My parents never really used to take me seriously when I told them that I wanted to be a game ranger when I grew up. They used to assume that this adventurous idea would eventually fade away, and it was only a childhood fantasy that arose from me reading books about wild animals and watching documentaries on National Geographic. Little did they know I was being dead serious.
Recently I was lucky enough to have my parents come to visit me at Londolozi and they got to see me living out my childhood dream first hand. I felt so privileged to spend three nights here with them and introduce them to my new, extended, Londolozi Family. After taking them behind the scenes and opening their eyes to my day-to-day life it didn’t take long for them to realise why this has always been my dream, and not just a crazy idea.
The bush provided as it always does, but it was one sighting in particular that will always be engrained in our memory, for a fairly unusual reason. On our last afternoon, we watched a large herd of buffalo, 450 strong, approach a water hole and wallow and drink in it for a good hour or so. Besides being an event to behold, it was a story that my Mom reminded me of that made that afternoon particularly special.
‘Kalinzu and the Oxpecker’ was without a doubt my favourite childhood book. Growing up I would always ask either of my parents or older siblings to read it to me before going to bed. It’s a story about a buffalo calf, Kalinzu, and how he and his mother were split up after being harassed by some hyenas. We were about to live out my childhood story!
Amongst the chaos, Kalinzu strayed too far from his mother and the rest of the herd and was alone and confused for days on end. After searching and searching to no avail, eventually, an oxpecker landed on his back. Something clicked and he knew that this meant the herd could be nearby! He plucked up all the energy he had left to search one last time and at the end of the day, it was this very oxpecker that guided him back to his mother and the rest of the herd.
All hidden meanings aside, and now that I know more about animal behaviour, I’ve realised that the book highlighted one of the most iconic relationships in nature, that of the oxpecker and buffalos. A perfect example of a mutualistic relationship whereby both the oxpeckers and the buffalo benefit. I won’t delve deeply into the intricacies of the relationship but if you are interested in learning more here is a little piece that compares this relationship to the spirit of Ubuntu: “I am because of you.”
After the buffalos left the waterhole we went to find a comfortable place to have sundowners and reflect on the special time that we had together. I was filled with nostalgia as we proceeded to get quite sentimental after drawing parallels to our current situation. I couldn’t help but think about how strange life is, you never know exactly what path it’s going to take. I was reminded how important it is to live in the moment and never take anything for granted – especially not those bedtime stories!
And so for me, seeing oxpeckers and buffalos together brings a smile to my face and reminds me of my roots. It completes the full circle from when the seed of becoming a ranger was first planted into my head, to where I am now living out that dream with a new, extended family.