About Rich Laburn

Rich Laburn

Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.


Latest Posts by Rich Laburn

The London Restaurant Scene For Foodies

August 8, 2015 by  

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There is nothing that I enjoy more than connecting with ‘foodie folk’ who are as passionate about food, wine and beautiful places as I am. So, you can imagine my absolute delight on meeting Aron Mullis, Head Chef of The Hand in Flowers in Marlow. We went to visit him and what a delightful establishment it is. Owned by Chef Tom Kerridge, this one Michelin Star ‘gastro pub’ is more than what meets the eye… Delicious food is served in an informal space where the emphasis is on comfort and quality of food. The food is distinctive and bold while retaining its simplicity, a style that resonates with our Londolozi food ethos of being ‘simply sophisticated’.

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Pork Cracklings – a little appetizer to get the taste buds going! Washed down with their incredible homemade Pear ‘bubbles’ – wish I could have bought 2 cases!

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Duck Liver Parfait with Orange Chutney and Toasted Brioche

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Spiced Sweetcorn Soup with Spring Onion and Blowtorched Lime

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Hand & Flowers Warm Gala Pie with “Matson” Spiced Sauce

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Twice cooked fries with a delicious side salad of organic leaves

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White Peach Soufflé with Tea Sorbet and Rosemary Custard

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Next up was something new and exciting in London –NOPI is part of the famous Ottolenghi dynasty and has recently opened its doors. This Soho based restaurant still celebrates the traditional bold flavours of Ottolenghi, however, NOPI has a slightly different feel to its trademark delis. We ate downstairs in the informal communal dining area, which was a novel experience. Surrounded by all the ingredients used on the menu, it was fun to see the chefs popping out the kitchen to grab a litre of Virgin olive oil or a large tin of olives.

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The informal communal dining area with a birds eye view of the kitchen right in the hustle and bustle of it all

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Pio Tosini Prosciutto, Beer Piquillo – thinly shaved prosciutto with the sweet tastes of peppers and crisp tartness of the watercress was sublime – my ideal lunch!

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Scallops, Apple, nettle and lemon puree – simply fabulous

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Pork Shoulder Croquettes, kohlrabi, nashi pear & basil mayonnaise

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Their signature – Courgette and manouri fritters with cardamom yoghurt – delicious!

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After you’re done grazing through the incredible food, take a bathroom break and be ready to be multiplied! Pretty crazy bathrooms.

I always love meeting up with old friends, so when Dominic called up and suggested lunch at Baraffina, the answer was easy. I used to be Dominic’s private chef in Cape Town before moving to Londolozi, so we had lots of catching up to do. With Dom being an esteemed foodie himself, I knew the restaurant recommendation would not be disappointing. This two Michelin Star Tapas Bar is situated in the heart of Soho and is incredible. Don’t be later than 12h00 though, otherwise you won’t get a table!

Barraffina serves contemporary and traditional dishes from all regions of Spain – expect the freshest seafood and dishes that are prepared in front of you.  We trusted Dominic’s suggestions as he knows Barraffina well and were definitely not disappointed.

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Barrafina

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Pimentos de Padron – a taste sensation extraordinaire!

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Baby Grilled Artichokes with Aioli

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Chipirones – deep fried calamari with chili and salt

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Octopus with Capers  – grilled octopus with the smoky aroma of capers

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Tuna Tartar

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Green Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and Parmesan Shavings – another all time favourite of mine! One of my big foodie inspirations is that of Skye Gyllenhall.

Having moved from Petersham Nursery Café in Richmond– Skye has moved into a beautiful dining space set in the New Wing of the iconic Somerset House. The food is wholesome and produce driven (a lot of the ingredients come from their farm called Fern Yarrow). The interiors are peaceful and artistic with hundreds of paper flowers pasted to the walls and the staff are donned in different shades of green.

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An appetizer – Fritto misto of sage flowers – deep fried sage flowers with a squeeze of fresh lemon

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Pappardelle with Sage and Crème Fraiche – this for me was so heartwarming and delicious – the pasta perfectly cooked and draped with the subtle flavours of sage and citrus…. As you can imagine, I have recreated this delicious dish at Londolozi!

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Pan fried Scallops with green tomatoes, fennel and sweet cicely

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Hundreds of handmade paper flowers adorn the grass wall paper walls

In conclusion to my London Food Safari 2015 – I leave you hopefully wanting to get on a plane and experience these wonderful restaurants for yourself. If you have been to any of the past featured restaurants or markets, please let me know as I would love hear all about it.

