It’s Monday 10th August 2009 and from the driving seat

Zambia is conducting new tourism awards and we have entered. Public nominations/comments are required so if you feel moved to do so, go to this website and below the moving pictures click on the grey tap “public nominations”. We entered the following so you can comment on any of them.

1. Best Safari Accommodation – Luangwa Safari House
10. Best Community Tourism – Jo Pope for Kawaza School Fund and Kawaza Village
14. Best in Tourism Promotion – RPS for promoting Zambia as a Destination
15. Guide of the Year Award – Keyela Phiri

Thank you. Your contribution will help. So, onto the news…..

Rob Clifford joined us in 2005 as the General Manager. He is a Zimbabwean who worked in the National Parks for 10 years before he went into tourism. Since then he was worked in Zim, Bots, SA, UK before joining us in Zambia. Rob is able to put his hand to anything and everything….what a catch he was for us! Over to Rob…..

Rob, the General Managerduring the rains, there is lots of time for boys' fun

Never am I asked to write Its Monday simply I guess because the staff are under the elusion I have more important things I should be getting on with. Jo has asked me to give a little insight into what happens behind the scenes at RPS and an insight into a day in the life of the General Manager of Robin Pope Safaris.

If some one were to ask me what I did last week Tuesday or even yesterday I would be hard pushed to give them an answer to this! Isn’t that a scary thought? And so truth be told I live a very varied life where there are no two days that are the same, in fact each day can be radically different from the next. This is exacerbated by the time of the year it is and what up and coming events need planning and execution.

the boats are heavy and difficult to liftboat removal the hardest way

My day normally starts in the office at about 06hr00. This for me is the only constant in my life. The sacred first hour, I use for planning the day and getting any previous days e-mails answered. I am one of those people who have to work to lists. So I have these drawn up and updated in this time – boring I know but it works for me!

On the rare occasions when Robin and Jo are not here guests find me gate crashing their breakfast for a quick social chat with those who will listen to me. Then onto my next port of call – “the workshop” where work instructions are passed onto the various artisans and other workers. Ruben our special projects guy who also sorts out the pontoon and Brighton our workshop foreman are both key to this as they execute that which I flippantly instruct. Great guys – could not do without them!

Robin in his element and NOT behind the desk!pontoon operation - we have to take it out for every rains, then put back in!

It is amazing how much time and effort is taken to keeping the 3 camps, 2 houses and the 2 mobile walking operations up and running. The various plant and equipment and vehicles require constant nurturing and encouragement to stay functional. Almost as much time as the camp staff themselves. Each camp has its little quirks, weaknesses and strengths these are constantly watched and monitored through the systems in place. However the human factor never ceases to prevail. I would say a good 75% of my time is staff related. A fact which is as staggering as it is important.

towing vehicles through floodwater Young Nkwali leaving his favorite restaurant

Being a person who had dabbled in many practical areas in my past I find myself being drawn into areas of challenge such as manufacturing rakes from scrap metal! I am sure you are thinking that must be time well spent for the GM of Robin Pope Safaris and some times I do too. Generally though, an element of my day is spent doing something practical. Today it is removing the boats from the water. Doing snag lists for the never ending maintenance schedules. Much of this is mundane operational management.

Boo! - some poor unsuspecting staff memberYoung Nkwali visits Sandra's desk

There are however other occasions which are a reminder of where we are and the pleasures and sometimes dangers that lurk around us. Currently we have a young elephant bull in camp. He means no harm and has become quite habituated and used to the presence of human beings (This, I can hear you all saying, is where complacency is dangerous!!!!). However his mission is to swallow as many Muchenje (ebony) fruits as he can whilst the fruiting season lasts. It is literally like a child in a sweet shop!! Even when we are trying to move him from his spot under the tree there is always time for “just one more”. As he fundamentally posses a threat to all around, so we asked SLCS (South Luangwa Conservation Society) for assistance. Two guys duly arrived, poacher muzzle loader in tow which is loaded with ground chilies. Imagine what that does to the eyes and olfactory glands? Eye watering stuff!!!). Anyway to date Young Nkwali’s (as he has become to be known) 6th sense has performed well for him. The muzzle loader arrives and he legs it just outside of the camp perimeter where he waits. Next day back he comes again and back comes the muzzle loader. You are, I am sure, asking, “well why not keep the muzzle loader in camp?” The answer is simple – Rachel head of SLCS has warned that we don’t want to be any where near the blast of the muzzle loader as 50 square meters is engulfed with black powder smoke and chilies. Definitely a spectators sport in my book! So to date Young Nkwali is still at large and is still collecting as many Muchenja fruits as possible and is still chasing the odd unsuspecting staff member and basically thoroughly enjoying life as it is!

As the GM of Robin Pope Safaris there are no two days the same. I do anything from moving boats, chasing elephants to renegotiating the insurances. If I am permitted to write again there are more funny anecdotes’ and short stories I can share with you from “behind the scenes.” I will refain from the more mundane and uninteresting side such as insurances negotiations.”

Rob (also a Robin) is a total gem and perfect for RPS. And he loves it here. Robin and Rob….and with their legs, they could be brothers!

On that note….I will leave you. Have a wonderful week.

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