Outside of Modimolle in the Limpopo province, lies the private game reserve Monate Game Lodge. The lodge was recently completely refurbished, with fusty fittings and dark rooms making way for the light, the bright and the modern. The suites that are dotted around the central reception area are decked out in white linen, with pale grey walls, gorgeous large showers and sleek sinks adding simple yet luxurious touches. The conference facilities are tech-savvy and spacious, with a deck overlooking a water hole, and a breakaway room for smaller discussions. The communal areas, including a restaurant and bar, two pools and a spa, receive the same treatment – they’re cool and modern, and perfectly juxtaposed to the wilderness that lies just outside the doorstep.
And it’s the wilderness that adds a little something extra to the lodge – the Monate Game Lodge team have scoured the 1839-hectare property for little patches of special. The huge Rock Fig Tree in the middle of the bush is perfect for wedding ceremonies or lavish breakfasts; the cave behind the lodge overlooks the lion enclosure and, with bathroom facilities as well as a cooking area, is used for lunches, dinners and special events; the air strip has a bar and bonfire area as well as bathroom facilities, making it a great spot for sundowners; the boma area is an intimate space under the stars, surrounded by bushes and rocks, with seating around the bonfire, a counter to set up buffet dishes, and a lounge area on an elevated platform.
“Planning is of utmost importance when putting together an event or wedding for all the areas,” says Melanie Fraser, the General Manager of Monate when asked of the planning that goes into setting up an event in these far-flung areas of the reserve. “Pre–production is done on a 15-minute time-line and all the staff are included in the putting together of the function. The maintenance and garden staff ensure all the furniture is taken to the tree or the Boma, that it is set up and clean, and the waiters will complete the setup. From there, the maintenance team goes to the next venue and gets the setup done, and we make sure that enough wood is chopped and placed at all the fireplaces. On average one vehicle will travel 67km on the day of the setup, and four vehicles are used with the setups and ensuring staff arrive at the venues.”
With 47 staff in total, many of whom have been with the lodge for many years, Melanie believes that the staff are what set Monate Game Lodge apart from other lodges in the area. “The dedicated staff are Monate: the face, the feel, the ambiance. Many lodges have many things, but fall in the service department because of staffing.”
As the lodge is relatively isolated, on-site training is important. “The barista training was handled by our coffee supplier, and certificates are only issued if the staff member has achieved the goals set out. Our spa staff were trained by a trainer within the industry and training took place on site, for three days a month over a six-month period,” says Melanie. “I personally train in the kitchen and housekeeping departments. This process is ongoing and allows us to immediately address any issues, should the need arise.”
Weddings and conferences are a new focus for Monate, which used to focus primarily on leisure. “We have had approximately 15 – 23 weddings in a year,” says Melanie. “Historically, conferences were a small part of the makeup of Monate, being four a year at most. In the past five months our marketing focus has changed, and we now host between two and four conferences in a month. We now approached a market that is taking off, and are receiving glowing feedback.”
Monate’s sales team and professional conference organisers who have personally visited Monate are driving the conference bookings, with weddings being booked mostly through web searches, facebook and word of mouth.
When asked what she’s noticed in conferencing trends, Melanie says that “Conferences are shorter than in the past. A lot more must be concluded in this shortened period. It is a serious issue to be dealt with and a ’play hard, work hard’ attitude is what most companies are doing.”
“We have also noticed that spend per head has decreased and ‘value for money’ is on top of the agenda for companies. We ensure that all their needs are met and exceeded. We follow their time constraints religiously to ensure that the delegates are never unattended. We at Monate pride ourselves in our service and we ensure that at no time will a delegate have to look for a person to help them with anything,” she continues.
She says that weddings are becoming smaller and more intimate. “Couples are very selective in their invites. Additionally, décor has been simplified. Couples that choose Monate do so for the intimacy, attention to detail, and experience of a sophisticated bush wedding.”
Offering modern amenities in a wild bushveld setting, with attentive staff on hand to create a fantastic experience, Monate Game Lodge is perfectly positioned to capture the Johannesburg and Pretoria conferencing market, making the most out of its unique surroundings.
For more information, visit the Monate Game Lodge website.