Every year, the staff from across Red Carnation Hotels’ global collection assembles in London for a night of congratulatory celebration. The event: Red Carnation Hotels’ annual Staff Appreciation Party. Set in a dramatic ballroom bedecked with scarlet carnations and bathed in showstopping lights, the endeavours of staff members from across our hotels are recognised at a special awards ceremony. Here, we catch up with the winner of this year’s coveted Best Field Guide award, Bushmans Kloof’s very own Assistant Head Guide, Zenobia.
“It was unexpected!” Zenobia tells us about winning the prestigious accolade. “I am very grateful: it makes you feel really noticed and appreciated. It has inspired me to work harder and set a good example for my fellow guides.” Despite her modesty, Zenobia has a long history of field guiding and an immense passion for her craft, which were, no doubt, factors in her nomination: “I have always been interested in nature. From a young age, my mother used to take me out into the wild and point out all the incredible things you can find. After finishing school, I knew I could never work in an office; the bush was calling me.”
As Assistant Head Guide of Bushmans Kloof, Zenobia’s days are far from uneventful. She showcases the romantic landscapes and unbridled wilderness of the Cederberg landscape. “In the morning, we do a Rock Art Excursion, where we show guests bushman paintings that can date back as far as 10,000 years. After breakfast, we devote the rest of the morning and early afternoon to guest activities: we are on standby for canoeing, fishing, archery and hiking. In the late afternoon, we do a nature drive, where we point out the Cederberg’s plants, insects, birds and game. If a guest would like to stargaze, we organise a night drive, where we see the beautiful African night sky, and, if we’re lucky, the elusive aardvark.”
Zenobia’s most memorable moments are when she’s closest to nature. “I am a birder, so my favourite part of being a field guide is when I encounter guests with a similar interest in birds. I will try to fit in a private game drive where we focus solely on birdwatching. In fact, one of my most treasured experiences was finding a European pied flycatcher in our garden. It doesn’t normally occur here and is well out of its range, and it was actually the first of its species to be recorded in South Africa.” Other highlights of Zenobia’s guided drives have been similarly rare sightings. “Once, stopping at a dam, I noticed an otter eating something. I grabbed the binoculars and realised that it was in fact eating a terrapin.” Yet, despite the uncanny and the unorthodox, Zenobia remains most delighted to see “a dung beetle rolling his ball of dung.”
Ultimately, for Zenobia, the Cederberg landscape is a uniquely spectacular environment to experience. “The remoteness of it all, especially as the sun sets, is what makes it so special. You have this beautiful orange glow on the mountains, due to how rich in iron the mountains’ sandstone is, while the rocks themselves resemble an ancient pile stacked together by some giant a long time ago.”
Fall in love with the Cederberg landscape on one of Zenobia’s entrancing guided walks at Red Carnation Hotels’ Bushmans Kloof.