I’ve just spent 5 days guiding ten great guests around the park. These particular guests were shareholders at the lodge, so they visit here twice a year and know a bit about the area already. Sometimes this can make the guiding harder – it’s more difficult to throw in the ‘wow’ factor when they have seen it all before. However, on this occasion, it was a godsend.
Makuleke has a bit of an ‘all or nothing’ reputation and sadly, last week was falling under the latter. We drove over 200km and really battled to see anything – even the trusty elephant and buffalo were in hiding. My guests understood that side of it and, rather than complaining, we saddled the vehicle with enough alcohol for a small wedding and set off to learn about the smaller things – the birds and the botany. Perfect!
Putting my birding skills to their first real test, we managed to identify 110 birds on sight alone (if I was allowed to use bird calls my tally would have been much higher!) Considering I knew only a handful of birds at the beginning of my course and adding the fact that most of the migrant birds I’ve spent the last few months learning have now upped and left, I was pleased with our total!
However, when even the birding wasn’t good, we turned to the plants – it’s always worth knowing your botany as a guide as it’s the one thing that will never move! I loved explaining the medicinal and practical uses of different plants and, seeing as my guests were keen to learn more detail, we even dipped into the relationships between plant families and their latin names (it’s not as boring as you’d think). Did you know, even start-out guides like me know the latin (scientific) names of almost 100 different trees and plants? There’s a whole lot more to guiding than driving and pointing! Often we don’t get the chance to ‘show-off’ what we know so it makes a refreshing change to delve a little deeper into the science.
Overall, even though we didn’t have many exciting sightings, it was a wonderful few days with more fun and laughter than I’ve had in a long time. From stunning sundowner locations and a starlit dinner by the river to silly conversations about breaking wind on walks and even setting the entire braai on fire (much to the amusement of the onlooking ladies) – it will certainly go down as one of my favourite guiding experiences so far.