Irene Makhabane grew up in a rural community on the edge of the Greater Kruger National Park. Her mother worked as a Housekeeper in a game lodge. Her high school is nestled between the legendary Sabie Sand and Mala Mala Game Reserves. You could say that the game lodge industry is in her blood. But that doesn’t mean that her path to becoming an Executive Housekeeper at the award-winning Lion Sands Game Reserve didn’t call for grit and goals.
As a young girl, Irene had an interest in her mother’s work as a housekeeper and was excited when she had the opportunity to tag along to the game lodge. Se began helping out with cleaning rooms and quickly found her real passion—engaging with and providing assistance to guests. The hospitality bug had bitten, and Irene knew this was the career she wanted to pursue.
Starting with her mother, Irene acknowledges that she’s had some inspiring female role models who have helped her expand and achieve her goals.
The female employer at her first job pushed her to reach her potential. Irene admits that it wasn’t always a successful exercise—like the period when she worked in the kitchen despite not enjoying cooking, nor having a firm grasp on ‘chef language’.
But for the most part, Irene welcomed the new challenges and thrived in her tasks. Irene had never used a computer prior to this time, but her employer helped her develop computer skills and build her self-confidence. And when, at times, Irene doubted herself and felt she wasn’t capable, she recalls that her employer would say: “Irene, you are not stupid just because you don’t know this, and nobody has spent time to train you and show you how it works.”
A perspective of gratitude
Irene loves meeting people from different backgrounds, listening to their stories and sharing her own.
Seeing the game reserve experience through tourists’ eyes reminds her that we mustn’t take anything for granted. It’s a privilege to experience this wonderous nature and the wildlife it supports. So, while Irene has seen her fair share of elephant and impala, each time a guest gets excited about these sightings or encounters, it serves as a reminder of South Africa’s exceptional natural heritage.
Irene says that at first, the new Covid-19 protocols seemed overwhelming considering that housekeeping is one of the most important and heavily affected departments. However, housekeeping has always followed methodical operating procedures for cleaning guest rooms and common spaces and sanitising surfaces and linens. And so Irene and her team have expertly stepped up to ensure the lodge is ready to welcome back local and international guests alike, with greater peace of mind and the same signature hospitality for which Lion Sands Game Reserve is renowned.