Conrad & Retha Cooke
Conrad & Retha Cooke both grew up in South Africa. They met during a poker-evening while studying at the University of Pretoria and soon afterwards became world citizens when Retha moved to Dubai and Conrad to South Korea. In 2010 they moved to Zambia's Luangwa Valley where they lived for 5 years. It is here where they learned the ins-and-outs of the safari industry and that trying to grow a lawn next to a river full of hippos is not a good idea. They also perfected the art of the 30-minute safari for those rare occasions when the camp is quiet enough to jump in a game-viewer and go for a quick drive. They moved to Odzala-Kokua National Park in the Republic of the Congo in 2015 and successfully managed a camp specialising in Western Lowland Gorilla treks. Being woken up in the middle of the night by a silver-back chest-beating close to their house is an experience they'll never forget. Conrad is a keen photographer and says the only negative aspect to living in the bush is not being able to watch soccer. Retha loves sharing her bush-memories on instagram (@rethacooke) and claims that the limited selection of toothpaste-brands is the biggest disadvantage to bush-living.
Gadmel Kimaro, or “Kim” as he’s known to us, was born in 1967 in the Kilimanjaro region and after successfully finishing his secondary education, he completed his required year in National Service before moving south to Dar es Salaam to study at the College of Accountancy. After receiving his qualification he worked as an accountant for a year in a government organisation before admitting his love and passion for nature would not let him be in an office for the rest of his life! With this in mind he joined Mweka Wildlife Management College in 1990 and after studying for a year he was employed by Ker & Downey as a safari guide in Arusha. After four years he went back to education and a course of animal behaviour and hospitality at Mount Meru Tour Guiding College in Arusha. For the following few years Kim worked in the north as a guide before moving south and joining Selous Safari Company in 1998. Initially be was based in Siwandu as a guide for six years before transferring his talents to Jongomero as Head Guide and the remote wilderness of Ruaha in 2004. Kim’s enthusiasm, generous smile, calm countenance, vast knowledge of wildlife and deep passion ensures he is a beloved and integral part of the guiding team. In 2016, Kim relocated to Siwandu to become the Head Guide - he is enjoying being back in Selous and offering guests the range of game activities we have on offer at Siwandu.
Edmund Mahunga is Siwandu's Senior Chef, after joining the team here in 2007. He brought with him a wealth of culinary skills, expertise and a friendly smile, which he continues to demonstrate every day here in the kitchens. Edmund's passion for food and cooking is clear in every dish he cleverly produces, and creates. Becoming a chef has been Edmunds ambition for many years, and when he qualified in 1992 and his dream was fulfilled. Edmund's creativity and skills come all the way from his home town of Iringa. He is proud to actively practice his Christian faith, and is a popular member amongst his colleagues, always ready to conjure up a new "cuisine creation", and to run a dynamic kitchen team. Edmund was promoted in 2014 to Head Chef at Siwandu.
Mpoto has worked for Selous Safari Company for nearly 25 years and due to his vast experience and knowledge is the only member of the team at Siwandu to guide all game activities – by foot, by vehicle and by boat. Mpoto comes from a local tribe called Pogoro and after finishing school he went straight onto the great Rufiji River system as a Boatman. He joined Selous Safari Company in 1990 and the majority of his time he is guiding guests on the Rufiji’s myriad of waterways.
Hailing from Mloka, Siwandu’s local village, Mohamed travelled to Dar es Salaam in 1980 and studied as a carpenter for two years. After completing his course he remained in Dar to work for four years before returning back to his village to share what he had learnt with his fellow brothers as well as work on the family farm. Selous Safari Company has always supported the local village and through this association Mohamed had the opportunity to join the camp team in 1994 as a Room Attendant. Falling in love with tourism and wildlife he was determined to learn as much as he could so he began by studying the local flora and fauna so he could share his knowledge with the guests he was looking after. Seeing his amazing drive and potential Selous Safari Company sponsored him to attend a training course with Mikumi Vocational Education Training Authority and he attained a certificate in Tour Guiding. With his newly acquired knowledge he returned to camp to have in house training with our Walking Guide at the time, Andrew “Moli” Molinaro until he was ready to take guests out by himself in 2007.
Enock, who lives in Arusha, joined Selous Safari Company in June 2015 after guiding for more than nine years in many different reserves and parks including Serengeti, Ngorogoro, Tarangire, Ruaha and Selous. However he is loving his time with us at Siwandu as its "the best location in Selous" with his favourite places being Lake Nzerakera and Lake Manze as guests can view huge herds of animals. Enock is also incredibly passionate about birds and butterflies He studied to be a guide at the Royal Institute of Tourism in Moshi and also attended a workshop in Arusha by Danish anthropologists as well as a special safari course in guiding children. Afterwards Enock attended Loro Colloge of international languages and is fluent in Spanish.
Kandindi is from the Ndengereko tribe, which was originally based in Selous before the area was established as a Game Reserve in 1922, and so the tribe was relocated to Mloka Village. His grandfather was a great fisherman and farmer along the Rufiji River and Kandindi learnt his trade and understanding for the great river from him as he was growing up. After primary school in 1990, Kandindi was chosen with two other students to join Umakuru Secondary School but an education in Tanzania is expensive and due to lack of funds Kandindi could not attend. So he joined his family on the family canoe fishing the waters of the Rufiji for an income. In 1993, Kandindi joined Selous Safari Company as a Security Guard and was further promoted to Room Steward in 1994 but his ambition and great knowledge of the water systems in Selous led him to being trained in-house as a Boat Guide by Mpoto. In 1996, he was afforded a fulltime Boat Guide position in camp.