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Indagare Insiders: Africa’s Top Female Luxury Lodge Managers 

There are few experiences that move the soul in the way that time on safari can, but part of what makes our members’ experiences so special is the opportunity to interact with lodge staffers—from the guides and butlers to the chefs and managers you meet along the way. In a predominantly male industry, many of Africa’s best luxury lodges are helmed by women. Here, Indagare spotlights a few of our favorite female lodge managers in Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda and Tanzania, who are making the safari lodge experience truly special.

Contact Indagare to help plan your safari experience and match you with the safari lodge that is best for you.

Dineo Garebamono, Camp Manager
Wilderness Safaris Vumbura Plains (South Camp), Okavango Delta, Botswana 

What do you find most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding part is being able to turn a challenging situation into a positive outcome—and having happy guests in camp.

What can travelers expect when they come to Botswana?
I am very confident that Botswana will be the trip of a lifetime. Vumbura Plains is situated in the heart of the Okavango Delta and offers an amazing array of activities, both on the water and on land. The most mind-blowing experience is the hot air-balloon flight over the delta, but my favorite activity is still the mokoro excursion (in a traditional canoe), because it makes me feel part of the delta. 

How did you prepare for your role?
It is very interesting and fun, because we have men within the company who are supportive. I feel very comfortable as a female manager, which inspired me to explore more traditionally male roles like guiding. I wrote the guide license exams and qualified for a professional guide license with the help of the male guides at Vumbura Plains. They supported me with amazing knowledge to prepare for my exams and practical. I am happy to work for Wilderness Safaris because it empowers women. I would like to remind all of  the women interested in working in the tourism industry that their involvement matters. 

Marinda Visagie, Lodge Manager
Singita Castleton Lodge, Sabi Sand, South Africa

Best part of your job?
I love that we host one group at a time, because this gives me the opportunity to really get to know them, so that we can give them personal service. We also have a lot of repeat guests that become just like family. I also work alongside my husband, Claude, and we have an incredible team at Castleton. Team does not explain the people I work with, they have become a family to me–what more can one ask for?

What activity or excursion do you recommend?
Castleton is private so families or friends can set the pace of their safari, with a full staff, including a chef, a host, Field Guide and private game drive vehicle. I really enjoy connecting guests to nature in this incredible private concession in Sabi Sand—whether that is setting up a picnic on our lawn and watching the resident birds or maybe hiding a cooler box with their favorite drink next to a stream so that the guests can sit with their feet in the water and  switch off and immerse themselves in the surroundings, the bush sounds and smells. That is a wellness experience!

How has the hospitality industry evolved since you started?
I am very proud of who I have become and what I have accomplished over the years.  The industry welcomes any race and gender and I believe this is what keeps it so incredibly interesting, satisfying and exciting. Singita is very supportive of female managers and staff and I have received incredible guidance over the years and we have a lot of very talented, strong women in the company. There are incredible people out there that will support you through your journey. It is very important to stay true to yourself and stick to your word.

Anita Umotoni, Camp Manager
Wilderness Safaris Magashi Lodge, Akagera National Park, Rwanda 

Why do you love what you do?
I love hosting people from different parts of the world, offering personalized service and also supporting my team in different departments. When I am challenged, that’s how I grow. I started in the housekeeping department, and now I am a camp manager. It’s not how small you start, but how big your dream is! 

Do you have any tips for women who are interested in joining the industry?
We are capable—as long as we are equipped and ready for it, we can do as great of, or an even better job, as men. It’s like that saying, If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.

What should travelers know about Rwanda right now?
I would like travelers to know that this is the time for Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the best, if not the best, destinations for tourism. Its stunning scenery, diverse wildlife and warm, friendly people offer unique experiences—visiting Gorillas in Virunga National Park, seeing the Big Five in Akagera National Park, visiting chimpanzees in Nyungwe or Gishwati-Mukura National Park.

Annemie Parker, General Manager
Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, Moremi Game Reserve,Okavango Delta, Botswana

Tell us about your job.
At Chief’s Camp, I get to be so close to nature and do the job I love. Meeting guests from all over the world and being involved in every aspect of their stay is what makes me love my job. But really it’s not just a job, it’s a passion! It’s a tough industry that requires lots of hard work, dedication and sacrifices, but seeing guests leave, changed after the experience that we created for them, is worth all of that. Do what you love and love what you do!

