Social Media are a Trap: Bauman

Polish-born sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman, says that ‘… most people use social media … to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice …’.

Q. You are skeptical of the way people protest through social media, of so-called “armchair activism,” and say that the internet is dumbing us down with cheap entertainment. So would you say that the social networks are the new opium of the people?

Sociologist Zigmunt Bauman

Sociologist Zigmunt Bauman

A. The question of identity has changed from being something you are born with to a task: you have to create your own community. But communities aren’t created, and you either have one or you don’t. What the social networks can create is a substitute. The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You are in control of the important people to whom you relate. People feel a little better as a result, because loneliness, abandonment, is the great fear in our individualist age. But it’s so easy to add or remove friends on the internet that people fail to learn the real social skills, which you need when you go to the street, when you go to your workplace, where you find lots of people who you need to enter into sensible interaction with. Real dialogue isn’t about talking to people who believe the same things as you. Social media don’t teach us to dialogue because it is so easy to avoid controversy… But most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face. Social media are very useful, they provide pleasure, but they are a trap.

First published in on 19 January 2016




My garage is not a thing of beauty. Over the years it has acquired enormous clutter and superfluous rubbish that has accumulated alarmingly to the point of becoming an unkempt mess. For example, apart from being a writer and editor, I am also a woodworker, in possession of sophisticated woodworking machinery. Perhaps it’s just as well that I don’t have time anymore to pursue this hobby, because in the garage there are a number of unusable woodworking tables piled high with clutter. What makes it worse is that I’ve never really noticed the clutter. Perhaps it’s a subconscious reaction to avoid thinking about it.

But the ‘mess’ was vividly brought home to me recently when my granddaughter asked me to build two miniature horse stables for her, which I happily agreed to do.

There was no clutter on the table saw worktop, so the cutting of the boards was relatively easy and satisfying. But then I had to screw them together. That needed a workbench. I had several from which to choose but none of them had any open space on top. Clutter all over the place.

Eventually, after some words of frustration and a few expletives, I piled some clutter from one part of the workbench onto adjacent clutter and managed to gain some space to complete the next phase of my project. But I hadn’t bargained on what came next.

I have a particular set of clamps that I always use for gluing and screwing. They were not in sight. But I knew where to look. Under the piles of clutter on three workbenches. I wasn’t in a particular good mood when I began looking and that can only invite trouble. If you know anything about the mind, you’ll know that when it’s in a state of frustration or stress, accidents will happen on the outside. I finally found what I was looking for but not before I had bumped and bruised my hands and suffered several abrasions.

During the project I was disgusted with what I saw around me. There was a time when my workshop had been pristine. Every nail and screw in place and everything clearly seen and accessible. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words struck home with meaning and force, ‘As a man thinketh, so shall he be.’ I also recalled words from a philosophical text I had read somewhere, ‘As within, so without.’ I feared my mind had become corrupt in some ways and the result was lying around me. I resolved to set things right and clean up the mess.

After a few days, I returned to the garage to do just that. My heart sank when I surveyed the scene. This was going to take days, not hours. My negative thoughts took hold as I brooded over the distressing prospect. Looking back now, it’s remarkable how little we know of the mind’s subtle influence. You will become, and things around you will become, literally what you put into your mind. Emerson and that philosophical text were right. That’s the way it works: think a positive thought and there’ll be a positive outcome. Think a negative thought and the corresponding outcome will occur.

I was being assailed by thoughts of drudgery that led me almost to despair. Fortunately, I gathered myself and began to think about it. Till that point, I had been feeling it with some strong negative emotion.

Thinking about it, calmed me. And when I look back, I realise thinking about it was a positive approach that reaped positive results. It displaced my earlier wallowing attitude.

But I still couldn’t decide where to start. Perhaps table one, which had the most clutter? No, table two might be preferable because I felt it had more usable things that could be packed away. I was undecided. Thoughts of negativity began to intrude again and invade my positive space. The beast of clutter still held me in its grip.

I was standing in front of table number three looking at the mess and wondering how long this was going to take when I had one of those rare, precious ‘light-bulb’ moments that displace darkness. A veritable positivity had risen up in my mind to show me the way.

Just before this happened, I had looked at a nail lying in the dust on the table. It was the nearest thing to me. Next to it was a small block of wood, and next to the wood was a broken plastic container. I suddenly realised I had to start somewhere, so why not the thing nearest to me. I picked up the nail, decided it wasn’t usable and threw it in the bin. I then picked up the block of wood, which was usable, and placed it in a particular corner of the garage where I store scrap wood, for later use. I then proceeded to the next item, a hammer peeping out at me, which I thought I’d lost.

You only have to see the next step – not the top of the mountain.

As the items, one by one, were appropriately dispensed or placed, I saw that I no longer thought about that huge mountain of clutter. I simply and quietly just reached for the next item.

I began to enjoy it. As more space appeared on the workbench, a deep satisfaction arose within me. I cleared the tables in two hours, after having thought about them for over a year.

I reflected on what had been an interesting experience. Two clearly distinguishable mindsets were involved. One that wasn’t in favour of the clutter being moved and the other that saw the need and wanted it done. For ease of reference, I’ll call the one not in favour the negative mindset, and the one in favour the positive mindset.

