The World Nomads Podcast: South Africa

Why size matters in the Kruger National Park, how a 6' 2" (187 cm) Swedish traveller plans to live in a small van, and the hospitality training center in Cape Town changing lives for the San people.

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The World Nomads Podcast – South Africa

South Africa is known for its diverse landscape, abundant wildlife, vibrant cities and is home to the country’s oldest inhabitants,  the San people also known as the Kilahari Bushmen.

What’s in the episode

00:49 Why a nomad would want to visit South Africa

02:08 Tim and Sarah go toe to toe

05:07 All about Organised Adventurer

09:18 Phil disappears

11:50 Kim finds out about Vagabonds of Sweden

16:16 Travel News

18:07 Doing less harm and doing more good

22:30 About G Adventures

26:50 Size matters

33:50 What bird was that Bryony?

36:21 Sipping South African wine


Quotes from the episode

Cape Town I think is one of the most picturesque cities that I've ever been to, because you have Table Mountain, and this entire mountain range can be like looming, kind of squeezing the city between the mountains and the coastline”.Sarah

“It's an amazing project that is just about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town in South Africa. And it's a hospitality training center for the San people. Better known perhaps to your audience as the Kalahari bushmen.” – Jamie Sweeting

5 Places to Get Off-the-Beaten-Track in South Africa  
Take yourself off the tourist track to see these 5 lesser-known spots in South Africa.

Learn about some of the more unique and interesting activities.

“…he was completely at the mercy of the smaller animal because the small animal could then continue to beat him up whilst he was just stuck on the leg. And he couldn't do anything until he just collapsed with exhaustion.” Bryony

“We actually started with another name, a Swedish name, like around the world 365, but in Swedish. So, when we got back from our last trip, we decided that we wanted to go with something more international.” – Sofia Vagabonds of Sweden

South Africa Travel Alerts and Warnings 
Get the latest information on natural disasters, political instability, civil unrest and how it may affect your trip to South Africa.

Who is in the episode

Sarah Puckett and her husband Tim have just returned from a 20-month-long honeymoon blogging as they went as Our 21st Century Odyssey. Sarah has since launched Organized Adventurer focusing on trip planning guides for adventures big and small.

Jamie Sweeting is President, Planeterra, & VP for Social Enterprise and Sustainability, at G Adventures.

Jamie has built a career around crafting and achieving sustainable development and conservation strategies for the tourism sector, because he believes so strongly in the power of travel to improve people’s lives. Learn about the !Khwa ttu San Cultural Centre Planeterra supports.

Sofia and Frederick are better known as Vagabonds of Sweden, a couple living the travel lifestyle. They are currently in Australia kitting out a van to travel the country before heading to New Zealand in May next year. You can follow them and their progress on Instagram.

Sofia and Fredrik, otherwise known as Vagabonds of Sweden doing up their van. Photo Supplied.

Bryony Slaymaker is a wildlife conservationist from the UK, where she’s spent most of her career working as a ranger. She’s currently working on projects worldwide alongside her husband. Read you story Size Matters.

Resources & links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

Click here for details on the MacBook Pro battery recall.

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About World Nomads & the podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Travel Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Speaker 1: Welcome to the World Nomads podcast, delivered by World Nomads, the travel lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast, it's everything for the adventurous, independent traveler.

Kim: Thanks for tuning in to the World Nomads podcast with Kim and Phil, revisiting a destination Phil, that we featured not long after launching the podcast, but we're going to do this with fresh eyes and ears, it's South Africa.

Phil: Okay. And the last time we looked at South Africa, we told you about the man Hindu from shark culling to shark conservation. And the photographer who survived a deadly snake bite from a Mamba. There will be a link to that episode in the show notes, of course. But there are so many reasons a nomad would want to visit this destination, so why not keep on exploring what it has to offer.

Kim: Not only, Phil, is the landscape diverse with abundant wildlife, but it's also the adventure capital of the world. The cities are vibrant and interesting, and it's a photographer's dream. There are also plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten path. So, in this episode we'll introduce you to Bryony.

Phil: We'll hear about a tour in which travelers can learn about San culture and language. Plus, meet a Swedish couple who've embarked on a bold adventure to Australia. But our first guest is no stranger to this podcast.

