10 Questions with Camp Jabulani’s Chantel du Toit

Step into the life of a lodge manager in our latest Q&A with the lovely Chantel du Toit, General Manager, along with her husband Stefan, at Camp Jabulani in the Kapama Private Game Reserve of South Africa.

10 Questions with Camp Jabulani General Manager, Chantel du Toit

How did your path lead you to Camp Jabulani?

Love. Firstly, love for animals and then following my heart. I met my husband at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. He soon started his career as a guide at Camp Jabulani, where I had a choice between doing what I love or being with the person I love. An opportunity I am forever grateful, as it lead to me following a different passion in life and being able to work with my partner and to do what we enjoy doing.

5 things working at Camp Jabulani has taught you about yourself, life and love?

  1. Working with animals rewards you in ways you never knew possible.
  2. There is no better feeling than being part of something bigger than yourself, contributing to an actual animal’s life.
  3. Love knows no time, even from the first introduction one can have an instant bond with an animal that lasts a lifetime.
  4. It’s one of life’s biggest privileges to be able to come in close contact with such magnificent gentle giants.
  5. Being able to see the Camp Jabulani herd evolve into a close family makes you realise how we all – humans and animals alike – just want a little place where we can belong and be loved. Looking at animals gives insight into everyday unanswered questions.

Favourite part about living in the bush and in particular, the Kapama Private Game Reserve?

Life in the bush can be trying, especially having a little child, but it is our life choice. It is tranquil and calm. Life is just life, here. People are just people. No politics, silly magazines or a life dictated by society. There might not be a shop or school close by, but it sure makes the journey very interesting.

Kapama has one of the best views of the Drakensberg Mountain range. It is such a privilege to wake up every morning and gaze at such a wonderful view.

A never forget moment from your time at Camp Jabulani so far?

Seeing how gentle Jabulani interacted with a guest that was practically blind. It was as if he knew that she was blind, using such gentle movements to touch her eyes with the tip of his trunk. And the 2012 floods – seeing so much water, raging past, destroying everything in its way. It was terrifyingly beautiful.

How has your relationship with Africa and her wildlife changed while the lodge?

Working and living in the bush has given me a deep respect for wildlife and Mother Nature. There is always the fear of unwanted reptiles making their way into your home, everyone’s nightmare. But there is nothing so satisfying as seeing nature recovering after a drought. It’s almost instant. With the littlest of rain, small green grass shoots start to sprout, a sign of hope.

What is it like to spend time with the Camp Jabulani elephants?

It is a truly magical experience. They show courage and forgiveness. Watching them, having had such rocky starts in life and being able to overcome that and in the end have a family and a safe haven… it’s heart-warming. Even the weakest, littlest baby deserves a chance. The Camp Jabulani herd is the perfect symbol for “every life counts”.

You favourite meal on the menu?

Deconstructed Baked Alaska – the most amazing piece of art that almost looks too good to eat. An absolute must.

Favourite time in the bush and the best way to start the day?

Summer evenings. The best way to start the morning is with coffee, strong coffee and lots of coffee.

The best way to unwind on a day off?

Sitting outside, watching my daughter play in the garden while the sun sets behind the Drakensberg Mountain.

What unusual things does your job entail?

Sometimes you get to meet people who have lead extraordinary lives. Some come to Africa as it has been a lifelong dream, a bucket list experience.

I remember having conversations with guests knowing it is their last holiday they will ever have. One story that really stands out is of a lady who had a miscarriage and then found out it was due to cancer. Because of treatment she had kidney failure and had two kidney transplants. Due to the transplants she could not fulfill her lifelong dream to visit Africa. Finally, after many years and a change in treatment she was able to breathe the African air.

Sometimes you are front and centre of someone’s lifelong memory. The final chapter of their book. It is quite a responsibility to ensure that it is a best seller.

How We Celebrated World Oceans Day 2018

“This is where I first learnt to swim,” he said. “As a kid we used to come down to this exact beach, my cousins and I. The whole family.”

