|14 years ago when I set out to
begin a new adventure in Africa, little did I realise it would develop
into a world first concept in tourism.
I wanted to do it right from the word go and ensure that it produced precisely what the client wanted. I could not go the route of normal establishments, nor that of permanent bush-lodges and camps. It was something that needed to be original and at the same time authentic and pure. Above all it had to work within Africa, with all its challenges. It had to observe the situation and become one with it, bringing out of it its own magic, enhancing its basic form.
It would take every ounce of experience I had gleaned - from the brutal ten years underground in production gold mining on the Anglo American mines of Africa, to the 7 years of glitz and glamour as a top ten investment portfolio advisor in Johannesburg. A further 4 years of working close to the beast in fundraising for rhino research and the SPCA and then developing an organisation together with my dear friend, confidant and business partner, Victoria, my wife. Together we have spent 10 years working the business of safaris, lodge marketing and special events under the banner of Secluded Country Lodges (Secluded Africa Meeting and Event Planner). Above all it would take a top team of professionals from all walks of life, able to go beyond the hotel industry norm.
And so after many, many safaris for exclusive clients such as Lexus USA where in 1993 myself and the Penduka safari team set forth to begin the very first 120 bed camp in the heart of the Namib Desert, the concept began its climb into the ranks of the ultimate safari.
By 1998 we had achieved a string of projects each one a "first' in their very own right and it was time to build the world's most authentic, 19th Century African safari camp. Within 6 months of research and preparation we were ready for an "all new " safari concept. This we launched for the Land Rover Discovery launch of 1999 - a resounding success and rated as one of the very best ever done.
Will I ever forget the pressure of that launch - the training of staff in the vehicles on the drive down to Natal, the trucks breaking down 40 kms from our target - the Hayward's Gin Tent that was stitched wrongly and only at the last minute replaced by a marquee 10 minutes before the client arrived?
At the close of this chapter some 14 years later and having just completed what has to be called the biggest ever safari in Africa with BMW and their X5 launch, its probably a good time to bring out the statistics and results of this particular project.
The parameters were huge - as was the challenge. A safari over 56 days, covering over 8'000 kilometres, moving 60 tons of equipment and stock into 3 Heritage Sites for a total of 2'500 guests over 17 nights at 120 guests per night. Total crew with which to achieve the above - forty.
Over 1000 VIP guests were kind enough to rate their overnight experience at Hayward's. What is particularly interesting is that not one guest arriving at our welcoming station had any idea they would have to "camp" overnight with us. The look of astonishment on their faces is a cherished memory - as many of them would never consider the safari tent option! The rating form covered all aspects (over 26 points) of the camp and the following results were achieved. (On a 1 - 10 format)
Is there room for improvement - absolutely and always!
The goal of Hayward's is to provide a totally professional tented accommodation alternative in southern Africa that is unique and has a built-in theme of authenticity and true African adventurous appeal resulting in an exhilarating, awe inspired African experience for the client.
When conducting a safari for a client it is vital we understand our purpose which is always to ensure our guests experience an authentic safari not unlike it was for the early explorers. Also and more importantly, to provide a safe environment with a professional ability to guarantee, within reason, the client's personal safety in an inhospitable African environment.
The valuable final product that we offer our guests is an extremely well run, organised and hosted safari camp providing them with an unforgettable African safari experience.
Was this achieved on this last safari? Judging by the written letters of thanks and commendations being sent in by guests, it's a resounding -YES!