December News

It all seems so long ago now, but Happy New year and every success for 2014. Am so chuffed that another Politician has taken up The Berlusconi Banga Banga theme. Monsieur Francois Hollande has taken to pedal scootering to his “bit on the Side” round the corner from the Palace in Paris. Not exactly a very stylish getaway; rumour has it that his Bodyguard is tasked with buying Croissants from the corner shop for them both – “‘allo allo”. Straight out of the TV comic series! Meanwhile his Regular Companion is so overwrought that she has to be taken to Hospital with severe stress!! It must be difficult trying to keep his three babes happy (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then week-ends off??).

Chancellor Merkel has a skiing accident but still manages to get around. Good for her. Egypt has hopefully sorted itself out a bit better; unfortunately in some countries Democracy (as we know it) just doesn’t work and you need a strong powerbase; same as in Russia; you need a strong leader otherwise before you know it the Chechnyans and their Muslim Fanatics will be exploding things all over.

Here in South Africa we are still trying to find out who the Impostor was at Maidba’s Memorial. The guy doing the deaf language/signage was apparently used many times at ANC Rallies/Events; now that explains it all! So there’s this Guy rubbing shoulders with the likes of Obama and so on; how funny is that. Zuma is counting the days to the next election (only a few months to go) so best to build as many houses for himself as possible on the Taxpayer before his time runs out. Mugabe’s turning 90 now, and so a few more clones need to be made. The DRC once again in chaos as they all struggle to be No.1 to make as much money as possible out of their people. So situation normal really.

Queen Elizabeth prepares to welcome home The English Cricket Team
after they lost 'The Ashes' series to Australia 5-0!

Sports – nothing worth mentioning really. Only that small urn called “The Ashes” which just about sums up that terrible cricketing performance. England badly burnt and not looking too rosy for the future. Australia, I have to admit, were an awesome machine and deservedly won a whitewash! They next come down here to South Africa where I’m sure there will be a much harder fought battle and won’t be so easily intimidated by Moustaches and gobby Warners.

Down here in sleepy hollow we have had the inevitable rains and of course happened to be over Xmas and New year. The river did come down in flood for a day but now everything is so thick and lush green. It was a pleasure to welcome Hella again (Germany Marketing Company for Garonga) with a team of German Tour/Travel Operators. Thanks Hella, you did a sterling job; what a great bunch of people they were as well! There you go, always spike the drinks, the tea, the coffee and whatever else you can spike! A very warm welcome back to Soren; will see you again in August with the folks, Soren!

The Game Viewing has been spectacular with so much game on Garonga now (always happens after the rains) that twice in a week Cheetah have been seen killing two Impalas (one each); the big male leopard also by the airstrip, the breeding herd of ellies, the two big male lions and so on. I really would ask our Guests to post on Facebook or our website if you get a chance, as am sure there are some doubting Thomas’s out there saying “Easy to say that on a newsletter”. Well, it’s Gospel, and it’s a Sunday today, AND I’m a Catholic! With the heat and the rains the sleepouts took a bit of a dive, but what was really popular were the Microlites; even had two families who used the Microlites to fly them to Hoedspruit Airport, and their luggage taken by road – it feels like going back to another era; great fun for them, and something very novel for us; but, hey, why not!

Xmas evening we did our usual traditional Turkey, and Crackers and silly hats! Great fun! New years Eve was a fairly quiet affair with the last Guests leaving at 0030 hrs. For the Staff Xmas Party the main Staff went to Polokwane for the day off, and I took the frontline staff to Dinner and the night at the Coach House; I thought I’d give it a go again after a number of years after it was taken over by some Hotel group. Unfortunately it did not live up to its reputation when Guy Mathews owned and ran it, and so will give it a miss in future; very sad but there is no TLC there, and it has so much potential.

Things to look forward to: offering a stay 4 pay 3 in January and February; the Garonga/Steenberg Package begins again March to September, and would now recommend “Olivers Hotel and Spa” near White River for any stayover in the Hazyview/White River Area. We are closed for most of March for our annual clean up and maintenance; all of March for Little Garonga as we are adding (Finally) another bathroom in the Hambleden Suite for the Kids rooms, so that Kids can no longer use the excuse of using the Loo just to see what “mum and dad are up to in the middle of the night”!

