So, here‚Äôs the thing: if I had to choose between an energetic, vibrant, city-buzz lifestyle and wilder, tranquil, outdoor-based living, I would not be able to make up my mind without a bit of high-priority help. After fifteen years of urban schooling and four years studying visual communication design, I‚Äôve spent my time immersed in creative culture and Cape Town‚Äôs nature, discovering a balance. I get a kick out of both. Yet two months ago I left the city lights for the stars to train as a field guide.
(For those who are unclear, a field guide is the intermediary link between travelling tourists and our wildlife and the environment, with an aim of sharing a hard-earned knowledge to advocate passion for the bush, to educate, and to increase awareness around conservation and ecological issues like anti-poaching efforts and the aftermath of this current drought.)
These days I am based on the border of Makalali Game Reserve, waking up to a 4:30am soft glow ‚Äì or, as winter creeps in, an inky darkness that hides fat-stinged scorpions well ‚Äì and Brown Hooded Kingfishers calling, craving another hour of sleep and a cup or three of low-cost coffee. A cold shower wakes me up fast too. If we‚Äôre not out on game drives, we‚Äôre in the classroom learning about arthropods and amphibians and animal behaviour, or we‚Äôre handling rifles, identifying indigenous trees and birds of Southern Africa, changing Land Rover tyres, or we‚Äôre spending time off in the pool cooling down from the sticky high-30 degree heat. In eight weeks, we‚Äôve encountered elephant on foot twice, climbed a baobab, braved a drive in the drizzling rain, tracked big lion, had a puddle-diving mud fight to celebrate the arrival of rain, and found a puff adder outside the boys‚Äô bathroom. We‚Äôve played roadside ‚Äòbush cricket‚Äô ‚Äì with Marula fruit and the high lift jack pole ‚Äì while waiting for our spare tyre to arrive in another vehicle. We‚Äôve watched an anti-poaching canine demonstration, camped out ‚Äì with sleeping bags only ‚Äì in Big 5 territory, dissected a heavily pregnant chameleon we suspect got bitten by a snake, seen cheetah and leopard, and are still crossing fingers to see wild dog. We‚Äôre adventuring around the surrounding area in our off time ‚Äì the blues of the Drakensberg, the Kruger National Park, the local hang-out spots ‚Äì and I am, more often than not, happy-snapping away: