Safari Guide of the Year Storytelling by Ian Lombard

Nov 18 2015
A few months ago one of my best friends and one of Phinda's most charismatic guides Toby Pheasant decided to hang up his vellies, and move back to his native England. Coming from England and being blessed with a crop of bright red hair, Toby had to endure a bit of mockery from time to time. 
Toby also did not have the best of luck when it came to vehicles. He was known to break the odd drive shaft or dent the odd samp. His bad luck even transcended to the base station radio mounted in the front of the game viewer. There were many vehicles on game drive on the day Toby's mouth piece decided to remain keyed in. So all of the reserve had to endure about an hour of Toby's guiding with no one being able to use the radio. I found 'how the sun glistens off the wildebeest' coats' in Toby's beautiful English accent quite amusing. But when he publicly proclaimed to be the best guide on Phinda to his guest, I burst out laughing. 
Like when his fuse box to his vehicle caught alight in the rain, Toby's vehicle seemed to breakdown at the worst times. This particular 'break down day' must have happened over a weekend or maybe a Monday. I know this because Princess, the lady that did Toby and my washing comes on a Tuesday.
He was in a cheetah sighting with guests when a trainee ranger on an assessment drive joined him. On an assessment drive, the trainee conducts a drive with some of the reserve 'heavies'. Managers, directors, mentors and head guides all join these drives. So Toby was obviously a tad nervous when the trainees vehicle pulled up next to him. His reputation of having bad luck with vehicles was well known. After a few moments shared with the cheetah family Toby decided to leave. 
He turned the key in the ignition and there was no response from the vehicle. Toby had the sinking feeling in his stomach as he was met with the now more familiar feeling of breaking down in the bush. Apart from the safety of his guests he also did not want to disturb the cheetah. He looked at the trainees' vehicle longingly and with sad eyes that usually gets him out of trouble with the workshop manager. As the assessment vehicle were staff, they subsequently offered to swap vehicles and to wait for help. They pulled up right next to Toby's vehicle as to not disturb the cheetah. The guests on either vehicle had to carefully climb from one vehicle to the next. Toby kept an eye on the cheetah. Satisfied that everything was safe he prepared himself to clamber over the gap between the vehicles. He climbed up onto his seat, faced the guests and put his left foot onto the door of the other vehicle. A perfect split. That is when he heard a tearing sound. His pants had split and Toby had run out of underpants that day. If only Princess had come later that week, Toby would have been spared the humiliation of exposing himself in front of not one but two vehicles filled people. The reddest ranger in all of Zululand just went more red. Needless to say he sat down immediately. The next week Princess came twice.
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Ian Lombard, winner of the Safari Guide of the Year 2015 Award (an African Direct initiative) 




Ian Lombard started his guiding career after realizing that reading books about history and the natural world, rather than financial publications, was not conducive to becoming a very good investment banker. He subsequently joined andBeyond as a guide a month after graduating in 2010. After working stints in Madikwe and Kwandwe reserves he now finds himself as an assistant head ranger at Phinda Private Game Reserve in Maputaland in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. The differences between the Kalahari bushveld, Karoo scrubland and immense diversity of Zululand have sparked a wide range of interests from nesting turtles to endemic birds.



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