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42 Travel Zambia November 2008resident elephant bull, Dionysus, lumbered through camp and disappeared with our washing line ( complete with all our freshly laundered sheets) draped decoratively over his shoulders. Or the unfortunate occasion when I leapt enthusiastically off the returning game drive vehicle to make drinks for the guests and ran straight into a low- hanging tree branch, knocking myself out cold. But camp managers are an unflappable breed. From cobras in the cupboard to honey badgers in the bar, they have seen it all. And the demands upon them range from the sublime to the ridiculous: from the guest who blows her panic whistle at 3am because there is a frog sitting on her loo seat, to a full- blown fire that demolishes the back of camp, including the staff quarters and the kitchen. (" Well, I hope you rescued the gin!" was the inevitable comment from one guest when this particular disaster overtook our camp in 2001.) Ask around and you'll find managers all have their amusing stories. Ernst Jacobs, at Mwaleshi Camp in North Luangwa National Park, remembers explaining diplomatically to one female guest that in his bushcamp, lit solely by spirit lamps and set deep in the middle of nowhere, there is – regrettably – nowhere to plug in a hairdryer. Likewise, Jess Coley, manager of Flatdogs Camp in South Luangwa, remembers one guest enquiring about who was responsible for feeding the giraffes every day – she had assumed that the sparrow weaver nests in the trees were hay put out for the animals' benefit. But there are serious moments, too. Moments when the manager has to snap into action – both to deal with the incident itself and to reassure the guests. Thankfully such incidents are rare, but every manager worth his or her salt will have a disaster procedure in place to implement at a moment's notice. Storm Mason- Reynolds, manager at Chongwe River Camp in Lower Zambezi National Park, recalls one occasion a few years ago when a guest received a serious snake bite in camp: " We immediately called air rescue and put emergency procedures into place," she explains. " Fortunately the guest recovered, but it reminded us all that we must never relax our guard." So why does this job entice so many? Patsy Hahn, from Wildlife Camp in South Luangwa sums it up: " It's a wonderful opportunity to live in places that only a privileged few get to see – and to have the time to really get to know these areas and the people who Scenes behind the scenes ( from left to right): cooking on a ground oven at Chikoko ( Remote Africa); preparing the vegetables at Luwi ( Norman Carr Safaris); the all- important store cupboard. Opposite below: At the end of a long day Patsy Hahn ( Wildlife Camp) remembers what makes it all worthwhile. Our resident elephant bull, Dionysus, lumbered through camp and disappeared with our washing line

November 2008 Travel Zambia 43 live in them," she reflects. " Nothing rivals finding a spot where you can sit in total solitude and watch the wildlife pass you by". Of course life in the bush has its downsides: " The hours are often very long and exhausting," admits Storm. " Sometimes the novelty of being in a remote location can be tough: contact with family and friends back home is limited, and it can get lonely as you are often cut off for long periods of time." But every camp manager I spoke to said they wouldn't swap their job for anything. " When a guest leaves and sheds a tear because they have had the time of their lives," reflects Storm, " there is no greater feeling of satisfaction!" So next time you're relaxing in camp, remember that in the background there may be elephants raiding the garden, the generator breaking down, honey badgers in the store cupboard, baboons in the scullery and all sorts of other unmentionable happenings. And spare a thought for your manager, who'll be there at the bar – come hell or high water – to greet you with a smile and pour you that perfect gin and tonic. Anna Devereux Baker now works as a safari consultant for Expert Africa ( www. expertAfrica. com), where she manages the Zambia department. Lodge life Some handy hints from Anna Devereux Baker: Build a good rapport with your staff: they're the ones who make it happen. Check around camp each morning for ' visitors.' Store all food securely, and out of the reach of the local wildlife. Cook for your staff once in a while, instead of always vice versa. Add character to camp, with seed pods, baskets and other interesting items. Add rehydration salts to your guests' fresh juice during the hotter months. Keep a game sightings book for guests to look through. Smile – even when dinner is late, the monkeys have pinched the cake and the ice has defrosted. Ten top tips for MANAGERS