December News

Trusting you had a grand Xmas and New Year and now back to the grindstone. In December everything closes down for 4 weeks here in SA, and so phones etc are very minimal; all seems awesomely quiet. People drive off to the Beach or the Kruger and so tale long queues at the Toll Roads – what a great start. Then there are the Road Accident results here – this festive season over 1400 killed on the roads; most of them due to those suicidal non-caring, overloaded taxis. The Cops – well, that’s a waste of time!

Talking about Cars, how very sensitive some are about mickey taking. Jeremy Clarkson in UK from the TV Car Show Top gear, stating a very amusing cliché of “They should be shot” (The Strikers in November). I mean how many times have we heard or said that – we don’t mean it! But now apologies have to be issued, and soothe those sensitive souls who actually thought they were going to be shot by Jeremy Clarkson – how absolutely pathetic. The Word Gestapo are out there – watch out! Now I see Diane Abbott (Black MP in UK – am I allowed to say “Black”?) mouthing off and then being accused of racism. Come on – we can take this. Just ignore them if you don’t like it; don’t go crying to the papers. Poor Souls!!!!!!! Jeremy Clarkson you carry on, that’s why people watch you; those that don’t like his humour; guess what, you can actually change your TV to another of the 5 or 6 channels now on. I know, technology is amazing. Press Button and wow, you have another channel!

"You can't beat it - 1 week old!"

Sarkozy – just remember Waterloo! You had to have a go didn’t you at Britain not dancing to your gallic Tune. Wait till your People decide they don’t like something and then all hell breaks loose in France – they block all the roads, and the Government backtracks. Anyway Nicolas, Old Boy, you just stick with your Euro, and stop poncing around with a scarf round your neck as if you were some French fashion icon!

Syria – well, that’s a lost case. The poisoned dwarf from next door in Iran is just propping you up, so that he doesn’t feel “lost” if you were to go. The Tyrant from N.Korea – gone, to be replaced with a younger one educated in Switzerland; that should help! Now you have an educated tyrant instead.

Amazing year though – all those Dictators gone; Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen (Soon), Libya, N.Korea; only missing Zimbabwe, but they have no oil, so they don’t count.

South Africa gave a good hiding to Sri Lanka in the cricket. Australia doing the same against India. Rugby – 6 nations to start soon; more pool braiis watching ellies! Someone has to do it.

"Me trying to be artistic!"

Now down here in Sleep Hollow of Garonga a warm welcome back to Tony and Susanne, Fabian and Laura, Paul and Jo, and Steve and Deborah! Many congratulations to William and Siobhan for tying the knot in “Whites” – a First! Keep them coming.

Unfortunately over Xmas period we did have a few downpours (good for us but not when you come to Africa for Xmas). Over 80mm during Xmas and New Year, cancelling or rather evacuating a sleep out on New years Eve. But such a great crowd in, that it was still great fun. We did the traditional Roast Turkey on Xmas Night with, of course, the Bread sauce. But only 2 takers, so I think for next year a good traditional BBQ will be better. New years Eve, a couple of diehards up to Midnight, but after that “Light Out”. After all you are up in the morning at 0500 hrs here at Garonga Boot Camp.

The Game Viewing has been incredibly good. Lions, Leopard, ellies, Rhino and the Cheetah seen on many Game drives, and of course stacks of Plains Game. Safari have been trying to find the “Poo Spitting Champion”; we may have one! But seriously the Guides have done an excellent job in very thick terrain. We had the breeding herd of Ellies (30+) in front of the camp one lunch with 1 week old calf; so vulnerable you think it’s going to get squashed as you can’t even see it in the thick grass. We did see the calf going down a gentle slope but then lost its balance and keeled over. All good things take time. I mean I still do that anyway.

The Kitchen has produced amazing dishes as ever, yet still complaints on “Too much food”. Ok, so back to Boot camp, and watery soup and a bit of cabbage! Hopefully the recipe will be more entertaining. Anyway well done to the Chefettes!

"Try it and see!"

On the Staff front we welcome Angelique as Therapist. She has settled in very well and broken records already. Never did like the Bee Gees anyway! Sung as though their trousers were too tight! Percy (from the old days) came in to help Track for a few days. He’s now joined the Communist party! But he states it’s because they need to infiltrate it and ………………! Umm, I lost it after that.

All the staff went out on a day out for their Xmas outing and had a thoroughly good time. Never asked where they went – but they were smiling when they got back!

Many thanks indeed to all the Staff for 2011. From Scullery to management they all are equally important; one breaks down and I end up washing up!

