It all started with the Joneses.
The group of eight Americans were checking into Angama Safari Camp on March 22nd – in the brand new location for our beloved new mobile camp, and the team couldn’t have been more excited.
After weeks of preparation, including three days of meticulous set up at the most fantastic site along the Mara River, our guests finally arrived, and . . . they were not happy.
Panicked calls came flying in from our Camp Manager on site, as well as our Angama Safaris travel planner based in Johannesburg: the guests were more than unhappy, they were furious. Livid. Apoplectic. Something had to be done.
We rushed to the mobile camp site as quickly as we could, wondering along the way what went wrong, how we were going to fix it and, maybe most importantly, how we were going to help our team’s morale after they had worked so tirelessly only to have their efforts met with such negativity and ungratefulness.
As we rounded the final corner into camp, half ready to begin begging forgiveness of the guests and half ready to begin defending our staff at any costs, through the foliage we noticed a throng of people standing together – my god, were our staff having a face-off with our guests?!
Then the scene came into focus, and we realized . . . we recognized everyone there. Not a new face in the crowd. Members of our Johannesburg team and even one of our investors and his wife stood smiling broadly and welcomingly at our arrival.
“Surprise!” they shouted in unison as we climbed, bewildered, out of the car.
And then it hit us – we were the Joneses!
And so began an overwhelmingly humbling and emotional three-day send-off celebration, starting with two nights as the first guests at Angama Safari Camp’s newest site. It was absolutely glorious to enjoy the fruits of our labor with ASC, sharing the experience with our Angama family.
And my goodness, what a camp. It is everything Angama, but with a light footprint and properly immersed in the bush. Exquisite service, scrumptious food, thoughtful details and, of course, remarkable views in their own rite. Hippos, elephants, buffalo, and even a lioness graced the view from our verandah at the edge of the Mara River.
Our nights around the boma will forever be remembered: the first highlighted by an uproarious game of charades, the second by a heartfelt sharing of memories and sentiments of our time together over the last six-plus years.
But the surprises and fun didn’t stop there. Getting back to the lodge the next day, we found the Angama football pitch turned into an event field ready to host the “Davii Olympics,” with Teams Shannon, Tyler, Perrin, and Lulu facing off in a variety of competitions, from volleyball, to a sack race, to a cook-off (making Shan’s famous Sushi Stacks).
As always, these lodge-wide team-building events were a joyous riot, but the highlight of the afternoon, by far, was the coordinated military parade-style send-off from our Security Department.
This was one of the most unexpectedly moving things we’ve experienced in our time here. Dressed in their fatigues with fancy new Angama-branded caps, they came out of nowhere marching in lockstep, following the commands of former Presidential Guard and current Angama Head of Security, John Wayongo. The choreographed parade then culminated in the best rendition of Jerusalema we’ve seen. It was just so, so good. Our hearts swelled.
The party then moved to the garage, where the vehicles had been replaced by our canteen tables and a nyama choma* was awaiting us all, with the non-traditional surprise additions of pizza and burgers for us Americans. The team truly thought of everything.
The surprises kept coming as each department made a toast and presented us with a gift. The thoughtfulness and sincerity that went into each, from a painted family portrait from the Repair and Maintenance team, to beaded jewelry for Perrin and Lulu to wear on their respective wedding days from the Maasai Mamas in the Safari Shop, was touching beyond words.
Shan and I couldn’t keep the grins off our faces, to the point that our faces began to hurt, and we kept looking at each other in awe and appreciation: what in the world had we done to deserve this?
When the opportunity came for our turn at the mic, we were speechless. We simply could not find the words to express our gratitude for the amount of love and support we felt from our Angama family.
How, in the moment, we wished we could channel Steve Fitzgerald, who had the most uncanny natural gift for knowing the right thing to say with the perfect balance of humor and sincerity.
Shan and I feel that way still, even as we write this, unable to find the words that could ever convey how thankful and full of love we are for the Angama family, starting of course with Steve and Nicky for taking the world’s biggest flyer on us and treating us as family from day one, and extending to each and every one of our Angama brothers and sisters who became part of our cherished family.
And so all we can say is thank you. We are forever grateful and will carry each in every one of you in our hearts for the rest of our lives.
Thank you, thank you, an infinite number of times . . . thank you.
Nyama choma is traditional Kenyan barbecue, typically goat meat. Next time you visit us, ask our chefs to prepare some for you at BBQ.
Filed under: Inside Angama
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7 April 2021
What a wonderful and well deserved send off for the amazing Davis Family. We were so well taken care of during our visit by Shan and Tyler and wish them all the best
7 April 2021
What a story ,,,,💕 it live me with just a thought of how the place look like
7 April 2021
It was awesome to work with you guys much respect and love..stay safe and be blessed with your beautiful family until we will see you again. (Dj Freddiah)
7 April 2021
I’m sure Shannon and Tyler (and hopefully the children) will always remember their Angama family and their extraordinary life in Kenya which only a few get to experience. Tutakukumbuka!
7 April 2021
Tyler and Shannon Welcome back to the US! I feel honored I have met both you and have to say you guys and the Angama team were the most welcoming and loving lodge I have ever been to. May your future endeavors bring you much happiness and joy and prosperity. I hope one day our paths will cross again.
7 April 2021
Oh WOW! Such an incredible send-off. I'm speechless. Nicky Fitzgerald is a genius. I'm sure that she staged this entirely. I cannot stop my tears! Thank you, Asante Sana.
6 April 2021
I could feel the emotion and couldn't stop the tears. You all will be missed!!
The Angama Foundation
Lisa Yiu and Tim Hodges
10 April 2021
You may remember us because unfortunately we were your last two guests before shutting down last March. We loved our stay and will always remember the gracious hospitality you extended to us at a very difficult time. We are looking forward to the day we can return. We will be a little sad when that day comes and you won't be there to share the stories of the past year. Good luck to you. Have an amazing journey.