February and March News

Slowly we’re sliding into autumn and those fresher mornings and evenings are becoming a welcome respite against the long hot summer that we’ve had.

Apart from the normal claptrap going on in politics nothing really to write home about. Here in South Africa the “loudmouth” of the ANC Youth League has been caught out; two range rovers, a number of houses (including one in Sandton), and a deal with a mining group which earned him quite a few dollars to say the least; then he has been clamouring for nationalization of the mines!

The country is slowly gearing up for the FWC event, with roads being a nightmare, and the threat of strike action by the unions. Only 3 months to go, and no David Beckham playing, better still, No Victoria! No Wags!

A smiling Phyllis - Village Chef for the Skeleton Staff Crew; probably wrong time to use Skeleton in this instance!

Here down at the camp life has been busy. In February we achieved a 53% occupancy rate (best February on record), and our cousin up the hill 13%. In March we were closed for our annual clean up from 01-24, and so with the few remaining days we achieved a 43% occupancy and 8% up the hill. In the two months of February and March a very warm welcome back to Reg and Liz and Pete and Sally (3rd time for Reg and Liz, and second for Peter and Sally). Also to Philip and Gerti with their 7th Cavalry guests for the horse riding safari and on that note we welcomed back Barney with them on her 21st birthday! Happy Birthday Barney! A great surprise for us and also for her. Also many congratulations to Jens and Stefanie for tying the knot here at Garonga – we hope you had a really splendid day. In March great to see Manfred and Sigrid back again.

It has been very hot over these couple of months with lots of intentions of more rains, but to date only 12.5 mm. It could be a long dry winter ahead unless we get a deluge which is uncommon at this time of the year. The bushveld is still looking in great condition though, with plenty of water and grass. On the Safari front the Boys and…Girl (Alisa) have been producing some excellent game viewing; 4 sightings of leopard in February, and good lion, ellie, rhino and cheetah sightings. The female Garonga cheetah, “Aya” has possibly gone back through the fences from where she came from – The Karongwe Reserve which is right down on our southern boundary. As long as she is safe and sound. Nobody has seen her for a number of months. Anyway hopefully all well and not something to be concerned about. Alisa has been playing her part extremely well filling all of our guests with enthusiasm about the “Bush”! Well done!

The Project team for a Green Garonga

On the cheffing front we have one more month really (April) of official summer Routine. So am now getting them concentrating on winter stuff. From mid April to August, late breakfasts, no lunches or picnics, and then a high tea at about 1530 hrs. Dinner of course as normal but with those fireplaces blazing (maybe). It is actually great fun in winter; fresh clean skies; no rains (normally!). A great time to come and visit. Don’t be put off by the FWC – give it a crack! I will play rugby on the TV at home and we can have a braai! None of this mincing or poncing around with a round ball! As ever a recipe will be attached. Does anybody give it a go? If you have any suggestions drop us an E-Mail.

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is that we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright

The Biogas System with a Happy Skeleton Staff Crew smiling - a bit scruffy mind you!

Now here over the closedown a great deal has been happening behind the scenes. Apart from the hard work going on getting the camp cleaned up etc, we have installed the solar panels to offset some power from the main electricity grid; heater pumps have replaced the electrical geysers in the rooms. They use 80% less power than a normal electrical geyser and stay hot for a much longer time, plus take only 15 minutes to heat up if starting from scratch. We will always ensure they are on a goo hour before arrival of new guests. Then there has been the installation of the Biogas system which will power the staff kitchen instead of using LPG. And finally, which is what I am most excited about, the installation of the water treatment plant. Basically all water is filtered, and cleaned before it is pumped down in to the main waterhole in front of the main camp. This will increase the size of the pan and hopefully attract a lot more game. All these projects been a huge investment, and hopefully sets Garonga up for the future!

You, as guests, can also contribute, towards the whole carbon offset programme (basically to offset your carbon footprint) we have started with the Nomad Trust. Basically you can contribute as much or as little as you want ( from R 10 to R 100 or more if you like) based on the figures given to you by the trust. You can either offset just for your Garonga stay, the traveling it takes to get to Garonga from within SA + your stay, or your whole trip. They give you all the info! You contribute how you like. This amount goes into the trust until there is enough money within the trust to plant 1 ha of Spekbom trees somewhere in the eastern cape. It is a brilliant programme, and entirely voluntary. Obviously it is not just Garonga involved in this trust. It is transparent and upfront. It is supported by Rhodes University and the department of Land and Water Affairs.

I’ve just had a walk around and see that the monkeys have ripped the little gazebo tent at Little Garonga – bad enough to have to replace. Ummmm!

The Solar panels

During the closedown it has also given me the opportunity to go out and sell Garonga. A workshop was done in conjunction with our marketing rep. company here in SA, “Africa IN Focus” whereby we did a number of lectures on our products (there were 7 other products) to tour operators in Durban. It was a great success and thank-you to Andrew and Tamarin who organized the event, and also the operators who managed to get away. Then the following week, a workshop in Cape Town at a very nice location – The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay! But, God it was hot!! Now CT has many incredible spots, bars etc, but I was introduced to this one called “The Grand” (A bar) on the beach just beyond the waterfront; behind the Raddisson Hotel. It is one helluva Bar. It is literally a short walk from the main soccer stadium. Very trendy, but…great cocktails! There is another Grand in Camps Bay and Plettenberg Bay; it is neither of those!! It’s a bar; so we have to get it right!

Now am shortly off to the UK also on a sales Trip, which I’m very much looking forward to. April is a great time of the year.

To finish off I’ve just watched the medal parade of a number of servicemen and women who have received awards for gallantry in Afghanistan. It must make us all feel very humbled by their experiences and incredibly proud of our servicemen and women. Therefore even more reason to keep supporting Help For Heroes and the “3 Rifles Battlegroup” who have lost a number of soldiers and a number of wounded in their 6 month stint in Afghanistan. Keep the money rolling in.

Late May, early June and first 12 days of July there is still plenty of availability. We look forward to welcoming you here at Garonga! Keep well and have a great Easter!

All the best