Kim: No, she certainly isn't, Phil, Sarah and her husband Tim, remember them, they're the adventurous couple who headed off on a 20-month long honeymoon, blogging as they went, as Our 21st Century Odyssey. But once we got to know them, we were really keen to know about any arguments they had the further into the honeymoon period they got.

Sarah: So, we did this big overland journey and Africa, big camper truck thing, and we were sleeping in tents and kind of uncomfortable accommodations. And it was epic and amazing, but also pretty exhausting. And there was one morning where Tim got up, and it's like you know how sometimes it just seems like someone is trying to be very loud, like they're just stomping their feet and everything they do is just crazy loud. And it woke me up, and I rolled over and said to Tim, it's like I cannot wait for the morning where I do not wake up next to you. And then he looks so sad. And I was like, oh my gosh, that was so much meaner than I meant. And we were just getting so tired, and we needed like a proper night of sleep. And I just couldn't do it anymore.

Kim: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. My husband is a massive early riser, and when I say a massive early riser, we can talk about 3:30 to 4 o'clock in the morning.

Sarah: Really?

Kim: Yes. So, from about that period on until around six when I'm waking up, I'm very conscious of every cup of coffee that he's making.

Phil: Can I ask you both a question? You first, Kim. Do you read books when you go to bed at night? Do you read in bed?

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: Sarah, do you read in bed?

Sarah: Yeah. Sometimes I'll read on my-

Phil: Do you reckon you can turn the light out?

Kim: Oh, come on.

Sarah: Well, and also, I would say ... So I read on my tablet, and I turn my ... I have a red light that filters out the blue light, and it hardly bothers Tim at all.

Kim: Okay, well you've got your answer. I'm old fashioned, I've got the lamp next to the bed.

Phil: You got the light on, and the rustling pages.

Kim: Oh, come on, he's out to it by then, he's up at 3:30. I told you this. So before we ... Let's get back to South Africa. Your home now, and what's it like? What was the journey like? What's it like trying to integrate yourself back into that kind of 9-5 world if that's exactly what you're doing?

Sarah: Yeah, of course Tim and I can't really ever do anything super conventionally, so even though we're both back to work, we're both traveling almost weekly for work. So even though I live in Wisconsin, I'm actually currently talking to you from California, which is where I'll be working for the next year, and just traveling back and forth. But it took about two months from the time we got home to each find a job that we wanted to do, and that we were excited about. And that period of time was really weird for me because it was the first time in, as long as I can remember in my adult life, where I didn't know what I was doing next.

Sarah: It's like when I was working, I was saving up for our first big round the world trip, which we did in 2014. And then when we were on that trip we were immersed in that, and it was really exciting, we were always planning the next thing that we were going to be doing. And then when we got back from that one we found work pretty quickly. And then as soon as we started working and we started saving up for our big 20 month honeymoon. So all this time we've always had something big that we were planning towards and looking forward to. And then for the first time we didn't have that. And I just drove myself stir crazy trying to find something to do that was travel related. I started looking up itineraries for things to do in our hometown.

Kim: Is this when you came up with organized adventurous? So you sort of, I don't know if you've ditched the blog, Our 21st Century Odyssey, but it is now known as Organized Adventurer.

Sarah: Right. So yeah, Our 21st Century Odyssey was always about our personal travel journal, and where we documented things for our friends and family a little bit, but mostly for us as like a genuine online scrapbook of our travels together. And then at the same time, I we kept getting questions from friends and family about, you know, what was our itinerary in this particular country? Or, how do we plan trips of this magnitude?

Sarah: And I also found that I was really enjoying helping people plan their own trips. So I started trying to do both on the same blog. And I think I ended up doing neither of them justice the way I wanted to, because I was always trying to accommodate my own personal travel journal at the same time as I was trying to draft out an itinerary. And I just ended up doing neither of them the way that I actually wanted to. And that's when I was like, you know, these are two different projects, two different concepts. So Our 21st Century Odyssey will always exist for our personal travel logging for the blog that I intend to be kind of like the outward facing blog. The blog for other people to read and find tips about how to plan big around the world trips, or even small weekend jaunts, that's going to be Organized Adventurer.

Kim: Okay. So we're picking your brains then on South Africa. So apart from the argument that you had with Tim where you didn't want to wake up next to his face ever again, what did you do there and what would you be suggesting?

