Creativity – an important quality on a ‘desert island’.
Danir has operations all over the world, and this time we will visit Tanzania and Thanda Island, a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, just over 100 km south of Dar es Salaam. There, on the paradise island of Thanda, we meet the island’s young and driven hotel director, Antigone Meda, a true global citizen. Antigone was born in Basel, Switzerland, to Italian parents and grew up in Mombasa, Kenya.
Both her parents worked in the hotel and hospitality industry throughout Antigone’s childhood, so it’s not surprising she works in what she does.
But before she ended up in this industry, Antigone pursued a completely different area of study. She went to Australia to study at Caulfield Campus, Monash University in Melbourne, from graduated with a degree in design and visual communication in 2013. But it wasn’t long before she was back in the industry she grew up with. She started a safari camp in Kenya with her partner. However, when the activities of the terrorist organisation Al-Shabaab in Kenya approached their business, they decided to find something safer and more secure.
“We started looking for jobs at hotels on the islands along the East African coast when one day I received an email from the then-manager at Thanda,” explains Antigone when asked how she ended up on Thanda Island. “I thought it was strange because I hadn’t contacted them. But it turned out that my childhood friend Danielle, who runs a dive centre on Mafia Island, had applied to Thanda. And I’ve been here ever since.”
When the regular general manager left a few years later, Antigone was the obvious choice as a successor.
Today, she is responsible for a staff of 45. There are about 15-20 employees on the island depending on the season and occupancy. It is important for Antigone to maintain a familial atmosphere among the staff. Everyone should have the opportunity to contribute ideas for the business, and when an initiative is taken for a project, Antigone is there to lend support.
“I’ve always felt that I have the support of the owners, that nothing is impossible, and you are allowed to be creative and innovative,” Antigone says about what it’s like to run a business within the Danir Group.
In the spring, when the rainy season arrives, much of the time is devoted to maintenance, upgrades, and repairs. And when only the ‘family’ is on-site, it’s possible to build valuable relationships.
“The rainy season becomes a natural pause in life on this little island, and we get much-needed time to review every little part of the business and see what we can improve and what we can do to become even more cohesive as a team and more unique, exclusive, and sustainable as a travel destination,” says Antigone about life on the island during the rainy season.
When the rainy season is over and the guests arrive, Antigone and her colleagues are ready to give them an unforgettable stay. Despite the limitations of the small island in terms of size, there are infinitely many activities to keep oneself busy.
“I’m in many ways more of an artist and designer than a hotel worker, which actually fits better when working in such a unique and exclusive place like Thanda Island. There is a desire here to revolutionise the idea of what a five-star luxury resort should be. And that requires more from the artist in me than from the tourism worker,” says Antigone about the truly unique work she has and loves.
I’ll stay here for a long time and continue to work on making the island world-famous.
– Antigone Meda
Antigone and her colleagues not only take care of the guests who visit the island, but they also actively work to take care of the marine nature reserve that was established when the Dan Olofsson family bought the island. After years of indiscriminate dynamite fishing, which has destroyed many of the coral reefs in the region, they now have a chance to recover and once again become the productive and invaluable part of the ecosystem they once were.
“Our solar power plant is the largest in Tanzania and it takes our concept and spirit one step closer to being an operator that truly takes responsibility for our impact on the Earth,” says Antigone proudly as she talks about their sustainability work.
In addition to conservation work and ecological sustainability work, Antigone and Thanda Island also work towards economic and social sustainability on Mafia Island where many of the employees live. They have initiated projects to help the population with their own cultivation, and they are also in the process of starting the Star for Life programme at the island’s schools.
“Every day on the island is like a blank page, and there are endless possibilities for us to fill it with what we want. And it’s the great variation in my work that makes me enjoy it so much here, and I’ll stay here for a long time and continue to work on making the island world-famous for its uniqueness as a destination as well as what we do for the marine life and the social life on Mafia,” says Antigone about what she will be doing in five years.
Like many of us, Antigone loves the sea and everything one can do there: diving, swimming, fishing, paddling, or just walking along the beach, enjoying the sunset and the sound of the waves, which makes her job at Thanda perfect for her. And add to that her creative streak, not only when she and her team create unforgettable experiences for the guests, but also when she works on building the island’s brand and spreading it around the world. The fact that creativity is an important quality on a desert island is an old truth that still holds true today. And Antigone, whom her colleagues call the ‘Mother of the Island’, truly is the right person to take care of and lead the island and the employees on the journey towards being a uniquely sustainable place for guests, employees, and the marine life in the ocean around it.