Keep well and all the very best! Hope to see you down here one day.

Cheers for now,
Bernie

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October – November News

The changing of the seasons in the bush has started, having had our first good rains over October and November. Perfect timing having done the Bush burning in September; all these areas are now flourishing with lush green grass.

It has been a very busy couple of months at both Camps, September being the busiest month of the year, and has been for some considerable time. It was great to have Ben over for about 6 weeks “Gap Time” who helped out a lot on the farm and also with Safari. The very first Sunday he was here we went up into the Hills above Tzaneen to have a proper Pizza Lunch at a Friend’s house. What an incredible day; Pizzas of all flavours cooked from a proper Pizza oven with the herbs/garnish literally taken from the garden. I’ve never had a four hour lunch with constant feeding and not felt completely bloated, but this time it didn’t feel like that at all. Great food and wine, and in a magical setting; what more do you want!

From a red herring to Ground Zero down here at Garonga. Many congratulations to Andreas and Sarah-Elin for tying the knot here at Garonga. Sarah-Elin also fell in love with Africa when she stayed/worked in Phalaborwa some years ago, and so once again we have a couple getting married due to past life in Africa; as they say ‘Africa always calls you back’! Also a warm welcome back to Eddy, Olivia, and Freddy (Ben’s family). Husband/brother Alex couldn’t make it with them this time. However as these things happen they came out from the typical UK weather for great African sunshine; did they get it? Not even one day out of the five. How typically Murphy is that!

That MUST have hurt!

As always bush baths, picnics and of course the infamous sleep out always popular. No close encounters that I can remember but then my grey cells are slowly diminishing. On the Safari Side there have been great sightings, and the Guides have been pulling out the stops. Walking still proving popular – please do feel free to ask to walk when you are here; however they are only done during normal safari times. On that note beware wake up time now is 0500hrs now that we’re mid-summer; and you thought you came for a rest! As always after the rains the Impala Lambs and Wildebeest calves are all over the place. So fragile and vulnerable!

It has been a busy period of Site Inspections as well; not sure why these months are the time to do these. I hope they all went well. Only time will tell. As I said at the beginning some good first rains although not nearly as much as normal by this time; just under 80mm so far – normally we would have had double, but one never knows whats round the corner. If you are coming over the next few months be prepared; we do have excellent waterproofs though. So the bush is now so green and of course becoming thicker again. However what normally happens after the first rains is that a lot of the Game start moving away from the River down south of us and up to Garonga.

On the staffing front it is a sad farewell to Elizma who has moved on; thanks Elizma for your time here and wish you every success in your new position. We welcome Lily who has taken over from Elizma; also speaks fluent French. Just need some French Guests! Also a welcome to Richard and Phineas who have both taken up the Tracker’s positions with Safari after Thulani left. There is now a permanent tracker at Little Garonga with CJ; we didn’t have one before as it didn’t really justify it due to Occupancy there; so at least that’s a good sign of Little Garonga doing much better. On that Little Garonga note; we did have a couple that complained about the view up there; which is not surprising because there isn’t one! And also the Garden. This is the Bush, and so things grow naturally here, and at Little Garonga you are right in the Bush Literally. I always encourage Guests to go down to Safari Camp, have a drink there and so on and see the view, and also if Guests want to join in our dinner theme nights at Safari Camp, then of course they are very welcome. We do Curry nights every Sunday night, Carvery Roast Nights, Bomas; so always something different going on.

From my own side I have been doing a bit of globe trotting trying to sell “Garonga”. So off I went down to Australia and New Zealand to do six cities (No, not that TV programme!); quite a challenge doing 20 presentations each evening as by the end of it I had that sort of Husky voice; a bit like the Yank TV actors that always seem to speak in that husky tone, but then they didn’t have to do 20 presentations, so what’s their excuse! I don’t think I even “pulled” with that voice. Anyway great fun but unfortunately not much time in the cities as always moving on to the next one. The only down side was having to be there when the Cricket Ashes started in Brisbane – what an embarrassment that was, and to think we invented the Game! And unfortunately the Cricket team continue to embarrass ; I suppose we did have a good run for a few years.

