10 Questions with Chloe Grotto, Camp Jabulani’s Elephant Whisperer

Chloe Grotto is the elephant researcher at Camp Jabulani, but spend more than five minutes with her and you realise there is so much more to her than lab coats and clipboards.

I first encountered Chloe at the launch for the new Camp Jabulani elephant experience in the Kapama Private Game Reserve of South Africa.

Here, the Chicago, Illinois native spoke animatedly about one of the less glamorous aspects of life in the wild. She even went so far as to refer to herself as resident “poopologist”, but she did so in a manner so alive with passion that you couldn’t help but pay attention – to her message and to her, the individual. Through her fascination with the African wild, its animals and yes, even their bathroom habits, you can’t help but find your own love for safari life, for real, raw nature, reignited. We had to find out more.

Meet Chloe in our 10 Questions below and follow her adventures at Camp Jabulani on Instagram. For more information about the lodge, click here and follow their Instagram tales for a glimpse from the field.

10 Questions with Chloe Grotto of Camp Jabulani

 

1. 5 things working at Camp Jabulani has taught you about yourself, life and love?

1. I am a lot braver than I ever imagined I could be. Walking with these amazing giants every day and running face to face into lions regularly will bring out that fight or flight response in a person quickly!

2. I still hate bugs even though they are virtually everywhere in the bush. Especially red romans, yuck!

3. Appreciate the little things in life, like the sun setting, a laugh with a friend, a call from your mom and dad… those small things make a world of difference.

4. Friends are family. Being 1,000’s of miles away from home with a huge ocean separating me from my sisters and parents is daunting to say the least. I never could have made it this far and been so happy living in the bush if it hadn’t been for my little family I made here at the lodge. I owe them everything.

5. Africa time is a real thing! Everything that needs to be arranged, will be, after some time…

2. What is your role at Camp Jabulani and how did your path lead you to the lodge?

I am the elephant researcher at Camp Jabulani and I am conducting my master’s thesis project with our herd of elephants. I originally wanted to become a veterinarian! Ever since I was a little girl I loved animals and thought the only way I could help them was by becoming a veterinarian. I was even a vegetarian for 13 years because I refused to eat my “future patients”. I had an internship one summer with an equine veterinarian and had to put down an old mare who was suffering from a degenerative bone disease. I was so heartbroken after putting that horse down that I realized that my heart just wasn’t in it to become a veterinarian. Shortly after that experience, I graduated from my university and landed an internship at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom as their endocrinologist intern. There I learned how to tell if an animal was pregnant, sick, coming into heat and even could examine their stress levels all from a poop sample! I was amazed at how much I could help so many animals without even coming into contact with them. I realized that non-invasive monitoring was a better way for me to help animals and I slowly began to fall in love with the study of hormones.

3. I couldn’t help but notice your profile name on Instagram. I was a massive Wild Thornberrys fan as a kid. Can I assume the same of you, Chloe “Eliza” Thornberry? I guess in a way you too have the ability to speak with animals – with your work with elephants at Camp Jabulani. Where does this passion and talent come from… an encounter with an African shaman like Eliza or another encounter of sorts?

I loved watching the Wild Thornberry’s growing up, it was by far my favourite show. This show in many ways shaped my passion to save animals and study wildlife. The closest I have come to an African Shaman encounter, like Eliza had in the show, was meeting my now good friend Simba, an elephant keeper, here at Camp Jabulani. He is the medicine man amongst the group and constantly shows me different plants in the bush that can be used to treat varying ailments.

4. What do you love most about living in the bush and in particular at Camp Jabulani?

My next door neighbours are the elephants! Their stables are literally next to my home, so sometimes my alarm clock is them trumpeting as they wake up. Besides having the coolest neighbours around, getting to see African wildlife every day by just walking outside my house is an amazing experience.

5. The main thing to remember when living in a wilderness reserve like Kapama Private Game Reserve?

To be patient by far! Remember, you are living in the middle of the bush, that means when the electricity goes out or the water pump breaks it is going to take some time for someone to make it out here to fix it.

6. A never forget moment from your time at Camp Jabulani?

One of my favourite moments at Camp Jabulani was with a very special and well-known elephant, Jabulani. I had been conducting my research for about two months in the bush when I came down with a bad bug and had to stay home for several days. When I returned to the bush, the keepers greeted me with hugs and told me how much they missed me. As we sat around the watering hole joking with one another, something moving in the distance caught my eye. Jabulani had stopped drinking from the watering hole and was heading straight towards us quickly.

