I have loved the Lebombo Mountains ever since I was a child. They are a narrow range in South Africa that stretches from Hluhluwe in KwaZulu Natal to Punda Maria in the Limpopo. It is here that my family scattered my father’s ashes in July 2012, from a gentle vista overlooking the land and animals he loved, with a view of the Kruger National Park to the west, Mozambique to the east, and Swaziland to the south.
My father, Wolf Boecker, immigrated to South Africa in the 1950’s, followed shortly by my mother Erika, his young and adventurous bride. Together they settled first in the Cape, and then Johannesburg, making a life for themselves far from war-torn Europe. They raised four children, my two brothers, a sister and me.
My parents shared a deep love for nature and, starting in my early childhood they would load all four children into our old stationwagon, along with a great clatter of pots and pans, provisions and a heavy old canvas tent, and we would head for “the bush”.
Winter months are always a good time to view game but the nights are chilly. We would hunker down in our old tent, padding the stretchers and the floor with newspaper to keep out the cold. In the evening, we would sit around the magical bush campfire with other bush enthusiasts and campers, listening to the quiet conversation of the adults as they shared the day’s sightings and planned the next day’s viewing, or simply staring at the stars above. My family were always up-and-out at first light, picnic packed and ready to spend the day tracking wildlife. We would be gone from morning to night. I especially loved those early mornings, sitting at a waterhole, waiting for the animals to come and drink.
Retiring from a full-time career in the early 1990’s, my father was free to do what he loved best, and he became a tour guide in the Kruger National Park. Always fascinated by the bush and nature he studied the biodiversity of Mpumalanga by starting with the lichen covering rocky outcrops, observing how every living thing in nature is inter-dependable. He had a unique understanding of nature and over time this changed his entire view of the world. He came to the realization that as humans we are simply a link in the greater creation – neither more nor less important than the fauna and flora around us. Rather than using and often abusing our natural environment, my father taught us to show compassion and respect for every living being.
Dad knew the Kruger National Park elephants by sight and was especially fond of the famous bull Tshokwane, who had a V notched into his ear from years of fighting for dominance with other bulls. In the winter of 1998 my father came face-to-face with Tshokwane for the last time. He was skin and bones and looked very tired. Later that year his body was found: he had roamed the earth for more than 60 years. It is at Tshokwane picnic site, named after the great elephant bull, that my father’s ashes are appropriately scattered.
Growing up with a father who had a great love of the African bush and its wildlife, I soon followed in his footsteps. It is truly my passion to support the conservation of the amazing creatures that call the area home. Game viewing from open safari vehicles, expert wildlife guides, and guided Safari walks for birdwatchers and reptile enthusiasts are all part of the experience.
Over the past 22 years, I have organised hundreds of safaris to Africa. More and more I find that the discerning traveller is asking how their contribution benefits the local community and the environment. Populations of rhino, elephant, lion and even giraffe are dwindling at a rapid pace, and it is time for visitors to be aware and to funnel money directly into organisations that are taking steps to sustain the world’s precious wildlife heritage. Across Africa, the black rhinoceros populations have been decimated by poaching, and land clearing for agriculture and human settlement. In the past five decades numbers have plummeted from 100,000 to fewer than the 4,000 animals alive today. Learn more about how we support the Black Rhino Guardianship Program in the Kruger Park.
In February 2018 I revisited the Kruger National Park for the umpteenth time. Sitting on the huge deck of my luxurious suite at Singita Lemombo, overlooking a rocky ridge, where a ghostly fever trees stand tall, I feel at home. This is the Africa I know and love.
As a first time visitor to Africa, nothing prepares you for the beauty. It is the cradle of humanity, the birthplace of all of our origins. It is our ancient and spiritual home. For me, it is a place of rest. A place where I reconnect with the essence of who I am. The dusty sunsets, the crisp dawns that rise over untouched land populated by ancient creatures – magnificent, beautiful, free and wild. Let’s keep it that way.