10 Questions with ol Donyo Lodge’s Jackson Lemunge

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 watched horses trotting closer and closer and saw a woman disembark to meet her luggage in the departure vehicle. I watched her collect her bags, before making her way onto the plane once I had disembarked. 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?

  1. Patience
  2. Time is precious
  3. One cannot have it all, but that said…
  4. Nothing is enough. Keep pushing.
  5. 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 to be aware and alert about what is happening around me, and how to look for tracks on the earth, how to listen to the sounds and pick up the unique smells of the wilderness that can lead you to animal sightings, and 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.

The Gift of Yoga in the Wilderness of South Africa

Julia Geffers is a traveller driven by a passion for compassion. It is a passion that has led her, as a Registered Yoga Teacher, to share the art of yoga with schools in disadvantaged communities. Julia is also the Director of Hotel Member Services at Relais & Châteaux.

The schools she has brought the power of the mat to are the  Digital Learning Campuses of the Good Work Foundation, a registered NGO that has been working with grassroots education in Africa since 2003, and that is supported by Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

After experiencing the joys of an African safari at Londolozi, Julia headed into the local community to visit GWF’s Hazyview and Huntington campuses to share the joys of yoga with the young learners. The students, the process, the community would give her so much more in return.

In a blog for the Good Work Foundation, Julia shares how the foundation became a home away from home where she could realise that deep passion for compassion.

Words below by Julia Geffers. Discover more about GWF and Londolozi.

Throughout our lives we are told  that we need to build our future and our homes. We are told that there are plans to follow, career plans, personal life plans, you are supposed to do, to be, to have, according to guidelines someone someday defined. Looking at  those guidelines more closely you realize that they have nothing to do with who you are. Nevertheless in our childhood and youth we follow the rules given to us without asking too many questions.

Until one day – the day – we start wondering why the nicely prepared plan apparently does not work out  and we start questioning the plan altogether.  I had it all figured out in my plan: have a family, have a career, play my sports, live in a  nice place…in a few words, a plan as written on one of the hallmark greeting cards.  Life does not work that way though and when things to do not go according to plan,  latest then is the moment when we start listening to our call inside.

A  few years back I started questioning the order of things and took off on a quest to my true self and my deep calling. I wandered in a confusing labyrinth of people, places and events, I went through moments of happiness and dark times, through sadness and tears as well as laughter and joy. What was I searching? After all I have a loving family, dearest friends, an accomplishing career and the opportunity to live a full and satisfactory life. I am deeply grateful for the blessings I have received and this search is not triggered out of dissatisfaction or sense of something missing.

The search inside myself is more the fruit of the certainty that there is another purpose in my life that so far I have not fulfilled, a void in me that, despite all goodness I have received, needs filling. It turns out what I thought needed filling actually was a need to give. A need to be there for others, to share some of my wealth – my personal wealth in terms of learning/lessons I have received, studies I was allowed to make, experience I lived and help others find their path.

Giving, this is the clear calling in my heart.

Where to start? How do you give? Whom do you give to? Is it arrogant to think you have something to give in the first place? Many questions in my heart and in my mind on this urge I feel, but do not quite know what to do with.

One fine day a dear friend takes me to a place close to her heart – a place where young humans are given the opportunity to change their lives thanks to access to education and learning. A place hidden in the deep heart of South Africa, in a rural community that has experienced hard times, apartheid, sickness, drought, economic recession, poverty. A place where generations live under the same roof to support each other but also because there is no alternative. In this place the first digital learning center has seen the day a few years ago: a concept so simple and yet such a challenge: bring learning to people so they are given the opportunity to change their lives. A challenge that goes way beyond the individual since the change this is bringing about is an entire shift in generations of people.

My friend takes me there and I immediately feel I have arrived where I belong. It is nothing rational nor is it possible to really explain it with words. I simply know that this is it…

I wish I could come back and be part of this – in any possible way – by giving something I have my energy, my love, my smile and of course my time.

The Good Work Foundation has become my home, the place where I can be the best version of myself and be there for others.

