In Hwange National Park we met the messiah of game drive guides. Jordan was half bush child and half safari guide. He grew up in the wild; he told us he’s never been to a first world country. His passion is showing people how to appreciate nature. He walks around with no shoes. He picks up poo to analyze where and when an animal had last eaten based on its contents.
He makes strange calls that bring animals running towards his old Land Cruiser instead of away from it. He’ll chase a cobra into the tall grass because he wants to pick it up to show you. He knows every plant, bush, tree and track in the park. He has pet names for all the lions. He belongs on Animal Planet (he actually has guided the stars of Animal Planet for a show). How do we know? Well, one year for Halloween I dressed as Steve Irwin “the Crocodile Hunter” and Joshua went as an inflatable crocodile. Oh and by the way, randomly, there was a giant sting ray at that party (bad form).
Within the first few minutes of our evening game drive, we were approached by a herd of elephants. Jordan stopped the car; he told us to listen to them pulling up grass, to smell the air so we could anticipate future elephant encounters, to watch the mothers protect the young as they crossed the road. The elephants flapped their ears and stood in front of the car challenging us to drive on, but Jordan talked softly to them.
A few minutes later, I was holding giraffe poo in my hand and I now can tell the difference between male and female giraffe poops (females pinch it off).
In the same drive, we tracked a lion.
We waited by the water hole at sunset for the most spectacular guests—giraffe, elephants, hippos, ostrich, crocodiles all sharing the same small pond.
Jordan dropped us off at sunset (we still had two more drives with him), and our safari world was forever changed.
Jordan’s training included 4 years of guide preparation—textbook/lecture schooling, field experience and killing 5 animals in dangerous situations (like lions terrorizing a village). He had superior knowledge to any guides we met…even when there weren’t animals to look at, we were instructed on survival techniques or tracking methods. He dispelled rumors we heard from previous drives like a hyena is both male and female (not true, it just looks that way) and hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa (just reportedly so because a town gets to kill and eat a hippo if they report the death as such).
He took us on a night drive outside the park where he used a spotlight like a third eye. He would see a bush baby (smaller than a squirrel) jump from one tree to the next. We saw genets, a black-footed African cat and other nighttime critters associated with the “Secret Seven.” He pulled right up to a group of elephants, prior to any of us seeing them, and shut off the lights and engine so we could listen. I would have guessed there were three elephants near us. When he turned back on the lights there were more than 10 and we were less than 5m away! He saw a hyena about 300 meters away and approached it without lights, then he called it out of the bush like a crazy person; it came running towards the car. By the end of our last morning drive, we were converts. None of us have or will ever have a guide as good. When he challenged us to an impala shit spitting contest, we all said yes!
There are not many people on the planet who could convince me that it’s a good idea to put poop in my mouth, but for Jordan, there was no decision to make. Even Joshua is set on taking a survival mancation with him.
Who would have thought we would find the impetus to return to Africa in Zimbabwe?
Oh yeah, we even saw an owl.