September 2021

Valerie Makunungunu has created a home at Singita Pamushana 

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Valerie Makunungunu has created a home at Singita Pamushana 

Sharing a deep-seated love for Africa’s wildlife and wilderness, Singita’s guests are typically like-minded advocates for conservation, and their alignment with our vision empowers us to stay committed to the protection of the continent’s natural legacy.

Life-changing safari experiences with the passionate individuals at the heart of our brand add to the strength of this unique community – and our collective dedication to Singita’s 100-year purpose. Throughout all of our regions, we’ve seen the Singita family grow and evolve, and witnessing team members rising through the ranks as they find their true calling is not just heartwarming – it’s also an essential component of our intuitive guest experience.

Valerie Makunungunu joined Singita in 2013 as a front-of-house anchor, and over the past eight years, her hard work and joyful spirit has seen her progress first to Assistant Lodge Manager, before finally being promoted to Lodge Manager in 2019.

WATCH for a tour of Singita Pamushana, where Lodge Manager Valerie Makunungunu has spent eight years honing her hospitality craft

Led by purpose 

Her passion and resilience has allowed her to thrive in this role, but it’s her love of people that she credits for leading her to Pamushana in the first place. “I had always wanted to be a chef but at the time, business was the more sensible option to follow. I went on to do a double major in Marketing and Management but in my first year of working, I still felt unfulfilled,” she explains. Finally moving over to hospitality management, the pieces clicked into place. “I fell in love with hospitality and being around people, creating unique experiences for guests,” she says. 

With a family entrenched in Zimbabwean conservation – her mother was the HR Director at our non-profit partner The Malilangwe Trust in 2003 – it seemed only natural that after working for various hospitality brands, she’d find herself at Singita. While familiar with the property during her mother’s tenure, she had never visited the lodge. “I would say my mother encouraged me to write my own story. This has been the best decision I have made in my career. It’s more than just a job for me, it’s a way of life.” 

Valerie's desire to create unforgettable experiences for guests drew her to a career in tourism, from which she's never looked back

Communication meets calling 

With a position that spans everything from guest experience, to managerial and admin related work, Valerie is hands-on in many aspects of the daily running of Singita Pamushana Lodge and Malilangwe House, from welcoming guests back from morning activities to helping the kitchen tailor special culinary experiences. “I interact with as many staff as possible daily and get insight on what is happening behind-the-scenes.”

This engagement and interaction is the source of Valerie’s greatest job fulfilment. “I’m happy when I know others are happy too. When a guest first walks through our four pillars and you see their eyes light up at the view of the Malilangwe Dam, and the even bigger smiles when they leave us! That always sparks a light in me to know I am part of something special,” she says. 

Engaging with people - whether that's her team, who have become like family, or the guests who come to stay - is the greatest source of Valerie's job fulfilment

But it’s also nature that gives her work its meaning - being surrounded by the wild and its wonders, knowing that she plays a role in bringing people to Africa and into contact with the vast magnificence that is the Malilangwe Reserve. A likeminded team too, allows her to feel that this is truly home. “My team has become my family, and working closely with them and knowing I impact their lives in a positive way gives me purpose. I have learnt that for respect to be earned, it must be given first, so a listening ear and objective mind is always the best approach when dealing with people,” she adds. 

In addition to working with people, being part of preserving nature is a source of pride for Valerie

A perfect fit 

Valerie, through her holistic and hands-on leadership style, embodies Singita’s values of collaboration, teamwork, empathy and respect – for people and the environment. “My journey with Singita has opened my world to fulfilling opportunities. I have grown as an individual and I keep learning each day. It is necessary to question every day the impact we have on the environment and as Singita staff, we are custodians of these beautiful landscapes, filled with the riches of nature,” she says. Valerie sees every day as an opportunity to share Singita’s vision to protect this wilderness for future generations with guests. “We meet like-minded, influential people that can help us make a difference and raise awareness about conservation and the effects of human-wildlife interactions. I am privileged to be part of that and am committed to learning and influencing those around me to see life through the same lens,” she adds. 

Implementing Singita's vision for safeguarding the wilderness areas of Africa for the benefit of future generations and wildlife every day, Valerie shares our 100-year purpose

Explore the spaces Valerie calls home, the magical Malilangwe Reserve, and our lodge and exclusive-use villa, Malilangwe House here >

Julia Freemantle
By Julia Freemantle
Author