Behind the Scenes: Meet the Team – WildWeb

This is the last of the blog series “Behind the Scenes” that has featured the 12 teams working collectively ensure Garonga’s continued success. This is the hard work that guests often don’t know about but get to experience the results first-hand at the safari camp. 

WildWeb, owned and managed by Paul Changuion, is a Web Design and Digital Marketing Agency based in Durban, South Africa. They have represented Garonga Safari Camp for many years now, and are both a highly experienced team and personable group of people to work with.

In 2000, Paul turned his love for the African bushveld into his dream company – WildWeb. Paul has vast experience in online marketing of safari operations in Southern and Eastern Africa.

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We work with all the teams at WildWeb, as they manage and maintain all our web-based platforms and online content. They are responsible for our website design and maintenance, digital marketing – including blogs and social media – and generally keeping together any web-based information such as on TripAdvisor and online itinerary builder, WETU.

Website Design & Development Team

Jono Bouwmeester: Jono brings both technical know-how and design flare to his position as Head of the Design and Development Team at WildWeb.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

David Reynolds: Also a long-standing member of the WildWeb family, David is the SEO guru of the company and supports web design and maintenance by installing all updates to keep Garonga’s website up-to-date.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Shannon Govender: Shannon is a designer and front-end developer at WildWeb. With over 10 years experience in the advertising and media industry, he is an expert in graphic and web design, printing, animation and game development.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Mystic Mendes: As a Level 5 Programmer, web development runs deep in Mystic’s veins. So when he’s not at WildWeb, he’s either dreaming about programming or updating himself on what’s new in this field.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Digital Marketing Team

Kelly Robertson: A travel enthusiast of note with a deep love for all things content, Kelly heads up the Digital Marketing Team from her base in Johannesburg.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Anna da Graça: Anna has a strong background in public relations, events management and strategic marketing development. Having been born and raised in England, Anna brings unique insight to inform Garonga’s online presence.

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Nelli Rose-Innes: The master of paid advertising at WildWeb, Nelli looks after Garonga’s online presence, particularly making sure more people find out about us. She keeps abreast of all online information trends so that we stay ahead of the curb.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Claire Birtwhistle: Claire is a professional photographer with a penchant for safari photography – check out our galleries to see some of Claire’s work. Along with her creative talents, she is also well-versed in strategic marketing across digital platforms.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Elrika Geyser: With a Public Relations Degree and marketing experience under her belt, Elrika is equipped to create authentic content and managing winning social media campaigns.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Megan Lewis: A complete word-nerd with a background in communications, public relations and marketing, Megan is in her element when exploring different countries or writing about all things travel.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Digital Direct Team

Claire Long: Claire has extensive experience in the travel industry and has also spent time living abroad, which she brings to her position as Reservations Specialist for Garonga at WildWeb.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Jennifer Harmse: With a Diploma in International Tourism, Jennifer loves helping people realise their travel dreams as a Reservations Specialist. Along with Claire, you’ll probably chat to Jennifer at some point when booking at Garonga.

Garonga, Meet the Team, WildWeb, Digital Marketing, Web Development, South African Safari, Big 5 Safari

Garonga’s authentic online presence is aligned perfectly to our offline safari experience thanks to WildWeb.

Introducing the All New Star Bath and Yoga Deck

Just when you didn’t think your safari could get any more relaxing, we go and prove you wrong!

Here at Garonga we pride ourselves on our motto of being a ‘Safari for the Soul’. While the Big Five game drives and encounters with wildlife is a huge drawcard, it’s only half the safari experience at Garonga. Equally important is slowing down the pace of life, nurturing yourself, and ‘resetting your system’, so to speak.

That’s, of course, why we offer the Bush Bath and Sleep Out Deck, which are complimented by luxurious accommodation and nourishing, hearty food. And it doesn’t stop there. A stay at Garonga isn’t complete without a visit to the Massage Sala, and not to worry, very few people come out without a bad case of ‘pillow face’.

