Travel and Leisure 2007-2013


Victoria Falls - Still Thundering Away

First appeared
Monday, 22 February 2010


As we passed through the entrance to the Victoria Falls, it was there to greet us again: the ubiquitous, mysterious bird that appears on Zimbabwe’s national flag and coat of arms, as well as in countless sculptures and statuettes across the country.

There was some disagreement amongst our group as to the bird’s provenance. Two Zimbabweans were at loggerheads. One insisted that it was a purely mythical creature, based on soapstone renderings found at the ruins of the Dzimba dza mabwe, or Great Zimbabwe; the other felt that it depicted a real bird species – but couldn’t remember which one. So the South Africans offered some (admittedly unhelpful) suggestions: a fisheagle? A francolin? A griffin-like composite of different species?


Elephant Hills Golf Course - Victoria Falls

First appeared
GOLF+ Magazine
Tuesday, 01 September 2009

We’re halfway down the fairway of the par-five 4th when we see Clever Denga striding towards us, clubs slung over his shoulder, waving and grinning broadly.

Clever is the Estates Manager at the Elephant Hills Resort at Victoria Falls, which also makes him in charge of the 6 205m Elephant Hills championship golf course. “Sorry,” he says, extending a hand in greeting, “we had an emergency on the bowling lawn; a warthog got through the fence.”


The Island at the End of the World

First appeared
Monday, 01 June 2009

“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.” Those words, penned by Sir Francis Bacon some four hundred years ago, express very neatly a thought that occurs to me more and more as I grow older.

When I was in my twenties, there was no doubt in my mind that Bacon was right: those who visit a foreign country in the flush of young adulthood are, in many ways, “going to school”. Fresh out of varsity, I wanted to learn – travel was a cultural, linguistic, gastronomic, architectural and geographical education.


The Golf Lesson (or, The Don and me)

First appeared
SIGNATURE magazine
Sunday, 01 November 2009

“If I tell you, you’ll forget it. If I show you, you might remember. But if you feel it, then you’ll understand.”

With these words of what he wryly calls “a bit of ancient Chinese wisdom”, Martin Briede welcomes me onto the practice tee at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. It’s been one of those glorious spring days in Gauteng, and the late afternoon light is catching every blade of grass on the greens. Regular fourballs of golfers who have taken Friday afternoon off approach the final hole, three-putt, swear and stalk off to console themselves at the nineteenth.


Ibo Island, Mozambique

First appeared
Friday, 27 November 2009


The old fort is full of intriguing sense data. Walking past one doorway, you hear the clang of metal beating metal and the murmur of voices; through another, you catch a glimpse of a man bringing a fire to life with the bellows of his lungs. The smoke mixes with the salty-stale smell of the ocean blowing in over the ramparts. Outside, feeling the same sun that has caused the paint on the walls to flake start to beat down on your skin, you seek shade under the canopy of the sole tree occupying the whitewashed courtyard.


Tribes African Grillhouse

First appeared
SAWUBONA magazine
Sunday, 01 November 2009


Unsure of how the ancient Romans would feel about their twenty-first century presence at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, CHRIS THURMAN seeks out some African flavours at Tribes Grillhouse. 

There’s a wonderful moment in the recent film The Hangover in which, as the protagonists are checking into the Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas for a stag party, the groom-to-be’s oddball future brother-in-law asks: “This isn’t the real Caesar’s Palace, is it? I mean, did Caesar actually live here?”


Wishing I Wasn't Here: Gare du Nord

First appeared
Saturday, 31 October 2009

For people who have never been to Paris, the Gare du Nord is an evocative symbol: busiest train station in Europe, point of arrival and departure for millions of international travellers annually and, over the course of its 150 year history (one imagines), scene of many a romantic moon-and-mist rendezvous.

But Parisians know that, like the Gare St Lazare, the Gare de l’Est and various other glamorous-sounding transport terminals in the city of love – or light, or any cliché of your choice – when you get right down to it, the Gare du Nord is just another station. Which means that it’s dirty, it smells of urine and it’s full of people who want to be somewhere else.


Brazil-in-SA: Rodizio

First appeared
SAWUBONA magazine 
Tuesday, 01 September 2009


Let me tell you about a certain country.

Like the other countries with which it shares a vast continent, this land was for centuries a colony exploited by European powers. When it established independence from its “mother country” many years ago, this did not bring freedom to most of its people – the colonial legacy of ethnicity-based inequality remained. After a twentieth century dominated by militaristic and totalitarian rule, it has only comparatively recently emerged as a civil democracy and is now one of the leading “countries of the South”.