Written and Photographed by Chef Anna Ridgewell 

Some Say, I am In Africa; The Truth is…Africa is in Me!

August 7, 2015 by  

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Steuart Pennington, CEO of South Africa: The Good News recently shared his wealth of knowledge about South Africa. An authority on Africa and South Africa and an author of a number of books on the country, Steuart shared fascinating insights about South Africa’s population, economy, heath sector, transport access and more.

Some Say… I am In Africa

The Truth is… Africa is in Me

Steuart’s inspiration for his work came about, a couple of years ago, after having attended a dinner party where the conversation at the time turned to the negative issues that were being broadcast about South Africa, its leadership and safety. Not one person at the table had anything positive to say about the country and this angered him. “I was adamant that I would change this negative perception and set out investigating the good news showing people just how much we have to appreciate.”

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The greenest canyon in the world – the Blyde River Canyon. Photograph by Rich Laburn

His talk made me think about the many incredible reasons that we have to love our country and why South Africa is simply awesome. Here are just a few impressive facts to start the first of our South Africa is Awesome series:

South Africa has 11 official Languages

South Africa is rich in culture and boasts equal status to 11 official languages. The languages include: English, Sesotho, Sepedi, Xitsonga, Siswati, Afrikaans, Tshivenda, isiXhosa, isiNdeble, isiZulu and Setswana. The Xitsonga language is spoken by as many as 2.3 million people and is the home language of the majority of Shangaan staff working at Londolozi.

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South Africa is the first country outside of Europe to gain Blue Flag Status for Coastal Management

The Blue Flag is an award in recognition of beaches and marinas where a standard of excellence meets all 27 criteria of coastal management including safety, services, water quality and cleanness… South Africa has as many as 41 beaches and five marinas with this status.

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Long Beach, Noordhoek, Western Cape.

Home to 8 World Heritage Sites

South Africa is a place of great beauty and this has been recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) that declared eight sites with World Heritage status. The following eight destinations in South Africa are World Heritage Sites: Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, Cape Floral Kingdom, Mapungubwe National Park, iSimagaliso Wetland Park, Robben Island, The Vredefort Dome, The Cradle of Humankind and uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park.

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The scenerity of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park. Photograph copyright: Tim Nicholas

The Biggest Man-Made Forest in the World

Johannesburg is the economic hub of the country but it is also famous as the biggest man-made forest in the world with as many as 10 million trees. The next time you visit this city take note of how many beautiful trees can be seen along pavements and in people’s homes.

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It is estimated that there are around 10 million trees in Johannesburg from pavements and sidewalks to trees in private homes. Image courtesy of Google Images, unlicensed footage.

The Largest Green Canyon in the World

The Blyderiver Canyon in Mpumalanga forms part of the northern Drakensberg escarpment and boasts verdant landscapes, unearthly rock formations and animals such as hippos, monkey, crocodiles and antelope to name a few of its residents. Bird watchers must look out for eagles and falcons. Apart from being the greenest, the canyon is also the third largest in the world.

Can you think of some reasons that make South Africa simply amazing? Share your suggestions  in the comments below.

Written by Kate Collins

Foodie Alert: From London’s Opulent Le Gavroche to Delicious Food Markets

July 7, 2015 by  

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Join me for dinner at the opulent Le Gavroche in London, a walk through the Columbia Flower Street Market (that will leave you in awe), and food markets to feast your eyes on.

 The famous Soufflé Suissesse – Cheese Souffle cooked in double cream, made for the Queen over 40 years ago and still an incredible and consistent signature of Le Gavroche!

The famous Soufflé Suissesse – Cheese Souffle cooked in double cream, made for the Queen over 40 years ago and still an incredible and consistent signature of Le Gavroche.

Something very rare – Oeuf de Mouette Asperges et Caviar – Poached Gull Egg with Oscietra Caviar & Asparagus Tips. These Gull Eggs are only found for 5 weeks of the year during this particular time of year – imagine the texture of softly poached gull eggs with the subtle crunch of asparagus and caviar melting in your mouth…

Something very rare – Oeuf de Mouette Asperges et Caviar – Poached Gull Egg with Oscietra Caviar and Asparagus Tips. These Gull Eggs are only found for five weeks of the year during this particular time  – imagine the texture of softly poached gull eggs with the subtle crunch of asparagus and caviar melting in your mouth…

Salade de Crabe et Crabe Mou Frit Tomatoe et Balsamic Blanc – Portland & Soft Shell Crab Salad, Tomato & White Balsamic – another incredibly delicious plate of textures and spoils!

