January News

What a month! The tragic events in Haiti; a country that just has not got off its feet after one disaster after another. Amazing how teams still find people alive after so many days! We can only wish them ever changing fortunes in the near future.

December and January  were interesting! British Airways threatening strike action over Xmas (now that’s how to win over the public! Sack the plonker who suggested
that one!), and then here in sunny SA, SA Airlink had a number of problems with their fleet. Congrats to those who persevered through all of this and the travel operators
who were burning the midnight oil to ensure guests arrived at their destination!

Then, January and all that lovely white stuff (no, not Cocaine)! Didn’t it look nice. Same travel problems with guests arriving a day later, sometimes two, and again the
stalwarts of the travel industry burnt the candles both ends again to ensure you all arrived. Quite a challenge for the start of the year! Then the amusing stories of being
sued if you cleared your pathways in front of the house of snow. Nobody else was going to do it. They are a strange breed that H&S lot! Reminds me of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Got to have a giggle there.

France banning some wearing of the Burqa. Good news. I saw an interview between a French journalist and the good old pompous BBC. The BBC asked her why in France they can’t be as “liberal” as The UK.

She replied that in France 75% of the Muslims believe they are French first and Muslim second, whereas in UK 55% think they are Muslim first and English second! Put that in your pipe BBC!!

In the UK there was the long awaited public enquiry on Iraq. Some very interesting things coming out there. Of course TB will get off the hook. What was so obvious was the differing views and statements by all. So no consistency at all, which would point to no clear mission statement by TB at all.

Climate change conference in Copenhagen – who really thought they would agree on anything. They can’t make a decision in their own countries let alone bringing the whole lot together in Sweden. The biggest mass collection of “professional puffers” ever. No wonder it was hard to breathe over that time – they were using excessive oxygen to decide on… nothing! Now UK and Europe are in one of the biggest freezes ever; Global warming apparently?

So election fever has begun in UK. All the promises, baby cuddling, and pretence of what they think they know what is best for us. One example – big problems ahead for the unknown, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and now Yemen and Somalia. You would have thought this would increase their budget for defense wouldn’t you? So they decrease it by 20%. Doesn’t that make you feel so much safer? Put the guy out of his misery and into a strait jacket!

The cricket! What a cracker of a series between England and SA. Up and down like a yo yo. I think South Africa can take Pieterson back though! But such a good advert for test cricket. A draw was a decent result even though over here they say we hung on by our teeth, but hey, if you can’t bowl them out then that’s all part of it. Don’t cry about it SA! And you had at least two S.Africans in the English team and you still couldn’t win!

Here in SA things still gearing up for the FIFA WC, but stories of ridiculous price hikes by, guess who? Airlines; now that’s a surprise. And in Cape Town exorbitant costs by hotels predicted just to really rip you off. There was a big push by SA tourism last year to not do this, but obviously there’s another agenda there. Also good to see more airlines being diverted, cancelled, bags being mislaid – a good start to the FWC. Could be an interesting month in June/July.

Down here in sunny Garonga we have just managed to get our best annual occupancy since opening – 55% for 2009. December for Safari Camp was 47% and Little Garonga 40%. January was 38% for Safari Camp and… Well just over 4% for little chap up the hill. January is always quiet once the Xmas Buzz has gone. However a warm welcome back to Maureen, Alison from Ethos UK, and finally to Mark and Sussane and family, who, this time stayed at Little Garonga exclusively. Many congrats to Robert and Alexei for tying the knot and saying “I do!” here on the sleep out deck. Their flights were delayed by the whole nause, but their calmness and resilience was truly impressive!! Also many congrats to Michael and Alison, and finally to Dieter and Birgit! We actually have quite a few weddings lined up for 2010, and what’s even better now is that we can also source a small Choir and Dancers if guests would like that option.

So overall a very good year for us thanks to all of you!

The veldt is looking very lush and green after almost 210mm of rains in December and January. Just what was needed. Water everywhere.

