Tag Archives: wildlife guiding and tracking

People of Singita: George Nkuna

September 03, 2013 - Africa,Community Development,Conservation,Experience,Kruger National Park,Singita Lebombo Lodge

Tracker George | Singita Sabi Sand

The people who work at Singita are among its most precious assets. Each member of staff that works in the lodge, at head office or out in the bush is part of a carefully crafted team whose primary goal is to create unforgettable memories for our guests. Many of them are from the local community and have overcome significant hurdles to pursue their chosen career with us. In this blog series dedicated to the inspiring group of people we are proud to work alongside, we introduce you to some of the most interesting characters in the team. Today is the story of tracker George Nkuna, as told to Mark Broodryk, Head Guide at Singita Sabi Sand:

Tracker George | Singita Sabi Sand

How did you get started at Singita?
I started in March 2003, on the day that Singita Lebombo Lodge opened. I was part of the original team at Singita Kruger National Park and then moved to Singita Sabi Sand about five years ago. I started working at one of the neighbouring lodges in a back office position, then one day a tracker was sick and they needed someone to fill in. They asked me if I could track and I jumped at the opportunity and said yes although I had never officially done the job of a tracker. They hadn’t seen a leopard on the property for over two weeks and I found two different leopards on my first drive and haven’t stopped tracking since. That was nearly 20 years ago.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What inspired you to become a Tracker?
My father used to work as a field guide for the Kruger National Park. I used to visit him during the school holidays and he arranged for me to go out with the scouts. We would record everything we saw and make observation notes. I really enjoyed being in the bush and seeing how happy my dad was in this environment and realised I could make a career and earn a living while still being in the bush. The guides and scouts used to make me write tests once a week to see what I had learnt and ask me tough questions which I was able to answer. I was the first person from my village to become a tracker and earn a living doing this job, and have tried to be an inspiration to others in my community.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What would be the highlight of your career so far?
I have many highlights! Of a personal nature, I’m very proud of my family and especially my children. The early days of the Singita Kruger National Park were very exciting times, getting the lions used to our presence and finding animals in unchartered territory. From a tracking perspective, my highlights would be achieving my senior tracker qualification on my very first attempt and being asked to go and track leopards in Azerbaijan, as well as running the tracker training school or training and assessing trackers up in Botswana.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What is a memorable guest and or wildlife experience?
My favourite thing is seeing how one is able to totally delight guests and making their dream trip to Africa a reality. One memory that stands out was in the early days at Singita Kruger National Park, with a guest who had been coming to Africa for many years but had never seen a kill. We found a cheetah, the very first sighting of a cheetah at Singita Lebombo Lodge in fact, after tracking it for many hours. The guest said he wanted to stay with it for the entire morning in the hope that it would hunt. Sure enough our patience paid off and the guest got his wish and was able to film the entire scene from start to finish.

The People of Singita | Singita Sabi Sand

What do you love about the wilderness?
I love being in the bush, yes it has its problems but nothing like living in a city. I am happiest when I’m in the bush, nothing else seems to matter for those few hours each day when you are out there.

Singita Lebombo Lodge

In your opinion what is important about the work that you do for conservation?
Teaching guests about the environment, trying to teach those around me to appreciate nature and to encourage those in my village to learn the skill of tracking so they can create a livelihood for their families. By conserving the environment we have jobs to support our families and making it sustainable for future generations to appreciate and care for in years to come.

You can read the previous article in this series, an interview with chef Michael Matera from Singita Grumeti. Visit the website to learn more about working at Singita. 

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Wonders of the Bush

September 11, 2012 - Conservation,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

One needs to be careful not to get too caught up in chasing down the big five; this can be both frustrating and very time consuming.  Take time, stop, and listen, or you could miss the sound of the honey guide’s call directing its hungry companion to a sticky feast, or forgo a sighting of nature’s waste army, the humble dung beetle with its polished armour.

Often, when you stop pursuing certain animals, they have the uncanny ability to somehow find you, usually at the most unexpected moments. This being said, tracking is one of the most exciting and crucial aspects about working in the bush. It plays a huge role in both the rangers’ and trackers’ daily routine. The tracker that I have most often worked with, Given Mhlongo, would get off the vehicle at every opportunity. I could see it in his eyes, the surge of adrenalin when we came across a fresh set of lion tracks.  There is always the exhilarating rush of tracking a potentially dangerous animal and the satisfaction of eventually locating it.

The African bush has plenty to offer, a spectacle through a magnified lens: from the herds of impala, the impatient baboons, the shy zebras, to the sun-worshiping reptiles and insects that parade the scorched earth. Even something as simple as watching the sunset set the sky ablaze accompanied by the soft, whistling bird song is a moment to be forever lodged in the memory bank.

Spending time in the bush is an unforgettable experience and it is interesting how Sinigta guests very quickly adapt and are able to spot things that would have been impossible to see on the first day of their safari.  I am often astounded how people from an urban environment are able to connect with the bush and improve their own knowledge. This is when things become interesting and one begins to understand the more discreet behaviour traits of certain species on closer inspection.

The Sabi Sand area is known for its big five sightings, but what really struck me on this last trip was the abundance and diversity of all species from the birds to the large herds of antelope and elusive reptiles. We as guides often joke that it is sometimes harder to find a common zebra then a shy leopard in the Sabi Sand region.   Here, not only were we able to locate and come face to face with the big five but were also able to experience Africa in its vast, untouched glory that really impacts you; to dine at the buffet of nature’s offerings

All images and commentary by James Suter – Field Guide who is trekking across Singita reserves this year to document wildlife and their activities.

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Seeing Spots…More Cheetah Sightings

June 13, 2011 - Wildlife

As the sun was setting this image was captured in the more central parts of Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park.  In the past, Singita Kruger National Park has not been regarded as a concession that produces abundant cheetah sightings.  Well that’s all changed!  This month alone we have had over 10 different sightings – all of them unbelievable in their own way.  This female and her three cubs have realized the benefits of the abundance of general game in the concession and both her and the cubs are in a very healthy condition.  We will watch with interest as they continue to grace us with their presence.

By James Suter, Guide at Singita Kruger National Park.  Follow our monthly Guides’ Diaries for more enthralling updates about the diverse wildlife at each of the Singita game reserves.

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