It was one of those trips where everything felt right and it began, that feeling and trip, with a man named Jackson Lemunge.
As our plane touched down on the airstrip on a clearing in the Chyulu Hills, I glimpsed him out of the small window, along with two game vehicles, one fetching guests, to take us to ol Donyo Lodge, and one dropping off guests.
I stepped off the plane and spotted horses trotting closer and closer until they drew to a stop in front of us. I watched a woman dismount and head over to meet her luggage in the departure vehicle. I watched her collect her bags, before making her way onto the plane. I saw hugs and cheek-kisses and laughs and I realised that I had stumbled right into the middle of all the emotion that comes with the coming and going of travel. The sad goodbyes and joyous welcomes, but more importantly the overriding warmth of people connecting over something more than themselves – over the wilderness, over Kenya’s Chyulu Hills.
Jackson loaded my bags onto our vehicle and off we drove, toward a horizon broken by large journeys of giraffe. Over the next few days, Jackson and I would chase horizon after horizon, but more than that, we would move from strangers to friends, in the way you do on safari, in a wilderness that instantly feels like home.
We shared tales of our own homes, our love of photography, people who have influenced us, places we’ve been, beliefs we hold and values we keep. We shared time and space and a single game vehicle in the greatness of the Kenyan wilderness and I knew that leaving would be hard. That I too would feel the sadness of the goodbye, but the deep joy and warmth of having truly connected with someone.
Get to know the man, the guide, the photographer, Jackson Lemunge for yourself in our short Q&A below, featuring photos by Jackson himself… and of him, captured in the one or two moments that he allowed me to raise my lens to him. As is the photographer’s way…
10 Questions with ol Donyo Lodge’s Jackson Lemunge
1. 5 things working at ol Donyo Lodge has taught you about yourself, life and love?
- Time is precious
- One cannot have it all, but that said…
- Nothing is enough. Keep pushing.
- Every coin has two sides.
2. What is your role at ol Donyo Lodge and how did your path lead you to the lodge?
I’m a tour guide. I was introduced to Richard Bonham, one of the co-owners of ol Donyo Lodge, which is how I came to work here. I started out as a motor vehicle mechanic, working in the workshop. And today I’m a guide and keen photographer.
3. How did your love of photography begin?
I started by playing around with a camera that was in our camp and I loved it straight away. I’ve learnt more and more as I continue to play with it and take it out on game drives.
4. How has photography changed the way you see nature and life?
It has made me truly see and appreciate how beautiful nature is and the deep need to conserve it. Photography is a trade off, a bit of trial and error, like life.
5. The main thing to remember when living in a wilderness reserve like ol Donyo Lodge’s?
Safety. And listen to your guide.
6. As a Maasai man, how does the culture, your background and traditions, guide you in life?
It has taught me a greater awareness of what is happening around me. It has taught me how to look for tracks when walking or in the game vehicle, how to listen to the sounds of nature and pick up the unique smells of the wilderness that can lead you to wildlife sightings, that can tell you all you need to know. It has taught me how to read the signs.
7. A never-forget moment at ol Donyo Lodge?
The pride I felt when l received my silver level as a guide and having one of my guests comment on it…
8. What, to you, makes ol Donyo Lodge and the Chyulu Hills so special?
The view, the exclusivity and the people.
9. What inspires you out in this wilderness from day to day – in your work and in life?
Meeting people of different walks of life, nationalities and ages inspires me. It has taught me that sharing what you know and have with another can change one’s life.
10. Your favourite time of day and year at ol Donyo Lodge and the best way to spend it?
Early morning and evening, taking pictures. What matters is how the day ends.