There is a special relationship that forms between two people when we do this job each day. It is one that we are aware of, humbled by and fully engaged in. It is a friendship, a partnership and a mentorship. This is a two way street and for both people there are many ways to benefit and grow by being together and spending so much time together. This relationship I speak of, is one that is built in the bush, on the vehicle, on foot and in the lodge. It is the bond between a ranger and a tracker and it is a lifelong investment.
I have had the fortunate privilege to have worked with many amazing people in my journey through the bush, especially the trackers I have met and worked together with. Each with their own set of manicured skills and interpretations of the bush. Each with their own anecdotes, tales, terrors and triumphs. Each tracker has his own super power, a sixth sense, which allows competitive advantage against the rest. It is a bond that is earned through complete trust in one another, to me it is sacred and it is life altering.
Life, Khokwana, Majingi’s, DD, Mr Bubbles or General Kwagga. These are some of the many names he is referred to by me and colleagues. Life is the tracker I have had the privilege to work with for almost 18 months now. He has become my best friend and partner in the bush. We have learned from each other and share many amazing experiences together. We have met amazing people, who have influenced our lives and we have grown as people through these experiences. Life has taught me many things in the bush, but not only about bird calls, tracking and trees. He is wise beyond his years and can lift the energy in a room just with a comment or a laugh. The gentle giant, quietly going about his business, but loved by so many.
Life has a particular interest in something that I am very passionate about – photography. He has appeared on the blog before after taking an amazing photograph of the Nottens female ascending a marula tree at dusk. This was documented in a blog named: Life’s Photographic Moments. This is not a new passion that he has picked up, it is one that has grown with him on his journey as a tracker over the past ten years, working with various rangers who all enjoy photography. There are often moments on drive when I see him peering at my camera hoping to take some pictures. He is a true gentleman though, and will sit quietly observing and commenting on the lighting, and that I should change the setting to “Black and White!”
If you have ever been on a game drive with Life you will know his quiet demeanour, his silent confidence and the aura he exudes from the trackers seat. It is one of patience, enthusiasm, charisma and honesty. He is humble to his very core and one of my best friends. So this is a tribute to Life, my friend. And these are some of the photographs he has taken in the past few months. I hope you enjoy them as much as he does!
Wild Eye blog:
Written by: Mike Sutherland
Photographed by: Life Sibuye
Filed under Leopards Photography Wildlife
Life was the tracker on my visit to Londolozi. He and Rex Miller made that experience life altering (no pun intended) and unforgettable. Thank you Life for your passion in your craft and for being an amazing human being.
It is only just over 48 hours since we lifted off from ‘Londolozi International’, waving sad goodbyes to Mike and Life below. We had enjoyed wonderful drives with them, with the elusive cheetah found on the very last outing.
This admirably written post highlights the wonderful, endearing qualities of Life, and also shows Mike’s warmth and insight, which so well complements his knowledge and driving skills.
We hope to be sharing some more adventures with them soon.
Thanks Mike for letting the world know how fantastic Life is. We had the honor of spending some time with you & Mike 3/13. What wonderful sightings we had. Now, I am returning by myself in September & hope to spend some more time with the two of you. My hair is still purple!
What a wonderful tribute to Life! I feel super privileged to have gotten to spend time with Life on both my visits to Londoz in 2012 and 2013. I asked is he could join me and Julius for dinner in 2012 and it was so fun. He tells a good story and has a great sense of humor! But yes, his tracking skills are unmatched. I am thrilled to see him take an interest in photography and am not at all surprised that he is damn good at it. Cheers to you, Life! You rock!
What an incredible ode to Life! I love his passion. I hope to see him around when I’m there in 2 short weeks!
What a wonderful tribute to your good friend Mike. Absolutely fantastic photographs Life! They were all spectacular, but I especially like the Nottens female at dusk and the close up of the leopard claws! Also, Andrew Beck’s photograph of Life moving through the mist is just magical.
We are arriving a Londolozi on 24th May for 7 wonderful days and am counting the hours and days. Your blogs have made us feel as though we know you all already. We have treated ourselves to the Granite Suites to celebrate my birthday and our wedding anniversary and we know this is going to be an experience we will relive every day of our life. We are looking forward to meeting you all and seeing all the wonderful animals that we have been reading about on your blogs for the last few months. Thank you for making us feel part of your family and look forward to seeing you all very soon. Vivien and Michael x
Love the Piva yawn!
Thanks for a great tribute to Life or mfanawam – as we used to call each other. I miss working with him but was privileged to see you guys working together as a great team with my old guests and now friends Andrew and Judy just last week – glad you found them the cheetah, you guys worked hard for that one. Hope to return and visit you both soon.
That’s a wonderful tribute to a great man, but the two of you are a close knit team, that just gets better with every passing day. Thanks Mike for the words & Life for all the beautiful pictures, all favourites.
Mike – even though I am not your Mother, I burst with pride at what an awesome young man you have become, your incredible photos and writing continue to be a source of wonder to me and thanks to Life for also being your teacher!!