The Wildernessbuffalo at Alicecot_resizedBuffalo at watering hole

 Last week Wednesday was a public holiday, Heritage Day, here in South Africa. The 24th September was formerly known as Shaka Day, after King Shaka, King of the Zulus, who united disparate tribes in the early 1800’s. ‘Heritage Day’ is a newly-named public holiday in which South Africans reflect on their cultural heritage and identity. It’s also known as National Braai Day, in which people spend time with families, gathering around the fire, braaing (barbecuing) their boerewors (farmers’ sausage) and drinking beer. Also, of course, celebrating in different ways, reflecting on our rich history and heritage.

We took the opportunity to go to the low veld on the public holiday at the invitation of owners of a private game farm close to the borders of the Kruger National Park.

O what joy to be in the wilderness.

elephant at Alicecot_resizedThere’s something wondrous coming across these leviathans appearing so suddenly,  making barely a sound. Here one moment, gone the next.rhino at Aliceot_resizedAnd to see rhino, especially as they’re under such threat of extinction from poachers for their horn. The line in the photo is the aerial of the landrover.cheetah at Alicecot_resized

The regal cheetah in the shade of a tree, looking almost as curiously at us as we were at it.

There is something regal about all the animals in the wild. They’re so at home in their world, one with mother nature, living perhaps with uncertainty for who knows how Nature will express herself – drought, fires, raging thunder storms …

Being in the wilderness and experiencing Nature brings it into my own wilderness. Sitting around a great and blazing fire in the evenings with only lanterns on the dining table, being quiet for a while, each with their own thoughts, looking at the sparks of the fire, made an inner connection with me. Walking away from the group and looking up at the stars and the new moon on that first night made another inner connection. Walking as we did early one morning, Iain in front with a rifle just in case, listening to the overt sounds of the bush and listening more keenly and hearing other more covert sounds.

One of my most enduring experiences was watching a herd of buffalo, maybe 500 or 600, coming out from the bushes, and in an orderly way making their way to the water. When we thought that no more could appear from the bushes, then more would appear. Once they’d drunk their fill they walked out on the other side of the water and exited from view to another part of the bush on the periphery. There were some buffaloes on the outside of the herd who seemed to be marshalls ensuring that there were no stragglers going out of line.


There is something soothing about connecting with Nature and her grandeur – the tiniest flower in the dusty gravel, or the blooming bougainvilleas and jacarandas surrounding camp, or the fever trees with their strange pale green trunks and branches, or the baobab tree with a girth of about 4.3 metres at its base that lives to be 3000 years old.

fever tree Alicecot_resized


Much of my time I spent listening to the sounds of Nature – to my inner wilderness as well – feeling at peace, sleeping soundly at night, waking at first light – feeling so grateful to Nature and the opportunity to experience her bounty and magnificent beauty –

All the above photos were taken with my cell phone. Maya Ingwersen was one of the guests and with her permission I’m adding some of her wonderful photographs taken with a proper camera and lens …



59 Comments on Into the Wilderness

  1. You’re definitely right, there’s something amazing about being one with nature and experiencing her beauty up close and personal. Cell phones are extraordinary these days – you almost don’t need a fancy camera anymore. Your pictures are delightful!

  2. This may be my favorite post, Susan, of all your posts. I love wild African animals. They star in a series I’m writing, way back when they out-ruled man. Thank you so much for this pleasant respite from my 21st century world.

    • What a pleasure Jacqui and thank you! My next blog post (overdue) will probably have photos of animals, taken in the Plettenberg Bay Nature Reserve. IF I can get a little phone movie of lion approaching the vehicle we were in, I’ll attach that!

  3. Great post ma, and such great pics! Looks really nice. So great to see you recently, this post kind of secures my desire to go to the bush at some point. V. Kiff.

    • Hi Mike, thanks. The Plett nature reserve is worth a visit. Different landscape but quite lovely and on your doorstep! You can get deals there.

  4. Beautiful words and pictures, Susan! Thank you for sharing your trip and connection with Nature. The animals are wonderful and it’s a truly, lovely post :):)

    • Yes, I guess any confinement of nature when it should be free is sad…thanks for coming by Melissa. it’s a pleasure to share.

