Thursday, 28 April 2016

''Disabilities do not define a person''

Smiling Lachlan!
I had the pleasure of meeting Lachlan Nicholson, whom was living in a beautiful wooden house tucked away at the end of a road on the mountainside. Born in Waterfall, Durban, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 18 months and his parents were given the prognosis that he would never learn to speak, write, walk or do anything for himself. Now 25 years old, despite the unfavourable prognosis he was given, he is a tattoo collector, loves reading in his spare time, an avid writer and plans to study English literature and film through UNISA. He states his, ‘’biggest challenge is feeling normal as related to the rest of society.’’

Lachlan was a victim of a house robbery back in Durban and as a result became involved in tae kwon do with an instructor in Durban, a little over a year ago. A young man with determination and a challenge on his mind, despite having to use a wheelchair to go about his daily life, decided to take on the form of martial arts that has since changed his life and made him physically stronger.

He considers his biggest achievement in life, ‘’leaving Durban for Cape Town as it is by no means a small feat.’’ Lachlan met Aly while they were both working together as journalists at Media24 in Durban and stayed in contact. He was inspired to come to Cape Town after Aly suggested he visit the beautiful and diverse city for a holiday. Aly, currently working as a paramedic, undertook a home-based care course in order to be fully equipped to take care of Lachlan. Both with journalism backgrounds, they ‘’decided to take on the trip as a project and write about accessibility in the city.’’

He wrote for his blog, The Great Cape Town Odyssey, in the evenings after a days’ quest in the city and surrounding areas about accessibility and their recent activities. The goal of his Cape Town journey and writing about it is to, ‘’push others with disabilities.’’ His favourite adventure in Cape Town was, ‘’visiting the Bay Market in Hout Bay for its diversity.’’ He expresses that he, ‘’hasn’t come across many hurdles in Cape Town, it is doable, and in some instances there might be issues but to deal with it as it comes.’’

Lachlan at Boulders Beach visiting the penguins. 
Lachlan, ‘’would want people to know about those with cerebral palsy that they may look a little a strange but are just people. Take a few minutes to engage with others with the disability and don’t fear saying the wrong thing because you might just miss out on an enlightening conversation.’’

We moved the conversation onto concerns within the disability community and Lachlan shared that his, ‘’concerns for people with disabilities include the lack of infrastructure in the county and that services to the disabled community are a joke.’’

His advice for those that avoid conversations or are scared when meeting people with disabilities is, ‘’saying hello is a good place to start. Treat people like people. Disabilities do not define a person and are usually the most boring aspect of that person.’’

Lachlan wisely shared advice for those with disabilities, ‘’Do not fear. If you are scared of doing something, build up slowly to achieve it. Make small changes every day, so big things won’t seem so big. Slowly prepare yourself. See possibilities, not hurdles.’’

Monday, 25 April 2016

A Fond Farewell ❀

Hello All,

Ntombi and I. 
It comes with a sense of sadness to bid farewell to you all and inform you that I will be leaving my position at Epic Enabled and Epic Guest House, on Friday 29th of April, to begin a new chapter. I am heading off to England to take on an adventure and explore the wonders of Europe and beyond. After having developed a passion for raising awareness and learning about disabilities and accessibility, since working for Epic from January 2015, I am booked for training to learn about the skills needed for caring for both the elderly and people with disabilities.

Having truly enjoyed working for this wonderful company, I can honestly say it changed my life for the better and has been the best working experience. I am thankful for having been given the opportunity to enhance my writing skills and learn about wildlife and disabilities. I've had the chance to interview great people and to gain another perspective for life. Great friends were made and I was lucky to experience the adventure of a lifetime on an accessible safari. It's been a wonderful experience writing blogs and keeping the social media sites updated, meeting guests who arrive at Epic Guest House and learning about accessible travel, spending time with the dogs and getting to know the team at Epic. Memories have been made that will never be forgotten and forever treasured. 

I strongly believe that all future clients will have an incredible adventure with any tours taken with Epic Enabled. I will miss all the interactions with everyone and if you would like to stay in contact, please contact Epic Enabled who will forward your details on to me. Wishing the company all the very best and every success in all future undertakings. A heartfelt thank you to everyone at Epic and you all, including the animals, will be deeply missed.

Every ending has a new beginning.

