My name is Amy Attenborough and I’m a born and bred South African. I began guiding for the same reasons so many other young South Africans do, because my childhood trips into the Kruger National Park and my father’s total passion for the natural world had instilled in me a desire for the wilderness that I thought I could satisfy with a year or two of ranging and then return to the ‘real world’. I was hugely mistaken and find myself today truly addicted to what I do and still in the industry almost five years later. I have a love for travel, adventure and exploration and I think that a lot of my enjoyment for the bush comes from the fact that everyday is a new thrill out here. However what I am beginning to realise is that what really keeps me here now is a desire to do whatever good I can for conservation and the driving force is now more a question of what I can do for wild areas around the world and not what they can do for me. A reason why I find myself at Londolozi today.
Moving to a new lodge is never an easy move though. Here at Londolozi I was met with 250 new faces, a maze of buildings and differing procedures and this proved to be just a touch intimidating. Imagine a termite mound. Within it there is an astoundingly well-organized system for achieving the greater good. Every team member has a role to play and knows exactly what it has to do in order to keep the mound ticking over. However, if you were watching the goings on and were not familiar with the role of the soldiers, where the queen lived or what the workers were doing then the movement inside the mound would appear as utter chaos. Before my induction a few weeks ago, I was this clueless outsider fumbling my way around the Londolozi mound. To sort this out, myself and Werner, another new ranger, set off on a week of induction.
One of our first duties was to spend time with the bush banqueting team, who are responsible for setting up all manner of delights out in the wilderness. We were to help with the set up of a bush dinner, in a big open area out underneath the African sky. By 8:30 am it was already about 35 degrees in the shade and we packed 52 chairs onto the vehicle, rolled around giant round tables that had to have been twice my body weight (or at least felt that way) and prepped fire bowls with large piles of wood, something Aaron, Oscar and Niko do on a regular basis to no acclaim. Later in the day, butlers from the various camps joined the fray to place the finer details, which includes all the luxuries of a lodge dinner, except this time it happens out in the middle of nowhere. From the outside, these dinners have a magical quality and it seems a fairy must have waved its wand and all the twinkling lanterns, cold drinks and delicious food just mysteriously appear. I now know first hand that this wonderland is typically created through many a struck match, gas fume high, burnt finger and gust of wind, which sends you cursing straight back to square one, while in the background another staff member desperately wrestles with melting ice and a swarm of bugs that have just descended onto the clean glasses. It is truly amazing what the team manages out there with the right amount of effort, expertise and a healthy sense of humour.
During the week we visited departments such as maintenance, house keeping, back office and many others but a day that stands out was the one in the kitchen where I strode in rather confidently, thinking it was more within my repertoire. How mistaken I could have been. I was assigned to a chef called Molly and I could tell at first that she had no faith in me because I was only allowed to watch. On my insistence I was eventually given a knife and my tomato and cucumber chopping skills were closely scrutinized. After hours of building up trust, I was eventually handed the hot skillet and given the responsibility of cooking some prawns and meatballs. A major leap of faith. With great love and care, I cooked the meal and felt hugely proud of myself when I got Molly’s nod of approval. Happily I strolled into the scullery where I, very cleverly, placed the piping hot skillet straight onto a plastic chopping board, essentially melting one to the other and crushing any trust I had painstakingly built up. The rest of the morning was then spent chiseling the pan off of the now disfigured board to many a chuckle and shaking head. It was definitely one of my favourite inductions, despite having had to sift through bins of old food pulling out partially decayed morsels for the worm farm. These rather smelly discomforts were far outweighed by the banana bread binge I indulged in and the dancing lesson Tom gave me to some local tunes that kept the vibe going in the kitchen.
Londolozi prides itself on being a family experience whether you are a staff member or a guest. In order to give our guests this authentic experience, it is therefore necessary to understand and more importantly be accepted into the intricate ways of the termite colony. I thank everyone for putting up with our blunders during that week and allowing us to get in the way. It was great getting to meet and to know the team who manage to not only get the job done but also create a fabulous guest and staff experience every single day.
Written by: Amy Attenborough