Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Struik Travel & Heritage

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

“Underground Astronaut” K Lindsay Hunter Shares Her Homo Naledi Expedition Story

Field Guide to the Cradle of Human KindLittle Village reporter Genevieve Heinrich recently caught up with K Lindsay Hunter, one of the “underground astronauts” who formed part of Lee Berger’s all-female expedition team to unearth the now famous Homo naledi remains from the Rising Star Caves in the Cradle of Human Kind World Heritage Site.

Hunter shares more about the expedition, as well as her background, training and thought-processes when she heard the call for a team of scientists to embark on what would be the adventure of a lifetime. When asked what it feels like being “neck-deep in one of the most profound scientific discoveries of our lifetime”, the biological anthropologist says:

“Honestly, my dearest wish at this point is to take either a long nap or a long horseback ride. I am passionate about outreach and communicating the science and excitement to classrooms, but being in the spotlight as an individual has not been something that I was prepared for, or have enjoyed.”

Hunter reveals that she is coordinating a book about the experience and the work of an underground astronaut and will aim it at inspiring school-age children. Originally from Iowa, she has now relocated to Johannesburg where she will be working on her PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand, where Field Guide to the Cradle of Human Kind author Berger is also stationed.

Read the article to find out more about this remarkable woman:

Can you tell me a little bit about your decision-making process when you first saw the call for scientists? How long did it take you to know that this gig was something you truly wanted?

I saw the Facebook ad from Lee reposted on the AAPA (American Association of Physical Anthropologists) page in the wee hours of the morning on October 7, 2013, as I was pulling an all-nighter writing medical web content in a coffee house in Austin, TX. I re-shared the ad, tagging Lee, and immediately DM’ed it to my friend, Vance, who is a small and wiry skater that had just completed his PhD in paleoanthropology from Tulane. I had already left the program at UI and no longer thought of myself as being a part of the field.

However, as a historian and avid adventure reader, Lee’s call was immediately evocative of the Shackleton Antarctic Expedition ad, which read: “MEN WANTED for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.” So, when a couple of days later, Lee thanked me for sharing in my comments, I took a chance and replied that I thought I could do it. He said that my reasoning sounded good and to go ahead and send my CV on. The rest, as they say, is history.

Meet the other members of the Rising Star expedition team:

Spelunking in a dark, labyrinthine cave is a tough ask at the best of times. Add fossil excavation through an 18-centimetre wide gap into the mix and you have a job that only a handful of people in the world can do.

Enter the underground astronauts.

This all-women crack team of six ‘trowelblazers’ was assembled thanks to an extensive social media campaign. The combination of job requirements was unique: a master’s degree or higher in palaeontology, archeology or an associated field; caving experience; and the ability to fit through an 18-centimetre ‘squeeze’ in the cave in order to reach the Dinaledi Chamber.

It just so happened that, out of more than 50 applicants, the people most qualified for the job were all young, slender women.

Also read:


Book details

Image courtesy of EWN

» read article

Kingsley Holgate Reaches the Heart of Africa – See Photos from His Latest Adventure

Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great ExplorersIntrepid explorer Kingsley Holgate, author of Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers, recently embarked on his latest mission: to touch the heart of Africa.

With help from the University of Cape Town and the International Geographical Union, Holgate and his team, which includes his son Ross, pinpointed the geographical heart of the continent and set out on another epic expedition.

“Four or five years ago we came across this idea that if we have been able to embrace Africa through all of our travels, where is the beating heart? It’s been a growing idea that we need to find the heart of Africa,” Holgate told Richard Holmes, who reported on this adventure on the South African Airways blog, Sawubona.

Read the report for photos and stories from this incredible, and very tough, journey (which is still not over):

Holgate and his son Ross, who is increasingly taking the reins as expedition leader, turned to the University of Cape Town and the International Geographical Union to pinpoint the geographical heart of the continent. The answer? West of the Unbanji River and southeast of the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in northern Republic of Congo.

“Once we had the definitive co-ordinates, that was the turning point. That’s when we knew the expedition was on,” explains Holgate.

With the co-ordinates punched into their GPS, Land Rovers stocked and an expedition team readied, Holgate was ready to leave. In late-August he set off from the Landy Festival in Vereeniging. His destination?

17.05291°E, 2.07035°N

The heart of Africa.

