In today’s episode, we’ll be talking to Peter Eastwood from The Tanglewood Foundation. Peter is a New Zealander who spends most of his time in South Africa. I met Peter in December last year because Peter is the partner of Adele who owns a Retreat in Africa. Retreat in Africa is our travel partner in South Africa who also are vegan (and Peter is too, in case you were wondering). Peter and Adele were able to join us on our Garden Route South Africa trip so I got to know the two of them quite well over the course of the journey like all our travelers they were so incredibly wonderful and fun to travel with.
As I got to know Peter, the story of his life until then and his plans for the future, I knew that I wanted to share some of that with you and Peter kindly agreed to share some of his stories with us. Peter had a love for Africa for a long time and has returned many times over the decades and has decided to focus all his energy on education and conservation which we discuss at length.
Peter also shares his love of travel in the African continent and talks about the fantastic trip he is taking with Adele and other family members later this year, one of the most epic trips that could be undertaken.
In this episode we discuss:
- How Peter’s love with Africa started.
- On which projects he is working in Africa
- What are the services he is providing in a conservation project
- What are project rhino and steps against dehorning
- Best way to travel in the African countries
Learn more about what we talk about
- Project Rhino – Stop Wildlife Crime
- Rhino Art – Project Rhino
- Wilderness Foundation Africa
- George Monbiot: For more wonder, rewild the world
- George’s Book – Feral (not Rewilding)
- Camp Koru – Project Koru
- Hills Offroad
- Mountain Passes South Africa
Other World Vegan Travel content connected with this episode
- Five Best Places in South Africa to see The Big Five | Ingrid Geertsema | Ep 105
- How to Meaningfully Elevate Your Travels | Claire Burt | Ep 103
- Two Huge Vegan Budget Travel Tips | Lucy Elkin | Ep 102
- Travel Hacking 101 – The Basics | David Goudreau | Ep 101
Connect with Peter
Brighde: Hello, Peter. Thank you so much for joining me on The World Vegan Travel Podcast.
Peter: Oh, it’s a pleasure, Brighde. Thanks so much for inviting me along.
Brighde: I am really happy to have you on the podcast because we met on our recent trip to South Africa and we were lucky enough to actually spend more than a week with you and get to know you quite well over that time because you joined us on our Garden route trip. That was such a fun trip, wasn’t it?
Peter: Oh, it was a real blast. It was amazing, seeing the trip actually taking place after being next to Adele, planning it. So it’s amazing to hear all about it and actually go to the places, cause many of the places I hadn’t been to.
Brighde: Yeah. The garden route is really special and you have a big connection with South Africa and Africa generally, and that is gonna be a big part of what we talk about today. Peter, would you mind telling us a little bit about what it is that you do in the conservation space?
Peter: Currently we’ve got two big projects on. One is, a regeneration project in the Eastern Cape, and the other is a wildlife community camp where we take community members on an immersive educational camping trip right inside the greater Kruger National Park. So a game reserve with no fences between it and Kruger, other than the fence that the camp’s inside, because we can’t have kids running around in the great outdoors there. But yeah, we get all the animals coming through. I’ve done a lot of work in the past and been like an evolution in the work. The first started in I think 2009, soon after the poaching started and we were doing a lot of work on supporting anti-poaching and all sorts of different angles.
We helped out in a thing called Project Rhino, which was big on helping to spot poachers. Then we were doing rewards to help catch poachers and then Dehorning. Over time, they realized that we need to do something more long-term rather than just putting a bandaid on it. When the poaching crisis started in South Africa, we were looking to buy time to try and find a solution, but now 14 years down the track and we’ve lost two-thirds of the rhino that we had back then. The work that I got involved in was more working towards education through the Rhino Art Program. We took a trick towards helping future generations to understand what they’ve got and help protect them because there’s a big issue between the haves and the have-nots or the apartheid here. It’s black community members versus the rich white people in the reserve. So trying to enable the black community members to come into the reserve and understand it and fall in love with the animals. Cause you can’t protect something you don’t know of and you don’t understand and you’ve never seen. So we are trying to bridge that gap to try and make a difference long term. Then the Eastern Cape Project that’s all about creating space because we’ve also got an interesting dynamic in South Africa we’ve got Rhino, which is severely threatened, but we don’t have enough space for them because of the huge cost of protecting them.
A lot of private landowners have taken the rhino off their properties and now we have some healthy populations that have been well protected, but they need to be spread into other areas because we end up growing populations in some areas they’ve gotta go somewhere. So we’ve gotta find places to put the animals. The project in the Eastern Cape is about creating a huge biome, regenerating the degraded farmland and turning degraded farmland back into game reserves, and making a huge contiguous area about the size of Kruger, which is 868 thousand hectares, in acres that’s gonna be 1 million, 800,000 acres or something. It’s a lot.
Brighde: So this really is a big rewilding project from what you’re saying.
