September 24th, 2018
As a camp manager in the African bush one does require an extremely wide variety of skills. In fact, I don’t think that there are many jobs in the world which require such an imaginative diversity of abilities and, quite frankly, a degree in hospitality does not prepare one for such a challenge. Over the years I have observed a stream of highly qualified young people arrive at a number of the camps where we have worked, fresh out of some of the greatest universities in the world, with a shiny new degree, on a mission to change boutique lodges into corporate, streamlined, super-efficient ‘cookie cutter’ hotels: - only to find that working in the African bush does face one with a variety of challenges not covered in a university curriculum,
We were no different when we started running remote lodges here in Kenya. From our very first day and up until this moment in time, we learned, and continue to learn not just the basic procedures in running a lodge, but also how to survive when rivers rise ten feet unexpectedly overnight, cars are washed away, airstrips become unusable, and of course when a country is thrown into chaos dues to a political uncertainty as we were a decade ago. Catching and removing snakes, dealing with snakebite, childbirth, stitching up people and animals, fixing cars, not running out of supplies, producing various delicious four-course menus, maintaining boreholes and generators. Just another day in the life of a lodge manager.
The list goes on: entertaining people from all cultures, repairing and maintaining buildings, plumbing, electricity, telecommunications, ordinary communications, community negotiations, labour negotiations, horse riding, ostrich riding, sailing, surfing, scuba diving, fishing, drinking, singing, photography, playing every sport under the sun including midnight soccer........but I can tentatively suggest that, other than brain surgery, I think we along with all camp managers can probably handle most things.
Most people that have been successful in camp management do end up being rather over qualified by the time they return to “civilization”. Many of these skills that having no practical use in normal life! We are an odd brotherhood, with a collection of abilities developed solely to look after our adventurous overseas visitors, to make sure they return home safe with wonderful memories of their safari in Kenya.
The reason for this rambling background is to help you understand why we felt perfectly confident in our abilities to improve The Emakoko’s facilities by adding a private house at the top of the cliff overlooking the river. We could do it all while still running the lodge: we would not need a builder, we wouldn’t need a landscaper, or an interior designer, etc; we would do this ourselves, we were more than capable! At the start, I had completely forgotten how frustrating it was running a building site and a lodge.ccEspecially when we started in the most torrential rains that the country had had for decades, and on a site where the road turned into a quagmire in the heavy rains.
We did, in our organized way, plan and print a Schedule of Works with a completion date, which, even with our off the beaten track location, seemed achievable. It all made perfect sense and we had allowed a very generous period of time for the entire project. Considering all possibilities, I had, very sensibly, added on a day or two or a week or two here and there to allow for all eventualities. Wow what an optimist!! No matter how detailed the planning nothing prepared me for the reality. Delays were the order of the day. One order in particular which should have taken 24 hours to deliver finally arriving six weeks later. By the end of it, it was likely that next person who told me that an item was ‘on the way coming’ or arriving tomorrow was likely to be criminally assaulted on the spot.
After all the problems and frustrations finally in little over 5 months it was complete…. our Private House was born! A really great feeling to see the finished product ready for business. What started out as a two- bedroomed facility finally turned into a well-appointed extremely comfortable house complete with an Infinity Pool, private bar, kitchen, dining room and lounge. I think a number of our friends still believe that the house is built for our own convenience but alas, the popularity has been so great that from the moment we opened it there has not been an opportunity for this family to even have a dip in the pool!
We are both so very proud of what we have built, and look forward to the house ‘settling’ into the environment and the wildlife getting used to this latest addition. Already we have a flock of starlings that have turned the infinity pool lip into their own water bath. It won’t be long before Koko the leopard uses the pool as a watering hole in the dead of night. My horses have already spied the green grass that surrounds the house and when the house is quiet they sneak in and eat as much as they can, destroying the lawn and sending the ground staff into paroxysms of rage!. Annoyingly, we have had to put up a small fence to keep them out as I fear it will not be long before they end up in the pool. My mare is a particular water-lover and I see her eyeing the pool with great interest....
Other than the private house going in, we have had a wonderful summer season and had some fabulous visitors in the lodge. We look forward to welcoming some of you to The Emakoko and our private house next year. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how many times airlines manage to temporarily lose luggage. I have lost count of the number of people who have arrived missing a bag. For some reason it is always the ladies’ bags that go missing, with all the items so necessary for a holiday in the bush. NOT the best way to start a Safari… but like all the challenges we face we always manage to solve such problems.
On a final note, we are expecting a little girl, due in early January. We are obviously delighted with the news and look forward to welcoming the new addition to the Childs family. Our children cannot wait for another member of the team to join and I have not yet mentioned the small details that when she does arrive, she will not be able to swim, play rugby, netball, ride a bike or do anything fun for a few years.......I will let them find out in January!