There was a game of war being played out in my mind. Regarding the garage clutter, I had used the negative mindset for over a year and it triumphantly held dominion. I would always provide reasons (to myself) for not moving the clutter (mostly the chronic excuse – that I didn’t have time). Not only did the clutter stay put as a result, it grew. Clutter begets clutter. Emerson and the philosophical text were right – ‘as within, so without’. While the negative mindset held dominion within, it’s corresponding physical manifestation, the clutter, lay and grew without. The only way to get rid of the clutter would be through action on the part of the positive mindset. But, in this particular case, I persisted in using the negative mindset. As a result, the negative mindset had no enemy and reigned supreme within my mind in the matter of the clutter.

The negative mindset came under threat only when I began my granddaughter’s project. I was now in the same room as the clutter and didn’t like what I saw. But it wouldn’t give up without a fight. I was still under its control when, to create space for the project on the workbench, I simply picked up clutter and dumped it on the heap alongside. The search for the clamps and the resulting mishaps, bruising and injuries opened a small window of light and allowed my positive mindset to influence the situation. I was angry with the mess.

But even when I came to clear it several days later, I dilly-dallied, thinking of the mountain of work involved. It was only when I consciously used my willpower to pick up the first item, that I took control with my positive mindset and got the job one.

The experience helped me realise that I control my thoughts and make the choice whether to be negative or positive. Naturally, I always try to be positive because it enhances my quality of life and attracts ‘good luck’. Negativity does just the opposite, although we’ll seldom admit it. But it’s difficult to always try to be positive. Envy, anger, resentment, self-pity, jealousy, hate, frustration, irritability and other negative states of mind are deeply lodged in our brains and surface frequently. And most of the time we don’t realise what’s happened until it’s too late and we’re having relationships collapse, accidents and ‘bad luck’.

First, know this. You have the power to consciously think what you like. Sew negative seeds and you’ll reap a bad harvest, sew positive seeds and your harvest will be good. This isn’t fanciful ‘stuff’. It’s real, and can be proved.

The vital thing I learnt from my experience is that when negativity strikes, the positive mindset must come into action immediately. This isn’t easy, but if we want to live successful, happy lives, we must make the effort. No one else can do it for us.

There are two steps to get positive results.

Watch yourself thinking. The mind is like a chattering monkey that never stops. Thoughts rush in and out of the mind at a rate of thousands a minute. It’s almost impossible to control this thought process, but that is not as important as just watching them. Some will flit by in a split second. Others will be more pronounced because of emotion they’ve triggered in you. This emotion will be mild or intense and depends on how much the thought affects you. Regardless of the degree of their intensity, these thoughts are important because they affect your well-being and health, either in a positive or negative way. When they emerge, just watch them as quietly as you can, even if you’re affected emotionally. It will be as if another part of you is watching that part of you which is thinking and feeling.

Don’t judge, analyse or think about the thoughts. Just watch. That is all that’s required.

Initially, you’ll quickly forget to watch your thoughts. You’ll have to remember to do it and return to the procedure again and again. In time it will become a natural process and you’ll frequently remember to do it.

Make this procedure a part of your life. It will help you to better understand yourself and others and it should enhance the overall quality and success of your life. But I repeat, don’t judge, analyse or think about the thoughts while watching them. Just watch.

This procedure will greatly assist in bringing the positive mindset into play. If you spot a negative thought emerging, you can do one of a number of things:

  • Just watch it, be aware of it and take no action.
  • Stop watching and indulge in it.
  • Change it into its opposite using the positive mindset.

By just watching it, being aware of it and taking no action, you quietly disengage emotionally from the thought and maintain your composure and serenity. Composure and serenity are positive qualities from which only positive things will flow. The more composure and serenity you have in life, the greater your happiness and success.

If you stop watching it and indulge in it, you are at the mercy of your emotions. Emotion is a powerful force that usurps the mind. Reason is pushed aside and instinct takes over. The negative thought in which you indulge will breed other negative thoughts. For example, envy could breed hate; hate could breed obsession; pride could breed overweening vanity; Excessive lust could breed sexual perversion, and so on.

George Gurdjieff, a Russian philosopher, used the analogy of a horse-drawn carriage to describe the interrelated effects of our physical, emotional and mental make-up. The carriage is our physical body, the horse our emotions, the driver our mind.

When the horse is obedient to the driver’s will, and under control, the carriage proceeds harmoniously, without incident or accident. The three elements work together in excellent harmony. All destinations are reached and all goals achieved. However, if the horse reacts to an incident (as we do when indulging in a negative thought), and the driver has insufficient will to control it (as we do when we stop watching our thoughts), the horse runs amok. The consequence is: destinations not reached, goals not achieved, accident, injury and, perhaps, even death. This is not unlike what happened to me in my garage. I wallowed in a negative thought about my clutter for a year and a half, followed by accident and injury when I did my granddaughter’s project. My horse had bolted and my carriage took a beating.

We do not realise what terrible risks we run when negative thoughts gain a stranglehold.

The third thing we can do if we spot a negative thought emerging is change it into its opposite.

If you are pessimistic about something, you can become optimistic about it in an instant – simply by thinking it. This is the power of the human mind. It has the capacity to think what it wants to think, to take control, and turn its life around. Usually this doesn’t happen because we allow the rampant horse above to control us. Our negative emotions govern us. Instinct, instead of reason. We leave the driver, who has the power to steer the carriage in the right direction, helpless.

