was subsequently dedicated to the Burgundy influence and the inimitable Pinot Noir. In this category the wines compared were Chavelier des Tastevins,Volnay Santenots 1990 (Burgundy, France) and Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot noir vintages 1996, 2005 & 2006. The Galpin Peak 1996 was the first vintage of its type and it was fascinating to compare the three vintages of the same wine and track the evolution of the winemakers’ style.

In light of the success of this first Wine & Wildlife Safari and the enthusiasm for follow-up, the team will be offering another similar themed safari in The Greater Kruger Park in September this year as well as a planning a longer Botswana wine & wildlife safari for 2009. Whether it’s the downturn in the economy or your green-sensibility, this is an excellent opportunity to avoid burning expensive fossil fuels to reach a foreign destination for your holiday this year. Be proudly South African and have a fantastic unique local getaway.

If you are interested please contact or

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wine & Wildlife Safari

Although I fulfil other functions, I am first & foremost a safari guide. I have led an enormous variety of safaris including vehicle safaris, dugout safaris, walking safaris, backpacking safaris, safaris from fly camps, safaris from lodges, research safaris . . . but in June of this year I will be combining two of my passions and doing the first ever South African wine-safari! I have teamed-up with Peter Finlayson, arguably the best winemaker in South Africa and we will be hosting a superb 4-day getaway in The Greater Kruger Park. The dates of this exclusive Wine & Wildlife Safari are 19th – 22nd JUNE 2008.
This is a unique opportunity to indulge your passions and reawaken your senses. Join a small group and recharge on this exclusive getaway. Explore the African bush on foot, taste great wines of the world . . . and learn about both from erudite professionals.
A long-weekend in the bush facilitated by two of South Africa’s leaders in their respective fields – distinguished Safari Guide; Steve Bolnick and Wine Maker extraordinaire; Peter Finlayson.

Each day Steve will facilitate an exciting and educational walk in the bush, tracking and stalking game and elaborating about all facets of the ecology, from trees to insects and birds to big game. Every evening Peter will introduce you to an exceptional mystery white and mystery red wine from somewhere in the world, while you try and identify each. Thereafter Peter will present an outstanding wine of the evening, with an accompanying story and a comparative wine.

Winemaker Peter Finlayson

Winemaker Peter Finlayson is renowned for being the South African Pinot Pioneer. His years of experience and vast knowledge of wine and the wine industry are also recognised, as is his pivotal role in putting the Walker Bay wine region on the map. But what is not known by many is that Peter is just as passionate about wildlife, conservation and the African Bush!

Peter’s CV is intimidating in its comprehensiveness. Suffice it to say that he studied at Stellenbosch University as well as at Geisenheim in the Rheingau. He was involved with the fledgling Boschendal winery and setting-up and running the first winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, where his success was recognised globally with a string of awards including the 1989 Diners Club Winemaker of the Year. Of course he also established the inimitable Bouchard Finlayson wine farm.

Accolades and tributes aside, the greatest testament to Peter’s winemaking abilities are his wines. Anyone who has not sampled his famous Pinot noir, his exceptional Chardonnay, his masterful Sauvignon blanc or his personally favoured blend “Hannibal” is missing-out on one of the delights of life.

Peter Finlayson’s passion for wine and his humour are best appreciated through his own words.

“Each new wine is like a new child displaying uniqueness, offering promise, evoking a range of emotions, without any guarantees. I get to be involved in the initial development, giving my all - but once bottled, and released into the world, I have to stand back and let go, quickly watching it develop and make its mark or accept criticism in the face of its exposure.”

‘Winemaking is a sport. Intermingled with a bit of instinct and art. Poetry is also required. All these facets are strongly influenced by the paradoxes of climate and weather… This is my general philosophy, but when I narrow it to test match cricket – the game in its most classic, serious, most stamina-sapping form – the allusion is surely to the most demanding, and yes, testing, grape of all, pinot noir, and to my battle with it here in the hills and vales behind Hermanus. I pace myself like an opening batsman during the harvest. I guard against exhaustion… fatigue leads to mistakes… The flashy, reverse-sweep sort of wine is not me. But I equally believe that a passionate and competitive spirit is essential in the making of great wines.’

On this unique safari, Peter will introduce you to some of the great wines of Europe as well as the best that South Africa has to offer. He will educate you through blind wine-tastings and share anecdotes collected from the cellar over many years of refining his art.

Safari Guide Steve Bolnick

Steve Bolnick is recognized as one of southern Africa’s great safari guides. He grew-up with a deep love for the African bush and has spent the past 29 years living and guiding in southern Africa. Steve has trained aspiring guides in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe and has led research safaris for the WWF and Washington University. He has trained game scouts for the Malawi Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Between guiding he has acquired three university degrees in related subjects. Steve is the only guide to be licensed to operate professionally in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. His passion is foot-safaris in big game country and he is certified as a specialist guide (and raconteur).
Steve is deeply involved in conservation and believes that the future of Africa’s exceptional wildlife heritage depends upon the involvement of the poor rural people who live in close contact with it. He therefore works with rural communities to try and ensure that they benefit from the sustainable management of their natural resources.

“On a game safari there is no better way to experience the bush than by walking. Being on foot in big game country has an incomparable primal appeal. It is visceral. It breaks down the barriers that we have imposed between our environment and ourselves. It resonates with echoes of our undeniable past oneness with our environment and the animals in it. It allows us to experience and understand the intensity of the bush in a very immediate way. Walking in the bush awakens our senses and rather than being a passive voyeur we starts to smell, taste, feel and experience the bush. It is only on foot that we really begin to appreciate the complexity of the ecological web of life.”
Of course walking also allows us to slow down to a more complementary pace and to appreciate the smaller and subtler features such as insects, plants and tracks, which are such vital ingredients in the ecology.”

Steve will lead you on a foot safari facilitating a journey of personal discovery and immersion in The Bush. Throughout this intense exploration he will ensure your safety while sharing his substantial knowledge with you and proffering new insights into the ecology of the African bush. Over a campfire and some of Peter’s wines he will recall close encounters and bush incidents that span thirty years in different parts of Africa.

Umlani Lodge

Umlani Bushcamp is a classic African safari camp located in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park.
This small and intimate camp is the ultimate experience of true wilderness and seclusion, accommodating only 16 guests in traditional African reed and thatch huts. Umlani's philosophy of simplistic luxury and 'getting back to nature' is enhanced by the romance of operating without electricity. Enjoy the warm atmosphere of candlelight and oil lamps as well as open-air bush showers fuelled by wood fires. The accommodation offers you all the privacy and superior comfort you need for uninterrupted relaxation. Umlani's award winning cuisine will take you on a gastronomic tour of African styled food.

Umlani Bushcamp offers an authentic wildlife experience in Big Five territory. Here you can view lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino, in over 10 000 hectares (24 000 acres) of traversing area, also home to over 40 mammal species and 350 bird species.

Each hut has en-suite facilities including an open-air bush shower fuelled by wood fires. The hut is comfortably fitted with white mosquito nets, crisp white linen and towels as well as with standard bathroom amenities, bottled water (although the tap water is perfectly safe to drink) and insect repellent