YOU ARE relaxing, gin-and- tonic in hand, in a tree-house, high above the South African bush. Above you is the velvety night sky, the glittering stars seemingly close enough to touch. Below lies a watering hole where, sooner or later, the animals will come to drink: an elephant per- haps, or a lion, and numberless small creatures of the night. Alone with Nature, yet safe in your tree-home, your height- ened senses pick up every sight, sound and smell—tree frogs croaking in the branches, wart- hogs foraging in the scrub, the cry of a jackal. This is Garonga, the stuff of adventure stories, your safari club in South Africa, and the most intimate safari ex- perience you could wish for. Meaning ‘Big Tusked One’, Garonga is on the Makhutswi River in the Limpopo Province. It is the inspiration of the Hon Bernardo (Bernie) Smith, re- tired from the British Army and, as it happens, a Country Clubuk Member. His aim at Garonga? A ‘safari for the soul’, restful, healing, and restorative. Think of reclining in a hammock while watching impala, or tip-toeing down sandy tracks in search of ele- phants, or enjoying a candlelit massage in the open-air sala, or taking a dip in the saltwater swimming pool—it is as much about regeneration as it is about seeing the ‘Big Five’. After a visit to South Africa in 1995 to attend a rangers’ course, Bernie was so smitten that he decided to build an eco- lodge and safari camp. Together with his friends James Marshall, of Conservation Corporation Africa, and James’s interior-designer wife Trish, he formed a team and be- gan planning and designing. Only 18 months later, in 1997, Garonga was completed. Since then it has won accolades which include being named one of the Top Ten Resorts in the World. The safari camp lies in the 11,000-hectare Greater Garonga,yourSouthAfricanSafariClub Makalali Game Reserve, an hour west of Krüger National Park. It is home to many ani- mals—including lion, rhino, ele- phant, cheetah, leopard, hyena, hippopotamus and crocodile— and of course a profusion of bird life. Drives are taken with care and supreme sensitivity — there is no dashing about in a 4x4 to tick off the ‘Big Five’. You are in the best of hands: the lodge manager, armed ranger and trackers expertly guide you through the bush- veld, and explain the facts and philosophies of life in the wild. Bush walks are more inti- mate still. From the strenuous and the heartbeat-raising to the contemplative, these forays let you get close to Nature, breathe in some warm air and feel the earth between your feet. On other walks, you find a space on your own in which to sit and lis- ten. There is time to reflect and focus on the environment, and you cannot help but drop into a slower gear. On other walks you learn about plant species and their medicinal qualities. From dawn to dusk, the pho- tographic opportunities are un- real—epic sunsets and sunrises, the ever-changing light on the plains, the impossibly bright feathers on a bird, a gathering of wrinkled grey elephants around a watering hole. Bring more camera cards and batter- ies than you can possibly need —and borrow Garonga’s easel and pastels to capture a scene. Back at camp, one way to un- wind is with an aromatherapy massage, or some reflexology, hot stone therapy or reiki—a Japanese form of spiritual heal- ing—in the thatched sala. Later, after an afternoon siesta in the cool shade of your hammock, enjoy a long, fragrant soak in the open-air ‘bush bath’ while gazing at the stars. But perhaps the best thing about Garonga is that you do not have to do any- thing at all. You can while away the day with a book and a sun- downer, and nobody will bat an 146