Well, as I say, back to getting as many guests out here as possible this year. It’s been a good year in the circumstances, and we look forward to welcoming you here. Don’t just look at the price, look at what you get – all meals, all drinks, safaris, laundry, bush baths, sleep outs, picnics. Honestly a really good deal. Stay 5 nights pay for 4 throughout the year; wedding and incredible honeymoon packages. Spectacular surroundings and really friendly, amusing and Obliging Staff. One big happy family. That’s my marketing speel over. On that note many thanks indeed to Ethos Marketing in UK, ETC Hella and Roland in Germany, and Andy, Lizette, and Beth from Africa In Focus in South Africa, and last but by no means least Paul and his team at Wildweb who actually send out this letter – for that I give them 100% for daring to.

October and November News

Death of a dictator; maybe the mad colonel’s death was not particularly pleasant but, hey, these aren’t the playing fields of Eton. They have their ways, we have ours. Not too surprising therefore that the Syrian Pres. is holding on literally for dear life. Good for the Egyptians to force the army to relinquish authority, as no doubt they were up to their old tricks; let’s hope it works out there for them.

So this is how democracy works in Europe. 2 Countries don’t like the way other countries are being lead; so they tell them change your leaders or you don’t get our cash. It is quite interesting though that the Greeks don’t seem to siesta 75% of the days any more but spend most of their time out on demos or striking; pity they can’t works a much as they do on demos! Remember when the irish voted against the European thing a few years back, and then the EU told them to vote again! Keep voting people until you say “yes”.

Bunga Bunga is now off the agendas. Poor old Slivio. Then in England there’s an idiot of an MP (that is strange isn’t it!!) who decides to drop his parliamentary papers into a public waste bin. Can’t they afford shredders, or even a fireplace? Letwin you cretin, wake up and get a real job! God, where do they find them! So England was closed for the 30th November because 30% of union voters wanted to strike, and the union barons/dictators/oligarchs (whatever you want to call them) reckoned that was a huge mandate for their “day of action”. Democracy works in interesting ways.

Here in SA big mouth youth league leader, Julius Malema, is suspended, and now wants to take up cattle farming. So he has a cattle farm now, on top of his mansions, cars etc. Unfortunately he has a lot of unused oxygen, and no doubt he will keep depriving some of us of ours.

England thrashed by India in cricket; revenge is sweet no doubt for that very proud cricketing nation – India that is! The Rugby World Cup is now done and dusted. What a great result; very chuffed for the Kiwis – they have deserved it for ages. England win two football matches on the trot and so now, England are world champions.

Down here in not so sunny Garonga we have been blessed with rains. First of all though many congratulations to Martijn and Annelies for cracking the bottle, tying the knot at a splendid wedding here. Welcome back to Lizette who came up with family, also to Naas and Adre’, and Jennifer.

The veldt is looking really lush and green now after having had 236mm since the season began in October. Plenty of thunder and lightning storms which also blew our PC’s. To be honest recently we have had hardly any sun for about 2 weeks or so. But it is now back, so don’t start unpacking yet.

The game viewing has been haphazard with some really splendid moments, and some frustrating with the bush being so thick. The reserve took off 15 Ellies and relocated them in a new reserve just north of Pretoria. They are well settled in by now, and the others that remain have resumed normality as it is an extremely stressful time for them during the operation which worked very smoothly thanks to Ross (reserve warden) and his wife, Auds (research ecologist; should also be reserve psychologist!). We have purchased a rhino cow, hopefully pregnant, and the new 4 lions we swapped have all settled in well.

The kitchenettes have as ever been producing brilliant food, and picnics, sleep out menus are as popular as ever. Hopefully a brilliant recipe will be attached to this letter. The health menus are also proving very popular especially coming in to summer where hot food is not so attractive excepting the truckers breakfast of course.

On the training front a big thanks to Andrew again for 1st aid training to some general Staff members, however I do have to remind some of them that they are not quite yet “doctors”!

My nephew, Taro, has returned to mud island after 2 months gap here at Garonga. He is sadly missed by all, having had 3 surrogate Mothers here. When returning to my house for the first time after his departure there felt a huge loss, not least his very entertaining company and his culinary skills. Anyway he is now working in London temporarily until he starts his studies again.