You can prove that this technique works by simply doing it.

Born in the mental realm, thoughts eventually manifest in the physical realm of life. We are, and will become, what we think. All that we are at this moment is the result of how we thought. With our thoughts, we create our world.

It’s not a quick-fix. It will take time. But keep in mind – you only have to see the next step, not the top of the mountain.

Bruce Cooper

© 2015 Bruce Cooper All Rights Reserved



Committee to Protect Journalists to Release Killed Journalists Report

CPJ to release annual report on killed journalists 

New York, December 16, 2015-The Committee to Protect Journalists will release its annual report on journalists killed in relation to their work.

CPJ’s report includes a comprehensive catalog of journalists worldwide who were killed in connection to their work. A breakdown of the cases by country, medium, gender, freelancers, and the number of local versus international correspondents killed, among other criteria, is available in the report.

WHAT:    Yearly report on killed journalists

WHEN:    December 23, 2015. 12.01 a.m. EST/0500 GMT


CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
Note to Editors:

Embargoed copies of the report are available upon request.

Samantha Libby
Advocacy Officer
Tel. +1 212-300-9007

Ashley Parent
Communications Associate
Tel. +1 212 300 9032



Stories of past and possible future lives abound and mostly are dismissed by the scientific community as implausible, hallucinatory and without basis in fact. But for clinical hypnotherapist, Chandra Taylor, the evidence is too strong for science to ignore and her ongoing successful treatments support this.

One of the more popular accounts of reincarnation was a book published in 1956 called The Search for Bridey Murphy written by amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein. Bernstein hypnotised a Colorado housewife, Virginia Tyghe, who recalled a former life as an Irishwoman from Cork.

Bernstein used a technique called hypnotic regression, which takes the patient back to early childhood and beyond. To his amazement, he discovered someone called Bridey Murphy, who had lived in Ireland in the 19th century. Tyghe revealed compelling details of Bridey’s life and the state of being of life after death. The book became a bestseller and provoked investigation by reporters to establish its authenticity. Many facts tallied but an investigation into Tyghe’s own childhood revealed that she grew up in Chicago, Illinois and lived across the road from an Irish immigrant named Bridie Murphy Corkell. Psychologist Andrew Neher wrote that Tyghe had suffered from cryptomnesia, which occurs when forgotten memories resurface and are not recognised by the patient.

Although the tale of Bridey Murphy did not prove the fact of reincarnation, and revealed how easily the mind can mislead, there is other convincing evidence that does make one sit up and think and which suggests the subject should receive wider and more serious attention from scientists.

Chandra Taylor is a psychotherapist practicing in Cape Town, South Africa. She is also a hypnotherapist, having trained at the Institute of Hypnotherapy in London and the European College of Hypnotherapy in Surrey, UK.

‘While living in London I had the privilege to meet and train with some of the most noted practitioners in my field, including Dr Richard Bandler, a former associate professor at UCSC and a consultant to many Fortune 500 Companies, the US Military and US Intelligent Agencies. Dr Bandler is best known as the co-creator (with John Grinder) of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a methodology that enables one to understand and change human behaviour patterns.’

Although Taylor says she has always been interested in past-life regression as a form of therapy, her interest in past-life therapy was significantly triggered after reading Many Lives, Many Masters by psychiatrist Dr Brian Weiss. Weiss’s book tells the story of one of his patients, Catherine, whom he unsuccessfully treated for 18 months using traditional psychotherapy. Finally he turned to hypnosis as a last resort. As head of psychiatry at the prestigious Mount Sinai clinic in Miami, past-life regression therapy was not part of his repertoire at all.

‘When Catherine started experiencing past-life memories, he was dumbfounded and did not know what to do or how to react. To his astonishment, she immediately showed improvement after the first session. This continued after each session until she was freed of all the negative issues that she had been suffering from. Any therapist knows that patients do not heal from dreaming up a fantasy. Her recovery was dramatic and complete after having relived the events that had caused the issues,’ explains Taylor.

Weiss received peer acclaim for his work, not least from Dr Joel Rubinstein, former instructor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School who wrote:

‘Dr Weiss integrates concepts of traditional psychotherapy and the exploration of his patient’s spiritual unconscious. My view of myself and others will never be quite the same.’

Another comment came from Dr Andrew E Slaby, Medical Director at Fair Oaks Hospital:

‘An interesting, well-written and thought-provoking exploration of the influence of past-life therapy on present behaviour. You cannot put it down without feeling empathetic with Dr Weiss’s conclusions.’

Chandra Taylor is bemused that the wealth of evidence available, pointing to what appears to be an obvious truth, hasn’t resulted in more research:

‘There are numerous cases on record testifying that reincarnation does exist and plays an active part in our lives. I’m bewildered that some scientists continue to insist that it can’t be scientifically proven. Pioneers in the field, such as Dr Michael Newton PhD, refute this. His work and case studies are extensive and irrefutable.

