Feedback on Indaba 2016
by Sebastian van Breemen (Bhejane Nsele)
I came to South Africa in January 2015. A very special year for me, due to the fact that I left a big part of my life behind me, to start something totally new and unfamiliar on the other side of the world. I started studying at Bhejane Nature Training, Ehlathini Bush Camp, located at a quite secluded area of northern KwaZulu-Natal, three hours north of Durban. It as a totally new environment for me – the animals, the people, the nature… my world had been turned upside down. In a good way though.
Now I had been studying to become a nature guide/conservationist/preservationist for over a year, and I still was not sure about what the incredibly vast industry could offer me. Last week, this changed.
From the 7th of May to the 9th of May, in Durban City, we entered the great halls of the Durban ICC (International Convention Centre).
A week before this I had, together with my fellow students at Bhejane Nature Training, prepared for meetings with exhibitionists from all around Africa (even outside Africa). We had been going through questions to ask, how to react on questions being asked. We were practising sales pitches for ultimate selling points. We made lists over which organisations or companies we wanted to visit. It was a big deal. The game was on.
As we entered Indaba 2016, we rapidly realized what we had gotten ourselves into. People everywhere, queueing to get passes for the event. Just by experiencing the magnitude of everything, we understood that something considerable huge was waiting for us.
We got our passes, and started racing towards the ticket controls, and made our way through.
We past the controls. We were in. Now it started to get, as they say, hectic. Small stands everywhere, next to each other, on top of each other. We were advised to first get a feel of the two grand halls that were on display, getting a feel and direction of the place. We took the advice and did so. Some of us got a snack or two to fuel for the occasion.
An hour or two later, we started networking. I think this was the work of the weekend. Everyone seemed to love to use it. Personally, I had a little bit off a rough start, not really sure of how to open a presentation and how to execute my sales pitch. Rather quickly, I realized that I was not there for hosting presentations of myself, it was rather a question of conversing with people, getting a feel of the industry. If you created a chemistry with your target, then you added the interesting questions about possible working placements with them.
Under the course of the weekend, I talked to numerous instances. After a while, I lost count with how many. I picked up numbers, gave out numbers, exchanged information and business cards, as well as sending emails to promising addresses.
Below are a few exhibitionists that I visited:
o Kapama Private Game Reserve
o Kwande Private Game Reserve
o Mashatu Game Reserve (Botswana)
o Mopane Bush Lodge
o Muchenje Safari Lodge
o Nxamaseri Island Lodge
o Makakatana Bay Lodge
o Thornybush Luxury Game Lodge Collection
o Dulini Private Game Reserve
o Makalali Private Game Lodge
Well back at our bush camp at Ehlathini, I thought back on the event. It had been an amazing experience, not as I thought it initially was going to be. We got stressed that it is a serious convention, with people and entrepreneurs paying a lot of money to be able to market their businesses, which it totally was.
However serious it was though, it was gracefully masked with humour, willingness to explore the industry, and in the end, meet and chat to as many people as possible.
For me, the trip to the Durban ICC was more to see what I have put myself in to, where I am, and where I possibly might find myself in the next five years. As a bonus on the side, I got a number of possible future employers´ information, that seemed interesting to build a working relationship with me.
In the end of the trip, I was, to say the least, knackered. But I walked away with something I didn’t comprehend as well before; the understanding of how intense this industry is, how diverse it is, and the endless opportunities that can be obtained through hard work.
I am utterly grateful for the people that made it possible to join this magnificent event!