Many of our guests have expressed their love for Mabalingwe in every sense; hospitality, nature, game, and tranquillity. Creating an environment where our guests are able to make memories that they will cherish long after their holiday has ended requires dedication and commitment – two characteristics that our Resort Manager, Noël Basson, does not seem to lack. We have been lucky to have him as part of our family for a while now and it is for this reason that we thought that it is time for you, our valued guests, to get to know him a little personally as well.
What education and experience do you have in the Hospitality Industry?
My career has actually come full circle now that I am the Resort Manager at Mabalingwe. My introduction to the Hospitality Industry was in 2005 when I was appointed as Night Auditor at Mabalingwe Nature Reserve. During that time I was able to learn a lot about the Resort and the Reserve and all their respective operations, and because of that, I found myself longing to be more involved in those daily operations, which led to me being transferred to the Housekeeping Department. While spending some time in that Department, I gained some valuable experience and knowledge about Timeshare and Private Home Owners and this afforded me the opportunity, in 2013, to become the Operations Manager at Ngwenya Lodge. I, of course, jumped at the opportunity because it was something I had wanted for so long. During that time, I worked alongside the Lodge’s current Resort Manager and fellow Mabalingwe Old Boy, Diederik Herholdt. Every day working with him felt like a family reunion! I spent five years at Ngwenya and then, in 2018, I was offered the position of Resort Manager at Sandy Place in St. Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal. After three years, I returned home to Mabalingwe – right back where it all started, except this time as Resort Manager.
What do you love most about Mabalingwe Nature Reserve?
I love EVERYTHING about Mabalingwe! As I mentioned, this is where it all started for me so every aspect of it holds a special place in my heart – the Resort, Reserve, our incredible and dedicated staff, and all the memories and lessons this place has given me. I hold all of it so dearly and will cherish every aspect of it forever.
What three words would your Mabalingwe family use to describe you, and why?
I asked them and their answers almost brought me to tears because everything they said was so kind. The most common answers that I got were that I’m funny, caring, and a unifier. I guess it’s because I do not see them as just staff members. They really are my family; my brothers and sisters, and there is a lot of love between us all.
What has been your funniest, or most memorable moment at the Resort?
I have spent quite some time at Mabalingwe so I have plenty of funny and memorable moments to look back and reflect on but the one that stands out the most is that I found my greatest love, Anel van Wyk, who was, ironically, my former HOD when I was first starting at Mabalingwe. We have been in each other’s lives for a beautiful and blessed nine years. This is another reason why Mabalingwe is such a special place to me – it gave me one of life’s most precious gifts.
Tell us what you love, and what events are best celebrated, at Kalahari Oasis Bush Pub, Boeretroos Coffee Shop or Vulture’s View Bar?
Rugby, good food, and bushveld breakaways – which all go hand-in-hand when you think about Kalahari Oasis Bush Pub, Boeretroos Coffee Shop, and Vulture’s View Bar. All three of these Resort facilities have an unmitigated sense of uniqueness that you can only experience in South Africa. It is not something that one can describe, but the minute you walk into any of those establishments you are immediately met with the familiar feeling. People who live abroad won’t understand what I mean when I say this but it feels like South Africa, and what an amazing feeling it is because South Africa is home!
Working in the bushveld, one is bound to come across a few creepy crawlies. Have you come across any interesting ones? What can you tell us about that critter?
Yet again, there are too many to mention. However, during my time as Housekeeping Site Supervisor, a fellow staff member asked me about a certain spoor (or track) that they had come across in the veld. We then decided to both follow the track and it stopped at one of the trees in the veld. Confused because we had hit a “brick wall”, I turned around and said to the other staff members, “The track stops here.” Before I could say any more words, one of them exclaimed “Look up!”. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I lifted my head to the tree. Staring right back at me was the biggest rock python that I have ever come across! It was so big that the whole tree was slightly slanted to the side due to the python being so heavy. We ran so fast; land speed records were certainly broken that day!
What has been the most incredible wildlife-sighting or story you have experienced at Mabalingwe?
This cannot be justified by a singular sighting but rather by the change of season come springtime each year. Every year when we are drawing closer to the end and we start experiencing some summer rains, the Resort comes to a calm and the Reserve becomes what I would call a “crèche” for the animals. This is the time of year when mothers, with their newborn calves, cubs and foals in tow, emerge from the shrubbery and can be seen all over the Reserve; jumping, running, and playing with high spirits. It’s an incredible time of year.
Do you have a favourite guest story?
This incident was so funny that we have even dubbed it “The Complaint” because it took an unexpected turn. One of our guests had requested me to visit them at their unit regarding a number of complaints that they had. Upon my arrival, I found an elderly lady waiting for me on the patio, and to say that she was fuming would be an understatement! I introduced myself and she summoned me to a seat so that I could take all matters head-on. She then went full tilt noting complaints of all sorts; none of which she could explain or show the matters of concern or displeasure for. After this had gone on for a while, she apologised for the manner and tone in which she had addressed me and offered me a drink and something to eat. I didn’t think it would take too long because I had already sat there with her for a while so I thanked her and obliged. We sat and had a really lovely chat where she was asking questions about the Resort, Reserve and myself, and, without even noticing, I was held “captive” for over three hours. Our staff kept coming to the unit to ensure that all was well, but with every request to leave it seemed that she had more to talk about. By the end of our extensive conversation, she thanked me for the visit and invited me to come over again the following day so that we could pick up where we left off. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear her thoughts and suggestions, and by the end I felt as though I had gained a new friend and a story I’ll never forget.
What essential would you say guests should pack when visiting Mabalingwe?
Limpopo is one of the warmest regions in the country. It can get extremely hot so I would advise guests to pack clothing items that they will be comfortable and cool in such as “vellies” or flip flops, a light shirt, comfy shorts and, most importantly, sunscreen. If guests happen to forget these items at home then it is not a problem at all because they are available for purchase at the Farmshop and Boeretroos.
What is the one thing you think every guest at Mabalingwe should experience?
Mabalingwe has so much to offer and I could not possibly single out just one place, spot, entity, activity, or event that guests should experience. The ‘Mabalingwe Experience’ begins with the Natal Francolins chirping and singing their chorus as a rosy hue is cast across the morning sky by the sunrise and the warthog greets you as it passes while you enjoy a fresh brew of your morning cup of tea on the patio. The experience then continues as you set off to the Reserve for a game drive and it is here where you are at your closest with the unspoilt nature of the Limpopo province and the abundant wildlife. On this journey, you find yourself stumbling upon Kalahari Oasis, and on your return to the Resort the Farmshop, recreational area and swimming pools will be waiting for you along with other guests who are looking to mix and mingle. As the day comes to an end and the sky is ablaze with the fire of the African sunset, the scent of a braai calls you and your loved ones together for a pleasant dinner filled with laughter. The warthog passes by once more and guinea fowls chirp afar to bid you a good night. You find yourself thinking: “No other experience could be better than this.”
Mabalingwe Nature Reserve has been home to Noël for many years and this is the core reason why so many of our guests have chosen this Resort to be their home-away-from-home. He makes sure that everyone’s holiday experience is uniquely Mabalingwe and wonderfully family and fun! We hope that you enjoyed getting to know him better and if you ever bump into him, be sure to say hello. He is always up for a good chat.