We’ve upped the relaxation ante with two new features added to the revamped existing luxury facilities:

Star Bath

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Introducing the Star Bath

It’s time to get starry-eyed! We bring you the dreamy Star Bath – a whole new alfresco bathing experience. We’ve added a special touch to the original Bush Bath experience. Now you can get lost in the view of a dazzling African night sky as well as our very own galaxy of twinkling stars, all in complete privacy. Soak away your troubles, let go and look back on the sightings and experiences of the day with a glass of wine in hand. It sounds like bliss because it is!

Yoga Deck

Garonga, Garonga Safari Camp, Little Garonga, Big 5 Safari, South African Safari, Luxury Safari Camp, Luxury Honeymoon Lodge, Bush Bath, Star Bath, Open Air Bath, Yoga Deck, Massage Sala, Luxury Safari Experience
Introducing the Yoga Deck

Those already familiar with the practice of mindfulness and meditation, or those that just love a good stretch or daytime nap, will be excited to see our new Yoga Deck. An enclosed tented structure designed to allow air to flow freely, perfectly frames an exquisite view of the valley. You can step onto the mat and practice in privacy surrounded by only the peaceful sounds of the surrounding bush. If you’re lucky you might even get some of the local wildlife passing by!

Bush Bath

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Welcome back to a revamped Bush Bath

Not forgetting our existing Bush Bath, which continues to be a much-loved feature at Garonga. It received the full luxury treatment and make-over with a brand-new freestanding bath.

If you’re looking to leave your troubles behind, completely unwind and indulge your senses, then we can certainly help you by offering the ultimate in soulful spa/safari experience.

Namaste

Behind the Scenes: Meet the Management Team

The Management Team is the backbone of operations at Garonga Safari Camp and Little Garonga. They ensure everything runs smoothly for the guests both at the front of house and behind the scenes. More importantly, they are the leaders that guide, support and mentor the other teams of staff at Garonga.

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Reyneke – Operations Manager at Garonga

Reyneke is the Operations Manager and has been at Garonga now for almost three years. As a very diligent and thorough person, he is tasked with all general operations of lodge as well as  overseeing the Safari Department, which is run by Jaffeth. Reyneke arranges external training courses to ensure consistently high standards at both properties that meet the expectations of every guests that walks through our doors.

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Riki – Administration Manager at Garonga

Riki is the Administration Manager, who has worked at Garonga for three years, along with her husband Reyneke. She has taken on this difficult and intense role with great gusto and quiet determination. From accounts management to stock control and month-end reporting, Riki is incredibly capable and efficient.

Charlotte, who joined  Garonga two years ago as the Manager, is currently on six months maternity leave and will return in the beginning of 2019.

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Lize – Acting Manager at Garonga

Lize has stepped comfortably into Charlotte’s shoes for the six months she is on maternity leave. Whilst she is new to managing, she has slotted well into the position because she is thorough, diligent and confident. In January 2019, Lize will begin her four-year Tourism Degree.

Robert and Steffen are the Manager at Little Garonga and Maintenance Manager, respectively. Check out the blogs on the Little Garonga Staff Team and the Maintenance Team to find out more about Robert and Steffen.

Behind the Scenes: Meet the Little Garonga Staff

When staying at Little Garonga, you’re in the good hands of our friendly and attentive staff that is fully equipped to make this your best South African safari.

Garonga welcomed Little Garonga to the Makalali Private Game Reserve in December 2007, giving guests a little extra luxury and exclusivity in the same beautiful setting as the Safari Camp. Not only is each suite fitted with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi, the guests in these units have their own safari team with private vehicle and housekeeping staff.

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The luxurious Hambleden Suite at Little Garonga © Little Garonga

The permanent staff complement at Little Garonga ensure all guests enjoy personalised and attentive service throughout their stay.

Robert: Having started off as a waiter at the Safari Camp over a decade ago, Robert moved across to Little Garonga and with his rich knowledge became the camp’s Manager in 2015. With his calm and professional demeanour, Robert always goes out of his way to afford all guests a great experience.

