Letter from the editor: The wild around us

Posted on 22 March 2017

It’s a happy coincidence that my sister and I currently find ourselves living together, like two spinsters in a Jane Austen novel. Every morning, we rise at around 5am and head out to the mountain close to the infamous Rhodes Memorial for our morning ‘constitutional’. For those that don’t know, Rhodes Mem is part of Table Mountain National Park, around which Cape Town city is spreading.


Portrait of an African or Spotted Eagle Owl (Bubo africanus). Photo by Martin Heigan.

Portrait of an African or Spotted Eagle Owl (Bubo africanus). Photo by Martin Heigan.

We’ve become familiar with the area. At one corner we stop and search for a pair of African eagle owls. On the morning of writing this, one peered at us, gave a gratifying hoot, spread its wings and dropped away into the gloom as cyclists came panting by. On our way back down, we always listen out for the piping ‘kew’ of a resident rufous-chested sparrowhawk. Around us, the flora is filled with the chatter of birds, most of which I don’t know, sadly.

Recently I read an interesting opinion from an ecologist and lecturer at an Australian university. She talked about ecological illiteracy, and how her biology students are unable to identify plants and creatures. To quote her, ‘While people spend more time indoors in front of screens, we become less aware of the birds, plants and bugs in our backyards and neighbourhoods. This leads to an alienation from nature that is harmful to our health, our planet and our spirit.’

In all cities of the world, wildlife is present, sometimes quite visibly. Berliners have wild boars, so comfortable they even breed there. Chicago has coyotes. Mumbai has resident leopards (hardly ever seen) and British cities have their foxes. In the Cape we have baboons, while Durban has its monkeys. In Fish Hoek, writes Getaway’s Michelle Hardie, our insider regularly spots francolins on the nearby hiking trails (page 115). All around us our urban world is full of bugs, from annoying flies and industrious ants to ephemeral butterflies. They’re very much part of our urban environments.

What if we make an effort to learn about them, teach our children about them, integrate them more into our world? For example, an organisation called EcoSolutions, a pest management company in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town, encourages people to put up owl boxes to control rodents. Imagine all of that feathered magnificence and beauty in your backyard – my cat Ozzie might object, as pets might be up for, erm, grabs but I suspect he’d prefer death by owl to a detested car ride and euthanasia by vet.

Keen to learn more? One way to do it is by entering our online urban wild photo competition (see page 15) – it’s a great way to engage with nature every day, also for children. For greater immersion, go to one of our fabulous farm stays (page 62), and for full-scale immersion, plan a trip to one of the wildest places in Africa, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe (page 82). It’ll set your soul alight.

Farm Stays April 2017


4 things to look out for in this April issue

Urban Wildlife photography
Sam Hobson and our own Teagan Cunniffe give some fantastic tips on photographing wildlife in urban settings (page 24).

Win a slot on SA’s most popular trail
Anyone who’s tried to book the Otter Trail will know it’s booked out a year in advance. So turn to our story on page 74 and enter the competition to win a slot for you and your whole troop to walk it during its 50th birthday year.

Otter trail April 2017

The best sandwich advice you’ll ever get
Food Editor Nikki Werner’s advice on sandwiches has revolutionised our road trips. Follow her seven tips and it’ll change your life (page 41).

The Good-Value Star
Each Getaway issue holds a wealth of good-value accommodation, places to stay in for under R550 per person (some for less) and that we think offer good value.

This month’s contributors

Scott Ramsay – Travel in Zimbabwe. Scott’s pride in our continent’s heritage was cemented 20 years ago when he saw the remarkable photograph ‘756 Elephants’ by American Peter Beard. Since then he has travelled Southern and Central Africa, recording the efforts of wildlife conservationists through his photographs and stories. Scott is happiest sleeping under the stars, the more remote the place, the better. And he did just that while exploring a lesser-known Zimbabwean wilderness.

Zimbabwe April 2017

Annalize Nel – Born and raised in Paarl, Annalize is a ‘Jozi girl at heart’, which is where she is now based and works as a photographer specialising in food and decor – and shooting gear for Getaway. ‘I always get excited talking to [Gear Editor] Mel about where she’s travelled and getting tips on gear and places to see.’ Annalize likes spending time with friends and travelling – sometimes at the same time. ‘My happy place is definitely the Drakensberg. I try and go at least twice a year.’

Anthony Doman – Travel in France. Nearly 20 years after what he fondly calls ‘the holiday of a lifetime’ cruising the canals of France’s Alsace region with his wife, Anthony retraced the route with seven companions. Besides the inevitable greying, the big difference this time for the editor of Popular Mechanics was the inclusion of family – and running the Paris Marathon beforehand. The lesson? Bigger can be better, at least when it comes to affordability.

Canal cruising April 2017

Michelle Hardie – Insider’s Guide. Getaway’s Copy Editor jumped at the chance – when no one else did – to get the inside scoop on Fish Hoek in Cape Town (often overlooked due to glamorous Kalk Bay next door). What she found breaks down pedestrian opinion about this motley, deep south, famously ‘dry’ suburb. Six-pack in hand, she met a feisty community immensely proud of its beautiful, unspoilt beach and natural surroundings.


This story first appeared in the April 2017 issue of Getaway magazine.

Get this issue →

Our April issue features a guide to the Otter Trail, the sunniest roadtrip in SA, and 12 awesome farmstays.


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