The best time to go on safari is during winter when water is scarce and the beasties can be found and viewed quite easily – the dry, thinning vegetation also “helps”. I say ‘helps’ with some reservation because I find game-spotting can be challenging when Mother Nature steps in and the animals are exquisitely camouflaged in their natural habitat. Last year, because of one thing and another, our winter safari at Berg en Dal, in the south of Kruger, only happened in November, and as “Sod” would have it, we arrived as the first sweet, summer greens were sprouting and finding water, water everywhere and plenty enough to drink. This is not to discount the experience in any way since we thankfully saw lots, and I mean LOTS of rhino (collectively ‘a crash or a stubborness’) and who knows how long we will be lucky enough to see that. However, the Rhino predicament is not the subject of this story which hinges on ‘timing’ since we saw little else and chastised ourselves for leaving the visit so late in the year. We vowed not to be so wasteful in future and that every winter must feature a safari, however brief. Truly, with this Magnificence on our doorstep; to miss out even one year is unforgivable!
This year we headed further north to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and decided to make it about the journey and not just the destination. So, departed from Jozi all the way up the R511/William Nicol until a T-junction with the R510 to Lephalale (Ellisras) and on to the Botswana border.
The road out of Fourways through Diepsloot and on to Harties is shocking and a 4×4 is more suited to this road than many of the remote tracks we traversed on Safari. The upside is that it is a scenic route and so much nicer than driving north on the national motorway (plus you miss the Tolls). Only an hour out of the city, the countryside is characterised by road-side ‘stalletjies’ interspersed between game farms and lush green pastures shimmering under early morning irrigation.
You start to feel the everyday stresses being massaged away and the holiday has begun.
We cleared formalities into Botswana at Martin’s Drift/Grobler’s Bridge, all pretty painless except for our packet of Woolies Roma tomatoes that were confiscated and would not accompany the chicken flatties, thankfully undesired at that point, that remained for our braai later at Nata.
Nata Lodge has undergone a fabulous facelift since the devastating fire in 2008. The date is deeply etched with us as we drove right through the fire’s heat wave in our 1958 Merc Ponton, returning from an African Odyssey to the Equator. The tented accommodation is in our opinion, so much nicer than the Lodges, and, get this – they are less expensive, so offer REAL value for money. Nothing is cheap in Botswana. The tents are spaced well apart under Mokolwane palms, you can park your car right beside your digs for easy unloading; the nearby braai spot and addition of an efficient outdoor shower are all super.
We had firewood (expensive @ BP35 per bundle) delivered and soon had a fire going to prepare dinner with salad sans tomato. The remaining piri-piri chicken flattie was painstakingly deboned and was carefully prepared into bread rolls for padkos– this may seem useless detail but there is more to this …. Later.
We were eager to get to the Pandamatenga border post – for the past 7 years of driving past the turn-off every year; we were finally taking the low road. Pandamatenga is well – quite quaint. Seriously! Not a term one would normally use to describe a border post but this one is – a bush track in and out.
Clean and neat with friendly officials that had us quickly cleared straight through from Botswana into Zimbabwe’s Matetsi Safari Area.
After less than 5 minutes in, we saw our first small herd of elephants so stopped to break fast – Wimpy coffee from Nata accompanied by flame grilled wood-smoked braaied chicken rolls. A delicious gourmet experience, that had PJ raving, as we clocked up another uniquely memorable event and made sure we saved some for lunch.
From the border to the Park, the road is pretty good, unpaved but had recently been graded up to the T – Left to Victoria Falls & Bulawayo road and Right to Hwange National Park. As the road deteriorated, we reach a gate where we were told to proceed to Robins Camp to pay our park fees. But … welcome to Zimbabwe, in this remote spot, a very well dressed Guard was waiting for food and who was very hungry, could we help with the situation … nothing to do but to PJ’s dismay, hand over the balance of the gourmet chicken rolls!
Next stop, Robins Camp was ‘open’ but no guests, no staff uniforms, no maps yet eager to relieve us of our Park Entry Fee of $15 each and $10 for the vehicle. So, $40 in addition to the R270 we had already paid for 3 nights self-catering accommodation.
To repeat my Tweet https://twitter.com/sahotels at the time and in contrast to Katie Melua’s claim that there may be millions of bicycles in Beijing; according to Suzette Bouwer there ARE millions of elephants in Hwange. Curiously, there are very few BIG elephants – over the 3 days and nights, only at the last sunset at Nyamandhlovu waterhole, did four big grand bulls come down for a drink. Other than that, the matriarchs and cows seemed dwarf-ish though there was notably no shortage of babies. Why would that be?
