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After the Dust has Settled

Last November, Angama Amboseli emerged from a cloud of salty dust — this is a story from the thick of it
Above: Dust baths are better suited for wildlife

'I woke up this morning with dust on my teeth', a lovely quote from an aunt of mine repeatedly rang through my ears during the installation of Angama Amboseli last October. It hadn’t rained since April, construction had been going for 12 months and the fine, salty dust that Amboseli is known for was everywhere. It was like installing a brand-new lodge in a dust bath.

The fine mesh screens in the Guest Suites provided glorious views of Mount Kilimanjaro and worked beautifully to keep out the ‘dudus’ (insects) but did little to prevent the dust from seeping in. Khalid and his team of Suite Stewards (and anybody who could lend a hand) mopped and wiped and no sooner had they finished an area did they have to start all over again.

Khalid leads a team of mop-wielding heroes
Nobody was exempt, including the Photographic Studio and marketing team

There was also a 60-person strong landscaping team on site, planting grass and trees and rehabilitating the land, providing privacy for guests in between the suites, and returning the land to its natural state. Between the various truckloads of just about everything you can imagine being delivered — not to mention the trucks themselves — sometimes it felt like we were fighting a losing battle. We would hear an almighty thud as it would unload and watch as the fine brown entered the air and blanked the surrounds.

Just some of the landscapers busy digging and planting
You could do nothing without leaving a cloud of dust in your wake

But still, we plodded on – installing, sweeping, mopping, dusting and wiping over and over and over again. At the end of each day, we washed the dust from our faces and clothing and began each day anew with fresh Kenyan coffee, mandazi, and fruit, with aprons on and off we’d go. There had been some talk of rain and while we’d had a few days of gentle sprinkles, it was over and dried up before it had even begun. The local rumour we had heard was that the seasonal rains would only come once the construction had ended and the builders had left.

Claris, Annemarie, Alison and Eden, armed with aprons and cloths
All smiles in the final countdown

The days blurred together and the countdown to opening reached the end and the all carefully laid plans for the opening celebrations were in motion. We finally hung up our aprons and put the cleaning equipment away to welcome the community, our suppliers and our colleagues from across the country and continent. As we waited for the dignitaries to arrive and cut the ceremonial ribbon, a group of Maasai women from the community began to sing a song that quickly turned into a chant with other Maasai members in the audience. Camp Host, George Nato, must have seen the curious expression on my face as he said to me, 'They’re praying for the rain; they’re asking the heavens to bless Angama.'

After the day of celebrations was over, we returned to the Guest Area just before sunset, ears still ringing from the 1,000-strong jamboree. The quiet stillness of the lodge was heavenly. Exhausted yet jubilant, a few of us gathered around the Baraza and sat silently reflecting on the day with a celebratory glass of bubbles. I noticed a herd of ellies in front of us calmly grazing, but as we sat, the whole herd slowly came towards us, closer than they had ever been during construction or installation. Perhaps they felt the unusual and new sense of tranquillity and that drew them in, but it felt as if they were also celebrating the moment with us.

A welcoming committee showed up on the opening evening

That night, it rained. Not just any old thundershower, it absolutely poured for hours, completely flooding the new roads. As I lay listening to the glorious sound of the pitter-patter, I was drawn back to the Maasai chanting and couldn't help but feel that Angama had indeed been blessed by the community and welcomed to the land by the wildlife.

The blessings continued, as that night was just the start of a few weeks of rainfall, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in Amboseli for several years, and which have provided welcome relief to an ecosystem that has desperately needed it.

Before the rain, November 2023
After the rain, January 2024

Returning to the lodge a few weeks later was like returning to an entirely different place. Any trace of brown had all turned to green; the Sanctuary was luminous. The team had overcome so many challenges and was now focusing on delighting guests daily. The dust had finally settled, and Angama Amboseli was truly alive.

Filed under: Stories from Amboseli

Tagged with:

Amboseli , angama amboseli , Angama Team , Landscaping

About: Alison Mitchell

As the head of creative development, retail and operational support (try say that three times quickly), Ali is the keeper of 'the look', ensuring current operations and new projects are to Angama standard. In her spare time, she also manages three other special projects — a set of twins and their younger brother — on the beautiful Kenyan coast.

Browse all articles by Alison Mitchell Meet the angama team

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