1. The Reality of Lodge Living
To live and work in a safari lodge is an experience that will become a treasured memory in the life of any individual. Whilst it must be emphasised that every lodge has a unique location and ambience, there are common elements of the lodge life that can be examined and which are reasonably consistent across Africa. Firstly, a safari lodge is invariably in a position of natural beauty, often isolated in the wild it provides close contact with nature and animal life. This exposure to the natural environment is the primary appeal of a lodge and the ideal base for exploring a surrounding region that is filled with dramatic landscape and populated by a great diversity of nature’s creations. Secondly, the lodge experience is designed to provide the simple luxuries of life such as good food, fine wine, and enjoyable company – often around a campfire and underneath a canopy of stars. The type of accommodation may range significantly between lodges but the emphasis is always upon delivering as luxurious a product as the facilities are able to offer. To this extent, the quality of service is the prime factor in determining the experience of the guest who stays at the lodge. It is here that the Bushwise Hospitality internship volunteer has the potential to make the greatest impact on the lodge; by being a fully contributing member of a team that seeks to deliver high levels of service to all guests. Within the context of the lodge environment, the service style is very personable with a close attention to the needs of each individual guest being essential. Close contact with guests over a period of days allows the opportunity to build up a rapport and establish a personal connection that contributes significantly to the quality of their experience. This is also a very rewarding process for the volunteer as well! To remain in a lodge for a sustained period does represent a certain disconnection from modern society but this is counter-balanced by the sense that the world itself comes to you. People from countries of every continent visit the lodge environment in Africa eager to explore the excitement of safari and this provides the opportunity to learn about many different nationalities and cultures whilst remaining in one place. To experience the full diversity of the animal kingdom in a place of natural beauty, whilst meeting and greeting people from all around the world, is the promise and the allure of lodge living.
Tim’s Personal Log – I arrived at Ngama Tented Safari Lodge in mid-March 2014 after a two-week Bushwise Orientation course that had provided a solid grounding in South African culture, an immersion in the bush environment, and an initial understanding of the workings of a lodge. Ngama Lodge has six-tented chalets with a maximum capacity of 14 guests at any one time. My previous experience of hospitality had included hotels functions and busy restaurants, usually dealing with large numbers of people. This reduction in the number of guests to serve was the primary difference I first noted; whereas in the past I had only a few hours to get to know my guests and customers, now I had a few days to establish a connection and really engage with the visitors to the lodge. This increased sense of intimacy in the style of service was a very welcome change and provided the opportunity to be far more attentive to individual guest needs and really meet them as people. My role at the lodge was initially labelled as Front-of-House Manager but in an environment with a small team I quickly realised that all job definitions are extremely flexible… In my time at Ngama Lodge I have been a tour guide, a dish washer, a manual labourer, a chef, a ranger, a lodge manager, a waiter, a barman, and a driver; all in between my primary role of guest relations! Thus, I have had to draw upon a diverse range of skills to meet the shifting needs of the lodge
environment. This makes the nature of my involvement all the more interesting since every day brings a fresh challenge and the opportunity to gain new experiences. I was very fortunate with my living conditions since I was provided with one of the luxury tents for the duration of my stay. With a balcony overlooking a waterhole and an isolated position surrounded by high trees I could listen to the soothing sounds of frogs, hyenas and lions every night through the fabric of my tent! The hours can be long with early starts and occasional late finishes (depending upon the alcohol consumption of the guests) but when the working environment is so pleasurable it is easy to blend work and play. I have found the experience of lodge living very rewarding with an increased sense of harmony with nature, improved personal serenity and the opportunity to meet great people.