We have had the ellie herds through the riverbed in front of the main camp on a number of occasions, and the stray bull very often as well. What has been great though is that the eland are still hanging around the airstrip area. The cheetah brothers  have also been seen a number of times waiting for “easy pickings” near the strip as that is where all the plains game congregate in early evening and with so many young. The wildebeest bulls all got together once and charged at the cheetah who took flight. The next afternoon we saw them on a kill with a young wildebeest. Aya, the female, no sign as yet. On more good news – one of the rhino cows has just given birth; jaffeth found it the same day with guests – a first for him. The Lions have been up to their tricks again playing “hard to get”. Obviously not trained properly at the “lion school”. The viewing has been very good however.

Sleep outs have proven very popular over the festive season and in January. I just keep forgetting to turn the remote camera off. I must try and remember this for 2010!

On the food side the Girls have been doing very nicely, except once when a recipe did not go according to plan! Lessons learnt. Debbie came over in mid – December doing five days of hectic refresher training. This was much appreciated by all of us. Thanks Debbie and see you again in March. We had a very traditional
Xmas dinner on the 25th and all went nicely even the silly hats! Actually we only had 4 guests in Safari Camp and so Mark, Susanne and family came to join us all from Little Garonga and I had invited Ross (reserve warden) and his wife Audrey (reserve research boss and ecologist) also and so we had a nice big gang there. Great fun it was. Bread sauce and all!! A recipe will be attached. Give it a bash; I’ll send you a good wintery one!

On the staff side, we welcomed back Andrew who came to take first aid refresher training for 4 days between safari department and general staff. All went very well, and so lots of doctors and nurses wanting to practice suddenly. Wilgent, security, was nominated as being the most improved and professional. Handy to know. Better
give him an increase. Unfortunately we have had to lose Julius (guide); due to health reasons. A big loss as he has been with us since we started. We welcome Alisa (guide) having just completed very successfully the Bushwise guiding course. She was top in rifle shooting so please don’t “nark her”!

I took the front-line staff and invited friends and ex – staff to Rissingtons Inn at Hazyview for their Xmas dinner getaway… Thanks Chris for a great time and fantastic food and company.

Plans for 2010: I have finalized the “green route” for Garonga with Henk from Cape Town. We start in March with hopefully a “green Garonga”; we will of course keep you posted. We close in March (01-24) for our annual clean up and so this is the best time to install all the solar panels which will be behind the main camp out of view, and
all the other systems to be put in place.  Also the curio shop will be displaced and a new one built by the main entrance.  To be honest the current one has “expired” and it needs a completely fresh new look and also a lot bigger. I have plans afoot with Trish (interior designer for Garonga since inception) and am sure you will enjoy
it. There will be therefore some building of the shop happening from March. It will be minimal impact but it will be there. We will place guests furthest away where possible and concentrate any noise mostly during game drive times. Allow about 2 months or so. Am waiting for the plans etc. So the final idea will be to meet and greet and also check out guests from the new shop, so it will combine. It will be enclosed under thatch with aircon and have a nice vibey, funky feel to it. The old Shop will be the “safari office” giving them space. If anybody is concerned please drop me a line on safari@garonga.com

We are trying a number of packages between ourselves and  Ants Nest, and Tongabezi (Both Classics Properties). Something will be on the site soon. A charter company is flying from Kruger Airport direct to Livingstone twice a week at very reasonable rates indeed, and then if flying with them from Tongabezi to Garonga via Kruger Airport the hop from Kruger to Garonga is free! The only down side is that they operate twice a week, but this would work with a 7 day package. I’d suggest starting at Tongabezi. I have also managed to find some very reasonable air charter rates direct from Wonderboom (near Pretoria) to Garonga or vice versa. The company would also road transfer you from Joburg International to Wonderboom for a small fee.

On the wedding side we now have a choice of photographers, and also a choir and/or dancers if needs be. Weddings seem to be really picking up here in SA.

Just to keep supporting H4H charity – a number of casualties; they need continuous support. There is also the 3 Rifles BG out in Afghanistan at the moment that is doing its own charity.

Finally (gasps of relief) just a huge thanks to all our guests who have visited Garonga and sent such great comments to Trip Advisor!! As a result we won one of the awards (All Inclusive category) and came 3rd in the top 10. It is only due to you, and now we need to improve more!! Thanks ever so much.

Have a great 2010! Keep well and all the best

Bernie