There are certain life experiences that you never forget. A sound, a smell, a whisper of memory springs them intermittently front and centre in your heart and mind. The 2013 Safari Guide of the Year competition was just such an experience. Dave and I were truly privileged to spend last week with the 8 exceptional finalists (above) and their esteemed judges, capturing the action in still images and video.
With the wild beauty of the Kruger National Park as a backdrop, we were treated to soulful bush walks, stunning game drives, ace rifle shooting, expert tracking, brilliant birding, creative photography, captivating storytelling and amazing camaraderie that left lingering smiles on everyone’s lips.
Richly deserved, top honours were awarded to Tom Imrie of Londolozi. He’s a man in a million, who contributed 6 years ago to another unforgettable experience that Dave and I shared, when he guided us at that incredible game reserve. Leopard heaven, it hovers at the pinnacle of our favourite places in the world, with Tom right there among our favourite people. To understand why, have a read of this beautiful post by his friend James Tyrrell on the Londolozi blog: Safari Guide of the Year.
Here’s a pic of Tom sharing an enchanting story of African adventure, which won him the story-telling category in the competition, in addition to the pivotal, best guided walk and game drive categories.
Another of our favourite people is Marc Lindsay-Rea, who we met as head ranger of Madikwe Safari Lodge during Hills of Africa Travel’s Soul Safari 2009, which we also had the joy of documenting. Last year’s runner-up as Ranger of the Year, Marc has since joined Africa Direct and has been integral in hosting this year’s competititon, along with veteran guide Mike Karantonis, co-owner of Africa Direct and visionary behind it all – in partnership with FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa).
Heartfelt thanks to Marc, Mike and Africa Direct co-owner Tanya Kotze for inviting us into this phenomenal experience, as well as to Marc and his gorgeous girlfriend Claire, for being such great friends. Here they are at the awards ceremony, with Mike and his lovely wife Lisa:
Special mention also goes to all the sponsors of the competition, including Nkambeni Safari Camp for their warm hospitality, and to each and every person who participated, starting with the finalists.
This outstanding line-up featured Nico Mulder of Singita Lebombo in the Kruger National Park who took second place, winning the shooting and tracking categories, Richard Sachse from Simbambili, part of the Thornybush collection in the Sabi Sands who won the birding category, Wiehan Stapelberg from Shumbalala in Thornybush who won the photography category, Richard De Gouveia from Sabi Sabi in the Sabi Sands, John Ditsele from Molori Safari lodge in the Madikwe game reserve, Mark Lautenbach from Phinda Andbeyond, and Frank Bouwer from Game Trackers in the Pilansberg, who the rest of the guys voted as Mr. Personality. Here are Tom and Nico thanking sponsors for some of their prizes:
For more insight into the people, the places and the exceptional calibre of this competition, follow these links to our Facebook albums: Safari Guide of the Year – Team, Safari Guide of the Year – Lodge Magic, Safari Guide of the Year – Bush Magic, Safari Guide of the Year – Awards, Safari Guide of the Year – Shooting, Safari Guide of the Year – Tracking, Safari Guide of the Year – Winners.
. . . and here’s a final pic that Marc took of Dave and me shooting the finalists during the tracking exercise. All told, it was the perfect recipe for one of those life experiences that we will never forget!