“The frustrations of trying to get the Boss. Where’ve they been?”
We’ve often heard Mick say that Summerhill’s not about one man or one family; it’s about the collective whole, and the deep diversity of talents that make the place tick. It’s also a place with a broader range of interests than the horses for which we’re trying so hard to establish a reputation. Vuma Feeds is a purveyor of the finest horse feeds in Africa to several corners of the world; Goss & Co Insurance Brokers writes South Africa’s second largest premium in horse insurance, with underwriting facilities at Lloyds of London for more than 50 years; and Hartford House has been described as “the resolution of all South African safaris”, such is its renown in the hospitality trade.
Its well-known that Hartford is Cheryl’s “baby”, and this week the Gosses have been away on their own “safari”, attending a gathering of the Land Of Legends, a grouping of the leading hospitality properties in KwaZulu Natal, founded by the Gosses, the Rattrays at Fugitives Drift, and the Poynton’s of Cleopatra. It now also comprises Phinda Private Game Reserve, which is part of the world’s most diverse safari group, C.C.Africa; Rocktail Bay, the gem in Wilderness Safaris KwaZulu Natal crown; Hotel Izulu on the North Coast, and Three Trees at Spioenkop.
This quarter’s meeting of the Land Of Legends took place at Phinda, surely one of the finest wild sanctuaries anywhere, combining as it does the “big five” territory of the Kruger Park environs with the wetland attractions of the Okavango Delta. There are seven different ecosystems in Phinda, so it’s not only the diversity of the animals it attracts, but also its vegetation. Those that run it have seen to it that its camps and lodges are equally varied, which means that a return visit to Phinda is always full of surprises and new expectations.
Before the Gosses got to Phinda, they took three nights at a private bush lodge in Hhluhluwe, the flagship (with Mfolozi) in the vast assembly of reserves under the management of KwaZulu Natal Conservation Services. Taking a lodge of this sort means the whole eight bed stilted camp, where suspended wooden walkways connect the thatched accommodation, and you have a dedicated cook and game guide entirely at your disposal. For what you get, it’s surprisingly affordable.
Yathi the chef, has been known to the family for many years during their visits to Hluhluwe, and he’s a cook capable of holding his own in the best culinary establishments, while Xolani Mkwanaze is an extraordinary man in the bush, deeply knowledgeable and resourcefully instinctive.
A trip of this sort is a soul-restoring escape in its own right, and reconnecting with the earth and the animals we’re so lucky to live among in South Africa is a secret narrative in the Goss family. Cheryl took some photographs while they were there, as she felt they reminded her of some of their family, friends and the team that works here. The gallery tells the story! She thought one of the primates bore a close resemblance to the Chairman of the Land Of Legends at the end of a long meeting. But don’t tell anyone she said that – it could compromise our salary reviews, come February!
On to Rocktail Bay, where Wilderness Safaris have established a beautiful venue just behind the spectacular dunes which are a trademark of the Maputaland Coast. This is a private world, where you venture hundreds of kilometers to the north and the south along broad sweeping beaches without seeing a soul. Miles and miles of pristine sand, coral heads and rocky shelves, and abundant marine life. If you’re there at the right time of year, Maputaland is the nesting place of the mysterious and very rare Leatherback Turtle, as well as his equally intriguing cousin, the Loggerhead. Like Phinda, the guiding and hospitality at Wilderness Safaris is up there with the best in the world, and those of us that live in this phenomenally diverse province need to visit these places as a reminder of how lucky we are to live where we do.
The Land Of Legends is a compendium of properties spanning the cultural, historical and environmental heritage of seven landscapes in one, and there is no experience in all of Africa quite as authentic. The Bush, the Battlefields, the Berg, the Beach and the Buzz are what make KwaZulu Natal tick, and with the three top culinary establishments in the province (two of which, including our own Hartford House, rank in the top ten in the nation) among them, this has to be a must-do for any would-be traveller.