Whenever I travel I love meeting the people behind the scenes, the ones who make our trips so special and really bring the places we visit to life. This is how I met Godfrey on my recent stay at Pumulani on Lake Malawi. He has the enviable job of bringing a little celestial magic into the lives of his guests, and after spending some time with him I think I was a little star struck too!
Godfrey began working at Pumulani Lodge as a driver with Robin Pope Safaris. Over the years his charm and professionalism earned him an impressive progression to Assistant Manager of Pumulani Lodge. He works closely with Managers Garth and Rozanne who are some of the most welcoming and friendly faces in the industry. You'll feel at home from the second you set foot through their doors – in fact, the gate guard made me smile from ear to ear with his enthusiastic welcome, just entering through the National Park boundary.
During our time together I asked him about his 9 years working at Pumulani:
What's your favourite wildlife?
He responded immediately with “including birds?” and said adamantly “the lilac breasted roller because you can come close to them and they don’t run or fly away! Not to mention their beautiful colours of course…”
Funniest Animal Encounters?
In all his years guiding at various places in Africa, there's one animal that really stands out for Godfrey.“Always the elephant. It’s funny seeing so many guests who want to see the elephant but once they see it, they’re scared and want to run away”. Godfrey’s laughter at this point was infectious and I decided it must be amusing hosting visitors travelling from all over the world who desperately want to see an elephant, and then when they see one realise the sheer size and power of these majestic animals and want to move away pretty quickly!
One of your most enjoyable guests?
“A farmer from the Netherlands who taught me about cattle farming. I like to see things growing, from chickens to business at the lodge”. This then spurred a 15 minute chat about all the farming and entrepreneurial options he’s considered. The most promising venture that he’s been saving for over the last 3 years is chicken farming. He’ll need an investment of approximately US$500 for an incubator, chickens ($4 each) and a chicken coup. Hearing this helped me realise that travelling to this stunning small luxury lodge on Lake Malawi is more than just a beach holiday, it is genuinely impacting the lives of locals.
The best part of your job?
Whilst guiding the astronomy sessions at Pumulani, Godfrey uses the only 'Stargazer' telescope in all of Malawi. It has an impressive 200x zoom and is linked to a computer which allows you to discover stars, nebulae and planets at the flick of a switch. “I only knew about the stars when I was at school, but when they bought the telescope, that has improved my knowledge of the sky. You can see the brightest colours on Saturn & Jupiter. Venus is oval and less impressive! I remember hosting star gazing to one guest who taught me lots - I love learning from guests about Stars in the Southern Hemisphere.”
How are kids on the drive to Pumulani?
It is a 3 hour scenic drive to Pumulani from Lilongwe (or a 40 minute flight in a light aircraft before a further 20 minute road transfer), so I wondered how children coped with this journey. “They often fall asleep, but when I point out the lake to them, even if we are still a one hour drive away, they get so excited and want to immediately be in there!” Godfrey and his wife have a 5 year old girl named Bayethe and a 9 year old son named Ian, so he knows how to help keep the kids happy.
Have you travelled much yourself?
“One of the coolest parts of my job was driving to South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, to collect staff uniform. I got to visit Robins House, Tena Tena and Nkwali. I was surprised to see so much water there.” I also had the exact same surprise. I knew obviously Pumulani would be water-based since it’s on the shores of Lake Malawi, but hadn’t realised quite how many times I would be hopping in a boat or traversing the vast, meandering Luangwa River. Certainly a different way to explore these stunning and unique landscapes.
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