Where Were You? At Nyaru!

I have posted this entry on Tripadvisor, as well as my Niume blog, but the photos are not necessarily the same as the one in this post.

Many private game/nature reserves often lean towards being just a touch pretentious.  This is not the case with Nyaru.  The place is a tranquil, family-friendly getaway, about a half hour from Mossel Bay.  Two Saturdays ago my parents and I visited the reserve, just to have some much-needed down-time.  We weren’t really sure what to expect, because after all, we’re not really bush people.  But…it was close enough from home for us, and as we didn’t have to travel far, we were able to use the money we would have spent on fuel, on a game viewing experience.

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When making the booking, the process was handled quickly and efficiently, by a lady named Sarah, who followed up with a printable copy of the confirmation.  I made a special request for an early check-in, which was met with special consideration.  The check-in process was also dealt with quickly and we were showed to our accommodation by a young, friendly member of staff named Lauren.  Not long after we had unpacked, Sarah came to personally check on us, to see if everything was to our satisfaction.

The facility offers various accommodation options – The Nightjar Retreat, which is the only option that offers a bath and shower.  All other rooms, be they villas or chalets, have showers only.  The balcony not only overlooks the dam, but gives the occupants a 180-degree view of the reserve.  If you’re a keen game-, or bird watcher, don’t forget to pack in a pair of binoculars.

We stayed in one of the villas, which, like the chalets, are self-catering units.  Each villa has large sliding doors which open onto a small verandah, overlooking the pool and the mountains, giving the illusion of space and airiness.

While all the villas are furnished to the same design, each villa is unique in its selection of furnishings.  The one we stayed in had two large vintage-like wingback chairs, African artwork-, and a large wall clock made out of a barrel. It had a large double bed, with two bedside lamps.  The other villa, which I viewed for comparison in this review had two leather single-seater couches, twin beds, a single bedside lamp, abstractly-modern art- and a large silver clock on the wall.

Both villas were equipped with flat screen televisions, a sleeper couch (for a third guest) and selected satellite TV channels (although with the breath-taking surroundings, I am not sure one really needs TV).

I am quite the advocate of a small kitchenette in any room, because when I’m away, I don’t want to be dictated to by meal times, or schedules.  I had enough of that in boarding school!  The kitchenette is well-equipped with crockery, cutlery, an induction hot-plate, the requisite pots to us on the hot-plate, airtight-containers for left-overs and a fridge/freezer.

There are a few small things that need attention in the villa we stayed in, which did not at all negatively impact our overall experience.  We did mention these ‘snags’ upon our departure and Sarah assured us that our comments have been noted and that the required action will be taken to rectify these issues.

Only my parents and I were booked for the 16:30 game viewing experience, which made it a special family affair.  Our outgoing guide, Natasja, answered all our questions and shared her knowledge with us.  Her love of bird-watching was also evident as she pointed out many ground-, and tree-dwelling birds to us.  It must be mentioned though, that if you’re looking to see the Big-5, then this may not be the lodge for you.  There are many species of antelope to be seen, as well as giraffe, ostriches and zebra, to name but a few.

The resident meerkat and warthog are huge hits and are happy to pose for a photo with the guests.

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After our drive, Natasja was kind enough to show me the chalets as well.  The little thatched units are cosy and depending on the number of guests, can house 3, or 5 people.  Each chalet also has its own verandah but includes a braai area.  The chalets are also located much closer to the main reception/dining area than the Nightjar Retreat and the villas.  If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, I would recommend the villas rather than the chalets.  Both sets of accommodation have a small pool close by to cool off.

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We opted not to have a formal sit down dinner at the restaurant, but rather a picnic.  The selection of food blew us away!  While we were on our game drive, the staff set up the food at a small sheltered ‘lapa’ overlooking the entire reserve.  A true ‘dinner with a view’.  We did have an unexpected guest too.