Before I knew it, Jabulani was standing almost on top of me! As I looked up, his eyes met mine and he began to slowly lift his trunk up to my face. I looked on in awe and whispered to the keepers, “What do I do?” They told me to gently grab his trunk and blow into it. I did what they said and Jabulani moved his trunk down my face and gave me one last look before he turned around to head back to the watering hole. The magical moment had happened in seconds but it felt like a lifetime.

When I asked the keepers what had happened they explained to me that Jabulani didn’t understand where I had disappeared to the past few days when I was sick. He had been looking for me because he missed me… our special moment we shared was Jabulani’s way of checking on me to make sure I was alright again. I don’t believe I will ever experience a more magical moment than that in my life again!

7. The best way to start and end a day here?

The best way to start out the morning is with a piping hot cup of instant Enrista coffee watching the sun rise over the bushveld horizon. My favourite way to end the day is watching the elephants sleepily head off to their stables for the night as the sun sets and wait up just long enough to see the sky explode with stars.


Couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful evening with more beautiful people 🌅 #views #southafrica #sunset #bestfriendgoals

A post shared by Chloe Grotto (@chloe_eliza_thornberry) on


8. The best way to spend a day off?

Going on a staff game drive! You never know what you are going to see so it always feels like a new adventure.

9. What has surprised you most about your time at Camp Jabulani and in South Africa?

South Africans are so friendly and outgoing! I wasn’t expecting to meet so many kind hearted, wonderful people. I was surprised at how quickly I fell in love with not only this country but with the Camp Jabulani lodge as well. The people who work here are beyond amazing, the elephants have been life changing for me and getting to share my passion and research with guests has been such a fulfilling experience.

10. The best adventure so far has been… and the next adventure will be…?

My favourite adventure so far has been the time I got to see a pangolin. We were on a staff game drive and we got the opportunity of a lifetime to see the most highly trafficked animal in Africa, if not the world. They are such beautiful, gentle animals and I truly gained a new respect and admiration for them after getting to see one in person.

The next adventure I’m looking forward to is getting to explore more of this beautiful country and the countries close by. I would love to continue learning more about South Africa’s history and heritage as well as seeing as many places as I can. Adventure is out there!


Read more about Chloe in Camp Jabulani’s blog, Introducing our elephant researcher, Chloe Grotto.

15 Places in Africa for the Best Sleep of Your Life

I don’t think I have ever uttered the words, “Sleep when you’re dead.” I understand the notion behind the adage and I’m all for living a full and adventurous life. But that full and adventurous life includes sleep. Hours and hours of it.

I don’t enjoy sleep for the reasons Hemingway did. As he wrote, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake.” But I do like the renewal of it,  like Ghandi. “Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn,” the peacemaker once said.

Above: Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa

I’ll admit, though, to sleep being an oddity… as George Carlin describes it:

“People say, ‘I’m going to sleep now,’ as if it were nothing. But it’s really a bizarre activity. ‘For the next several hours, while the sun is gone, I’m going to become unconscious, temporarily losing command over everything I know and understand. When the sun returns, I will resume my life.’

If you didn’t know what sleep was, and you had only seen it in a science fiction movie, you would think it was weird and tell all your friends about the movie you’d seen.

‘They had these people, you know? And they would walk around all day and be OK? And then, once a day, usually after dark, they would lie down on these special platforms and become unconscious. They would stop functioning almost completely, except deep in their minds they would have adventures and experiences that were completely impossible in real life. As they lay there, completely vulnerable to their enemies, their only movements were to occasionally shift from one position to another; or, if one of the ‘mind adventures’ got too real, they would sit up and scream and be glad they weren’t unconscious anymore. Then they would drink a lot of coffee.’

So, next time you see someone sleeping, make believe you’re in a science fiction movie. And whisper, ‘The creature is regenerating itself.’”

Above: AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, Johannesburg

I’m convinced that even those who say they contentedly live on only four hours of sleep a night would not turn down the offer of eight whole hours of sweet slumber. Perhaps all they’re missing is the time, or the right mood, the right setting, and the right company (which might very well be no company at all).

After all..

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.” ― Anthony Burgess

Above: ol Donyo Lodge

So turn in early or sleep in late… but sleep. Sleep is essential to life, to a good life, a full life. It improves our concentration and productivity; it boosts energy and fitness; it makes us happier; it can improve metabolism; it makes us more sociable, more able to handle each other; it can improve memory; it makes us feel more relaxed; and as a result it enhances our experience of a destination while travelling.

