Rodgers Hobyane, camp supervisor at Tsendze, has become a Kruger Park legend for his willingness to go to great lengths for his “customers”. We spoke to him about life in the bush and his growing Facebook following.
How long have you worked at Tsendze? Ten years, in November last year. I started working in the Kruger Park in 1998, as a general worker at Shimuwini Bushveld Camp. In 2006 I briefly moved to Sirheni Bushveld Camp before settling here.
What makes Tsendze so special? Like the other bush camps, it’s very quiet. We don’t have a swimming pool. People understand what they are here for – to experience the bush – and they are considerate towards their neighbours.
What does a typical work day look like? Every morning I do the necessary supervising, maintenance and cleaning, along with my colleague Elina Mona. We make sure the braais and bathrooms are spotless. When I’m finished with my duties, I like to take a walk in the bush with my camera. Allan Stark, a visitor who has stayed here many times, gave me a camera and a laptop. I enjoy wildlife photography. At night, after the gates have closed, we visit everyone in the camp to check that everything is okay.
You’re famous for your customer service… When I finished school I helped my grandfather look after his business. He had a shop and that’s where I learnt how to look after customers. He taught me that every customer is important because they bring money to your shop and you have to treat them with respect.
Why do they call you the owl whisperer? I’ve become quite good at spotting African scops-owl around the camp and I often show visitors where to find them. I also love the giant eagle-owl (pictured). These owls have pink eyelids; it looks like they’re wearing make-up!
Foto: Rodgers Hobyane
What do you like most about your job? Keeping the customers happy. It warms my heart when I see people return to Tsendze because they loved it so much the first time.
The hardest part? It would be nice if I could live closer to my family. They live in Malamulele outside the Punda Maria gate and I only get to see them when I’m off and some nights when I go and sleep there.
You have more than a thousand Facebook friends… I joined in 2012, mostly to keep in touch with the people I’d met at Tsendze. Now some people use my profile to ask which specific stand they should book, and other Tsendze advice. I love helping them if I can. I also like to share my photos with my Facebook friends.
If you won the lotto… I’d still want this job. I might buy a new car, but I would still park in the same place. And I’d give my family a new house.
What’s your dream destination? Golden Gate Highlands National Park. I’ve been there once, when I received a SANParks award for excellence in the workplace in 2010, but it was only for one night. I’d love to go back to experience it properly.