Salade de Crabe et Crabe Mou Frit Tomatoe et Balsamic Blanc – Portland and Soft Shell Crab Salad, Tomato and White Balsamic – another incredibly delicious plate of textures and spoils.

Although Emanuel put together our menu for the evening together with Michel Roux Jnr himself, we insisted to have our favourite from each year!

Coeur d’Artichaut “Lucullus” – Aritchoke filled with Foie Gras, Truffles & Chicken Mousse – mouthwatering and sensational – a must for anyone dining at Le Gavroche.

Coeur d’Artichaut “Lucullus” – Aritchoke filled with Foie Gras, Truffles and Chicken Mousse – mouthwatering and sensational – a must for anyone dining at Le Gavroche.

Homard Pôché Parfumé à la Citronelle et Coco – Butter Poached Lobster, Coconut & Lemon Grass Bisque Sauce – simple, light, tasty and full of subtle flavours

Homard Pôché Parfumé à la Citronelle et Coco – Butter Poached Lobster, Coconut and Lemon Grass Bisque Sauce – simple, light, tasty and full of subtle flavours

Filet de Veau Rossini – Veal Fillet with Foie Gras and Truffle Madeira Sauce – extremely rich and decadent!

Filet de Veau Rossini – Veal Fillet with Foie Gras and Truffle Madeira Sauce – extremely rich and decadent.

Anna’s all time favourite ending at Le Gavroche – the Cheese Board! An amazing selection of Cheeses from all over the world and this year a 5 year old Cheddar that I’m still thinking about!

My all time favourite ending at Le Gavroche – the Cheese Board. An amazing selection of Cheeses from all over the world and this year a five year old Cheddar that I’m still thinking about!

During our dinner at Le Gavroche, Emmanuel found out we were travelling to Marlow the following day so insisted that we make a stop at The Waterside Inn. “Guided by the inimitable Alain Roux – whose passion for food is a reflection of his father’s – this team continues to create food that delights even the most discerning palates.”

Due to Londolozi having three Relais & Chateaux, camps, it was an honour to visit and dine here. Diego Masciaga’s dedicated commitment to service and hospitality clearly showed me why this establishment is unashamedly one of the best. We had the pleasure of meeting him and he coerced us into not only a canapé and a glass of bubbles, but a four-course lunch!

Émietté de tourteau du Devon au naturel, crémeux Du Barry et caviar osciètre “Royal de Belgique” – Flaked Devon Crab with a smooth cauliflower cream and oscietra “Royal Belgian Caviar” – this dish was not only so pretty (note how they have thinly sliced the cauliflower and dipped in beetroot juice to replicate the look of coral!) it was light and delicious!

Émietté de tourteau du Devon au naturel, crémeux Du Barry et caviar osciètre “Royal de Belgique” – Flaked Devon Crab with a smooth cauliflower cream and oscietra “Royal Belgian Caviar” – this dish was not only so pretty (note how they have thinly sliced the cauliflower and dipped in beetroot juice to replicate the look of coral!) it was light and delicious.

Fleur de courgette farcie aux senteurs des sous-bois et sa palette de primeurs du Val de Loire agrémentés d’huile d’olive à la truffe écrasée – Courgette flower filled with wild mushrooms, spring vegetables tossed in a warm olive oil with chopped truffle – a highlight of my lunch as all these flavours were incredible together – sadly this was the last week it was being served due to the seasons changing.

Fleur de courgette farcie aux senteurs des sous-bois et sa palette de primeurs du Val de Loire agrémentés d’huile d’olive à la truffe écrasée – Courgette flower filled with wild mushrooms, spring vegetables tossed in a warm olive oil with chopped truffle – a highlight of my lunch as all these flavours were incredible together – sadly this was the last week it was being served due to the seasons changing.

 Tronçonnettes de homard poêlées minute au porto blanc – Pan-fried Lobster medallions with a white port sauce and ginger flavoured vegetable julienne

Tronçonnettes de homard poêlées minute au porto blanc – Pan-fried Lobster medallions with a white port sauce and ginger flavoured vegetable julienne

And why not end off with not just one, but a selection of desserts!

And why not end off  with not just one dessert but a few?

Outside The Waterside Inn in the rain! Big smiles on our faces as it was a day to be remembered forever – Thank you Diego and your amazing team!