Read more about the importance of sleep in this blog from Red Carnation Hotels, which features the Relais & Chateaux lodge, Bushmans Kloof in the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa.

Above: Mara Plains Camp

Here are 15 places in Africa and the Indian Ocean with the promise of the best night’s sleep in your life. Whether for you that means a single down pillow and block-out curtains; the soft sounds of the sea lapping the shore; or leaving the spouse and/or children at home.

How you spend the wakeful hours is up to you… tire yourself out with adventures from sunrise to set or reset your mind and body with slow, restful relaxation.

20° Sud Boutique Hôtel, Mauritius

Anjajavy le Lodge, Madagascar

AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, Johannesburg

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, Cederberg Mountains

Camp Jabulani, Kapama Private Game Reserve, South Africa

The Cellars-Hohenort, Cape Town

Château de Feuilles, Seychelles

Seychelles

Delaire Graff Estate, Cape Winelands

Ellerman House, Cape Town

Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand, South Africa

Mara Plains Camp, Kenya

ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya

Royal Chundu, Zambia

Zanzibar White Sand Luxury Villas & Spa, Zanzibar

Zarafa Camp, Botswana

Discover more unique places to sleep in our article, 10 Best Unexpected Rooms, on Instants, the Relais & Châteaux Magazine.

10 Questions with Greenhouse Head Chef, Ashley Moss

“I always say that I don’t believe I’m a chef. I try to be a storyteller.” -Jose Andrés

You sense this same marriage of roles – chef as storyteller – in the dishes at Greenhouse, at The Cellars-Hohenort in Cape Town. You can detect it in their menu, from the first page to the last, and in the restaurant’s mission: “Local and historical ingredients telling stories. Each plate a question, an idea, an experience.” And you can see it in the eyes of the chefs.

Head Chef, Ashley Moss’ eyes seem to see more than what lies before them. They hint to a mind receiving several stories at a time, one that, like the writer or orator, weaves the whispers together to create something that is new and old at the same time.

Creating a modern South African dining experience that is as complex, joyful and beautiful as the country itself, Ashley and his team tell the stories of the Cape of Good Hope using ingredients with meaning and history. Ingredients found in the cellars and pantries of locals, young and old, ingredients handpicked from the sea and the garden, the fields and orchards. Ingredients that tell the story of South Africa.

In these 10 Questions with Ashley below, we get to know the chef, the storyteller, the man behind the meals at Greenhouse himself.

For more inspiration from Ashley, follow him on Instagram here.


1. What has working at Greenhouse taught you about yourself, life and love?

There are a few things I have learnt which are applicable to all three. Life is all about balance. Have a clear vision of where you are and where you are going. Connect with what you do and make it meaningful.

2. How did your path lead you to Greenhouse?

I followed the yellow brick road.

3. How do you bring a taste of the land/sea/terroir into your dishes?

We use fresh local ingredients. Local is our ethos. Using local ingredients, celebrating our individuality and our heritage is really important. Why would you pack up a beautiful ingredient, put it on a plane, fly it half way around the word, compromise its integrity and serve it without provenance?



4. How would you describe the kind of cuisine at Greenhouse and the motivation behind it?

Its contemporary South African, inspired by our flora, fauna and heritage. Proudly local ingredients crafted together with international experience and influence.

5. What inspires you day to day – in life and work?

My Family, the TV show, do you know it?



6. Where do you source most of your produce from and who / what are some of your favourite local food suppliers? What is your relationship like with these suppliers?

Our suppliers are very important to us, as they are the link between the produce and us. We are very lucky to have passionate people supplying us with some great produce. Iming has a farm 8 km away from us and has some great specialty vegetables. Kurt gets us fantastic fresh Atlantic tuna and Justin forages the forests around us for wild mushrooms and herbs. Without these people we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

7. What are some of your favourite local ingredients and dishes?

We have so many great ingredients its hard to choose. We have just started to get our first local truffles, which it pretty exciting. You can’t beat a good braai and it seems to exemplify our heritage pretty well.



8. Your most memorable day on the job?

I don’t have much time to look back, just forward.

9. How is the Weekly Wastage Challenge going?

It has gone really well and the feedback has been amazing, but I feel that its time to take it up a notch. We are working on a new challenge, which will tackle more broad environmental issues and how we as consumers can make responsible sustainable choices.




10. Your favourite dish on the menu right now? And why?

All of the dishes as they’re such a celebration of great local ingredients and they’re delicious.