The Kwandwe Experience

Ever since I won the WESSA Natural Heritage photo competition last October we’ve been looking forward to our trip to Kwandwe.  Understated luxury, a conservation victory and your private wilderness is their promise – we weren’t disappointed in any way.

It’s a short drive out to Kwandwe from Grahamstown where we were met by Oza at reception. She’s from nearby Joza so we had a neighbourly chat whilst signing into the reserve. Millions then drove us over in the shuttle to the Great Fish River Lodge. On the way he paused to show us two cheetah in the distance and we spotted a pair of lions stalking zebra. So this was quite an introduction – though unfortunately they were too far away for good photographs.

The lodge, and nine secluded chalets, is above the banks the Great Fish River with sweeping views up and down the valley. We had quite a few storms whilst we were there – as you can see from the skies above the Lodge – so every night we fell asleep to the sound of the river, the calls of the Fiery Cheeked Nightjars and the barks of the kudu. On our first afternoon there was also the distant roar of a lion.

We soon met Chase and Siza who were to be our ranger and tracker and quickly made friends with Jack and Caitlyn Conklin, from Nashville Tennessee, who shared all of our game drives and the hike on our last day. First up was a visit to the male lion that I’d heard roaring. He had a very full belly and wasn’t going anywhere. I’ve tried a retro feel on some pictures; borrowing the idea from the Lodge’s Victorian period photographs.

Chase and Siza also found the elephant herd for us and we spent ‘blue hour’ after dusk in amongst them. These weren’t ideal conditions for photography but the superb modern technology from Olympus works wonders in poor light conditions. I used a very high ISO so the pictures were grainy but it was easy to turn one of them into another retro styled image.

We saw a lot of game in the next two days. Some close up, some far away and quite a lot was partially hidden in amongst the valley bush veld.

As much as I love wildlife, and really enjoy photographing them, I won the WESSA prize with a landscape photograph. So it’s no great surprise that I spent quite a lot of time capturing the gorgeous light over the valleys and plains at Kwandwe. I was helped a lot by the stormy weather which produced spectacular clouds and lightning followed by clear skies. I even managed to get a good picture of the Milky Way arching up overhead.

The Kwandwe experience will live with me for a very long time – I hope I’m fortunate enough to win another visit!

SISU-EDU workshop in Turku

We had our latest meeting for the SANORD funded SISU-EDU project at the University of Turku this week.

The aim of the Sustainability Education in Southern Africa project is to build an open access education simulation.  We met our colleagues from Finland Futures Research Centre this week to workshop how to adapt their getalife simulation to suit the purposes of sustainable development. We also needed to: review the results of our questionnaires about sustainability education; develop the motivation for a workshop at the SANORD conference to be held in Namibia; write an abstract of a paper for presentation at the same conference and; strategise the way forward in terms of funding opportunities.  In other words there was a lot to do in a short space of time!

The weather was helpfully bleak – wet, cold, cloudy and windy – so workshopping indoors was easy. Johanna Ollila, Johanna Kärki  and Maria Hoysaa sat down with Kate and I to tackle the agenda we’d set ourselves and we made lots of good progress.  We’re intending to get funding to travel to the SANORD conference in Windhoek this December where we will be presenting our results so far.  Hope to see you there!


World Water Week comes early to TEMA Environmental Change

On Wednesday this week we held our World Water Week seminar. It was the culminating activity in a three week course on water resource management in Africa: part of the Masters programme in Science for Sustainable Development at Linköping University.  We are teaching on the course as part of our Linnaeus-Palme exchange programme between the Geography Department at Rhodes University and Linköping University.

Prof Kate Rowntree outside Temahuset

Prof Kate Rowntree outside Temahuset

We used the four themes of World Water Week: the Global to Local Perspective, Political Economy of Growth and Development perspective, the Human and Social Perspective, the Ecosystem and Pollution Perspective as the foci of the final presentations by our students.


Water management issues in eight African countries were investigated. The papers, which covered a range of issues, clearly showed how the four perspectives intersect. Water issues in urban slums provides a good example. Studies from Nairobi, Accra, and Dar es Salaam all showed an inability to provide effective water infrastructure in informal settlements that arise from high rates of migration to urban areas, itself the result of population growth, economic drivers, conflict and climate change.

The lack of effective formal governance in these areas opens up opportunities for private entrepreneurs who fill an essential but costly niche, giving rise to increased inequities of access to water-related services. Finally the downstream delivery of polluted water impacts aquatic ecosystems and can negatively affect the health and livelihoods of downstream communities, as illustrated by the Nairobi River.