Peter: Yes. We’re only involved in a very small part. When the farmers came on and brought their goats and their sheep and their cows they wiped out, in the particular area we’re working in Albany Thicket, which is a type of succulent biome. Actually at one stage during the earth’s evolution. It covered three-quarters of the Earth’s surface and there are only small amounts left in South Africa and in South America. The area that we’re working in happens to be where that occurred and it occurred regionally so we’re involved in a project along with Rhodes University. They’ve been working on it for 20-odd years and we’ve brought a farm and donated it to Wilderness Foundation, Africa. Another group running the project is upscaling the work that Rhodes University did. They were working on like 20-acre plots and now we are moving it up to 1500-acre plots. So working on different types; some of its grasslands we need to put in there. Some of its Albany thicket some of its savannah. What we are doing in that area is building working areas where we can show other farmers who’ve got the degraded farmland, what they could do, and how they could turn their farms into wildlife areas rather than continuing to farm, which is a paradigm that’s not working for them anymore.
Brighde: The small amount that I know about these issues generally and specifically in Southern Africa, is that they are very complicated and immense and it’s very challenging and requires so much work and effort and commitment to try to stay on this line of like managing economic activity and conservation as well. This just must be really challenging. What are the biggest challenges in your mind?
Peter: I don’t even know where to start on that. I think I’d go back a little bit there and say, when I got involved in this project, this is not anything that I dreamed up. I was introduced to this project by a good friend of mine, Grant Folds. His brother is working on this project in the Eastern Cape. The thing that most impressed me was the huge vision that these people have. It took me quite a long time to even get my head around what they were trying to achieve. I’ve taken on some big projects in my time, but this is gazillion times bigger than anything that I would’ve ever taken on.
These guys, the vision, and their determination to make it happen. You often find that there are a lot of tough things to deal with in South Africa. There are a lot of issues to deal with. People are really tough and they make a plan. These guys that are working on this project, I really wanted to support them and help give the project a huge jump forward. They broke it down into little bite-size pieces and we are taking off little chunks at a time, but the big issues, getting back to your question, for me being a vegan, these are very challenging questions because we have a landscape. The first part of the project we did was, we broke down every single farm in the area. Down to the farm, down to the owner of the farm, down to the state of the farm, down to the likelihood of the morning to join conservation, current use of the property.
The idea is to connect Ado Elephant Park with Fish River, and Game Reserve, which is quite a long way away from each other. Then finding a corridor, and so having a continuous run of those farms from one to the other, and then from there it would expand out. So the farm that we bought is actually not in that exact corridor, we’re in a corridor down to the sea called the Bushman’s River. But when you’d look at those corridors, we’ve got some wonderful examples of game reserves that have been 20 years ago being converted from farms to game reserves, the Amakhalas, the Lalibelas, the Gondwey, then there’s, I think it’s Buffalo’s Cliff. So you’ve got some amazing amount of work that’s already there, but they’re not contiguous. They don’t all join together. And then you’ve got hunting farms, and then you’ve got dairy farms, and then you’ve got sheep farms. You’ve just got the complete mix and you’ve got so much area that’s so degraded that the land is virtually worthless and there’s no plan to do anything with it. To make a contiguous area, we have to deal with hunters. We have to deal with farmers that most of them are looking for an alternative because of the state of the continual drought in the area and other socio-economical factors. So there’s a massive mixed-use of land that we have to work with. How do we have a rhino being put onto a landscape where it might go across a boundary and be into a hunting area? So these are very complex issues and everyone has to get work together to start with. Then hopefully, in the end, we’ll work out a way that allows everyone to exist together.
But first and foremost, we’re trying to make that corridor. So it’s very challenging for me, and I know for you, Brighde, it’s all very black and white, but in reality, it’s not as black and white as we would like it to be.
Brighde: Yeah, I think in order to make any progress, there’s gotta be these sort of compromises from time to time that must be challenging. I remember when I was first introduced to the concept of Rewilding and I’m sure you are familiar with it too, was with the book Rewilding, or I think that’s the title of it by George Monbiot. He’s a rewilding proponent, I guess we would say. Just a little side note there. He’s got a really great TED Talk for listeners on the concept of rewilding and putting apex predators back into places where they didn’t use to have them, they haven’t had them for a long time because they’ve often been hunted, and what this could then do to the ecosystem when these are reintroduced. He focuses mainly on the UK I think with his work, which has very few really wild pockets of land left at all, and talks about rewilding projects that are going on in the UK because so much of the UK is grazing land. It’s maybe a little bit similar in New Zealand where you are originally from in South Africa too and just how when you have grazing there’s just very little biodiversity and once I read this book and became familiar with these ideas, I just look at fences as basically just ways that stop wild animals being able to move around and just the impacts that cause, it’s just really heartbreaking. To have this idea of a corridor throughout this huge area of land is just so exciting because that would just do so much for the wild animals.
Peter: Oh, totally. When you look at something like a black rhino, you need so much space for a breeding pier, and then you need twice as much for another breeding pier, it goes on and on. The bigger you make the area, the actual more breeding pier you can get for this per hectare, because they’re able to move off so rather than confront each other, a disgruntled bull can go off and find another area and you’ll find some space somewhere.
So the larger, you make it exponentially, you get more animals into that space and that’s a really important thing. But yeah, our fences are barriers. We’ve only really just started, we did a few projects so far on the property itself. Most of it’s been checking out, making an evaluation of what things are like at the moment so that we’ve got a base to work off, but already there are people looking at the neighboring properties and wanting to join it.