Warmest regards,

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Giraffes of Africa

Giraffe close-up profile
Female giraffe.
Standing at an average height of 5 metres, giraffes (giraffa camelopardalis) are the tallest land animal in the world with legs alone that are taller than many people and feet that reach 30.5 cm in diameter. Despite their extraordinary height, giraffes like most mammals, have only seven vertebrae in their necks that weigh a heavy 270kg. These mostly peaceful and non-territorial mammals have excellent sight, hearing and smell. Giraffes, that live up to 25 years in the wild, are classed as one of nine subspecies which are differentiated depending on the areas they live, and the pattern and colouring of their coats.

Living in savanna areas throughout parts of sub-Saharan Africa, giraffes have light and dark coloured spotted coats that act as excellent camouflage in their surroundings using shadows and sunlight. Beneath their patches are a system of large and finer veins that play a role in thermal regulation. Each of their lungs can hold 55 of air and their hearts beat 170 beats every minute and can pump a bathtub full of blood every three minutes. Males are taller and heavier with elder males usually darker in colour than their female counterparts and both sexes have ossicones situated on top of their heads. Females have a cluster of fur on top of their ossicones while males are left bald because of fighting with other males by swinging their necks at each other as a display of strength.
Giraffe standing full-length, knees slightly bent.
A giraffe standing. 

Giraffes have a unique walk that involves moving both legs on one side of their bodyfollowed by the opposite side. However, they run like any other mammal by swinging their rear and front legs in synchronisation and are able to reach speeds up to 55km/h at short bursts. They sleep for no longer than 5 minutes with their feet tucked under them and their head resting on their rear legs but are also known for taking short naps while standing or rest while lying down with their head and neck upright.  

They are the largest ruminant on earth, meaning they obtain nourishment from plant based food by fermenting their food in a specially adapted stomach, and then regurgitate their food before chewing the curd. Due to their impressive height, they are able to eat leaves and shoots from tall trees and take notable delight in eating acacia tree leaves. Using their dark blue tongues, that reach up to 45cm in length and are specially adapted for foraging on thorny trees, they spend up to 20 hours a day eating up to 34kg of leaves and twigs. Drinking water puts them at their most vulnerable to predators, as they have to spread their legs or bend their forelegs to reach the ground in order to quench their thirst. Luckily they only need to drink once every few days.

Two Giraffes entangled
Entangled giraffes.
Females form small herd of between 4 to 25 members, with males seldom in their groups unless still be cared for by their mothers. When young males are capable of taking care of themselves they form bachelor herds where they play and interact with one another in order to figure out who the strongest and thus the most dominant member of the herd, while older males tend to be loners. Originally believed to be silent animals, giraffes make low growling, bellows, snorts, hissing and flute-like sounds as well as low pitch noises that cannot been heard by humans as a means to communicate with one another.

Both sexes reach sexual maturity between four to five years of age and are fully grown by seven. There is no set mating season for giraffes but there is an increase in mating during the rainy season. Males will taste the urine of females so as to know which ones are in oestrus and are then able to determine which ones are ready for mating. Males will then attempt courting rituals that involve resting their chin of the back of a female. Female giraffes carry their young for 15 months and then give birth to a single calf, who has their two ossicones, while standing up. Giraffe mothers are extremely protective of their calf that is kept hidden for the first 3 weeks of its’ life and will defend their calf against predators. Nursery groups are formed for calves to play and rest while females take turns in keeping a watchful eye on them while the others forage. 

Did you know? 

  • Newborns are 1.5m from birth and continue to grow a further 0.5cm each day. 
  • Giraffes cannot throw up.
  • Giraffes are known to slip on paved roads in KNP. 
  • These mammals have special valves in their neck arteries to regulate blood pressure and flow so they do not faint when lowering their heads to drink.
  • They seldom spend more than 5 minutes at a tree when foraging to avoid becoming an easy target for predators.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Cory Lee - The accessible traveller

Twelve Apostles, Australia
Cory Lee, a 26-year-old, born in Georgia, USA is a graduate of the University of West Georgia and a keen traveller involved in accessible travel. In October 2016, Cory will be flying to South Africa to join Epic Enabled for an accessible safari trip exploring the famous Kruger National Park and a private game reserve situated in Limpopo.

When just a toddler, Cory was taken to medical professionals for a muscle biopsy after his mother noticed he wasn’t yet walking and struggled with standing up. Diagnosed at the early age of two with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a form of Muscular Dystrophy, his muscles are weaker than the average person. Due to the progression of the disease, his muscles continue to deteriorate and he now makes use of a wheelchair to go about his daily activities.