Margaret: Completely dedicated to maintaining clean and presentable suites, Margaret is the perfect person to oversee housekeeping at Little Garonga. She has been around since the grand opening in June 1997 and is an ingrained member of the Garonga family. You can expect to see her working briskly throughout the busy times at Garonga, always with a smile and happiness radiating from her.

Christine: With over 15 years’ experience, Christine assists Margaret with all housekeeping responsibilities and leads in all laundry tasks. She is industrious and professional, always taking real pride in her work whilst keeping a wonderful smile on her face. You can also expect a joke or two from Christine!

Herfric: Even before Garonga opened in 1997, Herfric was part of the Garonga family. From 1996, he has been working with us in different roles until his personality directed him towards waitering. Herfric is Head Waiter, overseeing all waiters at Garonga but working permanently at Little Garonga. He has a huge heart, great smile and willingness to do anything for the guests.

Patsy the Cheetah Tastes Freedom

…but not without some coaxing! 

Picture the scene: A slightly sunburned, blonde Brit crouched in the back of a pick-up truck (or a bakkie if you come from round here) holding both a DSLR with a weighty lens and a Canon PowerShot with a hefty zoom in one hand, and a rope in the other hand. You know those 20m or so plastic type ropes? Well one of those – green and white if you are wondering – that has been looped through a cut in the hind-leg of an impala carcass.

Now, I can almost hear you wondering how on earth I (or indeed anyone) had found myself in this situation. The answer, of course, is that together with the team, I was trying to tempt a female cheetah we were set to release whilst also hoping to document this exciting moment!

The outcome was not exactly what we had hoped for. Things started out well. We had got the attention of the female cheetah, Patsy to her friends, and I had managed to catch a few shots of her as she started to follow us around the enclosure. Sure, we hit a couple of bumps along the road when the impala carcass got stuck on all the citrus trees in the enclosure (and there are a lot of them). But all round we felt positive about how things were progressing. At one point, Patsy even picked up the impala in her mouth but on discovering she couldn’t simply drag it away she became an increasingly suspicious cheetah. Undeterred, we inched ever closer to the open gate and to Patsy’s freedom.

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“Something smells ‘fishy’ here” © Sophie Barrett / Garonga

For the fastest mammal on the planet, Patsy followed us agonizingly slowly, stopping to rest in the shade of her favourite orange trees and continuously assessing our intentions. We passed her inspections, barely, and finally we (and our sad impala comrade) were through the gate! We deposited our hairy friend about 7m from the gate and snuck off into the distance to watch Patsy take the bait. Or, as it happened, to watch Patsy lie in the shade about half a metre from the gate and show no inclination whatsoever to go through it.

I can’t say I blame her. This whole drama had taken about an hour and a half and, at this stage, was punishingly hot. This was on top of the Garonga Pride paying the cheetah boma an early morning visit, during which time they circled the boma and tested her eardrums with some intense roaring. In the end we gave up with our cheetah release. Patsy lived for another week in the boma with the impala carcass to devour for her troubles, whilst we slinked away to attempt the release on another day.

Garonga, cheetah, South African safari, wildlife safari, Great Makalali Reserve
“Maybe this freedom thing is overrated” © Josia Sibuyi / Garonga

I suspect at this point you are all bursting with questions. Why don’t we just open the gate and let Patsy wander to freedom in her own time? And why was Patsy in the enclosure in the first place?

To answer the first question, when wild animals have been in enclosures for a while they get used to the ‘room service’. So, when released they tend to spend their first week waiting for their next meal to be brought to them. That’s why it’s important to ensure they have had a decent feed, hence the alluring impala carcass. We had an extra factor at play here at Garonga as our pride of lions had taken an unhealthy interest in our cheetah friend. We were concerned that if we opened the gate to let Patsy wonder out in her own time, we would run the risk of the lions finding her before she had mustered up the courage to venture through the gate.

Garonga, cheetah, South African safari, wildlife safari, Great Makalali Reserve
Males from the Garonga Pride © Garonga

As for why Patsy was in the enclosure in the first place, that is a sad tale and it relates to the fate of cheetahs in the wild. There are currently approximately only 6,700 cheetahs in the wild across the world and they are listed as Endangered with Extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Best estimates are that cheetahs have disappeared from about 76% of their historic range on the African continent. One of the major causes of this decline is habitat loss.