Grant, now the Head Chef of Ellerman House, spoke as he pointed to the sandy inlet stretching out from sea to street beside the harbour in Kalk Bay, Cape Town.

I tried to picture him, the tallest of our chefs in Africa, as a young boy. When this failed, I pictured myself, as a girl, learning to swim in a family friend’s pool. I tried to flip back to that earliest memory of being in the sea. And I saw it – the first waterwings, the first bodyboard, the first wetsuit.

I saw the ocean and the traffic jams it had caused with all the cityfolk making their way to the sea on baking Cape days. I saw all the picnic baskets, snorkels, goggles, flippers, sand castles, umbrellas. Paraphernalia of the oceanlover.

I could see Grant now among them, just one of the crowd of boys excited to be barefoot and free, on sand and in sea.

Today we were standing on the harbour jetty looking out over the beachfront and at the blue – the light blue, deep blue, flat blue, choppy blue.

“I think that’s them,” Grant said, pointing to a spec on the horizon.

“No, that’s going the opposite way. That boat’s still going out to sea,” said another member of our party.

We waited some more, as the spec grew closer, bigger, until we could spy the people on board – our Chef and Maître de Maison cum fishermen. Ashley Moss (Greenhouse, The Cellars-Hohenort) and Paul Bruce-Brand (Ellerman House), respectively, who had spent the morning, from sunrise to noon, out at sea with a local fisherman.

“Look at them,” Grant said, “they’re still smiling.”

It was not the warmest day. The sky and sea were not blue as I might have alluded to. They were a white-grey. But it was true, the men were smiling. Even Fadil, who had allowed our two to fish with him for a morning, was smiling.

“Maybe they’ve been converted,” I said. Thinking of the sea and her spell. Thinking of Grant and me as kids, splashing in the shallow waves for hours, immune to the frostbite and brain-freeze. Thinking of our smiles and yelps and cartwheels and somersaults, like seals playing mermen and mermaids. Thinking of that general glow the sea casts over you. How it washes away the rest of the world, while you lose yourself in its world.

Paul and Ashley stepped off the boat, onto the harbour jetty, carrying their catch of the day – red roman and bream. We joked about their size, the way fishermen do. But really we were impressed, a little envious, and wishing we’d had the courage to join them.

We had come to learn more about the local fishing community, about supporting local and sustainable fishing practices. We had come to remind ourselves of the smell of the sea, and all the reasons we need and love it.

It wasn’t quite until Grant took me back to my childhood that I realised just how pivotal the ocean has been in my life, in all the lives around me – from our earliest memories, our favourite memories, to those still being made.

There are infinite reasons and ways to celebrate World Oceans Day, as it fell on 8 June this week. One of the most appealing ways, we thought, was food…

In collaboration with Relais & Châteaux alongside the NGO  Ethic Ocean, the chefs of several of the Relais & Châteaux hotels and lodges in Africa and the Indian Ocean planned, prepared and served a  special seafood dinner on the night of World Oceans Day to shed light on sustainability, on looking after our oceans while still enjoying them and their bounty.

Below is a look at the hotels and lodges that participated and the menus created by the chefs, from the wilderness of South Africa and the city lights of Cape Town and Johannesburg to the tropical Indian Ocean islands of Zanzibar, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Discover more:

Relais & Châteaux + Exquisite Fish
Relais & Châteaux’s Celebrity Chefs Fight to Save Our Oceans
Attenborough’s message for World Oceans Day

20 Degres Sud, Mauritius

Read more > WOD_20 Degres Sud Menu

North Island, Seychelles

Read more >

Camp Jambulani, Kapama Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Read more >

Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand, South Africa

Read more >

Delaire Graff Estate, Cape Winelands

Read more >

Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa

Read more >

Zanzibar Luxury White Sand Villas & Spa, Zanzibar

Read more > WOD_Zanzibar White Sand Menu 2018

AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, Johannesburg, South Africa

Read more >

“The sea is as near as we come to another world.” – Anne Stevenson

10 Things We Loved About We Are Africa 2018

Our pop-up Gastronomic Bar at We Are Africa in Cape Town each year is not merely a celebration of gastronomy, a source of not only excellent food and wine, but also genuine inspiration and community. This year, 10 things really took us by the hand and left us pining for the moments to last.

