Every company has a driving force, someone whose tireless efforts ensure its smooth running. At Camp Jabulani that person is Elsie Olën.
Elsie joined Lente Roode (HESC founder) in 1989 after finishing school. One of her first tasks was to clear the bush where the Hoedspruit Cheetah Centre was to be established. What impressed Lente about Elsie was her singleminded approach to anything she did. She showed a dedication to her work that belied her young age.
“I remember when Elsie turned 21. It was her weekend off and she was planning to go home to celebrate the big event with a birthday party. One of the cheetahs was very sick at the time, so Elsie said she would only leave late in the afternoon and be back first thing the following morning. I often wonder if she even enjoyed her party, given how worried she was about her charge,” Lente reminisced.
Ronnie, a white rhino, came to HESC all the way from Longleat Safari Park in the United Kingdom. He had eczema as a baby, and the country’s notoriously miserable weather conditions didn’t help matters, so he was sent to the Centre in 1990. Elsie immediately took little Ronnie under her wing, caring for him with a huge amount of love and dedication. At one stage Ronnie became dehydrated and had to have a drip inserted. Everyone took turns to stay with the little guy at night to feed him at regular intervals. This involved a lot of extra work as the buckets, teats and other feeding paraphernalia all had to be sterilised after use in order to be ready for the next feed. If it wasn’t for Elsie’s dedication, Ronnie would never have pulled through.
Later a “problem” leopard came to HESC to be rehabilitated, and was later released onto Kapama Nature Reserve. Elsie assisted the late Professor Dave Meltzer (the veterinarian) in caring for the animal. Lente’s other commitments meant she wasn’t aways on hand to care for the baby cheetahs, and when this happened Elsie would move into the house to assist in the 3-hourly feedings. Elsie quickly became part of the Roode family, and was more of a sister to Adine and daughter to Lente, than just a staff member.
Elsie eventually married Carl Olën, who worked at the Centre as a ranger, and the pair later moved to Buffalo Camp at Kapama as ranger/manager. After a brief stint there they moved to Camp Jabulani, where they have ensured the smooth running of the five star lodge ever since.
This hard worker also has an eye for detail, and never misses an opportunity to add her creativity, turning something ordinary into something “WOW”. Elsie has passed this talent onto her staff, who are quick to show off their achievements, which include everything from folding the edge of the toilet paper in a beautiful way to making elephant dung paper.
But even though Elsie’s days are filled with staff and guests who need her care and attention, she hasn’t forgotten about her furry friends. Recently Elsie hand raised one of three orphaned genets that were brought to HESC. She later took care of Lente’s genet as well (sadly the third one didn’t make it), and the pair are set to be released at Camp Jabulani soon. Elsie also has a couple of very green thumbs, and recently planted Weeping Boer-Bean seeds. We then donated the baby trees to Paulos Ngobeni primary school (our adopted school), and the learners spent a happy morning planting them.
Our nickname for this über skilled Jill of all trades is the Oracle, because Elsie literally has an answer for everything. You can phone the camp at six in the morning to find out what the occupancy rate is, how to clean something, what, where, who…you name it, and she’ll be on the other end of the phone with an answer. Apart from being Carl’s right hand – ensuring the smooth running of the camp while Carl attends to the front of house – Elsie works closely with Lente whenever she visits Hoedspruit, and between them they keep a close eye on the finer details that have made the lodge the five star experience it is. Camp Jabulani is both fortunate and proud to have this couple as its managers.
See you in camp 😉