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Tb artful living

  2. 2. feature || travel “I can still remember the sounds of the wild things at night when I was safely in a safari camp, sounds so primal (at least to this city boy) that I felt more alert and connected to the earth and stars than ever before. It was a downright sexy experience.” Rudy Maxa Savvy Safari A seasoned world traveler journeys to South Africa to reaffirm his position on the food chain. | by RUdy MaXa I returned from my first safari years ago with a major realization: I’m lower on the food chain than I thought. After a couple of weeks in Kenya watching lions and elephants, I came to understand that your black or platinum American Express cards, your army of well-connected friends, or your big stock portfolio mean nothing in the wild where there are animals to whom you’re little more than a possible appetizer. That realization was helpful. It re-focused me on the Big Picture, the Circle of Life, you might say, and led to an appreciation of how much I didn’t know about the natural universe and the continent from which we all trace our DNA. I can still remember the sounds of the wild things at night when I was safely in a safari camp, sounds so primal (at least to this city boy) that I felt more alert and connected to the earth and stars than ever before. It was a downright sexy experience. And it all came back again at a private game reserve called Kwandwe (andbeyondafrica.com) on South Africa’s Eastern Cape last September, when the Land Cruiser I was riding in rounded the corner of a dirt road and was met by a lion sprawled across the dusty single lane in the sun. Our ranger and driver, a handsome, young, Indiana Jones-type named Grant, came to an abrupt halt and slammed the Land Cruiser 34 Artful Living | Spring 2009 lakesAL.com Artful Living | Spring 2009 35
  3. 3. feature || travel great outdoors ABOVE: Kwandwe’s great Fish river winds for 30 kilometers through riverine his highnessLEFT: The King of the Jungle claims the road with a glare. guess who has the right of way? thicket. RIGHT: At the four-bedroom Melton UPPER RIGHT: A giraffe poses prettily with a leg slightly lifted. LOWER RIGHT: Visitors admire the view at the end of a Manor, the table is set for a poolside, candle- warm day from a perch overlooking the dusty plains of Kwandwe. Photos by Rudy Maxa. Photo courtesy of Kwandwe Reserve. light dinner prepared by a private chef. into reverse until we were back around the Dali hastily jumped down from his little But as Grant explains to all his guests, We’d been looking for this lion for a couple and each was so well fed, they barely raised ecotourism companies that manages lodges curve again and out of sight of the lion. I observation tower and joined the rest of us animals don’t quite understand that they can of hours, my television crew and I who were their heads when our photographer, Joe and reserves with an eye toward protecting didn’t know a Land Cruiser could drive in inside the vehicle. easily get at all that chow riding around with shooting a show on South Africa for my Pontecorvo, quietly raised his HD camera and wildlife and improving lives in the communities reverse that fast. “Inside” is a relative term, and our Nikons hung around their necks. “They see us public television series, “Rudy Maxa’s World” began shooting. around them. The company hires locals and “That was close,” Grant said to our tracker, definition of the word is different than an as one big mass that’s never caused them any (maxa.tv). There are two male lions living And now, on this particular morning, we’d trains them in marketable skills useful both on Dali, who had two seats on the Land Cruiser. animal’s. “Inside” to me means inside an harm,” he explains, “As long as you don’t step on Kwandwe’s 54,000 acres. Trackers at the gone in search of Mr. Southern. And had almost and off the reserve. One was in the vehicle and the other was a enclosed space with a top on it. But these outside the Land Cruiser.” reserve call one the “Northern Lion” because run him over. Grant began inching the Land Kwandwe (which means “place of the blue Which is why you see photos he patrols and marks his turf each night in the Cruiser forward again, and when we slowly crane” in the local language, Xhosa) sprawls “Our ranger and driver, a handsome, young, Indiana Jones-type named of folks on safari sitting in northern part of the reserve by walking around rounded the corner, there he was, still in the across land that once was home to scattered, Grant, came to an abrupt halt and slammed the Land Cruiser into reverse open-air vehicles ten feet from and either peeing on bushes or scratching the middle of the road. Then we saw a pregnant distressed farms. Those mostly abandoned a couple of mating lions who earth—his giant paws secrete his scent in the lioness lounging in the short grass nearby. The farm plots were assembled by an American until we were back around the curve again and out of sight of the lion. I couldn’t care less—vehicles dust to let other male lions know they’re on pair was resting between bouts of mating—ten- millionaire, Carl DeSantis, who along with a have never hurt them, never private property. The other male lion is known second exertions punctuated with 15-minute local, partner, Angus Sholto-Douglas, decided didn’t know a Land Cruiser could drive in reverse that fast.” eaten their kill, and never tried as the “Southern