Sometimes, despite ourselves, we make right decisions at crucial times. In my personal example, I decided a couple of years ago to spend the rest of my life with Caroline Bayly. Not only is she cute, but she is an amazing partner, a successful business woman, has family values, knows how to renovate a kitchen and is pretty handy in cooking odd meals.
In terms of industry exposure, she has also been around in the safari game for a long time. Her long-standing relationship with the amazing wildlife conservancy of Tswalu Kalahari paid off recently, and I was treated to a surprise weekend away early in December.
It works like this: Like an a-list celeb (Paris Hilton, Bono, and in our case John Cleese) you check into the luxury private hanger at Cape Town International. As if participating in a covert mission for the CIA or starring as an extra in Entourage, you are then flown by private plane directly to the reserve (about 2 hours) in the middle of the glorious semi-desert interior of South Africa. Yep, miles from nowhere.
The place is owned by the Oppenheimers. South Africa’s first family for generations, they of Anglo American, De Beers and such. Consequently, no expense is spared to ensure luxury and exclusivity.
Amazing game viewings with diverse species rarely seen anywhere else, including the famous black-maned Kalahari Lions? Check.
Watching a pack of endangered wild dogs chase down a family of Oryx once they start getting the munchies, then see them beaten off as the parentals rally to protect their young? Not unusual.
Walk up close and personal amongst a colony of hatituated Meerkat with mandatory cute little ones scurrying around? Par for the course.
Go for a personal horseride to admire a true Kalahari sunrise, follow that up with an 8am G&T? Who wouldn’t?
Top off the day with some more G&T’s and snacks on a deserted dune, with a lightning storm giving you the best show nature can just about provide. Then drive like Motocross champs to outrun the coming tempest and make it back to camp safety in time to not make a tipsy Basil Fawltey impersonating pest of yourself with John Cleese while he is quietly trying to have the sumptuous camp dinner? That’s how we roll.
I also liked the research they do there – all kinds of interesting PHD-ish people tracking owl poo, rat tracks and various other funny things to support odd hypotheses. They are generally separate from the guests, but you do run into them on your game drives, and they are happy to engage with regards to their way-out projects.
Along the way, my lady love also treated me to a much needed pedicure, I got to eat mediterrean tapas for breakfast and we were back in Cape Town after two days of totally being spoiled faster than you can say A-lister.