NAME: Phill Steffny
DIARY ENTRIES: 13
PHOTOS UPLOADED: 441
VIDEOS UPLOADED: 3
CURRENT COMPANY: Phill Steffny Safaris
Still in the delta, one of the more frequently encountered animals around camp is the spotted hyena. These odd looking creatures would stay discreetly on the fringes of our camp by day, but when the sun went down, they’d become full of bravado and would invite themselves closer, often walking up the front steps of the lounge deck to sniff longingly at the glorious aromas wafting from the chef’s cooking fire. We were often followed back to our tent late at night. One particularly persistent female used to lie behind the chef’s table in the boma like a faithful dog, hoping for a careless tip of a plate. She would wait patiently until all our guests had gone to bed, then would “help” us to clear the tables and pack up. Often, the polite crunching of bones behind a tree trunk would be the only sign of her presence.
Until one night I was dragged from a deep sleep by the crackle of our two-way radio, which we kept with us at all times. “Phill, do you copy?” Opelang, our night guard on the security channel. Could be anything. “Go ahead Opelang…” “Ah, I’ve got a problem with the lamp in the lounge, over.” At three in the morning? Surely it could wait. Who needed a lamp anyway? All the guests were sleeping soundly in their tents. “Can it wait for morning, over?” “Ah, not really. It’s a BEEEEG problem.” Sigh. Cursing under my breath, I wondered how beeeeg the problem could be to warrant waking me up at such a ridiculous hour, and more importantly, whether I would need to get out of bed to go and investigate. “What’s the problem with the lamp, over?” Silence. Then a crackle, “Ah, the hyena, she is eating it, over!”
I grabbed my torch and a pair of shorts and minutes later, arrived owlishly at the lounge deck. A lantern glowed softly inside, blurring my half-asleep eyes as I tried to fathom what was happening. Opelang was balanced precariously on top of a table waving a bar stool like a matador, jabbing at the hyena as she skidded around in frantic circles. The lamp protruded from her mouth trailing bits of lampshade and shattered bulb in her wake. It looked like they were playing a game of “fetch”, except Opelang’s eyes were bulging with terror and he didn’t appear to be enjoying it one bit. My arrival tipped the balance in his favour though, and together we managed to chase her out into the darkness. We never found the lamp.
And so, with my hyena-combating talents honed, airstrip landscaping completed, month-end reports dispatched and management skills “enhanced”, the lure of getting back to guiding proved irresistible. We bade farewell to that most beautiful delta wonderland, and headed back to the beloved world of guiding. Yes, my management career was over. I’m sure the poor staff at head office breathed a sigh of relief at no longer having to decipher my illegible emails and crazy spreadsheets. Once more I was free to stride out onto the deck in the pre-dawn darkness, savour the bitter coffee that just doesn’t taste as good when you’ve got a morning of admin looming ahead, feel that buzz of a new day, and toast to my very good fortune of being a guide once more.