Diary: 2 weeks at Richard Branson’s lodge – Days 3-6

I’ve been getting a lot of flack from my girlfriend for not updating this diary blog section every day. For some reason people actually read these things I type away whilst sitting alone in far off places. Who would have thought.

So here I am, at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning on a long weekend. Most people are asleep, I’m about to get up and out of bed to go get ready to serve breakfast and prepare for lunch. The joys of this career I’ve decided to choose. Its been 6 days of 6:30 wake-up alarms (but my kamikaze body clock wakes me up at 5:30! Bloody hell) and then work until around 2:30. Take a 4 hour break and then return at 6:30 for the dinner service, which will end at around 10 p.m. Everyday, that’s my routine for the last week.

Dinner table on the deck

Dinner table on the deck

It’s been an interesting 6 days so far. This place is truly breathtaking. Whenever I think I’ve seen it all…I discover something new. Literally built into the steep face of a hill nearly every building is built on stilts. There’s even warning signs limiting how many people are allowed to stand on each section at any given time. Kind of freaky listening to the creaking wooden flooring now and then wondering what would happen if suddenly one wooden beam decided it had had  enough….


I’m slowly getting acclimatised to the heat. Its a different kind of heat here, its humid, unlike back home in Johannesburg where the heat is more of a dry heat and you can survive hiding under the shade or in doors, here the heat comes and finds you. You sweat just standing still. The first 4 or 5 days I would wake up tired because of it. I still sleep with the fan on but I refuse to sleep with open windows! The weird things that go about their lives crawling around here would make a big butch guy like me squeal like a little girl. 3 days ago I was closing the curtain and a Praying Mantis bigger than my hand decided to say hi to me the very next day whilst taking a coffee break one of the FOH managers suddenly got up, put on his shades and walked to a corner. I thought the guy was trying to look cool or something. Nope! He was going to confront a Spitting Cobra that was relaxing just outside one of the guest suites! The shades were to protect his eyes in case the thing spat at him…so for obvious reasons I don’t have any pictures to show you of that.

One of the guest suites at night

One of the guest suites at night

Life in the bush is pretty chilled though. Even though the hours are insane and the weather is even more insane at times it’s very different from the constant rush and tension of a busy hotel in the city or a big a la carte restaurant. Most of the time there’s only 2 chefs in the kitchen, a head or a sous chef and a junior. For the first 4 days I was basically shadowing the head chef and she was showing me how things work around here but last night I ran the kitchen myself. Unlike at a restaurant to enhance the whole personal interaction thing here the chef on duty has to interact with guests and tell them what you’ve prepared for dinner and why you prepared it that way. Listening to foreign accents trying to pronounce your name and also trying to understand what you just rattled off is always experience. Last night I had a German couple ask if the roast vegetable terrine was vegetarian. Yep, the life of a chef.

I also set last night’s menu. For Starters:

  • Potato and herb soup with miniature vetkoek
  • Roast vegetable terrine with parmesan biscotti
  • Springbok Carpaccio with avocado

The Main courses were:

  • Mussels in a butter sauce with pommes frites, roast baby tomatoes and aoili
  • Beef tagine with cous cous and roast butternut
  • Arrabbiata sauce with linguine pasta


  • Chocolate fondant with ice cream and a berry compote
  • Coffee poached apples with ice cream and honey
Richard Branson

Richard Branson

Apparently this place was on the news a few weeks ago. Richard Branson’s son got married here and they booked out the entire lodge for 5 days. There were over 40 chefs brought in from all around the area to assist. Marquees and stages were built and bands and things brought in. For 4 nights the staff hardly slept. Sadly its one of the negatives of what we do, unless you’re a head chef, owner or one of the managers guests never fully understand or fathom the amount of work that happens in the background in hotels, lodges and restaurants.

Anyway, my alarm is going off and acting unruly, gotta run off to grill sausages and try understand what the staff are saying as they rattle off in xiTsonga. As much as I try explain to them that I cannot and my brain will not understand a word they say even if they emphasize it by repeating the word over and over the guys here still seem adamant that they’ll speak to me in the language. I told them that I’ll choose to respond in my mother tongue too then! hahaa. It’s all in good spirit though.

I made the error of taking advice from one of the locals when they told me that the water here is perfectly fine. I even double checked with the head chef and I was told that its filtered and tested every month and it gets the green light every time…so off I went with my cup to the tap, poured some in and took a big happy gulp! Argh! Stuff tastes horrible. I promptly bought a 5 litre bottle of mineral water from the store. South Africa has some of the best tasting water in the world…but someone forgot to tell the game and nature reserves to get the recipe from the local cities!

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