Meet Field Guide Jordan Jacobson
Nicknamed “Nkoka” (meaning dragmark or ‘Ndzopfori’ after the Tamboti tree), Jordan takes us through his guiding journey…
“My father worked in the Kruger National Park before I was born. I was brought up in Johannesburg, but visited the bush often. The stories my father told me when I was young ran through my mind continuously. For as long as I can remember, my only intention was to leave the city and work in the bush as soon as I could.
I spent school holidays shadowing guides in different game reserves in the lowveld. As soon as I matriculated in 2007, I spent about 6 months in different reserves – mostly in the Northern Kruger – doing courses through Eco Training to become a guide. I started working almost immediately, and basically gained experience until I was 21 and old enough to get a PDP license. You can only start guiding officially from the age of 21 because you can only legally get a PDP then.”
Why did you want to become a guide?
“I actually just wanted to work in the bush. I am quite an extrovert, so working with people was a perfect option for me. I get a lot of thrill from making people happy, and the joy that guests get from learning and witnessing animals in their natural surroundings while observing their behaviour was a big thing for me … that magical connection between animals and people.”
Your favourite sighting?
“My favourite type of sighting since I’ve been in the Sabi Sand Reserve has definitely been the interaction between the wild dogs and hyena. One particular experience stands out, which was such highly atypical behaviour between two apex predators…
Predators usually avoid one another, unless they are fighting or trying to steal one another’s kills. Imagine our surprise when we found two archrivals – the wild dogs and hyena – sniffing and licking each other! This is not the first time we have seen wild dogs and hyenas amicably interacting in close proximity at Arathusa. This is very unique, to say the least.
It’s so interesting how the different behaviours between the predators in the Sabi Sands changes all the time. Everything that you learn and read in books just changes when you’re out here. With these territorial animals, you start to really get to know them as well as you would your own pets. They have their own habits, moods and personalities, and it’s really a special thing to come to understand and recognise.”
Most unforgettable memory?
“The one ultimate memory that I’ll never forget was when we were coming back from a drive on the way to the lodge. We bumped into a male lion walking on the road. He was vocalising and roaring. He went for a drink of water at a dam, and as he bent down for a drink, a massive crocodile popped up in front of him!
These are two really big apex predators in two different worlds – one in water and one on land – and they both went at each other … but only vocally. The lion started snarling and growling, and the crocodile opened its mouth and was hissing and bellowing. They eventually calmly stopped and moved off. The lion went his way and the croc slid back into the water. It was really cool to witness, and was a very fulfilling moment.”
Any interesting facts you’d like to share?
“Guiding is a part of being in the bush and learning from its people, so I took a very strong interest in the Tsonga people, and I managed to learn the language fluently – I can read and write it too. The culture of the Tsonga people and how they grew up in the bush as part of the bush fascinates me.
Another massive interest of mine is trees. I took it upon myself to learn all their names in Tsonga, as well as their medicinal uses. I’ve done quite a lot of personal work in this field. Amongst other things, I also do a lot of wood art and carpentry. I make canes and walking sticks. I just enjoy the life in the bush and living here, and the odd beer every now and then too 😉
It was definitely a calling for me to be the African bush: I feel a supreme sense of belonging, contentment and peace. I feel joy when I can share my passion for wildlife and the bush with our guests.”