It has been another great year, exactly the same as last year for both Camps (Little Garonga up a little bit in fact); so thank-you to all the Operators/Agents for supporting us, and YOU, the Guests for coming! Also a big thanks to our Guests who have written so favourably on Trip Advisor gaining us another award – 8th out of 10 in the “Best All-Inclusive resorts in Africa”! We are very honoured; the Staff are so chuffed, but it is down to you! I know we don’t always get it right, and maybe let some people down, but we do our best to give you a fantastic time here!

We have a stay 4 pay 3 special running from 05 January 14 to end of February 14. Please do liase with Nicole at reservations on this.

I have to have just a quickie! Edward Snowden (So called whistleblower AKA Traitor), you will have blood on your hands now that you’ve given the terrorists and others a nice little Golden Egg; the next time there’s an incident think carefully what you have done. May you get run over by a stampeding herd of grumpy old Buffalo; but enjoy the freedom of Russia! Durch! Also to Julia (yes, spelt correctly) Assange lapping up Harrods Xmas hampers and obviously thinking of Sex change Bradley Manning who you put in Jail for 30 years – go and face the rape charges in Sweden as part of your new years wish! That’s it – not so bad after all.

Finally a double trajedy to strike in SA. Such a fantastic man who will be so missed by all; an inspiration to all. Madiba, you deserve a sainthood! God Bless you.

Lastly the end of a fantastic Boutique Lodge; Cybele Forest Lodge that was closed down effectively by the Land Claims Commission. A trajedy that could have been avoided, and the fantastic Owners and staff who made that place so special. I hope this is not a sign of things to come.

Wishing you all a very Merry Xmas and every success for 2014. To our troops still fighting out in Afghanistan making sure that we all sleep soundly – keep safe and THANK-YOU!

Have a good one!
Bernie

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July – September News

The Emerald Season is over and now moving into the Ivy Season. It has been a very busy few months. Moving from winter to summer is always a great time as it heats up and the pool becomes much more inviting.

Over the few months the safari teams have provided spectacular game sightings; one they all recount is a leopard in a tree with an impala kill and two lions right below. The guide’s camera happened to be charging back at camp; Murphy once again. Leopard sightings have been frequent which is always common in winter when the bushveld is less thick. Walks have proven also to be popular due to the coolness/cold first thing in the mornings. Josia and Patric have been suitably entertaining their guests with a poo spitting competition; chewing elephant dung and such other edible activities – call the medic! Now in summer or nearing it, as we have been caught out twice now with some bleak cold days after having a day of 45 degrees heat, the drives are going out quite a bit earlier – departing at 05:45 hrs (wake up at 05:15). Elephant bulls have decided a couple of times to come and check in at the camp; also a Little Garonga where he was attempting to push a knobthorn tree over the roof of one of the suites, but somehow I managed to “persuade him no to”, but then he decided “stuff him, who does he think he is”, and promptly pushed it over the BBQ grills; at least it saved us a new roof. The joys of living in the bush; every day so different.

"Lining up the next target!"

"Lions on a banking trip"

Our chefs have produced some amazing fare, and now we are so sad that we can’t scrape up any last remnants of chocolate cake and so on; it is now back to lunches and picnics up in the picnic tree, and only iced tea and biscuits for tea. Our curry nights are proving great fun and popular on Sunday nights. They have also been busy doing wedding cakes.

On that note we wish many congratulations again for tying the knot here at Garonga; Campbell and Karen, Marcus and Tina, Donna and Jo, Michael and Melanie, Brad and Adriana, Stephan and Katja, Abdelkader and Carol, Bhabesh and Cheatna, and Jacobus and Michelle. Thanks so much for choosing Garonga for your very special day, and we all wish you the very best. George has really performed very entertaining but profound services for the couples and Louise has done sterling work with the photos. Also great to see back Wolfgang and Ute on their annual pilgrimage to Africa; always a pleasure to have you back. Likewise to Brian; thanks indeed for visiting us again!

