September – November News

It is quite incredible another year has almost flown by. Since our last catch up Scotland “FORNEVER” and now they want to try again , and again, and …again. Salmond got smoked as is traditional up there anyway; how else would you want it. Obama got thrashed and is playing “Lame Duck” now. How slow to react to the ISIS menace! Anyway the less PR we give the ISIS machine the better as they thrive on it. Russia still playing “Big Boy” against Ukraine and denying there are Russians involved. UKIP are thriving now with 2 x MP’s and the Political Parties all putting their heads in the sand saying it will be different next year! Hmmmmmmmm! Lest wait and see. Troops leave Afghanistan to the Afghans; Cameron states that troops will never go there again – not surprising since there is hardly an Army left after his cuts. Iraq was the same wasn’t it – never go back there again, and…?

Ebola in West Africa sparks panic in some places. Thankfully, eventually, US and UK Govts send forces there to assist; little to nothing from the remainder. Eastern and Southern Africa are far way and so far untouched unlike the USA and Europe. I wonder when the travel ban will be lifted from USA and Europe then! Ummmmmmmmm! You can bet your bottom dollar if there’s a case here then a ban would be put by the US; ironic somewhat that 9 cases or so in the USA has no reaction. So the moral of the story is “it is fine to travel to other areas of Africa” and you don’t have to be put in quarantine when you return; so ludicrous stories of Bosses telling people you cant come back to work unless 3 weeks quarantine, well this is just plain stupidity.

Here in S.Africa the very reliable Power Utility ESKOM is power shedding again and so every week-end now we have power outages. Can’t a private Company come in and replace the useless Dinosaur of ESKOM. Otherwise it’s corruption as usual and life carries on. The Postal strike finally ended after months on strike, so no chance of getting the Xmas post now.

Rugby thriving with the Southern Hemisphere paying a visit to the North and pretty much taking all the Games; although Ireland did play superbly beating the 2 Big Uns. Wales beating the Springboks! England …well…? Sad Blatter (FIFA Dinosaur) sticking to his corrupt team; he’ll only go if somebody pushes him under a Bus. Then the trajic news of Philip Hughes (Australian Cricketer); what a great energetic man he was. I watched the Funeral and my God, it was certainly an emotional affair and incredibly moving.

Down here at Garonga we’ve had a very busy last 3 months. Congratulations go to Dirk and Cornelia, Dave and Kate, Chris and Liz, Adam and Ruth for tying the knot here at Garonga. We all wish you the very best!

Many thanks to Andy, Beth and Sheryl, the Africa In Focus Team (Rep Company in SA) for organising the educational trips for the Tour Operators from Cape Town and Durban. These are just so essential for Agents to see that there is life outside of the Sabi Sands.

The Safari Teams have really been trying pulling out all the stops when they can. There have been some incredible sightings though; one couple saw a Lion Kill from the Picnic deck when they were having lunch, and the same couple had also just experienced a cheetah kill the previous day; how damn cool is that! Leopard sightings have been up and down. The Ellies disappeared for a period of time but have now magically reappeared and doing what they do best. The two big Male Lions have been seen fairly regularly as they patrol their patch (quite a big patch on 22000hactres or 60,000 acres). The Impalas have now given birth and so Bambies are everywhere. Now its getting hotter walks not so popular but they are there if you want them.

The sleepouts, Bush baths, and now the Picnics are being well and truly used. Now that we have finally had the first rains the bush is slowly greening. The rains have been very late and not as much as usual at this time of the year, but don’t want to tempt fate.

The Chefettes have performed admirably, and as is tradition a recipe will be attached with this newsletter. A small change we have added in now is have a delicious cake for tea. Lunches and Picnics restarted in September.

It was great to welcome back Linda who carried out 6 days of intense training with the staff. She always brings an incredible excitement with her which really jiffs up the staff. Until next year.

There is so much to running a Safari Camp. Guests will only see a ¼ of the picture. Behind the scenes we have such great staff working in Scullery, Housekeeping and Laundry, Security, Farm and Maintenance.

I was very fortunate to take 3 weeks leave in September and decided to do the Cultural thing; went to Jordan, The Dead Sea, and all the temples, and then to Lebanon doing pretty much the same thing. Beirut was amazing with the French style Café’s and street very much in evidence. Went to the temples at Balbach in Lebanon; this was amazing not least because the Syrian Border was only about 35 clicks away. However they are really suffering in Tourism. I counted 4 other people when I was there, and according to the Guide it normally was packed. Anyway a fascinating trip.

