2020 has been a year we won’t easily forget. Countless dark clouds seemed to lurk behind every nook and cranny, changing our lives in a multitude of ways. There are numberless reasons why this past year was an especially tough year for all and we read about these challenges every day. But it is true that every dark cloud has a silver lining and instead of focusing on the clouds we took some time with our SSC team members to find the silver linings of 2020.
There are many things we are proud of and grateful for. Below we highlight ten of these. Most of these achievements were made possible because of the support of our incredible team, our industry partners, local communities and our guests. We would like to thank you for the part you have played in contributing to these successes.
- An abundance of rain
The start of 2020 brought an above-normal amount of rain to our Southern Camps in Ruaha and Nyerere. Even though Mother Earth rejoiced and soaked up these welcome rains, our camps took some strain and part of the camps were damaged due to flooding. During our annual closing of the camps during the rainy season from March to May (kulinda) we restored our camps with the help of our team and by the beginning of August we reopened our beautiful camps again. We had a good rainy season which meant that the parks were looking spectacular, wildlife had an abundance of food and water and local communities had better access to much needed water to maintain their crops and animals.
- Keeping our camps open despite a change in world events
During kulinda the pandemic unfolded around the world. It was a tough call to make, but we decided to reopen all our camps for the season. Although tourism numbers were down, we had a few guests who could still travel and enjoy our camps. This helped us to keep supporting our local suppliers who desperately depend on tourism to make a living. In a small way we could keep on fuelling the economy through these guests still travelling.
- Upskilling our team
With less guests in camp we took the opportunity to invest more time in training and upskilling our camp managers and guides. Our eight assistant future camp managers (all local Tanzania’s) received special training four times a week. This internal training programme was conducted by our in-house team of specialist camp managers based on Fanjove. This is part of SSC’s commitment to empowering local Tanzanians and investing in upskilling the team. Many of SSC’s team members have been with the company for over twenty years.
- Sharing our stories online
At the same time we heavily invested in our guide training. By using online training, we could ensure everyone could benefit from training whether in camp or at home. With the help of our guide training consultant, Brain Bode, we conducted evening sessions via Zoom six nights per week.
As part of this training we encouraged guides to start creating videos. It has been a rewarding journey seeing how our guides gained more confidence to tell and share their stories online. It was no easy task either, as all our guides had to learn how to record their own video footage. We are so proud of what they have achieved despite the difficult circumstances. There is definitely a bright future ahead and we look forward to sharing more of their stories in the coming year.
- Investing in local talent
Two young interns were appointed at the onset of the season in June. They have persisted throughout this period and both have now received contracts to continue their journey with the SSC team going forward. Both young learners had no previous experience in the tourism industry but showed with a positive attitude and the tenacity to succeed that anything is possible.
- Spending more time on important community projects
On Fanjove Island we were able to focus our time on fast tracking and to accelerate some of the important projects we run together with our local communities on Songo Songo Island. Together with the District Commissioner of Songo Songo we helped to give the residents of Jovy village, the most South Eastern village on Songo Songo, direct access to water by installing water pumps and taps. The local community in this area now has access to water from a desalination plant on the other side of the island.
- Ensuring greater connection and partnerships
Great strides were made to bring important parties together for the first time ever when a new committee was established called the FTCCC - Fanjove Tourism Conservation Community Committee. This committee is made up of representatives from the SSC team, the Fanjove Island management team, the Songo Songo Village Council, the Songo Songo Divani (village leader), the BMU (Beach Management Unit), the Department of Fisheries and the private sector representing traders, dhow skippers, fishermen and commercial fishing businesses. This committee will convene every quarter to discuss challenges and work together for the greater good of the area.
- Inspiring local children
In the second half of 2020, we organised a fun day out to Fanjove Island for the learners of Songo Songo Island. We took them on a tour of our facilities and talked to them about the importance of tourism. We hope to inspire them to one day choose a career in tourism. Of course the day would not be complete without a bit of beach soccer and a delicious lunch prepared by our local chef Abdi.
- Witnessing the incredible regeneration of the environment
On the other hand, we also witnessed an incredible regeneration of wildlife and nature during this past year. It was interesting to note how wildlife patterns started to change with less activity around. Those fortunate enough to stay in our camps came back with incredible stories from their game drives. In many cases wildlife moved even closer to camps and surprised our guests with exciting sightings.
- Getting recognition for hard work and dedication
A highlight on our calendar for Fanjove Island being listed in the top 10 ‘Best Island’ category in the prestigious LLM Readers’ Travel Awards. We shared this space with some well known islands such as Tenerife in Spain, Santorini and Crete in Greece and Maui in Hawaii amongst others. Fanjove is the only African island listed, a great feat for the smallest island in the Songo Songo Archipelago.
Even though this enforced pause button was pressed on tourism and has stopped us doing what we love most, we hope the good that came from 2020 will continue to inspire a wave of change for us and encourage us to do even better in this coming year.
Thank you for being part of this journey and for your continued support. We look forward to welcoming your guests to stay with us.
Here's to a happy, healthy and successful 2021!