By Zack Moore
Dust kicks into the air, swirling lazily before dissipating into the cloudless sky as our guide Arno turns onto the rough road of gravel. A vast expanse of unspoiled wilderness reveals itself as the 4×4 crawls over the crest of a hill, exposing a land of rolling hills peppered by hardy fynbos and towering pillars of stone. Our photography field specialist Clare remarks that it looks like a playground for giants, where unknown behemoths rolled boulders and smashed rocks, leaving their toys scattered across the landscape for our viewing pleasure. This is the Karoo.
4×4 Gravel road
Africa Media in the Karoo
Time slows until it seems to crumble away completely, as the lack of noise or air pollution makes it clear we’re now fully free from any concept of civilization. Finally we reach our destination, Kagga Kamma, a private lodge nestled away in the middle of the immense reserve. Simple huts circle the rock formations, while the rectangular main building containing the reception and restaurant sits squarely under a looming boulder.
Sunset over the huts
After a long ride, the Africa Media team grabs some refreshing drinks beneath the cool shade of the patio behind the restaurant. We chat for a while beside the lawn on the plush outdoor couches, fully decompressing from the stresses of day-to-day life. Eventually, we relocate to the pool down the road for some delicious braii, enjoying the chicken, lamb, and ostrich Arno grills over the flame. At nightfall, we move to an isolated lookout a short walk away in order to take in the overwhelming number of stars and several galaxies that spark to life once the sun retreats behind the massive mountains in the distance.
Clare live it!
Early the next morning, the photographers rise with the sun to capture the fleeting moments before it ascends to its perch overlooking the Karoo. Once the journalists roll out of bed, Arno drives everyone around the reserve. We pass oryx, wildebeest, and a herd of eland on our way to a lookout that allows the team to see 200 km away into the distance. Rounding our back to the lodge, we stop to admire some bushman paintings, some of which could be up to 20,000-years-old.
Mark taking a photo
Shortly after we return, the restaurant staff serves a delicious dinner outside beside a fire pit. When there was no steak filet, chicken Madagascar, salad, or Malva pudding left, the wildlife photographers set up cameras outside the huts on tripods in order to capture stars trailing across the sky. A symphony of clicks sound off as the cameras snap pictures on timers, until the clouds roll in, obscuring the veil of starlight and sending the group to bed for one last night of undisturbed sleep.
Restaurant – dinner time!
Once breakfast is devoured, the journalists interview the lodge manager to get the final touch for their travel article. Reluctantly, everyone regroups by the car before setting off for the trek back to Mossel Bay. Taking the long way home, we stop for photos along the way to drag out our time in the timeless Karoo.
Zack Moore participated in the Africa Media Environmental Journalism and Travel Writing Internship. He currently instructs Journalism and Wildlife Photography students interning at Africa Media