Sarah: Yeah, so we crossed over into South Africa from Namibia as part of our big overland Africa trip. And we honestly didn't spend very much time in South Africa. It was very much like the tail end of our Africa journey. Cape Town I think is one of the most picturesque cities that I've ever been to, because you have Table Mountain, and this entire mountain range can be like looming, kind of squeezing the city between the mountains and the coastline. And increased its very dramatic location, it's quite beautiful. It's a really unique city.

Phil: Well I love Cape Town too. I haven't been there for a long time, but I had a great time when I went there. Did you get around the other side as well over to, what is it? Like Camps Bay and Llandudno, and those places on that side?

Sarah: Yeah, we did. We actually rented a car one day and just did this big drive around the peninsula through Camps Bay and then down into Table Mountain National Park, and the Cape of Good Hope. And we saw those dramatic coastlines, and we saw fur seals and penguins, like these animals that you don't normally think about when you think about Africa. So it was kind of cool to go from seeing like, you know, lions and cheetahs and those quintessential African animals. And then we get down to Cape Town and it's like, oh we can see fur seals and penguins and I just didn't really expect that at all.

Speaker 1: It doesn't matter what sort of nomad you are, whether you're adventurous, independent, off the beaten track, we all love a wine. Are we all in agreeance?

Phil: Sure.

Kim: So what was it like then in Cedarberg staying in a vineyard? and what was the wine like?

Sarah: So I'm not a wine connoisseur, but there were a couple of wines that we tried that evening that were types that I had never heard of before. So we tried a, I believe it's called a Pinot Taj, might be totally butchering the pronunciation of it, but I'd never had that before. And it was really good. And I was kind of surprised that I'd never even been heard of it or tried it previously. Because I've done my fair share of wine tasting. And then we also had one that was like a tea infused Ruby Vermouth, which isn't a wine per se. [inaudible 00:08:48] this kind of unique things that were different from what I'd seen at the wineries in Europe, or even in California or in the States.

Kim: Well listen, so good to hear that you survived it. The marriage is intact. You're back working, and on your new projects that you happened to share with us. So it'd be nice to keep in touch.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. It was great catching up with both of you.

Kim: Phil, can you go to the bottle shop and grab us some wine.

Phil: Yeah, no problem.

Kim: Would you mind?

Phil: Yeah, I'm on my way now. Back in a minute, Kim.

Kim: Okay, while Phil is at the bottle shop, I'm catching up with Sofia and Fredrik, otherwise known as Vagabonds of Sweden. Now they're currently in Australia, kitting out a van to drive around the country. But they're no strangers to travel. And while they visited many countries, they didn't last long in South Africa.

Sofia: Yeah. We had been traveling for eight months at that time, and I think we stressed a bit too much. And I was really homesick and missed things. Like not necessarily the home, but it was just really hard. And I just wanted to relax and go home, so I just booked the tickets and I called my mom and told her that we are coming back home tomorrow. Can you pick us up at the airport? So yeah.

Kim: You didn't see anything in South Africa outside of Johannesburg.

Sofia: Not really.

Fredrik: Up until that time we had spent a lot of time going from place to place, hostel to hostel. So it was a lot of stress in the way that we traveled. So we didn't stay for long at each place. I think that was one of the factors.

Kim: Take us through Vagabonds of Sweden and how it started.

Sofia: We actually started with another name, a Swedish name, like around the world 365, but in Swedish. So when we got back from our last trip we decided that we wanted to go with something more international. And we had thought about the Vagabonds of Sweden, that name, for a long time.

Kim: So tell us what you were doing, firstly Sofia, and then Fredrik, before you decided to become this brand.

Sofia: We have been working in Norway for the last six years, and I've been working with accounting and salaries and economics. And then we just decided that we wanted to do something else. So we went for 15 months trip, came back to Norway. I worked another year with the same, and now I just quit and decided to go for this for a while.

Kim: And you Fredrik?

Fredrik: Yeah, I've been hopping around a bit actually, changing jobs. I had maybe three or four jobs I think in Stavanger, in Norway, that we lived and worked. And the last one was really within logistics, like distribution supervisors, I was coordinating the truck drivers and stuff like that. But always in the time that we got back, at least from around the world trip, we have been working on this website and trying to make that functional so that we have something else besides Instagram to highlight our brand.

