Born to be wild

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HR-Kevin-photoSome of Africa’s top guides share their adventures, love for the bush and trade secrets

Parmalai Saiyalel, aka Kevin
Where: Mara Plains Camp, Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Kenya
Time guiding: 12 years
What’s the best thing about where you work?
Olare Motorogi is Maasai-owned land, which means that the landowners actively participate in protecting the wildlife, while also benefitting from tourism.
What is the most amazing wildlife encounter you have had?
On a morning game drive we were watching a herd of zebra crossing a river when a crocodile attacked a sub-adult, but the zebra, after struggling with the croc for a few minutes, managed to escape. However, its back legs were badly hurt and it collapsed on the riverbank. Ten minutes later a male leopard appeared and pounced on the injured creature. But before he killed it, the crocodile came out of the water and they started fighting over it. This lasted for about 20 minutes until eventually the croc won, pulling the now-dead zebra back into the river.
Fun fact?
Baboons don’t like to get their feet wet. Normally they will descend from the trees first thing in the morning; however, if it has rained the night before and the grass is long, they remain up in the tree until the sun has dried it out.

Frank Wataka 
Where: Matoke Tours, Uganda
Time guiding: 14 years
What’s the best thing about where you work?
I specialise in guiding tours in northern Uganda, including to one of the best parks on the continent: Kidepo Valley National Park. I feel like a Victorian adventurer when I am here: no one around and it’s as if time has stood still.
What animal are you most excited about spotting?
It might sound strange to many, but for me it’s the cheetah. There are no cheetahs in Uganda, except for a few in Kidepo. I have only seen one three times!
Is there an animal that you really want to see, but have yet to do so?
The caracal — a great hunter with funny ears.
Can you give some spotting tips?
Look through the bushes and not at them; look for flashes of colour, motion and odd shapes.
What is the most memorable wildlife encounter you have had?
One day I was making coffee in a campsite in Kidepo and three lionesses and their cubs came over and laid down on a rock about 20m from where I was. They didn’t bother me, nor I them, and we just sat together for hours. Wonderful.

Albert Paradzai
Where: Somalisa Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Time guiding: 32 years
What animal are you most excited about seeing?
Elephants will always be my favourite. They are always doing something entertaining. Babies at waterholes are especially wonderful to watch — splashing and chasing each other without a care in the world, almost like humans at the beach.
Is there an animal that you really want to see, but have yet to encounter?
The American bison: inspired by my all-time favourite movie, Dances with Wolves.
Do you have any spotting tips?
Avoid unnecessary noise and stay focused. The best way to enjoy nature’s sounds is to avoid making too much of your own.
What is the most amazing wildlife encounter you have had?
I came across two jackals and eight bat-eared foxes in a territorial fight. It was amusing to learn that the naturally cunning jackal could become so helpless at the hands of this seemingly harmless, smaller fox.
Fun fact?
Ants never sleep.

Benson Siyawareva
Where: Ngoko Safaris, southern Africa
Time guiding: 28 years
What is the most amazing wildlife encounter you have had?
Too many to mention, but discovering I was sharing my 3m x 3m tent with a black mamba is one of my most vivid recollections.
Is there an animal that you really want to see, but have yet to do so?
A hedgehog.
What animal are you most excited about spotting?
Wild dogs — following them as they are hunting is exhilarating.
What enables them to succeed in their environment?
Social cohesion, unity of purpose, selflessness and risk-taking.
Do you have any spotting tips?
Spend time watching birds and the bush will reward you with some great mammal sightings.

Wolfugan Mrosso
Where: Vintage Africa, Serengeti, Tanzania
Time guiding: 9 years
What’s the best thing about where you work?
In the Serengeti, you realise the vastness and beauty of Africa.
Is there an animal that you really want to see, but have yet to do so?
A polar bear, although the chances of seeing one in Africa are quite slim.
What is the most amazing wildlife encounter you have had?
When my guests took a photograph that included all of the Big Five in the same shot: two leopards in a tree; a pride of lions beneath it waiting for them; a herd of buffalo and a couple of elephant bulls in the background; and then, a lone rhino wandered into our view.
Tell us an amusing anecdote
We were staying in a mobile tented camp that was using bucket showers. The guests had arranged for water to be available at a specific time and the attendant called out that it was ready. They went to take a shower, but alas, there was no water, so they complained and were told to wait another five minutes. They tried again, only to discover that there was still no water. Thinking the attendant was playing a joke on them they went outside, only to discover a rather large male elephant happily helping himself to their bucket. Four buckets later, they were finally able to have a shower.

What is so special about the African broadbill?

Bheki Jobe, birding specialist for Ghost Mountain Inn in South Africa’s northern KwaZulu-Natal region, tells us

Spoilt for choice in the Mkuze area, we tend to concentrate on the spectacular — but there’s a captivating little bird here that is often overlooked: the African broadbill. Not only does this species look rather amphibious (one client once pointed out dismissively, “it looks like a frog”), with its bill wider than it is high, but it also sounds very ‘frog-like’. It is particularly fascinating to observe a pair’s territorial flights, in which they both partake. They flit around the nest area in small circles, vibrating their wings, making a loud rattling sound and puffing out their feathers. It is, however, their mating display that amazes me the most. The pair perches on a small branch facing one another, flipping their wings and making their ‘froggy’ call. They alternate between sitting upright and hanging upside down, which often results in them doing little somersaults around the branch. The whole display can be rather hypnotic.

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