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When a ‘Laaitie’ Came to Stay

After years of working behind the screens of the safari industry, Iwan heads to the Mara to experience it for himself
Above: Cape Town, Johannesburg and the Mara – all together

As a relatively new member of the Angama Marketing Tribe (AMT), I was surprised to get a meeting invite spanning several days with little to no information attached to it other than the subject line reading: “Marketing Team — Angama”. I wondered: Are we really going to the Mara? Is this actually happening, or is this some sort of virtual multi-day induction that will surely force me into a Zoom coma? 

Seeing that I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, I chose to cautiously ignore the latter. 

My scepticism stems from the past few years working as an “IT laaitie” (South African slang for a small boy) in the safari industry, which rarely involves spending actual time at the properties. Days are filled with fixing bugs in the code rather than watching bugs being picked off a buffalo’s back by an egret. So, naturally, I was keen to be on the other side of the screen. 

Said buffalo and egrets
Said egret, but with a bigger meal

Cue the ‘80s guitar intro and fast forward a couple of weeks and there we were, propelling towards the plains of the Maasai Mara. Between spotting animals from the plane and the short drive from the airstrip, my bucket list of sightings was almost ticked off before getting to the lodge — and we hadn’t even been on our first game drive.

When we arrived at the lodge, an ensemble of massive smiles greeted us. It was a joyous event, where I didn't know anyone but for some reason, I was so happy to see them — fist bumps and bear hugs all around. I even saw Charlotte (a fellow AMT member), returning for the first time, wiping away a few tears. 

Smiles wider than the view

Whilst everyone was exchanging pleasantries, I couldn't help but gravitate up the path towards the main Guest Area to get a glimpse of that  view. Now, for those of you who are even slightly familiar with the lodge, you’ll know about Angama Mara’s iconic baraza. I have to say that I’ve gazed upon many a view in my day but this must surely be the best in Africa. It's one of those views that you  just feel.

George, Camp Manager and storyteller extraordinaire
The Guest Area all lit up at night
Dinner for 10 was never a challenge

We were welcomed to the lodge by our camp manager, George, a teddy bear of a man with a voice destined for Broadway. I soon learnt that between back-of-house meetings, my biggest decisions would be where to have dinner and what time to go on a game drive. 

We then had some time to check out our tented suites. If I were Angama's copywriter I would describe the room as Afri-Scandi; without being over the top, it was modern and elegant yet homey in a way that made you feel like you could stay a while — much how I imagine the inside of Wes Anderson’s brain would look like. Luckily, Ryan is in charge of the copy.

James Sadera will quickly become your new best friend (with or without drinks)
Leshan in his "office" giving us the lay of the land

I spent the next two days meeting with the department heads as part of my induction and quickly started to see why this place was so special. It actually isn’t the suites or the wildlife or even the sunsets — those may be the drawcards, but in the end when the guests leave they all say the same thing: It was the people that we fell in love with!

The passion around the camp is infectious. James Koikai, who runs Housekeeping, can tell you exactly how many hours the linen press will run on any given day, and Chef Evans is busy tracking guest preferences so that each group’s menu is tailored towards their likes and requirements. I was amazed by the operational maturity of the business; remember, this is not a hotel in a city where suppliers — or in fact, anything — is nearby. A lot of services that we take for granted, like the supply of water and electricity, had to be developed from scratch. 

And the photographers
There was always time for a quick cold one

My South African colleagues and I spent a great deal of time together with our team from the Photographic Studio, chatting all things Angama and generally getting to know each other better. It helps when the setting is on game drives in the Mara with Ken, our excellent guide. Every drive offered truly unique and spectacular wildlife sightings. We also had some birders in the group (the only time where the marketing team truly diverges) and Ken made sure to give them enough time to do what birders do best: confidently name the species to the rest of the group whilst ticking them off on some mysterious checklist that I assume is shared with peers at an annual birding convention. 

Telling tales around the fire

A highlight of the trip was the night spent at Angama Safari Camp. It’s like a little piece of the lodge got transported to the middle of the bush; this exclusive-use, mobile camp is set up just for you and your group with all the amenities and comforts that the main lodge offers. Of course, with just four tents sleeping eight, our greatest team-building exercise happened here — sharing tents.

The AMT (Angama Marketing Tribe)

Near the end of our trip, I found it quite difficult to sum up my experience. The best I could do was say it felt like I had become part of one big, warm, extended family. And I know it's not just because I happen to work there.

Filed under: Inside Angama

Tagged with:

Angama Mara , Angama Safari Camp , Angama Team

About: Iwan Lategan

Iwan manages all of Angama's digital tools and tech, coming up with creative solutions and ideas. Being motivated by innovation, excited by sustainability and inspired by travel makes this the perfect job for him. In his spare time, Iwan is the drummer in a band called 'Pear Rock Sugar.' Tour dates to be announced.

Browse all articles by Iwan Lategan Meet the angama team

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