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.
General Manager Stian, who joined the Matetsi family in 2023, brings with him a wealth of knowledge from his experiences in 5* luxury hospitality at the One&Only and Cape Grace in Cape Town. In his own words, “I am passionate about hospitality and conservation, and I am grateful to be part of an organization whose mission it is to regenerate vast areas of pristine wilderness and create opportunities for locals. I love sharing my skills and experience with the dedicated team here at Matetsi Victoria Falls, and together creating everlasting memories for our guests, while making a positive impact on both the environment and within the local community.”
Stian has a fascinating background, having started his working career in the South African Navy in 2000. He later moved to London and held various positions including a role with the City of London and another with Crisis UK (an NGO addressing homelessness). Whilst in London he gained an International Diploma in Business Administration and qualified as a Health and Safety professional.
At the One&Only, where he began his hospitality career over 10 years ago, Stian was responsible for rooms division, front and back of house operations and was a member of the Senior Management team of the business. In 2015, Stian joined Cape Grace, a privately owned 5* luxury hospitality business, where he held various operational roles and was part of the Executive Management team responsible for setting vision and delivering world class service. Most recently, Stian was employed by the Accor group as a Cluster Director for Sub-Saharan Africa.
Stian feels right at home on Matetsi Private Game Reserve, and during his time off you will most likely find him camping and/or enjoying outdoor activities with his young family.
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.
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.
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, Caroline joined the Matetsi Victoria Falls family as Camp Manager in mid-2022, and she thrives on going the extra mile for our guest experience. Caroline brings with her a breadth of experience from 5* luxury properties across South Africa, including, Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa, Karkloof Safari Villas, Thanda Private Game Reserve and the Oyster Box, as well as from managing Asilia Africa’s flagship Naboisho Camp in Kenya.
Caroline holds a Diploma in Hospitality Management from the International Hotel School, and is studying for a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Hospitality Operations Management through the same institution. After many years of working abroad, Caroline and her husband Eric (who manages a property in the neighbouring Zambezi National Park) are delighted to be back in Zimbabwe, and in their free time they love bird watching.
Nyasha’s care and attention to detail really shine through in her role as Assistant Camp Manager. What she loves most about this role is being able to make people happy. In her own words “It’s all in the name ‘hospitality’. It’s about enjoyment. I want people to feel welcome and have a good time. How good does it feel when you can help someone have a great and memorable safari vacation?!”
Nyasha has over 8 years of experience working in the hospitality industry and holds a Higher National Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality Management. Nyasha joined the team in 2018, initially as Front Office Agent, and was then promoted to Front Office Manager. In her Front Office roles (behind the scenes), she gained a complete understanding of what makes Matetsi Magic. In time, she trained up and gained both the capabilities and the confidence to step into her current Front of House role. Nyasha radiates positivity and brings smiles to guests and fellow Matetsi family members alike.
With over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, our host Andie, with his natural creative flair, is a balance of both serious and fun and he loves creating magical moments for our guests. Having joined Matetsi Victoria Falls as a butler in early 2022, the team quickly realised his growth potential, and he was promoted to Host in mid-2023.
Andie, who is not shy when there’s work to be done, has taken every opportunity to learn on the job and now has vast experience across the industry. Having started as a porter at the Holiday Inn Bulawayo, Andie worked his way up the ladder – he’s worked on switchboard and in food & beverage (to name a few areas), and more recently as a night auditor at Elephant Hills, Victoria Falls.
He loves that his role at Matetsi Victoria Falls gives him the opportunity to connect personally with our guests, to get to know them, and craft their stay to best suit their preferences – with Matetsi Victoria Falls offering a combination experience of Safari, the river, Victoria Falls, as well as relaxation and delicious cuisine and beverages – no two stays will ever look or feel the same.
One of Andie’s career highlights was when a wonderful couple who were guests at Matetsi Victoria Falls kindly invited him to join them on a helicopter experience. Andie had initially politely declined the helicopter flight opportunity; however, the guests offer was so genuine that he reconsidered at the last minute, and what Andie loved most about the whole experience was how much joy it brought his guests when he surprised them as they were being picked up for the helicopter. That flight was the first time that Andie had been airborne! Taking off he was both terrified and exhilarated. “Elephants the sizes of ants!” Needless-to-say he loved the flight – and the memory will be one that both he and our guests will hold close to their hearts forever.
In his spare time, Andie enjoys golf, fishing, and spending quality time with his two daughters (who unfortunately aren’t interested in either of the latter yet). He is very creative and is building a home for his family in Bulawayo, where he was born and raised.
