Starting a guiding career at Londolozi is equal parts daunting as it is exciting. Having such a rich history of incredible guides means there are always big shoes to fill. There is such a tight-knit community here, which is filled with so much support and guidance from all those around you – the excitement I had to become part of the Londolozi family is indescribable.
So today, I thought I would take you through the broad strokes of what becoming a guide at Londolozi entails, and some of the lessons that I have learnt along the way.
Starting at the beginning
Before arriving at Londolozi, I had heard about the Londolozi Effect, but I can safely say that nothing could truly prepare me for the profound impact that this place has had on me. Having the unique privilege to live and work with your colleagues allows for friendships to be built organically and instantly. The camaraderie of the team at Londolozi is on display each and every day and I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of it. The amalgamation of intangible energy from the land and people who are aligned in their shared passion is not something you can put your finger on exactly, but this is the Londolozi family.
Training and Qualifying
At the start of training, you must first embark on a selection course where your mental, emotional and physical capabilities are tested. This initial selection has been a tradition for decades, and forms the base of all Londolozi guides’ training. Friendships are forged in the gruelling African sun, and under the stars, stories are shared and a mutual trust is born.
After passing the initial selection course is then when the in-depth learning begins. Equipping us with a wealth of information on all aspects of the wilderness around us. During this time we are also given several opportunities to be present and start to build a reverence for the land.
The concluding stage of training is to pass your ‘Final Assessment Drive’. This process is designed to ensure that we are prepared for anything. Guiding is an art-form, more so than people think (myself included at the start), and being responsible for creating unforgettable memories isn’t always easy. The entire training process is carefully crafted around this.
“The moment you qualify as a Londolozi guide or tracker, without even realizing it, you become tied to those who came before you. Even though decades may separate your respective times in the team, you now share a connection that I believe is born from reverence.” ~ James Souchon, Head Ranger.
A Tracking Team
It’s a pretty intense blend of factors that create intense relationships in the field team. Day in and day out, trackers and guides spend countless hours together. Planning and taking game drives, tracking wildlife all whilst exposed to the wild elements. Hours are spent looking after guests together, many of whom have travelled across the planet to connect with nature, and be in presence of Africa’s magnificent creatures.
In my opinion, one of the biggest privileges of working at Londolozi is being paired with an expert tracker. The pressure to deliver a world-class safari and managing expectations is constantly on our minds. Having a partner who possesses local knowledge, unique skills, and an infectious passion for the wilderness helps to curate an unbelievable experience whilst we are out on safari. Perhaps the most exciting part is facing this all together as a team, spending eight hours a day together and forming a bond that transcends cultures, age and gender.
I have been fortunate enough to get teamed up with Ray Mabilane, someone who some of you might recognise by his enormous smile. He has become more than just a partner during our game drives – we have become brothers.
For Ray and myself, the success of our team rests on the essential components of any relationship – open communication, trust and respect. Every single day is an opportunity to learn from each other, and that’s not limited to knowledge out in the bush.
Although there is only a six-year age gap between Ray and I, we come from completely different backgrounds and life experiences. Ray has had an incredible journey to get to where he is today, he knows the fine art of telling a good story and he has a contagious smile and laugh. Being able to learn the art of tracking, learning more about the Shangaan culture and sharing many laugh’s each day are just some of the blessings that come from working in a team with Ray.
Ray has already taught me so much. I thought there is no better way to end off this blog, than to share some of his “Rays of wisdom” that apply equally to life and tracking.
‘Rays’ of Wisdom
“When a group of like-minded people are able to harness each other’s strengths and coordinate their efforts to achieve a common goal, something really special begins to arise within that team.” ~ Garrett Fitzpatrick, former Londolozi Ranger and now Londolozi Sales Manager
To track and find some of the most elusive animals, one needs a great deal of patience. Knowing where your last track was and what your next step will be is vital. To be successful, tackle the process step by step. The proverbial ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ applies perfectly to what tracking and finding an animal entails.
One can quickly be overcome with the different information sources you may be looking out for whilst out on safari. Animal tracks, bird calls, radio information and listening to our instincts as we decide on what our next move may be. The process of taking in all the information available to you, sifting through it and only taking the bits that are relevant to you here and now is easier said than done. Great trackers like Ray are able to do this naturally, having the end goal in sight and working towards that without distraction.
Working as a Guide at Londolozi has always been a dream of mine and to have finally reached that is something I will always look back on with immense pride and gratitude. Every day is a chance to learn, expand our horizons, to experience new cultures and new ways of being.