4:30am. Myself and my wife are waiting at a petrol station for our convoy to take us on a de-snaring mission in the Greater Kruger area of Limpopo.
While we drive an hour to our location, my mind starts floating through thoughts as the sun starts warming the lowveld sky.
Over the past couple months lockdown has caused a surge in subsistence poaching. Leaving animals to suffer. It is sad to think that what we are about to do today, saves adventure for us tomorrow. The joy of experiencing wild animals and the areas they get to roam. It is a sad and sweet thought.
A couple minutes go by after this thought. I move my foot; it feels so light. An enthusiastic chuckle bursts out from under my breathe. My wife smiles and asks, “Why the Giggle?”
“It just hit me. I’m wearing my (recently acquired) Hi-Tec BW Virtue Safari’s to an anti-poaching mission. A shoe that supports conservation efforts.” I continued to smile and say, “What better way to experience a shoe made for the bush, than on a mission to help protect and conserve it?”
We now arrive at our unmarked location, the convoy parks their cars, everyone races out to the meeting point, eager to meet new faces and start our de-snaring walk. During the briefing newcomers are warned of the dangers we might face, from stepping on puffadders, bumping into lions or walking into a breeding herd of elephant.
As an adventure filmmaker, the more I hear these warnings the more aware and real it becomes. People often do not realise how quiet an elephant can be or how sharp a warthog’s tusks are. With the risks as they are, and my job to move between the crew documenting the day, an important piece of my gear is shoes. One needs quiet, lightweight and comfortable footwear.
The teams start walking in a line, this is to keep a grid formation, enabling the line to scout piece by piece. As laborious as this may seem, I would recommend regular safari goers try volunteer one day. It really gives you a real feel safari. One would say the African Experience. Thankfully, we walked 4 times not picking up any snares, success!
Also, no dangerous encounters, unless you call a rabbit darting across your path terrifying. The number one rule is don’t run, rabbits often dart and you will be amazed at who you find ends up running. We are about to walk our last line. I find myself filming one of the participants. An iconic Anti-poaching NPO leader, with real war experience.
He is always so aware of his environment. As I’m standing there filming him, he turns to his right and sees me. He is grabbing a quick bite of an apple. While chewing, smiles and says, “How do you keep sneaking up like that?” As I chuckle, the thought of a successful shoe test crosses my mind.
By 9am, we are back at the vehicles ready to go home. The crew are excited that we found no snares. No snares means the animals can roam in that area without worry of man-made interference. Safari goers can continue to enjoy these beautiful creatures in their protected spaces. A happy ending to the film for the day.
And a happy beginning to my new Hi-Tec BW Virtue Safaris as tomorrow holds a whole new adventure.