Godfrey the Great
A day with Godfrey Mathebula, what a treat! Godfrey is nothing less than a legend around Motswari. On March 1st this year he celebrated being an integral part of our operations for 21 years.
As Assistant General Manager he is also our Field Operations Manager. He likes to keep his hand in on the guiding and get out in the bush when he can and we’re delighted he does. One thing I learned during my time with Godfrey is that if he was to come back as an animal, he wouldn’t want to be an impala, that would be too stressful. His preference is to come back as a bull elephant so he can chill, eat all day and push trees down at leisure – sounds pretty perfect.
His experience and knowledge speak volumes. Godfrey is a Level 3 Trails Guide as well as Level 3 SKS (Special Knowledge and Skills) in birding, so is well placed to be a Guide mentor as well as being a qualified FGASA Invigilator. There’s not a leaf, insect, bird he doesn’t know something fascinating about. On this occasion, Godfrey was driving guests out of Geiger’s Camp, a family of four from Cheltenham in the UK. Literally as we drove out of Geiger’s Camp a plethora of birds presented themselves. The grey go-away bird, green wood-hoopoe, magpie shrike, fork-tailed drongo, hornbills galore to name but a few. Some even gave us time to take a photo.
Having already had magnificent sightings of elephant and lion over the previous 2 days, the mission when I joined them was to find a leopard. Godfrey suitably shifted responsibility onto me being a lucky charm for them as I was a newcomer to the vehicle. With that cheeky smile and twinkle in the eye, he did it brilliantly and I promptly started saying my prayers for leopards to jump out of the bush for us, desperately keen not to disappoint Godfrey the Great!
Within an hour we were called into a sighting where two leopard cubs had been found earlier by another member of the team. Only the female was visible as the male had decided he wasn’t up for being on the catwalk this morning. She was beautifully camouflaged in some long grass at the base of a riverbank. She glanced up every now and again to look at the eyes watching her, totally relaxed and unmoved by our presence. The vehicle was suitably ensconced in admiration at what lay before them. Finally, they had laid their eyes on this majestic cat and clearly, I wasted no time in taking all the credit (which of course I had nothing to do with!)
Moving on from here having had some quality time with her, we meandered off into a thicker area and picked up some buffalo tracks. Godfrey and his tracker Hendry were following the tracks and signs before them. We found ourselves on the Timbavati tar road and that’s where the buffalo tracks were seen crossing the road into an area we were unable to traverse. A hint of disappointment, however with an unfenced area like the Greater Kruger this can happen from time to time – them’s the breaks as they say! As if African karma felt sorry for us, we all looked up and about 400m in front of us on the road was a large cat-like animal walking…..what was it? First thought, hyena…..yet Godfrey said no, that’s a cat! It was in fact a huge male leopard sauntering on the road. As we approached, he seemed to get spooked and left the road to walk in the bush where he feels more comfortable and confident with his camouflage. Sure enough we peeked a back here and a tail there, but the road view we had from a distance was most definitely the best. Leopard number two – wow!
As we head back to camp another call comes in from the team. Shongile, a known female leopard who is often close to Motswari main camp, had been found. By the time we arrived in the area she was on the move which always makes it a bit tricky to follow. However, we did get a glimpse of her and there was also a smaller tail and body! She had a cub with her, this is fantastic news. Although we didn’t get a great visual and definitely not a photo opportunity, we got a glimpse and that brought our tally for the morning to four.
Four leopards in one drive – not bad, Godfrey the Great, not bad at all, but I’m still taking some of the credit.