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

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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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April/May News

It’s been sooo long without a rant! Starting with Maggie who was given such a great send-off by most; as for those who chose to dance on her death – well, your time will come, and I doubt you will even reach her years let alone her achievements, one of which was to free the Argentinian people from the military junta by defeating them in the Falklands; so basically Maggie/Britain gave Argentine their democracy; that lady who is in charge down there just needs to remember that! Then of course she freed Britain from the shackles of Union Power and abuse turning it from a banana republic to a 1st rate Country! Only for the likes of Blair, Brown and Major to turn it back towards a banana republic. Cameron needs to get a pair unless UKIP take over. It just seems he cannot see it; what people want! Boris over to you.

MP’s seem to be at it again, by selling their 2nd Homes which the public bought for them. Can you believe it – yes, of course we can. Cash for questions Mercer gets more than he bargained for; wrong regiment you see!

Then, of course, the despicable act of barbarity in the middle of a London Street where a Soldier was cut to pieces whilst the public all filmed it on their social media machines! The police kept back until an armed unit arrived (20 minutes later); and here I thought the police had pepper sprays, batons and whatever you can lay your hands on. Well, simple answer is that UK is no longer the “Dixon of Dock Green” and needs to at least arm the cops with tazers which would have probably saved a life. Now I suppose we have to put these “Animals” up in prison, feed and water them, and pay for their nice long trials. Open and shut; send them to some stinking hell hole in the earth.

Natural disasters all over the place as well as human – The USA, Bangladesh; at least they caught the owner. The Little Man in North Korea fancied his chances for a while playing Big Boys Rules for a moment; haven’t heard a whimper for a long time now. I suppose the fact that he may have survived 5 minutes if he’d gone ahead with his threats may have had something to do with it.

"The release of an additional Bull to the breeding programme - angry or what!"

Now down here in S. Africa we have the “Gupta Family” which controls the Presidency and do what they want; how funny is that! They just land their private aircraft in a VIP military base and use the trappings of state for a family wedding; NO it’s not a cartoon series I promise you. Then Justin Beiber (beaver?) came and cried, I mean sung, to his fans, and then left his monkey homeless in Germany. SA troops killed in the DRC, but nobody knows what they were doing there (they do but the ANC doesn’t apparently?). All good fun and Games, and now Strike Season begins for 3 or 4 months.

Winter is upon us down here in the sleepy Lowveld and what a beautiful time to come it is!

April was incredibly busy and full which is fantastic. The Little Garonga staff have also had their hands full and performed incredibly well.

"Wait a Little Horse Safari Group - another great night!"

We have also had a few weddings, and so how fantastic it is to congratulate Piers and Hayley (they first met here at the Garonga Student Conservation Programme (10 years ago) who came with families and friends to mark their very special day; a gorgeous setting down at Fig Tree Pools. Then many congratulations also to Peter and Elaine, Roland and Sandra, and finally Andrew and Janice. A great honour for us to host you on your very special day! Welcome back to Mandy and Thane; great to see you again! May is always also busy with agents coming to inspect of which we had quite a few.

"A Wedding Dinner Table"

We did our annual closedown in March for three weeks, and also did a bit of changing with the doors and windows of the tents which are now black and much smarter. A deck was added to the main area so guests can have a drink outside under the African skies at night. Otherwise just cleaning, scrubbing, painting and varnishing.

Two new Landrover Game Drives were purchased and are superb; LED Lighting for the seats at night, a much quieter engine and incredibly comfortable. So as is traditional they needed names; well the one used vehicle we kept was “Thatcher”; very in keeping with her passing away, so memories will remain. The new vehicles were named “Churchill” (same name as before) and “Seal Team Six” No guesses there, and NO, we are not near the Ocean!). Strange, but the guides were hesitant to drive them being straight off the factory floor; now they seem fully into it.

