James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

12 Things I’ll miss about South Africa

My time in South Africa is rapidly drawing to a close, tomorrow I fly home to a chilly but festive England. Here’s 12 things I’ll miss about the rainbow nation…

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  1. Big Game – Generic, but I’m still not used to the sight of a 16 foot giraffe casually crossing the road in front of the truck.
  2. Bunny Chow – A typically South African ‘dish’, consisting of half a loaf of bread, hollowed out, filled with curry. It puts Kwa-Zulu Natal on the culinary map.
  3. Thunder and Lightening – I’ve never seen a more impressive display.
  4. The Acacia – Africa’s iconic tree, perhaps it’s appeal stems from our early evolution in the cradle of Africa.
  5. The Colenso Club – Thick with smoke and rich dark wooden walls, the hub of Colenso’s little community and a window on it’s colonial past.
  6. Vetkoek – Fried dough balls, South Africa’s street food, and exactly what you need after a day in the field.
  7. The Land Cruiser – I’ve never been a car buff, but then it’s not just a car. A 4×4 Land Cruiser is the vehicle of choice for any self respecting South African, and as I have mentioned before, riding on the back is the most fun you can have on four wheels.
  8. Children – Enthusiastic, happy, energetic, carefree, smiling. Everything children should be.
  9. Donga’s – A brilliant word for a dry river bed, narrow and deep, they snake unseen across the landscape (handily preventing you from walking the most direct route to your destination).
  10. Brai’s – South African for BBQ, more of an art form than anything else and every party must involve one. (I’m starting to realise how many of these are food related).
  11. Tracking – With so much wildlife, the bush is like a book waiting to be read. My fondest memory will be following Leopard prints in the sand, just a few hours old.
  12. The Zulu – Although I can’t master the distinctive clicks of their language, learning about their proud history has been a privileged.


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