In February 2013 we, Hessel and Dilo from the Netherlands, met on a 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.
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 then 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 a little 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, cooks… 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 change everything 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 this.
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 (for which we even won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence!), we sadly had to say goodbye to South Africa. On 29 August 2019 we left for an incredible adventure with our two dogs JayJay and Mocha. We’re went on a special Tourism Friendly road trip through Botswana and Zambia to get to Malawi. The ‘’Warm Heart of Africa’’ is our close friend Howard’s home country and after 10 days and 3356 km we made it to the capital city Lilongwe. Malawi is working endlessly on conservation to restore the natural beauty and the government wants to develop ecotourism further, so we definitely feel at home here!
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