How our love for Africa started
In February 2013 we, Hessel and Dilo from the Netherlands, met on an Eco & Wildlife study trip to Tanzania. We connected instantly and soon started planning our next adventure.
The year before, Hessel did his internship at a lodge in Hartbeespoort Dam, South Africa, and he wanted to go see some of his friends there again. Obviously Dilo said ‘’yes’’ when he got the opportunity to join! We booked for two months and never could have imagined how much that would change our lives.
Unique experiences in South Africa
The lodge had been closed for several months because the owner couldn’t find trustworthy management and staff, so we were asked to sort out some maintenance jobs rather than paying for our stay. After about two weeks we agreed to open the lodge for the weekend due to a South African public holiday, which usually means potential guests. And we got quite a few bookings!
We had some hospitality experience, but nothing like running a lodge with 26 beds. Literally while the first guests drove onto the parking, we were still running around with pillow chocolates and soap for in the bathrooms. The guests must have noticed the chaos, but it turned out to be a fun weekend and with our common sense and being down to earth, we managed to impress everyone. Including the owner, so we became the new lodge managers. And cleaning staff, handy men, receptionists, chefs… It was a rollercoaster of hosting guests, making beds, frying eggs, doing the laundry, cutting grass, painting fences and after every thunderstorm a swimming pool in fifty shades of green. It was a lot of hard work, early mornings and late nights, but smiling guests and positive reviews made it all worth it!
A big moment for us was when we won the trust of the owner of the neighbouring Silkaatsnek Nature Reserve, where we then were allowed to offer Game Drives, Hikes and our personal favourite; Horseback Safaris.
Everything went well, but unfortunately the owner of the lodge decided to get greedy and we made the painful decision to leave at the start of 2017. We were lucky enough to have built a network of incredible friends in tourism during those 3.5 years and everyone assisted where they could, but the Silkaatsnek Nature Reserve still attracted us.
We were the first in nearly twenty years to develop tourism activities at the reserve and after many talks, the owner decided to give us a chance to continue growing the good reputation we now had in the area.
We bought our own pick-up vehicle and installed benches on the back, so that we could take guests on Game Drives. Soon we found the opportunity to get our own eleven horses, which we trained for the Horseback Safaris.
What an amazing experience! We also worked hard on the gardens and buildings, so that we could offer self-catering chalets to visitors, which worked very well in combination with the activities in the Nature Reserve.
We were living a dream and learned a lot. We were incredibly lucky to be at the right place at the right time and together with following our gut feeling, perseverance and a little ‘’fake it till you make it’’ we also started our own tour company 1 2 Travel Africa to assist more people to come experience this extraordinary continent.
After 2.5 years of giving all our dedication to the Silkaatsnek Nature Reserve, we had to start a new chapter in our lives. On 29 August 2019 we went on an incredible adventure with our two dogs JayJay and Mocha. A special Tourism Friendly road trip through Botswana and Zambia took us to Malawi. The ‘’Warm Heart of Africa’’ is working endlessly on conservation to restore the natural beauty and the government wants to further develop ecotourism. We are excited to play our part!
Soon we found a job as Lodge Managers for two accommodations owned by Kiboko Safaris in Malawi’s capital city Lilongwe. However, after six months, Malawi started feeling the impact of the global COVID-19 crisis and we were made redundant. Currently we are using the extra time on our hands to continue building our dreams.
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We are looking forward to meeting you in Africa!