Well, it’s time (gasp, you say) to wrap up. A big thank-you to you, our Guests!! Also to the Travel Trade who provide such an excellent service to Visitors to SA,. Thanks also to Paul and his fantastic and energetic team at Wildweb, and lastly but by no means least to Africa In Focus, ETC Marketing in Germany and Ethos Marketing in UK; our marketing Rep Companies who pound the streets night and day getting Garonga on the Travel Trade’s Radar, putting up with Mr. Grumps, and no doubt screaming sometimes with extreme frustration; thank-You!

A memorable year has passed where UK troops have handed over in Afghanistan, provided a far better environment to the Afghans than when they first started and at such cost in lives and Injuries to the Troops themselves. Thank-you!!

Wishing you all a fantastic Xmas with your Families and loved ones, and every success for 2015!!

See you next year!

Keep safe and well (less a hangover or three).

Bernie

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February – August News

Yes, it has been sooooooooooooooooo long ago to have ranted and raved, yet so much has happened in such a short while. Young Vladimir has been trying to become “Peter the Great” and reinstall Russia as a dominant in Europe. I can understand him taking the Crimea (same as the Cuba crisis, or The Falklands) but going even more into Ukraine – well that’s just daft and he’ll get burnt.

Iraq is just a hopeless case, and now in the name of some weird religion these ISIS guys bury alive women and children; I don’t get it, and they need to be put down. What hope for Afghanistan! Libya – another basket case; so much for “Freedom and the Arab Spring”. Egypt got it right, and quite rightly keeping a strong hold there. There is quite a lot to be said for dictators who wouldn’t stand for any of this nonsense. Assad in Syria must be saying “I told you so!!”. Now what.

Cameron in UK loses one of his Muslim MP’s who decides to resign on “Twitter”. If you do that then all you’re saying is “Look at me; me; me ; me!”. Good riddance and pat yourself on the back! Where do they come from! Boris is going for it – good for him. Could make politics all the more entertaining. Scotland wants freedom next month – tough, you ain’t getting it unless you want to go back to Dupplin Moor and all that stuff.

Here in SA Zuma struggled on and won the election. Could be very interesting in 2 years time when they have the local elections – anything could happen. Young Julius and his cohorts want to wear red and dress up as porcupines in parliament. Leave them be and let them act like crass school kids and lets all have a giggle.

Sports – guess what, England never made it to the 2nd round of the football world cup; now that’s a surprise! Overpaid, disloyal, egotestical (yes, spelt right!) jokes. Thank god for Germany. Now all forgotten since they start their club matches now. England and the world cup was just an annoyance for them, and in the way. And they get paid for that performance? What a life; pay to lose. Cricket – some rays of sunshine there. Maybe recover the ashes? Commonwealth games – brilliant England. Same for European athletics and the English ladies ruby team winning the world cup. Big enough incentive for the chaps next year I guess?

Floods 2014

The Sleepout Deck

As I said, down here on the reserve we have had good and bad. Floods sadly put Makalali Lodge out of action for a few months, and so our guides had the reserve pretty much to themselves! We were closed anyway for maintenance when it happened. The main entrance road was flooded out and took some months to recover and repair, but guess what, you still get some Travel Agents from one particular country “Complaining about the state of the road”. Sometimes you want to just grip them and well… the rest is history! Things take time out here. 400mm in two nights in March and that’s after the normal rains.

Great bit of news – This reserve is now a registered private nature game reserve which means we are now protected by law from land claims and god knows what else. Brilliant!

Even better news are our guests who have decided to “tie the knot” here! So many congratulations to Adam and Vicky, Peter and Gemma, Gary and Caroline, Chris and Melanie, Dan and Vicky, Stephen and Charlotte, Peter and Gemma, Stefan and Christina, Andrew and Glynis, Ian and Henriette, and Jack and Lisa. Many thanks also to George for making it such an enjoyable and painless experience.

A very warm welcome back to Billy and Terri, Charlie and June who brought Norman and Jayne along with; old Buddies from the past! They even left Cape Town without a night in jail – something very new for the boys! Also to Bill and Chris; great to see you back again! Lew; great to see you back. Also great to see Horst and Ulrike again! And finally to Wolfgang and Ute who celebrated 100 days here over the last 17 years!! Thanks so much for your support, and also to Soeren who only has a few days to catch up.

