There are many stories told about Africa. This is my story:
Since I was a little boy I dreamt of going to Africa. I remember Tuesday being a special day because the new weekly Tarzan adventure story hit the news stand kiosk in my neighbourhood, and when a Tarzan movie featured in our local cinema I was the first one through the door.
Some 60 years later, in 2019 I was bound for Jo’burg. I picked up a car in the airport and headed straight towards the Kruger National Park, one of the world’s greatest game parks. Is this really true? Am I going to see Lions and Elephants, Giraffes and Zebras all in the wild? The adventure of a lifetime was about to begin.
Once we were through the park’s gates – a herd of grazing impalas greeted me; I rubbed my eyes in disbelief! Then a short distance on – a herd of zebras moving swiftly through the bush! I kept photographing frantically just in case this dream would end, but no! An elephant just appeared around the corner” Moish! This is a wild elephant!” My assistant was just as excited!
The park is huge and is teaming with wildlife, but by nightfall visitors must stay secure in a camp, there are many camps in the park offering good amenities, excellent restaurants and safari drives.
On these dusty track safari drives I had most magical encounters with rhinos, sleeping lions, wrestling giraffes, sparring elephants and even a brief glimpse of an elusive cheetah stalking its prey.
Equally the most exciting river safaris revealed an exceptional array of birds along the riverbank reeds; yellow weavers, kingfishers, hornbills, a giant footed African jacana walking effortlessly on the waterlily leaf, a lazing crocodile blending in so perfectly, pods of Hippos yawning and sparring. In St Lucia, a river town, on my way back from dinner a hippo family crossed in front of my car on its way to graze.
The next stop was Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The huge water cloud hovering above the town signalled what is about to unfold. In no time, drenched in my raincoat, I was standing in front of the largest, most beautiful and most majestic waterfall on the planet. The sound of a million litres of water falling every second down a 350 Foot drop along a mile-long strip, was deafening – a treat that few other places in the world can offer. On sunset I was aboard the grand ‘African Queen’ cruising on the Zambezi river spotting hipos and crocodiles.
Further along the Zambezi at the confluence with the Chobe river in Botswana lies the town of Kasane. This little funky town is the gateway to the Chobe National park is known for Botswana’s densest concentration of wildlife. I had no time to waste, driving in my hire SUV ready for a true safari adventure, I was at the gate; The park official took a glance and nodded “I am very doubtful if you can do it with this vehicle, it has rained and there are puddles” half an hour later, stuck in a huge puddle right up to the bonnet, I found myself face to face with this old lone and grumpy buffalo whose kingdom I dared to invade. Luckily the engine re started and I reversed carefully out of this puddle, promising myself that from now on I would stick to organized safari trips only!
The safari trips in Botswana were a true ‘off the beaten track’ wildlife adventure. Watching these skilful drivers dodging the treacherous terrain yet keeping a keen eye animal spotting proved how silly I was trying to self-drive in this totally alien environment. I saw a pack of rare wild dogs setting off to hunt, vultures perched on a dead tree waiting their turn to gorge on a buffalo carcass, crocodiles soaking up the sun on the river bank just 6 Feet away from our boat, Giraffes and Hippos grazing whilst huge herds of Elephants fearlessly cruising along in the background.
The camps were an ‘Out of Africa’ treat! At Elephant Sands campsite the huts surrounded a waterhole where elephants came in, between the huts, to drink and play. I was lying in bed in the heat of the day watching (between my toes) wild elephants at the waterhole. In Senyati campsite we shared a moment drinking our morning coffee whilst the local wild life drank from the waterhole only 60 feet away. It all came to a climax when on the evening before a massive storm, hundreds of buffalos, elephants, zebras and giraffes came out of the jungle for a last drink before they disappeared in the jungle for many days.
Alongside these far away hot open space African paintings, I show local paintings inspired by my first time ever experience of a full English winter on walks around my village in lockdown Somerset.
Saturday 5th June – Saturday 17th July, Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. (Closed Sundays and Mondays)
Entry to the exhibition is free and you can visit without booking and paying to see the gardens. The Gardens are COVID safe but, for those unable to visit, the exhibition will also be simultaneously online on my website www.moishsokal.co.uk from June 5th.
I am looking forward to seeing you all!