“The Birth of A King”

Ask anyone coming on safari for the first time what they are waiting with baited breath to see … and almost without exception they will respond “Lions”!! Always a highlight of any safari adventure, what is extra special is the opportunity to view new born lion cubs in the wild. There is nothing more cute, and at times it seems absolutely impossible that something so small and defenceless can grow into the largest carnivore in Africa, with the temperament and ferocity to match.DSC_1634

The latest and most exciting news coming out of the Blue Canyon Conservancy is the birth and growing health of our long awaited lion cubs. We believe they are now at an age of about 14 weeks and all 3 individuals are reported by our field teams as doing fine. Sightings are, at this stage, only occasional, with the lioness still keeping an ever protective and watchful eye on her new charges. Most of our evidence to date is what we are gleaming from tracks (spoor) and from details taken from the kills the pride is making across the reserve.

As we have sought to establish the Conservancy with a wide ranging and strong population of general “plains game” (zebra, wildebeest, impala, nyala, kudu, giraffe etc), it has been necessary for us to “interfere” temporarily with the breeding insticts of our lion population using contraceptive techniques. Lions are prolific hunters and left to their own devices in the early stages of the conservancy would severely prohibit the proliferation of other species.

DSC_6022Lions are by nature highly social mammals. This very “closed family” structure is core to them being one of the most successful mammals in Africa and over a period of time, every lion within the pride develops into a core member of pride society. Lionesses have no real “breeding season” but females within the pride are able to syncronise their estrus (cycle) and thus be ready for mating and birthing at the same time. When females give birth to their cubs, the cubs themselves are able to suckle communally from the pride lionesses who have also given birth around the same time.Once the females reach the age of 4 years and enter estrus, which typically lasts around 4 days, the male will begin to copulate with the female approximately every 20 minutes for the entire period of estrus in order to induce ovulation. Once ovulation occurs the success rate for fertilisation is as high as 95% (one male was recorded as copulating 157 times in 55 hours!! … Quite a formidable task in anyone’s book!!)

Our core pride consists of a single male and 4 females. So now seems a good time to introduce you to our proud new parents …….

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Our new litter of lion cubs is of a standard and typical size, most females give birth 3 cubs and the interval between births is generally 20-30 months at which time the preceding cubs will be fully independent within the pride. Sadly, statistics show is that the survival rate of cubs is very poor, as more than 50% will die in the first year. Cubs are kept well hidden by the female during infancy whilst she goes off to hunt. They are unable to move independently with the pride until they are about 7 weeks old and are not weaned until they are approximately 7 months old.

This over reliance upon the parent for food and protection, whilst it generates strong bonds between adults and infants, exposes the cubs to the attention of predators such as hyaena and indeed other intruding male lions. Once they have established control of a pride by defeating the incumbent male, the new male will kill all the cubs less than a year old in order to bring the females within the pride back into estrus and thus produce his own cubs and secure his bloodline.

Only a few weeks ago I was treated to something very special indeed. I was able to take my leave from Nyumbani for a few days and visit neighbouring Kruger National Park. After all, It’s just a 20 minute journey away. Here, I was able to witness something so DSC_4375 (2)unique it is unlikely to be seen by most safari goers even once in a lifetime. Seeing a wounded lioness hobble across the road, it became evident from her wounds that she had been gored by a wildebeest whilst making a kill. But she was clearly lactating and producing milk for cubs which she was likely to have hidden nearby. Within seconds there was the excited “yapping” of youngsters hidden under a nearby bush. Just moments later, 4 young cubs appeared and I rubbed my eyes in amazement. All 4 cubs were different colours and one was a pure white lion cub, something that is so infrequent in the wild that recorded cases are confined to only one area in the world, the Timbavati Region of South Africa. The rarity of seeing such a cub at this age (4 to 5 weeks old) is such that the last recorded infant of this age was in 1968. Indeed only a few adults are even known to exist in the region as many people believe that their coloration makes then particularly prone to predation and even if they manage to reach sub-adulthood, stealth hunting may cause them come problems due to lack of camoflague.

What a treat!!

