At Londolozi we often talk about the incredible bonds that are created here and how work colleagues are more friends and family to each other than anything else. Recently this was demonstrated when Londolozi tracker, Life Sibuyi was offered the trip of a lifetime to join his ex-ranger, Rex Miller, at Rex’s wedding near Cape Town. The wedding was doubly special for Life to attend as Rex had also met his fiancé Jess at Londolozi, when she had been working there as a camp manager.
For three years, Life and Rex worked as a team, spending as many as ten hours a day together, more than some married couples. They both felt incredibly blessed by this because they felt that they were working with one of their best friends. Life told me how he loved working with Rex because it was always fun. Even when they got stuck, they’d still be able to have a laugh. “We took good care of each other, did lots of tracking, shared beers in the evening and just had a really strong relationship,” said Life.
This trip to Cape Town was Life’s first time on an aeroplane and he recounted to me how this felt. He says he was both excited and nervous for the flight. They experienced quite a bit of turbulence but he said he just compared this to the bumps you experience in a Land Rover and that helped to calm him down. During his stay in Cape Town they visited Camps Bay, Muizenberg, Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, the 12 Apostles, the Cape of Good Hope, the aquarium and of course, Rex’s wedding in Worcester.
“My favourite place was climbing Lion’s Head,” said Life. “From there you get the best view of Robben Island, the rest of Cape Town and the sea. If I got to go back to Cape Town I would want to go visit Robben Island to see where Mandela stayed.”
“Another amazing moment was seeing the sea for the first time. I was so scared at first and confused by the water pushing in and out. I kept wondering who was doing it. It was also so cold and I was worried the waves would take me out but I got used to it quickly.”
“It was also the best to see Rex getting married and to see him all grown up now. My trip was amazing and I would love to go back. Now I understand why guests want to go there- Cape Town is such a good place. I also understand now why guests sometimes arrive here at Londolozi so tired.”
We also chatted to Rex to see how he felt about his adventures with Life in Cape Town.
Amy: Tell us about your ranger tracker relationship with Life. Why were you guys such good friends?
Rex: I guess you always hear about a ranger and tracker being such a good team. In our case we made sure that we always worked together and tried our hardest to provide the best experience for our guests. Life was quiet and reserved and yet very knowledgeable, I had and still do have so much to learn from him. I on the other hand had much to teach Life about life outside of the game reserve. It was these interests and willingness to share these experiences and stories that brought us so close together. We took the time to learn about each other’s lives outside the work environment and that made our ‘work relationship’ a friendship.
Amy: Why do you think it’s important for a tracker and ranger to have a strong relationship?
Rex: Understanding each other while viewing or tracking high profile game is very important. Not only to assist in finding the animals but also understanding that you are both looking out for one another’s safety. There have been many occasions where Life has prevented me from walking into an elephant, snake or even a leopard that I had not seen. Out of the work environment I found our relationship as important. Learning about Life’s culture, family and history was great for me to understand who Life was. He is a family man who has very strong ties to his ancestors, something that I would have never learned if I didn’t visit him in his village. This type of understanding of one another made our friendship what it is. We were no longer Ranger and Tracker but rather two friends wanting to take guests out and show them what we loved.
Amy: Why did you invite Life to Cape Town?
Rex: In getting to know Life I knew that he had never seen the sea and had never been in an aeroplane, which is something that we take for granted these days. I knew that this may be the only chance that Life gets to see and explore Cape Town and I wanted him to be there on the day of my wedding.
Amy: What were some of your favourite moments together there?
Rex: Every single moment with Life in Cape Town was a highlight. I can’t begin to describe what it is like to watch a grown man see the ocean for the first time, having him ask who was pushing and pulling the water as the waves moved up and down the beach. Even walking across the beach where he compared it to the Sand River that runs in front of the Londolozi camps. The shear vastness of the ocean and watching boats and ships going past over a beer at the Twelve Apostles. It was all as amazing for me as it was for Life and that was only the first hour of our first day! We had a whirlwind tour of Cape Town and I treasured every moment of it.
Another one of the highlights was hiking up Lion’s Head. Life compared this to Ximpalapala which is the biggest koppie (hill) on Londolozi. By the time we reached the top Life was saying that Ximpalapala was a termite mound in comparison. Gone are the days of Life being a marathon runner.
We also managed to get up Table Mountain for a sunset. This was the first time Life saw a dassie (rock hyrax) and when he realised there was such a big difference in sunset times between Cape Town and Londolozi. Life literally started trying to fix his clock on his phone when he looked at the time and it was well after 8pm and the sun was still shining. He couldn’t understand that it would have been dark for over an hour at Londolozi and we were still sitting watching the sun set over Cape Town. Later in our stay when he was swimming in Muizenburg he said, “the other trackers are at home in the dark and I am swimming in the sea with the sun shining!”
With Life being an avid fisherman back home the Two Oceans Aquarium was next on my list. Seeing a few of the bigger fish and sharks Life informed me, “Mfo (friend), there is no Shangaan fishing rod that can catch these big fish”. There were obviously so many others such as Cape of Good Hope, seeing seals in the wild and looking in the rock pools of Cape Point, the new bird species he managed to identify and attending my wedding.
Amy: How did it feel to see Cape Town through Life’s eyes?
Rex: Well it really allowed me to appreciate everything we take for granted. Life was adamant that he wanted to try everything and never turned anything down, no matter how nervous he may have been. Just the traveling to and from Cape Town for him must have been an almighty task. The simple tasks of checking into flights and collecting your luggage, he managed to do this all without ever calling me or getting lost or asking for assistance. It was a great honour for me to show Life around my home as he had shown me around his home so often in the past.
Amy: How did it feel to have him witness your marriage?
Rex: It was having him around leading up to the wedding and being there to assist us in the preparations on the farm that was more special. On the wedding day there is so much going on, but on one occasion he came up to Jess and I and requested a photo with us. This really meant a lot to me and I am sure it meant a lot to him as well. We had a great party together, something that we had taught each other to do very well at Londolozi.