September and October News

What a difference a day makes – do you remember that song? Or “name that tune” as we used to have to do on COS parades. Well it certainly does for the Chilean miners – what a great result; such humble people who stuck it out, and what support from all over; fantastic story – a pity we don’t have more good news like that.

In the USA BO doesn’t seem to be playing according to his hymn sheet; I understand he’s in for a thrashing in the mid-term elections. I think if he got rid of that witch “Nancy Pilosi” he’d do himself a favour, but they all seem to be full of smooth talk and very little action apart from spending billions of dollars. Now you have the “Tea Party” replacing the mainstream Republicans; good for them; it’s the people voting on their feet and ruffling a few mainstream feathers. Always fancied a good cuppa!

In UK “Red ED” is in for the Labour Party supported by the union dinosaurs licking their lips in glee ready to pounce just like the “good (bad) old days” of the 70s. What’s that guy’s name – “Crow” or something (suitable name enough). I think he’d be better off in North Korea; he’d love it there in Stalinist country. Funny when you ask them to go they decide in staying! Anyway good young Red Ed beating his brother to the post. So now we have an unmarried “father to be” who’s an atheist and looks like he left the school shop yesterday! All very promising.

Sarkozy doing a great job in telling the French that they actually do have to “work”, and not have SO much time off. Work until you’re 62 and not 60. My God, what a sacrifice for those poor overworked Frenchies. Then getting the Roma’s out – well yes, there is a bit of a point there in the way it was handled, but most supported it, and that’s the point isn’t it in a democracy. Should do the same in London, and get rid of those thieving rascals who are “handled” by a much bigger sinister force. Sport – Is he coming or going! Rooney!! As if we care about this over rated, disgustingly over paid footballer who can’t score. The Ashes almost upon us. And Europe giving the Yanks a drubbing in Wales – what a pleasure! And very soon the southern hemisphere teams over in Europe and UK for good old rugby. At last some decent sport.

In SA corruption carries on as normal, and the ANC fill their pockets. The bill introducing “media restrictions” on reporting is the closest so far we will come to a “one party state”. Sounds a bit familiar? Look a little further north! Lets see if it takes off or have they slightly over reacted? On a lighter note – the Gautrain is fantastic as long as you are not carrying heavy luggage. If travelling light it is a must. Clean, fast, and door to door.

Jaff doing his bit coaching ; note CJ in blue and the expert back kicker Obie sitting to the left of Guy (Musa) holding water bottle

Now down here in not so sunny Garonga we have had a great couple of months. September we achieved 85% occupancy in Safari Camp and 45% in Little Garonga, and October 55% In Safari Camp and 15% in Little Garonga. Very happy. Thanks indeed for all the support from you direct, and also the operators! In September we celebrated the tying of the knot with Mitch and Nicole; Michael and Esther; Lee and Dawn; and finally Hugh and Sarah (I hope Andy is behaving himself in the local!). Then In October Lee and Jacquie; Mark and Liz, and Gunter and Anita. Many congratulations to you all, and hoping to see you again sometime on an anniversary. It was also great to welcome back to Kelly, and also to David who came to check we were still behaving, and a warm welcome to Rene and Angela who came to see what we do… or don’t do!

September and October are always months where the temperatures can really go mad, and they did. The record so far was a blistering 48 degrees centigrade. Can you believe that! These extremes do lead up to the first rains and also some very impressive thunder and lightning storms, but like the politicians it was all words and no action – 2mm of rain actually although this also coincided with a sleep out believe it or not. So it is up and down at the moment, and hopefully will get the downpours we need very soon. The sleep outs have proven extremely popular with 24 sleep outs in September and 15 in October; pretty good. The picnics and bush baths happening as always with the odd ellie intrusion here and there.

On the game front, the bush is still quite thick, but the guides have been doing very well indeed. 6 x leopard sightings, 28 lion sightings, 13 rhino sightings, 18 ellie sightings, 15 cheetah sightings and loads of plains game. Once the rains do come the game will start moving on to Garonga pretty quickly. We also conducted a game count, and are awaiting results. Game walks are still happening although less so now that the heat is really here; however these are always available to those who request.