Kim: Okay. Well, once you explore the website you see where you've written your current chapter. And at the time of writing you were planning to come to Australia. So you've arrived. How's it going?

Sofia: It's going well/ It took us two weeks and then we bought ourselves a van. We lived in it for two weeks just to get a feeling of it. And now we are staying at a lady here working in her garden and converting on the van. And we have just teared everything out, so now we're sitting in the van, which is empty, and really white and shiny because we had washed it. So hopefully we can start with the electricity now, and then start building on it so that we can hopefully live in it in maybe three or four weeks.

Kim: I've been following you on Instagram, and one thing I wanted to ask Fredrik, there was a time when you first bought the van where you were struggling to sleep in it because of your height. Has that changed? And how have you managed to ... Well, I know that you're not living in it yet, but obviously you've sort of done your plans, which I've seen on Instagram. How big does this bed have to be, and how tall are you?

Fredrik: In centimetres I'm 187. So yeah, the first two weeks when we were exploring Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation and everything, the bed was pretty small, so I have to sleep with my legs out in the aisle, so to speak. So it was kind of difficult. And also we park in places where the car was in an angle where we slept down. So that's been a few challenges, but now we're going to make the bed bigger, but also so we can sleep both in one direction, and then change it so we can put up ... How do you say it?

Sofia: Extend the mattress.

Fredrik: Yeah, extend it in a way. So we have to plan it that way, otherwise it's going to be tough for 10 months.

Sofia: When we change it and put up some extra mattress it would be two meters in the other direction.

Kim: You'll hit the road until around May next year when you'll head off to New Zealand. So you're in far north Queensland at the moment. This is the first time that you've been to Australia, I'm assuming?

Sofia: Yeah, it's the first time in Australia. Yeah.

Kim: So after traveling the world, and all those countries, how do we stack up?

Fredrik: Australia and New Zealand was actually on the list when we traveled the world. But we only had like 15, only 15 months. But yeah, Australia, it's a very beautiful country, the things we've seen so far. And we're so excited to go along the east coast and maybe a little bit inland and see what else we can experience.

Sofia: We're really happy that we didn't have time for it last time. So that we really can do it full time now for a year and-

Fredrik: Yeah, take it slow and go to all the places we want to see.

Kim: Well that's the thing about Australia compared to Europe, you know, it doesn't take long to cross the border and you're in a totally different country with a different language, different culture, different food. It's not quite the case in Australia, we're a very big country. There's a lot to see.

Fredrik: There is. Yeah. This time it's a little bit different from the trip we did last time because then we planned so much. That's one of the reasons that we went home early for about, you know, about eight months when we are travel. So this time we haven't planned that much, so we're going to take it slow and be very spontaneous. And if we hear something, you should go there, and stuff like that. Then we going to do it. So we have more time now to explore everything.

Kim: Sofia, are you homesick yet?

Sofia: No, I'm not. Not at all. And I think mostly because we're taking it really slow, and get to work out, and we get to eat great food. And yeah, I think that's mainly it. And also the thing that we are going to stay in the van and have our own home.

Kim: Makes the difference, though it was nothing personal against South Africa.

Sofia: I hope I won't go home this time.

Fredrik: No, I don't think so.

Sofia: No.

Kim: We'll have a link to Vagabonds of Sweden in show notes and check in with Sofia to make sure she's not too homesick in future episodes. I think the guys on our Facebook page too, in the van, has inspired Michelle, who's part of the group, to start shopping around. So make sure you join in the conversation by searching for the World Nomads podcast on Facebook, and tell your friends. I think you've got the five-friend rule, haven't you?

Phil: Yeah, well we'd like everybody to tell, because word of mouth is the best way that people find out about a podcast. So challenging you there to tell five friends about the podcast.

Kim: Well, obviously you're back with some South African wine.

Phil: I just about had to go to South African to get it by the way.

Kim: But before we get into that, what's your travel news?

Phil: Okay. All you digital nomads out there, or anyone traveling with a MacBook Pro 15 inch, be aware that several airlines have banned these models produced between 25 and 2017, the ones where the retina display, because of a potential fire risk.

