“Yes, you can go down to the lake, but just don’t get between a crocodile and the water” said our parents. We took the advice seriously and crept onto the white beaches of Lake Bhangazi. The sounds and smells were overwhelming, a mixture of Knysna loeries and hippo poo. We were spoilt and thought this paradise was ours alone, best kept wild and unpopulated (except for us, of course). Reaching adulthood as South Africa reached democracy, I felt a growing awareness that guiding this wild and wonderful place into the future would take sensitivity and respect. For twenty years, Andrew Zaloumis has been doing this at Isimangaliso, until yesterday, and the sudden announcement of his departure.
I have lost count of how many times I have visited. Trawling through my archive of work, even I was surprised by what a huge source of inspiration this magical place has been. I have seen and felt it grow as plantations were removed, wild life introduced, water sources carefully managed. More than that though, it always seemed as if there was a sincere acknowledgement of the interdependence of human and conservation needs. It is now a World Heritage Site, simultaneously accessible and protected. The battles behind the scenes must have been titanic. Respect and thanks, Andrew Zaloumis.
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