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,

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!

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


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,

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

December News

45 degrees Centigrade on Xmas Day and 30th Dec! Was so humid one could almost shower in your own sweat – nice thought I know! I’m sure you had a great Xmas and New Years Eve party; we certainly did – thanks Billy for the 0300 hrs finish on New Years night/Morning reminiscing and banging the world to rights. It’s fine; I know Billy of old (best Man at his wedding!). We had an all American cast on Xmas night; I think that is a first. Thank-You USA! Also a number of Family Groups coming over the festive time; from Mexico, Canada, Germany, Ireland. Really great fun!! So typical of the hospitality scene when the electrics stuff up in one Suite at Little Garonga on Xmas Eve; can you get an electrician? Can you heck! Some bridging was done to get some lights, but not Hot Water! The Lekkie (Electrician) does come out on the 27th December; so apologies to our 2 Guests who were upset by this situation, but unfortunately “Murphy” is always around, and as much as we try, there is only so much that can be done.

Fiscal Cliff – none of them are even trying up there on Capitol Hill! Egos so high as the Empire State Building. What a pleasant start to 2013. Thanks BO and those other ……………..Politicos. What on earth is happening out there in the US; School kids massacred by a complete Geek; then 2 firemen deliberately murdered by a Physcopath; then the whole debate of who is right or wrong; it does seem very odd that you can buy a weapon without little or no references, licenses or anything, yet to drive a car you have to have this, that and the other. Doesn’t make sense to me. The Israelis have the best system, and it is well regulated, and makes a lot of sense. However no excuse for Piers Morgan (brit Anchorman on CNN) to lose his cool and be so one-sided; I always thought a news Anchorman or Presenter should remain Impartial; not this odious Guy! He insults his Guests if they don’t listen to poor old Pier’s point of view! I saw one debate where he completely lost it. Now the Gun Lobby want him deported – good idea, not that I agree with their views.

"Thank-You Eion!"

Cameron and his “Notting Hill Set” think it more important to think about “Gay Marriage” etc, when the Country is in the worst mess for years. I thought it was the Church that decided on those sorts of things, not meddling Politicians? The Police incident with the MP at Downing Street seems to continue with new evidence etc coming to light. There can’t be a very pleasant feeling in Downing Street amongst the Police and these Notting Hill Kids, and I dare say there must have been a lot of ill-feeling going on well before this incident to kick off.

The sorry Saga of the Nurse committing suicide after an Aussie Radio Prank went so terribly wrong. Here in South Africa Zuma is re-elected at the ANC annual Conference ……just, but only after Ramaphosa is elected Vice-President; that’s a good move, so maybe next year in 2014 no more Zuma, and a New refreshing start with Ramaphosa?

A milestone in English Cricket with India being defeated in India; first time for centons! Excellent cricket Captain – Alistair Cook! Harry Rednap puts the top football players fraternity truly in their place by saying something we all think anyway; it’s the Team, NOT the Individual and much more.

"They keep us entertained - the warties!"

Down here in the not so Sunny Garonga we have had more good rains. What has been lacking is the Sun. The bush is lush and green, and we have had the Ellie Bulls frequently at the Camp waterhole always appearing almost on Q at Lunchtimes, or when Guests are checking in. It’s the Duracell batteries you see – Duracell lasts longer… apparently. Great sightings of Cheetah, and the Rhinos. The Lions are sometimes playing hard to get disappearing in to the Pidwa Block where the Guides cannot off-road. Beautiful Leopard sighting; one attached to this letter from Eion; thanks indeed Eion! Occasional walks still happening for those who want to exercise the Limbs. Sleep Outs have been a disappointment because of the Rains, but Guests are still plucky enough to try, even on Xmas day/night.

Many congratulations to Michael and Sandra, Andrew and Karen, and Holger and Rosalind for tying the knot here at Garonga!! It was a real pleasure hosting you on your very special day!

To the Chefs who work tirelessly in the Kitchen heat! I think it’s bad enough sometimes outside but then adding the Kitchen Heat, that’s quite something to be working in. A recipe will be attached as per normal. I was glued to Jamie Oliver’s Xmas cooking programme for tips etc; he had many, and they seemed to benefit.

"Invasion Force Alpha!"
"Josias Bar is now open"

2013 is looking promising, although January is pretty quiet; those of you who fancy a quickie, come over. We close 01 – 24 March 13 this year, so NOT the whole month, and Easter is much sooner this year anyway. We will be operating the Steenberg/Garonga Package again from March – September; it’s a great package; give it a crack, and then throughout the year a package with the fantastic Cybele Forest Lodge and Spa near Hazyview.

Last but by no means least, and how could I forget (It is definitely the Grey Cells), thanks Sue (Ethos Marketing UK) for stomping the streets through, wind, rain hail and ice, and a bit of sunshine thrown in selling Garonga to a very hard competitive Market. Your efforts and pains, and smiles reward us all so well!!

Right, lets get cracking for 2013.

Keep well and all the best

October / November News

So BO is back in the WH and Mitt now takes a back seat. BO did handle the floods in NY pretty well and that must have certainly helped. As for that Plonker of a Mayor in NY cancelling the marathon at the last minute AFTER people had arrived is beyond understanding. It’s a no brainer – you get the storm, and you cancel – most people (reasonable people anyway) would quite understand. I hope he has a hefty wallet. Good luck to all the very stoic people of New York; they know and do it so well; pick themselves up and become even better than before. Here’s to you (actually a bit too early), later then!

