Lowveld Botanical Gardens

One of the places I have been very keen to visit here in Mbombela is the Lowveld Botanical Garden.  I had heard that it was really worth going to see.  This last weekend B and I popped in to take a look.

There are two separate entrances and one can be a little confused as to which one to go to when you arrive.

Entrance 1 gives you quick access to the Nelspruit waterfall and cascades

and a really nice looking eatery called Kuzuri Restaurant. We popped in to take a look and the food smelled heavenly.  We plan to try it out soon.

One then walks over an amazing swing bridge and through the rain forest to get to the area serviced by entrance 2

Entrance 2 is closer to the formal gardens and the different types of walks as well as  the Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden where we stopped for scones and strawberry jam.  The food and service was very good.  This venue is often used for tea parties, birthdays and weddings.

Unfortunately when we arrived they were preparing for a party and the radio was loud with cars parked around the venue blocking out the stunning view and the beautiful bird sounds. I hope this was a once off. I will definitely be going back to see because other than that it was an enjoyable experience.

From this point there are various walks in different directions that one can choose from, all seem lovely from the few we did. The walks down to the river involve quite a few stairs but there are also walks throughout the garden that are wheelchair friendly.

We were lucky enough to catch the last of the clivias blooming

The huge variety of plants and flowers allow for all year round pleasure so we will be back many times I am sure.


Views of our new home

Every weekend we try to get our dogs out for a good run.  This past weekend I took a few photos so show our new environment.  This is the farm we currently live on.  The trees without leaves are mostly pecan nut trees and the leafy ones are avocado trees.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed our walk/run/drive


As soon as things start greening up a bit these views will change so much. I look forward to taking more pictures as that happens.


I hope you enjoyed the tour – let me know what you think.

On foot in the Kruger National Park

One of our friends is a safari guide and his company, Dry Seasons Safari’s, among other trips, does guided walks in the Kruger National Park.  In order to lead a guided walk in the Kruger Park one has to be highly qualified. This last week our friend Ian had to undergo an assessment in order to be able to be “lead gun” on walking safari’s within the park.  He invited us along.

A question that is frequently asked is: “What do we do if we encounter one of the Big 5 while on foot?” It is a reasonable question and likely to come up on any bush walk.

The term “Big Five” was originally coined by hunters to refer to the five African game species which were quite likely to kill you if you made a mistake. They are the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. But the Big 5 aren’t the only dangerous animals you can encounter. Hippos are reputedly the most dangerous in  Africa killing more people than any other animal – well, besides mosquitoes! Crocodiles are also notorious and swimming in any pool or river in the bush is strongly not advised. Ostriches can deliver a nasty sweeping kick and during the breeding season the males are particularly aggressive to perceived threats.

Of course there is no definitive answer to “what to do” if you encounter a dangerous animal as every situation is different. However, there are a few basic rules to follow.

Unlike hunters, where the end result is the shooting of the animal (or the attack on the hunter!), tourists want the encounter to be non-confrontational. A sighting where the animal doesn’t even realise you are there is paramount.

It is not the best idea to sneak up too close to dangerous game. If they spot you from a distance they will merely keep an eye on you and may even continue with whatever they were doing. If, however, they only become aware of you when you are within their “flight or fight” zone you can rest assured that there will be a sticky situation. Each animal has its own flight radius and it also depends on the circumstances. If you do get too close and the animal is left with no option of flight, it may attack. It is therefore very important that your guide knows how to approach dangerous animals.

It was our aim on this day in the bush to approach as many dangerous animals as possible on foot.

Here Ian is giving us strict instructions on how to behave and respond to his hand signals.  It was a stinking hot day so this added to the ambiance 🙂

Serious discussion and concentration

A elephant, some zebras and impala getting some water under the unrelenting sun.  It must have reached 36 degrees Celsius in the shade by this stage.


Kori Bustard – the heaviest living animal capable of flight.

African Wild Dogs – quite a rare sight.

Needless to say, Ian passed with flying colours.  His assessor was Sean Pattrick. He is the author of “Game Ranger in your Back Pack” and also a great wildlife photographer. It was super to meet him.

Speaking of great photographers, Ian himself is a brilliant photographer. You can see (and buy) some of his work here.

