A work of love

The AWOL Team

Belinda Blakeman our call centre manager, takes leave every year to help run a local annual event called AWOL (A Work Of Love) ‪#‎aworkoflove2015‬ .

Approximately 200 teenagers attend a camp in Empangeni – coming together to build relationships as well as receive practical and spiritual input to equip them for life. They also share God’s love in the community by tackling various projects or outreaches that are organised and run by the local churches – A Work Of Love.

AWOL 2015 saw a further 2 377 hours contributed into our community, bringing the total to 19 118 hours from 2009! There were 135 campers making an impact in various hospitals, NGOs, schools, children’s homes, the streets, retirement villages and municipal departments. Behind the scenes, AWOL had 204 volunteers teaming together to make things happen. It is a privilege to see the many gifts of these volunteers coming together for a common cause.

This year as part of our give back, we sponsored a tents for the camp and partnered with Belinda’s involvement.

The organisers shared in their feedback, “We stand in awe that the economic recession has not prevented so many people from opening their hearts to supporting AWOL and believe that our community will reap the benefits of this for many years to come!”

For more information visit: www.aworkoflove.co.za

AWOL teens & camp mom & dads

 

Zambia bike safari

Written by Mike Coppinger

One of the privileges of my job is that I get to travel around Africa. Often when I’m soaring through clear skies I gaze down on vast wilderness expanses and imagine traversing those territories by foot.

In July 2015 I had an opportunity to turn those dreams into reality. Better than that, I was able to share the experience with my family. Our primary objective was to explore a remote part of north-eastern Zambia by bicycle, following a route that approximated the reverse of David Livingstone’s final journey.

Safari video by Robert Coppinger

The odometer of my old Isuzu double cab showed that it had recently clicked over the 300 thousand kilometre mark, and I trusted it was up to the challenge of getting us there from South Africa. Packing in 5 people, their baggage, camping and cycling equipment, plus 3 bicycles created a spectacle that put all local transport to shame. The piles of ‘katundu’ on the roof and the bike racks protruding way behind the vehicle attracted plenty of attention from policemen along the way.

That was our section of the party. My elder brother and his wife, Dick and Dickie – yes, that’s correct – looked more respectable in their Nissan Qashqai, with another 2 bikes hanging on their rack.

Safari-08

Dick, Jo, Julie-Ann, Carmen, Dickie, Rob and Mike en route in Lusaka

Five days driving from Durban brought us to Zambia’s Kasanka National Park. We arrived at the campsite in the dark, but dawn welcomed us with the spectacle of rare Sitatunga antelope grazing along the banks of the Kasanka river. We then spent the day planning our cycling route, gathering information about local conditions and preparing our bikes and equipment.

Safari-09

Team briefing at Kasanka

It was a short drive to the Livingstone Memorial, situated at the place where Livingstone died under a Mpundu tree. Dick and Dickie, together with our adult children, Julie-Ann and Robert and a friend, Carmen, saddled up for stage one of the cycling safari. Dick had recruited 2 local guides to lead them on the 45 kilometre ride to Shoebill camp, situated in the Bangweulu swamps. My wife, Jo, and I faced a different challenge in the form of getting the vehicles to the same destination via a very roundabout route. Our circuitous 250 kilometre passage took us largely along unknown and unsigned bush tracks. Night had long fallen by the time we picked out the lights of Chikuni game scout camp flickering on the horizon. Guided by the lights, we bumped across a floodplain until we were halted by a channel that seemed to form a moat around the camp. One of the scouts came to our rescue and led us to a group of cold and hungry cyclists at the nearby Shoebill campsite. Our arrival with food and camping kit worked wonders for our popularity!