Lion.” The younger, Northern breaks during which the lions collapse with they wanted to reintroduce native wildlife back single, metal seat perched high on the left front specially made Land Cruisers have no top- to snatch their mates or offspring. Except we’d Lion is the dominant male; everyone knows exhaustion. Apparently Mr. Southern wasn’t to the land. The pair even worked to reseed of the hood that allowed him to spot wildlife -just low doors and four rows of seats that come too fast and too close to the lion in the this because he gets the girls. always lonely. the reserve with indigenous plant life. Thirty and, usually, danger. Dali was on his perch can accommodate a guide, a tracker, and road, and while Grant was shifting into reverse, On the first morning’s game drive, we’d Kwandwe is a jewel of a wildlife reserve kilometers of the Great Fish River run through when we’d come upon the lion. It’s a place you nine guests. In short, passengers are totally the king of the jungle had flashed us a business- found Mr. Northern curled up with two female managed by a company called &beyond, the reserve, whose low, flatland is partly don’t want to be when in such close proximity accessible to any creature that can climb or like look and let out a low grumble that made companions not far from a kill. The trio had formerly the Conservation Corporation covered with “bushclump savanna-thicket,” to a carnivore. When we’d made our retreat, leap about four feet. Such as, oh, a lion. his feelings clear to even this city boy. feasted on a kudu (the carcass was nearby), Africa (CC Africa), one of the world’s leading as the reserve’s guidebook describes the >> 36 Artful Living | Spring 2009 lakesAL.com Artful Living | Spring 2009 37
  4. 4. feature || travel Tips from the Savvy Traveler What to know before you go > Both Delta and South Africa Airways fly from north America to South Africa for about $1,500 round trip in coach. Travel agents such as Travel Beyond (travelbeyond.com) in Wayzata, Mn, offer packages with savings on airfare and lodging. dinner time LEFT: The days are hot, but the nights sometimes > Most visitors headed to South Africa on chilly, so dinner is generally served fireside at Melton Manor. safari fly into Johannesburg, arriving early evening and ABOVE: Staff in the farmhouse kitchen prepare all meals for spending the night before taking a next-day flight to their guests using local game and produce. RIGHT: On warm nights, final destination such as South Africa’s most famous dinner can be enjoyed under the stars. national park, Kruger. i can’t say enough good things about The Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa (thesaxon. com) in the Johannesburg suburb of Sandhurst. it’s a private estate impeccably done with the finest furnishings scrappy brush, and whose slopes and hills obligingly made its way toward and past us, As residents of Melton, we could set our on a tree branch. He regarded me casually and linens, a gorgeous pool and lawn, and world-class feature succulents and trees growing so thickly stopping occasionally to snack on branches own schedule each day in consultation before sauntering off. At a neighboring, restaurants. About a 30-minute drive from the airport, it’s a that it’s difficult to understand how wildlife from nearby trees. with our amiable guide, Grant, and quiet, larger lodge, an elephant that decided to weave through the vegetation so effortlessly. African safaris offer many different kinds excellent tracker, Dali. And while we never park itself in the front of the lodge caused grand beginning to your African adventure. Today, this former farmland is home to and levels of accommodations, from tents had time to take a dip in our private pool, guests and staff to have to use an alternate > The best time to go on safari is when lion, zebra, cheetah, black and white rhino, to lavish tents to luxury lodges. The four it was nice to know it was there. And one entrance all day. animals are plentiful and observable. in the case of South giraffe, aardvark, eland, red hartebeest, lodges scattered across Kwandwe are in the more, important distinction between Care must be taken not to stray from Africa, June through September is generally considered springbok, kudu, warthogs and hundreds luxury column; the reserve is a member of Kwandwe and many other safari reserves: your accommodations unaccompanied at prime time. Most of Africa’s rain comes during the of other species large and small. (It’s a Relais & Chateaux. The crew and I stayed in there are no crowds. It’s not unusual while night—there are beasties out there. In fact, continent’s summer, between October and March. But birdwatcher’s paradise, too, by the way.) a four-bedroom home called Melton Manor on some safaris to have five or more Land a few days later, while dining in a restaurant The place is a visual feast for visitors. No that can only be rented in its entirety and Cruisers filled with tourists parked in one in South Africa’s wine region, a waiter told the Eastern Cape region, where Kwandwe is located, matter how many times I saw the graceful neck comes complete with staff. Every evening, place observing animal life. At Kwandwe, we me he’d once worked at Kwandwe but had gets less rain than the northern part of the country where of a giraffe protruding above a swatch of thick as we returned in the dark from game were generally alone. departed because he was “scared.” Of what, I Kruger national