Search Results : South Africa

Sep 122014

Over the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed blogging stories and photographs from my trip with Shelley to Africa, but, believe it or not, I’m running out of photographs to share with you, so, this will likely be the last installment of “Paul Binder’s African Adventure.”

First, the animals. I thought I was finished with pictures of animalsI had quite a few posts about our safari in Zambia. But then I remembered that we also encountered some interesting critters in Cape Town too. In fact, the first animal that we saw in Africa was this big guy here:


This enormous tortoise roamed the grounds around the Vineyard Hotel, where we stayed in Cape Town. Tortoises are remarkable creatures right out of prehistoric times, and it was surprising to watch this one move at full speed. Sure, he’s not as fast as a hare, but believe me, he’s surprisingly agile.

South Africa is relatively close to the south pole, but I was still surprised to see entire groups of penguins nesting on the beach in Simon’s Town. This one below walked away from the other penguins in order to preen himself for the photos being taken by the tourists, including myself.


He was definitely posing. “All right, Mr. Paul, I’m ready for my close-up.”

And then we saw some birds of a different color.


I think you can tell from the photograph that this particular ostrich got to be a bit of a handful. But in no time at all, I had him eating out of the palm of my hand.

We also saw dozens of sea lions, and I even got a picture of a lone springbok.



As I mentioned in my last post, Cape Town is a beautiful city with lots of things to do. Perhaps the best known tourist destination in the area is the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-western point of the African continent. I know that because the sign said so …


You can get a sense of the dangerous winds and tides by looking at our hair.

And man oh man is the Cape of Good Hope a long distance from homeaccording to this sign post, over 12,000 kilometers.


Even though Shelley and I had a fantastic time in Cape Town, the city is not just a hot spot for tourists. The city still reflects the past century of South African political history, and the remnants of apartheid are very apparent.

We took a day trip to Robben Island, which is off the northwest coast of Cape Town. While on the island, we took a tour of the island’s infamous prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years before the fall of apartheid.


Here is a picture of the cell in which Mandela was kept:


It was a very powerful location to visit, loaded with cultural and historic significance. It was a humbling experience, as was our visit to one of the many townships on the outskirts of Cape Town.


The quality of life in the township was sobering. Even though it’s been two decades since South Africa’s government switched over to majority rule, millions still live in these townshipsnearly half the population of the entire country. It’s important to note that townships do have some middle class housing. Some residents who grew up in the townships decide to stay in the community and build nicer homes. However, most of the dwellings are makeshift.


Yet despite the apparent poverty of the area, I was overjoyed to see children at play.


We also visited a preschool and kindergarten in the township. Here’s a picture of Shelley with one of the teachers:




These three large posters outlining the vision and mission of the school were hung on the wall. Here was an inspiring sense of hope within the township community, and the schools are a fundamental part of South Africa’s plan for a better future.

The school’s vision and mission were not entirely dissimilar from Zip Zap Circus School’s multicultural central purpose.

Zip Zap creates a platform for students (and partners) with a chance to turn dreams into reality providing an open door to a fun, safe place, with a sense of family and a clear focus to shape their confidence, skills and worth, critical to moving on as a new South Africa.”


Sep 022014

I’ve been so excited to show you photographs from our safaris in Zambia, that I haven’t written much about our days spent prior to that in Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is surely one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve ever seen, and it was an extraordinary visit.

When Shelley was invited to teach for three days at the University of Cape Town, I thought I could take advantage of the opportunity and plan my own trip to visit the Zip Zap Circus and School, to which I had been repeatedly invited in years past.


IMG_0253Under Artistic Director Brent Van Rensburg, Zip Zap trains a diverse community of kids in the Circus Arts in order to provide them with future employment opportunities and to help develop the next generation’s confidence and leadership skills. The Circus School has been in operation for over twenty years, co-founded by Brent and Managing Director Laurence Estève “to inspire young people and help build a new culture of peaceful coexistence in South Africa.”