I was away for 4 weeks, firstly to celebrate a fellow lodge owner’s 50th Birthday in UK. This was a truly memorable occasion, great fun and laughter throughout the night, not least being woken at 05:30 in the morning by fire alarms in the hotel as one of the fellow invitees (also lodge owner) got locked out of his room thinking he was going to the loo; can you picture the scene now AND it’s caught on the security CCTV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe something for YouTube Tom! It was a real Africa evening with guests from the lodges all over Africa and also from the travel trade. After that it was work at the WTM travel show; a great reunion with fellow riflemen for a fantastic lunch and so on (no, you don’t need to know!); some shooting, and then it’s all over and you return with the Lurgy! Even whiskey doesn’t get rid of it.

Just another one to throw in here. A great friend was asked to break in a horse (no this is NOT a joke), and he thought nothing of it until the horse galloped away with him riding, and suddenly decided to do an “emergency stop”! You know that Tom Cruise film “Top Gun” and the song they sang, “Great balls of Fire”; well amend that to “Great balls ON fire”. Will see you soon “…” no names no pack drill! HA!

Well this will be the last one for 2011 as the next one will only be out in January 12. How it has flown. I wish you all the very best for the festive Season. Thanks indeed for all your support especially in these very tricky times.

Let’s not forget those out there putting their lives on the line for us. H4H and “Care For Casualties”. Good luck to all In 2 Rifles, and not least their very precious families!

All the best
Bernie

August and September News

Yes, back again. It’s been two months now and I’m sure most of you get weekly, monthly newsletters anyway from various establishments, and so would rather not drown you in news too regularly. However with our new up and running web blog which I try and send every so often this will seem to dissipate the newsletter somewhat. I know the Guys from Wildweb (Our Web Organisers) can be heard muttering “It’s not really that difficult” which it isn’t but the time factor is, and having read some facebooks it seems there is plenty of time out there! So blogging has begun, and even my nephew decided to have a bash whilst I was away on a sales trip to Joburg. Mind you, his generation (sounding old now) grew up on this thing. He wrote a very good blog I thought minus the photos. So those of you who have sent in facebook comments, many thanks and apologies if I haven’t “responded”. Those that have been here and wish to send some pictures to add to the facebook page please do so.

So back to crisis in Europe, USA, and Middle East; what’s new! Nothing, excepting our leaders are NOT leading and this is why we voted them in?? They squabble like little children in the US between Senate and Representatives because they don’t satisfy their egos. Obama to give him credit has tried to get the country back but the Republicans (purely out of spite) block him, putting the world economy at risk. In Europe the same; a bunch of leaders who cannot agree to anything; God help us in a War; we may as well put the white flag up straight away. Pathetic. Let Greece default; it’s going to happen, why try and stop something that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Libya; still he tries to hang on despite the changes that have already happened. Let the Arab Democracy spread and neutralize the Muslim Fundamentalists at the same time. The trajic events in Kenya where two hostages have been taken and one tourist killed. Come on Kenya, put a stop to these Somali Pirates; go in hard and punish them severely. Kenya taking the brunt now of an exclusion zone round the very popular Lamu Archipilago which I know well, and so popular. When will Somalia ever come right?

"Something in your eye, Son?"

The long ago riots in UK. Totally unacceptable and no excuse whatsoever despite Liberal statements of appeasement. Don’t send them all to jail, only the ones who have committed a serious crime; the others caught up and joining in; give them a fluorescent jacket, a bass broom and tell them to sweep the streets for 6 months for 10 hours a day. Pay them five quid a day, and a hot meal once a day. Clean the streets that you dirtied, and if you don’t…… keep sweeping sunshine!

Sports – England cricket completely thrashing the World Cup Holders, India. Brilliant stuff. Top of the world now. Something to neutralise the doom and gloom. The RWC in it’s qualifying rounds now; I hope a North/South Final, and New Zealand being the South!

Here in SA Juju Malema (the Big Mouth with little to no Intelligence) is sick with Flu avoiding his Disciplinary hearing! We’ve all tried that “Sick Note” thing; who are you kidding Juju! Strike season seems to be over. Fuel prices go up despite brent crude going down – how does that work? The Home Affairs department has passed it first audit in 14 years! I received my renewal firearms license from them after 6 years of reaplying; one of them out of the 3 at least. So things apparently are moving. Watch this space.

Perfect spacing and in step - sound familiar?