So I think there are offers on, I don’t know the latest, and I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say, but there are people interested in properties on either side. There’s now a desire for, I think Lalibela and Emma Carla to now join. So there’s a farm between them that I think is looking at opening up. We’re not very far on our farm from that group, so I think we’re only two or three properties away and I understand that one of those properties is maybe under offer already. There are people that have seen what’s happening already with the land evaluation that we did, the big plan that’s been laid out. Then people were starting to say, we wanna be a part of this and we’ll take a little piece of it. It’s really organically growing and we really think that we will have a shuttle-ready project for a huge carbon sequestration project because if we can turn these degraded farmlands, which are, the top soils running off into the sea if we can turn them back into the existing biome, that’s gonna be hugely advantageous. Not only just for carbon sequestration but for biodiversity. We need to work out a way to have biodiversity recognized as well as carbon sequestration, cause they very much go hand in hand. Putting up pine trees in that area, or black wattle would be a total disaster but we would get carbon credits.
What we wanna do is put what should be there and then put the animals back on that help that biome and grow the thicket because it’s succulent when the elephants and the rhinos chew on it, they’re very messy eaters and they some pop out the side of their mouth and the succulent, they drop down onto the ground and then that shoots off again. So the more it’s browsed by those types of animals, the more it spreads and the more it grows. But if you browse it with sheep and goats, they eat it from the bottom up and then they take out all of that microbiome underneath the plant and then it all dies. So, we can put tiny little sheep and goats on it that makes a huge mess and we put these massive elephants and rhinos on it and they help it.
Brighde: I’m not surprised, but it’s still amazing. I’m wondering hopefully in the near future when you make this area of land bigger and bigger, will there be a place for tourism activity for people to see these animals in these areas or is that not a priority?
Peter: What we have to do is find alternative income sources for these properties. So if it’s a farm that’s not making money, we need to turn it into a game reserve that has people coming to visit it, that has tourists driving around in jeeps to look at their vehicles. Then we are employing the local people in the lodges and clearing the alien and the plants that we don’t want there and doing all the maintenance.
So it’s a high priority. It’s a top priority for us to get community engagement back into that area. And the best way that we would love to do that is to have photographic safaris. That would be my dream. When we look up from the top of the property down over the top of that degraded land below. I said to Andrew Muer from the Wilderness Foundation, what drives me is that in 25 to 30 years’ time, I may not be here to see it, but my kids and my grandkids will be able to stand up here and watch Rhino roam across that landscape again, and elephants. It was just a moment where we stood there and just envisaged it in years to come. Yeah, it will happen. Even now, it’s an incredible biome that the Albany thicket, we’ve had some ground, and some base studies were done on there. They found three trees that they don’t think have even been identified yet.
They found succulent plants there. The guy doing the inspection is incredibly excited because he thinks that they may also have never been identified before. We’ve got biomes within the biome that has never been classified. You were with us when you were driving through the different biomes that we were in, Gondwana was incredible. If you go up the west coast, you’ll see all the beautiful flowers in the macro land. All these incredible places that we need to stop and look at are some of the small things as well. They were showing me trees that were only maybe 10 or 12 inches in diameter and they said this tree could be anything from 800 to 2000 years old and you think Wow. And you knock on it, it’s solid but every time they have a drought, there’s no ring created. So they can’t chop it and see how old it is, because you might go 5, or 6 years without any growth. So the rings don’t really count too much. They’d have to carbon date them. Just amazing that we could have trees that old in that area.
So on part of the property, it’s been untouched cuz it’s up on a cliff and down on the bottom flat areas, which were the alluvial plains that have been wiped off by the animals. So we’ve got identical material that we can put back on down on the bottom that we could take from the seeds or take from cuttings up on the hills. It’s an incredible project in its own right. If we had a bit more money, I think it could be a tourist attraction on just what we’ve found so far and what we’re doing. I know for me it’s just amazing to see that, those bits and pieces that are happening, even though they’re small.
Brighde: I’m not very knowledgeable about botany at all. I know it’s really important, but I don’t find it as interesting as birds or animals, for example, to learn about. But when we were in Gondwana, we had the talk by Jonno, who I’m also looking to get on the podcast. You might be interested to know just how important that part of the world is that the Garden Route around there in terms of the sheer number of species of plant that are prevalent there and that like you say, more are being discovered and just for purely selfish reasons, like these plants could hold the keys to maybe helping us cure disease or helping us hugely in some way and there are plants there that have never been recorded before. It’s just so special. It’s such unique plant life and environment there. It’s mind-blowing
Peter: Yes, totally is, especially the garden route, which is so diverse, especially when you get up to the plateau area where it’s so green, getting that rainfall that comes in not far past. We’re closer to Grahamstown on our project, and that’s very dry, that’s in the land they haven’t had any proper rain now for nine years. So part of that is because it’s been deforested because the trees attract the rain. Part of the problem is what we’ve done to the place. Going back onto the Albany Thicket again, it actually doesn’t need rainfall. It just needs moisture in the air because it sucks the moisture in through its leaves and it’s evolved that way so it can live without rainfall, but nothing else that we put there for feeding crops for our animals or pasture none of that can last without rain, but the Albany thickets can. There’s a good reason why it was there in the first place.
Brighde: Peter, you’ve had a connection with Africa for decades now, and it’s led you to come to this point where you are really involved in some amazing projects. How did Africa get on your radar as a place that you wanted to come to often and eventually devote your life to trying to protect?
