Mike Sutherland hails from Durban, but we try not to hold that against him.
The beach lifestyle that was such an integral part of Mike’s formative years has turned him into probably one of the most relaxed rangers ever to hit the Lowveld. A bad day does not seem to exist in Mike’s life. Any kind of problem or setback that would call forth a scowl from a normal person might do so for the briefest moment with Mike, but is soon replaced by a cheery smile and a laugh. “Blessed is he who can laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be amused.”, goes the saying, and it has never held truer than in Mike’s case.
Somehow fitting in study-time between surf sessions, Mike graduated from the University of Kwazulu-Natal with a Bachelor of Science degree. The bush was his ruling passion, and he immediately set out to follow his childhood dream and become a ranger. Training through &Beyond, Mike’s first posting was to Kwandwe in the Eastern Cape, where the smaller animals reign supreme. After being charged on foot by one Aardvark too many, he relocated to Phinda Game Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal, the province of his birth, where he was based at Mountain Lodge. The Sabi Sands Game Reserve was always the area Mike had wanted to work however, and in January this year he made the move. We think it was purely because he wanted to see a leopard cub that he came here, but Londolozi was glad to have him!
Having worked in two completely different environments like Kwandwe and Phinda has given Mike a unique edge when it comes to understanding ecology, and he is able to draw on extensive knowledge from these two previous postings when interpreting wildlife for guests at Londolozi.
Photography, tracking, birding… Mike can do it all, and his infectious enthusiasm never fails to rub off on the rest of the team. He’s not too shabby on the rugby field either!
I remember one of the first times I went out into the bush with Mike. Dean Smithyman and Elmon Mhlongo were further down the road and had found tracks of the Camp Pan male leopard coming our way. Some vultures to the north of us had aroused Mike’s suspicions, so into the bush we went, on foot. Stalking as quietly as we could through waist-high grass with Mike in front, he suddenly turned, his eyes alight with excitement, and pointed down, then to his nose, then to the West. Thinking he might be having some kind of seizure, I had to creep closer before I could hear his whisper. “Blood-trail.”, he said simply. He had spotted the smallest brown streak on a blade of grass and had smelt the faintest whiff of something amiss, and within 5 minutes of starting to follow the trail (which to a normal human being was almost invisible), a low warning growl from a thicket ahead of us told us that we had found the leopard (I say we, but actually mean Mike).
Mike’s reputation as a guide spoke for itself when he joined the Londolozi Ranging team, and he was driving guests before he even began his training course. Needless to say, he sailed through the course itself.
Here are some of his photo highlights from his first few months at Londolozi:
Mike’s ready wit and willingness to get involved make him an incredibly valuable asset to the team. Look out for more of his work on the Londolozi Blog.
Written by James Tyrrell