"The Glorious Drakensberg Escarpment"

Other activities that proven very popular are the sleep outs – in one week we had five! The main story was two different couples who heard the Leopard “coughing” underneath the deck. Tracks were found in the morning to back up their story, but it does go to prove that predators do not like to climb into areas where there are people and more importantly that they don’t like to go into contrived (closed off) areas as it makes them vulnerable. So the psychological battle has been won (for then anyway). Something else that is also popular are the Microlite flights; R850.00 pp for a 20 minutes flip over the reserve. We have had many takers; try it when you come!

Out on the reserve Ross (warden) and his team have been busy burning thick areas of bush; the last deliberate burn was about 12 years ago and so it was well needed; all we need now is some rain and it will look like a picture in paradise. Quite a few areas were burnt on Garonga. When the grasses do grow after the rains the general game flocks on to these areas for the lush green shoots. We also have had our game count (every two years) and the numbers are looking very promising indeed; over 3500 Impalas, so the food count is high. Should keep the lions happy.

"The sleeping Beauties!"

Fay has been intensely busy with her massages. Andy and his team on the farm busy as always on maintenance; also our veggie garden we are going to redo with completely new soils; it’s that time! We are still getting some great produce from there but it is looking cluttered and tired. The carrots are almost falling over with stress, and the beetroots crying for more new soil; so we give in to these emotional night noises that we hear and will provide.

On the staff front it is with great sadness to wish Musa (guide) farewell. He has chosen another career in the city in boiler making! He was really brilliant, very understanding, and highly professional. I wish him luck as he will be sadly missed. To replace Musa we have Elliot who was a guide for 17 years at Motswari (one of the old and bold). We very much look forward to having him on the team. Samuel and Salome also left; I wish them both the best of luck. Lauren who joined us for about two months work experience was a great help assisting as both camps were extremely busy. Again I wish her luck in the hospitality industry. Nicole who is slaving away in reservations struggling sometimes to get the information the camp needs to make the guests stay a really pleasant one

"Waiting patiently for Mum's return from shopping"

"After a Boy's good night out!"

To our marketing teams who slave away on the streets through wind, rain, snow and sun; thank-you! You are so much appreciated believe me. On that note I was away with Andy (Africa In focus boss of rep company) on two sales trips; one in Joburg and one in Cape Town. Which one was best? Went to a brilliant restaurant in Joburg (If you like steaks) called “Wombles” in Parkhurst; it has to be the best meat I have ever eaten. Give it a bash. In Cape Town we did stop in one place on the beach but cannot remember the name of it; that was excellent. Finally in Cape Town I gave a thank-you lunch to tour operators who support us at the Steenberg Hotel. The same Hotel we do a winter package with. We are also doing the same package for March – September 2014; it is an excellent package and we had a few bookings for it this year. At present we are still doing a joint package with Cybele – two nights in each place. Give it a go.

We have now also started business with Federal Air whereby they can fly guests direct from Johannesburg International to Garonga via one or two other lodges. It will take a maximum of 90 minutes and costs R 3250.00 pp; check our website for more details. Just another much quicker way of getting here.

Finally our thoughts go out to our Kenyan friends and colleagues who were ripped apart by the cowardly attack on completely innocent people; including young kids can you believe! These attacks done in the name of religion; this I just don’t understand! These fundamentalists are animals that need to be put down as they are right up in the league of the Nazis. No quarter given. As the president of Kenya said they will be hunted down and destroyed “painfully”.

On that sour note we wish you a great season on, and look forward to having you here soon.

Keep well and all the best

Bernie

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Cäci in South Africa

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

Cäci travels to South Africa as she goes on Safari in the Kruger National Park region and enjoys the fantastic game viewing at Garonga.

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Garonga special for June 13

We are offering a stay 4 pay 3 special for the month of June which is on top of the discounted rates for the Winter Season, plus the exchange rates now are extremely favourable. A beautiful time to come and visit the Bush!

E mail reservations@garonga.com for quotes.

Keep well.

Bernie

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