Keabetswe Nthate in the Amathole Mountains. Photography by Mesh Matsapola.
Issue 1 2021Thrilling

The Weekenders

You might not recognise them right away, dressed in a business suit or on a Zoom call performing their 9‒5s, but as soon as the weekend hits, these South African adventurers are outside in their element, taking on the country’s mountain trails and underwater kelp forests.

No mountain high enough

Based in Ga-Rankuwa on the outskirts of Pretoria North, Tsakane Manganye runs a bespoke men’s suit and shirt business called Losmeicherie. It’s not uncommon to see him dressed to the hilt. But the wilderness is always calling. “There is always this inexplicably nagging need to be out there,” he says.

Tsakane is a mountain biker who goes cycling every weekend and an avid hiker who does monthly hiking trips. “I don’t do mountain biking to race,” he explains, “I do it to see new places.”

Drakensberg. Photography by Dee Nthate
Tsakane Manganye off-roading, Hebron, North West
Hiking Magoebaskloof. Photography by Dee Nthate
Looking at the Devil's Tooth from my tent, Drakensberg. Photography by Dee Nthate
Tsakane Manganye hiking Kingdom Trails, Mpumalanga. Photography by Dee Nthate

His outdoor enthusiasm has seen him conquer peaks and trails from Limpopo to Tsitsikamma and Mpumalanga to the Drakensberg. He and his hiking buddies always try for new frontiers, or they’ll return to the same trails in different seasons to experience the changing landscape: snow, ice and rain.

“It’s the feeling of carrying all my life on my back with nothing else but nature around me that’s most intriguing,” he explains.

Tsakane always hikes in a group for safety at the mercy of nature and for camaraderie. The person who is often documenting the team and breathtaking views is photographer Keabetswe Nthate, known to friends as Dee. He first got hooked on hiking on a scouts camping trip. Today he can say he’s hiked all of South Africa’s nine provinces.

“I always seek discomfort,” he explains, “doing something that I haven’t done before. And I love to photograph nature.” Dee hopes to encourage other South Africans to get outside. “South Africa has beautiful places,” he says, “We have to go out there and see them.”

Spending so much time outdoors also cultivates a deep respect for nature. An eight-day mountain biking trip saw Tsakane and his crew stopping at every town along the way from the Komatipoort border post to the Kopfontein border post to teach people about climate change awareness.

I find it easier to
pray when I am in the wilderness.

‒ Tsakane Manganye, outdoor enthusiast

Kelp forest at Miller's Point. Photography by Mari Basson

Under the waves

Cape Town’s icy waters make many timid to put a toe in, but for an intrepid few, such as free-divers Mari Basson and Joshua de Kock, under the waves lies a luminous paradise.

Both work in advertising all week, but every weekend, they chase good diving conditions from False Bay to Hermanus to the West Coast. Closer to home, they can be found along the Atlantic Seaboard.

“From the top it doesn’t look like much,” says Mari. “It’s cold and rough, and few people dive here—it truly feels like a secret world.”

“A few metres in and life is happening all around you,” Joshua adds, “From tiny candy-coloured nudibranchs to glass-blown anemones and cat-like pyjama sharks stalking you in the kelp, the abundance of life and how close it is to the shore are always so striking.”

Photography by Mari Basson

Free-diving means that the couple go diving with no breathing equipment, just goggles and a snorkel, a weight belt and long flippers, but technically, Mari says you can free-dive with very little. “Free-diving puts you far more in touch with the underwater world,” Joshua explains. “You slip into the kelp soundlessly, like you belong there. Animals are far more unguarded, and the experience is a lot more intimate.”

Mari takes their Olympus tg-5 below the surface to capture the fascinating creatures who live there. Holding her breath for long enough to get up close for the shot is a challenge she’s determined to meet.

Free-diving puts you far more in touch with the underwater world. You slip into the kelp soundlessly, like you belong there. Animals are far more unguarded, and the experience is a lot more intimate.

‒ Joshua de Kock, free-diver

Joshua De Kock fishing for a Red Roman. Photography by Mari Basson

And what of the dangers that lurk beneath? “There is not a single time diving that I feel completely safe!” Mari says, “As soon as we’re in there, I’m thinking about sharks. I think it’s only natural. When you leave the safety of the kelp forest and swim into open blue water, you feel indescribably exposed.” But the diverse wonders override the fear. Time can be lost in the water entranced by the changing colours and shapes of cuttlefish.

“As soon as you get out of the water and into the car, you wonder, ‘What’s happening in there right now?’” Mari says, “No two dives are ever the same. You are always missing something.”

Photography by Keabetswe Nthathe and Mari Basson.

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