For many years Jurie and I had been planning to build our dream lodge from scratch, along the drainage line that ran into the dam in front of Gowrie Camp.

We would walk along the dry river bed, glancing up at the thick riverine canopy overhead and imagine the placement of the chalets. We were ready for something new. Towards the end of 1998 some staff members and a last group of guests were sitting around the dining-room table at Gowrie considering names for the new lodge. After many failed attempts “Vuyatela” emerged from a phrase meaning, “Come, Come”, but which was changed slightly to mean “Come and Visit again”.
Gowrie Camp was running well, but catering as it did mostly to the South African market meant that it was only busy over school holidays and weekends, and Jurie and I wanted something more challenging to do. It seemed a pity to have this beautiful location used only on a part-time basis. We wondered if it would be possible to conduct alterations while we had guests on the premises. Obviously we would have to solve the noise factor which would irritate guests looking for peace and solitude in their bush getaway.
As luck would have it the neighbours to our north, on the farm Buffelshoek, approached us with a business idea. They asked us if we were not perhaps interested in taking over a camp of theirs called Galago, which stood empty for long periods and was only used by families of the Buffelshoek landowners. The timing was perfect: we could move the existing self-catering business over to Galago and start building the new lodge at Gowrie, which possibly could be completed by the millennium. Together with the lease of the Galago lodge came exclusive traversing (permission to conduct game-drives on neighbouring land) on 2 800 hectares of Buffelshoek’s land. This would give Djuma an area of exclusive traversing land larger than any of our immediate competitors, a huge advantage in the business of operating game lodges: the more land one has use of, the better the chances of showing all the ‘Big 5’ to guests over a couple of days of safari.
Galago Camp needed a fair amount of updating and a dash of tender loving care. Our experience had shown us that the condition of a camp deteriorated faster if it were left empty than if there were a steady flow of visitors. We found a lovely couple, Thembi Fakude, housekeeper extraordinaire, and Ephrahim Xhosa, guide supreme, to run the camp for us. They were both experienced in the game-lodge industry and were keen to get Galago off the ground. Ephrahim’s green fingers started the garden growing in no time at all.
The Galago building itself was more suitable for the self-catering market than Gowrie camp, with its separate rondawels and main building, had been. Galago was laid out in a U- shape, with a braai area and swimming pool in the central courtyard. There were five en-suite rooms, a guest loo, and a single en-suite for a pilot or tour guide. At one end of the building there was a dining area with a fire place and canvas flaps to roll down if the weather was bad. The opposite end held the kitchen and all the facilities for cooking outside. The fact that the rooms were all in one building was perfect for families, as children would always be near their parents. An added bonus was the stunning view over a grassy, open plain with a water hole slightly obscured by a gently undulating landscape.

Our lives were changing, with more staff being employed and Pendrae and Campbell Scott assisting in the burden of the day-to-day lodge operation and the decisions that had to be made. By that stage we had offered them a profit share in the business to entice them to stay with us as long as possible. I don’t think they realized that we were years away from showing any profit, but they were, without question, slowly letting the Djuma spirit seep into their veins.
The Scotts had mentioned that they were keen to put down some roots at Djuma, and had expressed a desire to become business partners. They were expecting their first baby and they wanted to plan longer-term futures with the company. With the proposed addition of Vuyatela and the consequent growth of business the time seemed right to take on partners into the business. Naturally, with this scale of corporate reshuffling, there was a lot of financial negotiation and legal fine print to be sorted out. The land was to remain in Jurie and his sister Inge’s trust. The Scotts would buy a forty-percent share in Djuma Game Reserve, i.e. the business, equal to the Moolman share, with the remaining twenty percent belonging to Jurie’s trust.
We were many months away from finalising the new partnership, but there was the prospect of a fair sum of cash coming in, so we started looking for an architect to plan the next phase of the Djuma Game Reserve story. If we thought we had covered a lot of ground in a few short years we were to be hugely surprised as to what we embarked upon in the months still to come.

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Our African Way