Celebrate International Women's Day with these Extraordinary Women
With International Women’s Day approaching, here are some strong females shattering the glass ceiling and leading the way in the travel and hospitality industry. From the first female master sommelier in Africa to a pioneer in luxury travel to the Galapagos, below please find inspiring profiles of women that are changing the travel.
Lydia Nzayo General Manager at Singita Volcanoes National Park
Lydia Nzayo was recently promoted to General Manager at Singita Volcanoes Park in Rwanda. Lydia was among the first members of the team when she joined as Assistant GM during the opening of Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House and has enjoyed success and global recognition alongside the team in the year it has been open.
Born in Rwanda 35 years ago but raised in Russia, France and Italy, before spending 10 years working in Spain, Lydia was delighted to become part of the opening team in Rwanda. Her passion and enthusiasm, as well as her thoughtful consideration of colleagues and guests, is part of her charm. Talking to travelers from around the world is one of the highlights of the job and she never tires of seeing their photos from the day’s gorilla trek or hearing their stories told around the fire before dinner. Having traveled the world for much of her life, she has a special knack for creating meaningful, heart-warming moments that guests remember most. Lydia feels particularly aligned with Singita’s 100-year conservation vision, saying, “It gives me a sense of purpose to be part of the change we all want to see for the next generation. Contributing to conservation in my home country is a reason for me to wake up every morning with a smile. I am extremely proud to take up this opportunity. Working for a company with the same values has been a dream come true."
Wendy Panaino & Tracker Academy at Tswalu Kalahari
Tswalu works to preserve the eco-system of the Kalahari by restoring the natural environment, re-establishing and protecting biodiversity, and maintaining the Kalahari’s characteristic ecological process. Research informs every conservation decision made when it comes to conservation, and is a vital part of what Tswalu is all about. Guests are encouraged to interact with scientists and doctoral students in the field, should they have a keen interest in a specific subject. One project, led by Wendy Panaino, a researcher at the University of Witwatersrand, investigates the effects of climate change on pangolins. Beyond climate change, the dwindling international population of pangolins face a variety of challenges including poaching. The vibrant population at Tswalu Kalahari provides researches an extended look at a thriving pangolin population that will inform the work of global pangolin conservation efforts.
Tswalu Kalahari is also home to Tracker Academy, the first and only specialized tracker academy in the world and the only private reserve where female trackers can gain the specific Tracker Academy qualifications. Tracking has been a historically male-dominated field, but the admission of women into Tswalu’s Tracker Academy looks to change that. Out of the three Tracker Academy campuses, Tswalu is the only one to admit female students.
The one-year, full-time program lead by experienced trainers operates under Peace Parks Foundation and is a division of the South African College for Tourism. Founded 11 years ago by former guide Alex van den Heever and tracker Renais Mhologo, the program gives formal qualification to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. A total of 24 students from disadvantaged backgrounds are chosen after a rigorous process from well over 500 applications to participate in the program, in the most current in-take of 8 students, 2 of those admitted are female. A whopping 94% of the Tracker Academy’s graduates have found permanent employment in the fields of ecotourism and conservation. In addition to opportunities provided to the students, the program contributes to the preservation of indigenous knowledge.
Wayve Kolevsohn — Africa’s First Female Master Sommelier at Ellerman House
Wayve Kolevsohn, Sommelier at Cape Town's Ellerman House, is the first female in Africa to pass the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Sommelier exam. Widely considered to be the benchmark for international sommeliers in the US and most of Europe, this prestigious qualification has never before been offered in South Africa, opening up a world of opportunity for Africa’s rising stars. Wayve joined the Ellerman House team in 2019, and has previously worked at some of Cape Town's best restaurants including The Test Kitchen, The Roundhouse and The Tasting Room among other international assignments. 2019 was a milestone year for Wayve as she was also appointed on the board of the South African Sommelier Association and plans on taking her studies further with the Advanced Sommelier certification, and after that, Master Sommelier. Wayve joins Manuel Cabello, Operations Manager at Ellerman House, who is also certified through the Court of Master Sommeliers, which makes Ellerman House the only property in South Africa to have two CMS-certified sommeliers on its team.
Wine is an essential element of Ellerman House’s DNA and the property’s Wine Gallery integrates cutting-edge contemporary design with sculptural beauty, showcasing a collection of over 7,500 bottles of the very best South African wine. It is the product of a collaborative and passionate endeavor by some of South Africa’s leading winemakers, soil scientists, artists and designers.
Quasar Expeditions - Dolores Diez
Dolores Diez founded Quasar Expeditions in 1986 to show the treasures of the Galapagos Islands to the world. Dolores fell in love with the Galapagos nature and wildlife after traveling to the islands on an old fishing boat at the age of 16. Once married, she took her husband Eduardo to the islands to see how they could establish the Galapagos Archipelago as a must see destination for world travelers together. The couple believed that through sustainable tourism they could keep the islands' natural treasures intact for future generations to enjoy and, over three decades later, their dream lives on. Their focus on small-group travel ensures a more intimate interaction with the Galapagos wildlife; much like the way Darwin experienced the islands.
Since pioneering high-end expedition cruising around the Galapagos, Dolores has expanded Quasar's trip portfolio to the mainland of Ecuador and Peru. In 2013, the company also partnered with Jeep to offer one-of-a-kind Patagonia Safaris. Quasar is a strong advocate of sustainability, offering carbon neutral adventures and partnering with several conservation organizations. The core mission is to offer guests the possibility of visiting remote destinations while leaving the smallest footprint possible.