It’s Monday 7th July 2008 and Pumulani opens!

It’s Monday 7th July 2008 and Pumulani opens!

I remember at the age of 24 being involved in the opening of a restaurant in London and I was scrubbing the tiled walls of the ladies as the first customers started to arrive.  The Murphy’s law of openings is that it takes as long as you have.  It was the same case with Pumulani – our new lodge on Lake Malawi.  We opened on 1st July.  Accompanied by a group of journalists and agents, I flew into the newly opened airstrip at Monkey Bay only 20 minutes away from Pumulani.  Margaux and Cees, our partners, were there to meet us. Behind them there were about a hundred children all wide eyed. The airstrip has not been used for many years and so most of the kids would never have seen a plane land. 

Plane at Monkey BayFlying over the lake

I was very excited.  This was the Big Day – and today, the opening, would only happen once.
What an emotional moment indeed. It had taken a couple of years to build, from discussions over plans and design to selecting furniture and hanging the curtains. As with all these big projects there had been a lot of stress, mostly taken by Ton and Margaux I might add!  They direct the new Malawi arm of RPS. 

As we arrived at the lodge our breath was literally taken away.  The main building is some 156 steps up from the beach.  You walk through a large, cool reception and onto the main area and the view across the lake is spectacular.  Height always gives you wonderful views.

Mark and Jenna, the new management couple, were there to greet us.  They proudly showed everyone around the location. There were, of course, lots of oohs and aahs.  It is fabulous to be there at the beginning of a new camp – no scuff marks, no chips on the corners of the walls – all perfect and pristine!! (which is the way everyone is planning to keep it!)

The staff had been chosen, with a lot of filtering, from the local villages.  Most of them had never had a job before, and therefore had not been exposed to the European ways.  One of the things that I always wonder is what can someone, who has always eaten with their hands, think about the complicated rituals we go through with glasses, cutlery, serving dishes?  The white wine goes in a different glass to the red.  The water has yet a different glass. You have different sized knives and forks for different dishes, etc etc.  It’s all a tad complicated – think of how many films make a joke of someone sitting down to a formally laid table looking like a deer caught in the headlights and someone whispering – “work from the outside inwards”.

However, the staff have blown us away with their accomplishments. Luckily for everyone there was an amazing teacher – a Frenchman who worked in the traditional French way and was a stickler for quality and accuracy.  In five weeks he had a not only taught the waiters to serve beautifully but the chefs to cook wonders.  The croissants were discussed at length.  I have never had such a mouth watering croissant anywhere in Africa.

It turned out that they were made by Michael, who had walked into the kitchen for the first time five weeks ago! Michael is the son of Roy – the maintenance man.  Roy has another son, who we have asked to join the Pumulani team … it’s becoming a real family affair.  The head chef, who had been cooking for a good few years, was very excited to be open at last.

We had nine guests in the first two days – who spent much time enjoying the surroundings … lounging on the beach, swimming in the lake, snorkelling at the islands where the cichlids swarm.  Everyone congregated for a sundowner on the 40 foot dhow.  What a sail – huge!  And of course the rope got tangled and the skipper shimmied up the pole with precision and skill.  I could hardly watch.  Someone accompanied Mark for a walk up into the hills.  And of course we endlessly marveled at how wonderful it all was.  I felt very proud.

So… are a few of the rather home snap photos that I took but of course I did keep forgetting to get my camera out.  Once we have a photographer there I will send some more.  There are lots of activity shots on the website ( so I need not put more on this newsletter.

Well done team, I am very proud of our new lodge and I look forward to swimming in the lake many times!
Have a great week.


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