African Safari Guide

Archived Photo Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

Mark  Broodryk is Head Guide at  Singita Ebony Lodgein Kruger National Park. We were fortunate to have Mark as our family’s guide for our stay at Singita.

African Safari Guide

Safari Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

Mark would greet us at 5:00 every morning with fresh coffee,  homemade pastries and freshly squeezed juice.

African Safari Guide

Our Guide Mark Brooddryk and Tracker Frank

Then it was off to morning safari. We would greet our tracker, Frank, who  is now guiding his own safaris, and set off to watch the progress of a lion finishing off a meal of kudo. It takes about 4 days for this process to complete and we started our morning safaris watching the lion’s progress.  Nothing quite like waking up before dawn and watching nocturnal animals finishing off their evening meal.

African Safari Guide

Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

We woke our first morning and everyone swore they heard lions roaring the night before. We thought it was our imaginations.  Mark confirmed that lions communicate rather loudly in the middle of the night and were quite close to us the evening before. Now that perks your interest.

Then our son swore  he heard animals stampeding outside his room. We all ribbed him until Mark said that, in fact, there was a herd of wild buffalo that had come past our rooms in the middle of the night, as evidenced by piles of buffalo souvenirs left on the ground in their wake.

African Safari Guide

Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

Mark was the ultimate “Big Five” safari guide.  Africa’s “Big Five” include the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino, but we wanted to see every wild animal that called Kruger National Park home, whether it be zebras, giraffes, alligators or birds. Afterall, we were on safari in this dream destination of exotic Africa.

Mark was gracious enough to share some of his background and favorite memories as Head Guide at Singita Ebony Lodge and answer questions for us.

What is your most memorable experience as head guide at Singita?

African Safari Guide

Courtesy My Adorable “Blue Baker”

It is always difficult to isolate a particular animal or bush experience, as it is so diverse and complex, but  one that does stand out is the time I saw an elephant giving birth.

African Safari Guide

More Shots From My “Blue Baker”

The way the other females gathered around as “midwives,” to the excitement when the little 120 kilogram (264 1/2 pounds) ball finally popped out without any complications, to how mom assisted in helping the youngster to its feet, and (finally) how natural it was for the youngster to instinctively search for her mammary glands in search of milk. It was the sounds of the elephants rumbling, almost a silent thunder, that sticks with me the most. I can to this day close my eyes and visualize the whole ordeal as if it was this morning.

Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

Do you have another experience that was particularly memorable?

How does one put any experience above the first time you see your very first leopard cubs – these spotted furry balls with crystal blue eyes peeping from their little hiding place, with the confidence of knowing that mom is only a few feet away to keep them from any potential danger.

African Safari Guide

Baby Leopard and Mother Courtesy Marc Eschenlohr

How gentle a leopard can be with her cubs, yet also such a phenomenal hunting machine.

Any sad experiences that come to mind?

In nature, one gets to see the full spectrum. The other side (of watching a birth)  is just as humbling. Watching a huge old male African buffalo that has been kicked out of the herd and spending his last days down at the river, knowing what will eventually become of him. Imagine the stories he could tell, what trials he must have faced? It is this “Africa in your blood” that one cannot get rid of and what keeps me coming back for more.

Describe your typical day

The only thing that is constant is that no two days will ever be the same. This is what I love most about what I do. I can’t really call it a job, as I enjoy it so much that it doesn’t really feel like work.

Two factors ensure that no one day is normal; people and animals! A day would normally entail waking up at around 04h30 in the morning to meet for a cup of coffee before heading out on a game drive. The plan for each drive is dependent on the guests and the animals and what nature decides to present us with. We look out for the subtle clues that lead us to specific animals, and as a guide, one tries to balance all aspects of the bush and promote them on equal terms.

African Safari Guide

Frank in the tracker seat with our family

As a guide, one works very closely with your tracker. The photo above was taken of Frank, our tracker, as Mark navigated our family through a herd of elephants. (Yes, the elephants got VERY close to our vehicle). It is a team and these bonds (between guide and tracker)  are as close as brotherhood.You trust each other with your life.

African Safari Guide

Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

The adventures of the drive are unlimited. These range from interpreting the surroundings, tracking lions or leopards amongst other animals, to walking, doing archery, mountain biking or dining under the stars. After (safari) drives, there are many “behind the scenes” issues to consider. These might include game counts in helicopters, meeting neighbors for discussions of conservation issues, addressing staff, maintaining the Land Rovers, or rifle practice to getting elephants out of camp.

What other duties are you responsible for as head guide?

The other part of being a guide is to entertain guests. Sometimes the guests do the entertaining.  One day we were watching a herd of over 800 African buffalo on the grass plains below. In conversation, we discussed a huge bird nest in the tree amongst the buffalo. The nest was constructed by a bird called a red-billed buffalo weaver. I was explaining how the male (bird) builds the nest and all his females have their place within the nest. The next moment, I was asked if all those buffalo slept in the nest. I couldn’t help but crack a smile with the image of 800 buffalo clustered into a tree about 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall – Nonetheless, it was all in good spirit and we had a good laugh about it.

Stay tuned for more on Mark and his journey toward becoming a safari guide in future blog posts.

– The Gourmet Review

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