Our entire Matetsi Victoria Falls family on property are 100% Zimbabwean – just one element which contributes to the “Matetsi Magic” that we love to share with our guests.
Zimbabwean born and now Victoria Falls based, Sara is passionate about showcasing everything exceptional from her beautiful country and in doing so making a strong positive impact for the region.
Our luxury safari lodge, on the banks of the Zambezi river upstream from the spectacular Victoria Falls, is the realisation of a dream that Sara and her family have had since she was a child playing in the mud on the banks of that same river. And she counts her blessings every day that this dream has become a reality, and through it she is able to conserve vast areas of pristine wilderness and create opportunities for Zimbabweans.
Sara’s journey has been an interesting one, from running barefoot on Zimbabwe’s rust-coloured earth as a child, to tinkering in a laser laboratory while obtaining a PhD from the University of Oxford. She used her time abroad to explore the world but has never called another place home. Zimbabwe has always held a place in her heart and on completion of her PhD at the age of 25, she moved back. Since then she has been fully involved with the family enterprise and has now immersed herself in Matetsi Victoria Falls.
Sara’s name is the root of the Shona word Ndinosara, which means “I remain” – an intimation in one of our local languages to her unwavering commitment to the country she calls home, to its incredible people and its rich and varied wildlife.
Our Lodge Manager Eddy is a warm, efficient and invaluable member of our team. Having spent his early years in Kariba, then a bustling tourist town in northern Zimbabwe, Eddy met and interacted with visitors and those working in the tourism industry – over this time he naturally developed a strong connection with hospitality.
Eddy’s hospitality journey began with the undertaking of a BSc in Tourism and Hospitality Management at the University of Zimbabwe before fast-tracking his career through a Graduate Management Trainee program with the well-respected Victoria Falls Safari lodge. Since then Eddy has gained extensive management level experience both within Zimbabwe and abroad, most notably with the Fairmont group in Dubai.
In his spare time, Eddy, as an avid reader, can be seen picking out another book from the Matetsi Victoria Falls library, or hard at work on his family’s home in Chinhoyi.
Travolta Chatyoka took on the role of Operations Manager for our then small ground handling division in June 2017. His focus has always been to grow the business, operate efficiently and provide excellent customer service. Through these, Travolta has developed his division into a stand-alone luxury tours and transfers operation named Signature Africa. Simultaneously, Travolta is our “go-to-guy” for a wide array of matters relating to the operation of Matetsi Victoria Falls.
Zimbabwean born and raised; Travolta started off his career in retail and sales, gaining a MSc in Marketing along the way. He joined the wider family business seven years ago, and with his hard-working nature and a drive to succeed it was clear that he had the potential to progress rapidly. He had completed a management training program, encompassing operations, logistics and sales, when the opportunity to move across to Matetsi Victoria Falls came about.
With his strong relationship-building skills, Travolta has and continues to build and maintain great relationships within the extended Matetsi Victoria Falls family, as well as with industry colleagues and guests. He is naturally skilled at bringing out the best in others and has proven himself when it comes to effectively recruiting and managing talent. With a broad-skill base and can-do attitude, Travolta is an essential member of our extended Matetsi Victoria Falls family.
Travolta is continuously honing his photography skills, and in his spare time he can be seen enjoying a game drive on Matetsi Private Game Reserve or travelling through our beautiful country Zimbabwe.
Shane Ellis is passionate about the local produce and raw talent from his beautiful home country, Zimbabwe. As Executive Chef at Matetsi Victoria Falls, Shane loves creating exceptional menus for our guests using his own professional experience to develop a strong team of talented chefs. Since joining the team in August 2017, with the support of Sara Ellis (his wife, highly skilled pastry chef and now our Quality Assurance Manager) and Exec Head Chef Artwell Muchenje, Chef Shane has up-skilled our hot-kitchen team, trained keen individuals from scratch and nurtured some of the best pastry chefs in the region. Chef Shane brings a broad range of experience to the table from classical training at Meikles Hotel through to dining “in the bush” with Singita where he found his true calling for dining in the wilderness. He’ll be the first to tell you “While I don’t have any fancy accolades, I have worked for over a decade and a half in my country navigating challenges to champion local flavours and flair.”
