As a guide in Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve, Leeng Lynn Tebalo has grown up in a male-dominated environment. But that hasn’t phased her: pursue what you love, she says, and you won’t feel the stumbling blocks. She talks to Mana Meadows.
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, learning how to track, identifying bird calls.”
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 reply: “but dad, I am a woman.” Only later did she come to realise that he meant do it as if you are a man.
“So, there haven’t been any challenges 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 guys’ 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 to family issues. “We are out in the bush for long periods as compared to being with the family or children. 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 five-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, so during the safety briefing I stopped and 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 understand because of the dust, but over here, feel the breezes, feel the freshness that we have around here.’
“And they loved it! The next 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.”
Image credit: Mana Meadows