Lock Down Lodge – Stranded in an African Bush Lodge

Posted on Mon March 30, 2020.

The hospitality Industry is having a very difficult time during this COVID-19 pandemic. Some lodges and hotels have had to remain open to accommodate guests that were stranded when our President declared an National Emergency and the airports shutdown.

We are all aware (or you should be unless you’ve had your head deeply in the sand like an ostrich!) of the awful crisis the Covid-19 virus has placed on humanity. So many loved ones are dying prematurely, mostly alone in isolation, all over our beautiful planet. Our hearts and sympathies go out to all of those affected, directly and indirectly. In fact we are all affected in some way or the other and life will just not be the same again.

The global hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit with billions of dollars in forward bookings being cancelled as the majority of accommodation establishments have been forced into shut down. Hospitality is a labour intensive business as staff cannot be replaced by robots. I fear these staff will feel the pinch the most so we must as an industry ensure we look to the future and guarantee we retain staff and assist financially where and when possible. Some governments in developed nations have put together huge bail-out programs for the industry but here in Africa the situation is a lot more difficult.  Just to give you an idea; here in Nkomazi (Southern Kruger Park area), Mpumalanga Province, Tourism contributes R 3.5 billion to the regions GDP. That represents 28% of the GDP of this area and certainly a large percentage of the available employment. The South African economy has been struggling of late and has limited resources to bail out everybody, especially those smaller establishments, restaurants, bars, clubs and of course the host of independent nature and culture guides. The Government have announced various programs offering assistance but in typical bureaucratic style these have entry limitations and it will probably take time for the benefits to get to those that so desperately require assistance. On top of that the current offers are for a limited time period and this disaster is likely to affect the industry for the next 6 months at least. To top this many of the more organised establishments, that can afford it, have Business Interruption Insurance in place, with particular reference to epidemics, to assist them for loss of business and protect valuable employees jobs and their businesses in times of crisis. In usual style the re-insurers are resisting entertaining claims and looking for a loophole to prevent them paying out what would be staggering amounts that would make a  natural disaster look like a car wreck claim. International governments and the industry as a whole must put pressure on these very large insurers to honour contracts and participate in the huge losses the industry will incur.  Nkosi Sikelela South African Tourism. Nkosi Sikelela global Tourism.

But I digress, this blog was meant to be about the 100’s of thousands of guests that have been stranded across the globe as flights were cancelled and people were placed into isolation. Here at little Needles Lodge we have a Belgian couple and two Dutch ladies who have been stranded in isolation at the lodge. We have kept a skeleton crew of staff; Thobile one of our Chefs, Thandi our longest serving employee, my wife Gail and our manager Colin on duty to keep the lodge running and make their lives as comfortable as possible in these worrying times. The show is definitely going on, the animals continue to visit, oblivious of impending disaster, and we cook for, clean rooms and look after our guests as we would on any other normal day. Our routine is slightly different to usual as we only have four guests in-house and the enquiries and bookings have all but dried up. We’re having a daily challenge of pétanque; Belgium V The Netherland V South Africa, and everyone is getting quite skilful. It’s particularly amusing when taking to the playing surface and having to stop your throw for fear of hitting a zebra crossing much to the delight of our dear European guests.  

We’ve adapted our menus to really spoil the guests and ourselves and are adding in some simple delights like tonight’s pasta duo; spaghetti carbonara and tagliatelle vongole (seafood) followed by chocolate mousse with the recipe from Hilde, our Belgian guest, who works as a chef back in Oostende, West Flanders, Belgium.

So please think of us when considering to cancel your booking, please postpone instead and save some money so that you may travel to visit us when this is all over and come enjoy this magnificent country and region we call home.

Warm regards,


Denis Goffinet

Lodge Owner and hospitality nut!