Home is where the heart is they say and my heart is here with this incredible group of people who devote their lives and work to building a better world – actively and concretely. With words but also with facts and vision.

Home is where children come with joy and enthusiasm to learn guided by young adults who have had the same calling: educate, teach, share knowledge and generate growth.

Home is where youngsters have access to education and can make a choice to change their lives through knowledge.

Home is where I can share everything I have to contribute to a smile, to a growth, to life.

Here is home, a home where I am finally able to give, a place where I can share, where I can contribute to something that may appear small far away from here and in reality is a huge opportunity and a chance to make an impact. It is a first stride to something that step by step can change the world. Thank you Kate, Ryan, Gogo, Shan, Dave and the entire team of the Good Work Foundation as well as to all the young human beings who are giving me the opportunity to follow my call: the call of GIVING.

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Julia shares her passion for Yoga with Bridging Academy Students from the Huntington Digital Learning Campus.

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Bridging Academy Students at Hazyview campus take a break from digital learning to a relaxing yoga session with Julia.

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Open Learning Student pulls one of the most difficult yoga moves Julia showed them.

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“Home is where the children come with joy and enthusiasm to learn, guided by adults who have had the same calling – educate, teach, share knowledge and generate growth.”

10 Questions with Chloe Grotto, Camp Jabulani’s Elephant Whisperer

Chloe Grotto is the elephant researcher at Camp Jabulani, but spend more than five minutes with her and you realise there is so much more to her than lab coats and clipboards.

I first encountered Chloe at the launch for the new Camp Jabulani elephant experience in the Kapama Private Game Reserve of South Africa.

Here, the Chicago, Illinois native spoke animatedly about one of the less glamorous aspects of life in the wild. She even went so far as to refer to herself as resident “poopologist”, but she did so in a manner so alive with passion that you couldn’t help but pay attention – to her message and to her, the individual. Through her fascination with the African wild, its animals and yes, even their bathroom habits, you can’t help but find your own love for safari life, for real, raw nature, reignited. We had to find out more.

Meet Chloe in our 10 Questions below and follow her adventures at Camp Jabulani on Instagram. For more information about the lodge, click here and follow their Instagram tales for a glimpse from the field.

10 Questions with Chloe Grotto of Camp Jabulani

 

1. 5 things working at Camp Jabulani has taught you about yourself, life and love?

1. I am a lot braver than I ever imagined I could be. Walking with these amazing giants every day and running face to face into lions regularly will bring out that fight or flight response in a person quickly!

2. I still hate bugs even though they are virtually everywhere in the bush. Especially red romans, yuck!

3. Appreciate the little things in life, like the sun setting, a laugh with a friend, a call from your mom and dad… those small things make a world of difference.

4. Friends are family. Being 1,000’s of miles away from home with a huge ocean separating me from my sisters and parents is daunting to say the least. I never could have made it this far and been so happy living in the bush if it hadn’t been for my little family I made here at the lodge. I owe them everything.

5. Africa time is a real thing! Everything that needs to be arranged, will be, after some time…

2. What is your role at Camp Jabulani and how did your path lead you to the lodge?

I am the elephant researcher at Camp Jabulani and I am conducting my master’s thesis project with our herd of elephants. I originally wanted to become a veterinarian! Ever since I was a little girl I loved animals and thought the only way I could help them was by becoming a veterinarian. I was even a vegetarian for 13 years because I refused to eat my “future patients”. I had an internship one summer with an equine veterinarian and had to put down an old mare who was suffering from a degenerative bone disease. I was so heartbroken after putting that horse down that I realized that my heart just wasn’t in it to become a veterinarian. Shortly after that experience, I graduated from my university and landed an internship at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom as their endocrinologist intern. There I learned how to tell if an animal was pregnant, sick, coming into heat and even could examine their stress levels all from a poop sample! I was amazed at how much I could help so many animals without even coming into contact with them. I realized that non-invasive monitoring was a better way for me to help animals and I slowly began to fall in love with the study of hormones.

