Towards the end of last year, we kicked off a series of profiles on some of the members of our team. These #SingitaStories introduced blog readers to the amazing women who run Singita Sweni Lodge, an ex-poacher who became a pastry chef and one of the most respected wildlife trackers in the world.
The first in this series was the story of Michael Matera, then Senior Sous Chef at Singita Sasakwa Lodge. Michael worked his way up from the position of Grounds Attendant at Singita Sabora Tented Camp to assisting in the staff kitchen, where he learned the basic cooking skills that would set him up for a career as a chef. After many long hours at the stove, lots of extra lessons and taking an English course to improve his language competency, Michael was promoted to the main guest kitchen. He flourished here and was subsequently named Tanzanian Chef of the Year, and Senior Sous Chef under Executive Chef, Frank Louw.
Michael Matera and Frank Louw
We are very proud to report that Michael continues to be an asset to the team at Singita Grumeti. After another year of hard work and dedication, he was recently promoted to the role of Chef at Singita Sabora Tented Camp. This is especially significant as Michael is the first Tanzanian to hold this position, and as Frank remarks, “makes him an inspiration to so many other young Tanzanians wanting to make a change in their lives.”
Michael’s experiences have inspired him to pass on the knowledge and enthusiasm he has developed for cooking over the past ten years. He says: “Training is my passion. I love seeing staff growing in front of me and knowing that I had a small contribution to their new future”. This philanthropic attitude is a striking reminder of one of Singita’s core principles; to make a tangible difference in the lives of the people living and working in and around its lodges.
Michael Matera and his kitchen team at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, Tanzania
Warm congratulations to Michael for this wonderful achievement! We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on his progress at the lodge. You can read all the “People of Singita” blog posts here, and also watch the #SingitaStories videos on our Vimeo channel.
Like many of the trackers who work at Singita, Eksoni Ndlovu grew up in a small rural community near the Kruger National Park. He learned the basics of tracking and animal interaction as a young man, while tending his family’s cattle and keeping them safe from wild animals. He has since spent more than 23 years honing his craft as an expert tracker and is respected the world over for his skill and perseverance.
“Tracking is an art, not everyone can do it. You need to be patient and you need to be persistent… A good tracker needs to think like an animal. They need to listen, keep quiet and always be aware.”
Eksoni’s passion for wildlife conservation is apparent to all those around him. He spends a considerable amount of time passing on his knowledge and experience to apprentice bush rangers so they too can help to preserve this beautiful wilderness. “I’m giving my skills to the community because I want them to learn and follow in my footsteps”.
Guests also play an important role in protecting, maintaining and enhancing the land. Enos, one of the guides, observes: “We are giving back to conservation by educating our guests about the animals and how we take care of them for future generations.” Singita not only preserves large tracts of land but also works to ensure that people like Eksoni pass on their knowledge to others and in so doing preserve this ancient skill.
Watch this short video to learn more about Eksoni’s story:
Find out more about Singita’s conservation efforts on our website. You can also share this and other #singitastories via our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
There is one word that appears over and over again in the guest book at Singita Sweni Lodge, and it is “family”. It’s not only the visitors to this tranquil, intimate hideaway who feel like part of our family, but also our staff; the men and women who make up the Super Sweni Team! This group of experienced professionals care for our guests with humility and good humour, while sharing the bond of enduring friendship with one another.
Angelique Helmchen, Lodge Manager
Lucky Legong, Amukeri
It is a close-knit group whose passion and positivity manifests in every aspect of their work, making a trip to Singita Sweni Lodge a truly magical experience. Lucky Legong is the lodge amukeri, someone who welcomes and looks after the guests, which she does with her warm smile and trademark enthusiasm. “Behind the scenes there is a lot of singing, a lot of laughter. It’s a very nice, loving, supportive environment.”
Thabela Mashile, Banakeli
Oriel Mbowane, Sous Chef
Each team member, while responsible for a key part of the operation of the lodge, also complements the others by stepping in to help whenever necessary. As sous chef Oriel Mbowane says, “Sweni angels are always smiling, hard working, always going that extra mile”. Together, this dedicated and spirited group ensure that every visit to Singita Sweni Lodge feels like coming home.
Beauty Mashego, Banakeli
This year we are telling the extraordinary stories of our staff members, the people of Singita who make a visit to our lodges and camps completely unforgettable. Please share these stories via our social media channels and follow the hashtag #singitastories for more.
If you have been an avid reader of our blog and monthly Wildlife Reports, then the name Saitoti Ole Kuwai won’t be new to you. He is a regular contributor to the bush ranger diaries from Singita Grumeti, where he works as a field guide, and his photographs often feature in our Highlights posts.
Saitoti is a proud Masai and grew up in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania, where he took his first steps towards his future profession by learning how to track animals from other tribesmen. He was inspired to follow a career in wildlife conservation after seeing the effects of poaching first hand, and pursued his formal training before joining Singita in 2005.
He describes his work in the Serengeti as “an honour and a big privilege” and is completely dedicated to the protection and conservation of African wildlife for future generations. “My day starts in the dark; I always wake up at 4 o’clock. It’s early in the morning but you can still hear things like hyena and jackal calling and that tells me that the bush is awake.”
To Saitoti, game drives are like fishing, where the vast plains are an endless sea and you never know what you’re going to catch. He says: “What’s needed for you is the passion, the passion to wait.”
“I love to tell guests about the traditions, culture, customs and lifestyle of my tribe. The best thing about my job is being involved in ensuring the health and growth of the area’s wildlife. Living in close harmony with animals is important because through them we learn so much.” Watch the video to learn more about this dedicated conservationist:
This is the second in our #singitastories series, introducing you to some of Singita’s team members. We previously featured Time Mutema, a field guide at Singita Pamsushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. Browse our Vimeo channel for more about the people of Singita, interesting wildlife sightings and to see the inspiration behind all our lodges and camps.
The lives of the people who work at Singita are inevitably entwined with the unspoiled wilderness in which our 12 lodges and camps can be found. Their stories weave through forests, over endless landscapes, and along flowing rivers, touching the lives of our guests and travellers along the way.
In this series of #singitastories, we’ll introduce you to some of Singita’s team members; people who dedicate their lives to sharing their passion for Africa. Each tell their story through film – bringing their experiences to life. Follow as we unfold these #singitastories over the next few months and we hope your hearts will be captured as much as ours.
First is this series is Time Mutema, a fully certified, professional field guide working at Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. He grew up fishing and birding with his friends, and knew from a very young age that he belonged outdoors. He has a lifelong devotion to the bush and all that it inspires. Watch this short film to learn more about Time:
For more of our film and video clips, browse our Vimeo channel for inspiration. You can also stay up-to-date with the latest #singitastories by subscribing to our newsletter using the short form on the right.