Now down to the real stuff. August improved quite a bit and September was nice and busy also; great after a disasterous June and July. A number of weddings in both months and so a hearty congratulations to Neil and Natalie, Arno and Andrea, Steve and Pippa (hope you enjoyed the Le petit Ferme), and finally Bart and Sanne; a great thanks to George and Louise for making their day so special. Also a warm welcome back to Mandy and Thaine, Michael, and Howard and Cathy. Also to welcome back the 7th Cavalry Division from Wait a Little ; thanks Philip and Gerti, and Barney for paying us another visit with the Horses; always great fun and very entertaining Guests, despite the Big head in the morning! It’s a tradition you may have figured out already. Thanks also to Lisa and Lyndsey for coming to visit from one of our top suppliers (Turquoise Travel), AND Lisa comes from a great part of the world called “Hambleden”!! Those on Honeymoon, many congratulations! CJ and his staff at Little Garonga also performed an excellent service to our Guests up there – well done; you are a great credit to Garonga in carrying on pretty much on your own with no problems.

The game sightings have been brilliant with Lions, Some ellies, Rhino and her playful calf with her brother, Leopard, the Cheetah and excellent plains game. The Guides are now called the “A” team but which team is the A Team as they both seem to get that title! Musa and Ruel seem to quietly go about their business but nearly always are the first to find something, whereas Josia and Patrick also find the game but are very entertaining; so a great combination. CJ at Little Garonga goes about his business in a very professional and extremely informative way! Anyway well done Guys, and thanks! Please check out our site for new Images, and keep sending in your Pictures.

"Mum, when I get older, will I look like you as I'm so cute as I am"!

The Veld of course is dry now but still looking good; no rains to date but on the way I’m sure as we have had some incredibly hot days. Sleep Outs have been very popular indeed with one every other day; something very exciting – the Loo construction has been completed by Andy and The farm team; so now you can loo with a clear piece of mind! The Kitchen have done tremendous food, and now in September we move to Summer routine with Lunches and Picnics and no more thick chocolate cake (that’s a crying shame!) for high teas. Thanks indeed to Debby who came up and trained the Chefs again for 5 days; we have some great new ideas; potjkes now are on the Boma menu, and we still do the Sunday Curry nights, carvery nights and so on; always something different.

Leopard and Hail makes a quality combination

Hi there. My name is Taro Smith, I’m Bernie Smiths nephew. This week Bernie has gone away for a few days which has given me the opportunity to write a blog. I know of course that since this is the first blog that Bernie hasn’t written it is up to me to blow our readers away with a wonderful blog written by an amateur blogger. This week has been quite exciting animal wise as we have had our first sighting of the leopard cubs. To our amazement the guests watched both the mother leopard and her cubs playing around for about half an hour! However this sighting was brought to end by a small hail storm which seemed to spark up more interest with the rangers than the leopards sighting! Fair point, I guess a hail storm is rarer than a leopard sighting around this region.

Overall a lovely sighting and I’m very much looking forward to seeing these cubs myself!

I myself had an incredible week as I got to fly on the microlight. This was somewhat of an incredible experience to say the least. Whilst in the air I saw a range of animals including an, elephant, crocodile and vultures. I have to say actually that seeing the vultures in the air was probably the best part of the whole thing. I highly recommend doing it as it is very good fun. I would also highly recommend not sticking your hand out the side of it while in the air with your camera in your hand. Trying to take a “cool” looking photo mid-air nearly lost me my camera!

Bush Fire on the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve near Garonga.

It had to happen some time but why a Sunday! Anyway trajically for a Giraffe, it ran into a power line causing the line to snap but also spark up on the ground. The Giraffe ran off but had been badly injured. Anyway the Bush obviously caught alight, and hey presto all men to the Pumps! After a good 4 hours it was brought under control, but was checked on throughout the night. Luckily that day/evening was cool and with no winds ( a few days before and the day after the winds were really bad, and would have caused a huge fire.

What was excellent to note was that all members of the reserve rushed to assist and so eventually we had plenty of bods. The fire was on the Siyafunda side of the reserve south of Garonga. This is always a bad time for fires when the Bush is so dry, and the weather can be very windy and hot. Anyway fingers crossed for the next 2 months before the first rains!

Dramatic picture of the fire at Dusk.

June, July Newsletter

Here’s a good test of brain, stomach, hands, feet co-ordination; try driving and eating an egg sarnie at the same time and see where your priorities lie! It’s not easy!!

So the mad colonel is still around and all those planes and bombs doing? Let them scrap each other and get on with it. Syria; not much say there from the Arabs. Arab solution to Arab problems.

Now we have Christian fundamentalists slaughtering the innocent in the most peaceful of all countries, Norway. There really are some very odd people floating around.

In the UK we have DC telling the generals to shut up as he’ll do the talking and they do the fighting. Doesn’t work like that Dave, old chap. It was like that about a century ago. More cuts, no aircraft carrier, and more tasks; doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Soon we’ll be a little 3rd rate country bowing to the Europeans.

