Title: Hippos, Hotspots, and Homelands
An Educator’s Journey during Apartheid and Beyond
A Compelling Memoir
Author: Elsa van der Byl
ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-920335-89-2 (printed edition to be ordered from Amazon)
ISBN: 978-1-920335-90-8 (epub)
Price: $6.99

This compelling memoir describes Elsa van der Byl’s life in South Africa during apartheid, the transition to democracy, and the transformational period. As an educator, she worked with various cultural groups in the so-called homelands, experiencing student revolts, college closures, and being held hostage by students.

Readers are regaled with interesting incidents when, as choir director, Elsa promoted black cultural festivals and interaction with white institutions. Also interwoven are impartial political observations and coping with crime. She also shares her experiences, moving from the city to country towns, and finally living in the “bush”.


“Elsa’s adventures throughout South Africa – ranging from personal, social, and political all the way to encounters with the animal kingdom – provide adventure, hilarity, and keen insight into a largely untamed and often misunderstood land. Intriguing, entertaining, and often poignant, Hippos, Hotspots, and Homelands is a must for avid armchair travelers.”

Amanda Turner, New York Times best-selling author


“Elsa is a captivating storyteller who turns her readers into invisible companions, drawing them into a gripping world of adventure, challenges, and extraordinary experiences.”

Hennie Maas, well-known South African media creator, radio announcer and producer


Elsa van der Byl’s career in South Africa spans many years, teaching languages and music at schools and becoming acting rector of a college of education. She helped transform educational programs and served on several educational committees before accepting a contract as a visiting international teacher in the USA. The daughter of a famous South African comedian, Piet Pompies, Elsa published the Afrikaans book, Piet wat Pompies was. Although based in the US, she has maintained strong ties with South Africa, taking small tour groups there through her company, TravelswithElsa (LLC). For a list of her travel articles and other publications, please visit https://travelswithelsa.com/elsa-the-author/.