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Please Don’t Ask Nicky What Comes Next

40 years ago, on 10 July 1982, Nicky stood at the front door of the 11-roomed Arniston Hotel on the southernmost tip of Africa and welcomed her first guests. 60 plus hotels and lodges later — with a few restaurants thrown in for good measure — she bids farewell to an industry she loves deeply
Above: Nicky welcoming our first guests on 23 June 2015

This feels exactly like writing my obituary. Speaking of obituaries, the one accomplishment of my life I would like mentioned come that final farewell is, ‘Nicky considered her greatest work achievement as playing a role in creating over 4000 jobs across Africa and India.’ Yes, finding beautiful wilderness locations, building handsome lodges, hotels and restaurants, choosing and installing perfect finishes and furniture, and preparing delicious meals are one thing. Finding, training, inspiring, growing and working alongside people who share your purpose is surely the greatest gift of all. My final blog as founder, CEO, chef-trainer, guest-delighter, guest-finder, nagger-in-chief of Angama on 28 June 2022 will be dedicated to the remarkable men and women who have accompanied me on this madcap adventure of a lifetime.

Budgets 'n babes

If one more person asks me any of the following questions, I will simply have to bop them on the nose: 'Retire? You will be bored stiff.' 'You know you won’t last a minute?' 'Why?' 'Have you really given this some thought?' 'How are you going to fill your days?' 'This is not really retirement, is it?' Blah blah. What these caring people don’t know is that this is my 4th attempt at retirement and this time it is for real. Take it from me.

What's next? Not a clue

After 15 rollercoaster, wonderful years at CC/Conscorp/CCA/CC Africa/&Beyond and growing that business from 3 lodges in South Africa to 55 across 6 African countries, including 4 in India just because, I firmly told Steve in 2009, 'I am done and done'. We scampered around Latin America for a couple of exciting but fruitless years and I experienced the great joy of being on Babylonstoren’s launch team. Then one fine day in April 2013 Steve’s phone rang. This was followed by a swift departure for Kenya and on his return, beaming from ear to ear, told me to forget about retirement because we were going to build one (little) last lodge. Little indeed. 0 to Nicky; 1 to back-to-work.

Chuppa-ing up a storm
All in a day’s work (he got the shot)

After the heart-breaking loss of Steve in 2017, only 2 years after we opened our delicious (huge) monster up on the edge of the Rift Valley, I was asked by my board to please take over as CEO. Just for 12 months, they said. The title of my memoir will be one of the following: The Unwilling CEO; The Unwitting CEO; The Pretender. This was absolutely the last role I ever wanted. But of course, I stepped up and carried on. 0 to Nicky; 2 to stick-at-it-girl.

How much Nicky loves the Mara Triangle

After a smashing 2019 and with the business looking set to soar, I asked my board 'Pleeeeeeease may I retire on 31 December 2020?'. Done, said the board. And then something happened on 16 March 2020 that blew that right out of the window. President Kenyatta closed the country, and I withdrew my retirement request. No ways could I jump ship during a pandemic. 0 to Nicky; 3 to Covid

Enough said
Per Nicky, this pretty much sums up Covid

Okay, I said but how does 30 June 2022 sound? Now I was starting to whimper and whine. Yes, said the board, as they simply couldn’t stand this unseemly behaviour a moment longer. So, if anyone thinks this is a knee jerk decision, please reread what I have written. The business is flying, the team is the best, opportunities are a-plenty and Mitch is (more than) ready to take over and grow Angama to greater heights. My beloved Kate will carry on doing what she does best — telling our story and finding the lifeblood of our business: guests and more guests. I am so proud of what she has achieved since before we welcomed our first guests nearly 7 years ago.

Passing the baton to 'Mitch'

This is not goodbye as I will be on (the other side of) the board table; I will remain as a shareholder and I will be buzzing in Mitch’s ear for the next 18 months. What fun that will be.
 
So please don’t ask me ‘What next?’ as I have no clue.

What the future holds: R&R

Filed under: Inside Angama

Tagged with:

Angama Pride , Angama Staff , Angama Team , Inside Angama , Team

About: 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.

Browse all articles by Nicky Fitzgerald Meet the angama team

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Join the Conversation (13 comments)

Comments (13):

Francis Bagbey

14 July 2022

Nicky, I do not recall how I first heard about Angama...it must have been in one of my many travel newsletters/magazines...but it was very soon after that June 23, 2015 opening. I have followed the Angama journey ever since but just never made it there!! I regret that when I do get to Angama, you will not be there. Would have loved to have met the person who has made, and somehow will continue to make, a positive difference in the lives of people, especially those in vulnerable communities. Steve and you are examples of people with vision who create a plan, execute the plan, modify it as needed, and then maintain it and improve it over time. Very few accomplishments happen by chance...it's the Vision Thing that gets the ball rolling and deep commitment that keeps it rolling when challenges and difficulties inevitably arise. Well, perhaps it's now time to relax, have a g&t, and read a good book...or better yet, begin to pen the story of your life's journey. Best wishes for all the good times to come! Francis

Shirley Williams

10 March 2022

Hats off to a remarkable women

Willie Carballo

9 March 2022

Dear beloved Nicky, You will never "retire", soul is there for ever - Africa. For Teresita - me & our team Fitz will be always our "light" in that continent. Tell Angama team that we are in our region for what they need. Kate & Mitch....here we are. Love from Latin America

Maranga Gesare Maggie

9 March 2022

Nicky, Congratulations on your retirement. I am waiting for my turn. All de'best, Maggie

Sue Gamblin

9 March 2022

All the very best for a very relaxing and fulfilling future Nicky. I know your life will continue to be full of adventures as that is the sort of person you are! In Angama you and your family have created a truly magical place where I know your spirit and ethos will continue to thrive. It was a pleasure meeting you and I hope to again in the future.

Dave Southwood

9 March 2022

biggest hug Ever! please I want first dibs on the book simply titled Nicky! all of us who have had the privilege to know you Love you madly.

BRUCE RAVENHILL

9 March 2022

Congratulations, Nicky - ‘Making the World a better Place’ - is a well earned accolade - certainly the for 4,000 people that found purpose in the employment - not to mention the many more clients that have benefited from time out in the wonders of nature. You have another very noble & fulfilling role to play as a Grandmother - and you are now eligible to join GONE Inc as a Vice President - the portfolio includes Walkabout - which means being chilled & have the time to realise how much there is still to learn & experience. Best wishes Bruce Ravenhill

Janet Beilstein

8 March 2022

Congratulations Nicky on your retirement! You have definitely lived up to Roedean’s motto of “Living a Life of Significance”.

Francis Bagbey

8 March 2022

"What next?" Ha, ha. Glad you will stay in touch for awhile. Just sorry I never made it to Angama before your official farewell. Have wonderful moments with your grandchildren. Maybe one of them will be drawn to the hospitality business so pass on your knowledge of and insights about how to create and maintain a guest, staff, and experience focused enterprise. All the best, Nicky! Francis

Nancy Decker Davidson

8 March 2022

I have known you a long time my friend and I am so happy for you. Should you find yourself in your travels in Southern California we must have a celebration dinner. Enjoy your time with family and friends!! Cheers, xoxo Nancy

Sylvia M Berman

8 March 2022

Go Girl.....

Samwel Nampaso

8 March 2022

That's a matriarch story how much I wish you cold help me be that good guide

Charlotte Smith

8 March 2022

You certainly deserve the long await R&R Nicky, you are a legend in the industry and have given so much back!

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