Peter: I fell in love with Africa as a 16-year-old and now I’m 32 twice now. So a long time ago, when I was 16 years old, I was reading Wilbur Smith’s books and it just fascinated me about the continent. I first visited it during my big overseas experience. The New Zealanders caught their big OE, I think Canadians do too. I went on a bus tour, a Contiki bus tour around Europe, with a South African couple who’d become my best friends. Came and visited them. I first came to South Africa in 82, and then I was gonna stay here at that stage, but for various reasons, I ended up going back to New Zealand and I didn’t get back here till around 2000 or 1999. Then I got introduced to the game reserves by my dear friends, Chill and Shell, and they introduced me to a love for animals. When the poaching crisis started, I got really offended. I felt ownership already for these animals, especially in the park in Umfolozi, which is up in KwaZulu-Natal nearly up by the bottom of Mozambique.
I got really offended that people were coming in and killing the rhino for their horns. And so I wanted to do something to help. So I got involved with very grassroots helping some really amazing people like buying uniforms for rangers and things. Then I stepped up to starting to help pay for the pilot’s license for protecting the areas. I was working in a company. We called it, I make at the time. The team at work, we were having drinks one Christmas and the team said to me, you’re doing a lot of work in Africa. We love what you’re doing and some of our people have come and visited to see some of the projects, but why don’t we turn it into a company project? So I Make a Difference became our trust because we started a trust called I Make A Difference. I’d been on a foot rally, which is a very rough social rally that started in Cape Town and was heading up to Malawi. It showed you that you could take two-wheel drive vehicles driven through Southern Africa.
Now, I didn’t really know anything about other countries other than South Africa, but I went on this in an old 1976 VW Kombi and we had such a ball of a time. At the end of that, I thought this could be a fantastic way to raise funds for conservation. So we organized a place where we could hire the four-by-four vehicles with rooftop tents. Then we contacted all of our friends and some of our suppliers and some of our contacts in Canada, America and New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. The first time, we got 61 people together in 16 different cars and we took ’em on an odyssey trip, cooking for themselves, rooftop tenting, going through wild places, staying with wild animals and we had some real five-star people that normally only stay in five star accommodation on that trip. There’s always a toilet, and there’s always a shower, but you are sharing ablutions. It’s definitely not a five-star hotel, but the people loved it. And we ran another one, two years later and we got 81 people on that one and 20 different cars.
The way we worked it, we arranged the cost of the travel. So we’d hire the car and they would pay the cost of the car and they would pay a fee to come and join the rally, which covered all of the accommodation of the campsites. And when we went into cabins and things that would cover all the entries for parks and things. They brought their own food cooked for themselves and they paid for their own fuel and border crossings. On top of that, we asked them for a 1,500 US dollar donation per person. Out of that trip, the donations from the people there and from the other donations that we collected from supplies and things around the world that couldn’t come but wanted to help. We raised 123,000 US dollars, which went back into conservation in that area, up in KwaZulu-Natal, which made a huge difference. That was my attempt at adding two of my passions, one was traveling through Africa and two was raising funds for conservation together. So we ran about five different trips until we sold the business and Covid came along and I’ve retired now, so we probably start that up again in 2024 but this current year we’re taking a year off and we’re gonna do the biggest recky you’ve ever seen.
Brighde: I definitely wanna talk about that because your trip that you’ve got upcoming and the rig that you’ve got to help you do this trip is so interesting. But before we get onto that, I would love to know a little bit more because before you retired you had a business, and now you are using those skills to put into your conservation work. What sort of skills, like how did you transfer those skills? Because I was so happy to get to know you a little bit on this Garden Route trip, but it’s clear to me that you are very much a visionary person and maybe that’s connected with your entrepreneurial spirit as well. But what skills have you used from your entrepreneurial ship that’s helped you with these incredible numerous conservation projects that you are involved in?
Peter: Okay. Well when I started my business, we didn’t know things called entrepreneurs. We just got lucky, you know? And I think when you start breaking down, the things that helped me get lucky over the years was seeing something that you want to achieve, that is worth achieving, and doing everything in your power to make it happen. So the first thing is like identifying what dream you should follow and then doing it. The third thing is to change direction when you’re wrong. I love the analogy, you’d never start sailing a boat from Portsmouth in the UK to New Zealand and never change direction. You would change direction every single day. When you get more information, you would. The winds change, so you’re gonna change that. In business, it’s the same. So I think move quickly, identify good ideas and then modify your plan very quickly with the new information that comes to hand.
I think that’s done really well for quite a lot of the projects because we’ve been involved in a lot of different projects. Often it’s at the early stages, so even this project in the Eastern Cape, when the guys pitched it to me, I thought, this is an incredible dream and I thought, wow. One, I want ’em to do this straight away. Cause I don’t think we’ve got enough time in this world to wait a hundred years to fix things. We’ve gotta fix things quickly. So they’re offering something to happen quickly. Two, they’re offering something on a scale that would make a difference. We could actually pull percentages of carbon dioxide out of the air with this project. Three, they’re the people who had a vision and they have a track record of doing things, of getting things done. For me, identifying that early on and saying, we’re gonna help you and this is what we’re gonna do.