Two nights at the rustic Shoebill campsite were punctuated regularly with the sound of thousands of Black Lechwe stampeding through shallow water, after being spooked by prowling hyenas. During the day, other than marvelling at the vast herds of antelope, we searched for the extraordinary bird after which the camp is named. We met with mixed results, as most of the birds had retreated further into the swamps with the onset of the dry season. We did catch a glimpse of one individual that we flushed from a reedbed and followed that up with a close encounter with a semi-tame specimen that was being rehabilitated at Chikuni.

Safari-28

Black Lechwe form the backdrop as we traverse the Bangweulu floodplain

I made it into the team for the next cycling leg, which was an unsupported safari from Shoebill to Shiwa Ngandu, a very isolated British manor house built by Stuart Gore Brown early in the last century. It is an interesting story how the house came to be there and a book has been written about it. Jo and Carmen drew the driving straws on this occasion. Dick, Dickie, Julie-Ann, Rob and I waved them goodbye and then wobbled off on our bikes, loaded with camping kit and supplies for the next 3 days.

Safari-45

Single track through the miombo

For the first two days our guides, first Raphael and later Mutale, led us on smooth, single track trails that cut across wide grassy plains, skirted forest patches and wound through beautiful miombo woodland. When we passed through villages we were accorded celebrity status and our river crossings invariably attracted an excited audience. We revelled in the unique situations and experience, which met and exceeded everything we had hoped for.

Safari-38

The ladies got some help during one river crossing at least

Safari-37

Safari-42

Crossing the Lumbatwa river

When we made camp on the second night we realised that we had covered 100km but had a further 120km to cover on the final day. Hitting the trail at daybreak, we found the going tough from the outset. Having hitherto been absolutely flat, Zambia now seemed to be at a perpetual incline, the sun burned down and for the most part we were travelling on jeep tracks, rather than the more appealing single track.

Safari-48

Day three takes its toll

When nightfall found us well short of our destination, not only our energy was exhausted, but also our water and virtually all of our food. With full moon having passed two nights previously, the twilight faded into blackness. Faced with the prospect of a thirsty and hungry night in the tent, we decided to rather press on.  With one head torch between us that was capable of revealing the track ahead, we clustered like a group of insects around the beam and worked our way cautiously through the darkness. After a couple of hours of painstaking progress, the torchlight picked out a sign that read ‘Kapishya Hot Springs’ – the words we had been searching for!

A joyful reunion with our support team was celebrated with a long drink of water, followed by another drink of water, some ‘potjiekos’ and then a most welcome night’s rest. Exhaustion and dehydration, and in my case some infected sores, took their toll the next day. Nonetheless, after a day’s recuperation, which included a visit to nearby Shiwa Ngandu, we had to press on to our next rendezvous. This was with our other brother, John, at the top of the Muchinga escarpment, for the final cycling stage, following the track down the escarpment and across the valley floor to the Luangwa river. The Luangwa’s status as one of Africa’s outstanding wildlife areas added a different spice to our safari. Within hours of setting off, the cycling party encountered a pack of wild dogs, as we traversed the corridor between the North and South Luangwa National Parks.

Safari-61

Into the Luangwa!

After three days of pedalling, we crossed the river and settled in at Kalovia campsite. There we enjoyed three nights in one place – what a treat! Fresh supplies from John’s nearby Tafika lodge, spectacular game viewing and simple relaxation – we were now getting close to what most people would call a holiday!

The final act of the safari was the 4 day drive home, via Mozambique. By the time we pulled into our garage, the Isuzu had clocked up another 7,700km. Our 3 weeks of travel across 5 countries had included a hefty dose of border officials and police checks, plus many logistical challenges. That was a small price to pay for the extraordinary experiences and priceless family memories that we forged.

Next time I gaze from on high upon a sea of African woodland, my longing to be ‘down there and in it’ will be just as great, but will be accompanied by a gratitude for having had such a special opportunity to live the African experience.

Safari-63

SATSA conference highlights

Written by Natasha Bame

I had the privilege this year to attend the annual SATSA conference which was hosted at the Fancourt hotel in George. It was an ideal opportunity to get to know our partners and other tour operators personally, putting names to faces and building the relationships. Also, it was a great space to meet all sorts of different folk related to tourism and keep up to date with the trends and frustrations of the industry.

