It’s often said that people make a good safari great, and this is certainly true at Abelana Safari Camp where its team of amazing support staff are warming hearts with their wonderful brand of hospitality.
For assistant chef Peggy Ngomane and housekeepers Meldatin Malobane and Naomi Shai, working at Abelana is also providing them with the opportunity to learn and grow as they go, while also helping them to provide for their respective families.
“I love working in the bush,” says Peggy, who comes from the sprawling village of Welverdiend close to the Kruger National Park. “And I am enjoying being here at Abelana, furthering my career and expanding my skills,” she adds.
Peggy has been working in lodges since she left school and has two daughters, aged 23 and 15. Her mum helps her to look after them when she is working. “I started working in kitchens as a scullery maid,” she says. “Then in 2009 I got the chance to become a chef and have worked my way up from there. Now I assist Chef Lector here at Abelana Safari Camp, cooking and baking and helping to prepare the meals for our guests,” she smiles. “I am learning a lot from him,” she adds.
Meldatin and Naomi were both born and raised in Mashishimale – the community which owns Abelana Game Reserve. It’s Meldatin’s first job since leaving school, and Naomi’s first job in tourism and hospitality, made more special for both because of the relationship their community has with the land.
“It makes me feel very proud to know that our people own this reserve,” says Meldatin. “Mashishimale is a big village and was a very good place to grow up,” she adds. “There are lots of families and most of us are related, so being part of the Mashishimale community is like being part of a huge, extended family,” she laughs. Naomi agrees. “We all look out for one another and take care of one another,” she says.
So what is it like working every day in the bush, surrounded by the African wilderness? “I love it,” smiles Naomi. “I love being here and being close to nature, it’s so much better than having to work in a town.” Peggy and Meldatin agree wholeheartedly. “It’s a slower pace of life but it allows you to appreciate how important it is to protect widlife and it’s wonderful to see how much our guests love this place,” says Meldatin. Peggy is busy preparing for a braai, which is her favourite thing. “I love braaiing for guests, especially lamb chops which are my personal speciality,” she smiles. So what’s Peggy’s secret to perfectly braaied chops? “A little salt, pepper and rosemary make them perfect,” she grins. Both Meldatin and Naomi help out in the kitchen when their housekeeping duties are completed. “We are learning a lot and there is lots of opportunity to grow here,” says Naomi, adding that one day she would love to have her own lodge!