‘The late Dr Ian Stevenson, who worked at the University of Virginia School of Medicine for fifty years and was Carlson Professor of Psychiatry from 1967 to 2001 and Research Professor of Psychiatry from 2002 until his death, investigated nearly 3 000 children’s cases without using hypnosis. A journalist once remarked about Stevenson’s work that “The definition of insanity is when you give a person irrefutable proof and they still choose to disbelieve it. Dr Stevenson’s work is irrefutable proof.”’

An aspect of Stevenson’s work is that he often found children could recall who their families were in a previous incarnation and also how they died. Some of the children interviewed lived in remote villages without access to media or television, which might otherwise have influenced or distorted their accounts. An interesting facet of Stevenson’s work was pointed out by Kevin Williams in his article Dr Ian Stevenson’s Reincarnation Research:

‘During his original research into various cases involving children’s memories of past lives, Dr Stevenson did note with interest the fact that these children frequently bore lasting birthmarks which supposedly related to their murder or the death they suffered in a previous life. Stevenson’s research into birthmarks and congenital defects has such particular importance for the demonstration of reincarnation, since it furnishes objective and graphic proof of reincarnation superior to the – often fragmentary – memories and reports of the children and adults questioned, which even if verified afterwards cannot be assigned the same value in scientific terms.’

Stevenson was the author of sixteen books on psychology and research into reincarnation.

Taylor herself is amassing case studies and continuing her research into the subject. Given below are three of her case studies. The studies contain great detail but have been summarised for the purpose of this article.

Case study 1
I once had a client who reported that a pattern of anxiety kept repeating throughout her life: being falsely accused and always feeling helpless and like a victim. After putting her under hypnosis and regressing her beyond the fetal stage, she very quickly began to recall and view a past life in which she had been falsely accused, thrown into a dungeon and then led to a guillotine to be put to death. No one cared or listened to her pleas of innocence, not even her mother. After telling me this, and while still under hypnosis, I asked if she could sense anything she was being called to do as a result of this incident. She replied without hesitation, ‘To forgive.’ Realising the importance of this incident and how it was still impacting on her life, she promptly forgave everyone involved. When she returned to see me a fortnight later, she was visibly and mentally changed and spent an hour telling me of the great things that had taken place in her life since our last session. Now improved, her life could flow because the blockages had been removed.

Case study 2
A male client once told me that because he couldn’t ‘open up’ to anyone, he was unable to have a fulfilling relationship. He also revealed that he didn’t speak until he was five years old. And that he always felt lost and that nothing made sense. During our regression therapy he picked up several previous lives. One of them was as a Knights Templar where he was bound to a code of silence. This was the cause of him not able to ‘open up’ now. During regression he witnessed himself being killed by a sword that pierced him below the ribcage. He has a birthmark in that area, the width of a sword cut.

In another life he became separated from his group while on expedition. He died, lost and alone in a forest.

The third life turned out the most dramatic. He went straight to the death scene where he witnessed an atomic explosion followed by complete chaos. At this point in the regression he became quite nauseous and dizzy and I had to talk him through it so he could watch the scene objectively (this is a perfect example of the fact that patients do not experience intense physical and emotional responses if they are fantasying). His body was blown to pieces and the psyche had held that memory of confusion and chaos, explaining why he was constantly plagued by the meaninglessness of life and why nothing made sense. After the session he regained a new sense of purpose and direction.

Case study 3
I once had a student who had done some courses in healing but had no faith and seemed unable to receive intuitive guidance, a skill required to practise as a healer. During regression she discovered a life where she had been a nun with clairvoyant vision, which perturbed the Church. She was locked up and persecuted, which explained her fear of opening her psychic senses.

In another life she belonged to a native tribe who were experiencing a drought and believed human sacrifice was necessary to appease the gods and avert disaster. She was chosen for the purpose. After witnessing her death scene she remarked that it still did not rain and the tribe perished. Hence she had no faith in God and still carried the psychic memory that she had to sacrifice herself and that God couldn’t be trusted. When I last spoke to her she said her intuition had opened immensely and she could now trust her inner guidance and begin to ‘flow’ with life, rather than always fighting the current.

In 2009 Taylor had the chance to learn a technique that facilitates direct access to the subconscious and can produce instant healing. It is called Quantum Healing Hypnosis Therapy and was pioneered by world renowned author and hypnotherapist Dolores Cannon. Last year she devised a method of her own, which she calls Subconscious Reprogramming, a process that removes old subconscious belief programs that continue to sabotage a person’s progress and success in life:

‘My method has proved successful. It is a combination of various techniques that enable the patient to let go of several issues in one session, resulting in a deep transformation that can take many years to accomplish with more traditional methods. More clients are recalling various past lives that still affect them, which can be time-consuming, rather than dealing with only one life at a time.’

Do the debunkers concern her?

‘Countless books and articles on the Internet written by reputable academics testify to the validity of reincarnation and this vital therapy. I no longer search for proof. The face of a client and the shift in their behaviour after anxiety has been dispelled, is proof enough. As I mentioned earlier, people do not heal from dreaming up fantasies. In the new method I’ve uncovered, the subconscious can be programmed to release the old outdated issues and put a positive belief in its place.’

Taylor also teaches workshops on how to unlock the subconscious, which she claims is a powerful tool to open the intuition and remove negative belief programmes that still operate and adversely affect individual lives.

Whatever may be your viewpoint, the positive interest taken, and successful treatments done, by esteemed academics and hypnotherapists in this controversial subject suggests that perhaps science should take careful note of what Shakespeare’s Hamlet said to his closest friend:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

Bruce Cooper
July 2015

Those interested in learning more about the therapy can contact Chandra Taylor at

The Art of Growing Lettuce and Managing People

The remarkable insight into the simplicity and unnecessary complexity of human feeling and behaviour is brought out in this disarmingly uncomplicated analogy by the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thích Nhât Hanh, a master of wisdom.

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive
effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason
and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no
reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you
understand, and you show that you understand, you can
love, and the situation will change”

A Lodge for All Reasons

One man’s dream of creating a game reserve to boost conservation and satisfy his love of the wild has created a showcase for luxury hospitality and animal viewing second to none.

Pumba chalets on Lake Cariega

Chatting with the director, 54-year old Dale Howarth, on the Pumba Game Reserve’s stylish lodge patio overlooking a host of small and large game drinking at the edges of the abundant and quietly beautiful Lake Cariega, one senses a man who has been on a long mission, steadfastly and surely approaching his target.

‘Since I was a child, I’ve had a passion for conservation, collecting crickets, lizards, rats, frogs – you name it. At one time I had the biggest snake collection in the Eastern Cape and frequently sold some of them to the Port Elizabeth Snake Park for pocket money. I collect in a much bigger way now and even have a 10-month old lioness living with my wife Paula and me at the house, as well as two caraculs and Melvin, a three-year old giraffe, who kicks up a fuss when anyone comes near me,’ he laughs.

Pumba stands on 7 000 hectares of lush thicket encompassing five of the seven biomes in Southern Africa and possesses the largest lake in the area – Lake Cariega. Apart from being the major watering hole, it is home to the hippo on the reserve and Howarth says Pumba is the only lodge in the Eastern Cape where hippo can be viewed right in front of a guest’s chalet deck. I confirmed the experience one evening while sitting on my deck and watching hippo come out of the lake to graze a mere 20 metres away. The edgy reader will be pleased to learn that the decks are high off the ground and offer a splendid view of the lake and its frequent, thirsty visitors.

Main lodge viewing deck at Pumba

Main lodge viewing deck at Pumba

The two lodges on the reserve, known popularly as the water lodge and bush lodge, are distinct in style and landscape although both incorporate the five-star luxury expected in lodges of this calibre and, from both, game is constantly in sight. The view from the water lodge is expansive because it overlooks Lake Cariega and the rising plains beyond, while the bush lodge is situated literally in the heart of the African veld and instils a feeling of being ‘right in it’. Howarth is proud of the Pumba ‘product’ and what it provides for the game viewer:

Surrounded by African veld at Pumba bush lodge

Surrounded by African veld at Pumba bush lodge

‘Apart from the luxurious comfort of our lodges, I believe our game experience is the best in the Eastern Cape because our high carrying capacity and game population density frequently make game visible. Another major advantage is that the reserve owner manages the operation, giving it the personal attention it needs. I think it is testimony to the appeal and popularity of Pumba that many of our visitors return for a second and third time.’

‘Our conservation and environmental standards extend to even using bio-degradable and environmentally friendly soaps and shampoos, and water going back into the system is not contaminated but goes through a series of soak away filters and septic tanks, after which it feeds into the veld where it is reabsorbed.’

Howarth hopes that his dedicated and untiring efforts in the field of conservation are bearing fruit for the people in his area and the industry as a whole:

‘We employ 145 people and, where possible, promote from within. We have eight dedicated rangers and five apprentices at the moment. We also have a training academy providing official accreditation for overseas and local rangers.’

White lions at Pumba

White lions at Pumba

One of Pumba’s singular attractions, and a key biodiversity project, is the white lion rehabilitation and breeding programme introduced in 2006. It is one of only two known programmes in the world where the white lion has been reintroduced to roam freely and to hunt by itself. At the inception of his white lion project, Howarth was ridiculed and told he would never accomplish a successful rehabilitation and breeding programme, let alone get the lions to hunt by themselves and become self-sustaining.

‘We acquired one pure white male and two split females, which are tawny in colour for successful hunting but which carry the white gene. The day we released them they targeted a warthog but didn’t know how to catch it. In fact, they just played with it. The second day they caught a warthog – and ate it – and I’ve never had to feed them since. We call them Temba, which means vision and hope; Tombi, a young girl and Vela, which means to reappear.’

‘Although seen only once before in the wild, in 1976, the white lion is found often in African myth and folklore and the well-known, traditional African medicine men, or sangoma, are sometimes called “white lions”.’

These superb specimens have reached iconic status in Southern Africa. The indigenous African people see the mysterious white colour of the lions as purity and enlightenment in a spiritual sense and representing pure sunlight – beyond all colour, creed, gender or race.

The fascinating, engrossing and exciting game drives and bush-walk experiences at Pumba are made possible by a team of dedicated and knowledgeable rangers, who appear very passionate and protective of their reserve’s bounty in flora, birdlife and animal species. Not least of these is the reserve’s conservation manager, and senior ranger, Richard Pearse, whose gentle, unobtrusive demeanour hides a wealth of knowledge.

‘Pumba is unique in its flora and fauna system. It possesses five of South Africa’s seven biomes:  the fynbos, thicket, grassland, savannah and forest biomes. Biomes have unique plant species growing within them and the preservation of these biomes is vital to ensure that animal life feeding off them is sustained.’

Dale Howarth’s passion for animal and plant conservation is matched by the quiet intensity of his conservation manager to achieve a perfect wildlife balance at Pumba:

‘This part of our country has remarkably beautiful areas that often go unnoticed,’ says Pearse. ‘There is a world unknown here. We have such floral diversity!  And game viewing on this reserve is plentiful because of our good carrying capacity. We’re also in the process of eliminating all the alien-invasive vegetation, which will provide more water, allow more indigenous flora to flourish and further increase the carrying capacity, thus providing more food and a likely increase in game.’

I asked Pearse why visitors enjoy a wildlife experience of the kind Pumba offers and if they show any extensive interest in the surroundings.

‘It is interesting to note that although visitors come to our reserve to enjoy a five-star sophisticated lifestyle experience, and to see the Big Five, they are also extremely curious about the environment in which these animals are sustained and how plants, insects, birds and animals interact to survive.  Birds, for example, aren’t just birds; they are vital indicators of changing environmental conditions in the same way mammals and insects are. There is also a growing interest in the medicinal value of the flora and fauna and why the African medicine man, or sangoma, uses them.’

The reserve has its share of colourful animal characters. One of them is 56-year old Hapoor junior, son of the famous elephant, Hapoor, legendary leader of the Addo Elephant National Park herd for 24 years. Pumba’s bush lodge manageress, Leandi Pretorious, told me about this sociable character.

A thirsty Hapoor at the bush lodge

A thirsty Hapoor at the bush lodge

‘Hapoor is very noticeable because he has a slice out of his ear, genetically acquired from his parents. Despite all our efforts to get him to use the watering hole, he insists on using the lodge’s swimming pool to drink from. For some reason he loves that pool and guests have become used to him being there. There is also a particular tree in front of one of the rooms which he loves eating from and, at the water lodge, he will walk right up to the glass windows to see what’s going on inside. He is a calm and lovely animal.’

Another character is Houdini the hippo. Aptly named, this wayward young bull had escaped several times from the Rondevlei nature reserve in Cape Town and made his way into a residential area, which resulted in Cape Nature issuing a destroy permit against him On discovering this, Howarth obtained an eight-day grace period to arrange a rescue team. After a long and painstaking search he was found (at the end of the eighth day), captured and sent to his new home at Pumba, where he basks now in five-star luxury in the idyllic and blissful Lake Cariega.

Howarth’s conservation ardour extends even beyond the magnificent Pumba reserve. In association with the World Bank and Addo Elephant National Park, he runs a biodiversity project that is currently involved in the expansion of the Addo Elephant Park from its original 70 000 hectares to 265 000 hectares terrestrial and 120 000 hectares marine. The project will also assist the struggle against global warming.

Pumba, together with Indalo, the Association of Eastern Cape Private Game Reserves, is also currently waging a battle against the construction of wind farms in the surrounding area which, Howarth says, ‘are a visual pollution and dangerous to bats and birdlife’.

I asked Howarth what the highlight of his Pumba experience had been, thinking he would probably say the white lion breeding project.

Dale Howarth and friend

Dale Howarth and friend

‘The highlight for me was, and always will be, the visit from former South African President Nelson Mandela. What an incredibly humble man! He insisted on meeting every staff member. We had to line them up and, when he came to breakfast, he made a point of shaking hands with everyone in the lounge. You can imagine how surprised and delighted the guests were!’

Pumba is an immensely appealing luxury reserve in which floral, bird and animal species flourish and where guests are treated to a solicitous personal service that never stops. Howarth’s capable wife, Paula, is general manager of the two beautiful lodges.

Sitting on my deck overlooking Lake Cariega and a herd of zebra and antelope in the distance, I wondered what had touched me about the experience – for something had. I thought of several things: Dale Howarth’s inspiring and stimulating passion for conservation, the subtle and attentive hospitality of Paula and her staff, the delectable cuisine, the exquisite comfort of the stylishly decorated lodges, a bush picnic with the eloquent, erudite and quietly intense Richard Pearse. And finally I realised that Pumba, for me at any rate, had more than just a relaxing five-star lifestyle and game viewing; it is a marvellous interactive experience with the people who live there and who love and care for the environment and its people. It brought knowledge, wonder and not a little self-understanding.

Bruce Cooper
First published in 2011
Photographs courtesy of Dale Howarth and the African Pride Pumba Private Game Reserve


A Person is a Person through Other Persons

In an area of South Africa internationally acclaimed for its extraordinary biodiversity and remarkable beauty, there lies a region of enduring fascination and a humble people fiercely protective of their land and heritage.

Along the beautiful eastern coast of southern Africa below the great escarpment, which separates the elevated interior plateau from the coastal lowlands, is a dynamic area of plant and cultural endemism. Home to a unique combination of biological species, the region has a scenic, topographical and cultural diversity unsurpassed in South Africa.

Pondoland's Wild Coast

Pondoland’s Wild Coast

The shore of this astonishing region is a coastline popularly known as the Wild Coast, a vigorous seaboard of wild, unspoiled beaches, dune and coastal forests, open estuaries, sheer coastal cliffs with deeply incised river gorges and swiftly flowing rivers.

