What do I love most about being a Camp Manager at Londolozi?
This is a question I get asked quite frequently from various guests who arrive at Londolozi and get lost in all of its beauty. From the beautiful mixed bag of staff from all over, to the opportunity to get to meet and interact with interesting people from foreign countries, the answer to this question could go on for a while. For me, although I love all the varying aspects of working here, there is something which I love the most. My answer is and always will be, the spontaneity of my days. I love the fact that I have no idea what lies ahead as I move through my day and that things can change in an instant, always keeping me on my toes. This sunny Thursday was the epitome of just that.
I was working as the Camp Manager at Tree Camp at the time. Ranger Jess Shillaw was operating out of the camp and had just gotten back with her guests from morning drive and now they were all on the deck enjoying their eggs Benedicts. The other two rangers that were also driving guests out of Tree Camp were still in the field trying to find the ever elusive cheetah.
As I was chatting to Jess, we heard her name excitedly being called over the radio. Confused, Jess answered the radio and as soon as she does her contagious smile pops onto her face. She jumps up from her seat and speedily makes her way over to her six guests and informs them that a cheetah has been found. Without any sign of hesitation, these guests drop their knives and forks and dash to the car park where Tracker Advice is ready and waiting for them. Excitement is in the air as the guests asked me:
Is it okay if we can come back and finish our breakfast later?
I reply with “of course” as they make their way out of the front door. Last-minute one of the women turns around and looks at me with a sparkle in her eye as she says,
Are you coming?
This was an opportunity I could not possibly pass up on and so without hesitation, I jump into the front seat right next to Jess and off we went.
We drove for about 15-20 minutes, at a faster pace than a regular game drive, with one mission in our minds – to not let this cheetah disappear before we see it. As if he was waiting for us, we arrived to find this beautiful cheetah walking straight towards our vehicle. Jess switched off the vehicle so there is no longer a constant humming sound and all we can hear are the light footsteps of this magnificent cat. Slender, golden and unphased he walked straight passed our vehicle and towards a fallen tree.
We sat in awe as this animal, who is usually known for its speed, was acting like he had no plans to be anywhere. He waltzed on over to the fallen tree and, as if almost out of a scene from a movie, gracefully leapt onto the branch, giving himself, and us, a better view. He did a classic cat stretch and then lay down, all the while never letting his eyes lose focus of his surroundings. As we all sat there admiring what was right in front of us, I could not for the life of me wipe the smile off of my face.
My cheeks had gone a rosy colour, I was so grateful for this moment. Where else in the world do guests so quickly become friends, friends who I could enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I have lived in South Africa my entire life and spent a fair amount of time visiting the bush however this was my first time seeing a cheetah in person. I could not believe my eyes and it just took me back to thinking that this is not how I expected my morning to go when I woke up.
That is why my answer will never change when someone asks “what do you love most about your job?”. Fast and frantic days can turn into peaceful slow evenings and vice versa. I always have an outline of how my day should pan out and tasks that I need to get done, but all the in between moments are spontaneous and unknown and that is why I never get tired of working in this environment. I had no plan of seeing a cheetah on that particular Thursday, but the perfect moment arrived and the only word on my mind was ‘yes’.