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Issue 12
Africa Travel> Issue 12
UPDATED: February 5, 2015
In (dis) Harmony with Nature
Helping to save South Africa’s endangered rhinos
By Jo Kromberg

The invitation was cryptic. The venue: Motwari Private Game Reserve in the Timbavati. The plot: Something in aid of the anti-rhino poaching initiative. The cast: various South African and international artists and musicians and us four South African journalists ….

And so the stage was set for one of the most interesting and surreal weekends of my life. We left a hot Johannesburg on a Friday afternoon in December and landed at an even hotter Hoedspruit Airport an hour later, courtesy of Airlink on route to Motswari Private Game Reserve, deep in the Timbavati bushveld. The Timbavati Game Reserve is located to the north of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa's Mpumalanga province.

Created in 1956, the Timbavati covers 533.9 sq km, allowing for wildlife, including lion, elephant, cheetah and other species to roam freely and it is also known as the "Greater Kruger Park". Motswari Game Reserve itself comprises 30 000 ha within the Timbavati.

My fellow journalist and I are picked up and driven the approximately one hour to the Lodge. Enroute we see a host of birds of prey circling high above, indicating perhaps a kill somewhere nearby. The Park is resplendent with game after the rains and we also spot hippos, giraffe, baboons, kudu and a huge buffalo herd.

Geiger's Camp

Geiger's Camp is a revelation. The fabulous Fabrice Orengo de Lamaziere, co-owner of Geiger's Camp with his wife Marion Geiger, greets us with refreshing drinks and shows us around. A luxury oasis in the middle of the bush, the Camp features a central entertainment area around a small infinity pool and only accommodates 10 people in five spacious, air-conditioned bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. All beds have crisp white linen and a large mosquito net, draped over a four poster frame and the rooms evoke the feeling another time with their old-world bathrooms and brass taps. Simplicity, romantic luxury and utter peace – this sums up Geiger's Camp. We laze about in the pool on this hot day after a great lunch of salads, ribs and kudu steaks and Godfrey, our very smart guide, takes on a game drive later. He tells us fascinating things about Mopani trees and crocodiles. Who knew that a female crocodile can decide the sex of her offspring by changing the temperature of the eggs she lies on!

We are then taken to the main camp for drinks to meet the illustrious group of artists gathered here for the past few days. They include virtuoso pianist Tian Jiang from China; fine artist Marion Geiger (and the custodian of Motswari Private Game Reserve which has been in her family since 1981); controversial and celebrated fine artist Beezy Bailey from Cape Town; Zolani Mahola, lead singer of the highly acclaimed South Africa band Freshly Ground; Chad Cocking, game ranger at Motswari and brilliant wildlife photographer; Barend de Wet, visual artist from Cape Town and also Friederike von Stackelberg, well-renowned photographer.

After a magnificent and very moving singing performance by Zolani, accompanied by Tian Jiang, dinner is served. The fillet steak entre and cheesecake dessert are superb and much merriment follows late into the night.

Rhino Disharmony Project

The actual "madness with a purpose" objective of the weekend becomes clear the next day. The Rhino Disharmony Project (rhinodisharmony.com) as it is known, is "a campaign of disruption that points out the disharmony that is caused worldwide as a result of the poaching of rhino. This concept looks to offer the Asian market of users, rich in holistic beliefs and customs, a realistic understanding against the use of rhino horn in traditional medicine, from a relative perspective," says the press release.

Indeed the word 'Motswari' means 'to conserve and protect' in the local Setswana language and the owners and staff of Motswari place a premium on this. The anti-rhino poaching movement is very dear to their hearts. Statistics show that 1 215 rhinos were illegally killed in 2014 in South Africa, an alarming increase of 21 percent on the 1 004 animals that were lost in 2013. We spend the afternoon in a river bed – yes all of us – filming and documenting Beezy Bailey's creative expression against rhino poaching. While Zolani is dressed all in silver aluminium foil, singing a new composition with Tian on a tiny red piano accompanying her. Beezy – who wrote and directed the piece as well – is dressed in a giant sumo wrestler costume with a toy machine gun, "gunning" down staff from Motswari, dressed brightly as rhinos, courtesy costumes by Barend de Wet. All this against a backdrop of Chad's blown-up photograph of rhinos which eventually gets covered in red paint, symbolic of the slaughter. This video, we are told, will disseminated on social media to create awareness of the plight of the rhino.

The scene is surreal, visceral and slightly comical but very effective. We then embark on a more traditional bush activity – a game drive. The bush is lush and verdant after the rain and it's wonderful to inhale lung capacities of the clean air and assimilate nature. That evening we all converge on Geiger's Camp for a question and answer session with the artists and some very interesting debates follow. We are told that the Disharmony project is part of a global campaign and that many more performances by any famous artists are to be expected all over the world. After a wonderful breakfast the next morning we say our sad goodbyes and I contemplate the strangeness of the week-end on the flight back home. The plight of the rhino is enormous but it is time we get the message to the markets that are the end-users of our precious animals. And the more voices we add to this outcry the better…


Motswari Private Game Reserve

Tel: +27 (0)21 427 5900

Email: info@newmarkhotels.com

Getting there:

South African Airways operates daily flights between Beijing and Johannesburg. There are daily scheduled flights to the closest airport at Hoedspruit from Johannesburg.

From there it will take three hours to drive to Motswari. Motwari's website has detailed directions for anyone driving from Johannesburg/Pretoria, Nelspruit, Durban or Phalaborwa.

What will it cost

Rates range between $260 and $300 per person per night sharing. This includes all meals, game drives and a daily guided walk.

The exclusive Geiger's Camp, which sleeps ten, can be hired for your exclusive use. Check the website for seasonal rates. http://www.timbavatigamereserve.co.za/motswari-private-game-reserve.html

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