THE MUKAMBI FAMILY
In 2002 Edjan and Robyn van der Heide decided to leave the comforts of their Netherlands lifestyle in search of a real adventure. Robyn was born in Africa and together they had always longed to go back so they took a leap of faith and headed to Zambia. And the rest is history…
They moved not only to a country so far removed from what they had known, they moved to the remote wilderness of Kafue National Park. Their two eldest children, Eva and Ellen, were only 4 and 3 years old and in 2002 their youngest daughter, Lara, was born in Livingstone, close to the Victoria Falls (her full name is Lara Victoria).
A six hour drive from the capital Lusaka, over bad roads, and with no neighbours within a couple hours’ drive, the family were well and truly in the middle of nowhere, and Mukambi resurrected. A Dutch television producer visited Mukambi and decided it was worth filming their new lifestyle and the trials and tribulations of running a safari lodge. The result was a two-year Dutch television series, called ‘From Amstelveen to Zambia’.
The family lived at and managed Mukambi Safari Lodge for 5 years, during which time the children were home-schooled. It was a wonderful experience for the kids to grow up in the African bush with pets like warthogs, impalas, and bushbuck. When their two eldest daughters moved back to The Netherlands to study, Edjan and Robyn moved back to the lodge full-time with all three daughters studying in The Netherlands.
Looking back, Edjan says “We still enjoy the life we chose and never regretted the big step of moving to Zambia. For the next few years we also want to further improve the quality of life of the local people through the Mukambi Community School, and to conserve Kafue National Park for the next generation.”
Meet The Team
Transfer Driver, Grandfather and agriculture expert
- Spends most of his days ferrying guests back and forth between Lusaka and the lodge
- But has spent most of his working life as a commercial farm manager, making use of his 3 diplomas in agriculture, marketing and wildlife forest conservation
- Comes from Chipata and has worked at Mukambi since 2013
- Was the assistant manager for The Chongwe River Camp in the Lower Zambezi National Park
- Spends his spare time reading wildlife books and studying hard for his guiding licence as he has a passion for wildlife
- He has 4 grown children, one of which lived many years in Russia where he qualified as an ecologist
Front of House
- Purity has been with Mukambi since 2012 and likes to drive the boat across the river taking guests to the harbour
- She values education above everything else and even went back to school in 2008 to finish her studies
- She has 2 children and loves shopping in Mumbwa
- Not only is she a trained masseuse, but hopes to one day set up a Mukambi spa with professional massage service
- She is also called upon often to braid her friends hair in her spare time
- She once mistook Impala for Lions and ran for her life
- A member of the Mukambi management team, Ntanga arrived in 2014
- A keen sportsman, Ntanga played for both the Zambian and Botswanan rugby clubs and enjoyed fame playing on national TV
- A music lover, he also enjoys partying behind the music decks as a DJ in his spare time
- He was born in Zambia, but has spent the majority of his life living in the bush in Botswana
- He speaks 3 languages: English, Nyanja and Setswana
- Loves cooking – particularly savoury snacks and Asian cuisine
- Ntanga is a keen traveller and would one day like to visit The Himalayas, but top of his bucket list, is a trip into space with his brother, David
- He is an avid collector of Airforce Nike shoes!
From Head Barman to Qualified Safari Guide!
- Brian enjoys being the referee for local football matches and is a devoted Manchester City supporter.
- He is a very good swimmer and at the age of 15, he saved a friend from drowning in the river.
- A keen birder, Brian loves the humble Namaqua Dove and loves taking a boat out on the river to go birding.
- Best thing about the Kafue NP is the abundance of bird and animal species.
- He can speak 7 different languages.
Brian dreamed of becoming a safari guide and his determination and hard work made that a reality. He is now (and has been for a while) a valuable member of our Safari Guides Team, with guests always complimenting his genuine and inspiring passion and enthusiasm for his job.
Waitress at Mukambi since 2009
- Married with a baby daughter called “Hope”
- Also surrogate mother to 3 orphaned children from her wider family
- Chipo enjoys reading magazines and novels by West African authors
- The best thing about living in the bush for Chipo is the peace and quiet; being able to listen to the sounds of the birds and animals
- Chipo would like to some day travel to America
- Her colleagues describe her as incapable of arguing and friendly to everyone she meets
Waitress, fundraiser and church singer
- Loveness has been with Mukambi since 2013
- She is married to one of our Mukambi Community School teachers
- Her children, Salome and Timothy both attend the school and one day, baby Faith will follow
- She has relatives in Angola and would one day love to visit Botswana or Zimbabwe
- She is impressed by the difference that schooling has made in the local community in recent years and assists with the fundraising activities to continue this progress
- She loves to spend time praying and teaching her children new songs
School Chairman and Lodge Security Guard
- Clifford works nights at Mukambi taking guests safely back and forth to their rooms and patrolling the grounds throughout the night.
- As well as being a football player, Man Utd fan, and singer in the church choir, Clifford is also chairman of the Mukambi school board.
- A keen herbalist, with an interest in medicine, he once worked in a hospital laboratory testing specimens for diseases for the Luampa Mission.
- Clifford is married to Harriet and has 3 daughters. He speaks 8 languages.
- Originally from Kaomo district, Friday speaks 5 languages, and is married with 6 children.
- After working in Lusaka he came to Mukambi to be one of our trusted night watchman.
- He loves cooking, driving and farming vegetables.
- Being a huge fan of Bruce Lee, Friday would one day like to visit China and make some new friends there.
Guest Relations & Admin
- A hospitable individual from the first moment you meet her, Edna comes with vast experience in the hospitality industry having worked with one of the busiest lodges in Lusaka.
- She believes a warm smile is the key to a guest’s heart, with this, that’s one of the symbolic gestures you’ll have from her upon your arrival.
- She spends much of her time doing guest interactions and hosting so be sure to meet her during your stay at the Mukambi with a guarantee of a worthwhile visit in addition to everything Mukambi has to offer.
Boyd & Malcom
- Boyd Longwane and Malcom Phiri join the guiding team with a wealth of enthusiasm and knowledge.
- Local Zambians, they have spent much of their lives in and around our National Parks, but would both love to one day travel to the USA and experience the wildlife in their famous Yellowstone National Park.
Meet Rita, a dynamic and committed team member who embraces the daily adventures of her role. With a rich 16-year background in office administration and specialization in tourism reservations, she boasts expertise in industry-specific software and all standard office programs. Rita became part of our Mukambi family in August 2023, drawn by her deep love for nature and the bush. Perhaps her connection to nature is rooted in her birthplace – the pristine Kafue National Park. At Mukambi, we fondly call her “Honey Badger”, a testament to her bravery and spirit, just like the fearless creature itself. Welcome to the journey, Rita!
For 14 years Basil, Mukambi’s house hippo, made it clear to humans and animals alike that Mukambi Safari Lodge was his territory. He paraded around the bar, investigated the meals in the dining area, grazed among the chalets and luxury tents, and took in the rays, cooling off in the Kafue next to our jetty. We are sorry to announce to all his dedicated followers that Basil passed away recently. We suspect it was his fierce defense of his territory against other local hippos that may have finally got the best of him. Unfortunately, it is not the survival of the finest, but of the fittest…..
Please do share any memories and photos of Basil from visits to Mukambi, so we can all remember him, as he deserves. A legend will always be remembered.