Tom Imrie has – and is – a gentle soul. A warm, loving, paternal member of the Londolozi ranging team and family, Tom is one of the most humble people I have ever met.
Since he would never tell you himself that last week he won the prestigious Safari Guide of the Year competition, I am here to do it for him.
If I’m honest, I didn’t really know what to pen when writing this, as it was initially meant to simply be a tribute to Tom and an announcement of his achievement, but I felt it was an opportunity to say more than that about a man who has been and will continue to be an inspiration to so many.
I’ll say right from the start that nothing I can say will do justice to the type of man Tom is. The many guests that have been introduced to the wonders of the African bush by being in his vehicle or joining him on a walk through the marula crests of Londolozi can attest to the fact that Tom does not simply show you the bush. He takes you on the experience of a lifetime.
The top guides in the industry are well-rounded individuals. This is not an allusion to Tom’s paunch, but to the versatility these men and women must display in order to reach the heights of their profession.
The Safari Guide of the Year competition reflected this in the various categories that the competitors were assessed under; Birding, photography, tracking, shooting, story-telling, game drive and guided walk.
Whilst all categories are important as a guide, ask any ranger worth their salt and they will vehemently agree that the most critical in conducting a meaningful and memorable guest experience are the last three; story-telling, game drive and guided walk. These basically define the role of a guide. Tom walked away with top honours in all three categories (also placing second in the birding, despite claiming to not be an avid birder!) and won the overall competition as a result.
After being drenched with champagne and cheered loudly by the rest of the staff as he arrived back at Londolozi, not once has he mentioned the competition himself. His humility knows no bounds, and he becomes almost a shade embarrassed if you mention it to him. Tom is not in it for the accolades; he is fuelled simply by a deep love of what he does.
Let me tell you a little more about what this quiet, unassuming man is like.
Tom can be found on an evening in Londolozi sharing a quiet beer in the staff village with close friend and tracker Jeremiah Hambana. Tom and Jerry (yes, we find it funny too) are about as good a combination of ranger and tracker as one can ask for as a guest at Londolozi. Their wisdom, both of the bush and of the world at large, are unsurpassed. Tom’s incredible breadth of knowledge allied with Jerry’s traditional Shangaan wisdom and insight provide a wonderful blend of interpretations and descriptions of the natural world around them. I shouldn’t admit this, but I often find myself deliberately not saying much when in the same sighting as Tom’s vehicle, simply so I can listen to his take on what is happening in front of us. If Tom thinks the leopard is doing such-and-such a thing for such-and-such a reason, that’s good enough for me!
Tom and his wife Kate – Londolozi’s current head ranger – live on site at the lodge with their two children, Thomas and Emma. They came to the bush for a change from city life a decade ago, and have embraced Africa’s wilderness and everything it stands for with open hearts. Their door is always open to any of the staff at any time, for whatever the reason, and it is largely through their leadership and the example they set that the Londolozi ranging team is the tight-knit unit that it is.
Tommo, you are an inspiration to all of us at Londolozi. Not just as a ranger but as a human being. Your good humour, kind heart and ever-present voice of reason are appreciated far more than is ever said by everyone you come into contact with. It is truly an honour to have learnt so much from you over these past few years.
It gives me the greatest pleasure to congratulate you, my colleague but more importantly my friend, on your outstanding achievement.
Tom Imrie, the Africa Direct/FGASA Safari guide of the year.
Written by James Tyrrell
Filed under Life
Congratulations Tomo. This is well deserved recognition of your dedication in guiding. You were a crucial part of my training and will be for many others to come. Congratulations – honored to have worked with you!
Well done Tom. From what I have heard, this is well-deserved 🙂
James once again you have written an excellent piece. You have captured the essence of Tom beautifully.
From his very proud wife Kate.
YOU HAVE HONOURED YOUR LONDOLOZI FAMILY WITH THIS FINE ACHIEVEMENT CONGRATULATIONS !!!!!!
WE ENDORSE ALL AND MORE THAT JAMES HAS WRITTEN ABOUT YOU!!
WE ARE SO BLESSED TO HAVE YOU, KATE, YOUR BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN AND YOUR AMAZING MOTHER AS PART OF OUR EXTENDED FAMILY
LONG MAY WE CONTINUE TO LIVE AND WORK TOGETHER AS YOU BUILD AN ENDURING LEGACY OF LOVE AND COMITTMENT TO A PURPOSE
SHAN AND DAVE VARTY
Congratulations Tom – a great achievement and very well deserved!
Huge congratulations Tom, very well done and deserved!
Congrats Tom. An inspiring and moving article by James, describing an inspiring man and leader. I am now regretful that I missed an opportunity to join you on drive. Hopefully there is still a chance. It is really amazing to see you raising your family in that special place. Warm regards from the Ross family.
So well deserved and true in every way. Congratulations Tom! We often think of you and your beautiful family and sending much love. Well done!
We were so lucky to have had Tom and Jerry as our team this past August. They made our trip so much more than we had ever imagined it could be. Congratulations on a well-deserved honor. Can’t wait to come back.
Wow-well done. Having been to Africa many times, it is amazing how much a good guide can add to what for many is the experience of a lifetime- on the other hand it is also amazing how much guides have to put up with from the …
Tom you are an incredible man. I so enjoyed the time we spent together in the bush. You were and still are a great inspiration to me , and many other guides. I am very proud of you. Well done. Your friend- Adam
Congratulations Tom! What a honor!
