Meet Field Guide Roy Mkansi
Roy has been working in the bush for just over 20 years now – including 8 years as a tracker, and almost 13 years as a guide.
“I was born to a family of rangers and trackers, and our skill has been passed down from generation to generation. I grew up in the bush, and every day after school I would go out into the wilderness to look after my father’s cattle and goats. When we were children at home, our elders were always talking about animal behaviour – and it was from back then that my passion and excitement was ignited. I grew up knowing that one day I would be a field guide. I love the bush more than anything. My brother taught me a lot about the bush and eventually my dream came true!”
Roy speaks of his favourite sighting…
“I remember an afternoon drive when we were following up on lion tracks – 2 males and 2 females. They were still young – around 4 years old – and they were siblings. They were hunting a buffalo. They attacked it before dark, and it took them almost 45 minutes to bring it down. Buffalo don’t go down without a fight… These lions were still young and didn’t have the experience to catch such big prey, so I was surprised that they ended up killing it.
The next morning, we returned to the same spot to check if there was activity around the carcass. Imagine our surprise when we found those same lions attacking and fighting a honey badger! After almost 1 hour they eventually killed it. That was the first time I witnessed a fight between these two species. Honey badgers are fierce. You can imagine how any lesser animal would have fared…”
An unforgettable memory, Roy?
“That would have to be the most dangerous sighting I have ever been in. We were tracking one big male lion with females in the morning. We could not find them because the bush was too thick, so we headed back to the lodge. In the afternoon I insisted that we (my tracking partner and I) return to where we had left the tracks earlier in the day. We found the spot where the last track headed in a certain direction, and I instinctively made the call to walk the opposite way. We eventually found the cats in thick bush… but they were not quiet and still. In fact, they charged us!
We started walking backwards, but the male lion kept moving towards us and growling. As we stopped walking, he stopped too. But as soon as we started retreating again, he growled and moved forward. We made the call to simply stop for a while. There we were – face to face with this apex predator, just looking at each other. You cannot imagine the feeling of a big cat like this growling directly at you from just 12 feet away. Eventually he started to move away. When it became silent, we slowly and cautiously made our way back to our vehicle.
Even after this harrowing encounter, I still love the bush. This is where I need to be…”