She’s in love with her job and the whole world can see it – her positivity is infectious. She’s also currently the first and only woman guide in the Desert & Delta bush camps, currently based at Camp Xakanaxa. Leeng Lynn Tebalo talks to us about her experiences of entering this male-dominated arena, and how your attitude is everything.
Lynn’s love of nature started early. “I got into guiding through the love of the jungle. I grew up going to the cattle posts every weekend, hanging out with my brothers, knowing all the birds, knowing how to track, knowing bird calls.”
As well as an early love of nature, she also knew early on that being a female wouldn’t hold her back from anything. She credits her father for helping her adopt a positive attitude towards chasing her dreams. “I remember when I grew up my dad would say ‘Be a man.’” She couldn’t understand what he meant and she’d say “But dad, I am a woman.” Only later did she come to realize that he didn’t mean be a man – “he meant do it as if you are a man. So there haven’t been any challenge on my side,” she reflects. “My whole life I have grown up knowing that I can challenge men and their duties. So to me it wasn’t like this is just the guy’s duties. I always liked to say, ‘I can do this. I have the potential to do this.’ So when I [first] met guides I said, ‘I would love to do this, I can do this.’
Lynn says that the only challenge women guides have is when it comes family issues. “Because we are out in the bush for long periods as compared to being with the family or children. That’s the only challenge, on my side anyway. But otherwise, being in the field, you don’t feel like you are a woman. As long as you have that potential and you know you can do it. So, women, don’t lower your self-esteem! Make it by the passion of what you love.”
A passion for nature and the environment is deeply entrenched in her family. Lynn and her husband work at next door camps (Wasco is a guide at Camp Moremi) and her children are nature lovers too – her 5-year-old even delivers lectures to his friends on bush-lore and the importance of not littering.
Nature truly is her balm – and even when she’s in town on R & R she plays bird calls and frog sounds to help her relax. She is inspired by interactions with her guests – going to lengths to help them learn to slow down and appreciate nature as she knows and loves it. “There was a time when I guided some people who put masks on their faces. When we went on the boat cruise they were all putting on their masks, and during the safety brief I stopped and I took a deep breath. And I picked a water lily and I made them smell it. I said, “May you please remove your masks. On the game drive, I would understand because of the dust, but over here – feel the breezes, feel the freshness that we have around here. And they loved it! In the morning when we went out on the drive they didn’t put on their masks, they said – HAAAA (she spreads her arms like wings and breathes in deeply) – they loved it!”
“So at times you just keep quiet, listen to the bird calls, the water flow, all that, it relaxes the mind, body and soul.”