Our best viewing spots were: Mandavu Dam, near Sinamatella; the drive-thru’ Hide/Campsite at Masuma en route to Main Camp and the best of all, Nyamandhlovu. The latter is 15 mins from the main gate so super for sun downers and frequented by a constant ebb and flow of herd upon herd of Ellies. We enjoyed the way they arrived almost faster than their legs could carry them to the water; and departed laboriously, dragging themselves away.
The main road between Sinamatella and Main Camp had shocking corrugations but the arterial routes were smoother, rugged bush tracks were you run into no one though the game is a little skittish.
The park is very dry now and it was good to see that all the waterholes we encountered were well watered with working (often noisy) pumps topping up continuously.
We enjoyed great viewing and I have subsequently had some fun researching collective nouns to share with you and include some of my favourite photos:
Probably most notable and for us – a cluster of sable antelopes
Less plentiful in this Park – ranks of impala
Almost without exception, every waterhole had a visiting herd of elephants but we were so entertained, that a memory of elephants lingers on …
Plentiful, in fact never seen so many during a single trip – clusters of kudu.
A description that really appeals – an obstinacy of buffaloes – can anything look grumpier?
We have never seen quite so many guinea fowl! One in isolation is noisy but none so as a confusion of guinea fowl.
A skulk of jackals
Inconceivable and oddly put together – an implausibility of wildebeests
My most favourite spectacle in the bush and I marvel every single time as to just how perfectly beautiful they are – a zeal, cohort or dazzle of zebras – isn’t the English language fun?
We spotted a few Roan Antelope. They manage to look ever so slightly gormless but a claim to fame is that it is one of the largest of all Africanbovids, exceeded in size only by the African buffalo and eland. http://www.arkive.org/roan-antelope/hippotragus-equinus/
Not of the collective variety – but A HIGHLIGHT – two mail lions on two separate occasions at two separate locations.
Also a single lonesome male ostrich plus some very big flat lazy crocs (a “congregation”, “float”, “bask” or “nest”) – in this case ‘bask’ is most applicable!
This story would be incomplete without a review about the National Parks accommodation.
Our first night was booked at Sinamatella. The camp site was full so pre-booking is highly recommended. The self-catering chalets were not so busy and easy to understand why … decidedly neglected, clearly un-kept and no water. We were instructed to shower at the camp site and a communal 50 litre water container was provided not too far away for chalet guests to collect water. Have you ever you filled a cistern will a 1 litre water bottle when you’re under pressure? Thankfully, an absence of budding YouTube movie makers! There was no light in the sparsely furnished lounge but we spotted a bulb on the mantelpiece and assumed one was welcome to rectify the problem if you could locate a ladder.
Two chairs and table intended for the patio were spread out like a baseball pitch and the braai was ankle deep in ash. I may seem a bit picky but we did pay $90 for this absence of services and hospitality but hey, wood at $5 per wheelbarrow load was a bargain and the stunning view was priceless!
The next two nights were booked at Main Camp and what a difference. The place was tidy and certainly looked more cared for. Surrounded by gnarled, wise, old acacias; the chalet was clean, stocked with essentials, in the absence of wine goblets, beer glasses were good. Best of all, the steaming Rhodesian boiler provided plenty of hot water. A reasonably well stocked little shop was available to supplement supplies and although untried and untested there was a restaurant on site.
This was a great sojourn, next time though, preferably a private lodge or alternatively, camping and be self-sufficient.
From SA into Botswana: BP120 (or R180) for Road Tax & Insurance
NOTE: Obtain a SARS declaration at SA Customs if proceeding on to Zimbabwe. This is presented on re-entering SA.
From Botswana into Zimbabwe: $55 Carbon Tax, Road Tax and 3rd Party insurance – varies according to engine capacity.
EU double entry visa $70 – valid for 6 months
Sources: COLLECTIVE NOUN FOR …. http://www.thealmightyguru.com/Pointless/AnimalGroups.html / http://www.hphpublishing.co.za/game_drive/tala_game_drive.pdf
The development of small chiefdoms took place in the northern plateau and the Zambezi Valley by the 12th century. The communities were characterised by increasing levels of population, a social complexity and economic specialization that resulted in the development of Cattle-holding, craft specialization and trade through regional networks and with the Indian Ocean. (Pwiti 1996, 40-41).
