This week we spoke to Lawrence Mazele, a guide at Royal Zambezi Lodge in Zambia. Read on to find out why he loves birding and how his long guiding career came about.
How and why did you become a guide?
I was employed as a general worker in the year 2000 and luckily was picked out of 6 casuals and became a kitchen porter. I moved up within the company and became a waiter and during that period being the front of the house, I became interested with interacting with guests, answering questions on birds, trees and wildlife in general. The senior guide at the time saw the interest I had and asked why I was reading wildlife books and if I wanted to be a guide, to which I said yes and immediately started the training. I trained for 6 months and then took the exam in 2001, I topped the class and did all my practical exams a year later. It was easy for me because when in school I belonged to Chongololo Club which teaches you about wildlife and I also grew up in the same area in a nearby village.
Do you have a specialism? What are you most interested in?
My interests are conservation and I specialize in birding and astronomy. Conservation because it is the base of all tourism and I feel if people conserve it will not only benefit them now but in the future. Countries which have conserved like Zambia, Botwana etc have made revenue through tourism by protecting the wildlife and I personally feel I should be part of the team.
Birding is just interesting to me because there are enigmatic features on birds which need to be observed carefully to identify some of the birds that are closely related and it is one of the biggest societies in the world. They are just beautiful to watch, therefore it’s easy to become a specialist.
I love astronomy as the sky is just fascinating to look at with so many stories to tell.
What has been your favourite sighting to date?
The best sighting I have had was in 2006 during a night drive when we found a leopard stalking an impala. The leopard pounced on it and, while the impala still struggling, we saw a shadow approaching slowly, luckily the leopard saw this shadow, leapt off the prey and went up the tree. This shadow was a big male lion who also jumped on the impala before it could escape, killed it and dragged it under the tree where the leopard was and enjoyed the meal.
What’s your favourite activity?
My favourite activity is walking because on a walk you can see and study little things which when on drives or canoes you tend to ignore and miss. Detailed information is passed on during the expedition and you also use all your senses: sight, smell, touch and hearing.
If you could go to any other country to see its wildlife, where would you choose?
If I could go to another county for wildlife I would have to choose Botswana as there are a lot of animal species and also the habitat is amazing.
What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to become a guide?
Develop an interest in wildlife and conservation; be passionate with nature and mostly giving excellent service to guests.