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Newsletter Winter 2003
Well it happened! We opened.
For a while it seemed like we were never going to make it in time, as the opening date came closer and closer, the list of things to do suddenly seemed to get longer and longer. But it all came together beautifully in the end. The buildings were completed and the interior designers worked their magic.
The result is breathtaking.
The furnishings are comfortable and welcoming without being overcrowded, the interiors complementing the surrounding bush and the buildings perfectly. The glass walls around the bedroom are incredibly effective, providing an uninterrupted view of the riverine forest and the Groot Marico River. The pool has been filled and the negative edge directly over the water-filled ravine below is startlingly dramatic. The ravine in front of the main lodge is now full of water, attracting birds and animals to the easily accessible water. Impala, warthog, waterbuck and baboon are now regular drinkers, with lion and elephant also strolling down from time to time. Guests lounging in the pool have been able to watch elephant playing in the water below them in the heat of the day.
With the lodge ready, the staff moved into the new staff village and training underway, we were ready for guests. So we opened the lodge in March. The feedback has been wonderfully positive, with guests commenting on, apart from the stunning lodge and excellent game viewing, the welcoming and relaxed atmosphere, the warm and friendly service and the outstanding cuisine. We have already had guests returning for their second stay! The gym is up and running and Ezelle, the beauty therapist, has been hard at work massaging the tensions out of city stressed guests.
Things have not all been plain sailing though. As the landscaping continues, the freshly planted aloes and indigenous trees are proving irresistible to the elephants, who have been chomping their way slowly through the gardenerís hard work.
Recently, a guest in Blackthorn suite called reception, concerned that an elephant was invading his bedroom. The elephant, feeding on a nearby tree, was letting his gently flapping ear brush the glass, much to the concern of the guest standing in his suite a few feet away from the pachyderm. The new staff village has had some visitors too.
A large adult male lion, one of the Batia brothers, hurtling after two kudu, was not to be put off when they leapt over the fence into the staff village. He ploughed straight through the fence, snapping the wire strands as effectively as a pair of metal cutters. Imagine the surprise of a staff member waking from an afternoon snooze and wandering outside to see what the crunching noise was, only to find a huge lion enjoying a kudu lunch in the shade outside his house.
As the noise and disturbance of the building subsides, the local animals are settling down and moving into the lodge grounds. A troop of mongooses has taken up residence in the camp, spending the days foraging for insects around the buildings and their nights sleeping beneath the wooden deck of the main lodge. These are friendly little guys and try (unless their busy schedule makes it impossible) to make sure they are close by at meals times, just in case a titbit comes their way. They seem to regard us humans as odd looking baboons (not nearly as good looking) and generally ignore people completely. This all changes if they suspect you may have a titbit for them, they suddenly become your best friends, at least until they have what they want. Brown hyenas, porcupines and civets forage in the lodge grounds at night and are seen by guests from the comfort of their rooms. A leopard also slips through at night but so far has only allowed us to see his spoor. A group of bush babies now bounce through the camp in the evenings and a tiny Pearl spotted owlet has taken up residence in the tree over the main deck. It is often seen perched sleepily in the branches that spread over the deck. A group of five otters has been seen by guests from their suite, splashing through the early morning mist into the river.
Now that winter is here, the temperature is dropping after sunset. This gives us an excuse to light roaring fires in the main lodge, to welcome guests back from their game drive. Guests love to sit close while they sip sherry and discuss the game drive. To ensure that the suites are also warm and snug, the fires are lit, and the heaters are put on. Electric blankets and under floor heating are switched on closer to bedtime!
Although it is winter, bush braais are still very popular. We recently had a very special occasion when a guest celebrated his 50th birthday with a group of close friends at Makanyane. We set up a surprise dinner out on the Krokodildrift plains, the tables laid with crisp white table clothes and silverware close to a crackling fire, the area surrounded by open flame torches under a million or so stars.
As the grass dries and the leaves fall, the visibility in the bush becomes better. The game drives are very rewarding at the moment with some very special sightings. Both Abel and Dylan watched a young leopard enjoy a warthog near Tholo dam, Abel saw aardwolves mating and Dylan had a pack of wild dogs playing up against his vehicle. Otters are being seen regularly at the moment and the wild dog pups are just starting to come out of their den, providing some very special viewing. The lions have been very much in evidence, the Dipelos, Moselselas and Batias being seen regularly. Of course, there are plenty of elephants close to the river at the moment, we counted over fifty in a group recently, coming down slowly to drink as the sun set over the river.
The sunsets are as dramatic as ever, but somehow slightly different at the moment. Have you ever noticed how, in summer, the sun doesnít seem to set, so much as crash down behind the horizon, in a cacophony of jackal calls and bird song, the light fading immediately and darkness racing across the open spaces, eager to take possession of the bush. In winter, the sunset always seems to be more graceful somehow, the sun sliding down gently in the quiet of the bush. There always seems to be a hush as that last gleam of the sun slips away, itís glow lingering in the sky as the day slowly surrenders to the night. Once the glow does fade, the noises of the African bush start up slowly again as the long winter night takes over the bush.
This is all here, waiting for you. Come and share it with us.