Part of my visit was spent presenting to the students, followed by a very lively and inquisitive question and answer period. It’s always a thrill to speak to the next generation of circus artists, especially when my next encounter with these young performers could be anywhere in the world.



I had a great time at the Circus School, as no doubt you can tell from the photograph below:


For my next and last blog about the Africa trip, I’ll share a brief recap and some photographs from the rest of our time in Cape Town.

Aug 292014

You were probably beginning to think that I stayed behind the camera my entire trip. In fact, I did pose for a few pictures, and here is one of my favorites. It’s Shelley and me standing in front of Victoria Falls with a double rainbow in the background.


After our safari in the Luangwa National Park, we flew to Livingstone for our stay at a low-key resort on the Zambezi River called Tongabezi. Livingstone is along the southern border of Zambia. The Victoria Falls Bridge in the background here is an entryway into the neighboring country of Zimbabwe.


At the Falls, Shelley and I made friends with an Italian family who had been on safari the same time as us but had had separate tour guides and trackers.


To get a good view of the Falls, there’s a bridge for people to walk across. There’s so much moisture from the waterfalls that everyone puts on a rain poncho, hoping to stay at least partially dry.



And here’s another shot of Shelley and me with the Falls. You can see our ponchos in hand.


Helicopter tours of Victoria Falls and the surrounding area came highly recommended. And I know exactly why. The view of the Falls from ground level is spectacular, but the view from the air is absolutely breathtaking.





We even got to fly over a native village.


On our second day at Tongabezi, we spent some time around the lodge. Here’s a great shot of a joyous Shelley playing the marimba.


We went back to the Falls again, but this time we had a different view, from Livingstone Island.


I agreed to do something adrenaline junkies would have loved. After walking along the edge of the Falls, I climbed into a small pool of water in the river and was able to look out over the edge of the cliff. The guide reminded me to hold onto the nylon rope.


Let me tell you, the view from the top of the Falls was a gasp.



Aug 132014

I am happy to report that I made it back from my African safari in one piece. One WHOLE piece. First Shelley and I spent five days in Cape Town where she taught three classes and I paid a visit to the Zip Zap Circus School. Then we left South Africa for Zambia and our 8-day African safari, including two days in a tent at a bush camp. We saw some incredible animals and spectacular sights, and I surprised myself by being able to take some half-way decent photographs. In fact, I got amazing shots of a pair of leopards, a herd of zebra, several giraffes and baboon families, scores of hippos, plenty of impala, and lots of puku, kudu, and doodoo. And I say with pride that I have several shots of a group of lions. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Because there is so much from this trip that I want to share with you, I’ll do it in several posts over the next few weeks.

I want to begin with one unforgettable experience.

We landed in a one-strip airport near a village called Mfuwe, then drove about three-quarters of an hour into the Zambian wild along the Luangwa River. We stayed in three different camps as we traveled around seeing the wildlife. We knew that we were on safari to see animals, but what we didn’t expect was that the animals would come to see us.

The first place we stayed was called the Nsefu Camp. Shelley and I had our own rondavel in the camp. From its deck, we had a clear view of the river. Lo and behold, in the afternoon of our first full day in Zambia, we were greeted in our camp by elephants—two females with their calves. I grabbed the camera and got a great shot of Shelley with an elephant in the distance walking towards her.


When else are you going to get to be in a photograph with an elephant in the wild? I was surprised at just how close they came to us. They walked into the camp feasting on the leaves of several trees. At one point one of the calves approached a hut, practically walking up the steps.


And as you can see, one of the mothers was about twenty-five feet away as I took her picture.

I had been reassured by our guide that so long as we remained on the veranda of the rondavel and didn’t move around, elephants would ignore us. They walked behind our rondavel and around to the next. And then just as comfortably as they came, they continued on their way … and we continued on ours.


To be continued …
I’ll post more in the days to come.

