This week’s edition of ‘world of inspiration‘ is brought to you by Michael Theys who lives in Belgium. Michael has spent much time living and travelling across Africa and shares his passion for Africa via his blog Africa Freak. Michael’s story is a wonderful portrait of Rob Francis, a safari field guide he had the privilege of meeting during his travels through South Africa.

Rob Francis, an Inspiring Safari Field Guide

This story takes place in the Timbavati, a Game Reserve bordering Kruger National Park, South Africa. Just close your eyes and imagine the setting for a moment: six rustic safari tents in the middle of nowhere, alongside the dry Zebanene River. Around us? Nothing, or should I rather say: no one! It’s the beginning of October 2003, and little did I know at the time but I was about to embark on an adventure like no other!

Eco Training
Eco Training (courtesy of

It’s Big 5 country here, surrounded by some of the most incredible and beautiful wild creatures on Earth! The duration of my stay was 28 days; an intense learning experience with six other foreigners from the UK. The aim of my visit was an Ecotraining Course where one learns everything that needs to be known about the bush and the environment, both in terms of its fauna but also its diverse flora and some of the uses associated with it.

It’s astonishing how Mother Nature can provide us with invaluable gifts and benefits! For instance, there are hundreds of trees out there with incredible uses. Certain types have juicy fruits (such as the Marula tree), while others can be used as fire beaters or mosquito repellent (Magic Guarri).

And then there was Rob Francis, our field guide for the month. I immediately found him to be a very intriguing chap! He seemed a little reserved at first, but soon turned out to be one of the most inspiring and valuable people I have ever met; an amazing guy with incredible knowledge of the bush. Simply put, the guy knew EVERYTHING (well, almost)! From animal species to tree specimens, and from vegetation type to its various usages, Rob knew it all! He also had the amazing faculty to read the signs of the wild, could accurately decipher freshly made animal footprints, and had a vision so precise he could scan the bush from miles away! Truly impressive! And to be honest with you, words are probably not good enough to describe how amazing he really is.

“Who flung dung”, he used to say! Is it an aardvark dropping, from a hyena, or a porcupine perhaps? Is it fresh, or is it old? What was the animal’s activity/behavior at the time? So many questions yet he always had an accurate idea about what was going on! True detective’s work!

Rob Francis (courtesy of
Rob Francis (courtesy of

One day, we were busy walking alongside the river when Rob heard an interesting francolin call (small bird, guinea fowl type). He figured something strange was going on in the area, and already had a suggestion to what could be the reason for this alarming sound. Needless to say that less than 5 minutes later we started to follow freshly imprinted leopard spoors, which ultimately led to a dead impala antelope up in a tree. While there was no physical sign of the leopard at the time, it was now clear that the francolin had been disrupted by the elusive cat.
We returned to the spot later on in the afternoon and were privileged enough to see this wonderful creature! I’m sure we would not have spotted the leopard if Rob wasn’t around.

During my 28 days there, I was constantly amazed and impressed by Rob’s knowledge and dedication to the conservation of wildlife. He is an extraordinary human being who transmits his knowledge of the bush with ease, and who has definitely enlightened my understanding of ecology and wildlife in general!

I could probably go on and on about him as he is unquestionably a living encyclopaedia for wildlife. If you’re travelling through this part of South Africa, I strongly recommend this course, naturally with Rob as your guide! To me, it really was a life transforming experience! For more information, please check out Eco Training.

About this week’s guest writer
me-twitter Michael considers himself privileged to have had the chance to live and travel across the African continent, visiting a multitude of beautiful and welcoming nations. From his early childhood in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa, Zambia, and ultimately South Africa, he has experienced many magical and enriching moments. Michael now resides in Belgium but “all those precious memories are still deeply anchored in my mind!”

Read more about Michael’s Africa tales on Africa Freak.

Follow Michael on Twitter.

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