Outside of work, Shane is a fun-loving family man, who loves nothing more than to jump in his jeep with his family and explore Matetsi Private Game Reserve – enjoying the stunning landscapes and rich wildlife, and occasionally doing some foraging along the way.
Artwell Muchenje joined the team in August 2018 as Executive Head Chef alongside Executive Chef Shane Ellis and the pair quickly formed a dynamic partnership curating a world-class gourmet experience in the Zimbabwean bush. Chef Artwell has brought another dimension of creativity to the kitchen, creating exceptional menus, embracing the added challenge of a relatively remote location, and showcasing dishes that surpass guests’ expectations. He also loves developing skills within the Matetsi Victoria Falls kitchen team, shining light on Zimbabwe’s culinary flair and developing raw local talent.
Chef Artwell originally did not consider a career as a chef. It was when he took on the role as a waiter at the prestigious Cape Grace hotel in South Africa that his interest in the culinary arts took root. After transitioning to the kitchen, through hard work and determination Chef Artwell quickly learnt his way around the Cape Grace kitchen, and in time, rose in the ranks from breakfast chef to sous chef. As much as Artwell loved working and gathering an immense amount of knowledge and skills from the chefs in Cape Town, his heart was always in Zimbabwe. When he discovered the kitchen at Matetsi Victoria Falls, Artwell knew it was time to come home.
Chef Artwell has embraced the experience of life and work “in the bush”, and when not creating masterpieces in the kitchen, he can sometimes be spotted driving his Land Rover Defender 110 across the plains of the Matetsi Private Game Reserve.
Senior Guide at Matetsi Victoria Falls, Ophious Sibanda is an avid birder and nature lover who considers Matetsi Private Game Reserve his home. Born and raised in Hwange National Park, he knew he wanted to become a guide from a young age. What Ophious loves most about his role as a guide is that it gives him the perfect opportunity to share his deep love of nature with others and to help them understand that nature needs our protection. By exposing others to the wonders of the natural world around them, he nurtures their appreciation and respect for wildlife, so that they develop their own personal love for nature.
Ophious first came to Matetsi Private Game Reserve in the mid-90s, and it was around this time that he actively began to develop himself as a Guide. He now holds his proficiency as a Zimbabwean Professional Guide, one of the most respected qualifications in the world of guiding. Throughout his time here, Ophious has been a key driver of our conservation efforts on Matetsi Private Game Reserve and it gives him great joy to see the wildlife populations thriving like never before.
When not on duty, Ophious can be found working on his family home or still on property motivating and encouraging the team to engage in additional conservation activities.
Zimbabwean born; Lisa Mrewa is one of the newest members of our Matetsi Victoria Falls team. Having graduated from Stenden South Africa with a B.Com in International Hospitality Management, Lisa’s first experience in the bush was as a Trainee Manager with Wilderness Safaris. Since then she has worked in management roles with Great Plains Conservation and Africa Bush Camps.
Lisa’s warm and friendly manner ensures that guests feel genuinely welcome, and she forms strong authentic bonds with guests and travel industry colleagues alike. She’s a great team player, who loves learning and growing, and this truly resonates with our Matetsi way – always striving for excellence.
Lisa enjoys reading, she also has a real sense of appreciation for wildlife and the environment and when not at work she enjoys personal travel around different corners of Zimbabwe.
Passionate Zimbabwean conservationist, Brian Gurney leads our conversation and security team with admiral professionalism. His ability to inspire and motivate others is evidenced in the commitment and effectiveness of his team. Focused primarily on protecting the vast wilderness that is Matetsi Private Game Reserve, this team has also been trained as personal security should guests request this.
Together with the Gardiner family, Brian spearheads conservation efforts on property, including but not limited to reintroduction of wildlife species into the area as necessary and on-going preservation of flora and fauna species. Brian is a proactive team player whose skills and experience give him the ability to support and assist the development of colleagues within other departments in areas such as First Aid, and health and safety.
Brian holds good relationships with National Parks, local communities and other conservation organisations operating within the Victoria Falls region and across Zimbabwe. Father of two, Brian and his wife love sharing the wonders of the African wilderness with their children.