We made a donation and brought a 1700-acre farm and sight unseen, we trusted them. I know these people really well and they’re very honest and they’ve got a lot of integrity. I wasn’t able to come here cause it was during Covid, just put our faith in them and it’s come good. Now we are years ahead of where we would be if we were waiting for donations from overseas. I feel, wow, that’s something that I’ve really been able to help with the Project Rhino. There’s a good mate of mine, Kingsley Holgate, who did an expedition along the Bombo Mountains, which separate Mozambique from South Africa and it’s right along the Kruger Park.
A lot of poaching happens in that space. I think it was 2012 or 2013 on World Rhino Day. And he said, Peter, I would just love to take this project around South Africa and introduce it to all the schools around the game reserves. I said, what’s stopping you, Kingsley? Cause he’s 10 years older than me. He’s retired. He said, well, I haven’t got any money. I said, well, we’ve got some money left over from our last expedition. How much would you need? He said I’d need a hundred thousand grand, which was a reasonable amount back then. I said, well, we’ll donate that money.
So just like that, he had his funding and I said, now what’s holding you back? so we help get it off the ground, but we don’t continue to fund it. So as an entrepreneur, I like to see a great idea and help it get established, but if it is a great idea, someone else will fund it. If I keep on funding it then clearly it can’t be a great idea because no one else believed in it. So I like to get people started on their idea and help them with them. We still work with them. We’ve just given them big funding for an engine, for a plane and we supported them by buying a truck for them, which morphed from Rhino Art, which had to stop during covid into feeding the communities.
So we feed the wildlife communities and that went all over South Africa into many states I would see on Facebook that there would be a project, this truck would turn up to another project that I was helping with and I’m like, ah, it’s Richard. Richard my brother from another mother drove around and delivered the porridge that had been brought from another project that we’re involved with.
So it’s quite special to see. So we do get involved on an ongoing basis, but really on a project-by-project basis on some of those things. The transferrable skills are going back to it. Moving quickly, I think Africans get really annoyed with people that come in and talk and talk, and nothing happens. The best people involved in conservation haven’t got time for time wasters. They’re out there doing the work. They don’t wanna be doing big reports. They don’t wanna be doing big grant applications. When we come in, we’ve got money that’s available, we can find a project that’s available and we can move quickly, it really does make them incredibly happy.
In Africa, you’ve gotta have patience as well, which is not something that entrepreneurs naturally have. But you’ve gotta also understand that timelines, happen at Africa’s pace, not your pace. Another area that a lot of people make mistakes in coming to Africa is, the board will say, we’re gonna give X number of dollars and it’s gotta be spent in this financial year, and it’s gotta get this result. That’s incredibly hard to do in Africa. Sometimes they go really well and go faster, but most times it’s very long and drawn out. You’ve gotta get buy-in from the people. You’ve gotta sit under the tree and chat with them. You’ve gotta do all the groundwork. We cannot just have white people coming in and telling people what they should do. It has to be understood that this is from the community, and is benefiting the community. The community wants to do it, and then we help them and we try not to gift things.
Our byline is empowering wildlife communities. We wanna help them understand things that they haven’t had any education in or haven’t had any opportunity to. Then we wanna be able to walk away and leave them and have them preach the word afterward. Our Koru camp’s a fantastic example, the three key people in that camp, they’ve all come through bursary systems, being helped through the wildlife communities. Now they want to give back to their own communities. So now they’re working in the wildlife park, they’re bringing their own communities in, they’re teaching them in their own language. They’re incredible role models for these kids. Joel has got, I dunno, tens of thousands of girlfriends now, some of them are nearly in their nineties already.
They all love him. He’s just a really magic guy and Dene she’s very special. Then we’ve got, it’s something that your listeners will be happy with. We’ve got a plant-based Chef. Now that’s also an incredibly difficult thing to get across in Africa. It’s a very meat-dominant culture and even my team won’t let me make it a hundred percent plant-based yet. I keep on saying I want it to be. They go slowly. There’s a saying over here called slowly. They have to provide two plant-based meals a day, and they’re allowed to have meat one meal a day.
But my dream is to have, plant-based meals in the camp all the time. I can’t dictate that because we’re a team and the team makes a decision. But yeah, I’d love to find a sponsor for my chef and then I’d be able to say, I’ve got a sponsor, they want plant-based as well. So that’ll be my dream. But right now we’re still getting the camp established.
Brighde: Step by step. These things take time. Yeah, it’s a journey for sure. I would love it if you wouldn’t mind telling us, Peter, a little bit about this incredible trip that you’ve got planned for 2023 because it is an epic trip that I know you’ve been planning for a really long time. Tell us about it.
Peter: I sold my business in 2018 and then the plan was to do a big overland trip in Africa when I had some more time because we didn’t manage to get these trips over the line for the fundraising trips, and they were up to 16 nights, 17 days, but I had to run a business as well. So that was really stretching it to the limit of what I could get away from my work. So retiring was about how we really wanted to go and do some overland camping. I love being in wild spaces. You’ve been in Botswana, camping in that environment and a tent with, there’s only canvas between you and the animals.
