The Garonga Diaries : Monkeys, Mischief and Maydays!

Dear Diary,

As ever this week has been a busy one. Patrick, Albert and Given on our maintenance team have been tirelessly following elephants around the Garonga property. Where our mischievous friends have investigated and damaged fences and attempted to extract boreholes our maintenance masters have made repairs and come up with plans to stop the elephants causing more chaos next time around. It is not that the elephants just wantonly destroy. They were breaking the fence to try and gain access to some citrus trees and still comparatively lush grass for the time of year. The borehole’s appeal is the scent of fresh water. Elephants have an incredible sense of smell and are very particular about what water they will drink. They prefer clean water and can smell it even when it is metres underground!

Fences and boreholes are foreign concepts to elephants. Elephants are naturally programmed to seek the freshest food and water and to move obstacles that might be in their way to do that. Unfortunately this is something that brings them into regular conflict with humans across the continent and is something that poses a serious threat to their survival. Happily within the reserve we have worked out something of a truce. We love the elephants but that doesn’t stop the damage they cause from being both inconvenient and expensive! We are currently working on ways to outsmart our gargantuan friends. The borehole will be protected by an elaborate fence that we hope will stand up to the curiosity and determination of the elephants!

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One of the possible culprits, looking stunning in the early winter foliage. © Sophie Barrett

Our office team have been facing a smaller but no less wily opponent! Bukani has taken over the admin reins whilst Sanlè is on leave and kept busy reconciling invoices and keeping tabs on the various stock usage throughout the week. Marietjie continues to keep a careful eye on everyone’s temperatures and this week has cast her critical eye over Little Garonga, identifying any areas in need of a bit of TLC or improvement. Throughout all of this the ladies have started to wage war against the camp’s vervet monkeys! These savvy fellows have realised that the office team are partial to a cookie or two and this is a fact they are turning to their advantage. Having discovered that stealth yields more rewards than intimidation the monkeys are entering ninja mode and this week have come within a whisker of making off with the good stuff! For now the office ladies are winning but we expect to see entertaining tactical developments on both sides over the coming weeks!

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Looking like butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth but don’t be fooled this youngster has its eyes firmly on the cookie jar! © Sophie Barrett

Our fabulous ladies in housekeeping and the kitchens have maintained our updated hygiene and sanitising standards. Senty and Sisakele have given the office and curio shop a spring clean and their rotas this week have kept Little Garonga gleaming and ready for when we can welcome guests back once more, and the Farmhouse sparkling! Suzan has once again achieved culinary triumphs in the staff village, in particular rumours are circulating about delectable Sunday braais! I know that the real question on everyone’s minds though is what masterpiece of a cake did Phumzile spoil us with this week?! I almost dare not say the answer knowing how it will make everyone at home pine to join us! This week was chocolate cake! Despite looking divine those in the know, know to let the cake mature to reach its full chocolatey potential, and it did not disappoint.

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Enough to set the tastebuds tingling and trigger the start of the ultimate willpower test! ©Marietjie McDonald

On the safari team side every week is truly an adventure, we reached new heights when we needed to send out an SOS for a rescue on the night of the full moon. As we headed towards home after one of our monitoring drives we heard the telltale rumble of a flat tyre. This didn’t present a problem as the whole team has our tyre changing routine down to about 7 minutes. Having just passed one of the lions in the Garonga pride who was definitely on the hunt certainly added a thrill to the exercise however. Our luck was to be all used up in avoiding being on the lions’ dinner menu as our spare wheel had also decided to go flat, and just as we radioed the lodge for a rescue mission one of our front tyres gave up the ghost as well! They do say things come in threes and so it was with our flats. Still at least the next day’s to do list was an easy one to work out!

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A late night adventure under the light of the full moon and the watchful gaze of a hunting lion! Never a dull moment in the Bush! ©Sophie Barrett

Aside from daring midnight rescue parties the safari team have spent the week sharpening our skills, becoming both artists and investigators. Branching out we have been giving our equipment trommels a makeover. With all the protective gear in place we gave Picasso a good run for his money. With flair and focus the trommels are now looking as good as new! Keeping things diverse this week’s bush walk focussed on testing and sharing our knowledge of tracks and signs, an exercise that started before we had even left the camp! We quickly spotted tracks for one of our male lions who had walked right past the entrance to Little Garonga and into the main camp with one of the females. This could well mean that romance is in the air and that he is hoping to mate with her! We will keep you posted with any sightings that we have. This week has been all about the audio. We knew the moment the lions were back on Garonga as they treated us to a series of roaring choruses throughout the night – one of the best reasons to miss out on some sleep!

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Becoming artists and investigators is no mean feat! See if you can spot where the lions walked through the camp! ©Sophie Barrett and ©Phineas Leane

It appears that the wildlife has taken it upon itself to monitor and manage our maintenance programme and to check up on our cleaning routine for the lodge. It wasn’t just the lions who visited this week, one of the buffalo herds popped up right in the middle of camp too. They showed particular interest in the back of tents 4 and 5, a popular spot as you might remember a few weeks ago one of our cheetah’s made an impala kill in the same area (if you missed it catch up on the action here)! The Garonga team was as curious and excited to see the buffalo as they were curious about us, with everyone coming through for a peek and a photo opportunity.

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New guests checking in and causing quite the stir! No one could resist the chance for a quick photo op!©Sophie Barrett

Until next week – Stay safe everyone!