"Chinese South Africa"

First appeared
Monday, 01 June 2009


China and the Chinese have been increasingly prevalent in both media reports and dinnertime conversations over the last few years. Nevertheless, despite China’s burgeoning global profile (culminating, perhaps, in the 2008 Olympic Games), and although China will be key in helping the world economy recover from the financial crisis, international perspectives on China have not really become more nuanced than the tongue-in-cheek sentiment expressed in a Monty Python song some decades ago: “There’s more than a billion of them in the world today. You’d better learn to like them, that’s what I say!”

Likewise, in South Africa, perceptions about China and Chinese people tend to hinge around news headlines such as China Buys Into Standard Bank, China Launches Africa Investment Fund or Chinese South Africans Now Qualify For Black Economic Empowerment Benefits. This superficial awareness is a pity, as the history of Chinese involvement in this country – and, moreover, the growth of the Chinese South African community – is a complex topic that ought to be more widely understood.


SA's National Museum of Military History

First appeared
Saturday, 30 May 2009

One of the more curious sights at the SA National Museum of Military History – it’s not a permanent exhibit, but can be seen most afternoons of the week – is the colourful spectacle of a children’s party. Mothers chat casually at tables piled with soft drinks and crisps, while tank barrels loom incongruously above their heads. Boys and girls leopard crawl across an emerald lawn surrounded by heavy artillery, under the instruction of a camouflage-uniformed soldier whose gruff voice belies a primary school teacher’s benevolence.

Here is no ideological conflict; the only observable source of disagreement is about the relative merits of favourite football clubs. Nevertheless, although the now-harmless military equipment on display provides an exciting playground, the uncomfortable question must be raised: do we want our children to have positive associations with weapons of war?


Wishing I wasn't here - Cathedral Peak

First appeared
Saturday, 28 March 2009

It was a long weekend and we were in the Drakensberg. Our plans hinged around a hike up the famous Cathedral Peak which, at just over 3000 metres, is among the highest mountains in southern Africa. One of our party had reached the summit at the tender age of 12, so we assumed that a group of relatively fit adults could make the climb without too much difficulty.

How wrong we were.


Delta Park Revisited

First appeared
Saturday, 21 February 2009

Shhh ... come a little closer and I’ll share one of Jo’burg’s best-kept secrets with you.

If you don’t live in Victory Park, Craighall Park, Linden or Blairgowrie, the chances are you haven’t heard of the huge “green lung” enclosed by these suburbs: Delta Park. You’d think that 104 hectares of grass, trees, dams and animal life in the middle of South Africa’s biggest city would not go unnoticed. But, after buying a house about two hundred metres from the park’s western border, I’ve discovered that using it as a reference point when giving directions to visitors is futile – the most common response is, “Where the hell is Delta Park?”


Bathing in Japan

First appeared
Friday, 16 January 2009

We all enjoy a nice hot bath. But let’s face it: the bubbles-and-candles, glass-of-wine-and-a-good-book variety can get a little boring (not to mention lonely) after a while. It’s much more fun sharing the tub with someone else – in fact, with a whole bunch of people, preferably complete strangers.

The Romans did it, the Greeks did it, even Ottoman-style sheikhs did it ... and no, I’m not talking about the kind of thing that Big Brother contestants get up to in a jacuzzi. I’m referring to that oh-so civilised activity, the communal bath.


Wishing I Wasn't Here - The Lounge

First appeared
Saturday, 08 November 2008

Most of the time, when I fly somewhere, I pay for the ticket myself. Almost all of the time, in fact. For much of my travelling life I was as ignorant as everyone else in economy class as to what happens on the other side of those magical curtains that separate the plebeians from “executive travellers”. Suffice it to say that business class lounges and I were also not well acquainted.


The Whale Trail, Cape South Coast

First appeared
Saturday, 21 June 2008

Having jumped at the chance to join a group of friends on the much-vaunted Whale Trail along the Cape South Coast, I took a cautious step back (although, by then, it was too late) when I discovered that the trip was booked for the middle of summer. After all, though I don’t pretend to any great knowledge in the field of marine biology, anyone who’s ever had to give advice to an Hermanus-obsessed British tourist knows that “whale season” – when the gentle Leviathans come to breed close to land – is in the late winter and early spring. November at a push. But any later than that and, well ... then it’s just the Trail. Or so I thought.

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