The game viewing has really been spectacular with regular sightings now of leopard, the lions (quite a few of them now) and cheetah with cubs. The ellies have done their normal winter trick and gone and hidden in the north of the reserve. Every now and again the herds are seen, but the bulls we still see quite a bit. Over the last couple of months there has been game capture of the impalas as there were so many.

With winter the walks prove a lot more popular, as does the sleep out. It is deceivingly warmer at the sleep out, and so those who think it to be too cold, give it a try. The Microliting has also been used a lot – great fun!

Josia trying to get into Hollywood

The Chefettes have been doing some blinding work in the kitchen. This year I decided to cancel the high teas and do a later lunch but only a light salad, fruit and cheese and biscuits. We never really received good feedback for the high teas, hence the change. It is a light lunch though, since breakfast (quite a big affair) finishes at 1130hrs, so lunch is at 1430hrs (3 hours later). Anyway with this comes a recipe. In September we revert back to normal lunches, and picnics. The curry nights on a Sunday night are still popular as ever, and the surprise bush breakfasts which we normally do once a week sometime. Judy also came in for 10 days of training, and so many thanks to her for the spruce up.

During the closedown an extra deck was built around the pool giving more room. I had an extension done (to my house!!) preparing it for the rugby world cup next year where we can invite rugby supporters down to the house, watch on the big screen, then huddle round the fire and get “R……ed! Sounds fun! Boerewors rolls and all that. Welcome back to nephew Taro who has visited again and helped around the camp; just missed the opening of my new extension, which means he’ll be back next year! Look forward to it. As always a great help with the Facebook thing, and now he’s an Intern with Imagine Africa (travel company) and hopefully working his socks off, but enjoying it. I’m sure he is, as what a great company it is!

On the training front we welcome back Adriaan to test the safari teams in their tracking skills. All passed with flying colours but most especially to note is that Rebel gained his tracker Level 3, and Jaff maintained his level 3. Josia, Phineas, CJ, and Richard all gained Level 2. Our occupancy has got better and better, even at Little Garonga, and so many thanks indeed to Ethos Marketing, Hella and Roland at ETC in Germany and Andy and his team in Joburg. There were a ridiculous number of travel shows this year all before Indaba; where does it end! Anyway I attended ITB in Berlin, “We are Africa” in Cape Town, and lastly Indaba in Durban.

There have been many changes on the staff front; some voluntary, some not, and all seemed to happen after the floods! Andy, farm manager; Lily, camp manager; Nicole from reservations although she still comes in once a week to do the books; Fay, therapist; Khensani and Maria, chefs; Stanley, waiter; Patric, tracker (he quite rightly got offered a guide’s position in another lodge); Elliott, guide. So this took quite a bit of juggling and multi tasking whilst key positions were absent, and only in June has staff levels resumed normality! So, welcome to Trevor, farm manager; Suritha as camp manageress, Zani as therapist, Caroline has now been promoted from scullery to breakfast bhef and what a gem she is so full of enthusiasm; Mpho as chef; Sylvia from breakfast chef to sous-chef; Elvis as guide (used to be a guide at Makalali many moons ago); Phineas is now a permanent tracker at Little Garonga with CJ. Our Reservations is now very capably handled down in Cape Town by Meliza and Ronique. So quite a change and all for the better!

That’s pretty much it really (not so bad after all). Summer is creeping in. We are still avid supporters of H4H and providing some nice prizes at auctions. With the wind down in Afghanistan there is a temptation to “forget” our troops who have given so much. Their injuries carry on and so all the more reason to keep donating and supporting them, who have been so badly let down by governments.

Keep well and all the best

Bernie

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Bathing Under God’s Window – Guest Blog

One of the many things I love about Africa is that if you are prepared to immerse yourself in the freedom of “the bush” your soul will soar, your spirit will revive and your heart will open itself to new experiences.

Most of us live in a materialistic society where rules and constraints govern our day to day existence. I am as guilty as anyone of spending money on my appearance and surrounding myself with coveted possessions, so imagine staying at a place where your welcome is written in the sand and you are encouraged to dine in a simple kikoy (sarong) and relax whilst taking in amazing views over the dry riverbed on which Garonga’s 12 luxury tents are perched.

read more…

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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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