As we enter the festive season around the world, this time is traditionally when we recount the past 12 months’ events at Sabi Sabi – and highlight the journey that we have been privileged to share with our guests – thereby celebrating the past year. This year is different. In the absence of being able to welcome past and new friends to Sabi Sabi for most of this year, we are however thankful for the opportunity to share with you some stories from the team that make up Sabi Sabi from across our operations. We share with you a handful of personal reflections of what this year has meant for some staff. A clear message emerges … a message of appreciation for what we have, our relationships, friendships, the environment we are tasked to protect, and the worth of family. At Sabi Sabi this family is not in blood, but in the bond we all share for this place we call home. Our family extends across borders and oceans and we thank everyone who has been part of this year’s tough journey. We also thank our owners who through decades of responsible tourism and responsible management provide us all now with an unwavering commitment to conserving Sabi Sabi as a reserve and a community. We stand here today feeling strong and confident in weathering this storm ….
Ronald Mutero – Sabi Sabi Selati Camp Ranger
No one saw it coming. As every year comes and goes 2020 seemed no different. A year to remember and realise how humanity is important and reflect on life from a different perspective. We needed each other in all aspects of life. Ubuntu, Humanity, Solidarity, Perseverance, Vigilance and Hope was seen at its best. Even though this was a difficult year, my family and I had a lot to celebrate as we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl in July. There could not be any better gift than our bundle of joy. The feeling I got as a Field Guide not being able to welcome and host guests internationally or locally for half of the year is inexplicable. Knowing you cannot be able to do what you love the best is the most painful feeling. Nonetheless even though painful, 2020 was a year with mixed emotions.
Shaun Jenkinson – Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge Ranger
What started off as a great year with plenty of plans for the year of 2020 quickly changed in March when COVID gripped the world and unfortunately the industry that we love was worst hit. In a 6 month period of uncertainty where lodges around Africa were closing down and retrenching staff, Sabi Sabi remained positive and reassured their staff that things would come right and that they would be able to keep their jobs.
One thing this has taught us is that big established companies will get through the tough times with the right team and right planning in place. After being away from the Reserve over this time made us want to get back into the bush and do the things we love, reigniting our passion for wildlife, photography and nature as a whole. It definitely taught us not to take being out and at one with nature for granted because in a blink of an eye it can all be taken away from us.
It has made me cherish the opportunities I get to spend out in nature doing what I love with like-minded people and I look forward to seeing a more normal 2021, where things can get back to normal and to how we remember it.
Zwa Ntloko – Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge Ranger
This year has brought in a different way of living and thinking. Time spent at home away from work allowed me to study further in my career levels and to focus more on my exams. It also allowed me time to reflect and keep positive and be engaged closely with family and learn from lessons of life. I missed being at work and being out with guests, experiencing wildlife every day is a great life beauty. I missed sharing laughter with fellow colleagues, so to have finally met again with everyone at work was good for the soul.
As a team we continue to live and celebrate our living and bring that level of joy to our local guests and hopefully soon to international guests. We keep the spirit of Sabi Sabi alive!
Sunny Woolls – Head of Administration
During the strictest stages of lockdown, my partner – Andy – and I took time to focus on our health and wellness. My cooking skills have improved greatly. Although our wedding has been postponed, we have only grown closer after working together in close proximity and supporting each other through this rollercoaster year. Professionally speaking, this year hasn’t been without its challenges. Communication and teamwork have carried me through the most stressful times, and I have the deepest gratitude for my colleagues and the leaders of this company for their constant support, guidance and wisdom.
Ally Ross – Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge Ranger
In a period where these unprecedented times caused immense stress and undermined psychological well-being, as a family we pulled together to raise the spirits and power through this unknown time. As time went by, I realised it’s not about the virus per se, nor being confined to one area and not being able to touch base with family and friends, but rather a golden opportunity for growth and development.
My love and appreciation for my world grew tenfold. This period gave me time to reconnect to nature and realise how fragile and important our environment is; it allowed us to look after the precious commodity to which our guests will return.
My hope is that I can continue to instil the same gratitude and self-awareness to our guests as they seek nature for clarity and improvement of their well-being. I believe that with a family as resilient as the one found here at Sabi Sabi, we will be creating waves of goodness that bring life to our environment, for years to come.
