As Yazema “Connie” Moremong stops the vehicle beside a herd of buffalo in Chobe National Park in Botswana, she recalls how during her childhood she knew about animals, and they were mostly goats. Once in a while she encountered a hyena or a jackal. What set her course to become one of Chobe Game Lodge’s distinguished guiding staff composed entirely of female guides was an encounter that occurred with her uncle, a biologist. They were driving along when Connie saw the biggest animal she had ever seen: an elephant. That was it. She needed a way to be in the bush.
Licensed as a guide for nine years now, she nearly explodes with delight several times on our drive and says more than once: “Why do I love these animals so?!” She shakes her head. “There is more to seeing them in person. There is learning their behavior.” That is why this morning we are fascinated by a squabble between a male baboon and a female, taking swings at each other and shouting as the female backs away from the male, edging dangerously close and finally into the river. Luckily, no crocodile awaits her. And Connie has us stop to observe the bachelor impala as they dart, approach and claim ground.
There is irony in one of Connie’s favorite experiences here in her years as a Chobe guide. She came across a jackal intent on stopping a hyena from passing. Jackal pups were near. The jackal was relentless in moving in from behind the hyena to bite its ankle, and the hyena was stopped in its tracks. Connie recounts how it was as though the hyena was hanging his head and saying, “Don’t do this to me, please. I want to go home.”
She was relaying this scene to others on the radio. No one believed her “whereby a hyena would submit to a jackal,” she says, until one of what she calls her “sister” guides came along and saw it, too. She had a witness. “We laughed all day” at the show nature had provided, she says. A jackal and a hyena, animals from her childhood farm but utterly, wonderfully and wildly different.
–Maria Henson, guest at Chobe Game Lodge and former volunteer at Desert and Delta Safaris