Rodgers Hobyane and Elina Mona know exactly what customer service is about. Anyone who has ever been to the rustic Tsendze camp in Kruger National Park can tell you that.
Full of enthusiasm for their jobs as at this small camping-only site seven kilometres south of Mopani, they take great pride in their work. Whatever needs doing at Tsendze, they’re the ones who do it. They rise before sunrise to unlock the camp gate, check the solar batteries that power the lights, clean the ablutions and braais. (If there’s a cleaner braai to be found anywhere in Kruger I’d like to know about it. I thought they were new, which made Elina laugh. ‘They’re still the ones from five years ago,’ she insisted.) And they’re still active as you sit around your fire at night, coming round to check you’re happy or if there’s anything they can do for you.
They’re a pleasure to be around, their cheeriness hard to resist. Elina calls Rodgers ‘Talk-Talk’ (for obvious reasons) while he calls her ‘Chameleon’ because he thinks she’s quieter and slower than him. Although many people assume they’re a couple, they’re just good friends. Elina’s husband died 12 years ago and she’s brought up four children on her own, while Rodgers has a wife and family at Malamulele near Punda Maria gate. Between them they have 29 years of experience at Kruger, and they’ve been at Tsendze together since it opened to visitors in November 2006.
Tsendze is a small camp of just 30 sites cleverly carved into the surrounding bush so that each is a secluded enclave, almost as if you’re camping alone in the middle of the bush. The layout and the natural feel of the camp – where there’s no electricity and no generators are allowed – are two of the camp’s best attractions. The third is Roger and Elina themselves, so welcoming, helpful and friendly that visitors greet them like old friends.
‘We’re here to make each and everyone feel the bush,’ says Rodgers with his trademark grin. He’s more than happy to tell you when there’s an elephant just outside the fence or to point out a genet or Verreaux’s eagle-owl he has located inside the camp.
‘What I like about them is that they don’t phone me with problems,’ says hospitality manager Garth Holt at nearby Mopani, the man they report to. ‘They phone to tell me about the solutions they have already found and implemented.’ High praise indeed.
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