Ellard Banda is an exceptional field guide at Makweti, and one of our most trusted members of the extended Makweti family. He came to our lodge in 2013 to fulfill his role as our maintenance man. It wasn’t long before he became completely captivated by the nature around him and chose to study to become a field guide.
He passed his FGASA Level 1 with the greatest of ease and is currently studying Level 2.
Ellard was born in Lilongwe in Malawi, which is a good 1700km’s from Makweti. He is one of four siblings (one step brother and two step sisters) and was motivated to join our safari lodge by his cousin Lazarus, who had worked at Makweti before.
Ellard appreciates every moment he gets to work in such beautiful surroundings: “The best part is that every day you get close to nature and you have peace of mind due to the quietness and fresh air.” Isn’t that the best part about being deep in the heart of the wild South African bushveld?
When Ellard isn’t leading our guests through the magic of our surroundings, he spends his leisure time with friends, family and loved ones. Among those loved ones are his little boy, Ellard Ketso Junior, who is the apple of his eye.
Ellard comes from a Christian family who believes that family comes first as the most important thing in life. We couldn’t agree more.
When asked to tell us a favorite story about his time working at Makweti, he has this to say:
“One morning when we were finishing breakfast, the first group of guests were ready to depart. They said to me that “Ellard, this is our last short drive back to the gate, we will have to come back for that leopard.”
All of sudden the local monkey troop in the camp were calling at the Indaba building as there was a leopard at the waterhole killing a warthog female. This leopard lived around the camp, and we were just talking about it. It was an amazing and sad experience all at the same time. It was sad to watch this warthog, who we knew well as she had grown up in the camp, now being taken by a powerful leopard – but we understood that this is nature.”
That is the bittersweet truth of nature, and we get to see it everyday. Thank you to Ellard for sharing his story and for being a part of our Makweti family. We are so honoured to know you and we know our guests feel the same way.
It has been a while since we introduced you to a member of the Makweti family, so today we are only too pleased to get to know Confidence Chau a little bit better. Confidence is a member of the housekeeping team, and one of the reasons why everything always looks so pristine when you visit the lodge.
Confidence was born in Mokopane, which many local people might know as Naboomspruit. It’s a good 154kms from Makweti, which is now her second home. Confidence was born into a Christian family of four siblings. She has two sisters and a brother, and her father is a well-respected guide at one of the other lodges on the Welgevonden Reserve.
Wildlife and nature are in her blood, which makes her an asset to Makweti Safari Lodge. In her words, “I love nature itself and enjoy growing with what it brings working in this environment.” There is so much that it can offer a person, that words simply cannot explain.
Confidence enjoys meeting our guests from countries all over the world. She loves learning about their cultures and work experience. Mostly, she loves working with all the people who make up the Makweti family.
“My favourite thing is we are all different at Makweti, and we talk different languages and have different interests. We have to work as one happy team, which we do. Together we are one, experiencing the beauty of nature and the peaceful sounds of the animals.”
If that’s not a perfect description of the magic of the bush, then we don’t know what is!
Confidence is mum to a beautiful, young boy named Herbert. She is also engaged to be married to the love of her life, William. We wish her all the love and prosperity on this new journey with her husband-to-be.
We love introducing you to the people of Makweti, so that you can get a feel for who is standing behind the scenes, making all the magic come together! If you’ve visited us before then you will know these people, and will hopefully enjoy finding out more about them.
May we introduce Colin Smit; this is his story.
I was born in Zimbabwe, Harare (then still Rhodesia, Salisbury) in 1973. My mother was a tennis coach while my father was a school teacher. He had the dream of becoming a yacht skipper and actually built a thirty two foot ferro-cement sloop in our back garden. It was shipped to Durban, from where my father sailed it to Mauritius. It was here that my mother, brother and I joined him. We sailed to the Seychelles together, no mean feat for a mother with two children younger than two years old!
We lived in the Seychelles until I was six years old, at which time my parents separated. My mother met and married a farmer in the Eastern Cape and so the path towards my lifestyle became paved. My brother and I visited The Seychelles every so often, and then Mauritius once my father had moved there, probably paving the way to my brother’s lifestyle – that of a yacht skipper, just like our dad.