What Belinda loves most about working as a Host at Matetsi Victoria Falls is knowing that what she does in her role contributes towards creating the best and most memorable experiences for our guests. She enjoys the day-to-day interactions with different guests and learning about their cultures as much as they also learn about her own Zimbabwean culture.
Belinda started in the hospitality industry working as waitress at the Shearwater restaurant in her hometown, Victoria Falls. She was then snapped up by Great Plains and trained as a butler at Mpala Jena. This move presented her with a great learning opportunity, expanding her expertise in food and beverages service, and incorporating a new, much more personalised level of service – as an amiable and empathetic individual, this was a natural fit for her.
Belinda joined the Matetsi family as a butler in mid-2021, loving the enhanced personalisation that creates what we fondly call “Matetsi Magic”. In time she picked up additional supervisory responsibilities and was officially promoted to Host, and tasked with managing our overall guest stays, in mid-2023. Her absolute delight at this promotion is a moment that those of us that were fortunate to be there will never forget. She’s hardworking and committed to ensuring our guests have the most wonderful stay at Matetsi Victoria Falls, and this promotion is tribute to that.
Belinda is ambitious and having realised that with the right attitude and focus she can develop and achieve more, she has set her sightings on upskilling and being promoted to Assistant Camp Manager in the next few years.
Outside work, Belinda loves spending as much quality time as she can with her daughter. She also likes exercising, keeping fit and socialising with friends.
Oliver, known to everyone on property as “Ollie”, has honed his craft through 15+ years of experience in luxury hospitality. He is passionate about the care and satisfaction of our guests, and offering them exceptional service.
Ollie joined Matetsi Victoria Falls pre-opening in 2016. He started off in the housekeeping department, and he was quickly snapped up as a butler when his amiable nature was noticed by management. In 2021, Ollie was promoted to his current role as host. Ollie, who has one of the biggest smiles we have ever seen, and is always attentive, takes great care of our guests.
Our host Yvonne, with her contagious laugh, is a genuine team-player, who is always willing to help.
One of Yvonne’s life highlights was visiting the Victoria Falls for the first time in 2016 – this jaw-dropping spectacle left such a strong impression on her, that she knew then that she wanted to live and work closer to the river and this Natural World Wonder.
Unsurprisingly, what Yvonne first fell in love with at Matetsi Victoria Falls is the location, which took her breath away when she first saw it – “WOW” – and this was swiftly followed by the warm welcome that she received when she was new to the team – the warm welcoming hearts – the source of the authentic Zimbabwean hospitality that we share with our guests every day.
Yvonne was initially drawn to the tourism industry as she loves working with people, after four years of working in restaurants in South Africa, Yvonne returned home to Zimbabwe to pursue her passion for hospitality.
She trained across all departments at Hwange Safari Lodge – not far from the town she was born in. She then joined African Bush Camps as a waitress in 2015 and before long she was appointed as head waiter. She was later promoted to Host, a role in which she thrives as she loves engaging with guests.
Now, with over a decade in the hospitality industry, Yvonne still loves meeting guests from different places. She enjoys experiencing both the beautiful river setting and the Victoria Falls through their eyes, as well as learning from them and about their own cultures.
When Yvonne is home from work, she is a full-time mum to her two daughters, who are looked after by their grandmother as well. Her friends describe her as a fun-loving person, and when she gets time, her guilty pleasure is watching South African soapies on TV.
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.
With over 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry, having started as an intern in hotel operations, Lynwin has developed a keen attention to detail and he strongly believes that guests’ expectations should always be exceeded. Lynwin’s journey connected him with the Victoria Falls area through work back in 2017, and he joined the Matetsi family in January 2020.
Since then he has thrived on creating exceptional experiences in our remarkable destination – with our property being on a 136,000-acre private concession, Lynwin’s focus now extends to showcasing our combination experience of wildlife safari within a pristine wilderness, the mighty Zambezi river, as well as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls.
Based in Cape Town, Lynwin works very closely with our Director of Sales & Marketing, Hayley Walls, and remotely with co-founder, Sara Gardiner. Since joining Matetsi Victoria Falls, Lynwin has familiarised himself with the property intimately, with numerous visits to soak in a good dose of “Matetsi Magic” and connect with the team on property. Born and raised in the fascinating town of Graaff-Reinet, in his spare time, Lynwin loves taking a road trip to visit family back there, or just a drive around his beautiful home city.
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.
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.