Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa


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Mango season

When we lived in England, I can’t really remember a specific time of year that I associated heavily with a particular fruit. You could get any fruit any time you wanted from Tescos. But in South Africa, quite a few fruits are distinctly seasonal which I like. I look forward to the year progressing and eating different fruits in abundance. The strong seasonality makes fruits seem more natural and they become more appreciated. One of my favourite times for fruit is in summer when the mangoes and watermelons are ripe. Watermelon is considered a Christmas food. It feels much more festive with it’s Christmassy colours and sweet flavours than Brussels sprouts.

Right now it’s mango season and we live in an area that is abound with mango farms. On the 20 minute drive into town, I estimate about 50% of the land we drive past is mango farms. When we got back to SA after our trip abroad over Christmas and New Years we bought 68 mangoes for super cheap from the farms nearby. Then we drank a lot of smoothies, made and froze cubes of mango puree, and made mango ice lollies for Finn.

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One of our nearby farms had its annual mango family day this weekend and we went along to pick our own mangoes. Finn got to ride on a tractor to the fields which mesmerized him into becoming eerily silent for some reason. Now we have another horde of mangoes to munch happily through.

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Next month, we are planning on going to a berry festival to pick our own raspberries and blueberries. More fruit, more good.

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Housing estates with giraffes

We live in a wildlife estate now. A wildlife estate is pretty much a housing estate with wildlife and because it’s Africa, the wildlife is awesome.

In my mind, housing estates always sound a bit soulless. I associate them with uniformity and a lack of space and freedom. I lived in a housing estate nicknamed ’Toy Town’ for a year when I was at university. Living there was pretty nice actually. I lived with awesome people, we were right next to uni so I could wake up just minutes before lectures, and it was just a good year in general because lots of fantastic things happened to me. Toy Town was probably a bit more unique than other British housing estates. Its architecture looked like a prop from a miniature train set and there was a stream at the back where I remember a body being found. However, accommodation in Toy Town itself, even with its quirks, was small, squashed, samey, and had quite an artificial feeling.

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Toy Town

Wildlife estates are the opposite. They are big, so big you can’t see a neighbouring house. And there are big animals wandering around. On our estate, there are giraffes, wildebeests, impalas, duikers, warthogs, zebras, and most recently eland. There are a few regulations on how your house should look so there is an element of conformity. The houses on our estate have to have thatched roofs and neutral colors for example. But there is still quite a bit of variation between homes. The bush around the houses is left natural and transitory animals like leopards come through from time to time.

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Mummy and baby giraffe with the Klein Drakensberg Mountains in the background

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Watching zebras while eating a snack. Oh to be a toddler in Africa…

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Wildebeest out of Finn’s window

Widlife estates have big fences and gates for security. These keep the animals in and outsiders out. As with much of South Africa, these gates reinforce aspects of a polarized society divided by inequalities and also allude that access to nature is only available for certain socioeconomic groups. Buying a house in a wildlife estate (frequently a holiday house) is often for the rich. I found a recently published list online of the top 10 wildlife estates for South Africa’s super rich (https://businesstech.co.za/news/lifestyle/149231/top-10-wildlife-estates-for-south-africas-ultra-rich/). Two of the estates listed are in Hoedspruit.

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Enjoying the poshness of living on a wildlife estate. At the restaurant on site having cocktails with a friend.

We are definitely not super rich and we are renting what we think is probably the smallest, most basic house on our estate. I think we are probably one of the only houses on the estate who don’t employ a domestic worker or have a pool. But for us living here is luxury. We love having more space and a safer living environment for our son than the tent. Here is a set of before and after photos showing Noggs playing in the tent and in the house.

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We love that we can enjoy the benefits of living near a town but still remain in the bush and see amazing wildlife daily. I think that more housing estates worldwide would benefit from giraffes and zebras. It would certainly make them feel less mundane and be beneficial for the environment. On the flip side of the coin, it is difficult thinking about what gated estates in South Africa symbolise about society and as an individual, it is hard to know how to begin to tackle problems such as poverty and crime. As a result, I think many people living in gated communities in South Africa try not to look too closely beyond the walls. When there are beautiful animals wandering around inside, it makes this quite easy.


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Guess who’s back…I’ll give you a hint, it’s not Slim Shady or Arnie.

It’s been a very long time since we posted here. We got a bit bogged down in work, childrearing, and studying. As new parents we were also sleep deprived. Almost two years into the parenting gig, we still are, but we have started to accept this as an unfortunate state of normal.

Someone recently told me that they missed our blog, which was nice to hear. By bringing it back, it feels like a way to reconnect with ourselves after the hecticness of the past two years and to share our story again.

A lot has happened since we last wrote – our boyby became an independent being who can walk and sort of talk. He mainly says ‘car’ but we hope his vocabulary and interests will broaden, otherwise he might not get too many dates in his teens. After five years running the Primate and Predator Project, we moved off the mountains and onto new opportunities. We now live in the lowveld near Hoedspruit in a house with actual walls. Consequently, we are no longer covered in mildew in the rainy season and we no longer suffer from heat stroke or hypothermia (depending on the time of year) from living under a tin roof surrounded plastic bin bag walls. Actual walls are amazing! Giraffes, wildebeests, impalas, nyalas, warthogs, and zebras live outside our new house. Katy passed her PhD finally and Sam is starting a new job. We are happy.

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Enjoying extreme temperatures – from scorching SA heat to fricking freezing in the USA on a recent trip

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Giraffes outside our actual walls

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Zebras visiting the house while Katy wrote up the PhD of doom

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We have been enjoying awesome sunsets and sundowners in the lowveld