Every day is a chance to learn. It’s a chance to expand our minds and open ourselves up to new ways of life, new cultures, and new ways of being in the world. My journey at Londolozi so far has been about steep learning curves and about becoming a part of a global and local family that teaches me so much about what it means to be human.
Before arriving at Londolozi, I knew very little about the history of the Shangaan culture and its people. The history of the Shangaan people is truly a remarkable story, explained wonderfully in Ryan James’s blog.
A brief history
In Ryan’s blog, he explains that Soshangane under the command of Shaka Zulu went to Mozambique in order to raid the Thonga communities but rather adopted their traditions and formed the Amashangana community. Much to the disbelief of Shaka Zulu they had found a new home and integrated with the Thonga people. Since then, because of the civil war many Shangaan people had to flee Mozambique and settle in areas around the Kruger National Park. One thing that has really stood out for me is that even with all these hardships, the Shangaan people still remain the kindest and most welcoming people you will ever meet. None more so than tracker Dorence Khoza, my partner.
Meet Dorence Khoza
Dorence graduated top of his class from the Tracker Academy in 2018. The Tracker Academy rewards its top students with a trip to another wilderness area to go and habituate a certain animal. In Dorences’s case, he went to Rwanda to habituate leopards – one of the most amazing experiences of his life according to him. By graduating top of his class Londolozi offered him a job shortly after he returned from Rwanda. Dorence and I have had the privilege of working together for 6 months now but our relationship started long before that.
Before becoming a guide at Londolozi you must go through a training process, much like the trackers do with the Tracker Academy. This usually lasts about 6 months. (In our case, it took our training course about a year to qualify due to the delays the pandemic placed on tourism). Whilst training you immerse yourself in everything that is Londolozi and forming relationships is one of the key components. Dorence and I met on one of my first nights at Londolozi and from the get-go, I could tell that this was going to be a good friendship.
Beginning a brotherhood
After qualifying, you get the privilege of forming a relationship with a tracker and begin your journey as a team. When I was told that Dorence and I would be working together I was overwhelmed with joy because we had already formed this great friendship. The experience that we wanted to provide to our guests was aligned – to have fun in everything we do. And that has been the feeling we try to generate every game drive. Working with Dorence every day and watching his amazing ability to read the bush and have a greater understanding of what’s around him has seriously propelled my own knowledge. He has taught me to take a step back and take everything in for a second before deciding what to do next. I’m sure many guides will agree with me, all of the Londolozi trackers have an uncanny way of just relaxing and not letting things get to them. They take on an approach that the bush will provide for us if we let it. It’s this ability that I believe makes Dorence such an amazing tracker and human, and something that I think we could all learn from.
Dorence is such an incredible ambassador for The Shangaan people who have really struck a chord with me as they have all welcomed me as though I am family. In addition, the lessons about the art of tracking and the many different ways to see the wilderness around me are things I will always remember from working with Dorence. I’m grateful that he and the many wonderful Shangaan members of the Londolozi family have allowed me, someone from a completely different walk of life, to learn from them and help me understand how to be part of our incredible South African culture through interacting with the bush in such a unique way.