Outside The Waterside Inn in the rain. Big smiles on our faces as it was a day to be remembered forever – Thank you Diego and your amazing team!

A new find for me this year was done by Alex, who insisted that she take us to the Columbia Flower Street Market! What an incredible street – imagine a road, filled with flowers of every variety – the scent of fresh peony’s, sweet peas, hydrangeas and roses – the flower sellers shouting their prices loud and clear as you just stroll through the rain! I felt as though I was on the set of My Fair Lady (one of my childhood favourite movies). A great morning out and something I would recommend to everyone to do!

A new find for me this year was done by Alex, who insisted that she take us to the Columbia Flower Street Market. What an incredible street – imagine a road, filled with flowers of every variety – the scent of fresh peony’s, sweet peas, hydrangeas and roses – the flower sellers shouting their prices loud and clear as we strolled through the rain! I felt as though I was on the set of My Fair Lady (one of my childhood favourite movies). A great morning out and something I would recommend everyone visiting London should do.

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As you may remember, one of my favourite things to do is browse markets and this year Borough Market was once again on our Saturday itinerary. There’s nothing better after your first cup of coffee, than finding the place for the best bacon ‘buttie’ in the world! Then feasting your eyes on the pure and utter beauty of food, breads, Turkish delights and the market buzz

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Another all time Anna favourite – Turkish delight. This year, the newest flavour was Pomegranate and Cherry. Needless to say many of these were devoured. The breads were incredible and taken as an inspiration for our new baker the fabulous and passionate, Brite Ncube (watch this space for his story coming soon).

Never one to dismiss a glass of fine wine, once again I was spoilt beyond belief.  I couldn’t help think of Kim Drake, our resident Sommelier who readily agreed that I was a very lucky person! Below are a few wines of the many that were served at La Gavroche and The Waterside Inn.

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From left to right: the first three-courses were enjoyed with these wines.

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Le Gavroche wines and an incredible 20-year-old Port which accompanied my cheese

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Some of the wines tasted at The Waterside Inn…

Even though my tummy was quite full and my senses were charged, I still managed to fit in another four of London’s finest dining establishments. Keep feasting your eyes as there is more in store next week.

Written and Photographed by chef Anna Ridgewell 

Oh Those African Sunsets & Skies

July 1, 2015 by  

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The cool, fresh morning air in southern Africa brings about an excitement that can be felt by all as a new day begins presenting new challenges and new possibilities. The energy radiates off the animals as they eagerly await the first warm rays of sunlight. Enjoy the skies, the sunlight and the animals.

Sunrise

I always feel blessed to be able to start my day in such an incredible manner. A beautiful sunrise. ISO 640 F4 1/8000

Mhangeni youngster

A Mhangeni youngster prepares herself for another day. ISO 1000 F4 1/1250

Young hyena

A young hyena anxiously awaits mom’s return. ISO 1250 F2.8 1/640

Southern yellow billed hornbill

The striking contrast in colours of a hornbill is always a favourite of mine to try capture. ISO 400 F2.8 1/2500

Tsalala young male

The Tsalala youngsters are all starting to come into their own as their scruffy manes start to develop. ISO 1000 F2.8 1/640

Cheetah sunset

A male cheetah spends the last dying moments of the day scanning the area and soaking up the last rays of sunlight. Iso 200 F2.8 1/2000

Tsalala crossing the sand river

Something I have waited over two years to see. The Tsalala pride crossing the Sand River. Iso 800 F5 1/2500

Hammerkop

A hammerkop patiently waits for fish and frogs to be washed over the causeway. ISO 800 F4 1/1000

Hyena cub

Young and inquisitive, it is always fascinating watching young animals explore new smells and sounds. ISO 1250 F2.8 1/125

Mashaba female

The Mashaba female rests in a clearing late into the afternoon before disappearing into thicker vegetation. Iso 800 F4 1/320

Male cheetah

This cheetah uses a mound to scan the area for any potential prey or threat which allowed us a great eye level look at this magnificent predator. ISO 1000 F2.8 1/800

Side light lioness

Side light often creates a different angle and highlights key features. A Tsalala lioness strolls off and disappears into the darkness. ISO 1000 F2.8 1/125

Zebra

Breaking the rules of photography can sometimes work in your favour. In this image I purposefully shot a tight angle to emphasise the golden light on the zebra’s face. ISO 800 F5 1/2000

The Piva male

The contrasting colours of black and white shows off the power of the newly dominant Piva male. ISO 800 F5.6 1/160

Wildebeest sunset

The variated colours of the sunset was a wonderful way to end off yet another successful week in the bush. ISO 640 F7.1 1/4000

 

Written and Photographed by: Trevor Ryan McCall-Peat,  

Rare & Intimate Photos of Lions & Leopards in the African Bush

June 24, 2015 by  

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Scars –untold stories of hardship and aggression but also of a brotherhood and support. New lions to the area with an unknown history. Lens 500mm Nikkor , ISO 800, Aperture f4.0, Shutter Speed 1/2500sec.