Holgate has been updating the Kingsley Holgate Foundation Facebook page frequently, sharing his personal story as they go along. Read his post about the moment they reached the actual heart of Africa where they planted a beacon to commemorate their adventure:

And then the moment of truth sets in. With 1.7 kms of dangerous swamp ahead to reach the ‘Heart’ the Ba’aka realize we have bitten off more than we can chew and begin turning back. I collapse my stinking wet,aching body into a sitting position at the base of a tree that could well be over a thousand years old, is this the end? I’m so exhausted I could just give up and die. Nazaire our interpreter is ‘Man- Down’ and is at our last base camp 3 kms back. But Ross is having none of it’ “We will not fail we’ve come this far and we will not give up” – so using sign language we persuade the Ba’aka to lead us on. Later they told Naz that it was the wild determination in our eyes that they were touched by. Ross pulls me up by the hand,father and son, and with me the finest expedition team of diehards I could ever wish to journey with gather around in support. Seven hours later,in a daze of pain, I arrive at the co- ordinates as verified by the International Geographic Union and the University of Cape Town’s Department of Geographic Sciences. The hands of the Ba’aka and the expedition team slowly screw the Beacon into the roots of an ancient tree and then with some emotion I pour out the symbolic water that had been carried from the Cradle of Humankind. On the Beacon are the colors of the Republic of Congo,the words ‘The Heart of Africa’ A tribute to Africa’s Elephants and coordinates 17.05291 E. 2.07035 N. We have made it!!!

Book details

Photo courtesy of Kingsley Holgate Foundation

» read article

Watch Kingsley Holgate, Kearsney College and Maritzburg College Unite for the #RhinoShoutOutChallenge

Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great ExplorersKearsney College and Maritzburg College, notorious rival schools in KwaZulu-Natal, have joined forces to take hands with Kingsley Holgate, adventurer extraordinaire and author of Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers, in the fight against rhino poaching.

Holgate and the schoolboys created a video to add to the #RhinoShoutOutChallenge – a gathering of heartfelt video messages recorded as a call to action against rhino poaching and all forms of wildlife crime.

Traveller24 shared the video along with an update on the situation facing rhinos in southern Africa. They write: “The Kruger National Park (KNP) continued to be the hardest hit area, with 290 rhinos poached from the beginning of the year until April this year, compared to 212 during the same time period last year. A total of 62 arrests in connection with rhino poaching were made here.”

In the video Holgate congratulates the boys on joining the fight and stresses that “it’s the youth that can make a difference”.

Watch the video:

YouTube Preview Image

The Kruger National Park (KNP) continued to be the hardest hit area, with 290 rhinos poached from the beginning of the year until April this year, compared to 212 during the same time period last year. A total of 62 arrests in connection with rhino poaching were made here.

Book details

» read article

New Laws About Travelling with Children in South Africa to Bear In Mind for Your Next Family Holiday

African Adventurer’s Guide: BotswanaDiscover South AfricaThis is NamibiaAfrica: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers

As of the first of June, people under the age of 18 will not be able to enter or exit South Africa without an Unabridged Birth Certificate along with other documents.

Rachel Robinson wrote an article for Getaway about the new laws for travelling across borders with children. It lists all the documents children need to travel, with parents, with other adults or unaccompanied.

Brush up on your knowledge of current laws before planning your next African adventure:

Why is this law being implemented?

According to the Department of Home Affairs, approximately 30 000 minors are trafficked through South African borders every year, half of whom are under the age of 14. It is hoped that this law will help curb human trafficking of minors.

Book details

» read article

Treasure Karoo Action Group Head Jonathan Deal Warns of Fracking “Trojan Horse”

Timeless KarooJonathan Deal, author of Timeless Karoo: Discover the sunlit interior and head of the Treasure Karoo Action Group, has warned against believing reports that Shell is reviewing its fracking policy.

Business Day reported last week that the oil and gas multinational had “critically reviewed the competitiveness” of its international projects – including their plans for fracking.

But Deal says this may be a ploy to pressure governments into fast-tracking shale gas exploration regulations. “Shell is a seasoned campaigner and what may at first blush appear to be a withdrawal from Karoo shale gas, may just be a Trojan horse,” Deal said in a statement.

Deal also criticised President Jacob Zuma’s positive references to fracking in his State oft the Nation address last year:

Deal said: “To state publicly before even the most cursory exploration that ‘shale gas will be an economic game changer’ is irresponsible of President Zuma.

“The government knows full well that it has to commit to a scientifically structured and holistic investigation in the form of a strategic environmental assessment.”

Book details

» read article

Kingsley Holgate Shows Support for the Cyclists Representing His Foundation at the Absa Cape Epic

Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great ExplorersKingsley Holgate, philanthropic adventurer and author of Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers, was at the start of the Absa Cape Epic to support his team.

Mike Nixon and Jasper van Dijk are riding for the Kingsley Holgate Foundation, which is sponsored by Land Rover.

Nixon, who accompanied Holgate on his recent expedition to Ethiopia, says that both bikes and Land Rovers help the Foundation reach isolated places, and working with Holgate provides him a great opportunity to train for races.

Read the article:

Nixon had recently joined Holgate on an expedition in the Ethiopian highlands, where they had shared in the rich cultural ceremonies and traditions of Ethiopia. It was also where, at 3500m altitude, Nixon had trained for the Cape Epic. “There were incredibly steep passes that were 25km long,” he said.

