I can’t quite believe that I’ve been here four weeks now – the time has flown by and I feel as if I’ve hardly had a moment to breath. My working day starts at 5.30 most days, and finishes at 6.30 at dinnertime, or 10.00 if we have a night drive once a week. I had a one-week handover with the outgoing business manager when I arrived, and then I was on my own, with 9 new photography volunteers to welcome, organise, and keep happy. I was very proud of myself that by the end of the morning of the first day I had learned all their names! They range in age from 19 to 55, and come from Germany, Sweden, UK, USA, and Australia.
There is far more admin and organisation than I anticipated, so it’s handy that I’m used to that and am already starting to speed up considerably. 6 hours of most days are taken up with game drives, and even if we don’t see many animals I love being out in the fresh air, enjoying the scenery, and learning as much as I can from the guides. I love that you can round a bend and see a lion, a cheetah, a rhino, a giraffe, etc etc, sometimes right in front of you.
My cabin is right on the boundary fence, which is a 3’ high electric fence. The impala and Nyala often jump over it, and graze right outside my decking. I’ve seen giraffe just the other side of the fence, and have heard lions roaring and hyenas whooping as I lie in bed at night – they sound as if they are right outside, and the hyenas may be very close, but a lion’s roar can travel as far as five miles!
I’ve learned a (very) few words of Zulu – just enough to thank the guide after a drive, and to say yes, hello, how are you, and I’m fine. I’ve also picked up a few of the animal names, so that when the guides radio each other to say that they’ve spotted something I can tell which animal it is.
Looking at things with fresh eyes, I’ve implemented some changes as the managers here are new themselves and very open to suggestions 🙂
I’ve photographed all the staff, printed out the images together with their names, and put them up on the wall so that volunteers know who’s who. I’ve also organised an area of wall to be painted so that the best photographs can be displayed nicely. (I motivated my volunteers to help out on a rainy day!) Frames have been bought, and what looked a mess before will very shortly look a hundred times smarter.
I’ve managed to get the smoking area moved, something that bugged me when I was here last year – it was right underneath the lodge – all the volunteers had to walk through the area to get inside, and the smoke used to drift up into the lounge and dining area. It’s still not far enough away for my liking but better than where it was!!
I’ve introduced three different things into the schedule; A ‘trees’ session, (concentrating on photographing them during one drive) a portrait session which came in very handy as something to do when we were confined to the lodge due to rain, and next week am looking forward to seeing the results of an ‘art’ editing session, where each volunteer will edit 5 of their ‘normal’ photos to create something very different. Purists of wildlife photography would hate the idea, but I’ve been encouraged to input my own ideas into the programme so am doing so with relish! I will print out some of them, and take down and move a lot of information from a notice board and replace it with stunning photographs instead.
Finally, I’ve experienced extremes in temperature. I’ve been sweltering whilst only wearing shorts and t-shirt in the lodge and office, sleeping on top of the covers with a fan overhead, and covering myself in factor 50 whilst on a drive. Then a couple of days later I’ve been freezing when the wind picked up, even when wearing 5 layers. Sitting in the office wearing a ski-jacket in Africa seems crazy! I was even caught on camera hugging the hot water urn to try to warm up!!
Bring on the next two months 🙂
Here are a few random photos.