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Journeys with Insight

Our History


Migration is an African theme that goes beyond just the animals.

Chris Liebenberg

Africa is a land of mystery and undiscovered harshness. Its bushes and plains teem with animals all bent on survival - but many become prey to lack and the predators that target the weak and the unwary.

Man and animals are caught up in the endless dance of the centuries, seeking shelter and food, birthing their young in season, migrating from want to plenty, drought to rainfall, all driven by forces over which they have no control.

Marais family: Migration from religious persecution

Europe in the 16th century was in turmoil. Wars, economic collapse, religious persecution all were factors that caused human migration across the continent to seek safety and better opportunities.

Chris Liebenberg

Religious unrest in France in particular in the 17th century when French Protestants or Huguenots were persecuted by the predominantly Catholic Royal House is of interest when tracing the connection to Piper & Heath Travel in the 21st century Charles Marais and his wife Catherine Taboureux and their 4 children escaped France in 1685 to avoid persecution as they were Huguenots. They sought safety in the Netherlands and were offered land at the Cape of Good Hope where the VOC, or Dutch East India Company, had established a provision station in 1652.

Freedom from persecution and the opportunity to own land was too good to miss and in 1688 Charles Marais and family arrived in the Cape and settled in the area that would become known as French Hoek (French Corner). Charles Marais was granted land which he named Plessy de Marly after his home region in France. This farm is still owned by a branch of the Marais family almost 4 centuries later and Plaisier de Merle wines continue to be produced.

In 1889 a descendant of Charles Marais, Jacoba Aletta Marais was born about 100 miles from where he originally settled.

Pyper Family: Migration from unrest to seek a better life

In 1771 Johann Christian Pyper (originally Pfeifer) left his native Germany where he had been a farm laborer. Wars and rumors of wars brought opportunity and he arrived in the Cape Colony in late 1771 as a soldier to the VOC - Dutch East India Company. He married an emancipated slave-girl Christina van der Kaap in 1776.

In 1788 Johann was released from his duties to the VOC and he and his family travelled to the area near the present-day Orange Free State where they settled. In 1887 their many times removed grandson Gideon Francois Piper was born. In all there were 21 children born between the birth of the first child of Johann Christian and the birth of Gideon Francois.

In 1913 two descendants of the Marais and Piper families, Aletta Marais and Gideon Francois Pyper married. In 1920 their 4th daughter Cornelia was born.

Heath & Casten Families: Migration from England and Germany

Carl Casten was a diminutive painter from the village Bad Salzdettfurth in the Duchy of Hanover, German. He stood 5’6” in his boots and when offered the opportunity to join the British Germany Legion under countryman Baron von Stutterheim in 1856, he saw the opportunity to better himself. The British German Legion was formed to bolster British forces that were dying from disease and slaughter in the Crimean War. Shortly after joining the Legion and after arriving for training in Colchester, England, the Crimean War ended and Carl Casten was sent to South Africa with the rest of his comrades. They settled and were granted land in the present-day Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

Rosa Casten, Carl’s daughter, was born in approximately 1870.

Robert Jonathan Heath was born in a small village in Essex, England in 1852. He trained as a carpenter and when offered the opportunity to take passage to South Africa on a sailing ship he did not have to be invited twice. Robert was a skilled carpenter and found employment in the ship-building and -outfitting industry in South Africa. A pretty lass of Scottish decent caught his eye and he married Louisa Ralston in 1876. Their grandson Dennis Heath was born in 1914.

And so the full circle of migration, fleeing from danger and seeking refuge, birth and death, was closed when in 1940 Dennis Heath and Cornelia Pyper (Piper) were married. Their families had left kith and kin in Europe and followed opportunity to brave dangers both on the high seas and in Africa itself.

It is no coincidence that their grandson Chris Liebenberg should find the allure of travel and the African continent itself inextricably wound up in who he is and that Piper Heath travel was born.