Adventurous by nature and an avid traveller, he noticed there was not much information online with regards to accessible travel so back in December of 2013 he started Curb Free with Cory Lee. The purpose of his blog is to publish information and accessibility reviews on various cities, attractions, hotels and tours that will make travelling for other wheelchair users hassle free and more of an adventure.

With a following of over 45,000 across his social media sites he states his, ’biggest achievement has been connecting with so many other people through his blog.’ Cory has spoken at various conferences and receives emails from new visitors to his blog often. He loves getting to know his followers and feels the demands of a blog make it all worthwhile when a person has been inspired to travel after reading Curb Free with Cory Lee.

Cory strongly believes, “the world is too big to stay to stay put in one place” and aims to inspire others to start exploring, while he himself travels as much as possible while still able to do so.

When asked what his concerns are when it comes to disability he stated that since he works in the travel industry, most of his concerns involve accessibility when it comes to travel and the lack of accessibility in various destinations around the world.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Cory says that he, “would love to see airplanes become more wheelchair friendly”, and explains flying as, “such an arduous process for wheelchair users and wheelchairs are often damaged during flight, so many people don’t travel at all for fear of what might happen.” He believes that if it were made possible that, “wheelchair users could remain in their wheelchairs during the flight it would open up a whole new world and be a real game changer.” Cory is hopeful that, “something will be done to improve air travel in the near future.”

Cory’s biggest challenge with regards to his own disability has been, “accepting the changes that come with SMA and the gradual weakening of his muscles.” He was once able to lift his arms up but now has trouble doing so. Cory describes himself as good with adjustment although when seeing himself lose strength he naturally worries but is determined to keep living his life to the fullest by exploring and travelling while still able. He also longs, as so do many other wheelchair users, for people to see beyond the wheelchair and know they are so many things before a wheelchair user.

Australia and Iceland are at a tie for his favourite destinations; Australia because the country has a high standard of accessibility and Iceland because the country holds abundant natural beauty. He adds he is “under the impression that diverse South Africa might become his new favourite when he visits this October.”

Cory is of course eager to see the famous Big Five and is especially interested in seeing elephants and lions as he finds them to be remarkable creatures. As a lover of all animals, he is excited to see all the wildlife that the country has to offer. Cory’s bucket list includes his dream to visit all seven continents on the globe, ride a camel in Egypt, see the Great Wall of China and feel the thrill of skydiving.

When not travelling or working on his accessible travel blog, Cory can be found discovering new restaurants, exploring the outdoors when the weather is warm or watching films and attending the theatre. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Wildlife in False Bay - Humpback whales

Humpback whale
Humpback whale underwater. 
South Africa is a famous destination for watching marine mammals such as southern right whales, humpback whales and various species of dolphins. Humpback whales are friendly, often interacting with other marine animals, and the males are known for performing magical songs. This species of whale generally lives between 40 to 45 years of age and thrives in all oceans of the world.  

Humpback whales from the southern hemisphere are slightly smaller in size than those from the northern hemisphere, with females reaching 13,7 metres in length and males at a smaller size reaching 3,1 metres in length. These pleasant and giant mammals, weigh anything between a heavy 27 215,5 kg to 45 359,2 kg. The four-chambered heart of an average humpback whale weighs in at about 195 kg.

Their bodies are stocky in shape, dark in colour with white patches and a distinctive, sloping hump, hence the name of humpback whale. They have a large head on which three irregular rows of knobs called tubercles are situated, and throat grooves that run from their chin to navel. Their bodies are equipped with white coloured pectoral fins that are almost a third of its body length and a short, dorsal fin.


Humpback whales follow a migration route during winter for mating and calving after feeding in polar waters during summer.

In the southern hemisphere, during winter these whales migrate further north from the pole, in order to mate and birth their calves, with numbers at the highest in June and July. In Africa, humpback whales are found along the Southern-African coasts off Angola, Mozambique and of course South Africa.
Humpback whale
Humpback whale breaching. 


Much like the southern right whale, humpback whales are seasonal feeders, eating mostly during summer and living off their fat reserves during the colder months. Humpback whales, on average, eat between 2000 – 2500 kilograms of food, and have a large and varied diet that include various subspecies of krill and small fish.

They hunt using various methods but the most common would be ‘bubble netting’ which entails a pod forming a circling under water, then blowing a wall of bubbles as they swim to the surface in a spiral formation. The wall of bubbles traps their prey which the whales then catch as they move to the surface.


