From high school teacher to field guide – a natural fit! Tinyiko Godfrey Baloyi was born and bred in the Makuleke community. He completed his education at Shingwedzi College of Education in 1988. Due to lack of employment opportunities in teaching at that time he swapped teaching for guiding and found his calling not least due to the similarities between guiding and teaching.
It all started for Godfrey when Pafuri Camp opened in 2005. Initial guiding was not easy as the animals in the area were not used to people and as soon as they heard a vehicle they would run away.
“You know, this is one of the best birding spots in South Africa, so I realised that in order to survive as a guide I needed to get to know the birds. Fortunately there were great guides (Johnson Mlambo, Simon Stobbs and Fraser Gear) who never failed to help, inspire and mentor me in identifying the birds and their interesting factors.
Godfrey soon became one of the most knowledgeable birding guides in the Makuleke region.
“Even though the animals of Pafuri are now much more relaxed, birding is still my passion. My favourites are the Gorgeous Bush Shrike and the Pel’s Fishing Owl.”
Godfrey also loves the unpredictability of the bush.
“We were tracking a lioness into the Hutwini Gorge when we lost her. We continued walking for about 20 metres and then found male lion tracks instead of the initial female tracks. We stopped and tried to figure what was going on. When I looked up at the rocks I saw the big male, 15 metres away, watching us. We waited for about 10 minutes and then walked to the other side of the gorge and climbed onto one of the big rocks so that we were level with the lion. We were only 20 metres away from each other but there a dip between the two rocks so we both felt safe. To watch a lion like that, so close up was incredible for me and of course, the guests loved it too.”
Godfrey’s favourite animal is the elephant.
“Especially the breeding herds with small babies.”
“A guest once asked me how big an elephant nest is,” Godfrey laughs.
Godfrey says the guests sometimes say the funniest things.
“On one game drive a woman asked me how often the giraffe hunt. When I told her only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday she turned to her husband and said, ‘oh my gosh, did you hear that Bob?’”
Today Godfrey is the General Manager for RETURNAfrica.