“When it comes to the heart of Ngwenya Lodge, it is our community of shareholders that make the resort unlike any other. They have a deep connection with the resort and actively participate in ensuring Ngwenya’s ongoing success. It is exhilarating to be a part of that invested energy and to experience first-hand, on a daily basis, the joy and restoration that time spent here brings to our shareholders and guests.” [ Diederik Heroldt – Resort General Manager ]
The story of Ngwenya Lodge is interwoven into that of the Kruger National Park, first known as the Sabie Game Reserve. In 1898, the Park opened its doors to the public unbeknown that it would become one of the biggest conservation nature reserves in the world. Access for motorists was made possible when gravel roads were constructed throughout the Reserve in 1928. Later in 1929, Sabie Game Reserve was renamed the Kruger National Park and the Crocodile Bridge entrance was opened. In 1989, Ngwenya Lodge was built along the Crocodile River, a mere 10km away from the Crocodile Bridge entrance to the Kruger National Park. This position incorporated the Resort into the game-rich South-Eastern section of the Kruger Park giving timeshare owners every opportunity to see the Big Five and all other species without having to leave the resort.
Resort General Manager, Diederik Heroldt has been at the helm of Ngwenya Lodge for the past decade. We chatted with him about the path that led him to the management of Ngwenya and what makes this resort one of the most sought-after timeshare experiences.
Q: Please tell us about the journey that led you to Ngwenya Lodge.
I began my career in the S.A. Airforce Officers’ Club as a trainee chef and worked my way up the ranks. Thereafter, I had the opportunity to join a well-known hospitality group, working in their food and beverage department and later becoming the restaurant manager for both the Overvaal and Forever Resorts. This is where I discovered my passion for the broader resort hospitality offering. When I was afforded the opportunity of taking on the role of commercial manager for a well-known and extremely popular timeshare resort, I jumped right in and joined the Mabalingwe Nature Reserve team, where I was later promoted to general manager for the share block. From there, I was transferred to the largest resort in the Vacation Recreational Services managing agent portfolio – Ngwenya Lodge.
Q: What was your first impression of the timeshare industry?
I think it’s fair to say that my first impressions were a mix of curiosity and excitement about the possibilities of this way of holidaying. I think my overwhelming impression then remains true today: timeshare makes great holidays to fabulous destinations accessible to ordinary South African families, like my own. Being able to gift your family and loved-ones with annual holiday is priceless.
Q: What excites you the most in your role as resort general manager?
For one, being part of the dynamic, innovative, ‘anything-is-possible’ team at VRS managing agent. The culture is extremely rewarding and drives a productive and positive working environment. When it comes to the heart of Ngwenya Lodge, it is the community of shareholders that make the resort unlike any other. They have a deep connection with the resort and actively participate in ensuring Ngwenya’s ongoing success. It is exhilarating to be part of that invested energy and to experience first-hand, on a daily basis, the joy and restoration that time spent here brings to our shareholders and guests.
Q: Tell us about your staff – what keeps them motivated and working together as a team?
The Ngwenya staff are our biggest asset. Their upbeat attitudes and how they show up, engage, ask questions, be present and go the extra mile is the glue that holds our Resort together. I am a man of few words and believe that one’s actions have a far greater impact on others, and that staff members can only be as strong and dynamic as their leaders – lead by example and then the magic will happen!
Q: What is unique about Ngwenya Lodge that makes this property stand out as a sought-after timeshare destination?
Our prime location along two kilometres of the Crocodile River frontage, overlooking the Kruger National Park. Being incorporated into the greater Kruger Park game area puts us on the southern border of the Park with its splendid evergreen riverine habitat. Personally, I believe this setting from which to enjoy great year-round game and bird viewing with every opportunity of seeing the Big 5 without even having to leave the premises – is unmatched. Add to that our close proximity to Crocodile Bridge (nine kilometres away) makes accessing the Park easy and convenient too.
PUTTING SUSTAINABILITY FRONT AND CENTRE
Providing an environment for sustainable holiday memories’ is front and centre for Ngwenya and is continuously addressed. The new waste-water treatment facility, designed to replace the lilliput system, can process up to four hundred cubes of influent per day and is fully compliant with the local environmental standards. The processed influent can be used to irrigate sugar cane, thereby preventing wastewater. Human developments minimise the natural habitats of bats and Ngwenya is committed to playing a role in caring for these critters. Throughout the resort you will find bat box hotels, which act as home for the colonies and provide them with much needed shelter. In return, the colonies act as a natural pest control and reduce the mosquito population in the immediate area.
As well as adding additional benefit to the ongoing conservation efforts of preserving the Kruger National Park and surrounds, the envisioned future development of Ngwenya will further support the local community by creating much-needed employment opportunities. Furthermore, additional shareholders registering their interests in protecting the Park and surrounds is invaluable.
REWARDS AND APPLAUSE
The RCI Reward & Recognition Programme has consistently recognised Ngwenya as Gold Crown Resort at every annual awards ceremony since 2014. Over and above the Gold Crown status, the team at Ngwenya have won a host of other awards recognising superior service in hospitality, housekeeping and maintenance. In 2019, the team took home the coveted Diamond Award for Resort of the Year in the Large Resort Category, Diamond status for the Resort Manager of the year. Diamond Awards are extremely rare and only awarded if a Gold Crown Resort of the Year and Resort Manager of the Year is achieved for three consecutive years.
Other awards include:
- VRS Award for Resort of the Year
- TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Award
- Provincial Award for the Top Four-Star Self-Catering Resort
- Lilizela Tourism Award for the Top Wildlife Experience in Mpumalanga