This culture spread though out Zimbabwe and into Mozambique and Botswana and was eventually consolidated in the early 15th century, either by conquest or by establishing cattle-loan client-patron relations (or both), into a single state, known as Munhumutapa to the Europeans (from the Shona Mwene Mutapa or “the conquered lands”), with its capital at Great Zimbabwe (Encyclopedia of the Nations 2007; Pwiti 1996, 45-46; Matenga 1998, 15.
The Nguni herd at Mutapa’s Caia Camp is a true reflection of integration of cattle with wildlife that one would have expected back then.
The development of these communities gave rise to the culture of zimbabwes, of relatively large settlements with dry stone walls and enclosures containing circular houses made of clay (daga, which hardens like cement) and poles about three metres in diameter and thatched roofs (Hirst Undated; Owen 2000; Matenga 1998, 8).
The enclosures themselves contained housing for between 10-30 people, who were, presumably the local aristocracy with commoners living around it and supplying to their needs. Material remains from within the enclosures include high quality serving vessels and luxury imports and indication of a beef and veal rich diet.
Mutapa can accommodate +/-32 people in a combination of Executive Caias suitable of a modern generation of “aristocracy” and Family caias plastered with daga, each complete with open-air private boma.
Cattle performed a critical political function as well, for Matenga (1998, 9) notes that cattle loans were used to cement political loyalty and royal power and, through bride wealth, political marriages (see also Pwiti 1996, 46).
Pay your ‘lobola’ by adopting a Mutapa calf for your future wife – and indulge yourselves in all Caia Camp has to offer for your honeymoon.
FOR MORE DETAILED READING: http://www.eisa.org.za/WEP/zimoverview10.htm
These simple concepts allow management to come up with the most reasonable and appropriate personalised ways to satisfy their female guests – using the Services, Amenities, Facilities and Design provided by their individual hotel.
Four affective emotion states (wants) were identified:
Feelings of Safety
Above all, women want to feel safe
Added Value: Hotel managers should review the ways they can reinforce their hotel’s safety, including covered parking, secure locks, well lit hallways, and thoughtful room location.
Feelings of Comfort and Relaxation
Specific amenities are less important than an overall “luxurious ambience.” Many may well choose hotels that demonstrate an interest in making them feel special and pampered. Women are more concerned about getting a good night’s sleep than their male counterparts. Women believe that sleep is itself a valuable use of time; Women take sleep seriously and are twice as likely as men to bring their own pillow when they travel.
Added Value: Numerous attributes of the hotel room environment itself — heat, light, sound, colour — contribute to perceptions of comfort and relaxation, with increasing numbers of hotels striving to create a spa-like ambienceFeelings of Empowerment
The one thing all women in the sample had in common was the desire to feel empowered. Business travel to broadens their horizons, contributes to their professional advancement, and provides them with freedom from daily routines. Room service and the convenience of in-room facilities play an important role in helping women travellers achieve a sense of independence and well-being.
Added value: Give opportunities to exercise on site, request room service, or take advantage of the executive lounge.
Feelings of Being Valued as a Woman Traveller
Beyond standard services, women also appreciate an array of amenities that make them feel pampered and valued. A recurring theme that has emerged in recent surveys is that women travellers do not feel that the hospitality industry values them.
Added value: Hotels have begun to respond to this concern by providing an array of items including upgraded amenities, brand-name bath products, make-up mirrors, fresh flowers, and flavoured coffees and teas. Women also enjoy large windows, light-coloured walls, and stylish room furnishings.
The report has many interesting observations from their survey including how male and female management perceive women’s needs.
hhhmmmm Men are still from Mars! and Ladies hail elegantly from Venus! Thanks to Mr Gray,
Suzette Bouwer Hospitality Marketing is representing an extraordinary little Gem in the Waterberg – Mutapa’s Caia Camp – is an engaging melting pot of cultural influences dating back to 1500’s, Caia camp is a unique bush breakaway for meetings, honeymoons and an escape right now from the cold winter.
Mutapa Resorts’ Caia Camp is situated in this glorious malaria free “Waterberg Biosphere“, 2.5 hours’ drive from Johannesburg, through panoramic countryside.