park is situated. “if you visit the Serengeti greenery, I always had the same, immediate watching, our house manager, Chris, stood There are no fences in Kwandwe asked? Well, he said, he worked at one of the in September, most of the ‘great migrations’ will still thought: Jurassic Park. And at sunrise one at attention outside the home–a lavishly between guests and the outdoors. My lodges whose freestanding suites required be in Kenya on the Masai Mara,” advises Craig Beal, morning, as mist rose from a small valley, decorated, Frontier-style farmhouse–holding enormous bathroom with floor-to-ceiling him to walk a bit of a distance outside at night owner of Travel Beyond, which specializes in African the silhouette of an enormous bull elephant a silver platter of the cocktail du jour. Inside, glass windows looked out on the landscape; to deliver room service orders. about half a mile away made time stand still. an enormous fire warmed us before we sat one afternoon I awoke from a short nap to I thought back to what I’d learned on that safaris. “if you visit the Okavango Delta in October, it’s We stopped our Land Cruiser and sat for down for an elaborate dinner accompanied see a seven-foot-tall eland buck standing Kenya safari a couple of decades ago. And I peak season for ‘Big Five’ game viewing. For birding about 45 minutes and filmed as the elephant by South African wines. right next to the bathroom glass munching understood perfectly. enthusiasts, migratory birds from northern Africa and 40 Artful Living | Spring 2009 lakesAL.com Artful Living | Spring 2009 41
  5. 5. feature || travel Asia don’t typically arrive in the Okavango Delta until november when the rains begin.” > What the heck are the “Big Five” everyone talks about? That’s a term invented by big- game hunters of yesteryear (not safari operators) to describe the difficulty in hunting lion, leopard, black rhino, elephant, and Cape Buffalo that are especially A World of Difference. dangerous when shot at, wounded, or cornered. You may or may not see all five in Kwandwe (or anywhere else, for that matter), but it’s not necessary to have a memorable experience. > We watched a pair of leopards subdue a hartebeest, but when a pair of lions arrived, attracted by the sound of the struggle, the leopards ran away without enjoying the fruits of their labor. We also saw a lioness stalk–and lunge at with an earth-shaking roar–a hapless warthog who’d ventured too closely. She missed, but i can’t think of anything that’s happened in my five years of living in St. paul that matched that for excitement. LEXINGTON FLORAL offers: > Travel Beyond’s Beal, who has visited Africa 25 times, says that most first-time safari goers pack too much. Most game drives begin before sunrise and last a few hours. Surprisingly, mornings and evenings can be chilly, even if daytime temperatures Unique Home Accessories to update your decor reach 80 degrees. So dress in layers that you can remove as the day grows warmer. The middle of the day without the expense of a remodel. Interior Decorator is leisure or naptime, followed by a sunset game drive. no need for fancy clothes or hiking boots unless you’re Services to give your home a fresh new look with floral going on a hiking safari. > Beal also suggests taking a camera with a 300mm lens and a pair of binoculars. Don’t worry arrangements and home accessories with the help from a about insect repellent or sunscreen, as most safari camps frequented by Americans will supply them. And professional interior decorator. We offer a complimentary design consultation to all clients. Fresh + Permanent while you won’t have cell coverage everywhere in the bush, urban areas are well served, and you’ll also have flowers to make any space more inviting or to brighten internet access. > You’ll be fine on safari, but exercise caution in South Africa’s cities, especially Johannesburg someone’s day. Enjoy the “Toscana” line of permanent and Cape Town where crime is rampant. Be especially If you’ve searched Google lately, you’ve seen there is no shortage We’ve spent the last 34 years personally visiting destinations careful at ATMs, in particular, where locals with either flowers and a wide variety of fresh flowers arriving daily of travel supplier options. In fact, search for “safari” and you’ll around the world. This allows us to do the small things better and we also offer floral services for weddings. instantly be greeted with over 100 million choices. This makes than anyone else. And when it comes to travel, the small details hand-held devices or readers implanted in cash machines choosing an advisor a daunting task. Yet, it’s one of the most make a world of di erence. Whether you’re looking for a safari, can read your card number without your knowledge. important decisions you will make. So how do you know if luxury cruise or international trip, we agonize over the details Here’s the rule: nEVEr use an ATM if anyone is near you. Travel Beyond is the right consultancy for you? and promise to create an experience all your own. And leave your expensive watch and jewelry at home. Rudy Maxa is host and executive producer of “rudy tele: 651–483–2786 web: LexingtonFloral.com Maxa’s World” on public television (maxa.tv) and a contributing editor with national geographic Traveler. location: 3414 Lexington Ave N Shoreview, MN To learn more, visit TravelBeyond.com or call us at (952) 475-2565. 42 Artful Living | Spring 2009 ©2009 Travel Beyond