The Kingsley Holgate Foundation shared some pictures from the event. Take a look:


Book details

» read article

The Meaning of Timkat: Kingsley Holgate Explores the Ethiopian Ceremony

Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great ExplorersIntrepid explorer, traveller and philanthropist Kingsley Holgate recently interviewed an Ethiopian man to learn more about his culture and traditions.

Melesse Tazeb (nicknamed Malas) spoke about what the Timkat ceremony (the celebration of the season of Epiphany by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) means to him: “It’s a time of happiness and the opportunity to meet with old friends again many of whom I only see at Timkat.”

Tazeb told the author of Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers that the future of the Timkat looks bright and explained why it has remained a living tradition for centuries.

Read the article:

Q. “And the future of Timkat, is it a Living Tradition?”

A. Yes indeed. I believe these traditions will be with us forever. The youth are getting more involved and bringing new colourful ideas, flags and red carpets. More people are visiting from Addis they feel proud of our traditions my three year-old daughter her name is Elda I know she will grow up to appreciate Timkat.

Related link:

Book details

» read article

Video: Kingsley Holgate Marvels at Vibrant Ethopian Traditions at the Timkat Ceremony in Ancient Lalibela

Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great ExplorersKingsley Holgate, adventurer, philanthropist and author of Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers, recently travelled to Lalibela in Ethiopia to witness the Timkat ceremony.

Timkat is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s celebration of the season of Epiphany. The traditions and ceremonies of the celebration date back to ancient times.

Holgate shared a photograph and a video of the colourful festival and a few photographs of the majestic rock-hewn churches of Lalibela on Facebook. He says he felt privileged to be able to share in the rich cultural heritage.

Look at the posts:




Book details

» read article

Kingsley Holgate: “I’ve had Malaria Well Over 40 Times”

Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers“One of the greatest joys of expedition life,” Kingsley Holgate recently told a group of adventure enthusiasts in Ballito, “is the characters you meet. The magic happens when you stray off course, give in to the pace of Africa, and mix with the characters.”

The author of Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers toured the country last year to raise awareness of his United Against Malaria campaign to provide mosquito nets for those in need in the rural parts of our continent. “”I know what it is like, I’ve had malaria well over 40 times and when you think these lives can be saved by a simple mosquito net.”

Read the article for more about Holgate’s adventures:

One could easily argue that Kingsley Holgate knows Africa better than any other person on the planet however he is not a safari tourist but rather a great adventurer with a purpose. This great adventurer travels by Land Rover, to the remotest places, among the people and expressed that he always has a seat open in his Land Rover for a local.

Kingsley started his world famous African expeditions out of a passion to see Africa, learn more about her, meet her people and travel her lands. It became obvious, after he and his family and other travellers were struck down by malaria so many times, that something had to be done about this stubborn female Anopheles mosquito.

Book details

» read article

Meet Nadav Ossendryver, Creator of South Africa’s Most Watched YouTube Channel: Kruger Sightings

One of 21 super kids who will save the world from adults. Keynote speaker at the opening of Facebook in Africa. Recipient of the 2014 Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Award. World Wide Worx Social Media Star of 2014. Founder of the most successful YouTube channel in South Africa.

Touring South Africa's National ParksNational Parks and Nature ReservesAfrica: In the Footsteps of the Great ExplorersAll of the above applies to Nadav Ossendryver – and he is only 18 years old! He started the popular website where people are encouraged to upload and share videos of their sightings in the Kruger National Park when he was only 15 years old. Since then it has grown to be an extensive and highly revered website for people who are passionate about wildlife.

Among the interesting people Ossendryver has been invited to spend time with or work with are African travelling legend Kingsley Holgate, US president Barack Obama, various universities and conservation instituations, and a variety of radio and television programmes. Ossendryver accompanied Holgate, author of Africa: In the Footsteps of the Great Explorers, on one of his expeditions to the Kruger Park to create awareness in surrounding villages about poaching.

Watch the trailer for Ossendryver’s YouTube channel, Kruger Sightings:

YouTube Preview Image

Read Marinette Potgieter’s article for the Lowvelder for more on this bright young man:

It started out as a website to help visitors to the Kruger National Park (KNP) spot wildlife easily. This week, became a YouTube partner, reaching 100 million views and is the most watched YouTube channel in South Africa – and the founder is still studying for his matric exams.
This is a website which enables visitors to the KNP to post their sightings in real time, allowing others in the vicinity to share theirs by posting videos to YouTube or updates to social media, like the park’s Facebook page. The website became an instant sensation and gained 30 000 members in its first few weeks and today boasts more than 133 000, including President Barack Obama.

Book details

Image courtesy of Landymag

» read article