The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority has recently restructured and expanded its staff complement, introducing fresh new faces and ideas to take the organisation into the next phase of development.
One of our recent arrivals is Mr Bheki Manzini, Communications and PR Manager, who although originating from Manguzi near the far northern Kosi Bay section of the Park, has not previously had the pleasure of exploring the rest of the World Heritage Site. Together with Media Liaison Officer Debbie Cooper, he recently spent a couple of days scouting out the Western Shores, uMkhuze and False Bay sections – notching up a whole lot of ‘firsts’ in the process.
In Manzini’s words
“As we descended the road through the Lebombo Mountains to the eMshophi Gate I thought ‘WOW! This is a beautiful area.’ I’ve read about uMkhuze, especially how devastating the recent drought was, but all around me I just saw tall grass and lush vegetation. After inspecting the campsite, hides and several Mantuma Camp facilities, we met up with PJ Roberts from Wildlife ACT, the team that undertakes monitoring of endangered species in iSimangaliso. Off we went into the setting sun in search of wild dogs. PJ demonstrated the telemetry equipment – which honestly takes some sort of skill to differentiate between the beeping sounds. Almost miraculously, we rounded a corner and there in the road were two wild dogs, posing beautifully. I promptly declared this the best day of my life!
And it was about to get better… our next attempt was to locate two of the Park’s lions. Although it was starting to get dark, we scanned the vicinity where the beeps were strongest and yes! There was a distinct pale golden head encircled by a mane, glaring at us from a distance. (I was quite comfortable with that distance thank you – enough excitement for Day One.)
The next morning (after a relatively sleepless night hearing bush babies, rutting impala and other scratchy noises that I imagined to be made by scary creatures) uMkhuze Conservation Manager Eduard Goosen devoted his personal time to escort us to the picnic site and bird hides overlooking iNsumo Pan, and I had to agree with him that this is an absolutely spiritual place to forget the worries of the world. Due to good rains, it was too wet to walk very far into the Fig Forest walk but I did manage to safely negotiate two rope and wooden swing bridges in the company of rowdy baboons. Another first!
Leaving uMkhuze via Ophansi Gate, we headed to the False Bay section where I learned some of the secrets of the sand forest that fringes this large expanse of Lake St Lucia. Here is yet another pace to find freedom, and on a midweek morning we had it all to ourselves. The return journey led us to the Western Shores through Nhlozi Gate, stopping at Charters Creek to gaze across the Lake again at the distant dunes. And it was here that I was abruptly reminded that as gentle as the scenery looks, this is still a very wild place!
Taking a phone call, I wandered over to a picnic table on the side of the Lake. I heard a grunting noise, followed by a second one, coming from the reeds a few metres away. But, distracted by my conversation, I didn’t pay attention until, with a third loud grunt, a head popped up in front of my face. A huge, black, horn-topped head with a pair of mean eyes… a buffalo! I steadily backed up to the car and feel eternally blessed that the animal didn’t follow me. (I later learned that this is most unlike a buffalo and it could have been a very dangerous encounter). Suitably rattled, I paid very close attention to my surroundings from then on as we made our way around the rest of the sights, especially on the long walk through thick forest to the uMthoma Aerial Boardwalk overlooking the Lake narrows. By then, the loud snorts of the hippos had added themselves to the chorus of startling noises and I was starting to really get a sense of the full bush experience. It was very special to spend a long while with a polite giraffe who stood quietly grazing next to our car, allowing me to video him, before heading back to St Lucia as the sun set. My dreams that night were full and vibrant – of sights, sounds, and particularly, a large black head with monstrous horns…
I can truly say that the small part of this vast Park that I have seen so far has opened my eyes to a really beautiful and special, unique, landscape of biodiversity. There is still so much more to discover and I cannot wait to do so!”
Other new staff
Other staff that have recently joined the iSimangaliso family are:
Mr Caiphus Khumalo (DEA secondment) – Socio-Economic Development
Ms Balu Sibiya – Executive Assistant to CEO
Mr Bheki Mabika – Tourism Contract Manager
Ms Nombusa Memela – Human Resources Manager
Ms Dumi Gumede – Supply Chain Officer
Mr Ntokozo Tembe – Contract Manager, Land Care
We extend a warm welcome to all and hope that they also make the most of the opportunity to explore the beautiful Park in which they work!
Media enquiries should be directed to Debbie Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org.