A short-term relief management position recently gifted professional guide Chantel Van de Linde a job opportunity with life-long benefits. Catching her breath after a busy festive season at Nantwich, she reflects on her time in the bush with us, grateful for the experience, especially amidst a pandemic.
Silver linings arrive at unexpected junctures in our lives. They are, unsurprisingly, often delivered by mother nature. Perhaps in the gentle reminder that growth happens after a storm, in the consistency of sunrise, the maternal manner of a mother or the ebbs and flows of a river. Seasons signify the importance of change, and the beauty found within its evolution. Chantel was reminded of this as she witnessed the wilderness welcome and adapt to the rainy season.
“People always talk about blessings in disguise. I would never have expected the global pandemic to bring one to me, but it did. I have spent the last 4 weeks in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, at a magical place called Nantwich, a Hideaways property in the northern sector. I was asked to cover the festive season and to close up the camp for the wet season, standing in as a short-term relief manager. Between the amazing staff, the thunderstorms, the lush green landscapes and the special game sightings, I almost forgot that I was working!
When I arrived, there were daily visits at the waterhole in front of the lodge of impala and warthog families. Roan and giraffes also blessed us with their presence, however to a less frequent degree. Elephants were a little more elusive and only made an appearance every 4 or 5 days. We had not had too much rain at this point, therefore the animals were still dependent on the pan as a water source.
Within the next two weeks, the rains settled in. Thunderstorms offered breathtaking performances across the African sky, blessing the earth with water. Since then, animal sightings dwindled and have been more spread out with less variety. This is normal as there are now puddles everywhere for animals to drink from and they no longer need to rely on our waterhole. This, however, bode well for us on our game drives, as we then encountered a myriad of species while we explored this remote area of the park.
I had so many unforgettable moments at Nantwich, too many to list, however a few definitely stand out.
First, a fantastic thunderstorm, nostalgic in every sense. I’ve loved them since childhood, but don’t get to experience them where I currently live. The storm built up in the day, heavy clouds rolling in from the distance, filling the sky with contrast and the promise of rain. The heavens opened during the evening, and I sat watching in awe for hours. Lightning lit up the night in sporadic streaks of silver and gold, a backlight to dense clouds. It was the best show I’ve seen in many years.
The second was a coalition of four male cheetahs lying in the vlei just in front of the lodge. Talk about a rare and special sighting! They stayed all afternoon and eventually, just before sunset, they wandered off into the trees. A gift from mother nature.
My favourite safari memory was of a couple of Gabar Goshawks hunting, calling and generally hanging out very close to the lodge in the nearby trees. I even saw one eating a small bird. Gruesome I know, but for a field guide and ranger, very exciting to see, and an important part within the cycle of life.
I am going to miss Nantwich terribly. The staff who worked beside me were truly exceptional. From our world-class chef , Sibindi (I have to thank him for a few extra kilograms), and our knowledgeable and friendly guide, Courage, to the magic maintenance man Matthias (as I call him), and the bubbly Privy in front of house. Last but not least there’s calm and professional colleagues Ivan and Tony and hardworking Esmar and Maina in housekeeping. They all made my stay so special and did a fantastic job looking after our guests. As one guest put it: “If this were an exam, you would all get distinctions!”
Chantel is a valued member of our team, and we are deeply grateful for her passion and dedication. Thank you for your contribution and wisdom, as well as sharing your safari stories with us. Contact us to create your own African adventure; the wilderness awaits.