When the frantic pace of camp life calms down between the flow of guests, learner guides are fortunate enough to spend more time learning with the pros...
The frantic pace of camp life calms down at Camp Hwange between the flows of guests. This means that the learner guides are fortunate enough to spend more time learning with the professionals. I have had the privilege of experiencing more fantastic days in the park under the guidance of Adam Jones, a professional guide working at Camp Hwange. He has shared his amazing knowledge and experience with me and I have experience many ‘firsts’ under his well-informed supervision.
On our first day together, Adam found a decaying elephant carcass in the rocky outcrop behind Masuma Dam which we decided to visit later that evening in the hopes that it would attract some nocturnal members of the Park. That night we climbed a nearby kopje and waited in anticipation. Unfortunately, then night was rather quiet apart from a brief sighting of a fleeing leopard. We decided to follow this secretive cat and found small caves filled with animal bones: a good sign of this leopard’s permanent presence on our concession! Little did I know what magic lay in store for me the next day!
The next morning, we decided to take our guest back to the carcass in the hopes that it would bring them some lion action and exciting tales to tell back home. We climbed the koppie again and spotted a pride of lions feeding on the elephant. Suddenly from behind us, we heard frantic clicking and whistling coming from the ever-smiling ‘Chooks’. Chooks is our very own “Tracker Extraordinaire” at Camp Hwange. He has the most phenomenal eyes and bush sense, and is a mad karate enthusiast! Now his eyes were wide with excitement and his face was pointing downwards towards the koppie at a fleeing leopard! Our eyes darted with the spotted cat as we watched where it went amid much excitement.
He settled and lay down on a smaller koppie about a hundred metres away so we decided to climb down and approach him on his rock. We climbed up towards him and crept silently within twenty metres of this beautiful creature who had no inkling of our presence. He cleaned himself contentedly and then dozed off, allowing us to watch him in all his majesty as the afternoon sun bathed his faultless coat. As we descended the rock, he became aware of our presence and looked down upon us with curiosity. Adam kept us at a respectable distance which made our new feline friend comfortable as we stood below his rock, locked in eye contact with him for about twenty minutes before we left him in peace. What an incredible experience which words fail to accurately describe! This was my first leopard approach and an encounter that will stay with me for years to come. Even more exciting for me was that this was only Adam’s second leopard approach despite working in the bush for five years. What an honour it was to share this with him.
Bethany Squire is a learner guide training with Camp Hwange in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Along with her love of nature, elephants and rifles, she loves being behind the lens of her camera capturing her adventures under the African sky. She is best known as the writer of the ‘Zim Girl in the Wild’ Facebook blog where you can follow her incredible journey thus far.