Cheetah Plains General Manager, Gary Ray, and his partner, Clare McIntyre took some time out of their busy day to answer some questions for us.

Where did you work before / experience / training / background?

Gary: My background is one of serving in the corporate sector. I was employed in the fast moving consumer goods industry for close on 30 years. I was a merchandiser, sales representative, sales manager, General Manager and then a Managing Director of a fragrance and cosmetic company. During my tenure in the corporate world I was trained how to negotiate, to do presentations and the ways of the South African labour market. I served on the National wage negotiations panel for the Chemical sector as well as being a board member for the Chemical SETA. I was involved in discussions on how best to allocate the ‘Skills development Funds’ that were collected through the mandatory SDL business levies. I was also chairman of the FMCG business council. During 2014 I decided that it was, a change of life that I needed, and applied to do the Level 1 ranger training course through Eco-training. I completed my training in June 2015 and served my ‘apprenticeship’ at a lodge in Northern Natal.

Clare: My background is in the field of education. Over the past years I have been a teacher of piano (teaching from home when my sons were babies) and a high school teacher of English and Mathematics. I have been fortunate to have taught at various excellent institutions around South Africa and I can state unequivocally that I believed I had the best job in the world. Interacting with young minds, being infected with the enthusiasm and irrepressible spirit of the youth, is truly a delight and I can honestly say that I relished my role over the years. For a change of scene and experience, I also taught nurses English for a year in Saudi Arabia which was a novel, never-regretted experience. I have also dipped my toe into the world of academic writing and felt great fulfilment in seeing my poetry anthology published recently. As is evident, my encounters with the ‘bush’ have been limited to literature and poetry – so this new existence is an exciting and wondrous one for me!

What draws you to Cheetah Plains / Sabi Sands?

Gary: I was very fortunate to hear about a General Manager position that came up and applied for the job. I was interviewed and offered the job. I was very excited that this was in the Sabi Sands and offered me the opportunity to manage a team and a business again.

Clare: At this mature point in my life, I decided to pursue personal happiness through my relationship with my partner (Gary). This has resulted in my entering a new chapter of my life – one filled with new experiences, exciting possibilities and a wonderful location! Who gets to indulge in a complete change of direction in their fifties?

What do you love about your job?

Gary: I love waking up to the rising sun, I love hearing the sounds of the bush with no ‘traffic’ noise. I love looking up into the clear night sky and contemplating the wonders of the universe. I love interacting with a team of dedicated people who want to work, who want to please guests and who feel part of the ‘family’. I have found my home…

Clare: I echo Gary’s sentiments and cannot express it more eloquently! I would just add that the steady flow of guests through Cheetah Plains makes for wonderful opportunities to meet interesting individuals from all over the globe and hear different – & common – perspectives. What a pleasure!

First Impressions of your first day at work?

Gary & Clare: I saw smiling faces and happy people. I heard laughter and banter between the team members. I was happy. I could feel the spirit and the general joy by all who work at Cheetah Plains. I WALKED to work for the first time in my life. I never wasted a precious, ’early morning minute’ in traffic! As for the smell of the fresh morning air……need I say more?

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

Gary: Everything!

Clare: The prospect of the unexpected: wild-life sightings, a strange insect in the bathroom, a beautiful bird splashing in the bird bath, or new encounters with people from places I’ve heard of but never visited, or discovering something new about myself, my partner and ‘us’ – greeting the promise of each new day with a quiet smile.