Cheetahs are best adapted to have enormous territories but as the human population continues to expand, there is decreasing space available to cheetahs and, left to their own devices, they are adapting slowly to this change. At Garonga, in the Greater Makalali Private Nature Reserve, our cheetahs have adapted to a different style of hunting. They still use their amazing speed but now in conjunction with the human-made fences, which they use to chase prey as if the fence is an extra hunting partner.

Garonga, cheetah, South African safari, wildlife safari, Great Makalali Reserve
“This feels familiar” © Sophie Barrett / Garonga

Patsy will be our second adult female in the reserve. Having come from a different part of South Africa, she brings the gift not only of her femininity but also a rejuvenation of the cheetah gene pool for the reserve. As our wild spaces continue to dwindle, we see four major challenges facing our cheetahs, namely habitat loss, lack of genetic diversity, human and animal conflict, and competition with other predators. By introducing Patsy into the Greater Makalali Private Nature Reserve we are hoping to do what we can to help in the conservation of this stunning species.

Now, coming back to Patsy’s release! Working with nature is often bizarrely like working as a comedian because it’s so often about the timing. About a week after the shenanigans described above, we dragged a second impala carcass behind a vehicle and this time Patsy was after it like a shot. This time the whole process took just five minutes!

Garonga, cheetah, South African safari, wildlife safari, Great Makalali Reserve
“Farewell, see you soon!” © Sophie Barrett / Garonga

Patsy is now freely roaming the reserve and we sincerely hope that she thrives here – keep an eye on Garonga’s social media feeds for updates on her progress!

Written by Sophie Barrett (Guide, Tracker, Photographer and Videographer at Garonga. 

Book with us and enjoy wild South Africa.

Exciting Elephant Encounters at Garonga

You don’t always have to trek deep into the heart of the African bushveld to see wildlife whilst on safari. Sometimes just staying at your safari camp provides you with plenty of wildlife excitement. Garonga Safari Camp’s guests were recently lucky enough to witness a very memorable occasion with their own eyes.

A bull elephant decided to come visit one of the safari tents when the guests were relaxing on the viewing deck. The impressive beast was certainly not shy to show off!

Watch how whole the spectacle unraveled:

How to Get to Garonga Safari Camp

Travel Options to Make Your Journey Even Easier

Travel options to get to Garonga Safari Camp in Makalali Conservancy, South Africa

‘Makalali’s bushveld, in contrast to those reserves directly adjacent to the Kruger, is a series of undulating hills that offer incredible viewpoints and panoramic views across the reserve.’ This is how SA Venues describes this wilderness area, situated just west of the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Garonga Safari Camp and Little Garonga, nestled in this 22000ha wildlife haven, provides an ideal location to seek out the Big Five and experience close-up wildlife encounters without the crowds. The name Makalali means “a place of rest” in Shangaan and it suggests that the reserve offers an utterly unique and intimate wildlife experience. Embark on a game drive and be mesmerized by the abundance of game, including lion, kudu, cheetah and anything in between.

The only question left is how do you get there?

Garonga is easily accessible by both air and car:

    • Direct chartered flight from Johannesburg

      Direct chartered flight from Johannesburg to Garonga with Fedair
      Take a direct chartered flight from Johannesburg to Garonga with Fedair
    • Flight and air-charter (Nelspruit KMIA)
      Take a commercial flight with Airlink to Nelspruit KMIA (from Johanesburg or Cape Town)
      Take a commercial flight with Airlink to Nelspruit KMIA (from Johanesburg or Cape Town)

      Take a private charter from Nelspruit KMIA to Garonga's airstrip with Odie Air
      Take a private charter from Nelspruit KMIA to Taronga’s airstrip with Odie Air
    • Flight and road transfer (Hoedspruit / Phalaborwa)
    • Self-drive (only 6 hours from Johannesburg)

Find out detailed travel instructions here.

