You know those people who who are just so annoyingly good at everything that by rights you figure they should be really unlikeable, almost to balance out their other good qualities? But they’re not? They’re pretty much the nicest person you’ve ever met? Yip, that’s Dean.
Dean Smithyman is one of Londolozi’s most charismatic rangers. His path to the bush is one that should inspire people. Dean was working in Johannesburg before he came to Londolozi, psyching himself up every morning for 10 minutes before getting out of bed, mentally preparing himself for a day in a job he didn’t particularly like (“didn’t particularly like” may be a euphemism).
He had grown up on holidays to the bush, most notably the Kruger National Park, and realised before too long that it was working in the bush that would make him happy, so in early 2011 he said goodbye to city life and moved down to Londolozi to join the Finance team, based on site at the lodge.
Unluckily for Dean however, the coffee station at which the back office staff get their early morning caffeine fix, then based outside the finance department, was also where the rangers used to come and make themselves a cup after morning game drive. So for a year, Dean had to sit at his desk, his ears flapping, listening (he won’t admit that he eavesdrops) with increasing envy to what was being seen out in the bush as the rangers discussed their sightings post-drive. Any discrepancies in Londolozi’s books during this period can be directly linked to days in which something particularly epic was seen, and Dean’s focus might not have been where it should have.
Eventually his FOMO got the better of him, and he resigned his post in the finance department to join the Ranger Training Course of 2012.
“Ranger’s Remorse’ is a common affliction for young men (and women) in South Africa. It affects those who dreamed of becoming rangers one day but never quite got round to it, and Dean was determined not to join those ranks.
Qualifying as a ranger, Dean was teamed up with Elmon Mhlongo, genius of the bush and one of Londolozi’s most experienced trackers. Together they have formed a formidable partnership, and guests from all over the world have spent many wonderful hours in the company of these two men, being introduced to the wonder of the African wilderness. Just take a look at Philip Bloom’s wonderful video of the Tracker and the Banker below:
Ok, I’ve been extolling Dean’s virtues here, when this is meant to be on why I don’t like the guy, so here we go…
I tend to take a bait quite easily. I can be relatively gullible, especially when other rangers tell me about a sighting they have been witness to (yet are in actual fact lying through their teeth, just to see how much I’ll squirm with jealousy!). Dean knows this better than anyone, and he is an absolute master of wording something just to sucker me in the right amount. I still haven’t caught on properly, and he gets me time and time again.
I know that whenever I go on leave, as I did a few days ago, it’s only a matter of time before Dean will text me about some amazing sighting that I’ve missed at Londolozi, although when I’m away and can do nothing about it anyway, the sightings he reports are often genuine. His gloating ability is unrivalled.
This time the text message came sooner rather than later. Dean has a love of the cryptic and the ambiguous, and the message he sent me simply read “If you’re reading this, then you already know…”
Not having the slightest idea what he was talking about, I had to scroll further down on my phone, to where another message awaited. A picture from Mike Sutherland that made me sick to my stomach. Hard triangular scales on the animal’s body, and in the background, guides literally frothing at the mouth with excitement, told of a pangolin that had been discovered in broad daylight. The absolute holy grail of animals, seen for the first time on Londolozi in over 18 months, the day after I went on leave.
I have never seen one. Nor do I expect to ever see one. And in fact I would appreciate it if anyone who ever has seen one would just not tell me about it rather.
Yet Dean had a chuckle to himself, and messaged me a picture…
It was no bait this time. I wept.
So what I have done is changed Dean’s name on my phone to “DO NOT READ”, in the hope of staving off heartbreaking incidents like this in the future. Our friendship on Facebook? Gone. Will I answer his request on the radio to make his way to a sighting I am controlling? Doubtful. Go track your own animals, Dean!
Unless you find another Pangolin and I actually happen to be at Londolozi this time. I don’t care if I’m watching the Majingilane coalition fighting all 6 of the Mapogo returned from the dead with the Camp Pan male refereeing the encounter and a host of bushbabies cheering loudly from the bleachers.
I’m coming to see it. Fast.
Written by James Tyrrell
This post is purely intended as tongue-in-cheek. I actually do like the guy. Most of the time…