What Does Life in Paradise Actually Look Like?

Most people know about the weird upside down trees and long-limbed monkey people; the baobabs and the lemurs, the images that mark the postage stamps of this faraway Indian Ocean island.

But if you research the destination of Madagascar for long enough you will uncover a rather peculiar anomaly, one that makes you wonder why more children’s books and colonial explorers’ tales didn’t tell you more about it before.

It was the General Manager of Anjajavy L’Hotel in Madagascar, Cédric de Foucault, who first alerted me to this natural phenomenon – the lesser known Tsingy, a maze of rock formations that are surely a throwback to the age of the T-Rex. Or the Lemursaurus.

For a better understanding, take a look at National Geographic Photographer, Stephen Alvarez‘s images of Madagascar’s Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park and Reserve, a natural city of limestone towers that rises up out of the west of the island.

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Above: Images by Stephen Alvarez. View more here.

Seeing Madagascar through Cedric’s eyes, the island comes alive. Hidden corners leap out from the shadows, like the black and white indri that refuses to be a mere wallflower in the garden of this paradise.

And what does living and working in paradise look like? You’ll find all your answers in our 10 Questions with Cedric below.

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10 Questions With Madagascar’s Cédric de Foucault

1. Five important things to remember when living on a remote island?
  1. Know why you are here: you will need to remind yourself of it in lonely times.
  2. Be safe: you are in a remote place so access to emergency services is not easy.
  3. Keep it clean: avoid polluting any source in a semi-closed system.
  4. Respect what nature has to offer: Access to resources is not as simple as in town, they can be limited. Avoid waste. This is in respect for the source which is generally nature and also for the people who are taking care of the land.
  5. Build trust:Bond genuinely with the people who share the land with you. We all need each other.

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2. Five things travel and island life have taught you about yourself, life and love?
  1. Sharing brings happiness. Give of yourself.
  2. Life needs diversity to be resilient. Be open to tolerance. This will help you to adapt and to stay smart.
  3. Having a land to belong to is a way of bonding between you and your family and your environment over time… as though you were going to live for thousands of years.
  4. Nature is a model for health, protect it.
  5. Having the concern for others in mind will help you keep the ecosystem running harmoniously. I think that this is what love is about.

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3. How did you come to work at Anjajavy?

Anjajavy is a love story between several families and this beautiful land. My family has been in Madagascar for more than a century, since 1894. We own a charter company, a tour operator and a hotel management company on the island. We met Dominique Prat, the creator of Anjajavy le Lodge, in 2009. Because of the 2009 political crisis, tourism in Madagascar was facing difficulties. The hotel was having a hard time. Dominique wanted to collaborate with us to externalize flight operations with his hotel and to get consulting for the management side.

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As soon as we discovered Anjajavy something very strong started between Dominique Prat, my father, Bruno de Foucault, who managed the airplane company and myself. It was a passion for quintessential Madagascar. Soon after that, I was offered the position of GM of the lodge and established myself in Anjajavy with my wife, Hoby, and my two young daughters.

Since then, Amirali Rajabali – who my family has been working with for three generations – acquired the hotel. With Dominique Prat and Amirali Rajabali’s son, Sameer, on the management board, and my father as a partner, we were able to lead the hotel to its present level.

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4. Favourite part about island living?

Working long term in such a remote, semi-closed environment gives you the opportunity of seeing the direct results of your efforts in the community and nature. I love the feeling of achievement it brings, especially in biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and cultural integration. Sharing it with guests in a beautiful nature reserve along deserted beaches is a blessing.

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5. What’s your favourite way to unwind on a day off in Madagascar?

Catching (and releasing) butterflies or snorkelling on a beautiful coral site with my two daughters and my wife.

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6. Most memorable moment at Anjajavy so far?

I am having a hard time to choose between these three: watching the very elusive fossa female in her mating tree with Bill and Melinda Gates; preparing a virgin beach inlet with Sam Branson for his wedding proposal; and taking care of an abandoned baby mouse lemur with my two kids.

