“THE GOOD MAN IS THE FRIEND OF ALL LIVING THINGS”
Goodness knows, we’ve banged on often enough about the rewards we’ve reaped through our educational programmes at Summerhill. That we preside today over one of the best teams in the world is no coincidence: these programmes started when we first opened the gates, and those that know Summerhill, know the value of what’s happened here. Responsibility for the Mirza Al Sayegh Creche was recently assumed by Angelique Heinen (Business Manager Ferdi’s new “acquisition”), and she’s doing a sterling job preparing the little ‘uns for life in the big world.
Cheryl and I have been fortunate in so many ways in our involvement with this property, and one of our most pleasurable dividends comes from our association with Hartford House, Cheryl’s favourite “child”. Quite apart from the fulfilment that comes from the beaming grins of satisfied guests, we’ve built associations with other exceptional establishments, principally those who partner us in the Land Of Legends, the world’s only collection of hospitality establishments whose “glue” is their celebration of history, their respect for culture and tradition and their preservation of the environment. With very few exceptions, these properties represent the cream of KZN’s leisure destinations, and include The Oyster Box, The Beverley Hills, Phinda Private Game Reserve, Hartford House, Fordoun Spa, Rocktail Beach Camp, and the odd one out in hospitality, Fee Berning’s famous Ardmore Ceramics.
As a group, we get together quarterly, and a couple of weekends ago we assembled at Phinda, arguably Africa’s finest private wild preserve, with its seven different ecosystems and the variety of species it supports. On the way there, we were privileged to be invited to Thanda Private Game Reserve, which is the property of the celebrated Swede Dan Olofsson, best known for his past association in the high tech world of Ericsson, his principal ownership of Teleca, Sigma and Epsilon, as well as numerous philanthropic commitments in South Africa. Thanda is a magnificent facility, and this past weekend it was populated by a mass of foreign visitors, mainly Swedes. We all know what Sweden did for our politicians in exile in the apartheid years, and we know too, that championing the cause of the underdog has long been a Swedish fetish. Of course, Alfred Nobel, who gave his name to the Nobel Prize, was a Swede, and that the hallowed institution that goes by his name, remains housed in that country.
Sweden is renowned for the fact that it has one of the world’s most effective welfare systems, it’s famed for its standard of living, and its generosity towards philanthropic causes. Yet few of us know the extent of the generosity of the Swedes as a nation, and the remarkable work which goes on in the community around Thanda in the name of their “Star for Life” programme. It’s one thing for us South Africans to be doing our darndest to uplift our communities, it’s another entirely for people who live as far away as the Swedes do, to be doing so, and the team at Thanda appear to have settled on a marvellous model, where the benefactors not only part with their cash for these causes, but when they visit, they happily pay for that privilege as well!
We’ve been associated with Phinda since its earliest days, when Dave and Shan Varty and the Londolozi team were the propellers behind its creation. At that time, Summerhill was home to horses belonging to the three game reserve “kings”, the Vartys, Mike Rattray of Mala Mala and Luke Bales of Singita. We knew these people well, and the enormous roles each has played in moulding the future of this country. Nobody has done more work in this realm than the guys at Phinda, and they’ve extended the hand of friendship across the waves as well, hence their brand name “andBeyond”. The Fitzgeralds, Steve and Nicky, perpetuated (and perfected) the dream, and Joss Kent is the latest impetus behind Kevin Pretorius’ tireless efforts at Phinda. You can’t help but be mesmerised by the Phinda experience, but this time we saw another dimension.
We were taken to remote Northern location in the reserve, where six rhinos were quarantining before being “gifted” to the Botswana government. How many of us know that there are fewer than 20 rhinos in the whole of Botswana, and that another six will add almost 25% to that population?
Holding six rhinos, strange to one another, in a confined space, is an onerous undertaking of its own, yet these were quite at ease with one another in preparation for their new frontiers. There are issues attached to relocation, one of which is often “bombshelling”, leading to a dispersal in any direction of these precious animals. In the context of what is happening with rhinos throughout the world, we know that that is bound to end in tragedy, so the timing of the transfer is critical. When these creatures arrive in Botswana, they will do so shortly ahead of the annual flooding of the Okavango delta, and they will remain in quarantine on their island base until such time as the floodwaters are high enough to contain them for the next several months. It’s hoped that by the time the waters recede, they will be sufficiently comfortable with one another and their new habitat to call it “home” under the watchful eyes of the andBeyond team; For all its wildlife diversity, it’s incomprehensible that Botswana should be so poor in its stocks of one of the planet’s most hunted creatures.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” - Albert Einstein
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