We had the most exciting adventures in Southern Africa in 2017-2018.
OUR DIVERSE CULTURE
Paarl is the third oldest European Settlement in South Africa and is home to a culturally diverse community – the product of a unique history.
The people of Paarl are descendants of the Khoisan, slaves from African and Asia, Dutch settlers, French Huguenots, Jewish immigrants, Italian Prisoners of War, and Xhosa migrant labourers.
The Khoikhoi and San were the first people to utilize the area and original San rock art can still be seen at nearby Wemmershoek and Bainskloof. Originally, Paarl Mountain was named “Tortoise Mountain” by the Khoikhoi.
The Berg River Valley formed the traditional border between the Peninsular Khoikhoi (the Gorachoqua and the Goringhaiqua) and the Cochoqua. The latter group moved their cattle around the various grazing areas of the Berg River and Drakenstein valleys.
The approximately 18 000-strong Cochoqua was one of the richest and strongest of the Khoi tribes, but they were eventually defeated during the second war between the colonists and Khoikhoi and most of their livestock looted.
On the death of their leaders, the tribe dispersed, with some trekking towards the Orange River, while others were in the service of colonists.
The original purpose of the Dutch settlement in the vicinity of latter day Cape Town, was to provide fresh food and water to the ships of the Dutch East India Company, on their way to the East. Founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, built up fresh meat stock by bartering livestock from the local Khoikhoi.
In 1657, Abraham Gabbema led an expedition to find more Khoi groups to barter with and to search for the legendary treasures of Monomotapa. On the day that they arrived in the Berg River Valley, the granite boulders, towards the west side of our town, glistened in the sun and this inspired Gabbema to name this mountain “the Diamond and Pearl Mountain” from which the name Paarl was later derived.
In October 1687, thirty years after the Gabbema expedition, Governor Simon van der Stel granted the first farms to Free Burghers. Twenty-one of these farms were in Drakenstein (Paarl), and five were on the foothills of Paarl Mountain.
When the French Huguenots arrived in the Cape in 1688, some were granted land in the Drakenstein area.
Their intimate knowledge of the wine industry would be instrumental in establishing the now internationally-renowned wine industry of South Africa.
The headquarters of the South African wine industry, the KWV, is situated in Paarl, on one of the earliest farms (La Concorde, as it is known today) to be granted by Governor Simon van der Stel.
The traditional European practice of private land ownership soon clashed with the communal land use of the Khoikhoi. Land was now granted to the French Huguenots and this meant that water was limited and the wild animals that were hunted by the Khoisan, systematically disappeared from the area.
European diseases, such as small pox, further decimated the indigenous peoples. Many of the Khoisan were forced to move to the interior or became labourers for the colonists.
Between 1658 and 1808, some 63 000 slaves were brought to South Africa from different parts of the world, to sow, harvest, and thresh the wheat and also to load wagons, weed the owner’s fields, and look after the livestock. On wine farms they harvested and pressed grapes. Women did housework and in some cases acted as wet nurses for their owner’s children.
Het Gesticht (a small unbaked brick church) was built in 1813 to provide slaves with a place of worship. From 1820, onwards it became known as the Zion Church and is the fourth oldest church building in South Africa.
After being emancipated in 1834, slaves in Paarl were awarded property in the vicinity of modern-day Berg Street and School Street.
Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,633 square kilometres (7,580 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa, and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west. The administrative headquarters are inSkukuza. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926.
To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
The park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere an area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve (the “Biosphere”).
The park has nine main gates allowing entrance to the different camps.
In 1895, Jakob Louis van Wyk introduced in the Volksraad of the old South African Republic, a motion to create the game reserve which would become the Kruger National Park. That motion, introduced together with another Volksraad member by the name of R. K. Loveday, and accepted for discussion in September 1895 by a majority of one vote, resulted in the proclamation by Paul Kruger president of the Transvaal Republic, on 26 March 1898, of a “Government Wildlife Park.” This park would later be known as the Sabi Game Reserve and was expanded into the Kruger National Park in 1926.
The park was initially created to control hunting and protect the diminished number of animals in the park.
James Stevenson Hamilton became the first warden of the reserve in 1902. The reserve was located in the southern one-third of the modern park. Shingwedzi Reserve, named after the Shingwedzi River and now in northern Kruger National Park, was proclaimed in 1903. In 1926, Sabie Game Reserve, the adjacent Shingwedzi Game Reserve, and farms were combined to create Kruger National Park.
During 1923, the first large groups of tourists started visiting the Sabie Game Reserve, but only as part of the South African Railways’ popular “Round in Nine” tours. The tourist trains used the Selati railway line between Komatipoort on the Mozambican border and Tzaneen in Limpopo Province. The tour included an overnight stop at Sabie Bridge (now Skukuza) and a short walk, escorted by armed rangers, into the bush. It soon became a highlight of the tour and it gave valuable support for the campaign to proclaim the Sabie Game Reserve as a national park.
After the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, the first three tourist cars entered the park in 1927, jumping to 180 cars in 1928 and 850 cars in 1929.
Warden James Stevenson-Hamilton retired on 30 April 1946, after 44 years as warden of the Kruger Park and its predecessor, the Sabi Game Reserve.
He was replaced by Colonel J. A. B. Sandenbergh of the South African Air Force. During 1959, work commenced to completely fence the park boundaries. Work started on the southern boundary along the Crocodile River and in 1960 the western and northern boundaries were fenced, followed by the eastern boundary with Mozambique. The purpose of the fence was to curb the spread of diseases, facilitate border patrolling and inhibit the movement of poachers.
The Makuleke area in the northern part of the park was forcibly taken from the Makuleke people by the government in 1969 and about 1500 of them were relocated to land to the South so that their original tribal areas could be integrated into the greater Kruger National Park.
