“You must interview Reuben”, was the universal sentiment from just about every staff member at Mombo Camp…
If you’re lucky, as I consider I am, in your travels you come across people who surprise you in the most delightful way. Reuben Moyo is Mombo Camp’s technical service manager and one of those extraordinary individuals. A gentle giant with a humble heart and an unfailingly positive attitude to work, which actually, he doesn’t see as work at all, “When I’m here I just feel like I’m on holiday because it depends how you take a job; if you take a job as a job it pains you, but if you take it as a career then it’s something that you love and you enjoy.”
Reuben has been with Wilderness for 10 years. Over the last decade he has worked at most of their Botswana camps but feels that Mombo is his last ‘bus stop’. “I’ve worked very hard to be where I am today. Mombo is one of the biggest camps and they say it is the place of plenty – not only plenty of animals but also, plenty of work!”
Born in Zimbabwe, Reuben completed four years at technical college including an apprenticeship. “I am a qualified motor mechanic.” He then came straight to Botswana, where his brother was working at the time and joined Wilderness Safaris. “I fell in love with the company. I’ve never even checked other companies because I think I will work with this company forever.” Reuben began as an ordinary mechanic, fixing vehicles, a job that he still loves. “When a vehicle has a breakdown my heart is happy, I want to fix it. Every challenge that comes you have to be happy – I’m not a person that when a challenge comes I say ‘why this?’ Every challenge is a new experience and I want to overcome it. The moment I see the vehicle running and back on the road I’m happy.”
As he has grown with the company, Reuben has been able to share his knowledge with many other mechanics within Wilderness Safaris. “Many mechanics in Botswana knew about petrol engines but because all of our vehicles are diesel, I had to train them. Most of them are quiet, mature guys who are running their own camps now, without my supervision, so that’s something that makes me very happy and proud.”
Being far from town and working in a bush camp certainly has its challenges! (and scary moments!) “While you are waiting for spares to come (which can take quite some time) you can’t let a problem grow, so you have to improvise. I’ve learnt that there’s always a second plan!”
Because the camp is built of mostly wood, which wears away with heat, cold, and water, it needs regular maintenance. “We also have animals like elephants, big enough that they can just push the boardwalk at any minute and then we have to repair it. Monkeys and baboons are also a big challenge. The bush is very dry now, so their main source of water is our pools; this means they are always coming near the camp and create many problems including tearing and jumping on the tent roofs.”
“I once worked in a camp called Kalahari Plains. One of the guys had a breakdown (although our Land Rovers are very comfortable our roads are not ordinary bush roads and can be hard on the vehicles.) So I went to help that guy, but I told him “since your vehicle’s got a problem drive ahead of me and I will follow you. It was at night and since I was following him I gave him some space because of the dust. Then I saw that the gap was closing and I thought that the vehicle has got a problem again. Finally the vehicle stopped so I just went behind him and stopped my vehicle as well. I thought that the problem with his vehicle has started again. I got out and I was just talking to him and said ‘open the bonnet’, because I knew where the problem was. My aim was to open the bonnet and fix the vehicle but as I was passing the driver’s door, he grabbed my hand. When I looked at his face, it told me everything. I just put my first leg on the vehicle to extend my height and then I saw a big lion. The lion was sniffing the bull-bar in front of the vehicle so just a few centimetres away. Quickly I jumped inside the vehicle! The lion didn’t see me, I was very lucky, that’s one of the scariest things that’s happened in my life…”
Another of Reuben’s challenges is looking after the solar plant. “It’s a very expensive asset so it needs somebody who understands it and can control and monitor it.” The solar panels, 400 individual panels in total, were installed three years ago and have so far been operating perfectly.
In the next few months there are some exciting challenges happening at Mombo Camp. A new camp, Mombo Trails Camp is going to be built with the idea of invoking nostalgia for the original Mombo Camp built on the ground. This light footprint tented camp will be up and running while Mombo and Little Mombo are being completely rebuilt. Reuben will be coordinating the construction on the ground along with the project managers in Maun. “I’ve got a vision of what the camp is going to look like and to me, when everything is in place it’s going to look beautiful.
“Rebuilding Mombo camp is going to take a lot of time, and a lot of commitment. It’s going to need people who don’t say ‘I am tired’, but are going to be strong because this is our home and we know what we want.”
Reuben with Mombo’s maintenance heroes: Mbakiso Manyemundzo (carpenter), Boiteko Kgosietsile (motor mechanic), Tirafalo Gaboratwe (carpenter) and Tirafalo Letiyo (solar plant attendant)