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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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