GARONGA - ROBYN TOBIAS
I had not been for many years and it was wonderful to see how the property has grown up without losing any of the essence of what owner Bernie Smith set out to create. It is the same – only better.
The camp is built on a bend in the river with views up and down river from the rooms and the main area. The public area is on the curve with the most fabulous views in either direction.
It houses the dining room, discreet bar area, lounge with fireplace (necessary in winter!) and large deck that overlooks two waterholes. There is a well stocked cellar below the main area and a rim-flow pool to the left of the dining room.
To the far right of the guest rooms, a discreet distance from the first room is the therapy sala which has the most wonderful ambience, surrounded by nature and with its views of the river.
A new reception area has been built at the top of the camp where guests’ cars are parked and this also houses a lovely new curio shop. Adjacent to this is small general purpose room with an en suite shower and loo that can be used as a day room for late check-outs or as a pilot or guide room if necessary.
The six tents are gorgeous – spacious, with wonderful low-key luxury. The colours, textures and tones are perfect for the setting and whole ambience. Delicious beds and linen, wrap around mosquito nets, discreet lighting, the hammock on the deck etc. all make it very easy to spend a lot of time in the rooms as they are so restful. Almost a pity actually as the views and the feeling from the main deck tend to get forgotten! Each tent has an indoor and an outdoor shower. The water pressure in the showers is great and the hot water is really hot! There is a double vanity and a separate loo with a real door!
Garonga tented camp is madly romantic and there are a few things to consider when selling it to "non-couples”: The bed bases are concrete and so while the beds can be made up as twins, the mattresses cannot be moved apart and the indoor shower is open to the bedroom.
One child of 8 to 15 years of age can be accommodated in the tents as a triple, or one parent and two children but this is not really ideal for older children simply due to space.
I was not able to see the suites up at Little Garonga as they were all occupied, but this is a lovely, private area that Bernie has created with his usual flair and attention to detail. Little Garonga is above the main camp and really does feel like home (certainly a home most of us would like to have!). The thatched main area is very inviting and houses a lounge and dining area that lead out to a covered lounge area where dining can also be set up and then out to a deck with a pool and on into the bush to small sala where additional dining can be set up. Little Garonga is comprised of three suites, one of which has a twin annex for children from 6 years and upwards.
Normally a maximum of eight people can be accommodated at Little Garonga. Ten people can be squeezed in if absolutely necessary and all in one party, but it is not ideal as furniture will have to me moved out and the ambience and comfort of the lodge will be affected.
The bush bath is an open air bath that guests must request. During the day it looks like nothing, but at night is lit with lanterns and bubble bath, oils and a bottle of bubbly are provided. Bring on the romance! Guests do need to request a bush-bath either on making the booking, or on arrival to avoid disappointment as hot water and the time factor do limit the number of baths that can be done in an evening.
Garonga has it’s own vegetable and fruit gardens as well as water heating and energy saving systems for hot water in each tent and a grey water scheme that filters water and ultimately pumps the clean result into the two waterholes.
The sleep-out…. This is a fabulous thing to do if you want to "camp without camping” and if you want to get away from man-made noises and civilisation without really roughing it. It is essentially a deck on stilts about 3m off the ground, next to a tree, roughly a twenty five (35) minute drive from the main camp.
A steep wooden staircase with a lat-door leads up to the deck which is on a split level. The front deck has a table and two chairs and overlooks a waterhole. The rear deck has two foam mattresses and bedding and is covered by a framed mosquito net that is about 1m high and 3x3m. It looks solid, but at night you can see the stars. About 20m down a little marked off pathway is a flush loo with a lat wall and a view of the waterhole. Water for the loo is provided and you fill up the cistern manually from a water container that is left there.
Garonga drops guests off in the late afternoon with a cooler box of drinks, a three course dinner, a flashlight and a radio. They show you around, show you how to use the radio, tell you not to walk around a night, bid you farewell and disappear. It is wonderful to be in the middle of nowhere, to sit back and just "be” as the day slowly dies and night falls. In the total absence of noise you start hear the sounds of the bush….. I could wax lyrical! Its exciting and romantic and incredibly beautiful. Ask the experts for the best personalized advice...