Experience personified

Text: Ranger Pieter van Wyk

When the phone rang one day in early 2000, Michael had no idea that he was about to get something he’d wanted for a while… a chance to work at MalaMala. He’d spent 15 years as the restaurant manager at the Edward Hotel in Durban before moving to a French restaurant in the same city. Three local newspapers had just featured excellent reviews about the eatery and it caught the eye of our owner at the time, Mr. Rattray. Before he knew it Michael was boarding the Rattray’s plane en route to MalaMala and the rest, as they say, is history.

Working at MalaMala had long been in the back of Michael’s mind. But he knew that the allure of a more relaxed and peaceful life in the bush would only become a realistic possibility once his three children had grown up. 17 years on and we’re delighted that he’s still with us. Michael is also now the proud grandfather of 6 and, would you believe it, he’s even a great grandfather!

Life on a game reserve does come with its challenges; take the local wildlife for example…  be sure to ask Michael about his late-night encounters with big cats in camp and about his first ever game drive, when an elephant encounter prompted him to disembark from the Land Rover and run off into the bush!

During his time here Michael has rubbed shoulders with an enviable list of influential people from Imran Khan to Kenny Rodgers. It took me a while to pry all the names from him because Michael believes, as we all do at MalaMala, that every guest is a VIP. He recalled a conversation he had with Sir Sean Connery on the Main Camp deck; “Michael, do you know what the difference is between me and those people sitting over there?” Sir Sean inquired. “Nothing.” Michael replied. The Scottish icon stood up, shook Michael’s hand and said that he wished the media shared the same view.

Michael brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team. He’s quick to crack a joke, eager to engage in conversation and even more eager to refresh your glass. He thinks of himself as being ‘old school’ and this is reflected in his cocktails of choice: An Old Fashioned, Margaritas and Martinis.