South Africans are everywhere…even in the deepest forests of the Amazon! We caught up with Michael Langford, a Capetonian who is currently living in Cusco, Peru where he promotes responsible travel to the nearby Peruvian Amazon.

Here he shares some of his stunning photos from a recent rainforest trip (a 30-minute flight from where he lives) and sheds some light on life in Peru with superfoods, piranha…and not much hot water.

Peruvian Sunrise
Peruvian Sunrise

1.When did you move to Peru and why? 

I’ve been coming to Peru on and off since 1997. On my first visit I came over as a volunteer researcher/photographer for six months in the Amazon rainforest. I’ve been here permanently now for about five years – my wife is from here and my daughter was born here.

Red and green macaw
Red and green macaw

2. And how long do you plan to stay there?

We plan to stay here until I find a good position in Cape Town  – we did live in Cape Town beforehand for three years, and we got married there; but the main reason for us coming back here to live was the lack of employment opportunities and the high cost of living.

3.What inspired you to work in nature? Did you used to go on a lot of safaris in South Africa?

I’ve always been interested in nature – I even found a baboon spider in the sandpit at nursery school and couldn’t understand why nobody liked it! Never been on a safari…couldn’t afford it. Did do some nice hikes with the UCT Mountain & Ski Club, and enjoyed the university field trips for EGS & Archaeology. I was an ecoguide at Grootbos Nature Reserve for two years as well – fynbos and whales.

Sunset of the Rainforest
Sunset of the Rainforest

4.How often do you return to South Africa? 

We try to return every two years for a couple of months at a time. The last time was the end 2011/beginning 2012 so another trip is due very soon!

White Lipped Peccary
White Lipped Peccary

 5.What’s been the hardest thing to adapt to in Peru that’s different to SA?

The climate, food and lack of hot water in the taps! And I miss products like All Gold Tomato Sauce, biltong, Ceres fruit juices, Spur monkey gland burgers, good steaks & beef sausages – we eat far less meat here, but have excellent ”super-foods” like quinoa, tarwi and kiwicha readily available at local markets, and a better variety of fruits too.

Kayaking and boating on the river, with Banana Flower on the right.
Kayaking and boating on the river, with beautiful Banana Flower on the right.

6. Apart from food, what do you miss most about SA?

My parents, Table Mountain, the beaches – the natural wealth and style of living. We don’t have a cinema in Cusco yet, and the first mall opened very recently. There is little apart from hiking and walking for kids to do, and to help them develop. Drinking is a big problem here and considered a normal thing to do  – not one or two beers, but cases of large bottles go down at a time.

7. What are some of the things you love about living in Peru?

Life in Peru is far more relaxed than in South Africa – families spend more time together and eating is a much longer activity. Public transport is great and cheap with no need for a car. I am interested in archaeology too, so Cusco is great for that because there are loads of Inca and pre-inca sites around the city.

Capybara family
That’s a Capybara family on the top right

The Amazon…well you need to go yourself to see – once the bug has bitten you will return again and again – the mystery, pure nature, biodiversity, you never know what you might see. I especially enjoy the river journeys. I had a client from Cape Town who was crying at the airport not wanting to leave the rainforest after her 6-day experience.

Mike Langford
Mike Langford

8. What language do you speak in your everyday life? 

I speak English to my daughter exclusively so she is now fully bilingual at 3-years-old. I only speak Castellano/South American Spanish to everybody else. My clients at Tambopata Travel are mainly English.

9. In what way do you promote responsible travel?

Tambopata Travel only works with tour operators which work in an environmentally responsible way and support local community development. I have extensive experience in the Tambopata and Manu rainforest regions and am confident in organising rainforest experiences where travellers not only get to visit fantastic rainforest and see incredible biodiversity, but by doing so give back to local people and help support local conservation efforts, business initiatives and scientific research…which are all essential to protecting the Peruvian Amazon for future generations.

Boat on the Tambopata River
Boat on the Tambopata River

10. What do you think are some of the myths that people get right or wrong about the Amazon – like the threat of being eaten by piranha?

Well, you can get eaten by piranha if you really want to, but it hasn’t happened yet! We don’t swim in oxbow lakes…piranha fishing is easy though and is part of some of our rainforest experiences. Many fear the diseases for instance, but with the necessary vaccinations and precautions we have not yet had a case of any diseases. Malaria is extremely rare for instance. The Amazon female tribe is another one, at least where we work. Other myths would be anacondas hunting people. It is hot and humid – that is no myth!

Looking up
Looking up

11.Are there many other South Africans near to where you live?

Hoatzin bird
Hoatzin bird

Funnily enough there are a couple, but we don’t get together, as we live out of town. One lady (from Port Elizabeth I think) moved here years ago and has two sons who are still here. I have a South African photographer friend on Facebook who was here, but before we could  get together he moved to Arequipa.

12. Please finish these sentences:

a) I wish South Africans would…be more international in their viewpoints and less ”clique-y”.

b) South Africa has made me…strong in character, a nature lover, take lots of photographs, and has also made me open my eyes to many different types people and not be racist (like many Peruvians are).

c) I love South Africa because…it will always be my home country and is unmatched for natural beauty and things for kids to do.

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  1. Great selection of photographs! I bet it was hard to select them as you have so many awesome ones!
    Living in a different country or even region within your own country is a challenge. We miss, we doubt, we understand. The key is to keep an open mind and be willing to learn about the experience for as long as it lasts!
    Good luck with the projects and best wishes for you and your family.
    (Love the sunrise pic!)

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