Meet our People, Guide at Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge- Stanislous Chizipi

Of all the things that make up a great safari the most important factor to a guests enjoyment and understanding is their guide. He or she is the person who ensures that guests experience the destination and all it has to offer to the fullest. Stan is one of our small but dedicated team of guides at Imababala and does a great job at ensuring his guests have an amazing time.  A gentle giant with a deep voice and an infectious smile Stan is passionate about what he does. One guest recently said in a review

…Our guide Stan was fantastic. He can double as a voice over for James Earl Jones! He is knowledgeable about all of the game and birds. You also get the opportunity to do your game drives on the river with a pontoon boat, which makes the viewing even better when the wildlife is at the rivers edge or when the elephants are crossing the river. We saw many elephants and hippos and the bird population was amazing. Stan even spotted a leopard and honey badger on a night drive!

Stanislous Chizipi was born in Rusape, a small charming town in the eastern district of Zimbabwe. One would be forgiven for stating that Stan was born for the job he is doing. Born in a family of 8 in typical rural Zimbabwe, young Stan was a cattle herder from a very young age. Initially he followed his older brothers, cousins and neighbours until he was old enough to be trusted with the family herd by himself. It was during these formative years that he developed his skills in spotting birds and small animals since his home area does not have big game. His love for nature and all its glories was nurtured and allowed to grow in this environment.

All young boys in the rural areas desire to make it to the big city, seek employment and build a life. Stan was no exception and the completion of his O’Level studies in 1987 saw him move to the city of Mutare, Zimbabwe’s third largest city nestled in the beautiful Eastern Highlands. As fate would have it, he met a Mr Dixon, who was a member of the Eastern District Bird Club. It was this gentleman who introduced him to a world of birding and wildlife spotting, giving names and some fascinating background to some of the birds Stan had seen in his younger days. His childhood interest in animals and the wild grew until  he saw an article in a local department store’s magazine that featured a guide who was working in the Matopos National Park.

This article led him to explore ways in which he could become a professional guide. He got in touch with the  Zimbabwe Professional Guides Association who provided the tutorials necessary for him to obtain his Learner’s Guide Licence in 1998. Job openings in his field of passion where however not readily available and it was only until 2003, that he got his first stint at a guiding job. He has never looked back.

Stan has a wealth of stories to tell of his guiding expeditions and the vast experience he has gained over the years. He describes his favourite guiding experience as one night drive back in 2011 when he and his team came across a lion with a young buffalo kill. They watched him settle down to tackle the feed for about 10 minutes before 3 hyenas appeared on the scene. The scavengers tried to scare the lion off but he stood his ground prompting the hyenas to engage in their signature call for reinforcements. Within 5 minutes, 5 more hyenas joined the invading group and the pack mobbed the lion until he scurried off leaving his barely eaten meal.

Comedy does not reside on the small screen and theatres alone; the wild also offers its fair share of lighter moments! With a huge grin on his face, Stan speaks of the time he witnessed a slender mangoose confidently having a go at a two metre python which then strangled him and the hunter became the hunted. He says.

Do not start a battle you can’t finish.

It has been said that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Stan is one person who thoroughly enjoys what he wakes up to do on a daily basis. “I enjoy watching birds and taking guests on drives and cruises, it gives me immense pleasure to be able to share my love for nature and what it has to offer with people who are experiencing it for the first time. ‘I thrive in that environment’.

Of all the animals he has got to learn about and interact with, the firm favourite is the elephant. “This is because my first guiding experience in Victoria Falls was with the Wild Horizon’s Elephant Back Safari operation where I got so attached to this majestic land giant and learnt a lot about its gentle nature and behaviour”. To this day, any opportunity to work with elephants or interact with them in the wild brings about treasured memories of his early days of guiding.

Stan is passionate about young people and the next generation. His advice to young people looking to begin a career in guiding would be for them to be well-disciplined and willing to learn as this is a dynamic field where one has to constantly keep abreast with the ever-changing environment. He asserts that this is a rewarding career for those with a passion for it and have a good and thorough knowledge of their subject matter.

For the traveller, Stan has valuable tips on how to make the most of their trip. He reckons its best to take in the whole ecosystem to get the best possible bush experience. The flora and fauna is all interconnected and surprisingly highly dependent on each other hence the need for one to learn and understand how each animal is connected to the other and its usefulness in the wild. He sagely says

People miss a lot in their rush to see the next big animal.

Should you make it for a trip to our beautiful Victoria Falls and its environs, be sure to heed this experienced guide’s advice. Take your time and explore all that this magnificent land has to offer.

Article by Tendai Chiwaka

Images and Editing by Sarah Kerr

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The Wild Horizons Village Tour- A photo diary

Last week I had the opportunity to go on a Wild Horizons’ Village Tour. The experience is known as ‘Meet the People’ and for good reason! The experience is entirely driven by the local headman and his people who are proud to share their homes and culture with visitors.

 After a short drive- perhaps 15 to 20 minutes we had left the town of Victoria Falls and were in a small rural village on its outskirts. Surrounded by bush-land the village boasts incredible views and natural beauty and the people here live by farming organically and producing most of what they need to survive. We were met and shown around by the incredibly charismatic village headman who gave us a presentation on the way of life, culture and history of his people. Resilience, creativity and skilled workmanship were found everywhere from art work and crafts that used recycled goods to the beautifully decorated and appointed huts and grain silos. These photos will give you a glimpse into the experience but it’s really something you need to do and ‘feel’.

This Tour takes approximately 2 and a half hours and is available in the morning or evening- it includes transfers to and from your accommodation. It is a great experience for children.

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.”