"New Game Drive - Churchill"

"New Game Drive - Seal team 6"

"The A team Boss - Josia"

The veldt is still looking very good having had about 75mm through the months of March and April. The game viewing has been fantastic; Jaff picked up the tracks of a newly born Rhino calf a few days back; 4 week old Cheetah cubs were seen with Mum (four of them). The Lions and Ellies have been viewed regularly, and still we get the Ellies coming down to the waterhole in front of the camp. It is cold first thing in the mornings, so if you are coming come well prepared. Star gazing at night is much more productive now with the lazer torches, and of course the walks as well being much cooler during the mornings. Now that we are in winter routine we are doing High Teas, no lunches or picnics, and this will carry on until September. So back to the thick Chocolate Fudge Cake!! The kitchenettes are loving it, as it is a nice change of routine, and as usual a recipe will be attached to this newsletter.

"The oldest Ellie Bull on the reserve - a very proud gentleman!"

"The Young Ones!"

It’s been a busy marketing time as well. In April there was the first ILTM Africa Show in Cape Town which I attended and was well worthwhile; if anybody needs any tips regarding restaurants; here’s one – Café Paradiso in Kloof Street; brilliant ambience and excellent food. Then in May there was the Classic Safari Camps AGM whereby we hold the meeting at a member’s property; this year it was at Little Governors in the Masaii Mara in Kenya; how lucky we are. It was superb; this area is a gem in the Safari Experiences; the camp idyllic, and staff couldn’t do enough; thanks Dominic, Justin and Alex!! Straight after the AGM there was the annual Travel Indaba Show in Durban – much the same!

Now I see there is ANOTHER show starting next year just before Indaba opening in Cape Town which may put the cat amongst the pigeons competing with Indaba; watch this space as they say.

Please remember the Steenberg/Garonga Package – for June we are offering an 8 day special where you only pay for 6 days! Incredible value and add-ons. Then there’s the Cybele/Garonga package, and we are offering a “Stay 4 pay 3 special” for June only; not too late for those who want a “Quickie”!

As always remember the Troops out in Afghanistan, and try and pledge towards “Help4Heroes” Charity which is doing such superlative work for injured servicemen.

Thanks indeed to Christophe and Celine for sharing your incredible pictures! Take a look!

I hope to see you sometime soon; enjoy the English weather! I just need to pop for a swim and a “frostie”!

All the very best,
Bernie.

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January / February News

Well I was wondering why my ears were becoming pointed; now I know. It’s been horse meat all along! The French don’t seem to mind as apparently they eat horses every day; a thing from their past when Napoleon was thrashed by Wellington at Waterloo after the Prussian Cavalry arrived at the last hour turning the tide of the Battle – so no wonder they don’t like horses. Well, somebody/people have been making a nice few bucks as a result.

Cameron decided to hold a referendum to stay in the EU but only in 2017 when he’s not in office. I wonder who was fooled by that! Then of course that little frenchman, Hollande, decides that UK is not worthy of the EU; we know that France has always been the traditional enemy, and that despite a couple of wars, Germany is far more our cup of tea.

The weather of course has been at the forefront in UK, and elsewhere. It snowed again in England; can you believe it, in January?! And, well, yes, Heathrow closed again (“Never again will it happen” – sound familiar?); desperate fires in Australia and the farm Industry there really struggling with drought. Here in SA we had large amounts of rain in January almost to the day of the previous 2 years; so there’s a trend. We were only cut off for 12 hours, and it wasn’t as bad as last year in the local areas.

Then there was the mass murder of expats in Algeria by those Nazi fundamentalists. Well done the Algerians for going in, and going in hard. They knew the story what was going on and had to make a move, not some clot in the foreign office thousands of miles away. Then Mali kicks off and the French send the foreign legion in to go and sort them out. Inevitably the terrorists run to the hills and caves and wait for a better time. Not so lucky however with some precision air strikes taking out the ringleaders; it does seem to take the African Union Armies weeks, if not longer, to get sorted, and yet they are always the first to complain about “Colonialism and Occupation” blab la bla. A pity they don’t use the money from their untold mineral wealth and oil to get proper equipment etc, but then of course they spend it on their own palaces.

So gay marriage is now voted in. As one MP put it very accurately (obviously not in favour); the story said “Adam and Eve, NOT Adam and Steve”. That sums it up nicely. Not anti-gay at all, it’s just that some things should be left alone.

