I suffer from a terrible affliction. It is rampant in our industry and can strike at any time, and the scary thing is that I think there may be no cure.
I had an inkling of an idea that I may have been susceptible at university, and I know for sure that one or two of my friends had it, but it was only after I started at Londolozi that I accepted my fate and decided to confront my demons, accepting once and for all that I was a sufferer.
I am referring of course, to F.O.M.O, the Fear Of Missing Out.
It’s not pretty, believe me, and can turn even the most amazing job (read: game ranger at Londolozi) into a living nightmare.
FOMO is what you get when you suspect, whether correctly or incorrectly, that someone else may be having a better time than you somewhere else, and you kind of wish you were there. FOMO is certainly not restricted to the bush environment, but it is out here that it has gripped me like a leopard on a two-week-old warthog piglet.
There are three main types of FOMO at Londolozi, two of which will be discussed here.
Let us look at the first one; Boma FOMO.
As many visitors to game reserves throughout the continent will know, a boma is a circular enclosure, built outside and open to the sky, where one often eats the evening meal. There is no better place to enjoy a sizzling impala loin than under the stars, with the lions roaring in the distance and the crackle of the woodfire adding to the cacophony of night sounds.
The word boma, like FOMO, is also an acronym (the irony is not lost on me), apparently derived from ‘British Officer’s Mess Area’ and it was apparently during colonial times or even the Anglo-Boer war of 1899 -1902, that officers in the British Army (still very classist at the time) insisted upon eating separately from the enlisted men. The simple solution was to erect a wooden stockade in a similar format to the bomas we see today.
Anyway, the bomas at Londolozi (each camp has one) are the heart and soul of the camps, as it is here that much merriment and story-telling take place in the evenings, often fuelled by good wine, often with guitars and singing going on until the small hours.
Winter nights when the skies are clear and the fires are high are the best times for a boma, but the problem with winter (and I’m getting to the FOMO part here) is that the still, cool air in the evenings provides the perfect medium through which sound can travel, and keen ears will be able to pick up the noise of the festivities from a way off.
Early wake-ups for game drive mean that by the time the sun goes down, your eyelids are heavy, and any ranger with a night off will most likely grab the opportunity for a good night’s sleep. Enter the FOMO.
Lying in bed at night, drifting off to sleep, you suddenly hear raucous laughter coming from the west. Is it Founders Camp? Or Pioneer? Obviously someone told a good joke. Then it comes again. Ok, that time it was definitely Byron; his laugh is unmistakeable (even if he was probably laughing at his own joke).
By now you are wondering whether you should go for a beer. The camp manager told you there were going to be guitars playing, and sure enough, a few minutes later, you hear the first few chords of “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show come drifting through the night, accompanied by Dean Smithyman on his harmonica. Now you KNOW things are getting festive, yet your bed is so warm! Eventually, against your better judgment, you succumb to the FOMO, and before you know it it is 3am, guests and staff alike are having an amazing time singing old-school classics from the 60’s and 70’s around the fire, and that long-anticipated 10hr sleep just went right out the window! A strong cup of coffee the next morning is your only consolation prize.
Boma FOMO can therefore manifest itself in two forms: a slightly bleary-eyed lack of sleep or silent jealousy that you weren’t there to enjoy the party allied with a steely resolve to be there the next time. Either result is undesirable and a direct result of the condition.
So that was Boma FOMO.
The second type, Sighting FOMO, is a tricky one. A lot harder to manage. Or at least to deal with.
We are very lucky here at Londolozi. We see amazing things when out on drive. Something that every ranger has to accept however, is that you can’t see it all. The reserve is large, the animals are spread out, and you cannot physically be everywhere at once. I have yet to accept this though. I somehow think that I can see everything the bush has to offer, even though it is perfectly obvious that I can’t. I will be sitting with two beautiful leopard cubs playing in a tree when I hear on the radio that another ranger has found wild dogs on the hunt, and I will think “Oooh I wish I was there!”, then have to mentally slap myself, reminding myself to appreciate the incredible scene unfolding in front of me. Or the male lions I am with will be getting active in the evening and beginning to roar, yet I am jealous of another ranger who is with a leopard with it’s hoisted kill. It’s ridiculous! And to tell you the truth I blame Londolozi. For both FOMOs!
Londolozi is an amazing place, with amazing animals and amazing people that combine into a formula for fun and adventure! Good things, exciting things, are happening here all the time, in camp and out in the bush. I wish with all my heart that I could be a part of everything going on, but there is simply too much of it.
The best I can do is squeeze every last drop out of each day, tune up the guitar for tonight’s boma and pinch myself on game drive tomorrow morning to remind myself how incredibly fortunate I am not to be sitting in traffic, but rather watching the sunrise from a hilltop overlooking one of the most pristine wildernesses in the world.
Soon I will go on leave, and be jealous of the guys who are back here at ‘work’. But this last FOMO, “Leave” FOMO, the worst one of all, is the topic of another post…
Written by James Tyrrell
Photographed by James Tyrrell and Richard Laburn
Article inspired by and dedicated to Graeme “Stompie” Marais, the greatest FOMO sufferer of all.