I am sure I am not alone when I say that, amongst many other things, the 2020 global pandemic and lockdown period encouraged many self-reflection moments and reminded me (amongst others) that if there was ever a time to take a risk and have the courage to change things up, the time is now.
So there I was in the middle of the pandemic, clocking in 60+ hours a week from my home office when I decided it was time to give my boss a call. Given the working from home situation, it was no surprise that my news came out of the left field when I said,
“I will be handing in my resignation letter later this evening as Nick (my partner) and I have been accepted on the Londolozi Guiding Selection Program. We have decided we want to move to the bush and become game rangers.”
Fast forward to now and I could not be prouder to officially be a part of the Londolozi family and work in an environment that brings so much fulfilment, purpose, connection and a sense of adventure. No regrets!
It does go without saying that completing the training programme at Londolozi is an achievement in itself and something that the entire group of rangers holds close to their hearts. As Robbie Ball describes it in a previous blog, the lessons learned and experiences gained from training remain some of the fondest memories amongst the team.
The training period is an incredible time where, whilst going through moments of steep personal development, you’re simultaneously bonding with the other trainees; fast-tracking friendships that make it feel as if we’ve all known each other for years. You not only become instantly connected to the current team but also feel a connection to all Londolozi guides that have lived and worked here before you.
Over our training course of about 5 months or so, Nick, Ross, Keagan, Shadrack and I, spent all day, every day together as trainee rangers. We were particularly inseparable in the beginning. From setting up coffee before drive at Varty or Founders deck, or spending all day in the bush in our trainee vehicle, to studying in the Londolozi Learning Centre, preparing for wildlife-orientated cameos, living in close quarters with one another and sharing all the other various modules of training, we roamed around like a pack. A real sense of separation anxiety crept in as our schedules and routines became more personalized as we began taking training and assessment drives and were nearing the end of training.
It was only until recently when one of my guests asked me to pick my favourite memory from training that triggered me into another moment of self-reflection and nostalgia. Finding it nearly impossible to isolate a single moment, I thought I would share my favourite day in the Trainee Vehicle.
A day of dogs and cats
If I were to pick a single day out in our training vehicle, it would be a day that started by heading out in the morning with James Souchon (Head Ranger) for some lessons in wildlife photography. We started on the airstrip capturing a journey of giraffes during a misty sunrise, followed by herds of action-packed rutting impalas, before pausing along the Sand River at the Causeway to capture the bird life.
We decided to cross into the northern parts of our reserve for coffee along the river when we received an update that there were wild dogs sleeping not so far away. With little objection to giving our coffee stop a miss, as we were approaching the wild dogs we got another call over the radio to say that they were up and on the move again, and so the chase was on!
Arriving to the wild dogs running across an open crest towards Ximpalapala koppie was an amazing scene. After a little rest under some shade, there was a sudden change in atmosphere as the wild dogs began vocalizing and hurriedly headed straight towards a thicket line not too far from where we were. Just barely managing to keep up with them, the next thing we looked up and saw the Xinxele Female hastily scrambling up a knob thorn tree while the wild dogs, along with a few hyenas that joined the scene, stole a kill she most likely had just made.
A small female often found in NW Marthly. Similar spot pattern to her mother the Ingrid Dam Female.
As trainees at the time, the exhilaration and turn of events in a single drive made it a morning I will never forget!
And to top the day off, we decided to head out on our own that evening and found the Ntsevu Subadult lions in the golden afternoon light. We spent the entire drive with these lions, practising some of the photography tips we’d learned that morning as well as interpreting their behaviour as they began to groom, stretch and yawn (all signs that they were going to get active).
In the distance, we could see a large herd of buffalo, and as the sun began to fade, we followed them as they slowly began moving across the open grasslands in that direction. Having forgotten our spotlight, and having found ourselves off-roading deep into one of the largest blocks, we decided to call it a day.
A pretty unforgettable day that reminded us just how lucky we are to now call this place home!