7. There is a beautiful quote by Lord Byron that goes, “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more.”
How do you find alternating between the stillness and isolation of Anjajavy and the hubbub of city life when you travel for work or pleasure?

I feel at ease both in the city and in the forest peninsula, I need both nature and technology, loneliness and the crowd, calm and rush. I am rural and urban, European and Malagasy. I like the changes of contexts because you can bring assets of one world to the other. You can instigate changes and introduce developments from one world to the other and vice versa. You become a vector, life becomes richer.

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8. What has surprised you most during your time at Anjajavy?

I am surprised at how fast time can go when you are happy.

9. Favourite time of day at Anjajavy?

I particularly enjoy welcoming my guests in the dust of the Anjajavy airstrip. For many reasons, this special moment is always full of strong and positive energy.

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10. The best adventure so far has been…

Living in Anjajavy is the best adventure. Fighting forest fires, rescuing a pirogue man during the night, saving a baby from dehydration, helping a woman give birth, building a secondary school and managing the continuous improvement of the quality of the lodge.

And the next adventure will be…

Managing the conservation of the reserve after it increased its size in 2015 – from 1500 to 6000 acres, as well as many very exciting research projects in biodiversity.

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Contact us to find out more about Madagascar and planning a trip to this unique island off Africa’s south-east coast.

10 Questions with Camp Jabulani’s Ranger Chane Jacobs

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Sometimes the people you meet on safari are just as fascinating as the wildlife. Chane Jacobs is one such person. Ranger at Camp Jabulani, photographer, writer and Princess (as she’s known to friends). A unique soul with a medley of talents and passions not often found in one being, and such a small being at that. Chane handles her Nikon as well as her rifle, loves her Land Rover as much as her strawberry milkshakes.

Despite being older than her, I found myself seeking her advice on life, and prying into her life, the way the curious do… Where did she come from, what was it that created such a diverse character, what gave her such confidence and courage that she could lead us into lion sighting after lion sighting, acting as our guide and protector?


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I photographed this Dichrostachys cinerea, (also known as the sicklebush, Bell mimosa, Chinese lantern tree or Kalahari Christmas tree) while watching a woodpecker making a home for his family out of the corner of one eye and Chane with the other. She reminds me so much of the plant with its little powderpuff-like pink flowers, a dash of colour and joy standing out amid the neutrals of the bush.

We bonded over clandestinely-caught leopard footage – read the blog here – and a shared love for both the written word and photography. But I still had more questions.

Meet Camp Jabulani’s Chane Jacobs in our 10 Questions below and follow her journey on Instagram. We’ve included some of her shots from the field below, as well as a few of our own from our time spent with her in the wilds of Kapama in South Africa.


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Above: Chane’s images taken on her daily safaris at Camp Jabulani

10 Questions with Ranger Chane Jacobs

1. Five important things to remember when living in the wilderness?
  1. Never run, whatever you do.
  2. Always stay aware of your surroundings.
  3. Remember to appreciate the little things.
  4. The simple life is the good life.
  5. Always expect the unexpected.

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Above: Chane explaining the wonders of elephant dung to our vehicle of safarigoers

2. Five things travel and the wilderness have taught you about yourself, life and love?
  1. I would much rather be in the bush than in a city. Even when I go on holiday, I end up going back to the bush.
  2. I travel and experience through the lens of my camera. Finding and appreciating what would’ve otherwise been overlooked, had it not made for a good photograph.
  3. Travelling has made me realise how small I am in this world, but regardless, I can still make a big impact.
  4. Travelling and being in the bush has taught me more than I ever learnt in a classroom.
  5. That finding a job you love means that you never work a day in your life.

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3. How did you come to work at Camp Jabulani?

I studied through a company called Bushwise. After my 6 months of theoretical training, I got placed into a lodge in Ladysmith in order to gain practical experience. With my heart set on the Mpumalanga/ Limpopo region, I contacted Bushwise near the end of my placement period, after which my instructor, Charles Delport contacted his former colleague and friend, Kate Nelson, who was now co- managing Camp Jabulani. Kate was pleased to introduce a student into the ranger team and welcomed me with open arms. I was the first student and also the first female ranger ultimately employed at Camp Jabulani.