In 1996 the Makuleke tribe submitted a land claim for 19,842 hectares (198.42 km2) in the northern part of the Kruger National Park. The land was given back to the Makuleke people, however, they chose not to resettle on the land but to engage with the private sector to invest in tourism, thus resulting in the building of several game lodges.
In 2002, Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique were incorporated into a peace park, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
The Makgadikgadi Pan, a salt pan situated in the middle of the dry savanna of north-eastern Botswana, is one of the largest salt flats in the world. The pan is all that remains of the formerly enormous Lake Makgadikgadi, which once covered an area larger than Switzerland, but dried up several thousand years ago.
Lying southeast of the Okavango Delta and surrounded by the Kalahari Desert, Makgadikgadi is technically not a single pan but many pans with sandy desert in between, the largest being the Sua (Sowa), Nwetwe and Nxai Pans. The largest individual pan is about 1,900 sq mi (4,921.0 km2). In comparison, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is a single salt flat of 4,100 sq mi (10,619.0 km2), rarely has much water, and is generally claimed to be the world’s largest salt pan. A dry salty clay crust most of the year, the pans are seasonally covered with water and grass, and are then a refuge for birds and animals in this very arid part of the world. The climate is hot and dry but with regular annual rains.
The main water source is the Nata River, called Amanzanyama in Zimbabwe, where it rises at Sandown about 37 mi (59.5 km) from Bulawayo. A smaller amount of water is supplied by the Boteti River from the Okavango delta.
These salt pans cover 6,200 sq mi (16,057.9 km2) in the Kalahari Basin and form the bed of the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi, which evaporated many millennia ago.Archaeological recovery in the Makgadikgadi has revealed the presence of prehistoric man through abundant finds of stone tools; some of these tools have been dated sufficiently early to establish their origin as earlier than the era of Homo sapiens. Pastoralists herded grazing livestock here when water was more plentiful earlier in theHolocene.
The lowest place in the basin is Sua Pan with an elevation of 2,920 feet.
As the ancestral Lake Makgadikgadi shrank, it left relict shorelines, which are most evident in the southwestern part of the basin. As the lake shrank numerous smaller lakes formed with progressively smaller shorelines. The relict shorelines at elevations of 3100 feet and 3018 feet can be seen mostly easily on Gidikwe Ridge, west of the Boteti River.
The geologic processes behind the formation of the basin are not well understood. It is conjectured that a there was a gentle down-warping of the crust, with accompanying mild tectonics and associated faulting; however, no significant plate boundary faults have been identified. The main axis of the developing graben runs northeast-southwest.
Kubu Island and Kukome Island are igneous rock “islands” in the salt flat of Sua pan. Kubu Island lies in the southwestern quadrant of Sua Pan, contains a number of baobab trees, and is protected as a national monument.
The pans themselves are salty desert whose only plant life is a thin layer of blue-green algae. However the fringes of the pan are salt marshes and further out these are circled by grassland and then shrubby savanna. The prominent baobab trees found in the area function as local landmarks. One of them, named after James Chapman, served as an unofficial post office for 19th-century explorers.
Very little wildlife can exist here during the harsh dry season of strong hot winds and only salt water, but following a rain the pan becomes an important habitat for migrating animals including wildebeest and one of Africa’s biggest zebra populations, and the large predators that prey on them. The wet season also brings migratory birds such as ducks, geese and Great White Pelicans. The pan is home of one of only two breeding populations of Greater Flamingos in southern Africa, and only on the Soa pan, which is part of the Makgadikgadi pans. The other breeding population is at Etosha, in the Northern part of Namibia. The only birds here in the dry season areostriches, Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus) and Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecuarius). The grasslands on the fringes of the pan are home to reptiles such astortoises, rock monitor (Varanus albigularis), snakes and lizards including the endemic Makgadikgadi spiny agama (Agama hispida makgadikgadiensis).
The salt pans are very inhospitable and human intervention has been minimal so they remain fairly undisturbed, although land surrounding the pans is used for grazing and some areas have been fenced off, preventing the migration of wildlife. Modern commercial operations to extract salt and soda ash began on Sua Pan in 1991, and there are also plans to divert water from the Nata River for irrigation, which would cause severe damage to the salt pan ecosystem. Another threat is the use of quad bikes and off-road vehicles by tourists, which disturbs breeding colonies of flamingos. Illegal hunting in the national parks is a persistent problem.
There are some protected areas within the Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Park. The Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve is the scene of large migrations of zebra and wildebeest from the Boteti River across to Nwetwe Pan, while the Nata Sanctuary in Sua Pan is a place to see birdlife and antelopes. In Nxai Pan you can still see thebaobabs painted by 19th century British artist Thomas Baines. The area can be accessed between the towns of Nata and Maun or from the town of Gweta.
Etosha National Park is a national park in northwestern Namibia. The park was proclaimed a game reserve on March 22, 1907 in Ordinance 88 by the Governor of German South West Africa, Dr. Friedrich von Lindequist. It was designated as Wildschutzgebiet Nr. 2 which means Game Reserve Number 2, in numerical order after West Caprivi (Game Reserve No. 1) and preceding Namib Game Reserve (No. 3). In 1958, Game Reserve No. 2 became Etosha Game Park and was elevated to status of National Park in 1967 by an act of parliament of the Republic of South Africa which administered South-West Africa during that time.
Etosha National Park spans an area of 22,270 square kilometres (8,600 sq mi) and gets its name from the large Etosha pan which is almost entirely within the park. The Etosha pan (4,760 square kilometres (1,840 sq mi)) covers 23% of the area of the total area of the Etosha National Park. The park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species such as the black rhinoceros.
The park is located in the Kunene region and shares boundaries with the regions of Oshana, Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa.