honeyguide *south africa*
Our time at Honeyguide Mantobeni Camp was unforgettable. There were 13 of us, family and friends from Australia, London, USA and South Africa, gathered to enjoy the safari. We were there to celebrate my in-laws’ 60th birthdays and there was no place they would rather be. We were incredibly lucky to have the whole camp to ourselves too. Meeting in the communal area for meals and relaxation and photo ogling between drives, we only shared the space with the wonderful staff and the animals roaming the grass or visiting the waterhole nearby.
Just as when I drink rooibos tea, now every time I hear drums I am transported back to this tranquil camp. The deep, cheerful, rhythmic sound spread through the trees to our tents to signal wake up and meal times. Every meal was a feast of courses on a gorgeous communal wooden table with the dishes announced by the beautiful head woman. Our two waiters were shy but when I spoke a few words of their tribal language to them, the biggest smile came across their faces and filled my heart. They taught me more words when we relaxed in the lounges in the heat of the day. It was on one of these easy days that we sat talking to one of the guides and I was enthralled with everything he told us. I thanked him for sharing about his family, life and tribal history. I seek to understand how others live and to see or hear it for myself penetrates the information into my mind more than reading about it.
One night we had the official celebratory birthday dinner under the trees and next to a comfortable fire. As we sat talking, the sound of singing came gently through the night. Slowly it got closer and the gentle faces of the staff emerged, singing and swaying in a line. They sung a couple of songs, my favourite being one with stamping on the soil. The head woman’s shapely traditional African figure moved so beautifully that I was mesmerised and I wanted them to sing all night. The night held more music for us though, as my husband’s musician cousin played the guitar and we all sang a few Beatles and classic tunes.
On the day we left, I sought out and found most of the 10 staff, sneaking into the kitchen to say goodbye to those behind the scenes too. The arms wrapped around me were warm and held on meaningfully. I am a people person who values connection, I relish these moments. To share this adventure with family and friends made the experience all the more rich. As we sadly left the wild behind us and headed towards the small airport, one dear family friend and I spoke of our sadness to leave. We decided that should we feel the need, we would remind each other to get back in the tent in our hearts and feel the soothing balm slip into our bodies at the memories of our time here.