Last year I was lucky to spend a few nights with my girlfriends in Ximongwe Paradise. It was wonderful! Today Ronell from Ximongwe tells us about life in the bush and the impact of COVID- 19th.
Dearest Ronell & Johan- Thank you for the insight and your time. We look forward to seeing you again.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us where and how you live?
Dear Friends, I would like to introduce myself, Ronell and my husband, Johan Scott. We bought our property in Parsons, Balule Nature Reserve approximately 17 years ago with the idea to have a place in nature, as we both nature lovers and planned to spend our retirement in the bush.
Both of us worked in the corporate environment and as the years progressed we realised that the rate race of the corporate environment is not adding value to our lives and an opportunity arised where we could manage one of the already existing lodges in the Parsons Nature Reserve.
This gave us the opportunity to move to Parsons Nature Reserve, part of Kruger National Park, much earlier than anticipated and we have now been here managing two lodges, Ximongwe River Camp as well as the recently opened Ximongwe Safari Camp.
We employ 5 staff members as well as myself and Johan managing and caring for our guests in both camps which at times were a bit difficult but looking back at all the reviews we did a great job.
Johan also did his formal FGASA training as a guide.
We are truly living in paradise with wild animals coming into our garden at any time of the day and night. Regular visits from the the big 5 as well as plains game to our garden makes this an amazing place to spend our lives in.
The silence of the night often are broken by the call of hyena and the roaring of lions in the distance. In our daily activities driving from on camp to the other, in our home Parsons Nature Reserve, we regularly encounter traffic consisting of lions, elephant, giraffe or zebra and reminds of the days we had to spend in traffic going back and forth to our places of work. This is when we count our blessing over and over.
What were your first thoughts when you heard about COVID 19?
We really did not anticipate and recognised the severity of it all, thinking that this will be a 2 week set-back and all will then be back to normal, I think nobody really realised the enourmity of all that happened and the impact especially on the tourism industry.
How does the current situation influence your life or your business?
This has a devastating effect on our business as we mostly have visitors from Europe that had to cancel their bookings with us due to the cancellation of flights and the lockdown on all countries. The most severe effect was the implementation of Force Majeure by one of our major partners which forces us to pay back all depositos already received for bookings (wich in actual fact covers our running costs at the lodge eg. salaries of personnel, maintenance of properties, utility bills and various other expenses in running these two lodges.
We have lost all our bookings for April, May and June and the guests are starting to cancel for July and August as well. I had to send home most of my staff which includes 4 women (all with families of their own) and one gentleman, who asked to remain behind and help us care for the properties. With no income and being forced to pay back huge amount of money there is now way that we will be able to survive this for months on end.
How do you experience community and medical care?
The community, as always the case in Hoedspruit, has been really pulling together making every effort to support the lockdown and all rules and regulations enforced by the government. We have not had the need for medical care but all reports have been very positive and all efforts to test and contain the virus are in place.
What is the biggest challenge?
To survive, to stay positive and support one another. To be able to pay our personnal debt, vehicles, medical insurance, food and loans until we can received bookings and guests again.
Is there anything positive in the situation?
For us the positive is that we are able to stay in this wonderful place not being subjected to the outside world and being confined to a small appartment but we have all the space we need. To be able to still enjoy nature and all animals without restrictions. In the end we are more fortunate than 90 % of all people in the world.
What is your wish for this year?
That all will end soon and we can go back to some form of normality.