The content was relevant and the format of panel discussions allowed for everyone to have their say. The great rates debate had everyone agreeing that we have to continue to hold in tension, the old and the new ways of doing business – using dynamic and static rates where appropriate and accepting that there is still a need for hard copy brochures along with a greater online presence.

We discussed our part in conserving Africa’s wildlife and the value of emerging markets. Transformation and responsible tourism were key threads which provoked delegates to think about what impact they can make – right where we are, in our businesses.

All in all it was a well rounded couple of days, witnessing the relationships which have formed through the association and learning more about the different players in the game. In the minister of tourism’s address we were encouraged to keep going despite the challenges within the sector, and to continue to partner with each other as we do business.

 

 

 

 

 

Jen Packs-for-a-Purpose

Many lodges and camps are linked to the great initiative, Pack for a Purpose, which helps travellers to give practically to the surrounding communities, when they go on safari.

When we have opportunities to travel to areas that are in need, we jump at the chance to fill our bags with useful things for those communities.

Mkasanga school

Jen, a member of our marketing team, recently travelled home to the South Luangwa in Zambia. We helped her shop for supplies so that she didn’t go empty handed. She ‘Packed for a Purpose’ and delivered the well travelled package to Mkasanga School. Due to its remote location, the school is the sole provider of education for the surrounding villagers. Mkasanga is supported by Remote Africa Safaris‘ Tafika Fund and we were thrilled to contribute to one of our client’s positive initiatives. The supplies included balls, skipping ropes, stickers and calculators. It was our pleasure to ‘Pack for a Purpose’ and make a difference for young learners in remote areas. – See more

Drumming our hearts out

Twice a year our team gets the opportunity to gather for departmental reviews and a team building activity. Having two offices and a couple of staffers working remotely, it’s an invaluable time to spend together.

This May after a couple of newbies had recently joined, we held our AGM and rounded this time off with a drumming session run by the Drum Shack.

It was a fun rhythmic afternoon spotting the hidden talent within our numbers. We learnt different beats and even composed a ResRequest compilation with lots of laughter and sore hands.

 

 

East Africa E-Tourism 2014 conference experience

Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

I arrived at Nairobi airport greeted by bright yellow walls and friendly customs attendants shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’. I reminisced on my Kenya trip 9 years ago when we installed ResRequest at Governors’ Camps. At the time our greatest challenge was the modem dial up contending with at least 4 other voices shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’ as we tried desperately to get a data transfer through.

As my taxi driver tore through the streets of Nairobi pointing out this building and that one, I was totally gobsmacked at how much the city has changed. I asked him which buildings were new and, it turns out, almost all the buildings! I oo’ed and aa’ed about all that had been built over the last 9 years. Everything looked, well similar to home, except for the adrenalin junkies sailing out of the bus doors as they spun round the massive round-a-bouts, which the taxi driver assured me was rather unusual.

I was blown away by the high rises and apartment blocks in Nairobi, granted my taxi driver may have taken me the best routes, but in that case, the taxi drivers have got better at tourism then they were years before!

As I saw and experienced parts of Nairobi and caught up with customers, I wildly started hash-tagging #WhyILoveKenya, of course it helped that I’ll be heading home 2kg’s heavier thanks to my room attendant, Edith. Edith loaded my bathroom full of bottles of lemon grass conditioner, after I left her a reply to her welcome note which read: “Thanks for my conditioner Edith, I love it!”  For some weird reason I feel compelled to Pinterest my hair after Damian’s states that 94% of Pinterest users are women.

conditioner

Speaking of Damian and the reason for this post, Damian Cook and his wife, Elizabeth,  put on an intense, action packed and totally at-the-heart-of-things E-Tourism conference for East Africa. After attending the Cape Town conference last year, and receiving rave reviews from our marketing manager after this year’s CT session, I was really excited. Once again, Damian did not disappoint. The conference was packed and Damian’s Kenyan customers were totally absorbed in the programme from beginning to end.