Kim: Oh, didn't that happen with phones earlier in the year?

Phil: Yeah, Samsung phones as well, that was a year or two back, I think. Well, Apple's recalled these laptops now, the ones where the dodgy batteries. And you can check if yours is affected by entering the serial number on the Apple recall site, we'll link to that in show notes resources as well so you can get straight there.

Phil: Prince Harry has launched a sustainable ... Let me do that again. Prince Harry ... Prince Harry has launched a sustainable travel initiative. Try saying that after South African wine.

Kim: We've left that to the end for that reason.

Phil: The Duke of Sussex has said, travel has the unparalleled power to open people's minds to different cultures, new experiences, and to have a profound appreciation for what the world has to offer. As tourism inevitably grows it is critically important to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices worldwide, and to balance its growth with the needs of the environment and the local population. Well said, your Highness.

Kim: Well you didn't say it quite like Prince Harry, but we got the gist.

Phil: Yeah, fair enough.

Kim: Is that it?

Phil: That's it. I'm done.

Kim: Thank you. Now established in 2003 by global adventure travel company, G Adventures, Planeterra Foundation is a not for profit, and it's contributed millions of dollars towards projects in areas of social enterprise, healthcare conservation, and emergency response. Now we caught up with president Jamie Sweeting to tell us about a project in South Africa.

Phil: Yeah. We were at a conference discussing sustainable travel where Jamie was speaking about moving away from doing less harm, to doing more good. Which I think is a great idea.

Jamie Sweeting: Yeah, it is. And I think, certainly in this age of over tourism and flight shaming, and these sorts of things, that we need to remember that tourism has this unbelievable ability and power to do good around the world. And I think people look at the scary numbers of 1.3 billion international trips, and if you add in the domestic tourism that some 8 billion trips are taken a year. I see that as 8 billion opportunities to do good, right? I mean certainly we all need to be working on doing less harm, and minimizing our environmental footprint. But what about focusing more on the good that tourism can do? And that's really what Planeterra is all about, is looking at communities and individual groups in society that aren't currently benefiting from tourism, but could literally use tourism to change their lives. And that's where we come in.

Kim: Okay. Give us an example of that then. I know you're doing a lot of projects. There's one in South Africa in particular.

Jamie Sweeting: I can't say it quite as well as we should, it's an amazing project that is just about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town in South Africa. And it's a hospitality training center for the San people. Better known perhaps to your audience as the Kalahari bushmen. And you might ask, well why is there a training center for tourism for the Kalahari bushmen, or the San people outside of Cape Town? And the answer is, it actually comes back about 30 years ago, the elders from the eight different nations of these people got together and said, well where should we build a cultural center? And they argued for five straight days, and the paramount elder after five days said, I've made a decision and we're going to have it in Cape Town. And everybody's like, well that's over a thousand miles for many of us.

Jamie Sweeting: And he's like, precisely. So the reality was that back then Cape Town was really the biggest tourism destination in Southern Africa. And he wanted to begin to educate people about the San people, where the tourists were going and where the population was. And so this project started many, many years ago as a way to educate people about the history and culture of their people. But now it's a training center for the youth of the San people from all over Southern Africa. And they come and it's a resident program, and our travelers get to go and experience a fabulous meal, and experience the cultural center that has been built out in the countryside just outside of Cape Town.

Phil: And so what sort of benefits does that then take back to the local community, back a thousand kilometers away?

Jamie Sweeting: Sure, I mean, there's a lot of different benefits. So we're the first tour company that's actually worked with them. So that's given them a lot of experience of working with small group travel companies. In the past it was only sort of individual tourists that were popping in here and there. So it's given them experience in working with tour groups, but it's also, it's sort of on the job training, right? A lot of these communities that they're coming from don't have many tourists or travelers right now. So they don't ... I spent a lot of time in the 90s doing ecotourism, and this whole phenomenon of build it and they will come. And I can assure you that in most cases build it and they won't come. And I think that's the joy of working with a company like G Adventures is we work with communities that are in and around where tour companies are already going.

