When she stepped onto the stage at Melrose Arch to accept !Xaus Lodge’s 2010 Imvelo Award for responsible Tourism, Ellen Bok represented the Community Owners of !Xaus Lodge, an extraordinary success story. But Ellen was also there because of the role she had played in the lead-up to winning the award.
!Xaus means “heart” in the local Nama language and Ellen has a big one. When asked about receiving the award on behalf of the community, she said “I am happy, because I see that those of us who work hard to make a success, can teach others that there is always an opportunity.”
The FTTSA certified !Xaus Lodge, is the only private concession in Southern Africa’s Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Jointly owned by the ‡Khomani San and Mier communities, the Lodge is a positive example of what can be achieved in community-based tourism with public-private partnerships. Since 2007 !Xaus Lodge has contributed more than R7,5 million of income to the area. Developing !Xaus Lodge as an excellent eco-tourism property in an economically limited area has been a journey with challenges and learning. For Ellen, the opportunity of formal employment at !Xaus Lodge was the first she had had in the area, and she joined the team on the first day as a kitchen hand. She quickly became part of the team, operating with logistical constraints that include a 720km round-trip to a major shopping centre, extreme temperatures and an unfenced operation in a game park with lions, leopard and hyena.
Today Ellen is the assistant manager at the Lodge, with responsibility for the entire food and beverage side of the operation.