44 Days of Delighting Guests (and runaway goats)

30 July 2015 | Inside Angama |

This is the story of where it all began, the days of delighting Angama Mara guests. From Out of Africa picnics and Maasai Blessings to family style dinners and “Vintage Africa” 17th birthday parties. There were hello's, goodbyes, lots of tears, lots more laughter and oh so many celebrations. Those first 44 days will never be forgotten.

Wikipedia grandly states: Forty-four is a tribonacci number, an octahedral number and the number of derangements of 5 items.

I haven’t the first foggiest idea what all that means but what I do know is that the Angama Mara family has managed to pack into 44 days and nights more effort, more laughter, more chaos, more energy, more creativity and more joy into making our guests’ stay with us more memorable than we ever believed possible.

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Before we celebrate the victories I must be honest and add that there have been a few tears along the way as we painfully discovered that getting it right all the time is not so easy. For some inexplicable reason this lovely family calls me Mama Kali (fierce, cross, grumpy, growly – pick anyone you think fits the bill). I, on the otherhand, think I am quite the opposite.

We had one particularly chaotic dinner when just everything that could go wrong went wrong. The next day Chef Collins summed it up by saying ‘We learnt three things: work as a team, don’t forget to turn on the deepfryer before our guests have sat down and PANIC’. There is a lovely new word I learnt this week from the wonderful A.Word.A.Day website: tohubohu: (pronunciation: TOH-hoo-BO-hoo) Meaning: chaos; confusion. Were the gods trying to tell us something I wondered?

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But there were heaps of moments where we got it right. In our first weeks we surprised recently married guests with a beautiful Maasai blessing ceremony; threw a ‘Vintage Africa’ 17th birthday party for a special young lady; invented a family-style dinner which the guests loved; spoiled a group of travel writers with an Out of Africa picnic lunch right on that very spot (you know the one – from the movie’s poster); had our first Shabbat dinner and our young guests taught the baker how to ‘weave’ a challah; welcomed our first honeymoon couple by hanging a beaded heart the on front door of their tent; learned how to tie the perfect bow on the perfect box for all the beautiful Patrick Mavros silver in our Safari Shop; hosted neighbours galore; welcomed travel partners a-plenty; delighted guests with Maasai story-telling; set up a beautiful private dinner at the swimming pool which of course got rained out but Plan B was a quick move into the Map Room, just as lovely; spoiled ourselves on a trial heli flip (coming soon for our guests); finally unpacked our library which Customs had been holding ransom for 4 weeks (were they reading the books, we wonder?) and prepared what felt like at least a thousand picnics.

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Then there were the family celebrations: we said hello to new staff members; Kate said YES to Mike; and just last night we wished our beloved Lesley Fox a sad farewell as she wraps up her work here with a Grand Nyama Choma attended by 130 tearful staff. On a lighter note, the goat destined for the Nyama Choma escaped the chef, dashed into the guest area, leapt clean over the pond and headed for refuge under the library table – but that is another story. Oh, and did I mention that Les is a vegetarian?

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Our second lovely camp (identical twin to the first) opens next week and we say goodbye and asante sana to the magnificent team of 500 builders and tent makers who have, in just 11 short months, created a lodge more lovely than we could ever have imagined.

PS – This was our best guest delight story: Our guest sent her much loved designer ‘torn’ jeans to our laundry and guess what? Yep – they were returned all beautifully darned. I LOVE this industry.

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AUTHOR: Nicky Fitzgerald

After more than 30 years in hospitality, starting with a small hotel at the foot of Africa and followed by a further couple of Cape hotels, most notably The Bay, and sixty plus safari lodges across Africa and India, Nicky has served more meals, puffed more cushions, filled more beds, trained more staff and opened more properties than she cares to remember. Her driving force is ‘will our guests love this?’ She has come full circle and is happily puffing, cooking, training and filling to her heart’s content high up on the edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley at Angama Mara.

COMMENTS (11)
Patty Lloyd
July 30, 2015

Beautifully written Nicky! I know that your second camp will be as successful as the first. Sending lots of love!

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Shiko Mburu
July 31, 2015

Lovely. I particularly love the bit of the jeans being ‘beautifully darned’ . Well done Team Angama! Pongezi!

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    Nicky
    August 2, 2015

    Thank you dear Shiko

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Glenn Garson Oltmanns
August 2, 2015

Nicky dear reading this makes me homesick for Angama. I’m thrilled you finally have the books. All the best xxxx Glenn.

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    Nicky
    August 2, 2015

    You will just have to come back xxx

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Cathy Steed
September 8, 2015

OMG Nicks! Reading this just makes me miss you more! I am warning you…I do intend on working with you incredible people again…I long for it. I may just surprise you and arrive spade and all in hand xxx

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Charlotte
September 8, 2015

Wonderful stories Nicky, I laughed as I read your tales. The lodge sounds incredible and I’m sure will be a great success as with all things that you do.
Wishing you and your team all the best and hoping to send many guests to you.

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James Currie
September 8, 2015

Wow! Wow! Wow! Nicky, you sure know how to make us all droolingly jealous….

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    Nicky Fitzgerald
    September 8, 2015

    Birds are fantastic right here outside our back door …. please come

    REPLY
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