August is a busy month for the tourism industry everywhere as it is traditionally a holiday month in many parts of the world. Usually it is the busiest month in Livingstone and tourism workers know they will be flat out for long days. For the most part it’s a fun time; my staff and I thrive on the buzz and the busy-ness, seeing clients enjoy themselves and have the experience of a lifetime. There is always a lot of movement at the lodge, the car park is full, the phone never stops and the grill is always sizzling.
As always, the mix of people has been interesting and exciting and the challenges ranged from a lost teddy bear to a severe baboon attack at the Falls to having to organise a group of 12 all doing different activities over 3 days. Much harder than it sounds, believe me. Everything moved at a fairly frenetic pace, often from 6.30 in the morning until 23.00 at night. Sometimes I realised that I’d forgotten to eat anything, surviving on coffee, coffee and more coffee. Not good when clients then ask you to sit down with them for a glass of wine! This is the part of the business that I love – being with people who are on the journey of a lifetime. What we do can make a real difference to people’s experiences. We had a few groups who had tried to organise various activities and onward travel arrangements themselves, but things had not gone to plan. We knew people who knew people and after a few phone calls, things were sorted. So satisfying to be able to do that, and not a huge effort to make such a big difference for people.
Even though Zig Zag is a small budget lodge, we are very service oriented. Having only 12 rooms means we can focus on all our clients, get to know them individually and make sure we help them have the best time. We also get business travellers occasionally. Once two businessmen stayed with us, one stating that he had been to Livingstone 15 times and never seen the Falls as he didn’t have the time and this visit would be the same as they were leaving on the 9am bus the next day. His colleague and I made a sneaky plan – and we woke him at 5.30 and by 6.00am when the Falls opened we had him at the entrance. They spent a couple of hours there before coming back for a quick breakfast and off to the bus station. I got the biggest hugs from both of them. Sometimes I take clients to the bank, or to a hospital or clinic, or police station, car spares shop or the dentist. Whatever it is that they need, we can make a difference.
Several years ago a Dutch client was looking for a long lost boyfriend from 35 years ago. She had heard he lived in Livingstone and could I help her find him? At that time I hadn’t lived here long, so it really was a case of making lots of phone calls, but I love a challenge and amazingly enough, I tracked the boyfriend down. I remember the phone call well – “Hello, you don’t know me but I have a lady staying at my lodge who says she was your girlfriend 35 years ago….” [Stunned silence.] And then they met up the next day. And the rest of that story? Well, I don’t know` it. I `only get to be part of a snapshot in people’s lives, a brief moment in their timeline that belongs to Zambia and Zig Zag and me. And then they are gone, and the next clients arrive and the fun begins all over again.
I look back on the last few weeks with a real sense of satisfaction. We had fantastic clients, lots of fun and a little bit of extra cash in the bank now.
But my favourite part in all this craziness – finding the lost teddy bear and returning it to a very relieved mum and happy young boy. As I said – sometimes it really is the little things that make the biggest difference.