Cameron and his bunch of ditherers are beyond help. It seems both Conservative and Labour just play to the whims of the People as to how they think; so forget principals, just play to the popular vote to get as many votes as you can. However the voters are not stupid, and if you don’t show your principals and what you stand for, then you deserve a good kicking in the goolies, which is what they need now. Look at UKIP; sure I don’t believe in everything they say but at least you know where you are with them. It’s quite simple; if we don’t get fair treatment from the EU and renegotiate our stance, then leave. Cameron move on. Liam Fox come back and lead the Party.

Hollande in France – a basket case; completely turned round from what he said he would do; what’s new! Who believes a politician anyway. The Arabs fighting amongst themselves – that’s a change! Uhmm. Always remember the film “Lawrence of Arabia”, at the end of the film when they are all squabbling and fighting amongst themselves. It’s a useless case; what can be done? As for Israel; they had no choice. Nobody would have put up with so much cak from Hamas which is ably supported by Iran. There’s a lot to be said to having Dictators control their Country after all the shenanagans going on in Egypt, Libya etc. Is the world a safer place now? This is said with Tongue in cheek before I get arrested by the “Thought Police”.

Here in SA, the Unions have quietened down a bit apart from one day when they blocked the Main Highway out of Joburg to the North protesting against the E toll system which looks like is going to be enforced next year and also spread to other Cities; so much for democracy when you just stamp over the people. Roll on the elections in 2014 – could be a nice surprise.

Rugby!! England v SA. Did not realise that captains are now going to be issued with calculators so they can add and subtract! Sure beating the All Blacks was an incredible achievement, but think if we had also beaten SA; that would have been a real winner beating the two top giants in Rugby.

Have I waffled enough! Most definitely. Back to reality. It’s been a bumper couple of months; it appears that South Africa is bouncing back. A very warm welcome back to Daniel and Michaela, Corne’ and Beate, Tim and Helen, Frank, Susanne, and Torquil and Marian (Good Luck with the wines – details are in the Curio Shop now). AND many congratulations to Ludwig and Anja, Luck and Cindy, Nigel and Jane, Warren and Jenna, Tim and Helen, and Karl and Terry for giving us the great priviledge of joining you together on the most special day of your Lives. Thanks also to George (MO), Louise (Photographer) and the staff for making their day so smooth.

"The One that got away!"

The rains have come! 145mm to date and the Bush is looking splendid! Impala and Wildebeest calves all jumping over the place and looking so fragile and vulnerable. The Game Viewing has been truly excellent, and the Guys pulling out the stops. Not going out all that much myself, I was very lucky to spot a Leopard under a bush 20m from my house as I was driving back one afternoon. The 2 Big male Lions have been over a few times, and the Ellies doing what they do best. Guests till doing walks in the mornings – very popular. Sleep Outs – some successes, but with the rains etc there have been a few tactical withdrawals in the middle of the night. Still so worth doing.

The Chefs have been doing a brilliant job as ever producing some really delicious dishes; for some reason the “health options” are proving very popular; difficult for me to understand when you have the “Truckers Breakfast” available. As always a recipe will follow and give it a whirl.

"Some call them Cute!"

On the Staff front Vanessa has very sadly left Garonga to live in Durban. A truly loyal, hard working, and great person who will be sadly missed. She had been with us for 8 years. Vanessa, good luck in what ever path you chose to travel. However we must move on and so Nicole (manageress) will now be taking over Reservations and Accounts, and Elizma joining us to take the position of Manageress. Good luck to both! Andy and his farm team working hard as ever fixing, growing the garden, and doing all the behind the scenes work which is not really noticeable up front. So much does go on behind the scenes to keep such an operation going. Evelyne has been kept very busy indeed with massages, and something noticeable, Facials proving very popular. Dinamosi (Tracker) had his work cut out when hosting one night, when one of the Guests decided to teach him the “Rumba dance” (no, Berlusconi was nowhere to be seen).

I have been in Mud Island again visiting The WTM Travel Show in that terrible place called Docklands. The show itself is great and very impressive in EXCEL, but when you go outside you could almost be in “The Clink”. Anyway once again managing to defeat Customs and bring back Cheeses; Vicherin, Stinking Bishop (Reineth, head Chef, always runs a bloody mile when she sees me return with this), and the inevitable Blue Stilton. This has now run out.

"Face your Front, Lad,and cover your arcs! Patric in pose mood"

Now it is that time of the year to wish all our Guests (previous and those coming) a very Merry Xmas and every success for 2013; apparently the Aztecs have other ideas however; we’ll see. Also to the Tour Operators from far and Wide who have supported us so nicely, a big Thank-You! Also to our Marketing Reps who patiently grind the walk and keep patient with us – The Ethos marketing Team in UK, Alison, Amanda, Claire, Kevin, and Cara; Roland and Hella ETC Marketing in Germany; and Andy, Beth, and Jann in the Africa In Focus Team in South Africa. Also a big thanks to Wild Web, Paul and his team who keep us in check regarding the web, Facebook and Twitter (Still trying to figure this out especially all the stuff that went on in the UK. We look forward to the year ahead whatever it may bring.

As always spare a big thought for the Troops In Afghanistan; we wish them every success in their task. We can all help by giving to “Help4Heroes”; a cause that keeps going from strength to strength! They look after us, we need to look after those who keep us safe! Cameron, stick to your word and keep to the Military Covenant!

Signing off another year in the African veldt! Keep safe and Go well!