Rich in archaeological interest, the Pondoland region is a depository of rare Sangoan and other Stone Age artefacts, as well as many San cave rock-art sites in the Mkambathi Nature Reserve, which belong to the same tradition as the much celebrated Drakensberg paintings. Numerous Iron Age and Stone Age sites, including shell middens from early beachcomber origin, can be seen along the coast.

Sardines run the gauntlet on the way to their destination

Sardines run the gauntlet on the way to their destination

The region’s exciting annual ‘sardine run’, is a unique marine event that takes place every year between late May and early August when millions of Cape pilchards migrate to Wild Coast waters in large shoals. These shoals are hotly pursued by large flocks of marine birds, dolphins and varieties of whale, shark and fish in the world’s largest marine migration.

Inextricably entwined with the antiquity and richness of the region, and possessing and using it as their inalienable cultural right, are the extraordinary Pondo people, whose simplicity and wisdom have become indistinguishable from the sacred land they now traverse.

Historical evidence suggests the area was originally settled by Bushmen and Hottentots, but towards the end of the 17th century these were displaced by successive waves of pastoral people wandering down from the north-east. These people split into various groups and the northern group became the Pondo.

Professor Russell Kaschula of the School of Languages at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, says of the Pondos:

Professor Russell Kaschula

Russell Kaschula

‘There is a powerful spirituality and innocence about these people, and Pondoland is an interesting place for those who have not reconciled with the negative issues in their lives. There seems to be an energy and power that draws people there for spiritual healing. The traditional healing methods can almost be likened to Western psychology, a process of questions and answers enabling one to undergo a self-transforming experience that leads to a more fruitful life.’

The Pondos were grateful to their ancestors for the land they were entrusted to protect. Its rich, fertile soil and abundant sea food gave them the means to survive in an environment of astonishing natural beauty.

They now live in a region that is internationally recognised as a botanical ‘hotspot’ of plant biodiversity and which has the greatest variety of tree species (over 600) in the world. It is only one of 235 recognised hotspots that contain about 50% of the planet’s species in only 2% of the land. Little wonder that it was the inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s bestseller, The Hobbit.

The land provides food and medicine, and the Pondos are well known for their traditional plant therapy. Professor Kaschula adds:

‘There are also healers specialising in plant medicine who spend months in the forests learning the various plant qualities under expert tutelage. It would appear a lot of people from various cultures round the world come to Pondoland to be trained in traditional healing. Although they never compromise their principles, the Pondos will always share their knowledge.’

It is well documented that early Dutch and Portuguese seafarers bear testimony to the docility, kindness, and graciousness of these people. A young French Huguenot, Guillaume de Chalezac, spent a year living as foster-son to a Pondo chief until he was rescued by the English vessel Centaurus. His diary, published in 1748, provides readers with a warm account of his hosts, whom he describes as ‘well-mannered, respectful, friendly and hospitable towards each other and strangers’. He describes the women as ‘appealingly modest’.

The well known travel journalist, Don Pinnock, after a visit to the region, said:

‘We overnighted in a comfortable hut with a new floor in Rhole village. There we were spoiled rotten with tea, home-baked bread and a country meal of beef, potato-like ndombes, stir-fried cabbage and the staple samp and beans. Sponge mattresses, with clean bedding, were laid out on grass mats and a bath of hot water appeared on cue.’

Thatched rondavel in Pondoland

Thatched rondavel in Pondoland

Living in circular huts made from mud and clay and a conical-shaped roof of dry grass (rondavels), the Pondos breed cattle, grow grain, pumpkin and fish and hunt with weapons made from materials at hand. Remarkable basket weavers, they also make the most intricate and exquisite beadwork. They are farming people who ride the valleys, hills and grasslands on their sturdy ponies confronting the challenges of the 21st century with their integrity and culture intact, as it has been for centuries.

They have not been left alone, however.

During the 19th century, they felt the force of British colonial rule. Left alone for a while, their land was eventually annexed by the British in 1894 and through various political, economic and religious pressures the people were forced to accept it.

When the apartheid government came to power in 1948 and a socio-economic and political shift in South African history ensued, indigenous people became aliens in the land of their birth. Land became the property of the new government and taxes were levied to force indigenous peoples to seek work on the mines to survive.

On 6 June 1960, on Ngquza Hill, the Pondo nation had to face the might of their new enemy. Although lives were lost in a peaceful, unarmed demonstration, they look back with pride that they played a prominent role in liberating South Africans, and their martyrs of that day remain an enduring memorial for the land entrusted to them.

Pondoland elder

Pondoland elder

Today they face another threat to their land and culture. An open cast mining project is being mulled for heavy metals such as rutile and titanium. It will extend 1.5 km inland from the shore for 23km, from the Mtentu River northwards to the Umtumvuna River along one of the most idyllic settings and ecologically sensitive environments on South Africa’s coastline. Some Pondo elders consider it an invasion and fear it will desecrate the graves of their forefathers and negatively affect them socially and culturally. Many local and international conservation organisations agree with them.

