Wild Eye guest and good friend Grant Scott has recently returned home from what could only be described as a once in a lifetime bush experience! Grant recently completed a FGASA (Field Guiding Association of South Africa) Level 1 qualification through EcoTraining and passed with flying colours!
On the very last day, sitting around the campfire, listening to lions roaring close to their campsite, Grant recalls his incredible two month wildlife experience…
Living the life you choose!
“Whoooose land is this…..
…whoooose land is this, whoose, whose, whose
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
…whoooose, land is this, whoose, whose, whose….”
…goes the rhythmic, powerful and rhetorical chant of a big lions’ roar!
It’s 4:30am and the roars are coming from Mburri (beautiful one) and his son across the riverbed, just 50m from my 2-man canvas tent that’s been home for the last two months. The ecologically rich savanna biome I’ve been privileged to have been doing my field guide course in is an inspiring change from the concrete jungle I have spent the last 25 years working in!
I took a decision a little less than a year ago to quit my regular job as a director of a large consumer business in order to pursue three of my passions…
1. Beautiful girls – to be specific, the three young ladies (Wendy, Casey-Lee and Tyler) making up my family;
2. Photography – a long standing hobby that I’ve enjoyed on and off over 40 years; and
3. Wildlife and nature – the bush!
It was a tough, somewhat emotional call at the time…and I still don’t know whether it’s sustainable?, I don’t know where it’s all going to lead?…but for the first time in many years – I’m living!
As the words of one of my favourite songs goes:- “…let’s leave everything and go travelling, see what tomorrow brings – it’s only a choice away…….let’s pack up and leave today…tell me what do u have to lose – are u living the life you choose?…there’s a place we can live like kings – let’s see what tomorrow brings…
…Your dreams are your reality!”
I’m in this tent on the banks of the Ga-Selati River in the north east of South Africa completing the last part of a 55 day Field Guide course. The course started 6 weeks ago with a month in Mashatu Game Reserve, southern Botswana. It has covered everything from guiding skills and astronomy to ecosystems, biomes, conservation management and then all number of insects, birds, reptiles, mammals and animal behaviour – what’s been most fulfilling is getting a better understanding of their connectedness- and in many ways finding my own deeper connectedness…sounds a bit zen-like, but it’s been grounded and authentic and purposeful.
I’m quite new to this concept of – “pack it all in and head out into the unknown”, it’s daunting – actually scary. I’m privileged to have a little capital which buys me some time – but I plan to live a lot longer than I can currently afford, so…in a way making this decision at 44 years old, is actually more scary than earlier on in life – for one thing, my monthly bills are bigger (3 girls; 2 dogs etc)…
If it’s helpful to anyone out there considering something similar, I figured three things in deciding:
1. I need to be serious about monetising my passions…without focus and discipline it’s likely to just morph into an extended hedonistic holiday!
2. Regret about not “having a go” at chasing down a dream and building unforgettable life experiences is not something I’m prepared to grow old with; and
3. Going back to the concrete jungle is always an option – so if you think about it:- my downside isn’t too far off where I was headed anyway!?
On the first point: – I decided I needed a basic foundation, a “ticket to the game” if you like, and the FGASA Level 1 (and possibly the trails guide) qualification gives me that platform – a little credibility and more chance of being taken seriously as a safari expert rather than just a passionate hobbyist!
I’m in the process of building a private guiding business covering self-drive, vehicle set up, trip planning etc, but I don’t think this is likely to have the scale it needs in the short term.
My leaning is very much more towards photographic guiding and helping people who love the bush and wildlife and enjoy photography, create more powerful, fulfilling images.
In order to do this two things are crucial:
1. Know how to use a camera:- understanding the tools available and how to apply them; and
2. Understand the environment and animal behaviour and maximise this to your advantage. This starts with the correct choice of destination, time of year, length of trip and zooms in (excuse the pun) to the positioning of the vehicle in a sighting and predicting what the animal or bird is likely to do next, in order to capture the moment…
Bringing these two together is where the real magic happens!
However, there’s one more element that so many in the industry seem to forget or de-prioritise…that is, the all important customer focus (again, I apologise…)
On this score the guiding qualification has been useful, after all, it is a hospitality role – creating an enhanced guided experience and putting your guests interests first in a safe and sustainable way to the environment is at the core of it.
Their “once-in-a-lifetime” experience every day they are on Safari with me trumps even the images they may walk away with. Their photos will improve over the years – so the current ones get “stale” in a way…but their experience, then and there, at that special sighting is unique, and may never be repeated…
My background in a customer-focused business has sensitised me to how crucial an exceptional guest experience really is!
A small dynamic business by the name of Wild Eye has been a great inspiration to me. They hold true to the above principles and are uncompromising in putting the customer and the customer’s experience first. The team is made up of a very usefully diverse group – each bringing a different aspect to the business’ dynamism. This, together with their professionalism (next level!) and the fact that they only employ qualified field guides – makes them a true stand-out in the industry. Their strap line is “change the way you see the world”…it certainly has been a big part of my shift…
I sit here at 5 am next to the fire at the end of May. Mburri is calling, this time just South-east of camp…I leave today to head back to my other home, in the other jungle – I’ve seen the seasons change and lived through that in a much more immersive way. I’ve seen it play out across the insects, the birds, the reptiles and the mammals…and, for the first time, I’ve truly understood it.
In a way, not unlike my own seasonal change.
Mburri’s roar sounds slightly different this morning:- “Whoooose life is it…whooose life is it…whoose, whoose, whose, who…”
Tell me, what do you have to lose – are you truly living the life you choose?…
Congratulations once again Grant on following your dreams and passions, and living the life you have chosen!
I look forward to hosting you on more exciting Wild Eye safari’s in the future, although perhaps now you could teach the team a thing or two about wildlife…
Until next time,
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