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Ears – hearing is the link between the unknown and the seen. When vision is cast elsewhere gaps can be filled by the airwaves. Lens 500mm NIkkor, ISO 1000, Aperture f4.0, Shutter Speed 1/1000sec.

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Hunger – a drawn in stomach indicates the need for a meal. Starvation or life.Motivation does not come in more potent forms. Lens 500mm, ISO 800, Aperture f5.0, Shutter Speed 1/1000sec.

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Contact – physical touching rarely seen in a solitary species. Lens 300mm Nikkor, ISO200 , Aperture f2.8, Shutter Speed 1/1600sec.

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Reflection – mirroring or showing an image; a thought taking place in consideration or meditation. Are they capable of the latter? Lens 500mm Nikkor, ISO800 , Aperture f4.0, Shutter Speed 1/400sec.

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Camouflage – the act, means, or result of obscuring things to deceive. No longer necessary after years of gained trust. Lens 500mm Nikkor, ISO 1000, Aperture f4.0, Shutter Speed 1/160.

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Ripple –a small wave or series of waves on the surface of water. Not necessarily restricted to water and waves but actions of life. Lens 500mm Nikkor, ISO 400, Aperture f4.0, Shutter Speed 1/2000sec.

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Movement – an act of changing physical location. These changes are a daily occurrence but the shift of territory is on much slower scale. Lens 500mm Nikkor, ISO 500, Aperture f5.0, Shutter Speed 1/2000sec.

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Teeth – shapes and sizes differ but the function remains the same. Lens 200-400mm Nikkor, ISO 1250, Aperture f4.0, Shutter Speed 1/320sec.

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Whiskers – an addition to the sense of touch, a 6th sense if you will. A guide when all other senses are momentarily insignificant. Lens 300mm Nikkor, ISO 800, Aperture f8.0, Shutter Speed 1/800sec.

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Focus – the state or quality of having clear visual definition. The clarity of which could mean the difference between a meal or an empty stomach. Lens 300mm Nikkor, ISO 800, Aperture f2.8, Shutter Speed 1/640sec.

The focus of this post was on the photos so I thought I would let them have their say before I had mine. A brief connection that we hold onto for as long as possible and once it’s gone find ourselves chasing it again. The selection of images above are some of those moments, many I have not been able to capture. I feel that photographing wildlife cannot be forced and the moments, particularly the great ones, are opportunities where for a short time everything comes together. Such moments can’t be setup; they can only be captured if the time is right.

The bulk of the images above are all shot with longer lenses. I love being able to use long lenses to create a sense of intimacy. I also enjoy shooting with a very low aperture and a shallow depth of field to really focus attention for my intended subject within my subject.

I hope you enjoyed my small collection. Which one did you enjoy the most?

Written and photographed by Simon Smit, Londolozi ranger

What Can You See From An Animal’s Eyes….in the Bush!!

June 16, 2015 by  

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There’s nowhere more magical to shoot than in the African bush — the skies, the light, the animals, the energy, the vibrancy. “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind

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Working and living in the bush, you soon realize that memories fade with time so it’s important to capture them when you can. Yes there are moments that stand out in a ‘highlights package’ for me, but there are also moments that have been put into a box and stored in the back of my mind.

Photography allows us to capture moments and provides us with a key to reopen this box, to relive, to remember, to share moments and to inspire. I often find myself lost in the images of other photographers, captivated by the story they tell.

A good photograph is not just one that is sharp and well composed but one that tells a story without the use of a single word.

It’s not just about photographing a subject in perfect light, unobstructed by a blade of grass and at a unique angle, but the opportunity to be able to take that moment that you share with your subject, to set a mood or evoke emotion with a single image.