Italy elections could only end up as it did with a comedian taking a nice size of the vote. It’s certainly time to kick out the “normal politicians” that we get nowadays and rather get in people who have experienced life on the outside. Look at UKIP in the UK. Anyway Bunga Bunga here we come… again! Sounds like Abba!

The NHS in UK has it head in the sand and wastes so much money. A new caring culture needs to be restored, and those who make incredulous mistakes are taken to book; not keep on saying “SORRY”, and nothing else is done.

Sports – rugby; England v Wales next Sunday! Unfortunately the other side of the wall, but still! Pistorius and Armstrong – 2 icons fallen from Grace. A very strange story indeed regarding Pistorius.

If your eyelids haven’t yet closed, one more story! Here in SA there was of course the tragic death of a taxi driver at the hands of the police. As tragic as it is, there is another side which most news reporters seem to avoid in saying as it would harm newspaper sales and The audience watching. Taxi drivers down here are completely lawless, ignore most rules of the road causing untold carnage and death on the roads; they block normal road lanes in the cities and are completely ignorant of other road users. They cram their vehicles so full, that basically people are in a death trap. When police try and intervene which is VERY rare they accuse them of harassment. Not to mention the taxi wars (quite literally) happening now and again. Just thought I’d point that out.

"The ladies just don

I know, you’ve had enough of this rant. Many congrats to Niall and Stephanie, and Thomas and Monique for tying the knot here at Garonga. We hope you had a great day! It was great to welcome back Joerg and Christiane, Simon and Maggie, Mathias and Connie, and Paul and Jo, all who brought along family or friends; thank-you, and hope to see you back one day.

As I pointed out the bush is incredibly thick and green after such rains; 260mm in January alone. As ever the river came down in front of the camp, and as ever the sand clobbered the waterhole. The thunder and lightning was pretty dramatic.

Although the bush is thick the guides have still seen some great sightings. The lion prides and their male admirers are changing the goalposts round regularly so difficult to decide who is with whom.

The ellie herds have been difficult to locate but they have been found especially entertaining when they have the very new born calves with them. But still the guests have really enjoyed the show, and appreciate the hard work the guides put in. Fortunately or unfortunately off-roading is necessary to find game, if there is no other way of locating it, and, as much as this looks damaging, it is not nearly as bad as it seems. I know we have to be sensitive, as do the guides, but like everything in life there’s a balance.

On the chef front we had Judy who came over for 2 weeks to do some instructional training with the chefs – very much appreciated by all and hopefully lessons learnt. As ever a recipe will come with this rant.

It is with sadness that Evelyne, therapist, has decided to move on. Thank-you Evelyne for your passion in what you do! Wish you every success in your new spot.

Whilst writing this newsletter we are closed now for the annual clean up, and thatchers, builders, tent people, and cleaners are coming and going like there’s no tomorrow (It never stops in this game). We were let down by a contractor and so will be unable to build the extra bathroom at the Hambleden Suite until next year. So life carries on, and the marketing, with a show in Cape Town next month (The first ILTM show in Southern Africa), then the infamous (maybe not so infamous anymore) Indaba in May in Durban. So anybody who may be coming along to these shows do pop in and say “hi”. Please remember the Steenberg Hotel in Cape Town and Garonga combined package starts again when we reopen end of March through to end of September. Even if you don’t take the package you must visit Steenberg. We also run the Cybele Forest Lodge and Garonga package, and we continue to run the extended stay package of stay 5 nights pay for 4.

I would really like to thank all those who gave us such stunning reviews on Trip Advisor. As a result we have won three awards; In the best 10 romantic in Africa, Top 25 best service in South Africa, and top 25 for best small hotel in South Africa. Without you we could not have achieved this!

I was back in UK again over January and February as we (family) are selling the family home in Hambleden; it has to be one of the saddest things ; I will certainly miss it like anything as it was always something I really looked forward to when I returned to UK. Still, life carries on, and better start house hunting!

Just to remind you, we have an excellent package with Cybele Forest Lodge and Spa, and also the Steenberg Hotel in Cape Town (running for this year March – September 2013).

Have a fantastic Easter, and we look forward to seeing you when we reopen on the 25th March.

All the best
Bernie

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