I was one of the lucky few who had the opportunity to present to the audience, which consisted of a number of our customers. What surprised me, and them, was how much rich functionality ResRequest has to offer. I was able to tell our story and was rewarded with several customers telling me that they’ll be heading back to their office to check out much of the functionality I mentioned.

Damian’s presentations were honest and right at the heart of the challenges we face. He paid particular attention to helping Kenyan customers understand, plan and implement a crisis management strategy around their current tourism crisis.

Of course I don’t know how long Edith’s conditioner supply will last so I sincerely hope that Damian plans the next E-Tourism conference soon.

Team news | end of 2013

Snippets of the movements and news of the team from the last quarter of 2013…

Baby Benjamin Soper, son of developer Nick, arrived in September – the 4th ResRequest baby to be born this year.

Read more

Team snippets

Our team has grown! There have been announcements, celebrations and new recruits!

Natasha Lynn and Mark Bame announced their engagement | TK Madikane introduced us to his beautiful baby girl, Soyama Thakasa, which means be happy/content | Paula Chaplin acquainted us with her gorgeous newbie, Sidney Sofia Charlotte and Nick Soper will soon have a junior joining the ranks.

And it’s not just new babies we’ve added, we’ve also welcomed a new developer, Jaco Sapet-Nel. Jaco has extensive experience in the hospitality industry, but his passion lies in programming and development. Jaco has introduced our team to a variety of interesting hobbies, including underwater photography, line dancing, medieval sword fighting and pistol shooting.

Read more

 

Pack for a Purpose initiative

Providing positive presence on the internet

Written by Rebecca Rothney

Pack for a Purpose (PfaP) is a great way to achieve additional exposure, at no cost, for the community projects supported by your lodge on the Internet.

Our NGO is based in Raleigh, NC, in the United States. Our mission is to positively impact communities around the world by assisting travellers who want to bring meaningful contributions to the destinations they visit. We assist “PfaP travellers” by providing online lists of requested items for over 300 community projects, making it simple for travellers to make a big impact on every trip.

Travellers simply follow these five easy steps:  

1. Select destination.

2. Find a lodging and a project it supports.

3. Choose the supplies you wish to bring from the specific items requested.

4. Drop off the supplies at the lodging.

5. They will be delivered for you; it’s that easy!

Since Pack for a Purpose’s inception in December 2009, the global travel community has brought more than 9,400 kilos of supplies to schools, clinics and orphanages worldwide that are in need of assistance. By simply adding medical, school supplies, sport equipment and other requested supplies in their luggage, these travellers have made a big impact.

Among the many lodging locations that participate with Pack for a Purpose many of lodgings are current ResRequest clients. These lodgings support community projects in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zanzibar, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique.You can take a look at all of Pack for a Purpose’s current destinations.
Submitting your lodging to Pack for a Purpose is simple and can be done directly at this link on our website. Once we receive your information and you have complied with the three easy steps on the form, we will have your lodging published on our website within 7 business days. Once published, we will spread the word about your lodge through our social media outlets: TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.

Pack for a Purpose has received a large amount of international media coverage. This all translates into additional exposure for the lodgings and tour companies listed on our website. To view the coverage, click here. We have received the 2012 Travel+Leisure Global Vision Award Editors’ Pick for Digital Iniative and are finalists for the 2013 Guardian’s Observer Ethical Awards in the Travel Category.

Team snips | beginning of 2013

This year has been off to a running start and we have many projects on the go, along with new developments. We are not only growing in productivity but also in number.

We were as excited as the proud parents when Jack was born on 22nd of January. Congratulations to Dylan Bridgman and Daniela on their first gorgeous babe!

Read more