  5. Wow! I loved this post. What fun! I bet it was exhilarating to be out in nature and seeing all these animals and hearing the amazing sounds and sights! How fun!

  6. The pictures are truly beautiful. For me, the quietness of nature brings me to the point of looking into myself, reflecting upon the future, but also looking back at how far I have come. Such times give me insight that I normally overlook in the hectic that surrounds me. Sometimes, I yearn for this peacefulness that can only be found in silence where the sounds of nature abound, and I get in my car and drive to some park or I awake early in the morning and leave the house before daylight and walk the streets, listening to the sounds that so many of us ignore or don’t take the time to listen to.
    Reading your article, looking at the pictures made me think about the path that I have chosen. I discovered some time ago that in listening to nature in silent reverence, I would find peace.
    Thank you. This is a beautiful article.

    • Thank you so much Patricia. I too find that connection even if it is infrequent so precious. A sense of peace, and of the goodness of the world, is for me exhilarating.

  7. Nothing as wondrous as being in the wilderness, and you have an absolutely amazing one there. I am trying to picture coming upon those wonderful animals, seeing them relatively close … wow, that would take my breath away. I get excited when I go hiking here, away from it all, just nature, the way it was supposed to be.

    Thank you for this Susan. I can close my eyes now, for just a few seconds, and imagine myself in the desert of gorgeous South Africa.

    • Thanks Silvia for coming by! Too lovely to walk in nature and let the ego take a back seat as we’re re-minded of the beauty and value of nature.
      Have a lovely weekend:)

  8. Susan, this is exquisite. I would have rejoiced in every one of the senses and feelings you embraced, and to be able to enjoy the nighttime sky is such a luxury in our lighted world. One of my favorites is always the tree structures and poses – whether they are leaved or bare, they exude majesty, quirkiness, strength and integrity as they function as silent witnesses to the activities around them. Baobobs are truly magical.

    • Thank you so much Sammy D for coming by! I so much appreciate this. Now that I’m home after being at work, and in my study looking out onto the trees beyond, I am looking at them with another eye as you say inter alia in your comment re: their ‘…structures and poses’. And the spaces in-between .. . Majestic they certainly are ..
      Have a lovely weekend 🙂

  9. Susan! Love this post — would like to reblog but don’t see that as an option — is that deliberate? Let me know….and much love….you live in such a fascinating part of the world, lucky woman.

    • Thanks Mira! I suppose anywhere that is not home seems fascinating .. India is enormously fascinating!
      You are welcome to re-blog this post. Thank you for asking.
      Sending love from the deep south …

      • Well, I looked up all these trees on the Internet, Susan. They are all different from one another. I got the idea of the flame tree from a memoir by Elspeth Huxley, made into a TV series in 1982, of her growing up in approx. 1913 in East Africa, now Kenya, called “The Flame Trees of Thika.” There is a bottlebrush tree, several varieties, I think, native to India and which grows in Southern California and Florida — beautiful flame red blossoms that I am allergic to.

        • I also looked on the Internet Samantha … there is of course the flame lily which is lovely and is often used as a creeper against fences.
          I am useless and clueless re the naming of plants and trees. A daffodil, rose, azalea, lavender, orchid (though not the different kinds) I know by name and a few trees. I’m watching an amaryllis coming into bloom in a pot in my garden. Also a deep and bright red. Sounds contradictory but it is deep and bright at the same time! 🙂 x

  10. This is, well, wild, Susan. Amazing to me that you can get so close to these wild creatures, a phenomenon I only read about in storybooks or see in movies. The only big, scary animal I’ve gotten close to here in the U.S. is a black bear. They are MUCH BIGGER than they look in photos.

    Also, I love the African light — so warm and golden — and the indigenous African trees. Is a fever tree different from a flame tree?

    Thank you for this. What a treasure, your trip.

    • Wild! I’m smiling Samantha! A black bear is HUGE (not that I’ve seen one).