Now what has happened to DSK? Is he still in house arrest in his penthouse mansion? I suppose more interesting news takes over events and he’s no longer an event, but we do have a very charming woman now in charge of the IMF so thank-you DSK for something.

The News of the World – gone. All very suspicious; maybe the younger Murdoch knows more than he’s letting on. What a great read it was, but preying on the innocent like that beggers belief. Morals – none whatsoever.

Now down here in not so sunny South Africa we have strikes, strikes, and strikes. These guys I’m afraid think it’s a game because asking for 15% Increases is well………no brains! In these very difficult times you would have thought some commomsense would prevail; not here. Billions being lost on strikes! Hardly an encouragement to invest; quite the opposite.

The tri-nations in full swing but South Africa send their B or C team over to play gearing up towards the Rugby World Cup (braiis, beer, and ………. so on).

Right, sermon over, and now on to the real stuff.

As I said everyone is feeling the pinch and we have had a very poor last couple of months. It is thankfully picking up well for the next 3 months. In June Andrew (Africa In Focus) brought a number of agents down to come and inspect; thanks for that and I hope some good lasting impression was made. Great fun with Ada, Shelley and Barb; I know you had a great time at Wait a Little but needed that bit of relaxation after horse riding for 10 hard days. Hope to see you back one day to keep Musa and Ruel in check. In July a very warm welcome back to Shaun and Belinda and Paolo and Patrizia.

The bush is still looking great with plenty of excellent sightings. Lions have been everywhere, including 2 lionesses both giving birth to 3 cubs each. Lion calls close to the farmhouse practically every day. Leopard sightings, ellies, and the infamous cheetah. Walks are popular as it is pretty nippy still first thing in the mornings. Another ellie calf has also been born so all looking healthy there. It was great to welcome Brian and Dephne who had to postpone from last year. We hope to see you back again. The sleep outs are incredibly popular. On that note we will be redoing the loo there and putting it closer by and also above the ground – just don’t fall out. You just need to put in a R 5.00 coin to make it work, a bit like the gas meters from old. The safari teams were also put through their paces by Andrew in 1st aid training; half of them should have achieved a grade level 2, and the others level 1. Andrew will be back in November to do the remainder of the staff.


Down at the farmhouse the ranger training programme continues although now the instructional team have changed where we say a sad farewell to Sean, Wayne and Robyn, and a warm welcome to JP, Margaux and Sebastian. Good luck with the 14 Students you have currently. JP brings a wealth of knowledge including birding SKS qualification which hopefully the guys here can utilise and improve their birding skills and knowledge.

In the camp I have installed the “Vivreau Water System”. This allows us to get rid of the plastic water bottles and have our own Vivreau bottles which are very elegant indeed. The water runs through their filter system and it really is delicious still and sparkling water. Soon we will have also small stainless steel bottles where each guest gets issued one for their stay and fills it from the new system. They can then keep them as a momento when they depart.

On my side I took 3 weeks off and went to Italy and Switzerland. Rome, Milan, and Portofino were spectacular and I much miss it all. Rome was simply chaotic but somehow it works! The bodywork is incredible; incredible structures as you would imagine. Even the women police officers are elegant and dress in Gucci type shoes. I mean how can you argue with one of them – “yes maam, anything you say maam!”. Did some excellent hill walking in Zermatt; restaurants were out of this world. Anyway all good things come to an end.

In the kitchen the ladies have been cooking a storm! We are now coming to the last month (August) of high teas, and then next month we start again with lunches, and picnics, and only a cup of tea and a biscuit for tea. I’m sure you won’t starve. Anyway they have done a sterling job and been well complemented by a number of guests. Try the latest recipe!

On the staff side Janine has taken over as therapist; I’m sure you will find her bubbly personality infectious; Nicole copes and smiles at Mr. Grumpy, and Vanessa flings her eyes in the air and thinks “another hair-brained scheme” but it worked – our early bird special brought in a number of bookings so I added it on again to include until the end of August; check the website. Andy is slogging hard down on the farm with the veggie garden which was hit badly by the frost and porcupines (porcupine potjke is coming on the menu!). then there are numerous maintenance tasks to carry out which he and his band of brothers undertake. He will also be putting together the new sleep out loo (SOL). So thanks to all staff for the last two months.

