My first game drive

Posted by Tom on Tue August 7, 2012 in Ranger Campfire Stories.

I was living in Joburg, wore a tie to work each day but had visited Umlani on numerous occasions. I knew my way around the property (well sort of) and I knew the difference between the barrel and a butt of a .458; anyway there was a bit of a crisis and they had a photographic group in camp for the weekend and one of the guides had gone missing, so Marco called and asked if I wouldn’t mind guiding for the weekend.

It took me about 5 seconds to decide, closed the office and I was on my way.

We got there about five hours later and Marco; as well as the managers Morten & Tatum explained what they wanted us to do and we jumped in boots and all. The guests arrived an hour or so later and I psyched myself up for my first game drive.

I welcomed the guests aboard the vehicle (all fanatical wildlife photographers from Pretoria) and “the question” came – “so how long have you been here Tom?” I nervously answered “about an hour longer than you”, which elicited worried looks and nervous giggles and off we went.

I really don’t recall much about the drive, except I learned much about how best to give guests good photo opportunities, lighting, shadows, etc; (never realising that I would one day use these tips when I started guiding professionally).

At one stage during the drive however, I heard a squirrel’s alarm call off in the bushes to our right. That impressed the guests; I knew a squirrel’s alarm call! I suggested we go off road to see what was causing the disturbance (in those days we went off road for squirrel calls, hopefully no one does these days). Not far off the road, we found a squirrel perched precariously in the top of a very scrawny Mopani tree and an African wild cat was sitting below it.

After about 10 minutes, the squirrel lost its nerve and made a dash for it. Sadly it didn’t get too far and the cat trotted off with a very dead squirrel hanging in its mouth.

Things went better after that, the guests sort of had an idea that I sort of knew what I was doing.

To any potential new visitors to Umlani – they don’t hire city slickers like I was then as guides any longer – you will have an outstanding experience with a qualified and experienced guide.

For more, please see the Timbavati Nature Reserve Blog

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