Jamie Sweeting: We're not trying to build a market from scratch. And so really what these kids get to learn is on the job training of working with travelers. So they learn English, they learn how to interact with foreigners. And you know, the amazing thing about a company like G Adventures is, while primarily we're drawing travelers from the English speaking world, in the last five years, we've had travelers from over 160 different nationalities come on our trips. So the multicultural nature of the kind of people that they're being exposed to, these kids, and learning from how to interact with them is unsurpassed.

Kim: So what sort of impact has it had?

Jamie Sweeting: Well, the great thing is, I mean, the one project I didn't get to talk about in my speech this morning because I ran out of time-

Kim: Right, exclusive.

Jamie Sweeting: Is this amazing project in Botswana called the Dqae Qare Lodge, which is the only San people owned and run lodge in the world. And we found out about them because of a student at the project in South Africa. And he came to us and said, well, you know, my like community's got this lodge, and why can't we work with that? And so we were like, well yeah, why can't we? So we went and met with the people that run that lodge, and again, they've never worked with tour companies like us before. And it's been a really exciting project to work with the only community owned and run San lodge in the world. And what an opportunity for our travelers to go and experience that.

Kim: Absolutely.

Phil: Well one of the interesting things from your presentation earlier is you were talking about what a particular project in the Sacred Valley as well. A million people go past about a kilometer away from where they were. Just tell us that story because that's pretty amazing.

Jamie Sweeting: Yeah. So this is a, the Parwa Community Restaurant, which is literally the community of Parwa is about 1.2 kilometers off of the main roads, for everybody who's going to Machu Picchu. You have to go into the Sacred Valley to get on the train or to hike the Inca Trail. So there's somewhere around a million people that are going to Machu Picchu every year, and they're just passing by this road. This community had very, very little benefit from tourism. There were a couple of the husbands that worked in either cooks or porters on the Inca Trail. But other than that, they weren't really getting any visitation. And we were just stopping at random restaurants on the road, you know, our travelers have to eat. And so we worked with the community and say, well how about the idea of you creating a community owned and run restaurant?

Jamie Sweeting: And they were like, oh yeah, we know how to cook. On the whole we actually, in this case, brought in a fabulous chef who was originally from the Cusco region, but had sort of built a name for himself as a head chef in several restaurants in Lima. And we brought him in to work with them to build from their own culinary history and tradition, but to add a little bit of spice and flavor to it. And you know, one of my proudest things since I've been running Planeterra was a couple of years ago the lady who is the editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine in Canada named it as one of her 10 best meals of the year in her year end wrap up. And I thought, that's pretty darn cool, right?

Kim: Yeah. High five.

Jamie Sweeting: Because this is a community that literally five years ago no tourist had ever been in. And here they are running a restaurant that gets top praise from an amazing culinary expert like that. Fantastic.

Kim: Do more good than harm, that's your message.

Jamie Sweeting: Yeah. Ultimately I think, yes, we all need to in our personal lives and our professional lives, you know, do less harm certainly. But why not focus more on the positive in life? Why not really look about what good we can do? And it really doesn't need to be earth shatteringly difficult to do it. And so, when faced with a choice, make the good choice.

Kim: We'll said, Jamie, it certainly isn't that hard. Now Bryony joins us. We mentioned her at the start of the podcast, she was a bit shady on her bird knowledge. But she's back again arguing size matters in South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Bryony: Yeah, so obviously with all wildlife there's exceptions to every rule, but generally the bigger, stronger animals are the ones that get the most mates, the most food, and do better in nature. It's not always the case. As I witnessed in my story, the smaller animal was the one who did better, but as a general rule, size does matter.

Kim: Okay, so tell us what you witnessed.

Bryony: Well, there's a lot of giraffes in Kruger, so anyone who's been to Kruger will know that you're often on the lookout for predators. That's kind of what people really want to see, things like the leopards and lions. But you will encounter a lot of elephants, leopards and giraffes whilst you're just driving around looking for other things. So we'd seen an awful lot of giraffes.

Bryony: I love giraffes, but we'd got to the point where we weren't stopping for every single animal. We were driving along when we saw these two, that looked like they were sizing each other up, and my husband and I are both wildlife professionals, so we kind of recognized an usual behavior, slowed to a stop. And within kind of seconds they had started slamming their necks together, which is how they battle. So people often think of giraffes as quite gentle vegetarian creatures, but when the males are fighting, it can actually be a really aggressive display. And they can kind of cause enormous damage just by swinging their necks together.