On the last note (phew!) please do check out our new revamped website. Thanks to Paul, Brandon, and all of his team at Wildweb for doing such a splendid job. Now we have moved on to Twitter/Twatter/Twooh or whatever it is called, facebook and I’m sure there’s somethingelse. If you hear a rumbling in the ground it’s me trying to figure which button to press as nothing is simple and doesn’t say something like “press this button”! The new access road is booming, and a pleasure to drive on.

David and Eileen – thanks so much for the gloves for the guides! Can you send an email address?

We have some availability still for September and certainly for October and November; how many days to Xmas!?

Keep well and all the best.

Bernie

Summer Routine (September to April)

The Sala. Massage, Aromatherapy, Reflexology

These Timings are flexible depending on Summer as it kicks in.

0545: Wake Up

00615 – 0945: Safari

0945 – 1045: Breakfast (earlier B/Fasts can be taken from 0800 hrs when the Kitchen opens. If earlier than 0800 then B/Fast Packs will be provided.

1400 – 1500: Lunch

1615 – 1630: Tea

1630 – 1900: Safari

1945: Drinks and Dinner

Walks on request will be conducted during the Safari Times only.

Massages: 0830 – 1700.The Therapist will come round during Breakfast to take Bookings.

45 Minutes = R 360.00.00.00,   60 Minutes = R 425.00.

Sleep Outs: On Request.

Star  Bath: On Request.

Fire: This is a hazard during September – November as there are no rains and the bush becomes very dry. Please be careful if smoking, and inform Staff if you see Smoke anywhere out in the Bush.

Monkeys: As the Bush becomes dry, the Monkeys become more “Interested” in the Camp. Please be careful where you leave Cameras etc and please do not leave food lying around.

Swimming-Pool: It is not heated.

Microliting: This can be arranged depending on Pilot Availability and, of course, the Weather. R 780.00 pp for a 20 Minutes Flip over the Reserve. Great Fun!

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to ask. Enjoy!

May Newsletter

Three months and no newsletters! You must be champing at the bit (ummm!). Horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan. How they suffered and then the consequences of the nuclear reactors. But how stoic they are, repairing roads so quickly and life just getting back to normal. Then there’s the mad colonel in Libya massacring his very own people, and the same in Syria.

OK, let’s send a few million pounds worth of hardware down his throat. Unfortunately he’s just one of those survivors. Talking of which; what fantastic news about OBL (One B….rd Less) being scattered amongst the fishes. A pity they didn’t drop him out of an aircraft over the Atlantic and see what it’s like dropping from a height like a number of his victims had to on 9/11.

Certainly some embarrassed faces though in Pakistan and many questions unanswered. We all know there are a number of people high up in the echelons of power sheltering his cause, yet we still pour billions into their coffers.

Recently some excellent news with Mladic being nabbed after so long on the run; again being sheltered by those extreme orthodox nutters. Another monster taken down.

Slight embarrassment in the IMF – DSK. Sure, innocent until proven guilty, but hasn’t he “been there before”?

What about some good news for once. A brilliant royal wedding putting aside all those “moaners and groaners” who thought it not right to be having such a celebration in these difficult times.

It’s called “boosting morale”; we need something happy now and again and not all doom and gloom. Well, at least they came to “Africa” for their honeymoon. What a fantastic couple they look. However… some of those “hats”.

The Queen in Ireland – that is really something. How she keeps going and also how she is so unassuming, but grand at the same time. She was magnificent and long may it continue. So HMQ goes, and so BO has to go as well! Finding his roots!! It seems everybody wants to come from Ireland.

Great sports with a fantastic Cricket World Cup. I thought the semi-final between Sri Lanka and Pakistan was the best game and the most entertaining. Then the sub-continent winning it; even better – they thoroughly deserved it. Twitter and Ryan Giggs (how funny!); although Sir Alex doesn’t see the funny side it would appear. What a ridiculous situation with Injunctions etc – Ha! The sad sad news about Seve. An impeccable sportsmen and a huge loss for “sport” in general.

Yes, more coming! Local elections here in SA and UK. The alternative vote in UK not getting anywhere, and Labour not doing well at all. Keep it going DC (Nick – just move on and out). Here in SA the ANC were given a “warning shot”. The DA held on to the Cape as expected – The only province in SA which has passed their audit.

Down here we closed down for most of March for our annual clean up. The guides have done magnificently finding the game with some spectacular sightings. One of the best being a lioness and leopard scrapping over a kill. Then a lioness chasing the 2 male cheetah away.

