Skull Island

One of the perks in my line of work is that I occasionally get to visit some pretty interesting places where an airport needs constructing, expanding or fixing. I’ve now been to more countries on the African continent than many other South Africans, including my wife – although she’ll probably agree that this doesn’t speak volumes.

One of my favourite locations to date is Skull Island – a fictional name for the actual island which I concocted in order to protect its location and our client’s identity (it would be a sin if it mutated into another Lanzarote or Zakynthos because of my post :)). The island could quite feasibly have been a filming location in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong movie, but alas I see from IMDB that Jackson used some poxy excuse of an island off the coast of Wellington, New Zealand. I suppose I can’t blame him for missed opportunities; he makes some good films and very few people have heard of, let alone visited the Skull Island to which this post refers.

The journey to the island was a perilous one, with the exception of the initial SAA flight leg from Johannesburg. We landed at a transit destination where our party had a 2 day layover before catching a connecting flight to Skull Island. Due to the innate nature of many African countries, where fortune favours the dirty rotten scoundrel, an escort was organised to assist us getting out of the airport with passports, personal effects and limbs intact and to arrange transportation to and from the airport and our hotel without being hustled. Our troop transport had seen better days – I felt like dialling up duct-tape headquarters to let them know that I had found their perfect marketing tool. The shocks were AWOL, one of the balding wheels on the car I was riding in had three nuts securing it to the hub and judging by driving styles, I’m almost certain that our chauffeurs were part-time African stock car racers. Tear-arsing down the wrong side of a street in order that they could offer a ‘tout suite’ service was second nature to these boys. Seat belts (when working) were a must.

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Zambezi Tiger Fishing

Somewhere close the end of August 2011 (if memory serves correctly), I boarded a plane on the way to Zimbabwe for a week of client-consultant-contractor networking. Our destination, a private hunting camp on a stretch of the Zambezi between Lake Kariba and Lake Cahora Bassa, which separates north-western Zimbabwe from Zambia. Two members of our party had purchased hunting concessions for a lioness and leopard. Secretly I hoped that the guy who had ‘bought’ the leopard would be unsuccessful, since they are one of my favourite animals; a real treat to see in the wild.

The rest of us were left to choose between accompanying a hunt, relaxing in the camp and Tiger fishing. I opted for the latter as I didn’t see myself waking up at 4am in the mornings to spend the entire day in the bush stalking big game on foot. The Zambezi scenery would no doubt be spectacular and something I’d kick myself if I missed.

Although I was excited about the experience having never visited the country before, I was also slightly hesitant due to the fact that I would essentially be landing in Robert Mugabe’s back yard. He is not the fondest supporter of whites and the British at the best of times, having passed land-acquisition laws against white farmers and dabbled in many other non-ethical practices, contributing to the imposed sanctions on the country by foreign powers. Some screws needed tightening somewhere. Travelling on a UK passport to Zimbabwe would be a little like sticking my middle finger up at the immigration officials as I passed through Harare airport (or so I thought). Continue reading