Making safari magic happen since 2001
Marianne Birrell was born in Namibia and grew up in South Africa. “During university holidays spent in Zimbabwe, I was introduced to the real Africa: huge, open wild spaces of unspoiled beauty and incredible wildlife, and warm, generous people. This was our world, where we grew big, played and belonged. After teaching and travelling, an opportunity came my way to work in a top Sabi Sand game lodge, and I took it. My experience in the safari industry began there."
This was followed by a decade in corporate life, half of it in Switzerland. "My husband and I quit the rat race and returned home to South Africa when Nelson Mandela was released. We created Willowbrook Lodge in the Cape winelands (left), a delightful 12-room country house hotel that we owner-managed with the enthusiasm of novices and energy of youth. All the while, our country took its baby steps with democracy."
But the call of the wild is insistent. In 2000 the couple sold their riverside lodge and built a home in a private nature reserve called Eden, near Kruger Park. "Life among Africa's wild creatures was an incredible gift. Every day presented special surprises - like these giraffes gliding by our pool. Before long, we were exploring this top safari area. We visited many, many safari lodges, and I wanted to share the treasures we found."
This handsome golden-maned lion is called Little Leo. He was rescued from a sordid South African canned hunting farm, and now lives at Drakenstein lion sanctuary in the Cape winelands "near my current SA home. We have adopted Little Leo and Joy; all the lions here have been rescued from cages, circuses, or atrocious zoos in Europe or the M/E. We applaud ALL wildlife warriors, true heroes all. They remind us that WE are all the custodians of our planet."