With over 15 years of experience in the travel industry, Yvonne joined us as reservations manager in December 2017. Her passion for tourism and her dedication to Matetsi Victoria Falls shine through in all she does, and we are so grateful for her vibrant personality which is complemented by her focused approach and keen attention to detail.
Yvonne initially stepped into the tourism industry by undertaking a National Diploma in Tourism Management. Having done a broad range of in-service training at Blue Bay Lodge, Yvonne has a solid understanding of the operations side of hospitality, which is where she started her career. With her wonderful personality, Yvonne is well-suited to being guest-facing, but her true calling revealed itself when she took on a role in the reservations department back at Blue Bay Lodge.
In early 2009, Yvonne joined the reservations department of African Sun Hotels where her experience grew along with her passion for promoting travel to Zimbabwe. Eight years later, when a position came up with our beautiful property (that showcases everything exceptional about Zimbabwe) and allowed Yvonne to be closer to home, it was a perfect fit. As well as being a maternal figure and pillar of strength in our team, Yvonne is mother of two wonderful boys and an ultra-marathon runner.
Hayley joined the Matetsi Victoria Falls family as Director of Sales and Marketing in August 2018 and travels the region and the world representing our beautiful property. Over the years, Hayley has built strong relationships both within our team and across the globe. We are incredibly grateful to her for portraying an authentic image of what we fondly refer to as “Matetsi Magic”, an experience that can only truly be understood once it has been experienced.
Hayley is ideally suited to her role as she is driven by her desire to realise others’ travel dreams for them and in doing so exceed their expectations. Herself an adventurous traveller, she’s proud to be in the business of “making memories”, and she’s more than qualified for the task. Her 20+ years of experience in the travel and hospitality industry is complemented by a Post Graduate Honours Diploma in management, specialising in Marketing from the University of Cape Town. Having joined our team from a property just across the Zambezi river, where she had her initial introduction to the Victoria Falls region, Hayley has since found her niche in the luxury safari space.
Hayley’s honesty and integrity make her a natural fit for the Matetsi Victoria Falls family. Furthermore, family and friends are very important to Hayley, and her strong loyalty and genuine compassion shine through within our team as well. At home in Cape Town, a city that she absolutely loves, Hayley has two beautiful cats. And unsurprisingly when she recounts her favourite sightings on Matetsi Private Game Reserve (her new second home), they usually involve lions.
Jonathan Hudson, or Jono, as he’s known in the travel and hospitality industry, leads our team of passionate Zimbabwean talent. Zimbabwean born and raised himself, Jono prides himself on delivering service excellence with authentic African hospitality. Jono’s amiable manner means that he has and continues to form strong genuine bonds with guests and travel industry colleagues alike. He and his team are dedicated to ensuring that our guests leave feeling like part of the extended Matetsi Victoria Falls family.
Jono’s three decades of experience in the hospitality industry started with a strong foundation at hotel school in Switzerland. He then began his career in London where he trained in the F&B sectors of The Dorchester Hotel and the Sheraton Belgravia Hotel. Since then, he has gained extensive experience working in high-end safari lodges and hotels across Africa, most recently in his role as General Manager of Great Plains Conservation, Zimbabwe.
Jono loves spending time “in the bush” and he is very much at home on Matetsi Private Game Reserve. He and his family have planted firm roots in the Victoria Falls area and in his free time, they can be seen enjoying quiet moments on the banks of the Zambezi river.
Sara Ellis is an incredibly dedicated and hard working member of our Matetsi family. Having been our Head Pastry Chef for over four years, Sara transitioned to her role of Quality Assurance Manager in early 2022, bringing with her a wealth of experience and an unparalleled attention to detail. Sara works primarily behind the scenes, supporting all departments to ensure that the Matetsi Magic shines through brightly in every one of our guest’s stays with us.
Sara holds a Cordons Bleus Grande Diploma from Silwood School of Cookery, Cape Town, and has worked at some exceptional Southern African establishments, including Ellerman House and Singita Pamushana, as well as on private yachts.
Sara is mother to two wonderful boys, wife of our Executive Chef, Shane Ellis, and an individual who shows great commitment not just to Matetsi Victoria Falls, but also to our local community in many ways, including standing on the Parents’ Association and driving fundraising initiatives for a local primary school.