Phil: Because they get a fair bit of momentum going, and they've got little horns on the top of their heads, right?

Bryony: Yeah, they do, you get a big momentum going. And they've got really, really muscly necks, so they can cause damage and sort of bruise each other. They can even kill each other. It doesn't happen often, but it can happen. And yeah, they have these tiny horns on the tops of their head called ossicones. So what happened with these two, which was unfortunate for the larger animal, was the ossicones got stuck on the leg of the smaller animal. Which obviously wasn't planned, but it meant that he was completely at the mercy of the smaller animal because the small animal could then continue to beat him up whilst he was just stuck on the leg. And he couldn't do anything until he just collapsed with exhaustion.

Kim: And it was at this point you thought, oh no, he's dead.

Bryony: Yeah, genuinely we're convinced. And it was one of those kind of horrible things, as is often the case in Safari, people want to see kills and action, and animals eating stuff. But you almost don't want to as well because, of course, it's not pleasant.

Phil: No it's gruesome.

Bryony: It's horrible. And we sat there and we were like, wow, we just witnessed the most amazing thing. And you know, one giraffe has won, but we are looking at a dead animal. Which is really sad as well because we were thinking, oh, it's not even, you know, it's not even been killed for food, it's just dead. But we waited it out and amazingly it did jump back up again, and then it turned around and obviously ran off.

Kim: Were you actually there traveling, or were you as part of a project?

Bryony: No, so that occasion we were just traveling. So yeah, we both work in conservation as our jobs, and then when we're on holiday we go and look at more wildlife. It's a bit of an obsession. So it was a real amazing experience there because Kruger is obviously every kind of wildlife conservation and stream, and we really were lucky to witness this kind of special moment.

Phil: So tell us about Kruger, because I understand in parts of it you have to stay on the roads, but then there's other parts where you can go bush.

Bryony: Yeah, so Kruger is kind of, I think not what most people picture when they picture a Safari. Many peoples' picture of a Safari is what they see on TV, which will be open plains and cheetahs running around. There is a small, well not small, it's still large, but comparatively small area of that within Kruger it is that kind of grassland when you've got open habitats and visible creatures. Which obviously make for great filming.

Bryony: But a lots of Kruger is actually quite thick bushland. So you really have to look for the wildlife. And there's also some mountain areas. Kruger is huge. It's bigger than Wales. You do spend time in your car, obviously that's because there's potentially dangerous animals around, so you can't go wandering about. But you can spend time walking around if you go out with a hired professional guide who will be armed. And there are certain areas where you can get out, for example [inaudible 00:31:18] and hide and look at leopards and things. So it's an absolutely amazing place to go. And certainly, we've traveled a lot to see wildlife, but Kruger is up there as one of the top places because just the sheer numbers of animals we saw every day. Searching for wildlife can be difficult even for somebody with professional training, but in Kruger it's everywhere. Just everywhere.

Phil: And what about accommodation? Is it sort of old high-end stuff, or you can you do it on a budget?

Bryony: We definitely did it on a budget. Obviously as conservationists we don't get paid a huge amount, so we always look for the cheaper option. It's great. It's very easy to organize a trip to Kruger, so you've always got posh options if you want to pay lots of money and stay in incredibly luxurious hotels and lodges, and always be guided, then there's plenty of those options. But if you want to go cheaper and a bit more independent, then you can book directly through the San website, which is the organization, South Africa National Parks Organization, and you can book all your accommodation through them.

Bryony: Which is great as well because it means all the money is going directly back to the national park and to managing the national park and the wildlife. That accommodation is much more rustic, so you stay in kind of bush camps where you'll have the tented accommodation, it's fairly simple beds. And it varies between big camps where you can either camp or stay in these kind of cabins and tents. Or you can stay in the really rustic bush camps, which don't have electricity, they have gas lamps, they have very thin electric fence around them. So animals prowl the edge and you kind of hope and pray people [inaudible 00:32:55]. But they're generally very safe, of course.

Kim: when you say animals are hard to spot, like giraffes are pretty tall. Are they the easiest of the animals?

Phil: Well why do you think they've got their camouflage pattern on them?

Kim: Up against a green tree it's not going to help.

