Behind the Scenes: Meet the Safari Guide Team

Meet the safari guide team who hold the dreams of our guests in their hands, when they set out in search of the perfect safari experience.

There is nothing quite like the excitement and anticipation of your first game drive. The wind in your hair and the scent of the bush whizzing past as you set off. This experience is what draws our guests to book at Garonga Safari Camp. Operating on 22,000HA private game reserve in the Makalali Conservancy just west of Kruger National Park, we have all the big game and heaps more. Being situated in a large wilderness area also contributes towards such an amazing game viewing area. With passion driving them, all members of our safari guide team are here to give you maximum game viewing experience.

Safari Team – Guides

Jaffeth:
As Head Guide at Garonga, Jaff started here as a tracker when we first opened 21 years ago.

Over time he has passed various qualifications and progressed through a position of guide to now our Head Guide. His key strength is his tracking skill. Currently he is trying to accomplish his Senior Tracker Level which is one step below the highest tracking level achievable.

He runs his own ‘Guest Walk Experience’ to show guests an insight into how he tracks, and also gives an in-depth knowledge on his cultural roots, ending with a fun ‘Catapult Shoot Competition’ with the guests. Something which is enjoyed by all. See more about our walking safari here

Josia:
When Jaff is on leave, Josia picks up position as 2nd in charge. He also has a “Walk Experience” to share with the guests – ‘The Solitude Walk’. Not always easy keeping people silent throughout a walk. He is a very accomplished safari guide and brings in great humour and fun to his safaris.

Garonga Safari camp, guide, Josia, Phineas
Josia and Phineas

Samantha:
Samantha is currently attempting her Trails Guide, which will then enable her to also carry out walks, or to substitute if Josia is away. She is an extremely keen and enthusiastic guide, and very willing to go the extra mile to find the game for her guests.

Derrick:
One of the ‘old school’ who has been guiding for over 20 years. Derrick is a very accomplished and experienced guide. Although only just started with Garonga Safari Camp, he has fitted in very well with the ‘Safari for the Soul’ philosophy. We aim to up-skill him even more to enable him to lead more diverse safaris.

Sophie:
Although having just joined us via the Bushwise Training Programme, Sophie has been guiding for over two years. She has traded her legal career in the UK for her passion – guiding in the African bush. She can communicate confidently in French, and can get away with passable Spanish, which is extremely handy for our European guests. Sophie is very passionate and enthusiastic about her new-found career. Sophie is also an excellent photographer and has the added responsibility of sending video and image content as well as written copy for use on our website and social platforms.

Garonga safari camp, guide, tracker, Sophie, Kaizer
Sophie and Kaizer

Safari team – Trackers

Kaizer:
Kaizer teams up with Sophie and is very knowledgeable and has that 6th sense as to where the animals are heading. A very capable tracker indeed and converses well with our guests. He has just passed his FGASA 1 Level Guides Exam theory and practical, so he is also a qualified guide.

Phineas:
He teams up with Josia and always carries a great smile and sense of humour. Phineas is a very capable tracker and works extremely well with Josia, making them quite an amusing team. He also has just passed his FGASA 1 Level Guides Exam.

Richard:
Richard has been here the longest amongst the trackers and he teams up well with Jaff. A very thorough and experienced tracker. You may also come across Richard behind the Manhattan Bar in the Boma, serving after dinner drinks. Richard has also just passed his FGASA 1 Level Guide Exam.

Steward:
He tracks with Samantha, and is a very likeable, well-spoken and intelligent person. Steward is fairly new to tracking but has taken to it extremely well. He received top marks out of all the trackers for the FGASA 1 Level Guides Exam and so holds great potential.

Garonga Safari camp, guide, tracker, Samantha, Steward
Samantha and Steward

Bongi:
Bongi is a very enthusiastic tracker and teams up with Derrick. Being very new to the team, our aim is to get him fully qualified up to a FGASA 1 Level Guide over the next 3 months. We foresee him being a great asset to the safari team.

Garonga safari camp, guide, tracker, Derrick, Bongi
Derrick and Bongi

This is a big team with a big heart. Their responsibility is a great one as guests arrive full of hope and expectation to see as much wildlife as possible. Time and time again the team continue to deliver using their experience, knowledge and passion. Thank you to all at Garonga Safari Camp for your hard work, energy and commitment to your roles!

Here we leave you with just one example of a rare sighting to the delight and astonishment of our American guests…

Behind the Scenes at Garonga: Meet the Farm & Maintenance Team

Our small team with the big job of making sure everything runs as it should.

This month we are going further behind the scenes to meet the team of men who aren’t scared to get their hands dirty. They run a tight ship, making sure that everything at the lodge and on the farm is up and running as it should be. Their skills range from painting to plumbing and even mechanics for our vehicles. It’s for sure that things would grind to a halt without them.