How the kitchen ladies cope there also with this extreme heat I don’t know. However as normal they have been producing excellent dishes, and the home grown veggies are doing OK, but like everything, waiting for those rains. I hope you enjoy their recipe.

The very hard to please Garonga supporters!

On the staff front soccer has been played a few times with varying results. Garonga won the first match, and so with confidence flying the next game they bet the opposition team R 200.00 to win; Garonga won the game and the bet. Then the next game with confidence way up there in the stratosphere, they bet the opposition team R 500.00. Of course the staff also contributed here (ie, the supporters). And………… they lost! The supporters, most of them the ladies, then refuted them and castigated them stating they would get no lunch and no washing done! The next match was a more sobering affair with a R 200.00 bet which thankfully they won…. 1-0! Players of note – Rebel (tracker) who remonstrates with the referee because he’s seen Renaldo doing it; CJ diving all over the goal (he’s goalkeeper) even when the ball is going far off, and Obie trying his back kicks which is anyone’s guess as to where it will go. Joking apart they played very well!

I went for a spot of leave to Oman for a few days and decided the only way to get a tan is to burn the first day quickly, and then suffer the next few days. It works! Anyway a great beach break. Now getting ready to do the marketing speel for the fast approaching WTM travel show in London in 2 weeks time. So off to have a cuppa with the Queen and see if she still remembers me.

End of an era for Wilgent - good luck with the retirement!

Lastly a huge goodbye and thanks to Wilgent (security) who has decided to retire (he’s now 60 – obviously some French blood there somewhere). He has loyally supported Garonga and I wish him all the best in his retirement. He has told me that if the new guy doesn’t work out to call him, and he will come back. Now that must be the Irish side! Thanks Wilgent and good luck. Also many congratulations to Claire at Ethos Marketing for the birth of her twins! Wishing you both all the best!

Keep well out there and hopefully see you soon, as you’re all going into Slumberland now in your winter. Dark days and nights, fog, rain; nothing to look forward to except April (5 months away). I hope we can see you here in soon to be a very hot and sunny Garonga.

All the best
Bernie

July and August News

It has come to that time again to send a letter – “letter from Africa”. It all seems so far away now that world cup, that we forget so quickly how well it went. The Gautrain (you must forgive me if I repeat this, but getting on now!) is and continues to be a great benefit. Door to door in 12 minutes.

It seems odd now that South Africa is being crippled by strikes – almost like a game played by the unions acting like restless children. Schools, having just had 6 weeks off due to the FWC are now crippled by a 3 weeks strike which will sadly hit the matric students very badly. Hospitals were hit, with strikers assaulting Staff who went in to work, but thankfully the army was sent in to assist not only to prevent such assaults but also on the hospital side. I’m afraid the unions are out of control, very poorly led and misled, and are causing such damage to the country at such a crucial time in the economic recovery. Somehow I think Zuma will be no longer any time soon.

Pakistan crippled by floods; tragic in view of their already poor situation. Nature seems very unforgiving sometimes.

Congrats to David and Samantha Cameron’s baby. It appears that not many PM’s in the past had time to have wee babs; only seems now in the last 10 years or so with Cool Tony and his rat pack. Anyway DC and his party seem to be doing ok; no major disasters yet, although a couple no doubt looming there for the hovering vultures of the British press.

Excellent to see some decent sports results; New Zealand winning the Tri-Nations; SA not doing so well; although a year to go before the Rugby World Cup. Now if New Zealand don’t win this one, well……………! England thrashing Pakistan in the cricket, and the odd Indian crooked bookie also tagging along there upsetting the tables within the Pakistani team. It was pretty obvious really with some of those “no balls” being bowled; so out of the crease almost laughable.

