Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa


Saying goodbye to the sun

Today I enjoyed the African sun, saw vervet monkeys, and tried to extract an acacia thorn from my head. This time next week I will be sloshing through the flooded streets of Durham donning a black Harry Potter gown and attending matriculation for my PhD.

For the next two months I’ll be in Durham working on my PhD!! It’s all very exciting but also a bit sad because I’ll be away from Sam, the sun, and Africa. England is dark, cold, and generally lacks good animals, but it does have pubs, Asian food, and lots for me to learn. 

Sam and I are driving down to Joburg in the landy on the weekend with Pete, Joselyn, and Brittany to enjoy a weekend of cheeses, beers, and fun before I fly out on Sunday.

These are my very dry wellies  (for now!) all ready to pack into my backpack to go to England. I’ll write some blogs from the UK about what I get up to there. 




I needed one last taste of safari before leaving Africa so for my belated birthday trip I went to Mapungubwe National Park for the day with friends from Lajuma. Here are some photos:



A giraffe! And the very dry Limpopo River separating South Africa from Botswana.



Looking out over Zimbabwe and Botswana. The baobab trees.



Elephants! The baby on the right is suckling.



A pile of rocks and wildebeest.



Hanging out the landy to take photos.



The wedding week: Part 3–the actual wedding

So this is it…the final post and the one you have all been waiting for.

On the morning of August 31st Sam and I piled 10 of our closest friends and family into two cars and drove to Louis Trichardt. We were dressed up either for a wedding, field work or a bit of pimping, but we really didn’t know whether Home Affairs would marry us or if they would find some other non-existent problem with our paperwork. It was a nerve racking drive to Home Affairs which is ironically also part of the prison.




We had to meet with the immigration officer first. We thought he would want to look at our passports and visas closely. Instead he seemed much more interested in checking we were right for each other. He wanted to know when we met and how long we have been together so he could put it in his report.




Home Affairs in Louis Trichardt had never seen the likes of all 12 of us with flowers, dresses, and a general celebratory mood. I think this influenced their decision to marry us. In previous discussions they kept saying to us  it doesn’t matter if the wedding happens on the 31st or not and I kept saying it matters to me! I think they didn’t believe us when we said we had friends and family from all over the world coming.


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After a lot of waiting we went into the Marriage Officer’s office. She filled in the paperwork meticulously (although she spelt Sam’s full name wrong) and carefully trimmed and stuck our passport photos on. It was finally time for her to marry us! She yelled over the wall and the floor manager in his orange vest came in. He took off  his vest and to our confusion started to marry us. He couldn’t pronounce our names or read them off the large paper so took to calling us him and her, but often got that confused. We had to hold hands while doing our vows, but we were laughing so hard at being married by someone akin to a janitor and all the funny things he kept saying, we struggled to speak. We had to have our thumbprints taken to seal the deal.


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After the ceremony we went to Ocean’s Basket for lunch and then back to Lajuma for the reception.




The reception started at 4 pm at Oldrich and Judy’s. We had sundowners complete with mopane worms (Chloe ate two!), biltong and droewors. Sam made a punch which everyone loved.




When the sun set we lit metal lanterns and walked up to Wilderness Camp.



Wilderness Camp looked incredible with fairy lights, candles, and decorations everywhere. There were porcupine quills and flowers coming out of Mrs HS Balls jars and teak seeds hanging from the rafters. We had a spit roasted warthog, bobotie, gem squash, pap, pumpkin fritters, and salad.



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For dessert there was a chocolate cake with African animals and Han Solo and Princess Leia on top. Sam had wildebeest pie for his dessert.




The night went on and on with a great party with lots of dancing (with people and with dogs) and lots of booze. It was a perfect day.



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The wedding week: Part 2– sharing Lajuma

When we got back from Kruger we had five days with our friends and families at Lajuma before the wedding. It allowed us to share Lajuma with our guests, and our friends all became quite close before the wedding which was great. It definitely wasn’t one of those awkward weddings where everyone makes desperate small talk.

We had a lot of braais, mainly at our tent. Tom would sneak around in the bushes taking amazing photos such as the ones below. We also tried to watch Bushy the bushbaby but a combination of people falling asleep, Sally A walking up to the tree by accident, and tea making meant that a viewing wasn’t on the cards.




We put our guests to work with wedding preparations. Lantern filling, tin can stringing, dirt funnelling, and teak seed threading were some of the activities. Everyone helped with bottling the Beerly Beloved home brew. Tom and Sally attached the labels on the day I nearly conducted a massacre in Home Affairs because two days before the wedding they still didn’t know if they would marry us.






Chloe and Pete threw us surprise hen and stag parties. The hen night was amazing with classic games like pin the cucumber on the hunk and make a wedding dress from loo roll. The morning after was less amazing.




Sam took our friends and family on lots of hikes, swims, and let them try out the quad bike.



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The wedding week: Part 1 – Kruger

Sam and I were married on August 31st 2012. Since many of our family and friends flew out from the UK and the states we spent the week before the wedding showing them South Africa and Lajuma.

We drove down to the south of Kruger Park to meet Chloe, Trystan, Charlie, Sallyfish, and other Sally. Although they were from three different friendship groups they all booked the same flight from London to Joburg. Sam and I got to the meeting point at Malelane Gate and watched animals on the bridge while waiting for their arrival.




We had three nights in Kruger, three braais, three cars in convoy, two sightings of lions, and no one got eaten. Result. However we did get caught while on foot between our cars and a herd of elephants, a giant baboon jumped Sam for his bread, and lions kept trying to get as close as possible to Chloe and Trystan’s car (see photo below).

Here are some animal pics:









On the night drive we were really lucky and saw spotted hyaenas, wild dogs and…common reedbuck. I repeat common reedbuck.

Sally particularly enjoyed the lying down safari experience from the back of the landy. I enjoyed sporting the Afrikaans’ two toned shirt and barefoot look.




At the end of our Kruger adventures I headed to Joburg / Pretoria to pick up Tom and my dad while Sam took the rest of our guests to Lajuma via a pub inside a giant Baobab tree, as you do.




The next wedding week instalment is coming soon…

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Lucky leopards

It’s been an extremely exciting few weeks with samango ear tagging and our incredible Lajuma wedding. A big blog post about the wedding will be up shortly.

Sam and I are helping to lead the first ever Durham University undergraduate Anthropology field course from tomorrow. We have also reopened leopard traps and are hoping to catch our last two leopards for collaring. For good luck I am going to share a few photos from our last leopard capture. These photos were taken by a camera trap and they capture the sequence of activities from when CC was caught to when the recovery crate is brought in. I hope you enjoy and I hope they bring us luck with the leopard trapping over the next few days!