If you are interested in going on a walking tour in the Kruger National Park it is worth contacting Dry Season Safari’s to find out more. You won’t regret it!

Thanks Ian for a super day!




Roots of Rhythm

Yesterday we were invited to attend a new show in our area. It has been set up to complement the lodge and safari industry in our area.  Tourists can now visit a beautiful cultural village, get a guided tour of the village and ask lots of questions about local culture and then watch a stunning show by the Roots of Rhythm Tribal Dancers depicting the history of our local indigenous people.

Nyani village promises to be a prime tourist attraction.

After the tour of the village one gets a chance to practice stick fighting or to consult the Sangoma (witch-doctor)

The Sangoma

Then the drums begin to roll and everyone moves towards the show area where we are dazzled by the dances, songs, humour and pure showmanship of the Roots of Rhythm artists.

And then everyone gets to dance

A wonderful morning out and well worth a visit.  Our tour started at 11am and the show at 12.45 although there are many different time options available to tour groups. There is also a restaurant and bar on the premises.

Please visit their Facebook page for more information.

For bookings please see the contact details below.


Today I went for a ride in this tiny little gyrocopter.  Another first for me.

and I took this photo of Jackal’s Den.

We even got to see a giraffe when we were flying over the reserve.  It was very hard to keep the camera still enough to take pictures. We only flew for about 20 minutes. It was hot and windy and we bounced all over the sky.  I was not too nervous but did feel a little green around the gills by the time I got my feet back on the ground.  I would like to do it again sometime but probably early in the morning on a cooler day 🙂  Still, it was a wonderful opportunity.


Katse Dam – Lesotho

One would think that this small,dry, brown, mountainous country would not have much to offer in the way of export so it comes as quite a surprise to many that one of Lesotho’s biggest exports is water. Alongside electricity and diamonds, water makes up a large portion of the export income for Lesotho.  South Africa pays R37 million per year for water derived from the Lesotho Highlands water project.  Katse Dam was built as the first phase of this project. (pronounced cut-sea)


Katse dam is 50 kilometers long and holds a volume of 1 950 million m³ of water.  It is the highest dam in Africa and also the second largest in Africa.


Dam features

  • Height – 185 m
  • Crest length – 710 m
  • Design – double arch, concrete
  • Concrete – 2,320,000 cubic meters
  • 1993 meters above sea level

We took a tour into the dam wall but I was not allowed to take any photographs inside unfortunately.  It was very interesting and is quite an engineering feat.

Water is taken in at this tower and is transferred via a 45 km, 4 m diameter underground tunnel to a hydroelectric station near Muela after which it is piped a further 35km to just outside the town of Clarens in South Africa.  The pipeline itself is tunneled through the mountains and water travels downhill all the way making use of gravity for flow.

Here you can see the water exiting the pipeline and being fed into the ash river.

If you are ever in the area it really is well worth a visit to the dam.

This is the last of a series of three posts about Lesotho. You can read the first two posts but clicking on the links below.

Lesotho – the mountain kingdom.


Recently I was lucky enough to spend a week away on holiday in the eastern part of the Free State province of South Africa in a town called Clarens. This has been my first proper holiday since I arrived back in South Africa from Belgium, so was special indeed.

While there, we took a day trip into Lesotho to visit the Katse dam.  I took so many photos of this trip that it has taken me weeks to sort through them and decide which to share with you.  I will be publishing a series of posts from my trip so as not to bore you with reams of information at once.

I am going to start with some that embrace my love of this small mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

Lesotho , officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, completely surrounded by its only neighboring country, the Republic of South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 in size with a population of approximately 2,067,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sesotho. About 40% of the population live below the international poverty line.

Living such a poor life I am sure is extremely hard, however there are aspects here of the simple life that really attract me.  Lesotho in winter is almost mono-toned in colour yet there is still a vibrancy and happiness that I love.

I hope you enjoy the following pictures that show what I see in this beautiful country.

Most people dress in blankets and gum boots and the major form of transport in the rural areas are donkeys.

You may not see much at first glance at the above picture, but it is all about rural life here. The ladies doing the washing in the stream, the icy snow in the shade, the horse on the hillside, growing crops on the slopes and the homestead up above. Life in Lesotho.