Lauren Wyndham – Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge Manager
During my 20 years at Sabi Sabi, there has always been a buzz at Bush Lodge. Then on 22 March 2020, guests left, many staff went home, we closed everything up and turned the power off, so even the low hum that vibrates through the lodge day and night, was stilled. 2020 has been a year of stillness. It has been a moment of time rather than a moment in time. Time to stop. Time to reflect. Time to listen – to God, to each other, to our bodies, to nature. On the downside, too much time with too many worries. I am grateful for the security of Sabi Sabi. The biggest thing I have learnt this year is… We plan, but God decides.
Clerence Mkansi – Community Liaison Officer
Looking back on the year that was, the word that best describes it all can be summed up as ‘subdued’. The community where I reside is bordered by the tourism industry, with almost everyone in my entire family working in this industry. Looking back on the past 9 months, our lives changed drastically and there has been a huge strain on everyone in the community. Especially those who depend on the tourism to make ends meet for their families. However, in this darkness, we managed to shine our light brightly to those in need. I am immensely proud of the fact that we supplied food parcels to the most vulnerable individuals in our community. Our company still managed to ensure that even though funds were limited, employees were given money to make ends meet.
We’re very fortunate to be working for an organisation such as Sabi Sabi – a company that managed to look after their employees during this difficult time. We have been standing strong and working hard together like never before, and we are hoping for a brighter and better year ahead of us!!
Stefan Schoeman – General Manager Lodges
I was one of the people to be in lockdown on the Reserve and whilst we all multi-tasked more than we were used to I am grateful for this time of reflection.
One of my big dreams was to partake in the Comrades Marathon but life clearly had other plans. I continued my training “wilderness running” where and when I could. Living and working so close to nature made me realise how privileged we are. Where big game roams freely, where the air is clean and where one does not have to ever worry about traffic.
This experience was “humbling” and I realised yet again how fortunate I was being able to call the vast open spaces “office” and “home” and having colleagues who are as close as family. Times ahead are still hazy, but with a team like this, “Whatever tomorrow brings, we WILL be there” (as always).
Simon Matsane – Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge Bar Attendant
When the pandemic broke through in March 2020 tourism was attacked with loads of problems. Our beloved company, Sabi Sabi, sent many of us home and we spent almost 6 months with the family – that was very tough under the supervision of my mother!
Things were very difficult up until September when our company wanted us back… ohh!! What a relief! Going back to my establishment I was so very happy. Wow, what a warm welcome I received from my management, 100% outstanding. Makes me feel at home again.
Everything is well organised and we followed the protocols set by the management with the South African government. The atmosphere is good and we are circulating positivity, excited to welcome guests back again.
Our Company has taken very good care of us because “we are family”. Thank you to the Almighty and Sabi Sabi for keeping our jobs safe!! I am ready to remind the world about Sabi Sabi that is Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and show every guest that WE CARE!
Rod Wyndham – Managing Director
We were locked-down in one of the world’s most beautiful wild places. I have built relationships that will last forever. I have learnt so much about myself and how far I can actually push myself. I have equally learnt what is important and valuable.
Covid is tragic, but I would rather discard the pain and suffering and look at what memories will be taken from this and that I will tell my children’s children one day.
I have been part of a team that has done everything they could to help sail the ship to the other side and make it through this violent storm. While the storm is far from over, we still float. In a special place and with special people I am thankful for so much.
Sabi Sabi is a mighty brand, a mighty family and a place that leaves a mark on so many people’s souls forever. The sense of family and belonging is unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced. Through what can only be described as the toughest of tough times, the Sabi Sabi family’s glue and following stays steady.
May everyone have a blessed, albeit simple Christmas and New Year. Reflect on what you have done and what life lessons you have learnt. Take them into the future and be proud and blessed, for you deserve it. Shake off the negative energy. Focus on you and your 2020, then take that energy and unleash it on 2021.
May the Lord continue to protect and help you. Thank you all.
From our family to yours – may we all take the lessons learnt from the good and the bad and continue striving for a better tomorrow. Our wilderness and open spaces remain as pristine as ever and we look forward to once again welcoming you to our luxury home in the bush.