It often takes an adventurous step or two out of your familiar surroundings to fully appreciate what you’ve already got – or maybe it’s what your local bank manager is (temporarily) holding for you. As our Greenmount Travel tour to sub-Saharan Africa in March soon discovered, deeds to the farm that actually mean something and a legal system that works most of the time, can be very comforting things.
That was a very big take home message from our tour but the much more tangible and enjoyable experiences for our group of 17 intrepid travellers began soon after touching down on the world’s most enigmatic continent. Tanzania’s Serengeti grasslands and Ngorongoro Crater are simply breathtaking – two million wildebeest and a million zebra, countless antelope and the ever-present predators following the greatest migration on earth – can’t be wrong. And this all goes on in an area of around 2 million beautifully grassed hectares. We didn’t see every hectare, but collectively I reckon we took a photo of pretty much every animal that had. Shooting (digitally of course) the ‘The Big 5’ within a 24 hour period became the challenge, and we were rarely disappointed.
In the Serengeti we had the very rare privilege of watching a cheetah and her cubs run down a kill, and later in a private South African game park bordering Kruger, the even rarer sighting (and I’m talking within 10 metres) of a lioness hidden away with her cubs barely two weeks old. We visited farms in the Cape region of South Africa with a very similar Mediterranean rainfall pattern and soil type as many parts of the southern and Western Australian wheat–sheep belts – and predictably – cropping and sheep were the mainstay enterprises. We also saw farms in Zambia and Tanzania where extremes of soil-type, heat and rainfall, were all limiting factors in crop production.
One farm visit in the Zambezi River Valley had to be cancelled because of a bit of rain – 800 mm of it in fact in the week before our visit. But this did mean a spectacular amount of water was thundering over Victoria Falls during our visit – something in the order of 500,000 megalitres a day or around $1 billion in Australian (scarce) water licence terms. But the biggest departure from an Australian farmer’s comfort zone while in southern Africa was the unpredictable and insecure, nature of land tenure in Zimbabwe and, increasingly, South Africa. We’ve all become aware of the land invasion horror stories which have gutted Zimbabwe over the past decade, but few of us have an appreciation of the scale of similar stirrings in South Africa.
This tour was a fantastic blend of unmatched wildlife viewing, cultural and agricultural extremes all mixed together in the melting pot called Africa. We plan to offer a very similar southern African itinerary early next year.