Garonga Safari Camp – A Well-Kept Secret of South Africa

It has almost been six months since the grand reopening of Garonga Safari Camp, and the team is ecstatic with the positive response from guests. The Garonga staff are devoted to offering service that is nothing below excellent. There is nothing quite like beaming feedback from past visitors to make the Garonga team members’ hearts fill with delight, day after day.

Garonga Safari Camp, main lodge

This is how recent guests describe their stay at Garonga on TripAdvisor:

‘This “camp” is a well-kept secret of South Africa. Traveling off the main road for almost 45mins is your first clue that you are in for a taste of a vanishing Africa. The staff is as warm and welcoming as you could possibly want and try to anticipate your every need.’
– Cindi

‘Wow! Garonga is a great safari camp. We have been on safari numerous times and this place hit all the marks and then some. Only 6 “tents” so no more than 12 guests at a time. The tents are actually small, very posh concrete houses with mesh windows and front flap enclosures that make it feel like a luxury tent. Animals come right into the camp as there are two watering holes right below the rooms.’
– Nancy, the US

Garonga Safari Lodge tent

‘We stayed here for our honeymoon in September. Everything was such an incredible experience. The ‘tents’ are clean, spacious and luxurious along with the view. All of the staff are incredibly friendly and happy to assist with any need.’
– Louise, the UK

‘Our tent, number 5, was large and well located to view the water hole where a variety of animals could be seen refreshing themselves. We were able to watch the elephants as they came through the camp feeding and knocking down the trees for food.’
– David, Australia

‘The accommodation is quite simply superb – huge “tents”, super comfy beds, wonderful bathrooms with indoor and outdoor showers and double sinks. We were in room six, which is furthest away from the waterhole and main lodge but great to feel you are away from it all watching the monkeys, mongoose and anything that wanders along the dry riverbed from the spacious deck (one night we spotted hyena as we were walked back from dinner).’
– CH London, the UK

Garonga Safari Lodge Accommodation

Wildlife Frenzy in Makalali

Life in the Makalali Nature Reserve, located only a stone’s throw away from the renowned Kruger National Park in South Africa, has been very eventful lately.

Garonga Safari Camp, nestled in the heart of the Makalali bushveld, has had a brilliant stint of wildlife sightings.

From the impressive elephants to round-eared wild dogs and fierce felines, the diverse selection of sightings has certainly impressed the recent Garonga guests. A Garonga guide took these beautiful shots during game drives in Makalali.

Cheetah in Makalali concession, South Africa Wild dogs in Makalali concession, South Africa Lion in Makalali concession, South Africa

Bush Dining at Garonga

It is not too often you get enjoy a bush breakfast, safari sundowners and boma dinners under the starlit African sky in one day. Garonga Safari Camp offers fine dining in an authentic African setting.

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Wine lovers and food fanatics can now enjoy their passion in a truly unique way immersed in nature. Here are some of ways to take your dining experience to a new level at Garonga:

Bush Breakfast
Breakfast in the bush gives guests an opportunity to enjoy the first meal of the day surrounded by the sounds and scents of wilderness. From fresh fruit to scones and quiches, the selection of produce is guaranteed to keep your tummy satisfied until the next feast.

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Game Drives
Stop in a quiet spot in the heart of the bushveld and enjoy a bite to eat whilst you admire the untouched African wilderness. Garonga’s morning drives are replete with tea, coffee, biscuits, rusks and fruit whereas evening drives are equipped with light nibbles and your favourite sundowner drinks.

Boma Dinner
Complete with a fully stocked bar and a beautiful fire pit the Garonga boma certainly has the ‘wow’ factor. The boma provides the idea setting for sharing stories of the day’s game viewing experiences.
Indulge in the delicious wood-fired pizza and a glass of exquisite South African wine as you recall your favourite wildlife sightings of the day.

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Private Dining
Those looking to add a bit of romance into their safari can enjoy an intimate dinner in a private location near the camp accompanied with wonderful views of the bushveld. Whether you’re in need for some quality time with your partner or perhaps even planning to pop the big question, there is no place more adoring than right here, in the middle of wild Africa.