Jul 232015

Circus Summit - LogoFor four days last week I attended the Worldwide Circus Summit in West Springfield, Massachusetts. 850 people attended the event from around the world. The vast majority were American Circus fans, most of them associated with organizations such as the Circus Fans Association of America, the Circus Historical Society, and Circus Model Builders. Also in attendance were circus directors, museum directors, university scholars and program directors, and―probably most importantly―there were 6 or 7 circus schools and youth circuses, including performances by kids from Circus Harmony, a “social circus” run by Jessica Hentoff, a first and second year performer at the Big Apple Circus and an admirer of our community programming.

There were tables from about 30 organizations set up, including a Big Apple Circus Souvenir Table, which was run by Cheryl Jones, Gigi Price, and Mary Griffin.

Gigi Price at the Big Apple Circus Souvenir Table Gigi was born at Carson and Barnes Circus, Photo by Paul Gutheil

Gigi Price at the Big Apple Circus Souvenir Table. Gigi was born at Carson & Barnes Circus.
Photo by Paul Gutheil

There were panels and presentations every day. I was asked to attend several panels, and I actively participated in two:

  • “Impact of the circus on contemporary culture” with circus historians Fred Dahlinger, Fred Pfennig III, and David Carlyon
  • “Circus Directors’ Forum,” moderated by Wayne McCary (former President of the Eastern States Exposition and the Big E Super Circus), with Barbara Miller Byrd (Carson & Barnes Circus), Brian Boswell (Boswell’s Circus, South Africa), Zsuzsanna Mata (Budapest Circus Festival, Hungary), John Pugh (Cole Bros Circus), Katya and Nelson Quiroga (Circus Vargas), Jim Royal (Kelly Miller Circus), and Ramon Vazquez (Circo Hermanos Vazquez, Mexico).
Here I am with Wayne McCary (Co-Chair of the Worldwide Circus Summit and former President of the Big E and Super Circus), Don Covington (Worldwide Circus Summit Program Director and Inter-Organizational Liaison, Past-President of the Circus Fans Association of America, and former Company Manager of the Big Apple Circus), and Jim Royal (General Manager of the Kelly Miller Circus and former General Manager of the Big Apple Circus), Photo by Paul Gutheil

Here I am with Wayne McCary (Co-Chair of the Worldwide Circus Summit and former President of the Big E and Super Circus), Don Covington (Worldwide Circus Summit Program Director and Inter-Organizational Liaison, Past-President of the Circus Fans Association of America, and former Company Manager of the Big Apple Circus), and Jim Royal (General Manager of the Kelly Miller Circus and former General Manager of the Big Apple Circus),
Photo by Paul Gutheil

There was also a wonderful discussion on clowning which included my dear friend Barry Lubin (“Grandma” the clown), along with Ringling and Big Apple Circus veteran clown Greg Desanto and David Kaiser, Director of Talent and former clown at Ringling. Ringling’s VP of Event Marketing Sales Bill Powell and Feld Entertainment’s VP of Corporate Communications Stephen Payne did presentations which were very impressive. Also presenting were Helmut Grosscurth, Managing Director of the European Circus Association, and Laura Van Der Meer, Executive Director of the World Circus Foundation.

There were also several banquets during the summit. I was asked to introduce Barry, the honored guest speaker, at one of these. Barry was brilliant and had us all laughing out loud. And, of course, what’s a Circus Summit without some circus performances? The Cole Brothers Circus had four very strong performances, and Circus Smirkus performed in a town nearby. Circus Smirkus was particularly delightful.

I was overjoyed to see so many members of the Big Apple Circus’s extended family. At one of the panels, I counted 19 people who were at one time or another employees of the Big Apple Circus. (I introduced them as “members of the Big Apple Circus Alumni Association.”) Other alumni were busy performing, so couldn’t attend.

Standing alongside Brian Liddicoat (Worldwide Circus Summit Facilities, Logistics & Staging Director and former General Manager of the Big Apple Circus), Photo by Paul Gutheil

Standing alongside Brian Liddicoat (Worldwide Circus Summit Facilities, Logistics & Staging Director and former General Manager of the Big Apple Circus),
Photo by Paul Gutheil