For many Londolozi guides, a bush walk will always hold a big place in our hearts. The simple act of walking allows us to connect with the bush on a much deeper, more intense level. All your senses are heightened and you notice the smaller things that you might miss on an everyday drive. One walk, in particular, a couple weeks back speaks true to connecting with the bush in a way I have never felt before.
Where it all started.
A few of the rangers had a morning off and thought it was a great idea to take a couple jaffles and head down to a beautiful spot along the sand river to enjoy these beautiful toasted treats. James Souchon (the Jaffle king), Kyle Gordon, Matt Rochford, and I set out from camp to begin one of the most memorable walks of my life. Kyle took the lead for this walk and took us through some beautiful clearings and drainage lines where we had some unbelievable elephant and bird sightings before meandering our way down to the Sand River with worked-up appetites.
Jaffles and a Half-collared Kingfisher
While getting the fire started to toast our jaffles we saw a flash of blue fly past us in the riverbed. Instantly catching our attention, we got the binoculars out to try and identify this flash of blue. After a second or two, James shouted “It’s a Half-collared Kingfisher”. We all jumped with excitement nearly losing a jaffle or two in the process. Time stood still as we watched this amazing bird perch in front of us for 5 or so minutes before it flew past all of us and into a hole in the bank of the river where we were sitting. Not only was it my first Half-collared Kingfisher that I had seen at Londolozi, but we had found the burrow where it was nesting, huge news for the birders at Londolozi!
Barely being able to finish our jaffles after such an exciting sighting moment seeing such a rare bird and knowing that they could be nesting there, we began the walk back to camp. With temperatures beginning to rise we chose a more direct route back to camp, also we were itching to get back to share how incredible our morning was and the exciting news of the Half-collared Kingfisher nest. While walking with a spring in our step, we heard another bird above our heads frantically calling. Stopping to identify the pretty unusual call, we soon realized it was a female Greater Honeyguide. But why was it so frantic?
Ancient African stories
It has been told that Honeyguides throughout Africa, like their name suggests, lead people to honey. Many of the older trackers have told me about these tales and say that if you’re patient enough with these birds they will actually lead you to a beehive. Upon finding the hive, if you are able to collect some honey, it is out of respect that you leave a piece of the honeycomb for the Honeyguide to repay the favour. However, if you do not repay the favour, the next time you follow a Honeyguide, it will lead you into danger to get its revenge.
Prior to this fateful walk, these were all amazing stories but still just stories nonetheless. Until we heard this Honeyguide above our heads and thought to put the tale to the test.
Putting faith in a Honeyguide
At first, we didn’t think anything of it until it became quite insistent. As a group, we decided to follow it. While zig-zagging from tree to tree we followed this constantly chirping bird for about 500 meters before it settled on a fallen knobthorn tree. We got within a couple feet of the Honeyguide before it flew away, we followed like we had been doing previously, but as soon as we did, it flew back to the fallen knobthorn.
We investigated the tree and still to this day I couldn’t believe what we found. A Beehive in one of the hollows of the tree! We were all silent for a couple moments as we couldn’t believe what had just happened. By putting faith in this bird, it repaid us with a favour that I thought was only shared through old wives’ tales.
This event left me feeling quite emotional, as it was an opportunity for us to experience nature at its most raw, and really be a part of something so integrated into the inner workings of mother nature. The world around us is ever-changing, and we need to savour every moment like this. Having the unique experience of living the stories that form the basis of many wives’ tales was truly magical.
It’s safe to say that we didn’t destroy the beehive for its honey nor did we provide the Honeyguide with any so lets hope to say clear of any danger. It’s incredible that a simple walk amongst friends can turn into one of the most memorable mornings thanks to two birds and a jaffle.