The Caia Camp offers:
• Accommodation in a total of 10 freestanding rooms (6 Caias and 4 Executive rooms)
• Great African/Portuguese fusion food in a variety of settings
• Fully equipped meeting rooms
• Game viewing by open vehicle, walks or mountain bikes
• Sundowners on water or at the game viewing platform
• Nearby – Legend Golf & the Big 5; Doorndraai Dam fishing & water sports
The 6 Ndebele Family Caia’s comprise a master bedroom with en-suite bathroom (separate bath and shower), a second bedroom with a ¾ bed size bunk bed, an enclosed veranda, private boma and fire pit. The 4 Mutapa executive suites feature a large opulent colonial style bedroom, a romantic open air bath and separate outdoor shower plus an indoor shower and toilet.
The Queen Sheeba Restaurant offers exceptional African/Mediterranean fusion cuisine. Themed bush potjies and elegant group lunches are offered beside the dam or at the viewing deck.
3 Meeting rooms on stilts above the dam are located 5 minutes from the Camp where only the cry of the Fish Eagle or grunt of an Impala may disturb your deliberations. Ideal for strategic getaways for up to 18 delegates including two breakaways, the setting ensures privacy and an environment conducive to “out of the box” thinking.
That is because Mutapa’s Caia Camp concept is slightly out of the box.
Also called Munhumutapa, Mwene Mutapa, Manhumutapa, Monomotapa, Mutapa means “The Conquered Lands” and was a medieval kingdom (c.1450-1629) which used to stretch between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers of Southern Africa in the modern states of Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Its capital city was Great Zimbabwe, hence Mutapa Hotels’ adoption fof the Zimbabwe bird in the logo.
In terms of cultural influence, the archaeological evidence indicates Great Zimbabwe covered a huge area between the Limpopo River and the Zambezi River, spilling out into Mozambique and Botswana, as well as the ‘Transvaal’, now Limpopo, area of northern South Africa. http://mashona.wordpress.com/2007/06/13/mutapa-empire-2/
So, Caia Camp offers guests an experience that draws on great cultural influences whether it is in the quirky decor, scrumptious fusion cuisine or the glimpse of an environment that earlier tribes ruled and battled over. This malaria free resort boasts a variety of biomes and eco systems rich in flora and fauna diversity and is home to the roaming Waterberg Leopard and Brown Hyena. True to the Mutapa theme, roaming free with healthy thriving Nguni cattle there are at least 20 different antelope species including Nyala, Waterbuck, Kudu, Eland, Impala plus inquisitive Giraffe and Zebra.
“The atmosphere at this little privately owned lodge is as original as the air that you breathe. It is certain to please those been-there-done-that guests that are looking for something refreshingly different – and at really good rates too” says Suzette Bouwer, marketing representative.
Tailor-made packages and special interest group programmes are what the Caia Camp team thrives on.
Mutapa is proudly accredited by Bird Life SA; has received AA Quality Assurance Recommendation and is a member of Go Limpopo.
Dinner, Bed and Breakfast rates start at SA Rand650 per person sharing per night.
following last week’s tweet on my Twitter account
@sahotels Suzette Bouwer
Hotels are looking to boost occupancy (Or should be – my comment) through added room amenities. When asked what amenity their hotels are adding, two-thirds of hoteliers cited “free WiFi” as the number one amenity change. Hotels are also introducing better televisions (42 percent) and iPod docking stations (20 percent) to help stay ahead of competitors. ( from The poll, which was conducted during the TravelClick webinar titled: “2011 First Quarter Hotel Industry Update: Adapting to the Changing Revenue Management and Marketing Landscape)
I am struck by the “Back to Basics” concepts below.
Common sense prevails and remembering how you wish to be treated … it really is pretty simple
- ”Don’t go after a friend to make a sale; go after a sale to make a friend” by long time sales executive and Executive Vice President, HSMAI Adrian Philips,
The responsibility for exceptional customer sales and service belongs to everyone on staff, including the owner and manager.
- Understanding that Repeat Clients are the heart of any successful hotel marketing. This means Defining your clients, knowing what makes you special to them and adding special experiences to enhance the ‘uniqueness’ of your offerings.
Combination of sales message and service delivery are tied together.
- Successful Hospitality Marketing today relies heavily on Relationship building. We cannot forget that Getting to YES requires a coordinated marketing activity that makes the potential customer want to make the decision to use your hotel over a competitor.
You have to be better and more attractive in your total package to get them to make that YES decision.
Extracts from an interesting exercise at;
A Quiz on Effective Hospitality Marketing in 2011: Understanding and Using Complementary Tools | By Dr. John Hogan, CHE CHA CMHS http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news//4051357.html