While both male and female humpback whales produce vocalisations, only males perform ‘songs’ of varied pitches and sounds, lasting up to 30 minutes and ranging between 20 to 9000 Hz. ‘Songs’ differ according to the locality of the male humpback whales and patterns each year.

Whales live in the ocean but are air-breathing mammals that must surface in order to breath in fresh air to fill up their huge lungs. While sleeping they must continue to breathe and so it is believed that one half of their brain sleeps while the other half that is not asleep surfaces, breathes and then returns beneath the water without awakening the half asleep.

Humpback whale
Humpback whale mother with calve.

During the breeding season, unlike southern right whales, male humpback whales form competitive groups around a female and fight to win her over. Humpback whales pass through False Bay in May and June on route to mate and birth in warmer waters off the coast of Mozambique and Angola, and are later seen in October and November on their return trip.

Like southern right whales, female humpback whales birth a calf every three years. Gestation lasts about a year after after which a single calf is born, and although seldom, twins are known to occur. Calves are generally about 4.2 metres in length when born and go on to suckle for between ten to eleven months.

Did you know?

The only known natural predator to hunt humpback whales are a pack of killer whales.  

These whales are listed as an endangered species and are protected against hunting by law.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Wildlife in False Bay - Southern Right Whales

southern right whales
Southern right whale with her calve.
These intelligent and inquisitive animals are seen from along the shores of the southern tip of Africa. Southern right whales are one of three endangered species belonging to the genus Eubalanea. Considered a marine mammal, because of giving birth to live young, producing milk for their calves, being warm blooded and breathing air, these enormous animals can weigh as much as 8 fully grown African elephants and reach 16 metres in length.

The southern right whale, like other right whales, have callosities that appear white due to colonies of cyamids (whale lice) and barnacles. Dark grey or black in colour, these giant marine animals are without a dorsal fin but are able to swim by using their short and wide pectoral fins that aid in steering while their rear flukes propel them forward through the ocean. They have a long and arching mouth that begins above their eye, adding character to their gigantic profile.


The southern right whale migrates to the coastal waters of South Africa, in the winter months and can be seen from the shore in False Bay, between June to October. These magnificent marine mammals form small social groups of about six individual and related whales. Whales have a strong maternal connection to the locations they were born in and are known to return to these very locations every 3 years.

southern right whales
Arched mouth showing baleen plates.

Whales usually search for food on the surface of water but will on occasion dive for food. They mostly eat small plankton called copepods but also indulge in krill, mysids, plankton and other tiny crustaceans.

They do not possess teeth and instead have around 200 long baleen plates hanging from their upper jaw. These plates can reach over 2 metres in length and have a fringe of hair running down each side. As a whale swims along the surface of water into swarms of plankton they open their mouth in order to catch their food and then close their mouth, using their tongue to push the water out between the baleen plates while keeping their food in their mouth.


Southern right whales are wonderful animals that are social with other whales and dolphins and even enjoy interacting with humans. They seem aware of their enormous size and so are gentle with their movements when around humans and smaller animals of the sea. These whales are more active than the other two northern species of right whales and are known to approach boats out of curiosity.  

southern right whales
Breaching in False Bay.
Whales engage in a variety of behaviour in the water for play or as a form of a communication. Sailing is playful behaviour exclusive to southern right whales, usually seen off the coast of Argentina and South Africa, who use their raised flukes to catch the wind. The normal breathing pattern of a whale is referred to as blowing which involves making a sound by expelling air through their blowhole accompanied by a spray of water vapour. Lob-tailing is a form of communication used by whales and is the slapping of water using their flukes and tail in order to make a loud sound. Whales lift their heads and body vertically above the surface as water, known as spy-hopping, so as to see what is happening above water. Breaching is when a whale leaps out of the water in a back flip landing on either their side or back.


Being polyamorous by nature, female whales mate with up to 7 males during the breeding season from July to October and return the following year to give birth to a single calve. Males do not fight amongst one another or experience feelings of jealousy when it comes to pairing up with females for mating.  

The female whales work on a 3-year cycle which includes one year of carrying a calve, a year taking care of their new-born and one year recovering and rebuilding their food reserves before starting the cycle once again.

Calves are usually born a dark-bluish colour but in some cases, about 4% of calves are born white. Due to a sex-linked genetic trait, all the calves born white are male and their colour darkens with age.

Did you know?

Whales can produce a variety of low frequency sounds (less than 1 000 Hz) to communicate with other whales. These sounds are made up of moans, growls, pulses and belch like noises.