|We're half way through the 1st
leg of the world's biggest safari ever conducted.
Over 60 tons of equipment was moved into place and erected less than a fortnight ago in a region known as The Cradle of Humankind, 60 kms north of the gold mining capital of the world, Johannesburg.
Six hundred guests of our client, at the rate of 120/night have now sampled the overnight safari magic of Hayward's. By the end of this week, over 1'200 VIP guests would have visited us in this forgotten valley. A further 600 to meet us 1'300 kilometres south on the West Coast of the Cape and then another 500 guests to meet us on the east coast of South Africa in the World Heritage site of the St Lucia Wetland Park 20 days later. All in all a round trip of well over 8'500 kilometres!
From the moment the guests disembark from their luxury Bavarian 4x4's (approximately 800 meters from camp) and begin their leisurely amble down an ancient hand-built mountain pass, they soon realise something totally unique is afoot. Our friendly guides escort them on to a secluded halfway station where they suddenly come upon two beaming khurta-clad waiters, welcoming them with refreshing dhawa's (East African concoction).
Whilst sipping on iced cocktails, they hear all about this secluded valley lost in time, how over 1000 years ago the Iron Age began in a cave ( a few hundred meters from camp) where 200 to 300 hundred folk lived and worked the metallurgical outcrops. A place where later, San hunter-gatherer bushmen roamed the wilds long before the arrival of other tribes and the white man. Man's early history, somewhere in a shadowy past 3.5 million years ago, presented by the Palaeontology team of Wits University headed by Dr Lee Berger, adds to this breathtaking entry into the worlds most exciting safari camp.
We learn form famous explorers from the 1840 - 1860 era, how for the very 1st time along their northbound journey from the Cape (1'350 kms south) they finally encountered great herds of elephant in these very same foothills at the base of the planets oldest mountain range, the Magaliesberg. Their inability to restrain themselves in shooting these beasts in quick succession - the ivory destined for billiard halls of Europe. Cornwallis-Harris and Cowley attempt an emotional explanation of this slaughter and remain disturbed by their greed for months thereafter, justified by "feeding the starving local natives".
A further walk of 400 metres brings us to another Hayward's Welcoming station where guests may wash their hands with peppermint scented soaps and warm water and then on to the reception team which efficiently show guests to their luxury Fly Tents, all built in pure-blood 19th century safari style. (Same tented equipment used by explorers such as Livingstone, Burton and Cowley.)
After the butlers have shown guests to their twin bed luxury safari tents, where en suite warm showers and flush toilets are a delight to behold for non-campers, guests meet later at the welcoming fire for an African sun-downer such as the famed Kenyan Gin & Tonic.
Come 8pm the infamous Hayward's Gin Tent is revealed to sultry sounds of our resident saxophonist whilst guests are shown to their tables. A "White Mischief" dinner at Hayward's remains a hedonistic affair. The eight-course experience encompasses sixty-four taste sensations and guarantees to boggle the palate, as does the simple yet excellent selection of Superior Cape Wines.
The highlight of the evening has to be the African Opera stage show where an assemblage of renowned performers sends a thrill down everyone's spine and bring tears of joy to the beholder as they perform under a canopy of African White Stinkwood giants.
As the moon filters through and bathes the camp in soft African light, the flaming torches are doused and the camp becomes one with Africa, content to slumber peacefully whilst leopard, hyena and giant African eagle owls continue the rhythm of Africa's pulse.
Peter J W Hayward