Africa Guide

At the fireside

Written by Neil, a professional safari guide in South Africa


I'm sitting at my campfire contemplating the differences between stone-age man and myself. Three and a half thousand years ago he would have been sitting in the dark, perhaps contemplating what would become of his ilk and homeland.

He vanished, as did the other park dwellers like the San Bushman - famous for their 'rock art'. Perhaps we too will vanish from this great place, or will this great place vanish from us - destroyed - burnt down by our indiscriminate murder, rape and pillage of its beauty. For now this has not happened - there are too many people lobbying to protect her, and I am one of them.

The Kruger (not yet named or protected) found her own way to reduce the ever -increasing human (not yet European) migrants. She coughed up bilharzias and endemic malaria, sleeping sickness from the tsetse fly and she added highly venomous snakes, dangerous reptiles and ferocious carnivores to make man think twice before bounding in to her world.

I can hear one of her hunters, the lion, roaring in the distance. My fire is comforting as is the electrified fence that surrounds the camp, but I can understand the respect induced into early man's inadequacies by the lion's majesty and power.

My fire dims, the nearby riverbed amplifies the calls of nightjars and owls, I close my eyes and listen - a leopard grunting, the insects pause briefly and a nightjar delivers its litany, "good lord deliver us." A light breeze flirts with the glowing embers of my cooking fire - I know this place, I love this place - but why has this place been relegated to the far northern-east corner of our land? Why must I endure the torment of ignorance and the pathetic justifications of progress and human rights from my peers? I would leave my world tomorrow for life in the bush, for life!


The lion must be closer. Impala's over the river are barking out their warnings. The insects have quietened. I position another log on my fire, more for comfort than security - I'm enjoying the sounds of another Kruger night. My guests have switched off and tucked themselves into their beds ready for the early morning drive. I cannot sleep now - this is too good, it's like my soul is being cleared of the all the self-indulgent angst I have created in my attempts to stay sane in a crazy world.

A hyena lies down in front of my fire - behind the fence - hoping that I, like so many of my peers, will throw a piece of braai meat at him. My emotion turns anger into hatred, and then just as quickly - to a sad realisation. This hyena has been sentenced to death. This hyena will never walk his natural path again. No wonder he looks frustrated, confused by the beckoning of eager humans trying to please their children, and then soon, by the sharp retort of a single rifle shot because he came once when he wasn't called. I would like one of the meat-feeders to be fed - God! Now I'm certain I'm loosing my humanity.

A rustle in the bush - camp-side of the fence - next to me! All my senses prickle in an immediate attempt to isolate the noise but finally I capitulate and switch on my torch. It's a small-spotted genet, appeased I switch off the light and she comes closer. The genet is hunting, and then in a single pounce she grabs a field mouse, looks up at me as though to say thanks, and slinks away back into the tall grass.

Wow, while the camp sleeps…

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