Meet our People: ‘Khule’

MEET OUR PEOPLE: ‘KHULE’

Mkhulekelwa Ndlovu or ‘Khule’ for short was born 44yrs ago in a small village in Matabeleland. As the last born of a family of 9 Khule was designated the sole cattle minder. He first went to school at the age of 10 due to the demands of home chores his duties herding cattle. Yet  this uncomplaining man sees the silver lining in every situation and says:

This gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about the bush and survival skills before my academic education.

He completed his primary and secondary education in the same village where he grew up and after that began working for a private vet, who used to take him to game farms. Here he met some game rangers and safari guides who inspired him to go into guiding. When speaking about his decision to become a guide Khule’s passion for nature really shines.

I realised from my childhood there was something in me about learning and sharing with boys of my age on tracking and other bush life activities. It was like nature wears the colour of my spirit, as such becoming a guide was the only platform that could make me share the piece of heaven on earth with others.

Khule leads a walking safari
Khule leads a walking safari

Khule has been guiding since he first got his learner’s licence in 1996.  He says he was privileged to be under the tutorship of a renowned Professional Guide who encouraged him to work hard. He qualified as a full Professional Guide in 2001 and has never looked back. He says he most enjoys meeting different people and taking them on walking safaris.

It makes you feel very much close to nature and causes you to engage with the natural world with all your senses; smell, sight, touch, etc This is the time that I pay attention to all details of nature; from bugs to elephants, from grasses to trees from butterflies to birds, it satisfies your soul.

His career has also given the opportunity to see some truly amazing sightings.

I have had a few breath taking sightings but the one I recall most was a chase by painted hunting dogs after a kudu. This poor kudu dived into the water where there was a crocodile basking on the edge. It quickly went in and caught the kudu’s side. Within the few minutes this shallow water hole changed to red with blood. The dogs would go for the nose as the kudu tried to escape; it would turn back and the croc would have a go again. It attracted fish as well and this poor kudu was having cat fish all around attracted to the blood. This drama last a few minutes and eventually the crocodile got the ‘lion’s share’. But it was not over for the dogs as they saw an impala and gave chase. It was caught by surprise and disembowelled within minutes. Vultures started landing and dogs struggled to keep them away. It was like a staged act and we could hardly believe what nature could offer in such as short time frame.”

It’s clear from Khules’ answers that all of nature holds inspiration for this man who loves to share it with his guests. He has a particular soft spot for rhinos saying that they look prehistoric and fascinate him but also that he feels particularly strong empathy for them due to their persecution by humans. He encourages others to enter the guiding industry but says you should be prepared for the careers rigours;

“For starters, one has to love nature, love people and have patience and a soft heart. Being a guide is also being an ambassador for nature. You should be passionate, be prepared to live within ethics. Be a hard worker who can stand the hard demands of different people and be able to remain smiling. This one industry that can give you opportunities to meet celebrities, change the world and change lives.”

And finally, Khule has a few words to share to those wanting to come and experience the beauty of Zimbabwe. He says it’s important to experience nature without prior expectations so you can enjoy it all as it comes.

“To my guests, I say look deep into nature and you will understand it better. On earth, there is no heaven but there are pieces of it. The fact that you have come this far, make the best out of it, we start the journey together and share what is on offer here.”

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Abraham Mhlanga Zimbabwean Safari Guide

Meet our People: spotlight on Abraham

I first met Abraham Mhlanga, affectionately known as ‘AB’ to those close to him when he guided me at Imbabala Zambezi Lodge. From the moment we left the lodge with him he bought to life the wilderness around us. Although he first appears quiet Abraham is a small package that keeps surprising. Most apparent is his very keen eye. As he steered a pontoon boat along the glassy Zambezi river he would call out creatures on the side far before any of the rest of us could see them, and then steer us closer for a look.

And whilst on game-drives Abraham ensured we were always interested even if we weren’t seeing big game. An excellent tracker Abraham showed me how you could tell an elephants speed through the distance between it’s front and back spoor, (this distance grows closer as an elephant picks up speed and the back foot may even overlap the front track if it’s running) and led us on a fascinating follow of a group of lions. Although we never saw the lions the thrill of the chase had us all as excited as if we had.

I asked Abraham a few questions about his life and career as a guide. He was born in 1971,  in Hwange town outside the largest National Park in Zimbabwe. His love of nature and great tracking skills were first born here.

 …spent most of my life in this beautiful area with amazing ecotone on the edge of the seasonal Matetsi River. While herding cattle we fished, swam, and camped out- although sometimes we could do a lot of tracking of our lost cattle!

After many years of hard work studying and gaining experience Abraham had passed his Learner Guides License; Spent years doing voluntary work in wildlife conservation with several companies; ran mobile safaris for 5 years; learnt to cook at Bulawayo Polytechnic college and worked as an assistant mechanic. I think it’s fair to say that Abraham is now a very handy man in the bush!

In 2006 he started full time guiding at Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge and hasn’t looked back since. It is a sign of his commitment to his passion that when I ask him if he has had any funny questions from guests he replies seriously ‘There are no silly questions to a guide.’

 I always enjoy showing and teaching people about nature…To young people considering guiding as a career… this is a very rewarding career, you need passion about wildlife and the environment in general. Be prepared to work in the bush for a long stretch of time and in all weather conditions. To guests it is best to come with open minds and be appreciative of all the Flora and Fauna of Africa.

Have you been guided by Abraham? You can leave your experiences in the comments. To be guided by Abraham Mhlanga make a booking at Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge or contact lodges@wildhorizons.co.zw