Tarun Kataria, CEO of Religare Capital Markets Ltd, first saw Africa as a teenager. He is yet to have his fill of the beautiful continent. Edited excerpts from an interview:
You keep going back to Africa. Why the fascination?
We’ve been going to Africa, mostly southern Africa, every year, for over a decade now although I made my first trip with my parents as a teenage boy. Africa has so much to offer that repeat visits have become the norm. I can’t think of a better mix of the great outdoors. Safaris are a key part. The outdoors also mean trekking up Table Mountain, cage diving with the Great White or seeing them “breach” in a feeding frenzy, whale watching along the Garden Route, hang-gliding over Chapman’s Peak, playing golf at some ofthe world’s most stunning courses or driving a dune buggy through vineyards.
The Wild Side: Every year, the Katarias go on a safari through African bush. Photograph by Tarun Kataria
Wildlife, landscapes, cultures. What draws you most?
Clearly, all these. But Africa’s ability to build first world cities like Cape Town while preserving its wildlife heritage fascinates me no end. In the end though, the greatest draw is usually six days out in the African bush. Watching crocodiles devour wildebeest during the Mara crossing; tracking a pride of lionesses until they take down a Cape buffalo; watching a cheetah hunt a timid impala or a beautiful leopard amble—it’s all wonderfully humbling.
Where did you go on your last trip?
Our most recent one was a three-day getaway to Cape Town. As cities go, I can’tthink of many places more enjoyable—blue skies, fabulous weather, wonderfulpeople, jazz bars and, of course, endless wining and dining options. A great antidote to our frenetic lives in Bombay.A few months earlier we were in Masai Mara during the Great Migration—over a million wildebeest making their annual crossing of the Mara river in search of fresh grass. Tens of crocodiles lie in wait for a once-a-year feast. If you have a 600mm lens at hand, you can see the gleam on the crocs’ teeth.
How did you plan your trip?
Africa now has a certain routine for us. A week of safari, followed by a week in CapeTown. For the safari, we either go to Kenya to watch the Great Migration or to Botswana. We have the great fortune of having a teenage daughter who enjoys all this. In fact, in one of recent trips, Shaiyra volunteered at Phinda. She did some research on black rhino rehabilitation in South Africa while we stayed at a reserve not far away.
Any adventure you particularly remember?
My wife and daughter don’t agree, but my most fascinating experience was at DubaPlains. It’s in the Okavango delta, the only landlocked delta in the world, in Botswana. We started our game drive at 6am and were keen to track a pride of nine lionesses. It quickly became clear that they had only one thing on their minds—how to “take down” or kill a Cape buffalo. They noiselessly fanned out and flushed out a calf. Its mother followed in an attempt to get it back into the herd only to find them both surrounded by the lionesses. Animal Planet Live!
Cape buffaloes are massive, fearless beasts, with dangerous horns. It’s not easy for even three lionesses to bring down one Cape buffalo, forget two simultaneously. The take down lasted some 20 minutes. It was fascinating to watch, but gutwrenching too.
Any unpleasant experiences?
None at all.
What’s the food experience like?
From fabulous Thai, Italian, Indian, Malay, French or nouvelle South African, the choice is endless. What’s particularly enjoyable is a day trip to Stellenbosch, where the winelands are. You will find some of the best restaurants in all of Africa here. You start with some Graham Becks sparkling wine, follow it up with your choice of starter and main course, wash it down with a Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by the best chocolate mousse you ever ate!Nirvana, and that’s South Africa for you!