Right the way through training the last few months, I hung onto the thought that all the hard work would pay off. I believed I would eventually reach the goal I had envisaged the moment I drove into Londolozi all those months back, which was to finally become a Londolozi guide. I believe guiding here isn’t just about showing your guests a leopard, lion or elephant. It’s so much more than that. For me, I want to help them see the full beauty of this place and to fall in love with Londolozi during their stay.
As training neared the end, an assessment drive became inevitable and my opportunity to show all the leaders of Londolozi that I was ready, loomed. Along with it came a cloud of dread. Once qualified, the nervousness was completely drowned out by pure excitement though. It was my time to give guests the Londolozi Experience.
My first few days on the road were a dream and I was able to show my very first guests a number of really awesome sightings. One that stands out to me most was setting out after tea and cake in the afternoon, with tracker Joy Mathebula. We decided to try and find the Tamboti female leopard who had been in the area earlier that morning. Joy’s advice was to head down into a dry riverbed to see if this leopard had spent any time there during the day, resting in the cool shade.
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
Driving into the dry Maxabene River feels as if you are entering a whole different world. A canopy of trees form an over-arching tunnel that encase the riverbed. Protected from the midday heat this provides the perfect place for many animals to spend their time. Coming around a bend in the river, we spotted an enormous rhino cow grazing on a patch of lush green grass. We stopped in the sand, watching her behaviour to make sure she wasn’t disturbed by the vehicle. We had, however, caught the attention of something else that would bring even more excitement. Before we even really had a chance to look at the mother, the smallest rhino calf I have ever seen came bursting round from behind another bend in the river.
Extremely playful and full of energy, it walked towards the vehicle to investigate. Close enough to almost sniff Joy’s feet it realised the extent of it’s vulnerability, turned around and charged back towards its mother, stumbling and kicking the river sand everywhere. It made a couple of approaches but would turn and run a few meters then swing around to face us to make sure we hadn’t moved, tossing sand in every direction. It would then tear off around the corner it had come from for a brief moment as if to gather its thoughts before it came bounding back around the corner again.
Being only a number of weeks old, all this tearing around in the sand took its toll on the youngster, which soon had to lie down to rest. All the while the mother remained calm, very comfortable with the antics of its extremely charismatic calf.
After spending some really awesome time with the two rhino, they moved off and we were able to absorb the tranquility of the Maxabene Riverbed once again. We didn’t manage to find the leopard but this little rhino calf has remain etched in my memory as an absolute highlight. I can’t wait for many more of these little surprises in the months to come that really help to make all the hard work of training so worth it.
Written by Sean Zeederberg, Photographs by Madeleine, Wendy, Caroline and Mike Bressler