Because of you, Larry and I long to be back in the bush again with you and Jerry.
We think of you often and look forward to coming back to our “home” again soon.
Congratulations Tom on this award.
Massive congratulations to you!! You are much loved, admired and respected. Thank you for all the memories so far! Still waiting to hear that story!
Fantastic news “Congrats Tom” very well deserved, we always love turning up at a sighting and hear your story’s, as we said to you last time it takes us back to our childhood and the programme Jackanory, such great story telling from a master, we always believe everything you tell us!
What a fantastic honour Tom – well deserved! Nice job James on a great tribute!
Dear Tom, Kate and children,
Since the first time that we were privileged to have the Disney duo as our Londolozi caretakers almost a decade ago, we realised that these fantastic trips to the African bush were very special for many reasons, but especially because of Tom and Jerry.
After more than 10 visits, we felt like, and were treated like royal family, and our love for nature as presented by the Londolozi team grew with every visit!
Tom always focusses on his support team as the important elements in the success of the total experience at Londo’s, including the “Notting’s female”, and his two lovely children! Jerry is always quietly being consulted, and the guests are drawn into the team by amazing interaction that makes you feel like you actually belong there!
Tom says:” people energises me” , but I think that LIFE energises him!
Congrats with your wonderful achievement! You (and your team) fully deserve this accolade!
Looking forward to our next visit to the land of Varty/Taylor!
Warm regards from us all, including Oupa and Ouma!
Gerrit and family van Wageningen
Congratulations to Tom. I’m so glad that its him. I wish him the best of luck, a well deserved honour.
Well done again Thomas! Couldn’t have been won by a more deserving person!
Tom! A big congrats to you. Was so humbled to have the opportunity to work with a person such as yourself! You taught me so much about life and the world around us and always made work an absolute pleasure. I will be celebrating with a Black Label tonight for you.
well done Big Tom!! love Kate and Maya
Thomas you are such a legend of a guy and a guide, I am so proud of you, flying the Londolozi Flag high! A much deserved honour for an incredible bush master, can’t wait to have that next celebratory beer. Thank you for all that I have learned from you and the great times we have shared, which I miss dearly.
Hello Tom and Kate you must be delighted….. we are! I cant recall when we first met but I guess it was about 1997. Your warm greeting and undivided attention was amazing and you were not even our ranger on that visit. Since then no visit to Londos has been complete without a good chat with you Tom. One highlight you shared with us was the stunning viewing of Saturn through your electronic telescope. That was a real treat. When I read the news of your award a few days ago on Twitter it was such a cool feeling knowing that someone who truly excels received deserving recognition.
Bravo Bravo Bravo Tom
See you soon
Trevor and Colleen
Tom this makes me SO proud. There is a special, very unique quality in you that really makes you stand out. This award is so deserved.
A hole in one!!!! Well done.
love from Yvette and Jos
Congratulations Tom and also all your support team especially Kate, Emma and Thomas. Very well deserved and your Southbroom friends are very proud.
I’m sure we will see you at Christmas.
Liz and Jonathan
Well Done Tom!!! Recognition well deserved!!
Well deserved Tom!! You are the best!! As I compliment Tom I feel I say Jerry as well. We have just left our first safari Nov. 19th with Tom and Jerry As I saw the pair as Classy,knowledgable, funny, cohesive to perfection. The funny part… I still laugh at some of the things Tom said. Thanks to you both, we were privileged to ride with you for 4 days. Tom deserves the award from my experience…. If there are better, pigs are flying.
One last note, Tom I hope you read this, Jerry drove us to the air strip on departure.
What we got from this man in 15 minutes , what he spoke of, experience of life, perseverance, drive
Honesty and class. The world would be a better place if all could experience understand what goes on here. A life changer for sure. Jerry stayed as the plane took off ,we looked out the window and saw him waving his arms goodbye. I knew then, see you again hopefully, sooner then later. Btw Tom and Jerry we did see owls ,the spotted eagle owl.. With 2 babies. In Cape Town …. So put the night light down.
Stay well all
Michael and Vanessa Green
A beautiful accolade to a truly deserving winner of this award. It was a huge honor to be amongst so many talented guides – Tom you really touched my soul with your story telling and your game drive (missed the walk). Your humble and gentle nature draws people to you and I am sure you will continue to inspire and warm the hearts of many, as you did mine. I hope one day soon to visit you at my favorite place, Londolozi.
We had the honor of being with Tom and Jerry in June and it was the greatest trip of our lives. It is no surprise to us that he has gotten this well deserved award. Congratulations from the Dog Show Nine Group We are so proud and happy for you!
Congratulations on this incredible accomplishment! I cannot express how incredibly happy I am to see you get some recognition for the incredible selflessness, hard work, perseverence, tenacity, humour, and generosity by which you choose to live your life, in personal circumstance and in your career! You continue to inspire me, as you have done since we met as young lads at the house! Take a moment to savour the achievement! A toast will be held in my house tonight for you and your family! Cheers and love to you, Kate, Thomas and Emma.
Your friend for life,
Congratulation Tom. Well deserved. Excellent blog, James. Can not wait until I return next year.