The 31st October marked Daniel Mabasa’s last day of 25 years of service as a ranger on a bicycle at the Crocodile Bridge and Hippo Pools region of the Kruger National Park (KNP).
For years visitors have seen him on his bike, have stopped and loaded him up in to their vehicle due to lion being in the area, and have been entertained by Daniel who pointed out fantastic sightings and walked folk down to the Hippo Pools for a better look.
Herewith, as a tribute to this legendary man, is a most enjoyable interview with Daniel:
Africa This Is Why I Live Here (ATIWILH): Hello Daniel, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions that might give us an insight to your lifetime of service in our flagship national park. For those of us who are not entirely familiar with your history, please let us know when you started on your life’s journey and also what made you decide to follow this path and career?
Daniel: I am from a small village at Malamulele just outside the Shangoni Gate on the border of the KNP. The section ranger in those days – Mr Don English – got me involved in the KNP.
ATIWILH: You must have some amazing stories to tell, is there one that stands out that you can share with us?
Daniel: There are many. One that comes to mind was when I walking with some visitors up the rocks at Hippo Pools when two lionesses came from the other side and started growling at us. The one lady got such a fright that she grabbed and pushed another person in front of her. The lions ran away and all was well except the relationship and conversation between the two lady friends.
ATIWILH: You probably had lots of people stopping to ask you if you need a lift over the years, not believing that you were happy to do your job patrolling the area – how many times did you just get yourself loaded up to avoid lengthy explanations?
Daniel: Almost never, I always explained that I was on duty and that I would be unable to do my work if I got picked up. People accepted this answer.
ATIWILH: Your family must be so proud of you, Daniel, or do they think you are a little bit crazy to patrol on your bicycle in lion country?
Daniel: My family knew danger was part of my job. Although they worried, they had confidence in the knowledge that I gained over the years about the bush and animals.
ATIWILH: What was your most frightening experience ?
Daniel: Through the years there were many encounters with animals. One in particular was when I was surrounded by a big herd of buffalo but I always managed to get out of the situation. The animal I had the biggest respect for was a black rhino although I did not have bad experiences with them. When I started, the elders always talked about the black rhino and how dangerous they can be. I have been taught to head for the nearest tree and climb as fast as possible.
ATIWILH: Daniel, over the years you must have had many highlights, is there perhaps one that stands out as the most incredible of all?
Daniel: In the late 90s one of the visitors to Hippo Pools lost her ring while walking around. At the end of my shift that day I walked along the path and found the ring on the ground. I picked it up and went to the rest camp on my way back. I reported the matter and the lady was reunited with her ring. She was very grateful and arrived the next day with her young son and a huge meal, which they sat down to eat with me and we had lunch together.
ATIWILH: What will you miss the most, once you have retired at the end of October ?
Daniel: All the interaction with the different tourists, and the animals and birds that I came to know and love so much.
ATIWILH: What will you not miss AT ALL?
Daniel: There are not many things, but perhaps stiff knees from the daily patrols as one gets older.
ATIWILH: Daniel, thank you so much for your time – I know that so many visitors will miss seeing you on the roads. Is there anything else you would like to say to visitors at the Kruger National Park?
Daniel: I would like to say thanks to all the people that crossed my path during my career and shared their knowledge about the bush. I will miss the interaction.
A few fans have got together to collect some funds to boost Daniel’s retirement. Please click here for details on how you can contribute to this.