Unfortunately here in SA there has been a whole spate of rhino poaching going on with over 180 rhinos being killed/poached for their horns. This is not good at all, and it appears they are very well funded indeed by the “east” who for some reason think it gives them a “lift/edge?” Very odd! So we’re all on our guard here whenever there is a helicopter in the area.

Forward shot of Safari Camp and staff village behind.

Now down here in “sleepy Garonga” we have had a mixed bag of results. In July we managed 46% occupancy in Safari Camp and 30% in Little Garonga (30% down on last year – World Cup I’m afraid). Then In August normality resumed again achieving 68% in Safari Camp and 35% in Little Garonga. Great as always to see familiar faces; welcome back Lorenzo and Emma (4th time?), and Theo. Great to welcome Niece, Young Ali and Babs. First time in Africa, and what a trip they had. Although their flight out from the Garonga airstrip did raise a few eyebrows and heart beats over a “suicidal warthog”. Didn’t realise Al Qaeda stretched that far. An extremely warm welcome to Angela from New Frontiers Tours who has finally come and stay; our single biggest supplier in South Africa! Thanks Ang, and yes, you were in the front seat of that plane as well! We like to keep you focused! Finally to Robyn from Pulse Africa; thanks for taking the time to come and inspect! It was also great having Pete down here who has taken video footage of both camps for “You Tube” whatever that is. So hopefully something on the website to keep “you” suitably entertained. All this “twitter, facebook” stuff; can’t keep up and to be honest too invasive. I’ll stick to E mails – can just manage that. Also our webcam has been up and running now since Pete left; bird sh..! apparently kept it from operating. Ok, so shotguns out and anti aircraft guns all in place now.

A great shot of the airstrip, giving confidence to those who want to fly in.

Many many congratulations to those who tied the knot here at Garonga. Three weddings in July and 4 weddings in August! Johann and Jacquie, Christoph and Angelina, Ed and Margot, Yvette and Deb, Stephan and Bettina, Richie and Deb, and Stefan and Kaja. I think it was the first time Pierre (padre) stayed overnight. We all wish you a great future together! September is looking just as good. Four weddings also. We have found a hairdresser; me, and I only do No1’s! No, joking aside, Bianca came to do her first, and so now we have a full available team; hairdresser, photographers of all different portfolios (3 so far), a choir, dancers, and of course the ……………….Padre who makes it such a special occasion. Thanks indeed Pierre!

The new curio shop is doing very nicely. A last finishing touch was done very recently and so all looking very nice indeed. Thinking of an MP3 system or something to play “God save the Queen” in the background; maybe some “Out of Africa” music, or the Soweto Choir. Perfect for relaxing or reading a book when it is really hot in Summer.

The sad farewell to Kalahari.

The game viewing has been superb and the guys really pulling rabbits out of the hat. The lions seem to have made Garonga their home ………….at last. We did have a very sad incident when the last of the Kalahari Lions (there were only two; the first being killed by other lions within 6 months) was badly injured in a fight and he came over the Garonga Camp waterhole to drink. He looked very poorly and weak; eventually he moved off to shade underneath the picnic deck tree. We called in the vet (Pete) and sadly there was a gaping hole, the size of one’s fist, full of maggots. His backbone had also been ripped and so he was not going to last. He was put down to prevent further pain and suffering. It was an opportunity though to show the guests a grown lion, and whilst under anaesthetic guests managed to get right up and personal, and touch this beautiful beast before he “moved on” to his piece of heaven in the lion skies. Sad indeed. But also to show that this is not always a paradise on earth, and of course these things happen from time to time. Sure, everybody knows that, but not often given the chance of seeing the results.

The last farewell - Goodbye old Friend!

We have now 2 new female rhinos (having replaced the bulls) and so now we have drawn them pictures as to what we expect. “England expects………….” and all that. A number of great leopard sightings, nine to be exact; many lion sightings, cheetah (especially the female with her cubs), rhinos, but not too many elephant herd sightings; only the lone bulls. This will change when the rains come. But really the guys have done well here. Please keep those photos coming in for the “best picture competition”. Your photos will go up on the website with your name. Thanks indeed for those who have contributed.