Phil: Well, they sort of meld into the background. They do.

Kim: Can I let the expert answer that?

Phil: Okay.

Bryony: Yeah, I mean, there were a few surprises. There was one time where we were kind of driving along slowly looking for wildlife and an elephant literally like popped out. Because where you've got vegetation, even a big animal can hide pretty effectively. As I say, in Kruger you see a lot of stuff. There's the bigger animals like zebras and giraffes and elephants. Even though they can hide, they're often very visible. And there are techniques you can use like going slowly, and going to watering holes, particularly in the afternoon where they'll gather. And looking out for signs such as, you know, vultures indicate potentially kill. Smaller animals and predators can be really tricky to see because they don't want to be seen. And they don't do a lot as well. People get this impression from many documentaries that animals are always doing stuff, but actually when an animal is not eating or mating, it's sleeping, it's just conserving its energy most of the time.

Kim: It's a bit like Phil.

Phil: Sign me up for that.

Kim: Just on the zebra, poor design, black and white. You can't blend in.

Phil: The thing that gets me as well about that are is how much bird life there is.

Bryony: Yes, there's so much bird life. And what I often say to people interested in wildlife is, if you don't take interest in birds and bugs, then you're going to be bored for 90% of the time. It's really worth looking at the birds because they are incredible. You get so many different behaviors and sizes and species and colors. I'm very lucky you could actually, my husband is a professional ornithologist. So I've always got a bird guide with me telling me all about them and their kind of amazing behaviors. And yeah, you get some really cool ones in Kruger.

Kim: Oh, what a fabulous life you two must lead. Thank you so much for chatting to us.

Phil: Thanks Bryony.

Bryony: It's always fun talking about wildlife.

Phil: Good.

Kim: Thank you Bryony. We'll have links in show notes to all our guests in fact, alongside links to travel safety in South Africa and five places to get off that beaten track. Now Phil, did you know South Africa has the oldest wine history outside of Europe?

Phil: Exactly. And according to research, the first grapes were pressed in 1659. And today South Africa is the world's ninth largest wine producer.

Kim: Well, we talked about visiting vineyards in the Western Cape earlier in the episode with Sarah, which inspired you, not me this time, to head out and find some wine for us to try. So what have we got here?

Phil: I also had to try and find a bottle opener. I have the Den Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, from Painted Wolf Wines.

Kim: Rolled off the tongue-

Phil: You like that one? This particular wine, it says you'll experience a medium to full bodied wine.

Kim: Let me try and guess what's in it, what the flavors are. Here yours.

Phil: Thank you. And they reckon, let's see if you agree. [crosstalk 00:36:15].

Kim: I will sip that, not slurp it.

Phil: Okay. Typical Cabernet flavors of black currant. Yup. Brambly fruit.

Kim: I don't know what that tastes like, but I can definitely get the black current.

Phil: Black berries, you know, those ones. Cigar box.

Kim: What?

Phil: You see. Yeah you can ... I can taste that. That's sort of smoky cigar sort of after taste there.

Kim: Oh that is actually nice.

Phil: It's not bad is it? And of course a nice well-rounded tasty oak finish to it. Nice texture. Soft ripe tenens.

Kim: Yes, I'd agree with that, Phil.

Phil: And a long fruit driven finish.

Kim: Couldn't have said it better myself, old boy.

Phil: High nose. It tastes pretty good, but it also is wine with a purpose. I like this wine. It's fine.

Kim: Why?

Phil: Have we got to finish the bottle?

Kim: Of course.

Phil: Well, this one's got a purpose because they give back with a percentage of their sales go into the conservation of African wild dogs and their natural habitat.

Kim: How much did it cost you?

Phil: 20 bucks a bottle.

Kim: Gee, that's all right.

Phil: $20 Australian. So what's that? Three, you know, $2 American. Depends how we're going at the moment.

Kim: I think-

Phil: But that's all right, so you can knock this one back and, you know, help save the wild dogs.

Kim: Well, I definitely got that blackberry taste.

Phil: Might need hair of wild dog later.

Kim: Exactly. Well, that wraps up our party. We're moving on. The next week Tim Voors a passionate, long distance hiker who spent six months tricking the Pacific Crest Trail in the US.

Phil: Bye.

Kim: Cheers.

 

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