Numerous lion sightings now as the big males have established their territory firmly on Garonga; almost every evening and morning you can hear them calling. This has also resulted in Cubs (3 of them). A great sighting of them walking down the airstrip following mum. Walks are proving ever more popular now that winter is setting in. Sleep outs carrying on regular as ever.

US Navy Video… Hilarious!

In April it was a pleasure to welcome back Mike and Sue, Andrew and Charlotte, Philip and Gerti with the 7th Cavalry, and finally Bea and Olivia. Also a warm welcome to Carolyn from New Frontiers and Sally from Sally and Alice Travel. In May we had the big event of Peter and Tina’s wedding with 16 other family and friends taking out both Camps for 5 nights. The wedding itself was held at Fig Tree Pools on the Makhutsi River; a truly spectacular venue should anybody wish to try it. They had choir and dancers performing; so all in all a really spectacular day. Well done to all the staff for making it so special. Kehnsani (chef) had a huge smile on her face as she was chosen to be a witness with CJ. A warm welcome back to Yolanda, Roland and Hella, Martyn and Carolyn, and last but by no means least Juliette and Magali for 18 nights. Thank you both for the video footage which we will place on our “You Tube” (I know, we are really getting “with it”!). Facebook next!

Well we are now in winter mode with no more lunches, but replaced with a high tea. This is due to the game drives returning at about 1015 hrs for a late breakfast. The chefs have produced some amazing cakes, and delicious baguettes etc. Debby has come twice now to spruce up the chefs and their food and so her training has really been a winner with the Chefettes. Look out for next recipe. For dinners, as it is getting colder, coal braziers are going out, and a lot of hugging of the fireplace. On that note, I do try and alternate dinners by some being private, boma, or round table dinners with a variation of plated dinners, curry, and carvery. I don’t get it right all of the time, and so please do specify if you want private dinners.

What else? May is the month for the main Africa Travel Show held in Durban. Before attending that Classic Safari Camps of Africa has their AGM, where all owners get a chance to see each other again (normally only around this time when all together). 3 days AGM held at Robin Pope Safaris in the Luangwa valley in Zambia. What a beautiful setting and of course raucous great fun. Serious stuff also done – HONEST! The trade show – much the same, but always worth going to meeting your supporters from the trade and also some new openings. Also great fun to be at the sea!

The rest of the year is looking pretty quiet at the moment, and so in order to try and reverse that am offering an “early bird special” – “book before the end of July and if staying 4 nights then you only pay for 3 nights at both camps”. This is valid until 20th December 11. We still offer a “stay 5 pay 4” throughout the year. Check it out with your favourite tour operator! Nope, I didn’t have to say that!

It’s great to touch base again with you; apologies for the delay but too much going on. Facebook, and that damn webcam; need to get it sorted urgently. Have a great summer if you’re in that part of the world. Great time to come here – crystal clear nights, fires, excellent food and wine, and of course those “cats!”

Keep well and all the best.

Bernie

January February News

What a disastrous start to the year. Almost like someone up there giving us a warning saying “just remember I’m here and things can change at the flick of a button”. Chaotic and dreadful scenes in Australia, South America, and now New Zealand. What can you do!

Now the Arabs are revolting. Could be very interesting as to how it all pans out, but also interesting to see how quick the Yanks dumped Mubarak; their greatest ally in the area. Gaddafi – well he’s lost a few marbles anyway, and so no loss there. The rest of them I suppose are warming up their Gulf streams as we speak. Probably bump into them at the Connaught for a Bloody Mary or three in London!

Sport: England didn’t want to drub the Aussies too much and so gave them a consolation prize of winning the 50 over series in cricket after their humiliating defeat in the Ashes. Now it’s all to play for in the cricket world cup although somehow it sort of pales into insignificance after the Ashes series. Before anyone says it – Ireland, we let you!! It’s to smooth you over for the Queen’s visit this year; that’s all! Rugby – 6 nations already started and looking promising. Football – still paid far too much!

Down here we’ve had our moments. In January great to welcome Jenny back. Many congratulations to Patrick and Veronica for their wedding here at Garonga. It didn’t go exactly to plan as we had a torrent of rain the day before and the river was in full torrent with all the crossing impassable; so it was plan b in Little Garonga main area which we turned into a mini chapel with candles and all. It was a great day especially as they had all family there taking out the whole camp. Then a warm welcome for the first time to Inspect us was Michael, Kevin from Ethos marketing (At last Kevin; you’ve been set free!), and last but no means least Brigitte from Dertours and Lehandra from Welcome Tours. In February we wish Mark and Alison, and Russell and Clara all the very best in their futures together and thanks for choosing Garonga for your very special day. Also great fun as family also shared the special day with them. Makes a big difference. Also a very warm welcome back to Brian and Gail who came back after a few years and stayed for 4 nights and then went back to UK; great to see you both again! Also Christine – no nasty people this time at dinner! Will always remember that last time!

