If I had to tell you what question I’ve been asked most during the last couple of months, it wouldn’t be: “What’s the difference between black and white rhino?” or “Why does the elephant make that noise?” With my accent giving me away as a foreigner, I’m most commonly asked: Why and when did you decide to become a field guide and move to South Africa?”
People come here to enjoy the bush and see the animals but while doing that, they discover there’s a bunch of people who work and live in the bush day in and out. They become curious about those strange creatures who choose such a different lifestyle to the rest. Sometimes even more so about me, because I’m Belgian, 38 years old, and left a career in Belgium behind.
There’s no simple answer to this question. It didn’t happen overnight and I didn’t grow up with the dream of becoming a field guide. The truth is, it was a long process and I gave it a lot of serious thought before I decided to go for it. But once you’ve got a passion for the bush, you will keep coming back. The African wild became my second home, where my heart lay. My love for the bush grew stronger and I realised being out here, surrounded by stunning scenery and amazing wildlife, was my future.
And so this is where I am now – in a dream place, in a dream job! It’s not easy, it’s hard work and long days – but every sunrise and sunset, and guests leaving with unforgettable memories make it worth it. Who was it that said: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”? They were absolutely right! Planting that little seed of passion for our wildlife, seeing other people fall in love with the bush, and relaxing and enjoying the simple things in life – I get to do it over and over again.
Is it perfect? No, because to follow my heart I had to leave my family and friends behind. Having an ocean between us is difficult. But I’m grateful for their support and love. In the end, there are two guidelines in my life: ‘do what you love’ and ‘you can’t regret the things you’ve never tried’. Together with the love of my family and friends, I can say this opportunity makes me a pretty lucky girl!
Words by: Annelies Waegeman