Pafuri is the northernmost part of the Kruger National Park and happens to be where I am finishing up my guiding internship. For a full-time guide, the average day here starts at 4.30am, in time to wake the guests thirty minutes later. Whilst the guests then get ready and have a light breakfast, we guzzle down coffee (tea in my case) to kick start the day and prepare the vehicles and hot boxes for the morning drive. At 6am we hit the road, just as the first light is breaking up the night and inviting the birds to sound their morning chorus. This is one of the best times to see nocturnal and crepuscular predators (read cats!) and also means we miss the sweltering heat of midday. The drive lasts 3.5 to 4 hours, at which point the guests are shepherded back to camp for a hearty breakfast, followed by several hours of free time. The guides use this time to grab some tucker ourselves, clean and check our vehicles and, mostly, rest. Some guides might be studying for an exam, or simply want to read up on a particular subject for self-improvement. The unlucky ones have flat tires to fix or new guests arriving, which means staying up at the lodge all day waiting to check them in.
The fortunate few that managed to lie down for an hour or two are back at it by 3pm, preparing the sundowner drinks and snacks, moving the game vehicle to the turning circle and grabbing a light lunch. The afternoon drive starts at 4pm and lasts about 3 to 3.5 hours. By 7.30pm the guests are delivered back to the lodge once more in time for dinner, allowing us to clear the drinks bill with the bar, return the cars to the parking lot and grab our own dinner. Finally, because here at Pafuri the tents are spread out over a large, unfenced area, the guides wait up for their guests each evening so they can be walked safely to their rooms at the end of the day. When the guests are in full holiday mode, staying up past midnight at times, you might forgive us for being a bit goggly-eyed at 4.30am the next morning…not that any of us would do it any different. Sleep is a small sacrifice to be doing the best job in the world!