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.
Filed under Birds Tracking Wilderness teachings Wildlife
Wow Patrick what a magical morning, certainly one that will be with you all for a long time to come !! A remarkable story and I hope that as you did not take any honey and purposely didn’t then leave some for the Honeyguide that something bad will not befall you all in the future….or are you safe as you didn’t touch the hive? Interesting as does the Honeyguide manage to get honey without the aid of someone smoking out the hive ?
I thoroughly loved this story! First, I am a birder! I love watching them, even if it’s only been from my kitchen window, where many a picture has been take. Watching Wild Earth Safari Live and listing all the birds I have seen which has reached the total of 298 screen shots from 2014 to Sep 2021. Thank you for your story!
you will have a lot of lucky encounters with James Souchon on your side !
What a great walk! Two such rare birds in one morning.
I wonder how the honeyguides get honey if people or other animals don‘t help them to it?
Seeing these birds will be amidst at my next stay at Londolozi….
Walking is truly rewarding both mentally and physically. Great story, which proves that all myths have a certain truth to them, that we can not always see until we experience them ourselves. Thanks Patrick!
Hi Patrick, just goes to show how incredible nature is, the honey guide bird showing the honey is astounding. The half collared kingfisher is a beautiful bird with stunning colours. We have the Cape Robin Chat here by us , when he makes a certain alarm call, we know he is telling us there is a snake. We got a snake ( rinkals) in our yard on Friday, with the help of the Cape Robin Chat. We usually put some cheese out for him with some breadcrumbs which he comes to eat by my kitchen window. There is nothing more beautiful than nature itself.
That was a really wonderful article you wrote! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your memorable day out in the bush! What amazing sightings and what a story about the Honeyguide! Truly amazing! Nature is truly spectacular!
A really nice blog Patrick. Sometimes it is nice to take a walk and appreciate the other things in nature that we don’t get to see otherwise. The guides are sage and it was nice that you saw the Honeyguide and proved that this bird really would guide you to honey. You made my mouth water talking about Jaffles. I have not had a Jaffle since I was a kid (I am an old lady now). I really enjoyed reading your blog and thanks for sharing. P.S. Please send Jaffle ASAP – just kidding.
Well Patrick, I believe you enjoyed such a fantastic walk and the resultant amazing sightings due to the jaffles! James’s fire toasted deliciousness brings out the best in nature’s experiences as well as satisfying the yearning for those glorious cheese sandwiches. BTW, I think you’ll be okay since you didn’t touch the beehive – no bad luck in the future.
One of my special memories from my April stay was my jaffle brunch prepared by James in the Maxabene riverbed – priceless!!
Patrick, what a beautiful story! It felt like we were walking with you as you explained the experience. We are definitely doing a walk on our next visit to Londolozi!
What a fascinating story, Patrick! Lovely pics to go with it too. Thank you so much. I am feeling a little sorry that you didn’t take even a SMALL bit of the honey and left it for the Honey Guide! I believe in tipping when the service is good! Wendy
What an amazing morning and such great stories! Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience. And I am looking forward to trying those jaffles one day.
Fascinating story! Many old wives tales are, in all or part, based on scientific fact. Thanks for sharing!
Oh Patrick you have stirred up a wave of nostalgia in my heart. I have walked in the African bush for most of my life and remember well the magical moments it brings. Now in the UK I walk in a very different environment and still get some magical moments though not quite so many.
Thank you for bringing back those wonderful memories. A great story.
Bush walks are a wonderful way to experience the African wilderness!