The bush itself isn’t looking too bad actually considering we are now 5 months without rains; the first rains COULD come as early as September. The animals are still looking in good condition. The weather has been strange; some VERY hot days and then the next day cold and overcast. It’s been that pattern now for about 3 weeks. It should sort itself out soon.

Layout of Garonga – staff village on the left, Safari Camp low right, and Little Garonga top right.

Layout of Garonga - staff village on the left, Safari Camp low right, and Little Garonga top right. You can also see the solar, and water filtration plant

It’s about time to pay a special thank-you and tribute to the staff at Little Garonga. CJ, Hafric, the two Margarets, Sylvia and Christinah. Well done; all the feedback has been excellent! They run it on their own and take great pride in doing so! Long may it continue.

Sleep outs have been tremendously popular; the occasional bush bath, and of course in September we move into Summer routine with lunches resuming and also picnics. Thanks go out to all the chefs and scullery who did so well during the Winter months. We all very much look forward to those Summer recipes now. Try our monthly recipe when you get a chance.

Little Garonga - Hambleden Suite on the left, Chiltern Suite, main lounge Area and Pool, Buckingham Suite on the far right

Thanks to reservations (Vanessa) of whom many of you will have been in contact with over time; the farm Staff under Andy; their fixing of problems and producing such a marvellous vegetable garden. Zele, keeping the ship afloat, and Denille for relaxing all our guests in the massage sala! One more season gone! It is ONE big team; one cog falls off, and the train comes off the rails; something like that anyway.

September is pretty much chock a block thankfully. Many gaps to be filled for the rest of the year, although Xmas is pretty much full now in both camps. Have a great month wherever you are and we thank you for all your support; yes, this is a “thank-you newsletter”, because without you we wouldn’t be here. Looking forward to meeting those of you coming soon.

This is for you Trish Mack!

Have a great month!!
Bernie

June News

What a month! Can you believe it that a “Sheila” (actually Julia) is in charge now down under! First the Australian football team win, then they sack the prime minister, bring in a Sheila who is actually a brit! Can you imagine the reaction of those blue blooded sheep farmers – don’t expect lamb any time soon!

In the US they sack the general in charge in Afghanistan because he says it like it is. Sacking season from the looks of it!

Down here the South Africans have done incredibly well in the whole organising of the FWC. It generally went off without a hitch. It looks like the airports company will be facing a nice big legal suit – a few heads to roll there I would think. Well done SA!! Despite those “…things” that cannot play a tune.

June started off as a very quiet month and only started filling up when the footie began. Our occupancy for Safari Camp was 56% and Little Garonga an impressive 34%. Obviously most guests were following their country teams and as a result we had such a great mix of nationalities. Mexican bandits to a winging US guy who always berated the English (what’s new!), and he lived in England! The Mexicans were very… entertaining! New Zealanders, Germans, Venezuelans, Dutch, Australians, and the list goes on. Great fun indeed! An extremely warm welcome back to Wolfgang and Ute for their 5th visit and 12 days in Safari Camp. Great to see you both back. A welcome to my eldest bro and Freda who stayed at Little Garonga. I always thought he would be the last to come, but now only one remaining!

The veldt is still looking pretty green and seeing the ellie bulls here at the waterhole quite regularly. They are now drinking from the larger waterhole where the “grey water” is treated and filtered and then pumped into the waterhole. This is encouraging as they are known to be quite sensitive with their water. On the game front there were 5 leopard sightings, and many of the lion, rhino and ellie. The plains game is still plentiful on Garonga as the grasses are still very edible. As winter has definitely set in now the walks are becoming much more requested which is great as guests can really get close and personal. There were a couple of close encounters (quite safe) with the white rhinos. Sleep outs are also popular as after persuading the guests that it is a lot warmer there than down in the main camp, most that are interested do try it. Josia (safari guide) is now firmly in the seat and quite happy on his own now.

Those who would like to try micro-liting whilst here; this is a great time to be doing it. Let us know beforehand.

