Building the right team is one of the most important things when opening a new lodge. At Angama, we do not take this lightly — a lot of time, effort and love goes into preparing our teams. In May earlier this year, we gathered under a big tree in Kimana for our first round of interviews and what we were looking for most was the winning ingredient.
On that first day, we had over 400 people come to interview for the different jobs; a large number didn't have hospitality backgrounds or gone for hospitality training. But we were not disappointed, we were excited because so many of them had the winning ingredient — the right attitude.
Fortunately, we weren’t starting from scratch, as a number of senior people from the team in the Mara came with me to Amboseli. This was really exciting for me as it showed a huge amount of confidence in me from my teammates. Guests who have been to Angama Mara before might recognise George Nato (Camp Host), Alice Mantaine (now Head Guide) and George Oyombe (Butler) along with a few others who also came with us like Duncan Ochieng (now Head of Repairs and Maintenance) and Mark Kakui (now Head of Security).
Having all these familiar faces around has been a great help in keeping the service the same across the properties. But we also have so many new ones and are very grateful for how they have stepped up and made Angama Amboseli come to life. The best part for me is that most of them are from this area —about 99% of the housekeeping and security teams are from the Kimana area and, overall, about 80% of the team are from Kimana.
We weren’t worried about the lack of formal hospitality training because we knew we would have the Angama Way Academy — a three-month training period where everybody from Amboseli went to the Mara to learn from the Angama Mara team. While it was important for them to learn the different skills needed to complete their jobs to the Angama standard, it was, some could say, more important to show them the Angama Way and our values, how each of us can bring them into every little deed we do for our guests, for each other and for the environment.
Watching the team come together and seeing the different spaces coming out of the ground has been fun, but I think the most exciting part for me has been the impact on the community. Just the actual building of the lodge has been huge — since October last year, we have indirectly employed over 300 people from the community through our building contractor. I can also feel the impact of us being here by talking to the children; now all of them want to do hospitality training when they finish school so they can work in lodges like Angama Amboseli.
We have spoken before about the importance of the 844 Maasai family members who own the land; they sacrificed a lot for many years to keep this land as it is and not turn it into farmland. It has been very rewarding for me to see their sacrifice pay off and to show our appreciation, we invited the wazee (Swahili for elders) of the landowners to be our first guests — it was only natural as it is their land, after all. They had the foresight to think that this would be a beautiful place for nature and tourism and now they are so proud and happy to see it in action.
It's always about the people, that's what I've come to learn at Angama. We have a beautiful lodge with fantastic views — now it is up to me and my team to make it all shine. We look forward to welcoming you home, karibuni sana.
Filed under: Stories from Amboseli
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