Happy children and not a PlayStation or iPad in sight 🙂

Fields on the hillside

Doing chores

A driving school. The little shack is covered in road signs on all sides – probably for teaching purposes.

A plough-boy ran up to us to get some sweets

Just beautiful…………



A new road side stall called Piccadilly has opened up near Hoedspruit.  It is really worth a visit if you are driving out towards Lydenberg or just to the reptile park.  I often find it difficult finding small gifts for birthdays and Piccadilly has so many wonderful gifts and ideas.  Elsa, the owner, also sources fresh vegetables from local farms and has a few basics like cold drinks and other groceries available.

I walked away with some very fresh farm potatoes, green beans and onions and some wonderful pictures of the stall.

Piccadilly is located on the Orpen road just off the R527 near the reptile park, and just outside the entrance of Zulaika Country House.  Please pop by and show your support of our local businesses.

One of Hoedspruit’s best kept secrets

It was only after I had lived here for two and a half years that I was told about the restaurant on the Blyde Wildlife Estate. I thought that it would be handy for me as my guests at my B&B would not have to drive too far for a good restaurant meal.  I decided to go and see what it was like.

It is situated just next to the sports clubhouse on the estate and has wonderful views of the mountains.  The ambiance is marvelous and with a strong menu and really good cooking, this restaurant is a spot where you could spend many a lazy Sunday afternoon and evening and even watch the sunset over the mountains after a quick dip in the sparkling pool.


How many of you who live and work in Hoedspruit have been to this restaurant?  It really is worth a visit.

Arachnophobia – Carlé’s story

It was only when Carlé and her family came to visit Jackal’s Den that I found out that she had a severe case of arachnophobia. I mentioned to her mother that our local reptile park had programs during the holidays to help people cope with their phobias and she decided that it was time for Carlé and her sisters to attend the workshop.

Carlé understandably was really not keen to go but we persisted and she agreed as long as she would not be forced to look, see, touch or experience spiders in any way. We agreed and hoped that the folk at Khamai Reptile Park would have a plan.

When we got there we were greeted by Daniel and Donald who assured Carlé that she would never have to do anything that she did not want to do.  They started to talk to her about spiders and which ones are dangerous to us here in South Africa. Naturally she wanted to know what the dangerous ones looked like so she could identify them if ever she came across them. Daniel showed them to her (they were in glass cages so Carlé felt safe.)  We were then taken to see the reptiles and were allowed to hold what ever we liked. Carlé has a fondness for bearded dragons etc. so she was put at ease with these creatures.

and her sisters got to play too

The dragon in the picture above has a tumour on it’s leg – it was handed in at the park in this condition. As soon as the tumour gets too large, the folk at the reptile park will remove it surgically.

We were then taken to a patch of shady lawn at the park and seated to hear more about spiders. They showed  us casings of baboon spiders (shedded skins) which look exactly like the spider itself except a small portion of the back is missing where the spider emerged. We were allowed to touch and feel although Carlé held back. She did manage to watch us play with a baboon spider though.

We were all ‘oooh-ing’ and ‘aaah-ing’ after the experience because it is quite a special moment  when you hold one of these creatures. They are so soft and gentle and oh-so-light on their tippy toes across your skin. (I know many of you won’t believe this because I didn’t until I picked up the nerve to hold one – now I can’t get enough)

Then we went off to feed the chameleons

and play with the baby tortoises

It was at this point that Carlé mentioned to Daniel that she may just like to try to touch the spider so he took her back inside and told her that he would  just let her feel what the spider’s feet felt like.  Daniel had so much patience with us and with Carlé – never pushing her beyond what she was ready for.

You can see by the way that Carlé is sitting that she is quite nervous still.  I will let the following sequence of pictures tell the rest of the story.

The staff at Khamai Reptile Park were absolutely amazing with vast amounts of interesting information and tons of patience with the children. These are the folk who worked with me to get me over my snake phobia over two years ago. (Now go back and look at the last few pictures again, this time looking into the glass window behind Carlé’s head)

See – I am cured too 🙂

And now Carlé wants her own tarantula!

(photos kindly taken and provided by Ronney Reece and Erika Green)