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Ironically we were tuckered out from a day of fresh air and relaxation and retired to our clean, crisp, comfortable beds for a good night’s rest.  The following morning, after a steaming hot shower, we went to the restaurant for breakfast.  Many of the reviews I had read on Tripadvisor prior to booking stated the breakfast as rather ‘basic’.  I guess it depends on the guests’ expectations.  To me, a selection 2 juices, 3 cereals, fruit salad, cheeses, yoghurt, croissants, muffins, cheese and preserves and the option of a full hot breakfast of bacon, eggs (to preference), sausage, baked beans, hashbrown, tomato and toast, seem more than sufficient.  The only thing that I did miss at breakfast was filter coffee and hot milk (for both cereal and coffee).  The hot breakfast was served quickly, on a heated plate (big thumbs up), and again, it was a meal with a view.

We were quite sad to have to leave, because while we arrived as strangers, we left as friends.  We will definitely be back.  After all, this soul-restoring hidden gem, is literally, right on our doorstep.

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My South Africa

I am not one who does the cut ‘n paste thing on my blog, but this is something I just had to share.  It was received from a friend, who had received it from a friend living overseas.  So often we only hear of the terrible things happening in South Africa.  We forget to see the good things that are right under our noses.  This was written by Professor Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State; Honorary Professor of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand and Visiting Fellow at the National Research Foundation.

“My South Africa is the working-class man who called from the airport to return my wallet without a cent missing. It is the white woman who put all three of her domestic worker’s children through the same school that her own child attended. It is the politician in one of our rural provinces, Mpumalanga, who returned his salary to the government as a statement that standing with the poor had to be more than just a few words. It is the teacher who worked after school hours every day during the public sector strike to ensure her children did not miss out on learning.

 

My South Africa is the first-year university student in Bloemfontein who took all the gifts she received for her birthday and donated them – with the permission of the givers – to a home for children in an Aids village. It is the people hurt by racist acts who find it in their hearts to publicly forgive the perpetrators. It is the group of farmers in Paarl who started a top school for the children of farm workers to ensure they got the best education possible while their parents toiled in the vineyards. It is the farmer’s wife in Viljoenskroon who created an education and training centre for the wives of farm labourers so that they could gain the advanced skills required to operate accredited early-learning centers for their own and other children.

 

My South Africa is that little white boy at a decent school in the Eastern Cape who decided to teach the black boys in the community to play cricket, and to fit them all out with the togs required to play the gentelman’s game. It is the two black street children in Durban, caught on camera, who put their spare change in the condensed milk tin of a white beggar. It is the Johannesburg pastor who opened up his church as a place of shelter for illegal immigrants. It is the Afrikaner woman from Boksburg who nailed the white guy who shot and killed one of South Africa’s greatest freedom fighters outside his home.

 

My South Africa is the man who went to prison for 27 years and came out embracing his captors, thereby releasing them from their impending misery. It is the activist priest who dived into a crowd of angry people to rescue a woman from a sure necklacing. It is the former police chief who fell to his knees to wash the feet of Mamelodi women whose sons disappeared on his watch; it is the women who forgave him in his act of contrition. It is the Cape Town university psychologist who interviewed the ‘Prime Evil’ in Pretoria Centre and came away with emotional attachment, even empathy, for the human being who did such terrible things under apartheid.

 

My South Africa is the quiet, dignified, determined township mother from Langa who straightened her back during the years of oppression and decided that her struggle was to raise decent children, insist that they learn, and ensure that they not succumb to bitterness or defeat in the face of overwhelming odds. It is the two young girls who walked 20kms to school everyday, even through their matric years, and passed well enough to be accepted into university studies. It is the student who takes on three jobs, during the evenings and on weekends, to find ways of paying for his university studies.

 

My South Africa is the teenager in a wheelchair who works in townships serving the poor. It is the pastor of a Kenilworth church whose parishioners were slaughtered, who visits the killers and asks them for forgiveness because he was a beneficiary of apartheid. It is the politician who resigns on conscientious grounds, giving up status and salary because of an objection in principle to a social policy of her political party. It is the young lawman who decides to dedicate his life to representing those who cannot afford to pay for legal services.

My South Africa is not the angry, corrupt, violent country those deeds fill the front pages of newspapers and the lead-in items on the seven-o’-clock news. It is the South Africa often unseen, yet powered by the remarkable lives of ordinary people. It is the citizens who keep the country together through millions of acts of daily kindness.”

Maybe we should ask ourselves “how can I make a difference today?”