Steffen:
Leading the team as Farm and Maintenance Manager, Steffen has been at Garonga for 18 months and is married to Charlotte (Safari Camp Manageress). Steffen is extremely committed to performing great tasks and always puts 110% into what he does.

Albert:
Having moved across from Makalali some 15 years ago, Albert is our Assistant Farm and Maintenance Manager. He is perceptive in finding any problems and resolving them. He is very committed and proud of his work. A great asset and someone who always has a smile on his dial!

Farm and Maintenance team at Garonga
Albert

Fixon:
Fixon has been on the Farm for over 30 years, since the previous owner of Garonga. This makes him extremely knowledgeable of where things are and capable of putting his hand to everything. He is also not afraid at all to get stuck into those drains! He is always happy to help out.

Farm and Maintenance team at Garonga
Fixon

Given:
Given oversees the Farmhouse area, which is considerable, and Bernie’s house in the afternoons. He is very proud of his work and ably assists in maintenance when required. A very keen footballer and a great team asset.

Patrik:
Having joined the team permanently 3 years ago, Patrik was originally only called in for casual work as and when we needed more hands. He is a very capable person on maintenance issues and also with vehicles. Patrik is very committed to his job.

Farm and Maintenance team at Garonga
Farm and Maintenance team

With this incredible team, Garonga is able to run like a well-oiled machine and we are forever grateful!

Behind the scenes at Garonga: Meet the Housekeeping Team

Meet the invisible angels … the ones who miraculously make up the rooms and public areas but nobody sees them.

We all know that cleanliness is high on the list of importance of running a lodge and these ladies are all very proud of their duties and responsibilities, and each take great care in presenting a clean, immaculate room. In addition to the rooms they also take on other duties such as laundry, preparing The Bush Bath, and setting up The Sleepout. Even though a lot rests on their shoulders, these ladies continue to work quietly and diligently through their tasks.

Introducing the team…

Buhle:
Buhle oversees the housekeeping and laundry department and is also our massage therapist, which she is brilliant at! Originally from Zimbabwe, Buhle has been at Garonga for over 3 years now. She has a great rapport with her team, and she takes on this additional responsibility with enthusiasm.

Margaret:
Margaret has been employed at Garonga since day 1, which speaks true to her loyalty. Her housekeeping duties are at Little Garonga and she performs her tasks extremely well and with great pride, knowing that it is only her responsible for the more luxurious rooms at Little Garonga.

Garonga House Keeping Team
Senty

Dorah:
Dorah has been at Garonga for 18 years now so is a seasoned veteran of looking after guest rooms. She is very quiet but gets on with her tasks with great determination and pride. Being an ex-school teacher, she is well respected by all staff and assists greatly with their personal queries.

Delphine:
Delphine is fairly new to the camp and has been with us for just over 3 years. Having suffered tragic family problems, it is admirable how she has continued her tasks with such pride and enthusiasm.

Senty:
Affectionately referred to as ‘The Scruffy One’, Senty is extremely proud of her appearance and very professional in her duties. She has been at Garonga now for 17 years and is a great asset to the team.

Garonga House Keeping Team
Senty

Christine:
Having been at Garonga for 18 years, Christine is responsible for laundry and the public areas of Little Garonga, as well as assisting Margaret when the camp is full. Christine has a great sense of humour and enjoys light banter which is always great fun to work with. She is extremely professional and proud of her work.

Garonga House Keeping Team
Eunice

Eunice:
Eunice has been at Garonga for 16 years. She has the great responsibility for the laundry at the main camp, which demonstrates her careful nature with what she does especially considering some guests’ clothing can be very fragile and expensive. She also ensures the cleanliness and tidiness of all the public areas and you will always see Eunice with a smile on her face.

Garonga House Keeping Team
Eunice

Phyllis:
Phyllis has been at Garonga for just over 8 years and has the unenviable task of looking after Bernie’s (otherwise known as ‘Mr. Grumpy’) house. Diligent and highly intelligent, Phyllis is always up for a good old natter and enjoys partaking in the occasional discussion on current affairs. She keeps Bernie informed on any staffing problems or issues so he can then sort them out quickly.

These ladies are all such an asset to our team and are an integral part of making Garonga what it is. They give the rooms that loving touch so when you climb into bed, it feels like home!

Behind the scenes at Garonga: Meet the reservations team

Find out more about the fun ladies behind the phone calls and emails

Studies show that first impressions are made within the first 17 seconds of meeting someone new and therefore selecting a team to handle reservations and guest enquiries is one of Garonga’s top priorities. They are the voice of the organisation which can make or break a booking.

Effective communication skills are the key to success in all areas of life and lack of this in a professional setting can lead to an error, misunderstanding, frustration and (in the case of a lodge), a dissatisfied potential guest that walks away and tells on average 9-15 other people about their experience.

But it’s not all serious. Yes, the reservations team must be extremely professional, informative, courteous and helpful but they also have to be fun people. They must be “people’s people” that form a friendly, informal connection with guests from the outset.

