Good God Father!

Just because I’m not a good Godfather doesn’t mean I can’t have a good Godson. In fact I have two. Here’s an excerpt from the life of one: Gary Hill spent a few magic years as a MalaMala game ranger! His complete final blog post is here. Here’s a brief excerpt, featuring just four of his amazing photos.

Gary Hill pays tribute to the animals he encountered at MalaMala

As guides at MalaMala, we often feel as though we are personalities in an ongoing wildlife documentary. Following the journeys of the animals as they move through their daily lives is a tremendous privilege and an experience that will not be easily forgotten. The script of the documentary cannot be predicted. Every excursion into the bush reveals dramatic discoveries, and one is constantly engaged in a roller-coaster of emotions.

During my time as a guide, I have been lucky to witness some incredible sights. I have always said in the blogs that to see any of these animals is amazing, and the interaction between the species is really special. This is the ‘MalaMala magic’, and it is always out there waiting to be found. There have been too many fantastic sightings to share, but I have been sure to record each and every one, no matter how seemingly insignificant, in my journal and have tried my best to keep a photographic collection.

Lions: The Selati pride gave us a sighting of a lifetime when they brought down a kudu bull in the Sand River, in broad daylight and in plain sight for us to all see.



Following the movements of the powerful Manyelethi males has been incredible. They are a formidable coalition that are likely to dominate for the next few years. To shadow these four beasts as they move on a territorial patrol, or to have them roar in close proximity to the Land Rover, is a humbling experience.


Leopards: It is unfair to single out one species as a favourite. However, there is nothing more spectacular than a leopard. Their beauty is astounding. Their hunting ability astonishing. And, their cunning and intelligence is tangible. They have individual characters, and have been my favourite animal to view. The rich history and heritage of the leopards of MalaMala makes these animals even more fascinating.


As a guide at MalaMala, you are a small part of a such an efficiently run camp. Thank you to all the staff of the camp who make everyday routines run so smoothly. MalaMala is a world class destination, and that is due to all your hard work. I would like to thank all the rangers for playing such a huge role in my experiences. We have become great friends and I will miss being part of such a dynamic team. I have crossed paths with many wonderful guests along the way and it has been a great pleasure sharing the magic of MalaMala with you all!

Gary Hill

Ranger – MalaMala Game Reserve



Careful in the veldt! Mapungubwe

Beware of things lurking when out for a carefree stroll in the veld.

Outside Mapungubwe in October 2013 I spotted a male lion running free on the tar road. As I got closer he ducked under a little bush. Amazing how I would never have spotted him had I not seen him dive under it!

The can in the foreground of this picture is on the edge of the tar road, the bush is at the bottom of a steep little bank – about 3m down.


He’s there, believe me! A full-grown lion is under that little bush. A short while later he bolted and ran along the fence in the opposite direction to where I was going on my way to Limpopo-Lipadi in Botswana. I was too slow with my phone camera. (this story repeated – more or less – here).


The stay at Kaoxa was great. When I told hostess Virgeenia I’d been sent there by my friend, young David Hill, she exclaimed:

Hau, that one he makes us laugh!

I had the camp to myself and prepared an elaborate bachelor’s supper, mainly liquid: A Black Label beer, then a couple G&T’s with ice & lemon, biltong, crisps and tomato sarmies. Made with old-style slice-it-yourself white bread.

Next morning the ants had tried to hijack a stick of biltong, but had only moved it about 40cm. A few thousand of them put a thin stick on their backs for a getaway, but they were too slow.

The chalet was clean, comfortable and had a lovely porch overlooking the valley. The communal kitchen was well-equipped and the fridge was cold with lots of ice. I enjoyed a magic sunset and sunrise. I watched distant eles in the valley for supper, the Mocking Chats woke me on the thatch roof, squirrels scurried along the branches and I had a klipspringer in full sunlight for breakfast:

Mapungubwe Kaoxa (26).JPG

Later I checked out the Drifters mobile safaris camp. What a special site, ensconced in the rocky hillside among huge boulders!

Mapungubwe Kaoxa (38).JPG

Interesting sights were an ele looking tiny next to a baobab and a giraffe looking short next to a massive free-standing boulder, miniaturising these large beasts.


On 2013/11/07 David Hill wrote:
Did you stay at Kaoxa? How was it? Let me know so I can let Duncan 
have some feedback. We were up there for his 60th beginning August - 
twenty five old conneko's - beautiful.
-----Original Message-----
From: pete swanepoel home 
Did I tell you I saw a beautiful male lion running along the fence 
on the tar road outside Kaoxa? Obviously escaped from the De Beers 
reserve, he was as worried as hell! When I drove up next to him he 
dived under a bush and wouldn't move, even when I put my foot out 
and rustled the grass. 
See the picture I took. I'll be even more wide awake walking in the 
bush now when I see how little cover a big male lion needs! 

Mfolosi Again

Friday, December 20, 2013, pete swanepoel wrote:

Went back to Mfolosi today. Kids were mad keen, especially Jess. Determined to see a lion.

So we did. A lovely big male. I thought that’ll keep her quiet for a while. Only to find out later that dear old silent-one Jess couldn’t see it from back in the canopy where she and her friend Sindi were snugly seated – at their request. But – being Jess – she didn’t say anything at the time!! There was a car blocking her view and she didn’t say a word! Had a quiet drizz in my arms at the picnic spot afterwards! Ai! Die Kinders! (Tom would have raised hell if HE couldn’t see it). I’m amazed Sindi didn’t say something. She’s not usually shy.

To my embarrassment I notice I took 44 pics – and not one of the kids.

Mfolozi Thurs-004

Steve wrote: Haai. Next trip make sure Jess is in the front seat and has charge of the binoculars!

Me: My Jessie had choice of seat, being the oldest, and has her own binoculars. All she needed to do was squawk and we could have edged forward by a metre or so but she froze. As she does. The good thing is now we’ll have to go back!

It gets hot but nothing Sahara. I don’t use aircon in the bush. We drove north in October, which the Zims call suicide month, without once switching the aircon on. All windows down is all. When it gets too stinking hot wet towels work amazingly well.

My godson Gary Hill worked as a ranger at Mala Mala for a couple years. Also had a ball, took lots of pics and ran their blog. Loved it, but has moved on. They pay shit and prospects are few, so after a while its comes time to move on.
Find his swansong here:

Brauer wrote: Lyin’ and dandelion??

Surely they don’t qualify as communities. (The kids had said ‘Dad! Don’t stop here!’ I asked why not. ‘Too many “communities” Dad!’ What?! Look at the “communities,” Dad!’ they said, pointing at the local people. I shook my head and asked them when they last looked in a mirror!!! Pests!).

“WE sang rap”?? Must have been THEY and then the old toppie serenading them with a bit of Mama Mia accompanied by eyerolling.

Me: Hey, WE sing: 

I woke up in a noo Bughatti

I woke up in a noo Bughatti

I woke up in a noo Bughatti

I woke up in a noo Bughatti

I woke up in a noo Bughatti

I woke up in a noo Bughatti


My nigger, bad nigger , my nig nig nigger
My nigger, bad nigger , my nig nig nigger
My nigger, bad nigger , my nig nig nigger
My nigger, bad nigger , my nig nig nigger
My nigger, bad nigger , my nig nig nigger

I gonna PICK the world up and gonna drop it on yo fuckin head

What? You don’t know the classics?

Mfolozi Thurs


PS: Later Jess told me she HAD seen the lion but just not as well as she’d have liked to!

PPS: My favourite sighting was the meadows full of flowers. They were amazing!

– Mfolosi Meadow – the grass was teeming with flowers! –


Pics of my self-styled “NOT communities” on other trips:

Hlu Feb'14 (52)
Hlu Feb'14 (68)