Although no weddings in June, to date we have 21 weddings so far for 2010 and 3 already for 2011. We love weddings. The guys and girls really enjoy the whole preparations that go into making it such a special occasion.

On the chefettes front Maria has done exceptionally well during the time we only had 2 chefs here; also Sylvia from Scullery standing in now and again. Well done to both! See if you would like to try their recipe attached:

Henry and Freda officially opening WHSmith and Sons Part 2

Garonga was also one of the donors to the Aston Martin Charity Auction for H4H (Help For Heroes) achieving 3200.00 British pounds. So a 4 night stay for a couple in the Hambleden Suite. We will continue to support this; anyone setting up something similar we are keen!

Our new gift (curio) shop opened during June. It looks spectacular and I am very happy with the end result. Still more goods to come in, but please do browse around when you are here.

On a final note (yes, you’ve guessed it) the ranting and raving and gnashing of teeth of that PATHETIC English football team! Can you believe you have the likes of John terry having a public go at the manager. He should have been sent packing and never play for England again! 11 Individuals with egos as high as the Tower of London where they should all swing from! No pride, lack of patriotism to their country and a downright insult to the thousands of supporters who flocked to see them play so dismally. Now they will go back to their clubs and score lots of goals and pretend it never happened. Hopefully Capello will sack the lot and get players who have heart and passion, not those highly over rated, extremely over paid players who should never smile again (did you see them having a giggle when departing back to England – they didn’t care!). Hang Em high!

There you go; off my chest now!

Have a good one!
Bernie

April and May News

What a busy world it has been recently. Those Vikings up north sending “ash instead of cash” (I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s still worth putting in!) and sending airports into turmoil. Once again that hardy breed of tour operators burning the midnight oil getting their guests hopefully home. As they say – it ain’t over yet until the fat lady sings. Lets hope not as the sister fat lady next door may well also blow hot air, and then we’re well in the…! Then the elections in UK causing quite a stir, but thankfully the Scotsman is out and we now have DC and NC. I don’t think that will last, as the Libs tend to run the moment something “bad” has to be done. Give it 6 months. GB resigns to be replaced by…? I can’t believe a Yank was the first to cross the channel with balloons. Surely that has been done before.

BP upsetting the apple cart somewhat in the USA with their oil spill. BO pretty slow to step in and assist, but very quick with the finger pointing (Like all good socialists). 1st time something as bad as this has happened so a bit new for everybody.

Down here in SA there was the murder of the white right winger, Terreblanche. That caused a stir with threats of a right wing backlash (they haven’t got it anymore). Not helped of course by the big mouth, Malema (the youth league plonker). Not one grey cell in the guy’s head. When they gave out brains, he thought they said drains. The ANC are really struggling to control their own. Also it is “strike season” here in South Africa. It was the trains; we’re just waiting to see who is next in line. The Democratic Alliance (DA) are doing very well having won 2 more by-elections from the ANC.

Can you believe it – England won something. The 20/20 cricket in the West Indies, thrashing Australia in the finals. What a pleasure! Now the Ashes to look forward to this Xmas! The Football World Cup fever has taken off here with teams arriving already. Not long to go.

One I found in the archives and feel I need to send it to improve morale - perks of the job!

Down here in Garonga Land we have the solar power working nicely, and the heater pumps for the geysers also. The biogas basically needs more food waste which is difficult when you are working below normal occupancy. April we achieved 57% occupancy for Safari Camp and 15% for Little Garonga, and then May was 20% down on last year achieving 45% occupancy for Safari Camp and 15% again for Little Garonga. Disappointing indeed. However on much more exciting stuff many congratulations to Stefan and Stephanie, and Warren and Gigi for tying the knot here at Garonga! We wish you all the best. Also a warm welcome back to Brenda, Michael and Alan and Gwen. Great to see you back after many years.

