Vuyani Mbuzwa’s strong connection to the natural world and previous experience as a tracker and wilderness trails guide gives him the edge when it comes to sharing the wonders of the Kalahari with his guests.
Becoming a safari guide was a natural progression for Vuyani Mbuzwa, a qualified and experienced tracker, who grew up in Lusikisiki, Pondoland, on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. Vuyani had always wanted to be a teacher, but after finishing school in 2008 he qualified as a cultural site guide and went to work for Drifters Adventure Tours on the Wild Coast. A year later, in 2010, he was part of the first intake of students to gain a professional tracking qualification through the Tracker Academy, which was started by two of his mentors, Renias Mhlongo and Alex van den Heever.
“Being selected to study through the Tracker Academy was a game changer for me”, says Vuyani, describing the intense year of practical learning and studying that included six months at Samara Private Game reserve followed by another six months at Londolozi Private Game Reserve. Vuyani fell in love with birding at Samara, and really enjoyed learning about animal behaviour, tracks and signs. He completed FGASA Level 1, Level 3 Track & Sign, and Level 3 Trailing.
From 2011 to 2019, Vuyani was part of the Wilderness Leadership School in KwaZulu-Natal, leading wilderness trails in Hluhluwe Imfolozi National Park. Working with highly experienced guides, he remembers this as a time of intense learning that included the incredible opportunity to spend six weeks in Chile as part of an exchange programme.
“Going to Chile was an eye opener. I came back to South Africa with a greater appreciation of our country’s biodiversity.”
Vuyani says his time with the Leadership School helped him to find the purpose and value of being a guide. “I noticed that people are hungry to connect with nature. The people I guided spoke of having a deep need to come to Africa to get in touch with nature, humanity and themselves.”
Vuyani is also a qualified Spirit of the Wild facilitator, a specialised training course in personal and leadership skills development he completed at Bergplaas Game Reserve in the Karoo.
“This programme taught me to guide intuitively so that I can help my guests reconnect with nature – as a guide, I am the gateway between the wildlife and my guests.”
A lot of what he learnt before arriving at Tswalu informs and inspires him every day in his chosen career as a field guide. “I strive to restore the balance between people and nature by trying by all means to connect my guests to nature and to give them a direct experience.”
Vuyani is currently studying towards a FGASA NQF4 (previously known as a Level 2 qualification). His advice for anyone wishing to become a guide is to study very hard and learn from experienced guides.
Main image taken by Trevor Kleyn.