Stevie Godson

STEVIE GODSON recalls an armada of excess at Skukuza

Back in 2012, I understood why the powers-that-be were demanding a 5-star hotel for Kruger National Park. Think pillow-drool! That was my theory having been dazzled – at Skukuza – by one of the biggest bevies of grand, gleaming luxury vehicles I’d ever seen in one place. There must have been at least 100 of the German and even American beauties, several imported – a veritable armada of excess.

Seeing them all together, it became clear to me: being used to such class and style, how could their government-official “owners” (not their real ones, of course – that would be you and me) possibly deign to lay their heads down on anything but the finest (down, that is)?

A veritable aramda of excess

The drivers of these provincial Mpumalanga government officials – that’s what their number-plates and one of the drivers told me they were – lounged about aimlessly for days, while their very important masters and mistresses tended to some (no doubt) important business in Skukuza’s sleek conference centre.

Where on earth did they sleep, I mused, as I tried not to dwell on how many heads had lain on my clean but lumpy pillow encased in its clean, but far from new, pillowslip.

The move by South African National Parks to build a 5-star hotel was met with disapproval from staunch nature lovers, who argued it would degrade the reserve’s ecology and ambience. The hotel, planned for the southern part of the two-million-hectare reserve, would have been built near the Malelane Gate, the most convenient entrance from Johannesburg and the Nelspruit airport. Yet, nothing came of it. There are several luxury lodges dotted about the place, but no big hotel.

The Mpumalanga bigwigs who were there when I was, had no choice but to suffer as we mere mortals for one night, at least – although I didn’t see any of them braai-ing in the moonlight and exchanging tales of exciting sightings like the rest of us.

When their business was presumably complete, I watched in horror as the motorcade sped away. I just hope no animals were left dead or dying in their wake – they were going at least 70km/h and still accelerating within two kilometres of leaving camp, despite the park’s maximum 50km/h.

But then there was little incentive to stay, was there? Only the awesome beauty of nature and the unique Kruger experience …