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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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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