Whilst lions are top of everyone’s list of “must see” animals on a visit to Africa, they do very little except rest and sleep for up to 20 hours per day. Sometimes this can lead to a somewhat serene sighting, not a lot happening, but if you really immerse yourself in studying these amazing animals you will be rewarded with an understanding of one of the closest bonded social structures in the animal kingdomDSC_8448. You will have an insight into a world in which to survive to just 1 year old is a battle in itself, and to advance beyond that, particularly for male cubs, is an even greater challenge. No wonder then, when you have sight of your first proud fully grown male lion, you gaze in awe at his majestic appearance. The reach that point in his life he has survived the killing fields of his youth; been ejected from the pride by the age of 3 years; found comfort by bonding with other journeying males of the same age; hunted and provided for himself for years whilst building up the strength to challenge and oust a dominant pride male. That is a journey in itself ….. and one for a blog another day perhaps!! Watch this space for more updates on our new arrivals in the months to come.

“The Night of the Pangolin”

Undoubtedly, the highlight of most guests’ safari in Africa, is the sight of a wild African lion on the hunt, or a herd of elephants moving majestically across the plains. These are the truly evocative African images that we all fall asleep thinking about. They shape our dreams of that first, or indeed next, safari in Africa. The popularisation of wildlife documentaries the world over has allowed people to witness, intimately, some of these majestic scenes and in doing so romanticises the view of a safari holiday in Africa. For me and my guiding colleagues on Nyumbani, the same holds true, but we dream also of sightings, of the rarest nocturnal animals, the one’s we know we have little chance of ever seeing. The joy of being able to share such a special sighting with your guests is immeasurable. But this is a story not so much of never giving up … but of never saying never!! You truly just do not know what will be around the next corner.

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For me, my nemesis has always been getting my first sighting of the elusive nocturnal Pangolin (Manis temminckii). So elusive has been my search for this animal over the past 20 years, that I began to believe it only existed in the place where unicorns live. My hopes and dreams were only kept alive by the very rare occurrence when a ranger colleague of mine, often on the way home from a boozy braii in the bush, stumbled across one in his path. Their descriptions of the elation they had in seeing this animal only served to ignite jealousy in me, and furthered my desire to find one myself on day. There are only 4 species of pangolin (also known as scaly anteaters) living on the African continent. Southern Africa, has only the one species which is ground dwelling, lives in burrows and forages only at night for ants and termites.

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The pangolin has no teeth, just a long 25cm sticky tongue to collect their prey after they have dug them from the ground with their strong sharp claws. What is peculiar for a mammal, is the fact that they don’t have loose hair covering their body, but have scales made from keratin which provide them with an armour plating which makes them look like reptiles in appearance. This tough exterior provides a unique protection for the pangolin as when under threat, it merely rolls itself into a tight ball to protect it’s softer undersides. When it is mobile, it often walks on it’s knuckles or its back legs, using it’s long tail for balance, thereby preventing wear and tear on those critical digging claws. Sadly, it biggest threat comes from man. Firstly they are poached extensively for their scales which are used in far eastern medicines. The South African population has been decimated as a result. Where they have not been poached, they have fallen victim to the electric fencing that surrounds game reserves as they attempt to burrow outside the confines of the reserves. A few months ago I was guiding a young couple on safari, on the anniversary of their wedding a year ago to the date. An amazing Brazilian couple who had already fallen in love with Africa within just a few days of arriving. I had been photographing 2 male cheetah earlier that day and I thought it would be a very special privilege to be able to share the experience of walking with these special creatures with this devoted couple. The smiles on their faces were reward enough for any guide and we left these special animals to enjoy our sunset over the Drakensburg with a vintage champagne to toast their continued happiness and a long life full of adventures. Long after dark, as we neared the lodge and a welcome return home for dinner, the radio crackled into life and it was my good friend Pierre, who was also guiding clients that evening on the reserve. The news that he had found me that elusive pangolin had my heart racing. But what of my guests? Had they even heard of a pangolin before? How did I convince them to turn around from the warmth of the lodge fireplace and head back out for a 30 minute drive south to check out this creature? I need not have worried. As soon as I told of my story, of my 20 year odyssey to see this elusive animal, they wanted to share the adventure. As we drove up to the sighting, Pierre’s vehicle was backlighting the creature which lay stationary, curled up tightly in the middle of the track. It gave the whole experience and unearthly appearance. Something quite extra-terrestrial in a way. My quest was over. I had my first pangolin sighting and I got to share it with people from the other side of the world who left me the next day with a vision of the beauty of Africa that went way beyond seeing a lion or an elephant. I heard them the next morning regaling their pangolin story to their fellow guests with as much excitement as I had done the night before when I retuned to the lodge.

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Chris Martin … elated with his first Pangolin!!

So when you join me and my team for your safari at Nyumbani Estate, remember this story. Every bend in the road holds the possibility of the greatest of surprises; you can never relax and let down your guard; never get too complacent … because just as you do, just as you think that Mama Africa hides away her greatest secrets, she lets you into her most intimate nocturnal domain and leaves you with a memory that goes beyond priceless!!

“Weaving Your Way into your Lady’s Heart”

One of the great joys of my early morning summer forays around Nyumbani is stopping for coffee at one of my favourite dams. Generally, most rangers have been working since way before dawn, and when I kick back and sip on my coffee my friends and family in the city are just hitting the snooze buttons on their alarm clocks!! Here, before the heat of the day has taken hold, I have time to think, soak up a bit of the peace and quiet that Nyumbani has to offer, and generally nearly always find myself doing a bit of birdwatching. But on an early summer morning, peace and quiet is a rare commodity in the weaver colonies at the water’s edge. It’s the time of the year for breeding and attracting a mate, and for the strikingly colourful weaver, the only way in which to secure the “prize” female is to demonstrate your house building skills. There’s no substitute for poor DIY skills here at the dam, you’ll just end up with nothing more than a lonely life with no son and heir!!

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The male of each species uses their intricate nest weaving skills to secure his lady of choice. Whilst each species has a design unique to themselves, in essence, each of them shares an incredible capacity to weave the most intricate of structures. When their new home is completed, the male then hangs upside down at the entrance flapping his wings excitedly trying to attract his female to inspect his handiwork. Females fly by surveying the best options available to them on the “property market”. A quick inspection confirms all her criteria have been met. Those that fail the test, have their nest destroyed and knocked from the tree. Watching their hard work floating away across the dam must be somewhat heartbreaking. The male that she deems to have the best home building skills is the one which she will select. The strength and firmness of the nest are the key criteria as this will ensure the safety of her clutch of eggs and the ensuing offspring. The final “furnishings” to the nest will be supplied by the female who will line the nest with soft materials before laying her eggs. An interesting study was commissioned to determine whether nest building is a skill that these birds learn, or whether it is an innate skill they have from birth. Guess what?? Hand-reared birds were able to build a fully functioning nest from the outset without mentoring from older birds. It showed also that over time the birds refined their technique to build a more sturdy structure but it’s incredible that chicks are born with the nest building skill imprinted in their DNA!! I’m glad that when I completed my home on the Blue Canyon Conservancy that my wife concurred that it was a nice structure and didn’t proceed to pull it down!! Nevertheless, all Nyumbani homeowners should be aware that sign off for all prospective homes on the reserve is the absolute preservation of the lady of the household!!

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Adventure, service, memories, that’s us!

Our ethos is quite simple really, for us we always wanted to create somewhere our guests felt secure, positioned in a wonderful place within nature, on a great adventure, and completely spoilt!  That is what we term as “the Nyumbani Estate experience”.

“What do you mean by that”, we hear you say?  “How are you any different to any other Lodge”?  Well, one would be justified in asking these questions, especially as there are so many safari lodges out there! The exception to this is, for us, the proof is in the doing!

Nyumbani Estate has been an amazing, life changing, and enriching journey for us, Mr Smith (Ian), and I.  When we first acquired the property, we simply enjoyed the land by spending many nights camping under the stars in our roof-top tent. We enjoyed taking in the views, learning about the condition of the land, and the game flow.  We could have developed so many types of experiences on this stunning piece of the Blue Canyon Private Nature Reserve, and, despite having full consent to develop up to 18 private homes, serviced by a 36-bed Lodge, our vision took a very different turn.  After seeing how different the animal behaviour is when not surrounded by properties, and enjoying such peace and tranquility with low impact ventures. We witnessed, first hand, how easily game settles down when people to animal interaction is so much calmer and low density.  Just how great it is to be able to go out and track game, in its most natural surroundings.  This resulted in the concept of Nyumbani Estate fully respecting the ethos of low impact, and low density build.

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Nyumbani Estate believes in sustaining, restoring, and developing a stunning example of nature, in its natural surrounds.  We believe the animals should be left to roam and survive in as natural an environment as possible. We believe that anyone who chooses to live in the backyard of nature should do so with as little intrusion and interference as possible.  It is essential for us to remember who the visitors really are when it comes to nature, and our role and our obligation as custodians to protect and sustain this.

We took the decision to go completely off grid. With no mains electricity, no mains water, and no mains gas, we had to develop a system appropriate, and robust enough to give us the ability to achieve our economic sustainability, without compromise to man, animal, or creatures. This also provided us with the option to make the Estate completely eco-friendly.  We operate on the blessings of the sun via our solar system. This provides our power. Our water is obtained directly from the ground, via a solar operated pump. No sun, no water! With only organic products, including all toiletries, cleaning and foodstuff, as well as focusing on developing some up-cycle and re-cycle interventions, through innovative ideas, within the business.  Being blessed with so much in our lives, we embraced simplicity in its truest form of providing comfort, safety, security, whilst being extremely comfortable, well taken care of, and making every day about the wildlife and the guests on equal terms.

Our focus on restricting our accommodation to only two spacious chalets has enabled us to maintain a personally focused experience for our guests, whilst being managed within a full service team, as if staying in a luxury 5+ star hotel.  Our on-site team consists of a personal Chef, driver, game team (of guide and tracker), housekeeper and groundsman. Mr Smith and I tend to host most of our guest stays, personally.  For us, the story is best told by our guests in their reviews of their stay with us on Nyumbani Estate.  It truly warms our hearts to see the broad grins on our guests faces as they return from game drive. To hear the ‘gasps of pleasure as they view the Lodge on the night time return from game drives. To hear the ‘exclamations’ of delight as they are served each course of their meals. To witness the enthusiasm over the bush fire stories of the adventures of the day.  We are also blessed with tears at check-out from some of our guests as they depart, and the genuine warm hugs as they depart. We absolutely love receiving ongoing correspondence with most of our guests after their return home.  Our guests arrive as strangers, but leave as friends.

For us, on Nyumbani Estate, this is what it is all about.  Nyumbani, in Swahili means “at home”, so your ‘Home Estate’ is your home in the South African bush. Nyumbani Estate provides a mutually appreciated existence between nature, the Lodge, the guests, and the owners – all having a common interest and a loving passion of learning/adapting to live well, as one,  together, and respectfully.

Maxine Smith – Co-Owner and Manager – Nyumbani Estate

 

Game Viewers – what actually goes on that vehicle for a game drive?

It is surprising to know the level of thought and organisation that goes into making a game drive a comfortable, exciting and an enjoyable experience.  For the guest, they simply get on the vehicle, full of great expectations and wait to be thrilled.  For the Lodge and the Game Ranger, there is so much that needs to happen beforehand that will influence what the experience will be for the guest.  We thrive to ensure our guests always have a happy and memorable experience.

For now, let us just focus on what is involved in getting that amazing vehicle called ’the game viewer’ ready.
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Mechanical fitness:
Regular maintenance and servicing can never be underestimated.  It is the difference between a comfortable or uncomfortable drive.  Nothing worse than a noisy vehicle in poor condition.  We have to make sure the tyres are good to reduce the likelihood of punctures whilst on game drive. The vehicle has to be fully equipped for breakdowns or getting stuck on soft ground (a common occurrence).  Things like a spare tyre, shovel, chains, tow ropes, short wood planks, jacks, etc. are a necessity.  Then there is the fuel, seems obvious, I know, yet these things have been known to happen on game drive.  The vehicle gets a good clean inside and out and the lights checked.
 
Equipment:
The vehicle has to be able to carry (some lodges supply) things like Binoculars and sun hats; and pre-requisites like spotlights, torches and ranger radios are all essential items.
Comfort and protection:
Whether taking an early morning or late night drive, warm blankets, hot water bottles, beanies, hand and foot warmers all go a long way to making the guest comfortable.  People just do not realise just how cool the bush can be early or late in any day.  Anoraks and/or Ponchos are really important as you will get wet on these vehicles should it rain. Some Lodges provide large umbrellas as most game viewers have no roof or drop down sides. The average game drive takes up to 3 hours, so that act of nature called the ’toilet break’ becomes an urgent necessity.  Small torches, wet wipes and zip bags for that urgent toilet need, with the equivalent of ‘doggy bags’ to make sure all waste items like toilet rolls and wipes come back and get disposed of properly and not left lying around in the bush. All these things need to be prepared, packed and available on that vehicle.
Sustenance:
Fresh and cool water, hot drinks, general refreshments and snacks are needed to be packed away in hot or cold storage on the vehicle.  Flasks, cooler boxes, portable fridges are part of a checklist of necessity for the guest provision.  Let us also remember the bush picnic and the essential sundowner with Gin & Tonics!
Oh, last but one of the most important is the provision of a knowledgeable and experienced Game Ranger.  No point getting on a well-prepared vehicle if the Ranger has no game knowledge, does not know the land or the game flow patterns on that land, is there!
Now, with all those things considered, in place and on that vehicle, time to enjoy what is 9 times out of 10, an amazing game drive with experiences that will stay with you forever.
Maxine Smith
Nyumbani Estate

Don’t under estimate the pull of the Bush!

If you would have asked me two years ago if I would like to go on a safari holiday, I would definitely have said no. I loved my sun holidays, lying on a lounger or the beach and topping up my tan. That was before I met Maxine and Ian Smith, then everything changed.

I started helping Maxine out with some admin duties in my spare time (which I don’t have a lot of being a mum to 4 boys). Maxine and Ian were in the early stages of starting up a safari holiday business, to run a small but luxurious bush lodge called Nyumbani Estate Bush Lodge. So, luckily for me, I was practically there from the start and they welcomed my input on many things.

I then started doing their Facebook/Twitter posts and was blown away by how beautiful the images and videos of the animals, sunsets and surroundings were from their South African home and the new up and coming bush lodge. It felt like a get away from my world and often imaged myself sitting have some elephant milk, ‘Amarula’, in the bush, surrounded by nature. I didn’t know a thing about Safari when I first started helping out; except that animals like lions, tigers, elephants and rhino’s all lived in the jungle (as I would have called it). But I now know that it’s called the ‘Bush’ and that there are no tigers in South Africa. South African elephants have bigger ears that Asian elephants. Rhino horns are worth a lot of money, which is why they are so cruelly hunted. These are only a tip of what I have learned from Maxine and Ian and not from Google. Ian’s knowledge of the bush and his passion for it is very heart warming. They are one of the nicest couples I have ever met and can’t thank them enough for including me in their adventure.

I’ve still not actually been on safari yet, and can only imagine how it would feel to be sitting in a game viewer jeep with elephants, lions and any other animals that I will be lucky enough to see, being right next to me. I think a whole lot of emotions would pass through your body, fear – definitely being one of them, but, excitement rapidly taking over. It is my ‘big’ birthday next year, and Safari in South Africa at the beautiful Nyumbani Estate Bush Lodge is definitely on my things to do when I turn 40.

Sandra Stuart – Marketing Co-ordinator – Nyumbani Estate

Phobias and The Bush – who says they don’t go together?

Anyone who has ever known me will know of my phobia of spiders, my nervousness of small insects and basically any insect type creature with more than 2 legs, yes, that means most crawlers.  You can imagine the utter shock within my family and friend circle when I announced, back in 2003, that I was embarking on a Voluntary Overseas Services (VSO) assignment for 2 years in Africa!  This is where one literally puts a complete hold on their day-to-day life and existence to embark on a volunteer programme, earning a stipend, a small living allowance,and sharing whatever your area of professional expertise is.  In my case, I was selected for my Business and Management skills in order to make strategic, operational and capacity building programmes which deliver sustainable positive impact within local communities.

As part of my preparation, I decided to do something about my fear, so, I attended a series of discussion groups conducted at Bristol Zoo Arachnophobia Course, where experts at the Zoo help people with extreme arachnophobia to overcome their fear of spiders through a combination of discussion, relaxation, hypnotherapy and education (learning about spiders).  I can bear witness to the fact that I went from a hysterical screaming banshee to a very relaxed, and comfortable ‘with spiders’ person.  At the end of the course, I was one of the many participants on the course who were eagerly waiting to hold, yes, you heard me ‘eagerly awaiting’ and ‘to hold’, a Tarantula.  It is a memory I still hold today.  My first surprise, aside from having one in my hand, was how furry and soft it was, in fact, it was beautiful.  They are fascinating creatures and I remember the education process of the course replacing my absolute and irrational fear, with complete respect for the intriguing and complex biology of the arachnid.  My journey to and from that course, which was conducted over a few sessions, involved me travelling some 3 hours and a stay with relatives, as I lived a way away.  Believe me, it was worth every mile journeyed.

For me, it was an essential part of my preparation to move over to Africa for a period of time.  My daily existence prior to that was having to live within a quick telephone dash of someone who would be able to simply drop everything just to respond to a regular hysterical phone call from a gibbering me as I screamed down the phone that I was about to be dragged out of the house, by my ankles, from the biggest, blackest, 8-legged beast I had ever seen my entire life, and, it was wearing Doc Martens!  Yes, my preparation for my ‘African’ experience was life-saving.  Most of my anticipation was in fear of the creepy, crawly things.  Actually, it completely overwhelmed my thoughts of the mental preparation of some of the real issues.  Fortunately, the VSO organisation provided a very comprehensive training and preparation process over a period of months to ensure everyone is physically and mentally prepared for the environment they were about to enter and the complex, diverse and challenging issues of working, living and coping in regions of dire poverty, deprivation, exploitation and in some cases civil unrest.

