Images and post courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.
A particularly likeable character and safari guide based at Davison’s Camp, who has been with the company for some 22 years, is one Douglas Muyambo; or Dougie, aka Dhatso.
Born in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe in the Makoni District, guiding was never Dougie’s greatest desire or passion – rather it was to pursue the life a of lorry driver or bus driver, as he marveled at the huge trucks used for hauling timber in the Eastern Highlands. Perhaps even a life on one of the many tea plantations in that area, but never in his wildest dreams did a career in the safari industry cross his mind.
I wanted to get to know more about this gentleman who received a long-service award from Wilderness Safaris two years ago in recognition of his loyalty and continuous service.
Dougie’s career started after high school when he left Makoni for Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city. He was searching for any form employment while staying with an uncle; however, work in Bulawayo was not forthcoming and he found himself at Kamativi tin mine. Sadly Kamativi shut down before Dougie could find a job here, so packing his meagre belongings into his duffle bag, he headed to the next town, Hwange, and started selling curios at a garage to motorists travelling between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.
His career breakthrough came one morning when a gentleman by the name of Brian Worsley noticed him during his several trips past this garage while leading tented camping trips to Hwange National Park. Young Dougie’s big laugh and affable smile caught Brian’s attention and Brian and his companion Lindi Stein gave Dougie $10 to travel to Vic Falls to take up a position as a general hand on the tented safari trips that Wilderness Safaris was running back then. Not knowing Vic Falls at all and having no relatives there, Dougie hit the road one more time and waited for Brian at the bus station upon his arrival in the town. For some reason Brian had forgotten that he had told Dougie to be in Vic Falls that day and Dougie had to spend the night at the local bus stop until the next morning when Brian remembered and rushed to fetch him! That was 1994, as Dougie clearly remembers.
Starting off as a general hand and helping set up camps (plus a number of other duties), Dougie became Lindi’s favourite and she decided to train him as a bush cook for the times she would be away. Cooking became the best job Dougie had ever had, while the interaction with guests propelled him to get his driver’s license. Encouraged by other members of the team, he began to consider becoming a safari guide.
In 1996 Dougie wrote his learner guide’s licence test but failed. Not being one to give up easily he passed on his second attempt. But even with his learner guide’s licence in his pocket, opportunities to guide were few in those days and he settled for cooking in camp.
These mobile tented camps would run in Hwange National Park in areas like Sinamatella and Kennedy for a minimum of three days at each spot before striking camp and moving on to Chizarira Game Reserve for another three nights, Matusadonha Game Reserve for a few nights, then a ferry ride across Lake Kariba before driving into Mana Pools and camping in areas like Nyamepi and Ndungu, the latter being the final spot. After striking camp for the very last time the crew would make tracks back to Vic Falls with all the camping kit and gear.
From 1997 Dougie was posted to a mobile camp in the Matusadonha area along the Ume River; this was a seasonal camp that ran for some nine months every year. The same drill of breaking up camp would be undertaken just before the first rains and all the kit had to be taken back to Vic Falls for safe keeping and repairs.
Another lucky break came in 2002 when Dougie was transferred to Hwange to be a chef at the old Linkwasha Camp. Still armed with his guiding license but no opportunities, Dougie refused to give up hope and in 2009 he was appointed to a relief guide position on the concessions, his duties mainly involving the transfer of guests from Hwange Main Camp to our camps, as well as undertaking airstrip transfers. This all gained Dougie invaluable experience.
2014 was Dougie’s breakthrough year and he began life as a full-time safari guide for Wilderness Safaris on their Makalolo and Linkwasha Concessions in Hwange National Park.
His famous laughter and big smile is ever-present and his popularity for stories told around the fireplace keeps guests entertained – and in stitches. Dougie’s love for the bush and passion for people is undiminished after 22 years. His dedication and loyalty are exemplary and I salute him, as do the numerous young men here who want to emulate his conduct and career path in the company that has raised and nurtured him.
Written by Eddie Mudzimu. Photograph by Mike Myers. This article has been reposted in partnership with Wilderness Safaris. See the original here.