Managing a Royal Hospitality Services-managed (RHS) Resort is a great feat and Sudwala Lodge’s Resort Manager, Johan Jacobs, does it with so much grace and dedication. In the short time that he has been with us, he has been working tirelessly to raise the essence of Sudwala to higher standards. With this in mind, we asked him to spare a moment so that you can all get to know the man behind all of your unforgettable moments at our Resort!
Can you tell us about your education and experience in the Hospitality Industry?
I started my career 43 years ago at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), where I was responsible for all types of catering for many different and important guests; from directors to The President of South Africa. I then sought to further my career by obtaining a Diploma in Hotel Management and then trained as a chef. This, coupled with my passion for food and people, led me to spend some time in Contract Catering where I managed several contracts; some including Armscor, Denel, FSB, Land Rover and BMW South Africa Canteens with branded food courts. I also worked at various lodges, hotels, and boutique eco-lodges. I gained a lot of valuable experience from working in all sectors of the industry. All that exposure has provided me with a keen understanding of our guests’ needs and expectations here at Sudwala Lodge.
What would you say is the best thing about Sudwala Lodge?
It is without a doubt the staff! Sudwala is blessed with the friendliest staff and in the short time that I have been the Resort Manager, I have received many compliments and kind words from guests with regards to our staff’s hospitality and friendliness. They truly go out of their way to make sure that everyone who walks through our gates is treated like family. I truly believe that our guests’ holiday experience would be nothing compared to what it is right now if it wasn’t for our staff.
Give us a glimpse behind the curtain: what does a day in the life of managing Sudwala entail?
They say the early bird catches the fattest worm so my mornings always start at 04h45. An RHS Resort Manager always has a whole lot of tasks to attend to on a daily basis. I usually start my work day with meetings with all the Resort departments for a few minutes to discuss the order of the day. After meeting with the staff, I check to see that the daily maintenance and housekeeping are attended to. As I mentioned that food is also my passion, I am very involved in the food (commercial) side at Sudwala and am currently training the Food and Beverage (FNB) staff on some new and delicious recipes that we are looking to include on our Grotto Menu. It is important to remember that none of this work would matter if it wasn’t for our valued guests, so I usually make time to engage with some of them to make sure they are all satisfied and are enjoying their stay. Thereafter, I report back to the office to work on the daily admin. On most days my wife, Madeleine, and I will knock off after 20h00. Managing the Resort is a lot of work, but also very rewarding which is why we are so dedicated to it.
How would you describe the ‘Sudwala Experience’ to someone who has never visited the Resort?
The “Sudwala Experience” lies within the nature surrounding the Resort; from the calm sound of the water flowing over the rocks in the Houtbosloop River to the night sky gleaming with starlight. It is about celebrating and communing with nature and all its glory. You might even come across a bushbuck or red duiker at any time of the day or night, and the best part is you get to experience all this wonder while making everlasting memories with those closest to you.
What is your go-to Grotto’s Treats and Takeaway treat, and why?
Because I have a culinary past and I am quite involved in Grotto’s Treats and Takeaways, I am a foodie and it is quite difficult for me to choose one item as my go-to treat – I like everything! However, we recently added the following options to the menu and they have become very popular among our guests:
- Homemade pies (Cornish, chicken, and pepper steak) served with fresh chips and brown onion gravy.
- Grilled Patagonian calamari tubes served with fresh chips and lemon butter sauce.
- Fried squid heads on fresh chips covered with a creamy garlic sauce.
- Deep-fried potato slices topped with bacon and ham, and covered with a creamy garlic sauce.
- For the sweet tooth, we have freshly baked cake from our kitchen.
If you could take a week off from your regular life to immerse yourself in learning something new, what would it be?
I would get into life coaching. This is where my passion for people starts to show itself again. I am at that stage of my life where I have obtained some valuable knowledge and wisdom which I can use to advise the younger generation about the dos and don’ts of not only adult life but life in general. If I were to get into it, however, I would want to do it the right way so I would take a course to assist me in learning how to transfer my knowledge in a proper and beneficial manner.
What essentials would you say guests should pack when visiting Sudwala Lodge?
The beauty of this Resort is a sight to marvel at and if you ever find yourself visiting then you should definitely bring a camera along to capture it all! It is also a very tranquil space so bring a good book to read while lying on the grass under the shade of our majestic trees and listening to the euphony of birdsong. For the cooler winter days and nights, some warm comfortable clothing and enough coffee and rusks would do well with that homey feeling that you get when you are sitting in with your loved ones in the chalets.
If Grotto were alive, what do you think would be his favourite activity or facility at the Resort?
Grotto’s favourite activity would definitely be the night walks and hiking with his guests. Nothing compares to the feeling you get when you are on a hiking trail and all you hear are the quiet sounds of nature or when you look up and catch sight of the stars blinking beautifully and silently. The peace that you feel is inexplicable!
What is the one thing you think every guest at Sudwala should experience?
There is never a dull moment at Sudwala and I would recommend more than one thing for guests to get the ultimate Sudwala experience. Firstly, we host a welcome braai every Monday and Friday next to the river and light a massive bonfire to create a relaxing atmosphere for all our guests as they mix and mingle with each other and enjoy a wonderful conversation. Many of our guests have said that this is the best part of their stay at the Resort and I really urge everyone to join us when they are here.
The second thing they absolutely cannot miss is the night walk under a sky twinkling with beautiful stars. We always walk to the boma across the river and share some fun and interesting information about the area and all the natural surroundings with our guests. We believe that you fall in love with something even more once you know its story and this has reigned true for all the guests who have joined us on these night walks. Our discussion is then followed by roasting marshmallows on an open fire and ending the night off with some local tales. These aren’t the grandest of experiences at Sudwala Lodge, but they do give you a newly found appreciation for all the small things in life and the things that really matter.
Johan is a remarkable leader who is using his experiences and accomplishments in this industry to really uplift Sudwala’s vision to high sights. His diligence is proving an asset to ensure that we continue to provide impeccable customer service and satisfaction. Our team is truly blessed and grateful to have him as the captain of our ship. We hope that you enjoyed getting to know him a little better and reading on all his ideas on how you can make the most of your Sudwala experience.