Encounters at Kwa

May 07, 2019

I’ve been a nature enthusiast for the past ten years, and worked as a professional guide for the past five. Over the years, I have encountered a few dangerous situations and with them, gathered a few stories to tell. I am probably not the only person with such stories, and I most definitely won’t be the last either. If you’ve been a guide for long enough, somewhere along the line, you will have a hair-raising situation in the bush to deal with. It is important not to overlook an animal’s behavioural traits. These provide a guide regarding approach. Things such as animal group size, breeding times, other traffic, your own guests’ perspectives, and much more, provide clues as to how to proceed.

The longer you spend in the bush, the easier these situations become to read. When I had just started with my trails guide qualification, we spotted a black rhino (Diceros bicornis) cow and calf some distance away. She was in a fair amount of thicket and our approach was not the best. When we caught up with her, she was only a few metres away from us, and coming closer. It ended up being a hasty and loud retreat on our part, and it was quite a conflicting encounter as she had a calf with her. After that, we learned that a better approach could have minimised the risk of an encounter. All we needed to do was approach her from a high vantage point, where we could still see her, but she wouldn’t be disturbed. By the same token, we learned how to deal with a scenario like that, if ever it had to happen again. Most importantly, we learned how to avoid it happening again.

One day, while on a drive, I saw an elephant standing at the top of a little hill. It was slowly heading my way. I reversed to the next bend and waited for the elephant to walk on past the truck. The elephant had different ideas. Instead of walking straight past, he turned towards me and decided to rub himself up against my truck. My mistake was to give the elephant the benefit of the doubt, thinking he would walk straight past. However, this bull was in musth, a period in which bull elephants become aggressive due to hormonal surges. I learned at that moment an escape route is paramount. Luckily, he wasn’t aggressive. From that experience, I learned about rankings and hierarchy of animals.

The same rules apply in nature. The most dominant will prevail and that is one of the reasons I love the bush: it is honest, raw and does not lie. Everything is balanced. I hope that these stories help you understand more about dangerous encounters. Although we find ourselves in tricky situations, we learn from these encounters and become more experienced guides. The more experienced you become, the easier it is for you to read situations more effectively, and identify possible dangerous encounters so that they can be avoided. And the only way to learn, on most occasions, is to make the mistakes, and take the lesson that comes from them.

Written by Kwa Maritane Lodge Senior Guide Francois Mare. Click here to book your adventure: lstyl.com/ALbx3M

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