This week we wanted to pay tribute to two of our Londolozi behind-the-scene heroes. However, the two in question agreed to being profiled on one condition: that they were allowed to pose for a glamorous poolside swim-shoot. I promised to “try my best” and the final photo can be found at the bottom of this piece.
Admittedly, the swim-shoot request was just one more in a string of surprises in writing this piece. This was about Jacqui Wood and Lillian Ngwenya – Londolozi’s housekeeping team. We were supposed to be talking about starched linens and the challenges of misbehaving baboons.
Instead, Jacqui offered me a chair and asked if I would like to have a quick look at the Londolozi Housekeeping Pinterest board. Pinterest? In the housekeeping department? Really?
“Lillian and I are the world’s best housekeeping researchers,” says Jacqui, seriously. “From ideas for towel origami to home-made carpet cleaning tinctures, we know all the tricks.”
Recently I covered some of Jacqui and Lillian’s “tricks” in a blog post about creating a soothing bush bedroom. That’s not a title that I ever expected to come out of Londolozi, but as Lillian says, “it’s not always just about the leopards you know.”
Between them, Jacqui and Lillian inspect every chalet and suite in all five Londolozi camps, every single afternoon. That’s no small feat, and their “third-eye” is well honed.
“I used to work with horses, so of course I am well-suited to housekeeping,” explains Jacqui. Another surprising statement from the no-nonsense Jacqui Wood who looks like she expects me to know what she means.
“Both housekeeping and horses entail long hours and hard work, but both are far from ‘textbook’ – you are always having to adapt and respond to new situations.”
There are two turndowns that happen in Londolozi’s chalets and suites on a daily basis. The first turndown takes place while guests are on their afternoon game drive, while the second is executed while guests are enjoying their evening meal.
From the linen and mosquito net arrangement, to the water next to the bed and the transition to softer lighting, it is up to Jacqui and Lillian to ensure the in-room experience transforms throughout the day. “Every time you step into your room should be a new experience,” says Lillian.
Behind the scenes, there are countless things that can go wrong. From blocked drains to debris from swallow nests. From incredible storms (and floods) to baboons finding their way through an open window. Between them though, Jacqui and Lillian – together with their team – make it seem effortless.
The key I think is to maintain focus, attention to detail, and an unwavering sense of humour.
This photo, taken in one of Granite’s outside baths, is a testament to a incredibly focused team, with an exceptionally “glamorous” sense of humour: