|In Gratitude of Great Plains Guides and elephants|
|So you’ve arrived at a Great Plains camp, enjoyed the arrival, the warm welcome, perhaps a meal, and it’s time…|
For many, this is the most exciting part. The reason you are here. The dream has come true. Today I want to honour the guides that make that dream happen, and here’s why…
1. Dedication to their Craft
Years ago, I drove into Duba Plains Camp, which we didn’t own then, to try to fix something on my filming vehicle and was surprised when a young assistant mechanic came to me and offered to help. We got talking.
He asked if I had any bird books he could borrow because “one day I will be a guide”, he said. I gave him mine, as well as some books on trees, grasses and butterflies. Sometime later, I helped with his exams.
Much later, we were able to buy the camp and, well, today, Kops is the head guide in the Duba concession! Ipolokeng Mokopi comes from the nearest community, so he always adds that unique flair. Dedication.
I once watched as a guest got off a vehicle and his sleeve caught on something. Obie from Zarafa leaned in behind him and unhooked the errant sleeve without a show or asking for thanks.
Oaks, from Selinda Explorers, came across a drying waterhole in a community area, not one of ours, and asked for time off to manage this situation. Independently, he raised money and laid out feed for hundreds of elephants and hippos. Empathy.
Konee leapt in the air and came down hard. He’s a Maasai. His jump is almost twice his height! His leg snapped, and he was evacuated to a local hospital. As soon as the damage report came in, we moved him immediately to the best facility in Kenya. After multiple surgeries, they saved his leg. But when we recently saw him, he came with gifts – a beautifully beaded stick and rungu, and his four-year-old daughter had done a gorgeous and intricately beaded, indigo choker necklace for Beverly. Respect.
A young rhino left his mother, wandered out and got stuck. The guides and Rhino monitors did everything they could to save him, even erecting a tent over him as he lay in the sun. When he finally died, Somalia had tears running down his cheeks. As he and I placed our hands on the little rhino’s flank to bid him farewell, I caught his Setswana, “I’m sorry we let you down.” Compassion.
5. Wisdom, not just knowledge
Kevin Sayala joined when he was a junior guide and is now head guide at Mara Plains.
Isaac is our head guide in Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Both are great guides, but I view them more like a part of my advisory board, and as we train the next generation, we mould them on that principle of wisdom, not just knowledge. It’s just not enough to identify a bird or name a red lechwe but to dig deeper and share wisdom about that animal in this place, Africa.
6. Being better versions of ourselves
This current period of time started a year ago, and immediately we called for volunteers in our guiding ranks to transition to ranger or monitoring duties as frontline conservationists. I had more volunteers in a few days than we needed, and not once did I hear a call about salaries, increases, danger pay or special compensation. This led to us establishing Project Ranger, and the video is about our guides working under that banner.