The bush is incredibly lush and green having had over 200ml in April (it just didn’t stop!). This is very unseasonal, but I think guests are sick of being told that when staying here. This really assisted a lot for up to the next rains which may not come until November. Depends what those Vikings get up to up north. First they rape and pillage England (admittedly many moons ago), then they try and pinch our cod, then they pinch our cash, then to put a cherry on the top, they send out “that stuff”. Send the navy in!

On the game front due to the late rains the ellies have been frequent visitors around the Camp. The lions have been playing “hard to get” (come on guys, do your stuff!), but overall pretty good game viewing considering the density of the bush. The leopard have been seen on the odd occasion, but otherwise good sightings of rhino, cheetah, lions. The plains game has also been frequent on Garonga with large numbers of giraffe, impala and wildebeest around. On the guides themselves we welcome Josia, and say a sad farewell to Alisa whose time elapses at the end of May. She got many very favourable feedbacks from guests. Well done and good luck. On the game front it would really be great if any guests would like to share their photos on our site. Please feel free to send them to us as we do have a folder on our website for guest’s pictures. Then at the end of the year we can have a competition for the best picture and either offer 4 nights at Garonga complimentary or, as it is difficult now to travel half way across the world, I will offer a lush dinner voucher for two. What do you think?

I’ve been away for most of April and some of May… selling in UK in April (only 2 days late back due to you know who). It was great seeing old and great supporters of Garonga. Ben, I trust you managed that climb and got back OK (Your Bergen wasn’t heavy enough when I tried it on!). Driving around Gloucestershire was fantastic. The GPS sent me on some very strange routes indeed and I saw hamlets which I thought only existed on Robin Hood film sets. It was incredible. Horses, dogs, ducks and geese running around – beats the London set. I also chanced upon Jaci from “Jacis Safari Lodge” in London as she was doing the same pretty much. We rv’d in Harrods’ food hall as we normally do and spent 3 hours lunching and munching champagne, wine and oysters! You can’t beat it. We raised our glasses to Al-Fayed just before he sold the shop to the Qataris! Thanks Jaci, but no Jan! He was gallivanting around Zaire! So the UK trip was a great success and many thanks to Sue, and Alison from Ethos Marketing for putting up with me.

Then it was a week back at Garonga before departing again for the Classic Safari Camps of Africa (www.classicsafaricamps.com) AGM held this time at “The Fort – Onguma” in Namibia. Absolutely stunning! Congrats to Andre for setting up such an awesome property. It overlooks the salt pans and borders with Etosha. We had a few days there discussing tactics and all that before moving down to Durban for the Indaba Travel Show. Classics had an incredible stand and won a “Gold Award” for best stand. Many congratulations Pauline. We also held a very successful margarita party on the stand. The show went well seeing agents and operators who you don’t really get to see from all over the globe. It was also a chance to show off the new international airport near Durban. Apparently it is great! Once the show was over it was eventually time to go back home to Garonga after nearly 6 weeks away on and off. First time in 13 years for so long a time. It was great being back, also enabling Zele to go on a well earned leave after staying on an extra week. Also a big thanks to Vanessa from reservations for only taking a weeks leave to cover over my absence. But she is about to go on 3 weeks leave now, and so I’ll be manning the desk. Could be fun.

It is VERY quiet at the moment and will be until the FWC starts. Then busy for about 3 weeks, but then July is looking terrible. I’ll have to start moonlighting!

Lets not forget the troops out in Afghanistan (help for heroes!!). We gave away a 4 night package for a H4H charity auction in early May, and are hoping to contribute towards the Aston Martin H4H charity auction soon as well. It was fantastic to see David Beckham go out there to support the troops. I take my hat off to him as he seemed incredibly humbled by the whole experience! A pity more don’t follow his example.

Finally and unfortunately on a very tragic note, I dedicate this newsletter to Olmah (the chef) who died suddenly on the 18th May. She will be sadly missed by us all. She was totally dedicated, quiet and unassuming, but never afraid to go beyond her comfort zone in the kitchen. Here’s to you Ollie “up there”, and to your 4 children! We miss you already!

Keep well out there!
All the best
Bernie

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

Bernie