Then during the day you’re cooking and these animals could come up. You’ve gotta keep your eye out the whole time. It’s like, you really are immersed in the wildlife and the natural places. We have such a beautiful earth and I really wanna see as much of it as I can. So I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I’ve been able to do it since, 2019 September. I finished the contract that I was on, and then the planning started, but then Covid got in the way. But during Covid, we decided that we were still gonna build the vehicles. We had one vehicle a Land Cruiser, V6. But we decided that we wanted to go for a more powerful vehicle. So we bought a brand new V8 and then we found these people in Foots Cray, Hogs Offroad, who had done an incredible job of converting them to the dream camper. We started off with having these meetings and I’ve got two sons, one in Amsterdam and one in Sydney, and it was myself in New Zealand, and then there were hogs off-road in South Africa and we were trying to get all together for a Zoom call. It would take three or four days to get everyone on the same page for a zoom call, and then we would chat, and then they’d go away and come back a couple of days later and say, no, we can’t do this cause of this.
We can’t do this cause of that. My oldest son had drawn up the perfect camper, but for various reasons, it just couldn’t be done. In the end, we said to them, guys, you know what we want? You’ve seen our wishlist, we’ve talked enough, and you understand our passion for what we want to achieve. We know that you guys also share a passion. Can you just build us the vehicle that the brief was? There is no budget, but we don’t want you spending money unless it’s gonna give us a tangible benefit. So we don’t wanna come and see the car and say, we would’ve liked to have done this, but we didn’t think you’d wanna spend that money. And we also don’t want to come and say, why have you put that on there? That’s just a useless frill that we don’t wanna have. So they had a free run from then on, and I came back 13 months later to this absolute dream vehicle. We lengthened them by 400 mills. So it’s got a slightly longer wheelbase built with a canopy on the back.
There are rooftop tents. The eye camper from Australia got a storage box up there with a solar panel on it. These things run on, they’ve got 400 Kilowatts per hour batteries in them. They run, induction elements rather than gas elements, so we don’t take gas. We’re also trying to make it environmentally friendly as if you could make a land cruiser involved mentally friendly, but we wanna do it as much as we can and be self-sufficient out there.
So we charge while we’re driving and we charge from the sun and we have a shower on board, just a cold shower. We carry 150 liters of water and then another 60 liters of fresh drinking water. We’ve got a fridge and freezer in there so we can be out in the bush for probably four weeks for two people, completely self-contained without having to visit any store. We’ve got two vehicles done up. We decided to sell the original one that was called Hagrid and now we’ve got Tarlar and Joydar, two identical ones, one’s olive color and one’s beige, and one’s charcoal. So you saw the beige one when we head up at Greyton.
Brighde: I remember, when you gave us a little tour of that vehicle, just it was incredible. I’ll put a couple of photos that I took in the show notes. Cause it really is something that’s next level if you are somebody that watches Van Life on YouTube, and I am one of those people, this is a next-level kind of vehicle for sure. Something I’m curious about. I’ve got so many questions for you, but where are you planning to go on this trip of yours?
Peter: Well, it’s a six-month trip. So Adele’s gonna start off with one car in Cape Town and I’ll have my other car in our place in Hood Spray, and we’ll meet on the Botswana border somewhere near Upington. We’ll cross over and we’re gonna go to Botswana first for four weeks, then Zimbabwe for four weeks, and then a little bit of Zambia for a week, and then Malawi for three weeks. Then we’re gonna take a break for three weeks and come back to our home. We’re gonna leave the vehicle in Malawi and then come back to it in three weeks’ time and then take her off again and do Tanzania, then we’re gonna do Zanzibar and Pemba Island off the coast.
So for some Swahili, coastal excitement. And then we’re gonna head back and land in Kenya. My sons are joining us for a photographic safari with Wild Eye up in Kenya, in the Maasai Mara, for a week. At the end of October, we’ll start heading back down again through the western side of Tanzania, then down into Zambia, and then back straight through Botswana back into South Africa. So yeah, it’s gonna be six months extravaganza and some of the most incredible places in southern Africa. We already have to make compromises of where we can’t do everything and which ones we don’t wanna do, but we’re certainly starting to firm up a list of what we definitely gonna do.
Brighde: Tell me about three of the places that you are really excited about checking out.
Peter: So three of the places that we would stay will be, Mana Pools, Khwai area in Botswana, Mana pools, and Chimanimani and Zimbabwe. I’m putting those two together, so I get another one, and then Malawi, Lake Malawi is somewhere I’ve really loved to go to. That’s only in the first three countries we’re going to, I’ve got my favorite places, and the other ones as well. But yeah, those are very special places. Khwai, um, it’s, it’s at the top end of Moremi between Moremi or Okavango Delta in Chobi. Then Chimanimani is a mountain on the eastern side of Zimbabwe. Actually, the Chimanimani Mountains is a very unique little biome and they straddle Mozambique and Zimbabwe I think 80% of the rainwater that falls in Zimbabwe falls in the Chimanimani mountains and flows off through the rest of the country.
That’s got an incredible biome. I think it’s 14 miles long by one mile wide, and it’s got 15 endemic species of birds and frogs in there. So that’s a very special place. Manna Falls is just one of those very special places where the game is incredible. You’re able to get up across and personal, and it’s on the banks of the Zambezi River, which is such a romantic spot to be as well.