      The African light is so special … as dusk falls or day breaks or the day is in full bloom. A flame tree is not a name I know although there are many trees that have beautiful red flowers. I have a bottle tree in my garden that has unusual bright red flowers.

      Thank you for coming by – and ONE day, you will come – in person.

  11. The shots are fantastic Susan. What a privilege for the guests! If I close my eyes I can hear the rustling, feel the light breeze and smell the land.

  12. Ah such evocative memories, such envy! The variety you captured in a short time, including that indolent cheetah were so rich! When I was a student my first husband ( a wannabe wildlife photographer-which he later became successfully) and I made necessary money by sitting forever unmoving behind a Linhof plate camera ( black cloth over head and negatives 4 inches by five inches) inserted singly to get the single shot behind a 60cm lens mounted on a tripod that weighed maybe fifity pounds. The covers of the National Geographic favoured such negatives-if you got the critical shot. Getting away from stampeding buffalo, and a rogue elephant on foot carrying all that made photography more dangerous than film stunt work! But I remember the singing silence and the stinging heat more vividly than the moments of near death!

    • I’m glad that you had evocative memories Philippa! I recall those heavy cameras set up to take the perfect shot and the endlessness of it all.

      While at camp and lounging in the heat of the day at the pool (the temperature was around 38 degrees C), a bright blue starling dive-bombed me a few times, missing my sunglasses by a few inches … I had no idea what this was all about until a snake, probably a mamba, emerged from under my lounger…not quite a stampeding buffalo. Though not so many years ago while in the Timbavati with some girlfriends, a lone buffalo was in camp. We were under our beds in fear .. nothing as dangerous as a buffalo.

  13. WOW!! Your “wilderness” is SO varied from our “wilderness.” As others have mentioned, to see your wilderness I have to go to a zoo. Our wilderness is sheathed in tall trees. The quiet surrounds you and protects you from modern day noise. Sometimes you hear the birds, and hopefully you are lucky enough to NOT run directly into a bear or a cougar.

    But I agree, watching the foliage change colors or examining the wildflowers in the stillness of the world is sooooooo soothing and magnificent! Thank you for your fabulous pictures and words… lovely and serene.

    • Thank you Gwynn and for sharing your experience of your zoo! The shelter of the tall trees sounds lovely. Do the bears and cougars run wild in among the tall trees? That’s a bit scary to one such as I.

      • The tall trees I was thinking of are out in OUR “wild.” And yes, you can run into bears and cougars out in the wild, but generally they avoid people unless you accidentally run into them. Now we do have bears roaming about three miles from our house, but typically people only accidentally run into them with their cars at night. The car usually comes out on the losing end of that fight. So far, I have only seen a couple of deer and a raccoon out here… oh yes, and Osprey, Eagles, and otters. “Oh My!” 😉

  14. Hi Susan, the pictures are wonderful as are your descriptions. I never feel closer to God than when I am immersed in nature. It brings home that we are just a tiny part of the greater whole. Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re right Vicki, there is a closeness to the transcendent when in nature that is meaningful. Looking up at the stars brings home our smallness in the infinite. How blessed we are to be a part of it all!
      How are you? I hope well!
      You’re heading towards Fall as we leap into summer. Already the 1st October.

  15. Hi Susan .. takes me back … those days of yore – being able to get out into the bush – the treat of seeing nature at its natural best … so many good things, so many wonderful remembrances … lovely photos shared – that peace, that quiet and solitude …

    Gorgeous – thank you .. cheers Hilary

  16. We have to go to the zoo to see such wondrous creatures, Susan.

    With words and pictures you have helped me experience a world I will probably never view first-hand. You mention the sounds. The sights and soothing sounds must have been responsible for such a restful sleep. Thank you for this fascinating glimpse.

    • We have a lovely zoo here in Johannesburg Marian. I used to take my boys to it. More recently, two or three years back I visited taking with me a man from the Congo and his small son who had just had a very serious operation. It was such a treat to see the zoo through the eyes of a child. Our zoo sometimes has night time visiting hours which is another experience altogether.

      Thank you so much for coming by! Let me know when you come and visit South Africa! I’ll show you the sights – and sounds –

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