Even though I have recently moved and now live a bit closer to her now, Zoë is one of my Instagram finds. She lives in a beautiful and idyllic place and I have asked her a few questions to share with you.
Where do you work/live?
My husband and I manage a private beach house just outside Vilanculos on the San Sebastian Peninsula. We live and work on the property for about 9 months of the year.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I worked as a customer service agent for British Airways at Cape Town International Airport until end 2003. My husband had his own Jetski, Boat & Quad Service & Repair Shop in Somerset West. He regularly went to Namibia to go and do logistics for his sister’s safari company. One day she phoned and told us of a lodge in the Caprivi strip in Namibia looking for a management couple. My husband travelled there for an interview and to check out the place. Just over a month later we arrived at Mazambala Island Lodge to start our new adventure. It was remote. As we were driving up the wet bumpy 4 wheel track to the lodge I burst into tears. We had no experience, I’ve never lived in the bush in such a remote area, we were newly married and we’re going to be in each other’s faces 24/7. All the beautiful make-up, stockings and high heels and those initial fears are now a thing of the past, of another life. Fifteen years down the line and choosing a hospitality career in remote areas is the best decision we had ever made. Since then we have worked on a houseboat in Namibia on the Chobe River (we would return there tomorrow if given half a chance), worked at a forest and a beach lodge on the KwaZulu-Natal far Northern Coast and now we are here in Mozambique, outside Vilanculos, a 45minute boat ride from the closest village or 5 hours by road.
What is your favourite part of working/living where you are?
Definitely, the remoteness, if a 45minute boat ride to our closest village can be called remote. We love having the bush behind us and the amazing blue waters of the Bazaruto Archipelago and the Indian Ocean on our doorstep, literally. We have also always thrived with dealing with the challenges of remote living, having to make a plan when things go wrong, dealing with what nature throws at us, rather than man-made problems. The Mozambican people are also wonderful people, in our experience, always friendly, smiling and helpful, and as South Africans, we feel safe. We have also had some truly amazing guests visiting us who are excited about where they are and wanting to experience everything the beach house and the area has to offer. As most hospitality managers can probably attest to, those are the best people to have at your property. These type of guests make you excited all over again about where you are.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
When we have guests it is a typical beach resort managerial type of day. For me, it would be checking on the menus & stocks for the day, meetings with the kitchen and housekeeping departments and going out on activities with guests. Because we manage a small 10 bed Beach House with very little staff, we join our guests on all their activities. Going fishing and snorkelling, setting up beach picnics, going for bush drives and setting up bush breakfast or sundowners etc.
When the Beach House is not occupied, our days start a bit later and we deal with mostly the admin and maintenance of the property. I deal with the bookkeeping, monthly stocktakes, staff training and I do spend a lot of time on research on décor as we are slowly refurbishing the beach house at the moment (thankful for Google and reasonably good WiFi). I’ve started a small hydroponics garden and I have some small décor & art projects that I do myself to keep busy. My next project is to learn macramé.
Any interesting story you would like to share?
There was that night when we were chasing a 3-legged goat around the garden in the dark. It was making one hell of a racket in the garden while our guests were having dinner. It was hilarious at the time. You had to be there…..Or another time when we returned from a snorkel trip with guests. While crossing over the bay, in the distance, we see this figure in a suit with a briefcase under his arm, looking like he is walking on water waving frantically. It was surreal…… Turns out he was transporting thatching grass (in his suit with a briefcase) on his dhow from the mainland to the peninsula on his own. The boat was taking on water. The dhow flipped, losing its cargo and was drifting just below the surface. If we didn’t happen onto him he would have drifted out to sea.
Closing thoughts from Zoë:
When living in a remote area, amongst the local people, do try to get to know some of the history and the culture of the area and try to respect that. We as foreigners in an area like this are always feeling we should help the local people, but there is sometimes a very fine line between wanting to help, expectation and offending. On the flip side, because of the interference from expats & NGO’s, some cultures have become so corrupted by the goodwill of these good samaritans that a hand out is expected. In our opinion, we try to keep to ourselves and only help where children are involved and pay for a small list of services or goods from the local community so that nothing else will be expected or demanded. We are very fortunate to live in the Vilanculos Coastal Wildlife Sanctuary and are able to join in or contribute through the charity work of the reserve without having to deal with the politics. Most important…. Try to learn the local language. We have not and it does make life very difficult.
Do you have any social media pages where people can follow you/your company?
Facebook/ Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PambeleMozambique/