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!