I would like to share some of my photographs that mean something to me. I want to unlock the box and bring back memories of the special moments that I have been lucky enough to be a part of, and I want to share them with you. It’s also interesting what you can tell and “see” from looking in an animal’s eyes in the bush!!

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Composition and spacing of an image is a good way to create a mood and a feeling in a photograph. The Tutlwa female and Gowrie male mating. Iso 1250 F 4.0 shutter 1/400

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Using a Lower F-Stop allows for a concerntrated inage of your subject. One of the fourways males on a patrol looking confident and powerful. ISO 800 F 2.8 Shutter 1/800

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The Tamboti young female walks towards us at eye level. Often having the subject at eye level creates a feeling of being one with the subject as well as adds intensity. Iso 640 F2.8 shutter 1/2000

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The b eautiful and elegant Mashaba young female. Using a spotlight to create side light brings out key features and highlights the natural beauty of an animal. Iso 1000 F2.8 shutter 1/125

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Taking advantage of good light and tight angles shows off beautiful details and textures. This water monitor was sunning itself at the causeway . Iso 800 F4.0 shutter 1/1000

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The Tamboti young female. Once again composition is key, Creating space for her to look into gives a great feel and setting for the photograph. Iso 1000 F 4.0 Shutter 1/250

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One of the Fourways males – Using the natural light to my advantage and darkening shadows creates a feeling of power and strength.

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Hi-key images enhance detail and add character to ones subject. This hyena was watching vultures circling above. Iso 800 F2.8 shutter 1/800

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One of my favourites – Lying down on the floor and using a low F-stop blurs the foreground as well as the background which, in turn, draws the viewer’s focus to the subject. Iso 800 F2.8 shutter 1/2000

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One of the fourways males resting in the shade of a tree with beautiful dappled sunlight allows for a beautiful black and white finish. Iso 800 F4.0 shutter 1/800

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A very similar to the image of the Fourways male. Post processing allows me to enhance key features in the image such as horns, eyes and mouth. Iso 800 F2.8 shutter 1/200

 

Do any of these images tell a particularly interesting story for you?

 

Written and photographed by Trevor McCall-Peat

A Deep Nose Dive Into South Africa’s Cape Winelands

April 3, 2015 by  

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Wine is my passion and I have an extreme thirst to know and learn as much as I can on this topic. I have never experienced the South African Cape Winelands during the harvest period and therefore decided to get my hands dirty and head down to the Cape during February to learn a bit more about how wine is made, to pick grapes, and of course, to taste some wine.

On my arrival in the Cape, I headed up the West Coast to a quaint and unique wine growing region called Darling, here I was hosted by Sandi Collins from the Marmalade Cat, Shaun and Debbie McLaughlin of Darling Tourism, and Charles Withington from the Darling Wine Shop.The people in this small town are extremely passionate about Darling and promoting tourism in the area.

The town was originally put on the map by Pieter Dirk Uys, better known as his drag queen alter ego Evita, but it is slowly becoming better known for the unique and delicious Sauvignon Blanc produced from this region. There are only six wineries in the direct vicinity but what was really interesting to learn is that the demand for Sauvignon Blanc grapes from this area is highly sought after and many wineries purchase grapes from the region each year for their wine.

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The rolling hills of Darling. Courtesy of Darling Tourism

Steenberg

After a day spent exploring the Darling Wine region, I began my first day assisting in the Steenberg Vineyards cellar in Constantia. Here I met with winemaker JD Pretorius (who won the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year award last year). I was assigned to help the cellar hands, Alex and Michael, check brix levels (sugar levels) on fermenting grape juice as well as fill wine barrels with their flagship Rattlesnake Sauvignon Blanc. The first thing I learnt here, and was reminded of throughout my trip, is that wine cellars are very wet areas during harvest time! The reason is that everything is kept as hygienic as possible so that no taint affects the wine in any way, thus there is always a constant stream of water cleaning utensils, barrels, tanks, floors, etc.

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Filling barrels at Steenberg

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Sauvignon Blanc grapes falling into the press

The Franschoek Wine Tram Experience

As I often get enquiries asking about the Franschhoek Wine Tram experience, I spent a day hopping on and off the tram to find out what it is all about. Based in Franschhoek, the tram was originally built in 1904 to serve as an alternative to ox drawn carts for farmers wanting to get their produce to market. There are two different routes one can choose, the Blue Line or the Red Line. Part of the tour is done with the tram and part on a converted tram-bus. Some of the wine farms along the route produce excellent wines while other farms sell your everyday easy drinking wine. It is a fantastic experience and a great one-day option for anyone who has a day to spend in the winelands. The scenery is superb, and I met a lot of lovely people who did the tour for the day.