3. I couldn’t help but notice your profile name on Instagram. I was a massive Wild Thornberrys fan as a kid. Can I assume the same of you, Chloe “Eliza” Thornberry? I guess in a way you too have the ability to speak with animals – with your work with elephants at Camp Jabulani. Where does this passion and talent come from… an encounter with an African shaman like Eliza or another encounter of sorts?

I loved watching the Wild Thornberry’s growing up, it was by far my favourite show. This show in many ways shaped my passion to save animals and study wildlife. The closest I have come to an African Shaman encounter, like Eliza had in the show, was meeting my now good friend Simba, an elephant keeper, here at Camp Jabulani. He is the medicine man amongst the group and constantly shows me different plants in the bush that can be used to treat varying ailments.

4. What do you love most about living in the bush and in particular at Camp Jabulani?

My next door neighbours are the elephants! Their stables are literally next to my home, so sometimes my alarm clock is them trumpeting as they wake up. Besides having the coolest neighbours around, getting to see African wildlife every day by just walking outside my house is an amazing experience.

5. The main thing to remember when living in a wilderness reserve like Kapama Private Game Reserve?

To be patient by far! Remember, you are living in the middle of the bush, that means when the electricity goes out or the water pump breaks it is going to take some time for someone to make it out here to fix it.

6. A never forget moment from your time at Camp Jabulani?

One of my favourite moments at Camp Jabulani was with a very special and well-known elephant, Jabulani. I had been conducting my research for about two months in the bush when I came down with a bad bug and had to stay home for several days. When I returned to the bush, the keepers greeted me with hugs and told me how much they missed me. As we sat around the watering hole joking with one another, something moving in the distance caught my eye. Jabulani had stopped drinking from the watering hole and was heading straight towards us quickly.

Before I knew it, Jabulani was standing almost on top of me! As I looked up, his eyes met mine and he began to slowly lift his trunk up to my face. I looked on in awe and whispered to the keepers, “What do I do?” They told me to gently grab his trunk and blow into it. I did what they said and Jabulani moved his trunk down my face and gave me one last look before he turned around to head back to the watering hole. The magical moment had happened in seconds but it felt like a lifetime.

When I asked the keepers what had happened they explained to me that Jabulani didn’t understand where I had disappeared to the past few days when I was sick. He had been looking for me because he missed me… our special moment we shared was Jabulani’s way of checking on me to make sure I was alright again. I don’t believe I will ever experience a more magical moment than that in my life again!

7. The best way to start and end a day here?

The best way to start out the morning is with a piping hot cup of instant Enrista coffee watching the sun rise over the bushveld horizon. My favourite way to end the day is watching the elephants sleepily head off to their stables for the night as the sun sets and wait up just long enough to see the sky explode with stars.


Couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful evening with more beautiful people 🌅 #views #southafrica #sunset #bestfriendgoals

A post shared by Chloe Grotto (@chloe_eliza_thornberry) on


8. The best way to spend a day off?

Going on a staff game drive! You never know what you are going to see so it always feels like a new adventure.

9. What has surprised you most about your time at Camp Jabulani and in South Africa?

South Africans are so friendly and outgoing! I wasn’t expecting to meet so many kind hearted, wonderful people. I was surprised at how quickly I fell in love with not only this country but with the Camp Jabulani lodge as well. The people who work here are beyond amazing, the elephants have been life changing for me and getting to share my passion and research with guests has been such a fulfilling experience.

10. The best adventure so far has been… and the next adventure will be…?

My favourite adventure so far has been the time I got to see a pangolin. We were on a staff game drive and we got the opportunity of a lifetime to see the most highly trafficked animal in Africa, if not the world. They are such beautiful, gentle animals and I truly gained a new respect and admiration for them after getting to see one in person.

The next adventure I’m looking forward to is getting to explore more of this beautiful country and the countries close by. I would love to continue learning more about South Africa’s history and heritage as well as seeing as many places as I can. Adventure is out there!


Read more about Chloe in Camp Jabulani’s blog, Introducing our elephant researcher, Chloe Grotto.