The Kafunta family started with the Cowans many years ago. Ron and Anke met in Australia, Ron’s home country, in 1988. Anke was travelling at the time and they continued their journey together through Asia and back to Anke’s home in Germany where they planned their next big adventure.
In 1990 they left in a Land Rover and travelled through Africa, spending some time in Malawi before discovering the Luangwa Valley, Zambia. It was here that they started their own business in 1993 and where they built Kafunta River Lodge in 1998.
“We instantly fell in love with the Luangwa Valley and decided to make it our home.”
Ron and Anke got married in the Luangwa Valley in 1995 and Luke, their son, was born in 1999. Luke has spent his primary school years at Kafunta where he was home schooled, a real bush school! Now that he is in High School in Australia, the family commutes between their home in Perth and their home at Kafunta where they want to spend their holidays. Both Anke and Ron are fully involved in the management of the lodge, and when at Kafunta you will often see them sharing afternoon tea with guests.
Make sure to ask them about the beginnings of Kafunta, they certainly have a story or two to tell about starting a lodge in remote Africa and living in the bush!
“In the early years we used to take the guests into the park ourselves but these days we seem to be too busy looking after all matters of business, so we wait for the animals to come to us… They visit us regularly at the Lodge.”
Anelle’s passion for hospitality started over 22 years ago when she took on a part-time waitressing job as a teenager while attending school in South Africa. After finishing school she moved to the UK and continued waitressing while also travelling the world, and eventually settled as manager of a fine-dining English pub in Oxfordshire.
This is where she honed her skills in first class food & beverage services, and exceptional guest attention. During her eight years with the company she had the privilege of meeting several Michelin star chefs. In 2013 Anelle decided to move back to South Africa, as she was longing for the African sun, but could not bear the thought of working for a city property. That is when she discovered the bush. On her first night she experienced the call of a lion and the whoop of a hyena, and she was hooked.
After one season as Kafunta Lodge Manager, Anelle was promoted to Operations Manager
Theuns, or TJ as we call him, was born in South Africa in 1976. He was brought up on a game farm, sleeping next to camp fires from the age of two. Always fascinated by all creatures big and small he spent hours walking and enjoying nature and at the age of 8 he was taking guests out on safaris on his parents’ game farm. With Africa in his blood, TJ started managing game lodges in 2011 as well as completed a FGASA Level 1 field guide course. It has been a life long dream for him to come and experience the South Luangwa Valley. After managing Three Rivers Camp during the 2018 season, we are delighted to see TJ step up in the role of Kafunta Lodge Manager.
Wilson was born in the Southern Province and belongs to the Tonga tribe. After completion of his tourism studies in 2001, he worked in different sectors of the tourism industry before joining Kafunta River Lodge in 2005. Wilson is in charge of most of the admin work at the lodge, along with assisting with overall front office operations. His scope of work however extends way beyond the grounds of the lodge. He is also the Community Liaison Officer for the Luangwa Safari Association, and being passionate about soccer, he has managed the growth of the various soccer leagues, and is the “go-to” patron of the recently-created Mfuwe Sports Association.
Canadian by passport, Courtney was born in Zambia and has a vast knowledge and love for her country. She has travelled within Africa (and the world) following a travel bug before settling down once again in the South Luangwa Bush. Courtney studied Hospitality and Tourism and has extensive Experience in Guest Relations in 5-Star Resorts in Canada and New Zealand. She’s thrilled to join us for the season here at Kafunta River Lodge as our Hospitality Manager.
Born in Kitwe in the Copperbelt, Levy came with his parents to the Eastern Province when he was still a young child. Following in his father’s step, he became a mechanic and was one of the first staff members hired at Kafunta over 20 years ago. Ever since he has worked closely with Ron & Anke Cowan to build and to constantly improve all our properties. Although you are more likely to find him under the hood of a vehicle, Levy oversees the overall state of the lodge and camps as our Maintenance Manager.
Izzy was born in French-speaking Belgium but has been roaming the world working for high end hotels and resorts for over 20 years. In 2009 she landed in Southern Africa and fell in love with the African bush. With an exceptional background in customer service and marketing, she joined us in 2015 as Sales & Reservations Manager.
Nowadays Izzy works mostly remotely from Europe or where marketing missions may take her; although she always looks forward to spending several weeks at the lodge twice a year.
Dave was born in Nairobi (Kenya) and grew up in the UK. From an early age he’s always been fascinated by the great outdoors and the natural world. At 27 he decided to leave his job as a Bar manager in London and to head to South Africa to take part in a wildlife research volunteer program.
It’s fair to say he’s never looked back! Enamored with the sights, sounds and life of the bush he knew he didn’t want to be anywhere else. After passing his Field Guide training, he worked in Botswana as camp manager and for the next 3 years explored east Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi before returning to South Africa where he set his own business for 5 years.
A keen wildlife photographer and sports enthusiast, Dave now spent over 10 years in Africa and the bush is the one place he’s felt most at home.
Stephan was born and raised in the northern part of Kwazulu Natal (South Africa), and grew up on his family farm just outside Dundee. From a young age he appreciated the outdoors and respected what it has to offer. After matriculating he studied tourism and psychology, but felt the need to explore other cultures. So for the best part of the next 5 years Stephan lived and worked in England managing all sorts of major sporting and social events. He returned to South Africa to work in a large restaurant as a senior kitchen manager for 5 years, but longed for the outdoors, the peace and quiet, and the quality of life that only being in nature can offer. He switched to a boutique hotel in the Drakensberg on a nature reserve, where he was the General Manager.
For Stephan, being close to nature is the most important thing. He’ll happily tell you what his two most important life lessons are: to make time to stop and smell the roses (or whatever flower the bush has to offer!), and appreciate the moment you find yourself in. And secondly, when in doubt you must light the fire and have a braai.
Our guides that take you into the bush are extremely well trained and knowledgeable. They have all passed the high level Grade 1 safari exams and are qualified to escort walking and driving safaris. They will ensure your trip is both safe and interesting. With their extensive knowledge they can provide insight into the complex and fascinating world of the African wildlife and habitat as well as local traditions, beliefs and bush remedies as only a traditional, local guide can.
Martin was born in 1965 and is from the Kunda tribe, Martin has followed his lifetime dream to become a Safari guide. Martin and his wife Lydia joined Kafunta in 1997, Martin’s pleasant nature and attention to detail have earned him a very good name as a safari guide and he is very well liked by our guests.
We are proud to say that a high number of the local staff that helped us build Kafunta are still working at the lodge. Many of them have had the opportunity to train in professions like room attendants, barmen, mechanics, waiters and cooks.
We employ more than 30 permanent workers and many more during the season. Most of our staff are from the local tribal villages in the area and we are always happy to offer young Zambians the opportunity to train in different professions and further their careers.