Although safari camp supremo, Peter Hayward, has swapped horse and cart
for diesel, he still retains the pioneering spirit of his Eastern Cape
forefathers, writes Sally Kernohan.
Pioneering Settler family, the Haywards, arrived in Port Elizabeth in 1820, and 180 years on, they're still trekking.
For today, one of the descendants of the clan, Peter, is still exploring southern Africa. But his adventures are a far cry from his forefathers who fought frontier wars, founded an Eastern Cape town and single-handedly fought off the wild animals that roamed freely.
But although Peter has long since swapped oxen, horse and wagon for trucks, in the true pioneering spirit of his genes, he still follows the sun, the vast herds and the cultures of Africa under canvas.
Spotting a unique gap in the tourism and special events business, in 1991, Peter and his wife and business partner, Victoria, rolled out an all-new safari concept - a mobile hotel of up to 240 beds - anywhere in Africa!
And in a salute to the great African safaris, Haywards Luxury Events and Safaris creates a truly Out of Africa experience, complete with gin, indaba and en suite bedroom tents, a cigar emporium and even a vanity tent for women who require a little bit more than a shaving mirror suspended in their "bathroom."
On January 7, 1820, a young British seaman, 24-year-old James Hayward, his wife, Mary, and their one-year-old son, William, set sail from Portsmouth, England, aboard The Weymouth, accompanied by James's two younger brothers.
But little did the small clan, who endured four months of unimaginable hardship before anchor was dropped in Algoa Bay, realise that they were to spawn generations of future South Africans with equally "itchy feet."
James and his family endured a host of excessive hardships on arrival in the Cape's eastern colonies. "In fact," recalls Peter, "my great-great grandfather Charles Joseph, James's second son, was born in a safari tent in 1824."
After numerous battles for survival during the horrific frontier wars, in 1834, James decided to explore the Great Winterhoek Mountains in search of a better and safer area to settle his family. In 1849, Charles Joseph Hayward went on to farm in the district.
Hayward family legend has it that on one of Charles's daily estate inspections, he tracked a leopard that had taken its due share of bounty in the night to its lair and armed only with a pocket-knife, he managed to kill the animal - but not before the ferocious cat had scalped him.
Charles placed the scalp back on his head, put his veld hat over it and after retrieving his horse, rode back to the farmhouse, where it was all stitched back in place!
Father to 14 children - seven sons and seven daughters - he was also to found the farming town of Steytlerville.
The Hayward's African heritage as adventurers, explorers, hunters, farmers and entrepreneurs had well and truly begun . . .
And the blood of adventurer and explorer has never thinned in the veins of the generations of this family whose roots are so firmly entrenched in the Eastern Cape. A deskbound job was not for Peter, who, in his own words, "preferred to develop his skills in a series of interesting, but harsh arenas."
Admittedly, after a stint in the military as an instructor, working for Anglo American as a deep level production official and joining the world-renowned mining Proto fire fighting division for search and rescue, he had a crack at a white-collar career as a financial advisor for Prudential and Liberty, where he specialised in group benefits.
But the outdoors beckoned and the great great-grandson of Karoo farmer, Charles, was soon to don bush hat and khaki hunting gear and head for the wilderness - this time playing genial host to parties of business folk, whether it be for training and team building exercises or launches of new vehicles.
When safari camp maestro, Peter Hayward, is commissioned to set up camp in the bush - whether it is in the Pilanesberg, Kruger National Park, Namibia or The Cradle of Humankind on the outskirts of Johannesburg, he scouts for the "perfect tree."
For this will form the backdrop of "The Tent Reveal," where guests are treated to delicious and decadent food - from wild game to fresh oysters - and spectacular cabaret from some of the country's top entertainers, including a funky fashion show from South Africa's own Vivienne Westwood, Marianne Fassler. This, against a backdrop of sound and lighting, which would put French-born composer Jean-Michel Jarre's synthesiser and laser music shows to shame.
The tree is bare-branched and starkly outlined against the brooding, purple-hued cliff sides of the dry riverbed in Naukluft Park, 80 kilometres drive from the lazy seaside German colonial village of Swakopmund in Namibia. And in its shadows stands the safari camp.
The logistics of setting up a camp on this scale are mind boggling. "Mobilising over 400 cubic tons of equipment within 14 days is an interesting challenge - especially when it is across African borders," said Peter. "Our combined fleet of 10 Isuzu eight-ton trucks, four KB Series double cabs, two 4x4 Samel water trucks, four cruisers and two x 20 ton transporters travelled a combined total of more than 65 000kms," Peter told me.
A typical grand safari of this proportion handles more than 5 800 meals, with catering in the hands of award-winning chef, Roland Smidt, and his team.
The shopping list? Food included 2 000 fresh bread Rolls, 420 assorted loaves of bread, 1 000 croissants & Danish pastries, 3 tons of fresh fruit and veg, 250kg chicken fillet, 80kg Oryx, 400kg beef fillet, 200kg lamb chops, 108 racks of lamb, 1 500 fresh oysters, 110kg tiger prawns, 70kg mussels, 40kg crayfish, 120kg calamari and well over 3 000 eggs!
More than 400 000 litres of water were transported from a source 40kms away just for the en-suite hot showers, washing and bathroom ablutions for guests and staff. Beverages and drinking water? "We won't tell you, you won't believe it anyway," grinned Peter. "I'll give you a hint though, it is less than the shower consumption."
It takes two full days to set up camp in the Namib Desert, a grim experience for the management and crew, battling the infamous dust storms that blow up and die down as suddenly as they arrive. "We had to make an emergency trip to Swakop to buy goggles … and we just carried on working," Peter said.
It's this type of attitude that truly reflects the love that this big man has for the continent of his birth. This passion has given him an entrée into wilderness areas that would be taboo to an undertaking of this nature. For not only does part of Hayward's fee get donated back into wildlife management, even more remarkable is that when the crew strike camp, the area is as pristine as when the first truck rumbled in. Neither a cigarette stompie, nor the ubiquitous plastic bag is left behind.
Such an impression has the operation made on South Africa's wildlife authorities that Peter has been awarded the rights to run it in the sensitive ecological area in The Cradle of Man, 40 kilometres from Johannesburg, and in the awesome area of the Pilanesberg National Park.
Haywards Luxury Safari Events and Expeditions