Core to the Pondo philosophy is the African concept of ubuntu. It means to share and care through principles of harmlessness and unselfishness. The region, so rare and extraordinary, its pristine Wild Coast, and its people, need ubuntu now more than ever. In the words of the late and former South African president, Nelson Mandela:

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

‘When a traveller through the country stops at a village, he doesn’t have to ask for food or water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him … the question therefore is: are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve? These are the important things in life, and if one can do these one will have done something that will be very appreciated.’

That is ubuntu. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu: a person is a person through other persons.

Bruce Cooper
First written for international in-flight magazine, Sawubona, in 2008

Bay of Plenty

Once dubbed a ‘quaint luxurious sleepy hollow’, St Francis Bay has been experiencing a population and economic boom, due in part to its pleasurable attractions and not a little to a Golden Bear that once roamed the area.

Thrusting itself confidently forward for the benefit of unsuspecting mariners, the nineteenth century St Francis lighthouse can be seen from a westerly descent about 100 km from Port Elizabeth. Around the Cape, a tranquil and radiant bay with ample stretches of affluent beach rolls lazily toward a quiet river.

The Portuguese mariners in 1575, who named the Bay after one of the many nautical patron saints, would not have foreseen, from where they stood centuries ago, the resplendent, thatched, black and white mansions or Mediterranean villas that now pervade the area; nor the intricate, man-made, tidal canal system linked to the Kromme River that, in season, plays host to an array of different boats and water machines.

And the well-established commercial and recreational port would not have beckoned their longboats then.

A bay of sporting pleasure
Home to ‘Bruce’s Beauties’, considered one of the world’s best surf breaks, St Francis Bay is described as possessing the whitest, cleanest stretches of beach on the South African coastline. Attracting national and worldwide interest, water sports abound and include surfing, kite boarding, wet bike racing, waterskiing, windsurfing and paddleskiing. Some of the finest surf and rock angling can be found along this stretch and general sporting events are regularly on the calendar.

Trail running, mountain biking, hiking, tennis, squash, bowls and golf complete the package of the Bay’s available sports pleasure and entertainment.

The Kromme and the canals

The St Francis canals

The St Francis canals

Navigable to 10 km, the quiet and sedate Kromme River is a playground for sailing enthusiasts and fishermen alike, flowing gently at its mouth into a marvellous network of canals.

Dubbed ‘Little Venice’, and one of the biggest man-made waterways in Africa, this impressive 7 km canal system winds its way peacefully between magnificent white walled thatched houses, each with their own mooring jetty, and is a mere step away to boating, fishing or yachting on the spacious Kromme. Idyllic sunset cruises take visitor or resident alike on an enchanting journey through the fascinating network, distilling a magical and captivating experience.

Port St Francis

St Francis Bay harbour

St Francis Bay harbour

In the interests of fishing and tourism, the first privately-owned port in South Africa began construction in 1996 and is today a vibrant and flourishing R250m small harbour for commercial and recreational craft.

Port St Francis provides safe anchorage for the local chokka industry workboats, pleasure vessels and ocean-going yachts. The superbly functional port is surrounded by a developing village of restaurants, shops, estate agents, yacht club, conference centre, private beach, seaside meander trails and residential and self-catering luxury waterfront apartments.

The natural gardens of St Francis

African Black Oystercatcher

African Black Oystercatcher

A haven for the eco-conscious, the area boasts four nature reserves and falls within The Cape Floral Kingdom – the smallest of the earth’s six kingdoms.

The Cape St Francis Nature Reserve, The Seal Bay Nature Reserve, The Seal Point Nature Reserve and The Irma Booysen Flora Reserve reveal magnificent and exclusive plant life, and many hiking trails exist along the coast and not far inland for nature enthusiasts.

Ground, air and marine species abound and the area is a privileged home for the near-extinct African Black Oystercatcher which has a worldwide population of around only 5 000 birds.

Stamp of the Golden Bear

Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear

Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear

The great Golden Bear once seen roaming the area was the astounding winner of 18 major golf championships and 105 golf tournaments – the inimitable Jack Nicklaus.

Commissioned to transform an undulating links land of exquisite beauty, Nicklaus produced one of the finest golf courses in the world and was quoted as saying,

‘…..this may be the best course I’ve ever seen’.

St Francis Links

St Francis Links

St Francis Links is situated between gentle, rolling hills with views of the sea. The R2-billion rand investment boasts a magnificent, secure residential golfing estate with several hundred units in the process of development.

Attracting worldwide attention, the development has been hailed as world-class and owes much to the Golden Bear’s course signature and the idyllic proximity of St Francis Bay. It is now rated as one of the finest courses in the country and constantly is among the top venues for weddings, receptions and conferences.

The Links has provided an economic impetus for the overall development of the area and the bay’s luxurious charms have provided it with an attractive menu, creating a synergy that just gets better every year.

In spite of retaining its old-world charm and pristine beauty, the developing bay today would astonish the ancient Portuguese seafarers. And its founder, Leighton Hulett, would no longer look out upon the budding fishing village he brought into being over forty years ago.

It has become a vibrant, bustling environment and tourist mecca that by no stretch of the imagination can any longer be described as ‘quaint’.

Bruce Cooper – first written and published in AbouTime airline magazine

Photographs courtesy of St Francis Bay Tourism; Biodiversity Explorer; GolfNews; SafariNow