Name: Laura Morales-Ontoria
Comes from: San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, Spain
Started at Shamwari: February 2014
Previous roles: Lodge Manager at a Private Game Reserve, Personal Assistant and Airt Hostess for First Choice Airlines
Studied what and where: Economics and Administrations, Tourism Degree in Spain and Field Guide Training in the Eastern Cape
Hobbies: Reading, photography, skiing, spending time with friends and family and going out into the bush
My passion: Wildlife in general, loves birds and frogs
Favourite part of the job: Meeting new people every day and playing a part in making their African experience as awesome as possible
Quote: You only get one chance of life and it’s up to you to make the best of it. Smile, be positive, love what you do and be happy.
My insight to Laura:
Laura is Spanish born and has travelled a substantial amount throughout the last 10 years, not only in her previous life as an air hostess but also because of her passion to learn and experience the world in it’s entirety. I have rarely met someone with such a sunny disposition. Her smile is radiant, her demeanour so warm and kind and the positive energy she exudes is as magnetic as her personality.
Laura’s role at Shamwari Game Reserve is to offer a translation service to guests from all over the world. She speaks two languages fluently; English and Spanish, and is proficient at Portuguese and Italian, so can be of assistance to many of the visitors to this outstanding 5 star safari destination. There are many visitors from South America in particular, who are delighted to utilise her skills when it comes to fully experiencing the African Bush. Laura accompanies groups on game drives, along with the dedicated Game Ranger, and translates where necessary. She is also available to join for meals and assist in any general enquiries around the lodges should she be required. It is clear to see when Laura is introduced to guests that they are comforted by having that extra medium of communication to help them get the most from their stay. By no means is it a necessity for Laura to join foreign groups, it is treated as an extra service should you require it. This is not a service commonly found at game reserves and clearly differentiates Shamwari from its competitors.
A consistent finding at Shamwari is that the staff shares a huge passion for the wildlife here at the reserve. Their passion is the bush and what resides in it. Laura is no different. Not only is she a qualified guide in her own right, she has a particular interest in frogs and birds and is openly accepting of being seen as a bit strange with her fascination of the amphibian creatures! If you spend long enough with her I can guarantee that you will become a frog and bird fanatic as well. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her desire to add value to the guest experience is hugely apparent. I believe there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to communicate and when there are language barriers this can be a difficult hurdle to negotiate, especially when it comes to ‘bush’ language. This unique service that Shamwari offers bridges that gap and really does add value to those individuals who come here who are not lucky enough to be multi-lingual. With the added beauty of Laura being able to operate out of any of the lodges on the reserve, it doesn’t matter where you stay here you can maximise Laura’s skills and service. There is nothing more pleasing to her than meeting new people and sharing her love of South Africa and Shamwari in particular. It is this drive in her and her distinctive aptitude to understand people, which make her an immensely valuable part of the team.
By Charlotte Cornwallis.
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