I went to boarding school, which was a big shock initially, but I came to enjoy it more once I’d made friends with the other farm kids. We’d regularly leave the school (illegally!) to explore the undeveloped land behind it. There we collected snakes and chameleons, and found as many birds’ nests as we could. I can’t remember wildlife actually being a passion then, but I do remember enjoying being “out there” immensely.
I wanted to be a veterinarian after school but failed my final maths exam and so ended up in the army in 1991. The discipline I learned there stood me in good stead. After working for two years (as a builder with my father who had returned to South Africa in 1989) I studied construction. Immediately after I qualified, however, I returned to the farm to work with my step-father. Having a direct influence on the wellbeing of the farm animals developed the love for the outdoors I had begun to feel when I was younger. After qualifying as a professional hunter I was almost happy.
My parents had to sell the farm and in 1999 I had to leave. Thanks to my experience gained while hunting I managed to get a job as a guide, something I thought I’d do until I could find a proper job. Twenty years later (I’ll never forget starting at Shamwari Game Reserve on 1 September 1999) I still haven’t left the industry!
I started as a low order jeep jockey, qualified to conduct walking safaris, became a deputy head guide and also trained my junior peers during the years I spent at Shamwari. I became part of the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve conservation team in 2008 where I met my Kenyan wife. We moved to Kenya in 2009 where I managed lodges and undertook walking safaris for Governors Camp. In total I spent six years in Kenya, working in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The people, many illiterate but mostly of an incredibly accommodating disposition, made the stay most memorable and in fact almost spiritual. It was clear to me I’d made the right choice choosing a career in the outdoors.
I returned to South Africa in August 2017 to work at Makweti, which is where I am still today. I have also developed a love for interacting with the guests who visit us, which is a huge part of the Makweti spirit of doing things. After all, we rub shoulders with people, literally, from all four corners of the globe. What a great way to gain a broad, informed perspective on life!
Wishing all our friends and followers a magical festive season and happy New Year.
We look forward to seeing you again in 2019!
Unfortunately not everyone could be present for our end-of-year family photo. Zelly, Colin, Phillip and Zenzi were on leave at the time, but they were with us in spirit.
Until next year… be safe!
Meet Zelda Mashada, better known to us as Zelly. She is a kitchen assistant at Makweti Safari Lodge and a beacon of positivity who has been with us for 15 years. She was born in Louis Trichardt, which is a good 320km away from Makweti. She is one of three siblings – the only sister in between two brothers.
It’s October 2016 and Jessica and I are sitting in our small rental apartment in Northern Johannesburg wondering why on earth we had decided to give the “big city” a try after so many years of living and enjoying the bush and game lodge environment.
We had been working in lodges and boutique hotels for 15 – 18 years, and had come to the realisation that we were definitely not “city people”.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; the people of Makweti Safari Lodge are a huge contributing factor as to why guests come back time and again. We are so fortunate to have an incredible, dedicated and passionate team, even if they eventually do move on to other ventures.
Kevin Holroyd was one such person. He worked at Makweti many moons ago as a safari guide and lodge manager; in fact, it was where he began his career. He has always looked back fondly on those times, so we asked him to write an account of his experiences on the Welgevonden Reserve and at Makweti Safari Lodge.
Richard Moyo was born in Salima, a small town in Malawi close to Lake Malawi. It’s a good 1730km’s from Makweti, so he is far from his birthplace, but fortunately Makweti is now his home away from home and we are so lucky to have him as part of our family! Richard is used to being part of a big family, coming from eight siblings consisting of him, his three brothers and four sisters. It was with them that he found his love for the bush.
We are proud to introduce you to Johanna, a member of the Makweti family who was born in Vaalwater, 45km away from the lodge. Johanna is one of four children and is also a mom to her own beautiful daughter, Letta, and wife to Solomon Mongane, a mechanic from Vaalwater. She is also a proud grandmother and loves spending quality time with her entire family.