Here are our favourite impressions from WAA 2018.. 

1. Cape Town is known for being a four seasons in one day kinda gal, and even though she is currently in a dry spell, Autumn has been unpredictable. We Are Africa, however, had the gods shining down on it, with beautiful warm sunlight across the city, clear views of Table Mountain and instagrammable sunset after instagrammable sunset. Thank you, weather spirits. Now, back to raining.

2. Gastronomy. We intend on travelling as much of the continent and Indian Ocean as possibility allows, but having so many of the incredible Relais & Châteaux Africa chefs under one roof made for a phenomenal journey of its own, with unique tastes, from fynbos granola to raw eland meat, and inspiring sights and smells.

3. Compliments. Being the show’s hub of fine cuisine, we enjoyed several kind words from international and local guests – about our food, our wines (from Delaire Graff Estate and Waterford Estate), our people and our properties. And, well, kindness is never unwelcome.

4. Friendship. Having attended and exhibited at We Are Africa since its inception, we’ve made a few friends. It is always beautiful to reconnect with them in the Cape. Having the people of our hotels and lodges in Africa and Indian Ocean altogether… well, that’s magic.

5. Those wines… Waterford Wines and Delaire Graff Estate lured a few more guests to our meeting place. It was a pleasure to watch the conversations around the counter, as wine lovers from all over the world embraced the joys of living.

6. The parties. Some of us chose to enjoy the sheets of our Ellerman House or The Cellars-Hohenort suites a little longer each morning, while others ventured up the cable car for sunrise music sessions with a local band on top of the city’s best-known mountain. Some of us returned to our hotels for slow sundowners on our terraces, while others took to We Are Africa’s extravaganzas in art galleries and circuses.

7. The Art of Giving. Gift giving and receiving was at its finest, with hotels and lodges sharing tastes of their unique place in the world with others, such as the baobab jam from Anjajavy le Lodge, handmade wire birds with personalised proverbs from Royal Chundu, and beach-lover sandals from Zanzibar Luxury White Sand Villas & Spa.

8. Conservation was on top of our minds throughout the show – from the Conservation Lab on the first day, with inspiring speakers, to the We Are Africa Awards given to leaders and innovators in African conservation and tourism. Catching up with our hotels and lodges about their latest conservation and community initiatives was particularly rewarding – from Camp Jabulani’s ever-growing sanctuary for endangered animals to Great Plains Conservation’s successful rhino-saving projects.

9. Colour! Once every year, We Are Africa gives us four beautiful days to dress up in the boldest of African-inspired outfits. Hats, waistcoats, bejewelled necks – they all shone with the diverse colours and patterns of Africa. How can anyone go back to navy blue after that?

10. Travel! Having scouted out the must-see destinations, the best places to stay, the chefs to indulge with, the whens, hows and what to packs, we’re all ready for some serious adventuring. And to fill the months ahead with #notonestory, but all the stories of Africa.


Thank you to our chefs and hotels and lodges for showcasing your exquisite gastronomy at our bar, to our partner, Nespresso, to We Are Africa for putting on one electric and eclectic show and to the city of Cape Town. Because, my, you sure are beautiful.

Esiweni Luxury Safari Lodge Chef, John Roux and his eats…

    

Ellerman House’s Head Chef Grant Daniels and his team’s tastes of the Cape…

Delaire Graff Estate’s Virgil Kahn (Indochine Restaurant) and his delicacies…

Great Plains Conservation, Kenya’s Benjamin Martim (Mara Plains Camp, ol Donyo Lodge) and Botswana’s Pierre Van Zyl & Raymond Maarman (Zarafa Camp, Duba Plains Camp) and their treats….

 

Executive Chef Peter Tempelhoff & Head Chef Paul Nash of The Cellars-Hohenort