Brighde: I’m imagining that you’ve needed to learn some skills in order to be able to do a trip like this. I’m imagining some driving skills, maybe some mechanical skills, like what sorts of things do you think people need to be able to do a trip like this? Or maybe something like a self-drive safari where they’ve hired a vehicle similar to yours and they’re doing it by themselves.
Peter: Well, I think first and foremost you’ve gotta carry a satellite phone. For us, that’s the number one thing before we do any training or anything else, carry a get-out-of-jail-free card which is a satellite phone. You can send your location and you can tell people what’s wrong with the satellite phone and get help. All the stuff that you train for, something else will go wrong for sure. We’ve had the vehicles now for coming up to two years. So we’ve learned a lot about them already. They are brand new. Both vehicles were bought, brand new and we’ve been the only owners, different than a hire vehicle where the fridge might not be working properly, cuz we know what’s wrong with our product and we fix it up at the time.
I’ve got a little charging issue at the moment that I’m working through. I’ve got the guys on standby that built the card. They’re helping me all the way through and we are pretty sure we’ve got it sorted. I’m pretty sure I had it sorted before I spoke to them and I’m just working through that first and then I’ve given me the next things to check for.
While I’m still in South Africa, I’m doing as much on the vehicles as I can. Tomorrow Helene’s boyfriend Matt, I think you’ve met Matt. Matt and I are gonna be changing the tires on the car cuz Matt will be driving one of the other vehicles. So Matt and I did a four-by-four training day with Mountain Passes South Africa.
So they took us all out and showed us all how to drive the vehicles on all sorts of different terrain. So that’s really important too. The reason why we have two vehicles is not cause we are greedy. You really do need two vehicles and some of the places we’re going to. One goes first, if they get stuck, then the other one can pull ’em out. We’ve got winches on both vehicles. We’ve got long ropes to pull things out. So having two vehicles just gives you that much more freedom. People from first-world countries, they’re either gung ho or they’re too scared to try. Oh, African, there are wild animals, everything’s gonna try and eat me. I can’t possibly go or no, it’ll be fine, I know what I’m doing. You don’t have too many in the middle that are willing to do it that are considering okay with the risk. For me, I’m lucky that we’ve done it many times now.
We’ve taken many people into the bush. We’ve never lost anyone. We’ve never had a major accident or a major mishap which is pretty amazing given that we’ve camped with some pretty new people to Africa and some pretty wild spaces. It’s a matter of respecting the animals. It’s a matter of being very mindful of the animals and being very aware.
The animals, sense you. The animals are very empathic, they can understand what you are thinking. They say they can smell fear. I think it’s even deeper than that in an elephant, if it’s feeling threatened, it’s gonna give you threatening behavior. If you are very peaceful with it and you talk to it and it’ll give you the same stuff back. It’s quite amazing. I think we’ve got some people that have come to be joining us on the trip that is quite afraid of the situations that we’re in. They only sleep in a rooftop tent. I prefer to be on the ground in a tent, but not in a rooftop tent. It’s all part of the same thing as the mental state that you’re in, the vehicle that you’re in, and your ability to ask for help. We’ve got Land Cruisers and one of the reasons we’ve got Land Cruisers is that they very seldom break down, two, if they do break down, there’s gonna be parts for them. If you’ve got a Land Rover or a Land Cruiser, you’re gonna find parts for them anywhere throughout Africa. You bring some European four-by-four vehicles. You aren’t gonna find parts for it. The best you’re gonna get is someone getting a Toyota part or a Land Rover part and modifying the fit in your fancy European car.
So again, there’s a good reason for us to have these vehicles and we will take spare parts for things that won’t be readily available. Cause we’ve got Fox Shock absorbers on it and we’ve got all sorts of little tricks put on there. But we’ll bring spare parts for those cause they won’t be available. The fun thing about Africa is you can always find a mechanic somewhere to make a plan.
Brighde: So you and your partner Adele are both ethical vegans and this is gonna be a trip where you are gonna be going through some very remote areas. I’m sure you’ll be restocking in some smaller towns. How do you expect it’s going to be as a vegan doing this kind of travel?
Peter: Yeah, when you’re traveling as a vegan in Africa, it can be easy or as hard as you wanna make it. If you wanna have Beyond Meat burgers every day, then you’re gonna really struggle. We’ll be taking a supply of quite a lot of things from Cape Town and from Hoods Spray. We’ve got an incredible health food shop, at Hood Spray, where everything is vegan, which is the most amazing shop in the whole world as far as I’m concerned. When you come to bury, I’m gonna take you there. You’re gonna fall in love with this shop and the people running it, but we’ll take a lot of the special stuff that we can’t get elsewhere.
You can always find beans on the side of the road drying. You can always find tomatoes. You can always find greens, so you can always cook up, you always gonna find starch like a potato or sweet potato or tapioca or something. So you’re always gonna find food.
There are stores that will have dried beans, dried lentils, soybeans, and everything. At times we’ll be having a little pot, so, a pot on the fire, and it’ll be a bit of a stew but that’s part of the fun of traveling. We can make our own bread. The beauty of being able to have your own vehicles you can stock up on your raw ingredients and being vegan, you don’t have to have much frozen. We’ve got big fridges and freezers, we can fill out the freezer with treats. Adele and I went away for four weeks and I had ice creams in that freezer. We had some Beyond Meat burgers. We had some of the local burgers but we didn’t eat that every day. But Adele would have an ice cream quite regularly. And we’ve got a little nutri bullet ’cause we’ve got power. We’ve got a Nutribullet so we have smoothies for breakfast.
