The people of Prana

Beach view

Prana Lodge beach view

A province rich in diversity, the Eastern Cape is a captivating part of South Africa that is not only renowned for its scenic beauty but also for its culture and history, especially because it is celebrated as Nelson Mandela’s birthplace. Following in the footsteps of kindness that Madiba left, Prana Lodge Private Beach Estate and Spa owners, Tim and Gail Davidson, place a strong emphasis on community upliftment and the restoration of opportunities. 

Over the 30 years that Tim and Gail have owned the 17 acre piece of land that Prana Lodge is situated on, they have placed a focus on nurturing this prime beach-front property into much more than a luxurious five-star destination.

Forest walkway

Forest walkway

In preparing the land for the building of the lodge, special attention was given to the conservation of indigenous plant life, and alien vegetation was eliminated while more species of indigenous flora were installed.

The hard work required to keep Prana Lodge’s land in supreme condition would not be possible without the efforts of its team. In fact, the seven-suite lodge would not exist today had it not been for those that worked with Tim to establish its foundations. With a passion for reaching out to neighbouring communities, Prana Lodge recruited its labour force from Chinsta Village when building of the lodge began.

‘ …Tim & Gail Davidson place a strong emphasis on community upliftment and the restoration of opportunities. ’

This process took place over a two year period, during which Tim taught the men that he hired various skills including brick laying, paving, carpentry, tiling, plumbing and other basic building skills. Even now, with the lodge a fully fledged establishment, there continues to be a special emphasis on skills development.

Many of the men who started out in the initial phases of building the lodge have extended their abilities and now work as porters, maintenance staff, butlers and waiters at Prana.  

Richard, Botha, Bonakele, Simba (2)

Richard, Botha, Bonakele and Simba

Bongani Goli and Botha Sayinile are two of the valued men that assisted Tim with the establishment of the lodge as labourers in 2008. They were taught how to do carpentry and bricklaying, and when the lodge opened in 2010 they were both trained as barmen and waiters. To this day, Bongani and Botha remain important Prana Lodge team members. They receive ongoing hospitality training, as well as participate in butler training from The South African Butler Academy, once a year.   

‘ …with a passion for reaching out to neighbouring communities, Prana Lodge recruited its labour force from Chintsa Village when building of the lodge began. ’

Two other men that began their walk with Prana Lodge as labourers were Luvuyo (Vuyo) Matakane, who has embraced his role as general cleaner and porter, and Vusumzi (Richard) Tiyisi – also known as “Big R” – who is now part of the maintenance team and displays exceptional skills in carpentry. Elias Jack also started when the lodge was built, and now fulfils the role of painter in the maintenance division.  

Even before the foundations of the lodge were laid, Bonakele (Ivan) Mda started working with Gail as a gardener. He then also assisted with the building for a two year period and was appointed Head Gardener when the lodge opened in 2010. He now manages all of the indigenous gardens, the herb garden and the worm farm.  

Prana organic garden

Prana organic garden

From garden to table pickings - from Prana Herb Garden into Prana Garden Salad

From the herb garden to table pickings…

Prana Lodge_Crisp aubergines with tomato brunoise and parmesan 1

Aubergines and garnishes from the garden

Other staff members have also grown in leaps and bounds from their beginnings to their current positions. Simba Kaudani started his journey at Prana Lodge as a waiter in February 2011, and has since acquired significant skills. In 2013 he took on the role of Housekeeping Supervisor and Office Assistant, where he was able to learn much about the different aspects of working in the hospitality industry. He is now the Assistant General Manager and Night Duty Manager, and displays exceptional ability in his current role.

Bongi Fipaza grabbed the opportunity to develop her skills within the industry. Having begun her journey at Prana Lodge in February 2013 as an administrator, it didn’t take long before her capabilities and confidence grew to the point of where she was able to take on a new role. In November 2013, Bongi took on the responsibility of Housekeeping Manager.

Nico Mnyandeni, who started out working in the scullery in 2012, has embraced the opportunity to learn and develop new capabilities in the kitchen. Over the years, Nico has walked alongside Head Chef Jaycee Ferreira who offered him exceptional insight into creating exquisite cuisine. In October 2013, Nico was promoted to Assistant Chef and now pieces together beautiful dishes full of flavour and creative appeal.

Another valuable asset to the Prana team is Simon Gogela. Many years ago he began working at Prana Lodge during his school holidays as a young boy. After finishing school, Simon worked as a reservist for the South African Police Service (SAPS), but his dream was to start his own private security company. Soon he returned to his home village, Chintsa, to pursue this venture. He now owns his own successful security business, and is contracted by the lodge to assist in keeping it a crime-free zone.

Owner Gail Davidson in the garden

Owner Gail Davidson in the garden…

Tim and Gail have also employed a number of staff with the assistance from butler trainer Newton Cross and The South African Butler Academy, focusing on up-skilling the employees that are under the lodge’s wing. Having created many jobs for local community members, the Prana Lodge family now consists of over 40 staff members.

words – Lesley Miles for Prana Lodge / pics – Prana Lodge

Check out the article in Responsible Traveller mag

pg 40-43 Prana

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