By Chris Bishop.
Like most hard pressed entrepreneurs in Africa, Don Scott had to cut costs and batten down the hatches in the face of the COVID-19 lockdown – like very few, he also had to worry about wild animal invasions and encroaching bush.
Scott, an engineer by trade, runs the Tanda Tula lodge, in Timbavati near the Kruger Park, in northern South Africa. Right now it is operating on a skeleton staff as most of his 62 workers are taking leave; they were paid for April, but took a 15 per cent cut. For those left, their full time job is trimming back the fast growing bush and stopping the wild animals, that live in it, from taking over the resort.
“If you let a game lodge go you will never find it again!” laughs Scott. As speak on the telephone a pride of lions has just walked across his manicured lawn- six males and four lionesses, he says, before continuing with his story.
“What the few of us left have got to do is cut back the trees and make sure there is enough human activity around the camp. If there is then usually the animals stay on the periphery.”
Scott watched the lights go out at his game lodge in a few crazy days in March. The travel ban was declared on March 15 and the resort emptied. On that Sunday, 22 of the camp’s 24 tents were occupied by tourists from the United States, France and the United Kingdom. By the following Friday, nearly all the tourists had fled to the airport. On that evening, two British holiday makers remained rattling around in the huge dining room at the lodge.
“We got all the staff together and sat down and had dinner with them so they didn’t feel lonely,” says Scott.
“But to be honest, I think we were all trying to keep each other’s spirits up.”
For now Scott spends his days hacking at the bush, watching out for lions and waiting for the travel restrictions and lockdown to subside. Until it does there won’t be a tourist in sight in Timbavati and lions will be the fleeting kings of the lawn, as well as the forest.
Don Scott will be taking part in the CNBC Africa virtual panel discussion Business Tomorrow at 14 00 CAT on Channel 410 on Tuesday May 12.
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