How Covid has affected my life as a lodge manager

So not to put out a doom & gloom blog post, but Covid a year on is still on everyone’s minds & a talking point daily.


Because we in the hospitality industry are still being affected & will still for a very long time to come.

So what happened over the last year in the lodge?

For those of you who don’t know, In addition to owning Wild Dreams Hospitality I am also a Lodge Manager at a 5 star property in Greater Kruger & this is what this blog is about.

I am extremely lucky to be able to live in a beautiful part of South Africa, and experience lodge life daily.

Unfortunately for our lodge we had pretty much closed in January/February as we were doing major renovations to our rooms, of course doing all of this without knowing what was about to hit us. This meant that we really didn’t have any guests for the first part of 2020 and then of course operations completely stopped on the announcement from the president of South Africa on the 27th March, when we went into a full lockdown.

All of our staff, including myself were immediately laid off & nearly everyone was sent home, with us predicting it may be for a few months, maybe 3 or so.

Our staff looking on, thinking 3 months without work, that’s crazy! Some may of even been a little excited to get some time off? – However I expect this wore off quite quickly after the first couple of months & frustration set in for everyone.

I started a what’s app group with all of the staff (there is about 55 of us) so that we could all stay in touch and we could advise them on any information related to Covid, and the process of us trying to claim a salary for them through the government, to say this was challenging would be an understatement. We did numerous things wrong as there was no information out there available for the first couple of months, the processes we were told to follow by people who should be ”in the know” – labour consultants, department of labour, UIF employees, HR managers etc was all wrong and we started several different processes to finally be able to asses what was named TERS a fund set up by the government to help businesses pay employees.

After another couple of months, the staff got their first pay out (the amount of money being received by each employee not really making sense but they were paid what we were told to pay them) some staff – every single time were left off and not paid, and sometimes this would be the same staff and sometimes totally different staff. No reasons were given.

Back at the lodge a few of us stayed behind as the lodge couldn’t be left empty. Without guests however we had to do general upkeep instead so I spent my days cleaning rooms, weeding gardens, clearing out storerooms, doing bush work and everything in-between.

The best part of this was fully taking over the lodges social media as this is something I generally enjoy & for a few months I loved telling all our followers (many being past guests, but also the rest of our staff who weren’t here) what we were doing and what was happening in the bush. (an outsourced company normally does this)

A highlight during this time was our resident pride of Lions had 6 cubs and they denned on our property, moving the cubs often but always staying on our land & sometimes leaving them a few feet of the lodge. This meant we got to see them every now and again but also heard lions roaring every single night. A sound I love!

I personally rehabilitee animals too, and many of the animals I have nursed back to health or raised now live fully wild in and around the lodge, I had much more time to spend with them and this made our bond grow even stronger. I have seen a lot of people saying although this was one of the worse years of their lives, being stuck at home, it has been their pets best year and I am sure this was how my wild animals saw this too as they do love having me around to keep and eye on them. This is especially true of a female Bushbuck who I raised from just 10 days old, who is now over 4 years and she had a baby boy during lockdown so she was very happy I was around to babysit him and literally brought him to me 2 days after he was born!

Other than all of this, we had a few bookings when people were finally allowed to travel but its been a very slow trickle since then, and only a handful of international guests have come to the lodge once the borders open. We obviously had to reduce our rates drastically to cater towards the local market as our lodges main clientele is internationals (mostly Americans)

The logistics around this have involved us having to arrange Covid tests for them, as they need these for their onward travel, luckily we now have the system down & the process runs smoothly all round.

I wrote SOPs (standard operation procedures) for each department & we are following these with all the sanitizing, mask wearing & social distancing.

We have also had to put new things in place such as not serving buffets & trying to allocate separate vehicles for different guests where possible.

We turned our private villa into a self catering lodge, due to this being the demand by locals and have generally just adapted to the situation as best as we can.

The 55 staff work on a rotation system and every time we get a booking we have to call all the staff who are ”next” on the list to work & they do their few days and then its another groups turn.

This has been very hard for the staff who are reliant on a full salary and we are now moving onto a new system to try and claim from the government and are hoping for the best.

Will this last forever? No.

Will this change the industry forever? Probably

Will we see the affects of this for years? Absolutely

Throughout this journey, I personally have tried even harder to put out helpful information on my website and social media content to help people during these difficult times.

I can relate to many people & I know so many who have been laid off (and still are a year later) and who have been retrenched. It is heart-breaking for everyone and having to leave often where you consider your home (as lodges accommodate staff) and an industry and environment that you love has been extremely difficult.

It isn’t easy to find the positive in this situation but I have tried my best to do this and use this time as productively as I possibly could.

2020 saw big changes for my employment in a lodge, doing things I never thought I would have to do again (that I did at the beginning of my hospitality career 22 years ago!) but on the positive although the recruitment side of Wild Dreams Hospitality has been very quite and highly frustrating at times I have managed to increase the companies services and employee a new recruiter and my partner has also officially joined the team.

I have big plans, big goals and a big vision for Wild Dreams and if it can get through 2020, then it can get through anything.

I’m still here at the lodge, keeping busy & trying my best to help with any marketing and spreading the word to get more guests in and I look forward to writing a blog some day summing up the final end of Covid-19.

I also want to mention I know how fortunate I have been this year, being able to live in nature, not paying rent & being able to stay employed and not being retrenched and I truly feel for everyone who has been and hope that better is to come for you all.

I hope you enjoyed reading an insight into my life over the last year & hope you have found my website and social media pages helpful. Lets stay positive & dream big!