Work can be an adventure too

By November 13, 2019Our Stories

Tongabezi is a proud member of Classic Safari Africa, an association of independent, privately owned lodges, hotels and camps in some of the most beautiful wildlife destinations in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Each and every one of the properties that make up CSA is dedicated not only to conservation and the environment but also to enabling local communities and promoting and conserving the spirit of Africa.

Tongabezi was one of the first members of CSA. Our founder, Ben Parker, was a core member and many of his closest friends were other CSA members. And yet although the annual general meeting is hosted at a different property each year, Tongabezi had never had the honour of being the host… until this year!

For the last few years, we have been preparing ourselves. Ben was always blown away by the properties he visited at each AGM. He often spoke about how beautiful, friendly, and above all organised the other properties seemed to be. So we built a brand new Tongabezi Kitchen, Bakery, and Cold Room.

We built a new pool and a private gym, and we did our very best to re-organise the way that Tongabezi works, to ensure that our back-of-house as much as our main areas would live up to these incredible properties.

Tongabezi’s Lap Pool

Tragically, Ben left us in February this year for his next adventure. Ben’s wife Vanessa took over the running of Tongabezi, and Ben and Vanessa’s daughter Natasha took over the marketing and sales.

Classic Safari Africa very kindly reached out and offered to move the AGM to another property in order to take the pressure off our family and our team.

We decided to go ahead and host the AGM in Ben’s name instead!

We had no idea what we were doing, but we worked like crazy to get Tongabezi ready for the 35 lodge and camp owners who were going to descend upon us for three nights.

The pressure was high, but it was a wonderful chance for our team to band together and prove how far Tongabezi has come since we were founded in 1990, and to carry on Ben’s legacy.

(Do you realise it is our 30th Birthday next year?!)

The weather was not in our favour (41 degrees Celcius in the afternoons!) and the power was unstable due to the drought in Zambia, but once the guests started arriving the Tongabezi Team pulled out all the stops to make sure it was an AGM to remember.

We started with a sunset cruise and sundowners at our surprise Sand Bar

Lovely Louise and Tessa

Then everybody had dinner by candlelight together on the banks of the Zambezi. We even hosted the meetings in a marquee on the lawn below the new pool here:

Local chitenge material makes for the perfect tablecloths

On the second day, we did a site inspection of the entirety of Tongabezi, back-of-house and all. It took two and a half hours because there were so many questions to answer and because the CSA members all wanted the chance to peek into our immense wine cellar.

The Tongabezi Trust School even hosted the CSA members for an afternoon and put on a touching singing performance which led to more than a few tears, and then showed off their complex traditional dances (they are Zambian National Champions). This involved a lot of laughter as the guests were dragged up on stage to give it a try.

Here’s to the National Champions

All in all, it was a wonderful event, for the Tongabezi Team and we hope for the Classic Safari Africa members themselves. We have had some fantastic feedback since they left, and the lowest score we got on our in house feedback forms was 92%! And this is from a group of people who really know what they are talking about.

We like to think that Ben would be proud.

We also think he’d love the fact that a bunch of the CSA Members managed to sneak a swim in Devil’s Pool on their first and last days in Zambia. We’re not sure we’ve ever fit that many people in the pool before, and we wouldn’t do it for anyone else!