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The Franschhoek Wine Tram

Graham Beck

My next cellar experience was at Graham Beck in Robertson. Here I met with winemakers Pierre de Klerk and Pieter Ferreira, South Africa’s King of Bubbles. First I got a tour through the cellar and saw how Methodé Cap Classique once riddled (via means of a gyro palate) entered a bottling line, was disgorged, had dosage added, and final cork inserted, from start to finish. I was then assigned to assist cellar hand Joan Munné Parera, a winemaker from Catalunya in Spain doing an internship in South Africa and learning how to make MCC.

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Barrel Cellar at Graham Beck

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Aerating Chardonay that had become stuck with ferment

Our first task was to aerate some Chardonnay which had become “stuck” during fermentation; we basically had to give the wine some CPR so that the yeast could thrive again and continue fermentation. After this we inoculated some Viognier tanks with yeast so that fermentation could start. The yeast first needs to be hydrated, slowly woken up, and fed before it can be added to the grape juice, a bit like looking after a baby. We then racked some Pinot Noir off the lees and pumped the juice into clean tanks. An important tip I learnt: be extremely careful when opening up a tank from which wine has just been pumped, when wine ferments one of the by-products released is carbon dioxide, this remains in the tank as it hasn’t been able to escape – and it gives quite a knock! I was granted the opportunity to taste various base wines after fermentation. These are wines which had just finished fermentation and have had nothing done to them yet in terms of maturation options or blending. It was extremely interesting to learn from Pieter Ferreira how various terroir and growing conditions have massive effects on various base wines.

Grande Provence

Leaving Robertson, I returned to Franschhoek to meet up with winemaker and General Manager Karl Lambour at Grande Provence. It was fascinating to see how winemakers are constantly experimenting with new technology to make the best wine possible and at the same time improving on old techniques. Karl is experimenting with flexcubes which are plastic containers which have various levels of porousness, thus simulating a wine barrel by allowing controlled amounts of oxygen to mature the wine.

Another interesting project Karl is working on is an orange wine made from 32-year-old Chenin Blanc wines. Orange wine is white wine that is fermented on the skin to pick up some extra tannin, flavour and colour. Now a few people in South Africa have started doing this but what makes this one rather special is that he has fermented and is now ageing them in terracotta amphorae from Tuscany. It is going to be very interesting to see how this wine turns out when it is a finished product.

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Terracotta amphorae from Tuscany.

Waterford Estate

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Vineyards at Waterford

After Franschhoek I headed to Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch, this was my first harvest experience. We had to harvest Shiraz grapes. This is one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. The harvest team split themselves into two groups. They then “raced” each other through the vineyard to see who could finish the harvest first but at the same time ensuring that the grapes they were picking were of good quality and that no leaves, insects or other items were ending up in the grape baskets.

It was extremely fast paced, running up and down the vines, clipping grapes off and trying not to have my fingers clipped off at the same time, diving under vines to get to the next row.

Once I was sufficiently out of breath, I went down to the cellar where I got to watch Sauvignon Blanc coming in to the cellar, de-stemmed and pumped into tanks with winemakers Mark le Roux and Kevin Arnold. Chris Faure did a wonderful wine drive through the beautiful property of Waterford Estate, this was a very educational drive in terms of learning about the flora and fauna of the area. The wine and snacks which were beautifully presented at various stops on the drive were also a great treat.

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Shiraz grapes falling into the de-stemmer

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Harvesting at Waterford

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Barrel cellar – Waterford

Hemel-en-Aarde

The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley was my next stop where I attended the Bosman Vine Garden Tasting. The Bosman family, in collaboration with Vititec, established The Vine Garden at De Bos in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in 2006 and the 22-hectare vineyard boasts 47 different cultivars. Here I got the opportunity to walk through the nursery – a chance to taste various cultivars and clones and listen to where the industry is headed. Apparently the next big thing to be planted in South Africa will be Nero d’Avola, a varietal grown in the South of Italy. It was amazing to experience how various clones of one varietal varied and how typical notes expected of varietals could be identified in the grape before the juice had undergone fermentation.