Garonga is blessed to have those qualities in the persons of Randee, Claire and Jen.

Randee September:

Randee at Garonga Safari Camp
Randee at Garonga Safari Camp

Randee has been consulting through her company ‘Pro-Active Reservations’ for over two years now. She has visited Garonga many times and knows the camp very well. She manages all enquiries from the agencies we work with.

Claire Long & Jennifer Harmse:

It is only recently that Bernie (owner of Garonga) has also chosen to have a separate department for direct bookings. This decision was made to ensure that more time can be spent dealing with each guest enquiry in a more personal manner, offering a far better user experience than if it was all dealt with by one department.

Claire is working with WildWeb which develops and manages the website and digital marketing. She comes from a tour operator background and so her knowledge and experience in this field is top notch.

Claire reservations Garonga
Claire Long

For Jennifer, this is her first full-time job after studying Travel & Tourism for 1 year prior to it.

Jennifer Harmse at Garonga
Jennifer Harmse

Garonga owner Bernie says, “I have tried managing reservations ‘in house’ before and although it is great to have all the information at your fingertips, it does create problems when staff members go on leave or depart. It is much more comforting to know that if a person moves on, is sick, or goes on holiday then the position is still covered by a professional at WildWeb.”

From feedback we have received we know that this set up is working and that Randee, Claire and Jen are doing a wonderful job. The system runs smoothly, and communication is efficient.

Thank you to the reservations team for helping to create and maintain that ideal first impression which has resulted in many a satisfied guest here at Garonga.

Behind the scenes at Garonga: Meet the Waiters

Meet the waiters at Garonga and hear about how they were ‘Under the Influence’ in the name of good service…

If you have ever had a wonderful meal and ambiance spoiled by an apathetic waiter then you will know what a difference a ‘service with a smile’ really makes to your dining experience. Waiters are a huge asset to any lodge and a vital ingredient in the customer service pie; they serve, they converse and they strike a relationship with the guests. But there is also a distinct difference between genuine or fake service which is easily noticed by diners. Here at Garonga the smile is real. We are very proud that our waiting staff simply seem to ooze courtesy, grace, interest and all round happiness.

The waiting role is varied and includes not only serving meals but also packing and unpacking of cooler boxes for safaris, constant cleaning and checking of items for meals as well as an in-depth knowledge of what is being served, pairing of wines, setting up of tables and stock taking.

Meet our happy chappy team:

Our waiting team on training in Cape Town
Our waiting team on training in Cape Town

Herfric
Herfric has been here since before Garonga opened as he started assisting on the farm once Bernie (owner) purchased the land. He has a heart of gold and will do anything for you. He oversees the department, and is also Head Butler at Little Garonga. When the Manager (Robert) is away on leave then Herfric stands in as Manager.

Aldrin
Aldrin has been at Garonga just over 4 years. He is extremely competent and quietly dedicated to his work. However he also has a comical streak and every now and again will perform a dance for the Guests. Aldrin is in charge of the waiters at the Safari Camp.

Courage
Courage has been at Garonga just over three years. He started at Little Garonga in the security department, then he became a casual waiter at Little Garonga. When an opening became available he was then employed permanently at Safari Camp. Courage is from Zimbabwe, he is very friendly and helpful and very amusing. He won Garonga’s ‘waiter prize’ in 2017 for the ‘most special wines sold’.

Bongani
Bongani has been employed at Garonga for just over two years. He is ‘the mischievous one’. He is extremely good with guests and has that knack of remembering names very easily.

Eric
Eric has been at Garonga for over a year. He started off in the security department at Little Garonga, and then an opening became available and he became a casual waiter at Little Garonga. Due to the occupancy success at Little Garonga, Eric now has a permanent position as a waiter there under Herfric. He has settled in very well and taken on the training extremely fast and competently.

Waiters ‘Under The Influence’
This programme was started in 2017 giving waiters the opportunity to excel in their sales skills. The prize was 5 days training with our main wine supplier in Cape Town called ‘Under the Influence’.

The competition endedon 28th February 2018 (just before our annual three week close down). Courage, as mentioned above, won the competition, however as a surprise Bernie (owner of Garonga) decided to send all of the waiters to do the training course. None of them had ever flown in a plane before, let alone been to the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town.

Garonga Safari Camp Waiting Staff
Our waiting team in Cape Town experiencing wine pairing with their meal

During the course they visited many wine farms, saw the whole process in action, had lectures and lessons, sat down for wine lunches (that was the toughest part of course!) and in the end completed a test which they all passed. They also saw a bit of Cape Town too. Not only was it meant to educate them even further on wines and therefore be able to sell them better on return, but was also meant to be a fun, engaging, motivating and bonding experience.  Big thanks to ‘Under The Influence’ for providing this great week of wine education!

Our team of waiters wait eagerly (with their big genuine grins) to welcome and serve you.