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Above: The Kapama Reserve where Camp Jabulani is set is the ideal place for a budding photographer. Images by Chane Jacobs.

4. How has being a young female affected the experience of being a ranger – a traditionally male-centric position?

It is tough, initially. Earning the respect of both colleagues and guests is quite the challenge, but one always has to remember that dynamite comes in small packages. I am fully capable of changing tyres, shooting with a .375 rifle, and enduring all other aspects in this industry. I have dealt with a fair share of non- believers, who went as far as to tell me to seek for alternative career paths, such as with the psychology field I graduated in at the University of Pretoria. Guests are often skeptical at first but many have ended their stay with a request for me to be their ranger during their following stay. It will still take time to change this preconceived male-centric notion, however, myself, and many other ladies in my position are changing minds, one set of guests and colleagues at a time.


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Above: Chane “Princess” Jacobs, bringing style to the bush

5.  Favourite part about living in the bush at Camp Jabulani?

Being able to photograph the beauty all around me.


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6. Scariest moment encountered in the wilderness?

While on a bush walk with my instructor at Bushwise (Conraad Loubser), we unexpectedly walked into a big elephant bull. He was fortunately unaware of our presence, but as the wind changed direction, and we sat on our haunches observing, a movement to the right caught our attention. Within spitting distance stood an even bigger bull that none of us had seen. He approached us with ears wide open, staring down at us. We all stood up, standing our ground, which prompted the elephant to trumpet in a semi-circle around us, until he charged us, only stopping 4m in front of Conraad. With lots of screaming and clapping, the elephant bull finally backed off and headed into the thicket.


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7. There is a beautiful quote by Lord Byron that goes, “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more.” How do you find alternating between the stillness and isolation of the Kapama Sand and the hubbub of city life when you go home or on holiday?

I recently had the opportunity to go to London, a major city, well known for various tourist attractions. It absolutely blew me away. I loved this parallel universe, but will always prefer the bush. I spend my life zoning in on sounds, smells and various insignificant cues, in order to accomplish my job. In a city, these senses are easily overwhelmed and I often get headaches within hours of arriving. I love the rush and change of scenery that come along with cities and holidays, but this cannot be endured for more than a couple of days at a time.


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8. What has surprised you most during your time at Camp Jabulani?

The team of rangers I have the privilege of working with are amazing. We all help each other out both in the bush and in the lodge. Also, our sightings are incredible. Due to the fact that Camp Jabulani does not have time restrictions for game drives, we are able to spend longer periods of time in sightings, often seeing and experiencing much much more than other guests from other lodges.

9. Favourite time of day in the bush and best way to start the day?

Either when the sun has just risen or when the stars have come out early in the evening. With the rising sun, comes great opportunities for encountering game on the move before the heat of the day sets in. The bird calls are also amplified due to the chill in the air and there’s an excitement that cannot be explained. In the evening, with stars in sight, one is able to capture amazing shots by means of opening the shutter of a camera. The art of painting with light, in the middle of a plains area, with lions roaring in the distance is incomparable to anything else.

The best way to start your day is with a smile.


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10. The best adventure so far has been…

Becoming a ranger. This has always been my goal and it is incredible to be living my dream.

And the next adventure will be…

Who knows what the next adventure will be. For the time being, I am completely content, and look forward to publishing my own book in the very near future.


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In The Kitchen With Chef Wynand van der Watt

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Meet one of our favourite chefs of Relais & Châteaux Africa – Chef Wynand van der Watt of AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, a man of grace in person and art.

Wynand invited us into the kitchen at the hotel to witness the making of some of his favourite dishes, including the five spice roasted pork belly, with mung bean and toasted sesame, cucumber salad, chill ginger caramel, and wonton below:

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WATCH:

(Don’t forget to opt for HD before pressing play)


LISTEN:

a word on sustainability


below: Chef Wynand’s pan roasted line fish with a wild mushroom fricassee, concasse tomato and crisp parsnip

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Find out more about AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in our blog, Midnight in Johannesburg.