Preparation complete, I can honestly say, nothing and I mean absolutely nothing prepared me for all the other aspects of my experience.  My destination remained undisclosed until the final weeks of my pending exit.  My assignment was to work in the field of HIV/AIDS in South Africa.  This was my dream assignment, I considered myself so completely blessed to be given such an opportunity.  This is because as a Black person born in the UK in the 1960’s and cutting my professional ‘teeth’ in the UK in the Insurance & Finance Industry and later in the field of Media, Publishing and Senior Executive Management; I had a keen interest in cultural and race related issues facing the diaspora of Black people throughout the world, from slavery to modern days.  I had clear memories of the apartheid era of South Africa from all the media coverage we received in the UK and the extent of pure propaganda of both sides of the issues.  Anyway, that is a completely different story for another time.  Additonally, my relief was that they were not sending me to a ‘rain forest’ area as my imagination kept drifting off to that scene from Casablanca where Humphrey Bogart was hauling the ‘African Queen’ through leech dense waters in tropical heat, and he was covered in leeches!

Initially, I spent a lot of time in urban environments, this is where I experienced the ‘urban’ crawlers, things like Rain Spiders, Parktown Prawns and the like.  For the first 6 months I was fine and considered myself completely healed of any phobias (although, I still believe that Parktown Prawns are still one of the ‘ugliest’ things I have ever seen, and that smell, gross)! I soon discovered my phobia had returned when I conducted rural project work in the various Provinces of the Country.  So, for many years, as my 2-year assignment became 5 years.  I simply learnt to ‘cope’ with my phobia.  It most certainly did not stop me from going out to my very first safari in the Kruger National Park, an experience that was beyond words and something that stimulated many safari visits since.  Ironically, I now live part-time in the ‘Bush’, which is the Lowveld area of Limpopo and the safari gateway of South Africa.  My way of coping with both urban and rural living was to take the view of anything outside was fine, that was their space, and I was the visitor.  However, anything within my home space was a ‘non-rent paying intruder’ and, had to be dealt with accordingly.  I soon mastered the art of a near complete ‘creepy free living’ over the many years of my time in Africa.  I found a way to strike a balance with nature, and some coping mechanisms, so that I could still enjoy the amazing and simply stunning beauty of the land, whilst not being exposed to venomous reptile or harmful arachnids.  Living in the Bush took a while as I soon learnt that each season brought new experiences and climate swings (wet seasons and then droughts) bought with them various insect swarms.  Whilst initially a being quite overwhelming, I soon learnt and understood the purpose of these things are all part of our existence on this earth, and, I educated myself of the role that each and every living thing has to play on this planet.

So far, I have spent over 10 years living in Africa,  it is a Country I adore.  I have learnt to embrace the amazing experiences of its wildlife, safari is and will remain one of the most wonderful and exhilarating experiences I have ever enjoyed, hence my choice to have a home and business in that environment.  Having lived all my life with arachnophobia I recently embarked on a series of counselling sessions to breakdown why I have a phobia.  This involved a process through ‘multi-level processing’ (MLP), which taught me how to identify my fear triggers, how to hold and process my fear, and, through that process, I learnt how to embrace and absorb that fear.  I no longer hyper-ventilate when I come across large arachnids, or any of the creepies.  I will never like the look of some of them though, simply because ‘I do not like the look of them’, not because they grip me with fear, because they no longer do.  I will always apply caution around most of them, especially in hot or tropical climates, simply because some of them can bite, sting, or penetrate your skin/body and cause pain, suffering, or, in some extreme cases, death.  So, common-sense prevails, I found myself yet again with a spider in my hand.  Not a tarantula, but a nice big meaty black one and it was OK.

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I now live my life in the knowledge that to some things, it is me that is  really scary, I must be, because they hurry off and scuttle away as soon as they see me.  No, I am not talking of my fellow humans (although saying that, there may be one of two who still do)!  I am talking of my fellow earth creatures, the ones I have learned to live with, to put outside and not squash, vacuum or spray them.  I have earnt an immense respect for most things that crawl around and because of that, my life is enriched by being able to live between two very rural and stunningly beautiful parts of the world in both Scotland and in South Africa, embracing nature, its wonderment, and its glory in both.

Maxine Smith – Director – Nyumbani Estate Bush Lodge, South Africa.