What is your favorite activity or excursion in the region?
A trip out on a mokoro. This is an extremely tranquil, peaceful experience gliding through the reeds with the sound of water lapping against the boat. It makes you feel like you are the only person in the world!

Joyce Moikangoe, Lodge Manager
Serengeti House, Serengeti, Tanzania

What do you love about the way your team works?
I enjoy seeing my team energetic and working seamlessly to ensure guests feel at home. We enjoy interacting with guests (especially around the fireplace) and forming a connection—and telling stories. Seeing their happy smiles fuels our energy to deliver a world-class product and service.

How do you set your team up for success?
Ensuring that your vision is realized by your team is of the utmost importance. Being consistent with the way you manage and leading by example is also key. Taking the time to get to know your staff outside of work and creating an environment where they feel confident and are happy has helped me a lot in my role. You have to really love what you do and give it 100 percent at all times!

What should travelers know about Serengeti House?
I would like them to know that Africa is a beautiful continent that still has the raw and authentic beauty to it and that safaris are the best way to experience nature. The Grumeti Fund protects this private concession with many incredible conservation and community projects. Singita is a conservation brand with a 100-year purpose to protect large areas of Africa for future generations, so guests can leave a safari knowing they have made a difference.

Kelly Rickan, Quality Control Manager
Legendary Expeditions, Tanzania

What’s the best part about your new role at Legendary?
In my new role, I get to do all the things I truly love–travel, design and training. I am fortunate to be involved in the refurbishment process of our Legendary Serengeti Mobile and Mila Camps, and I can tell you, they are going to be gorgeous! Sometimes the job has its challenges, especially working in an Afro-centric culture where men traditionally lead, but I enjoy winning the staff over, showing them that ladies are just as capable as men and that we have a lot to offer. I can’t imagine myself in any other career!

What should travelers know about Tanzania right now?
Tanzania has so much to offer! I was surprised by how diverse the country was when I arrived five years ago and I am still exploring and learning new things all the time. I encourage guests to take the time to meet with local tribes, just sit and exchange life stories. They want to know about you, just as much as you want to learn about their culture. Also take the time to just go with the flow—Africa moves to a slower beat.

What is your must-do recommendation?
Quietly sitting with the magnificent elephants of Tanzania, I find them so calming and human-like. I could spend hours just watching them interact with each other, drinking from the watering hole in front of Mwiba Lodge or simply feeding.

Saraphina, Assistant Lodge Manager
Legendary Lodge, Arusha, Tanzania

Your favorite thing about your job is…
Providing the best service beyond guest expectations and getting “wow” feedback—and seeing smiley, happy people and listening to the clients telling me about their day.

What do you want future travelers to know about Tanzania?
Tanzania is a peaceful country with a lot of attractions—environmental, cultural and historical.

Your best advice?
If you don’t believe in yourself, then it’s going to be impossible to make others believe in you, too. Never stop learning. Nothing is impossible as long as you have a great attitude that spreads to everyone else around you. 

Agnes Kairu, Assistant Manager
Sasaab Lodge, Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

What do you do at Sasaab?
My role encompasses anything and everything! First and foremost, my priority is to ensure that guests’ expectations are exceeded from the time they book up until they wave goodbye. Next comes making sure all of our employees are happy and healthy and carrying out their roles to the best possible standard. Then there’s the admin and the health and safety of the lodge, as well as property maintenance and environmental management. And I also liaise with headquarters to manage all of our supplies—and food! 

Your favorite part of your job?
There’s never a dull day! But the best bit by far has to be hosting and meeting our amazing guests from all corners of the world—and when they talk about how incredible and beautiful our country and culture is because of their experience. 

What is it like being a female manager in a male-dominated industry?
Not easy! But I know how to hold my own. Be confident that you will become who you want to be, and you’ll get there. 

Tell us something future travelers should know about Kenya….
Well, I know I’m biased, but Kenya is without a doubt the most beautiful country in East and Central Africa. And we are the most kind and loving people in Africa, that I know. The opportunities for incredibly close encounters with the big five here are unbeatable. When you come up close to animals in the wild, your heart just doesn’t stop beating. Fly camping under the stars is also a truly magical experience. Conservation here is a big focus and it is making a difference to people, animals and our environment, which is so important for our future.

Contact Indagare to help plan your safari experience and match you with the safari lodge that is best for you.

– Avery Carmichael on September 10, 2019

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