We’ll just have to find fruit as we go along that, that will replace the berries. When the berries run out and we can’t find frozen berries. But there are stocking points. Frys, I don’t know if you have that in the States, but Frys came from South Africa originally. They have very good distribution around Southern Africa, so most shops will have some of those if you want to have that type of meal. But other than that we’ll just live off the land and buy stuff along the way and just make what we can from it.
Brighde: Amazing. I’m sure people listening were probably thinking, well, buying my own vehicle and having to learn all of these skills, is a little bit too much, but there are ways that you can have a similar kind of experience and that is with like mobile safaris or renting a vehicle for one week, two weeks, four weeks. Could you talk a little bit about that? Cuz I think people aren’t familiar with the concept of mobile safaris or hiring a vehicle.
Peter: Yeah, it’s quite doable now. Try not to come on your own, try and come in a group. So two, or three vehicles up to four vehicles make it quite easy for people to organize a trip. The most campsite will take three to four vehicles. When you book a campsite in Africa, it’s not like in the first world where if you book a campsite, you’ll get one vehicle on it in the room for a little tent, these campsites are usually quite big. By having two or three people there, or two or three different cars there, you’ve got lots of options for helping each other and for working together and having a lot more fun together. So make a small group together when you come. Don’t try and travel all over Africa when you’ve got your four-by-four and you people are wanting to pick you up here and drop you off there. We used to do that with our trips. We would start off in South Africa, go through Namibia, through Botswana, and then finish in Zimbabwe because people when they come over, they wanna see lots of countries when they’re here. But each one of those countries deserves its own time.
If you are only gonna get two or three weeks, do not try and take in two countries. Namibia is one of my favorite countries. We’re not even doing that on this trip. We did it last year and I’ve been to Namibia many times, and we’re gonna dedicate a month or two to that on its own. That’s one of the most beautiful places and one of the safest places you’ll ever visit. Botswana, maybe that’s a second trip. Maybe that’s not necessarily your first trip. Namibia lot less game and when you are in most of the campsite, you are fenced in, so you’re a lot safe. You don’t have to deal with animals coming into camp. Not that’s a real issue, but the way you behave yourself in those areas is very different. You’ve gotta put all your food away, obviously, you’ve gotta put all your saucepan away, you’ve gotta put things up in trees. Cause the hyenas will come and chew your pots. So you just gotta learn a little bit more about how to do things.
But you can find an awful lot on YouTube. We’re doing a lot of research on YouTube, looking at people who’ve done trips. Identify where you want to go, concentrate on an area, then start researching that on YouTube and you’ll find huge amounts. We had experienced traveling there, or in the process of setting up trips, asking questions. We found one place that will do all of our bookings in Botswana rather than having to ring all the different camps and trying to find our own booking.
We’re paying a premium, but we’re not that experienced in the area and we haven’t got a lot of time left. So we are prepared to pay the premium to get that done. Definitely recommend that someone coming from outside did that. Hire your car. There are some companies that are really reputable and some not so much, and it very much depends on the country you’re going to. But again, a little bit of research can go a long way. We found some real gems and we’ve found some really bad news stories. So yeah, I’m just being careful there, but it’s very doable. As far as stocking up, all of these vehicles that you’ll hire will have a fridge and freezer so just be very careful on your meal plan and drop meat, if you’re a meat eater, get rid of it for the trip. You can do without it for a few weeks and it makes your whole traveling so much easier. If our fridge for any reason goes off for a night, we don’t end up with a whole lot of stuff to worry about. Now Beyond Meats, if you freeze again, they’re still okay.
Brighde: Exactly. I think it would come as a surprise to people to know that being vegan is actually better and easier than being a meat eater on these kinds of trips. For sure. Okay, great Peter, this has just been such an interesting conversation and I really think we’re gonna have to have you back at another time to talk about some of the other projects that you are involved in because there are just so many that are also related to tourism as well. But I would love it if you wouldn’t mind sharing some of the URLs of the websites or the Instagram handles or ways that people can connect with you, and follow along with your trip so that you basically just keep in touch with all of the projects that you’re working on.
Peter: Okay, well we’ve got my own one, @Tanglewoodpete, and we’ve got @outofafrica_adventure, which is gonna be Adele and I’s. Adele’s gonna be doing most of it. I’ll be doing the pictures for it. That’ll be our travel blog or for our trip, big trip. Then some of the projects we’re at Tanglewood foundation.org nz for a website, and then korucamp.org for a website for our Koru camp. And then social media around Koru campus as, K O R U C A M P and I think it’s in one word. That’ll show you what we’re doing in the camp, which I’d love to have had more time to talk to you about cause it’s a project that’s incredibly dear to my heart and it’s changing lives every minute up that camp and it’s such a fulfilling, purposeful thing to do. It’s so special.
Brighde: Peter, I wanna thank you so much for taking the time and staying up so late. You’re talking to me from South Africa at the moment, so thank you so much for joining me on The World Vegan Travel Podcast.
Peter: It’s a pleasure. Thanks so much for having us, Brighde.