Winner being presented with the Classic safari Camps of Africa Book

South Africa was hit by floods but nothing in comparison to the others above. We had over 180mm in one night (the rain gauges overflowed and so no real accurate reading). Hence to say the drainage lines etc all became impassable torrent of water. We couldn’t reach the camp for 10 hours; It was quite amazing – never seen it as bad as that since the 2000 floods. It kept on raining. But at least the rivers subsided. As Zele kindly pointed out to me (In the way she does) that this always happens when I am away, and it just so happens that I was going away that day for a weeks leave! Guests missed their connections but we laid on transport that afternoon to get them out to Johannesburg just in case we got caught again. I must say here that some guests are not very obliging here, and when asked to pay for additional transfers refused. Not quite sure here. Travel Insurance covers this, and not much else we can do. Some people suddenly turn very strange. Please do check with your Travel Companies regarding this sort of eventuality as it is bound to occur more often now. Those who refused to pay – well, you obviously need it more than I do and… don’t come back!

School Kids departing after their day learning about Conservation and The Tourism Industry.

As you can imagine the bush is very thick but the guys are getting there with the sightings. What has been a problem have been the 2 young male lions (brothers) and female who have been getting out of the reserve on a number of occasions due to the big bad boy of the reserve hunting them. It was great to experience Ross (the game warden) recapture these guys (3 of them) at night. (They had walked 18 kms into a completely different reserve!) I went along with him. One of them was across another side of the fence so he had to crawl underneath the electric fence and with assistance from a student drag the lion back (after it had been darted of course). The other two had already been darted by the vet and were on the back of the vehicle already. So eventually I drove back with Ross with 3 sedated lions on the back of the cruiser along a normal public road. We both chuckled at the thought of someone wanting to hitch a lift along the way, and would have said “sure, mate, jump in the back!” Ha! That didn’t happen. Anyway lions recaptured and are now POW’s in the boma! Will be trying to change them with some other males.

Lights out. Jump aboard mate.

The ellies have been busy as ever and the bulls just knocking those trees down. Sleep outs, walks etc have still proven very popular even with the changeable weather. Just in January alone we had 317mm of rains. To date for this season 509 mm. So over the average now and they still reckon (THEY? I don’t know who) more to come. Last year in April we had over 200mm! So let’s wait and see.

As we always do in January we invited a whole load of school kids over for a day to learn about conservation and tourism. They were split into 5 groups and each group had a member of staff whether it be a waiter, chef, housekeeper, safari guide etc. 20 minutes round robin, a BBQ lunch and then a 3 hour game drive. The competition prize being awarded at the end. It was a great fun day and all the staff performed magnificently. Some real Hollywood actors amongst our lot. Must look into that!

Staff movement always around this time! Farewell to Zele who was offered a once in a lifetime opportunity in New Zealand. We wish her all the best. Then to Denille (therapist) who returned to Johannesburg, and finally to Obie (tracker) who “disappeared”. Wherever you are Obie drop us a line! So on that note welcome to Nicole who has taken over as manageress (last place she was in Islandwana in the KZN battlefields area), and to Geraldine as therapist after 2 years on the boats. Two trackers will be joining us very soon; Ruel and Patrick to join Rebel who’s feeling a bit left out!

We are now in the first week of the closedown, cleaning, dusting, sealing, varnishing, painting, repairing and so on. Reopen on the 24th March. Plenty of space available and for April as well.

Finally the winner of the photo competition for 2010 is Amanda Jennings. Four nights complimentary at the Hambleden Suite (excepting 20 Dec – 10 Jan). Available from now until end of February 12. If you don’t think you can take it let me know and I’ll sort out a very nice dinner for 2 with voucher. Many congratulations Amanda. Please RSVP before June 11 in order to qualify for the prize, otherwise I will ask the judge to reselect. Many thanks to all those who took part, and we will continue this for 2011. Keep those pictures coming. Not pleasant to finish on a sad note, but our commiserations go out to Judith and family for the tragic loss of Roger Diski. A very well-known, kind and respected figure in the tourism Industry in UK who had a passion for the future of South Africa and Africa in general.

Keep safe and well out there.

Bernie

PS: That B….y webcam will be sorted soon. Sledgehammer on its way!