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Tempanillo grapes

Rustenberg Wines

My next stop was Rustenberg Wines in Stellenbosch where I was hosted by the Barlow family. Rustenberg has always been one of the most beautiful wine estates for me and it did not disappoint. I learnt a lot about various disease and pests which affect the vines from Murray Barlow. I harvested a bit of Sauvignon Blanc with the harvest team, the pace was slightly slower than earlier in the week at Waterford, but the harvest team had already harvested over 200 tons of grapes that week so they were slightly worn out.

Nick van Zyl showed me the ropes in the cellar and we inoculated some grape juice with yeast and then “fed” nutrients to the fermenting flagship Rustenberg 5 Soldiers Chardonnay to keep the yeast healthy.

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Murray Barlow from Rustenberg

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Sauvignon Blanc vineyards at Rustenberg

During my trip I visited many fabulous wine farms, tasted delicious wines, and met some great people. The above is definitely the highlights package and if I don’t stop here I may begin writing a novel… Thanks to all the wine farms that hosted me and let me play around in your cellars, I hope I didn’t cause too much havoc!

On a final note, although harvest arrived two to three weeks earlier than normal across the board, due to earlier fruit set and a slightly warmer year, every farm I visited was extremely excited about the 2015 harvest, the fruit quality is excellent and we can expect some fabulous wines from this vintage, something to look forward to!

Written and Photographed by: Kim Drake.

What is the Best Drink to Sip While on African Safari?

April 1, 2015 by  

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What would your day be without an extra touch that says, ‘relax, you’re on holiday’? One of the ways we do this is through a little something special whether it is a coffee in the morning, or a gin and tonic at sundowners or the world-loved creamy textures of Amarula that so perfectly compliments the tones of a sunset. You don’t need to worry as there is always someone on hand whether it is your guide or camp manager who will bring you enough of the good drinks. Swivel the ice in your glass, sit back, and enjoy the best of Africa’s safari drinks.

The point is: simply being in the bush is enough, even if you don’t come across a lion or leopard. To have great sightings is a bonus, and as you’ll come to realize, a sundowner on drive can add the final highlight to your day.

What would your choice be? My choice is Amarula on ice, made from the plum-like fruit of the marula tree, a popular choice that has become synonymous with safari lifestyle.

I stand outside our vehicle. The heat of the day has evaporated and a cool breeze runs along my arms. The time of day has come to reflect on what has been, to reminisce about the experiences shared and to simply be. Insect sounds vertebrate through the bush, and as a blanket of darkness descends on another day, frogs begin their nightly chorus. It is time to indulge…

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A honeymoon couple enjoy a sunset drink. Here are some fun safari choices.

The Classic:

Gin and Tonic:

This is the ultimate classic safari drink to have at the end of your day while you’re in the bush experiencing the golden hues of a sunset.

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Directions: A shot of gin topped with ice and filled with tonic. Add a wedge of lemon.

The Spirit of Africa:

Amarula: ‘One of the world’s most favourite cream liqueurs.’

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Amarula: simply delicious

The drink is best enjoyed on game drive. An early morning cup of coffee with a shot of Amarula is a good way to kick start your day. Add in and enjoy the delicious flavours. At night, gather around a fire and have as a nightcap.

Directions: Delicious poured over heaps of ice.

Crafted in Nature:

Local Craft Beers

South Africa has a thriving microbrewery industry that has taken the country by storm with a fantastic range of craft beers. Today the country boasts over 40 different microbreweries. The names of the beer are inspired by endangered or misunderstood wildlife. Some craft beers in southern Africa include: Darling Brew, Brewers & Union, Cape Brewing Company, Everson’s, Devil’s Peak and Citizens Alliance.

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The Darling Brew range. Courtesy of Darling Brew

Unwind from a day in the bush by cracking open one of these refreshing beers.

The Celebratory Drink

Champagne

“I only drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad.  Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.  When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not in a hurry and drink it when I am, otherwise I never touch the stuff unless I am thirsty” – Lilly Bollinger

There’s always a reason to celebrate and therefore to drink champagne! Bubbles represent sophistication, glamour, elegance, luxury and happiness…

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To be enjoyed on a special occasion

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Directions: Best served chilled.

The Refreshment

Rock Shandy with or without a twist

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A wonderfully refreshing drink. Amanda Ritchie

A rock shandy is a wonderfully refreshing drink to quench your thirst on a hot day. The low alcohol content of a shandy makes this drink a popular choice for those wanting something a little more on the tame side! Shandy can however be made to your preference. Why not add a shot of Vodka to give it a twist!

What is your favourite Safari drink? Share your favourite in the comments below.

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