The Garonga Diaries: Double Takes

Garonga Safari Camp, Garonga Diaries, Garonga Pride, African Lions, Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve

Dear Diary,

This week in the lodge was one of doubles! What, we asked ourselves, could possibly make a week better than by enjoying our ‘Cake Friday’? The answer, of course, was to double the cake quotient! The wonderful Bukani had her birthday on Wednesday and as all birthdays should be it was a day of singing and CAKE! In these strange times it was particularly wonderful to be able to celebrate life.

Asked what age she was turning, Bukani feigned senility but with a twinkle in her eye talked wistfully of birthday cake being appropriate for all ages! Garonga is the land where wishes come true and so this week, ‘Cake Wednesday’ joined ‘Cake Friday’ as a day of great celebration.

Garonga Safari Camp, Greater Makalali Private Game ReserveGaronga Safari Camp, Garonga Diaries, Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve

Glowing on her birthday, Bukani’s cake wishes came true! © Loraine Weitsz

Of course, we are not here simply for our angelic singing voices and the team have been hard at work keeping things in order around the lodge. Jazzman has been polishing the tables, shining them until he can see nostalgic memories of all the guests who have enjoyed meals around them. Sanlè and Bukani have continued to keep order in their own mysterious way within the realms of the lodge office and the Safari Team’s attention has turned to the Garonga airstrip. Being based in the Big 5 safari wilderness of the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve, we don’t necessarily share the typical airport worries. Giving a true bush experience the Garonga airstrip is a dirt, rather than tar, strip, and so is inevitably more susceptible to (plant) intruders!

In the Lowveld, our rainy season has just come to an end. The rains are magical here, they bring new life and change the landscape in the blink of an eye. With our healthy and varied bird population too we start to see patches of greenery sneaking their way onto the airstrip, seeds that have been dropped by our feathered friends take root and so the games begin! Typically our weapon of choice is a tractor set up with a grader at the back but as we have more time on our hands now we made it personal. The Safari Squad together with the great and fearless Bernie, gathered spades and made our move. Slowly but surely we progressed up the airstrip tackling each and every unconventional growth! Luckily, the intruders are typically shallow rooted and easy to remove but even so, we were surprised to see how many had snuck in whilst our guard was down.

Garonga Safari Camp, Greater Makalali Private Game ReserveGaronga Safari Camp, Garonga Airstrip, Garonga Pride, Greater Makalali Private Game ReserveGaronga Safari Camp, Greater Makalali Private Game ReserveGaronga Safari Camp, Greater Makalali Private Game ReserveGaronga Safari Camp, Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve

Kaizer working with a sense of purpose (and fun!) as the airstrip stretches out ahead of us © Sophie Barrett

The person who is probably most appreciative of the Safari Team’s airstrip efforts is Loraine, Safari Camp Manager with the hots for fitness! As you might have learnt in recent weeks, at the lodge we have a range of ways to keep in shape and we are nothing if not varied in our approaches. Living next door to Loraine I get a privileged insight into her routine and, regardless of the location, Loraine likes to mix her gym sessions with some time running (wild and free).

Earlier this week we were on a monitoring drive when we tracked and found our coalition of dominant male lions of the Garonga Pride. They were relaxing in the shade a hop, skip and drainage line away from Farmhouse, which sits at the southern side of the airstrip. As the afternoon thought about greeting the evening I heard the bushbuck barking. The sound is unmistakable and bushbuck are shy antelope that don’t lie. If they are barking it means a predator has been spotted close by – it had to be the lions but it didn’t necessarily mean they were heading our way. In any case Loraine was keen to stretch her legs (and admire the new, weed-free, state of the airstrip) and so set off for her evening run.

Dusk is one of my favourite times of day. As the sun starts to set the bush comes alive with sounds that gradually fade along with the colours in the sky. I was sitting in front of Farmhouse enjoying the gradual change when my neck started to tingle. I couldn’t tell you why but suddenly I didn’t feel like I was alone. Sure enough when I looked up the two male lions had paused about 30m from me as they made a bee-line for the airstrip, the airstrip that Loraine was still merrily jogging up and down. It seemed that an intervention might be in order!

Quickly hopping into the game viewer, I went to find Loraine and together, from the safety of the vehicle, we watched the lions as the last of the light faded from the day. It is one of the many things that I love about the bush – to experience it fully you need to rely on so much more than just your sight and you never know what the next day will bring.

Garonga Safari Camp, Garonga Diaries, Garonga Pride, African Lions, African Sunset, Greater Makalali Private Game ReserveGaronga Safari Camp, Garonga Diaries, Garonga Pride, African Lions, Greater Makalali Private Game ReserveGaronga Safari Camp, Garonga Diaries, Garonga Pride, African Lions, Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve

Double trouble coming to inspect the quality of the maintenance on the airstrip! © Sophie Barrett

Until next week – stay safe everyone!