Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ultimate Safaris' Guide Michael Haindongo

One of the members of the award-winning Ultimate Safaris guiding team! Michael's background and experience in Africa and overseas makes him an exceptional guide.

NAME: Michael Haindongo
Date of birth: 4 November 1979


Michael’s family is Oshivambo speaking and originally comes from southern Angola, although they are now split between the southern part of Angola and northern part of Namibia. Michael was born in Angola during the liberation struggle and spent much of his childhood in a refugee camp near Kwanza, before UNICEF moved him and many other children to Cuba so that they could get an education in a safe environment. He returned to Namibia after Independence at the age of 16, and he completed his schooling in Windhoek before going on to study Natural Resource Management (Nature Conservations) at the Polytechnic of Namibia. 

During his studies, he did some in service training with Wilderness Safaris and Save The Rhino Trust (SRT). During that time, he met the owner of the premier Londolozi Camp in South Africa, and was offered his first job at Londolozi in 2003 as a result. After a year there, he moved to work for a year with a South African tour operator before returning to Namibia to join Wilderness Safaris. He stayed with them for a period of eight years, working in a variety of their camps situated across Namibia. He then made the transition to becoming a National guide and joined the Ultimate Safaris ‘family’ of expert guides where he adds his own experiences to the collective ‘pot’. He is married with two children, who he cherishes more than anything else!

Guiding experience

Having got a taste of nature during his studies at the Polytechnic, Michael knew he wanted to be involved in nature and, as he had realised he was a people’s person rather than a solitary researcher, he knew that tourism was the way to go. Starting at Londolozi as a guide on the reserve gave him a great platform to work from as there is a large variety of Fauna and Flora there. This also gave him the opportunity to do his FEGASA level one qualification which added to the experience he gained in walking safaris conducted with one of the ‘old timers’ at Londolozi.

Once he had mastered the immediate area, Michael pushed himself further and went into safari guiding throughout Southern Africa. Here he picked up more knowledge from the other more experienced guides working the ‘circuit’, and he was also introduced to the fascination of birds and birding.

On his return to Namibia, he joined Wilderness Safaris as a full time guide. He attended many of the internal training courses that were on offer as well as doing more of the official guide training modules through NATH. All of this helped to broaden his knowledge as well as adding the Namibian specific information that had been lacking to this point.
As he already had more experience than most new employees, he started off at by guiding at the prestige Skeleton Coast Camp in the north west of the country. After that, he moved many of the other camps in different areas, working as a guide at each and adding intimate knowledge of those areas to his repertoire. He therefore has detailed information in all these areas, adding Sossusvlei, Etosha and Damaraland to his starting point at the Skeleton Coast. This has given him a great basis from which to make the transition to becoming a National guide with Ultimate Safaris where he needs to be able to take groups of guests into all the different parts of the country.

The variety and breadth of experience that he has been able to build up in a relatively short time, both inside and outside the country, make Michael an exceptional guide. He shows huge enthusiasm for his role and still gets excited at the prospect of every new safari and the opportunity it brings to meet others who are likely to share his passion for the country and its inhabitants.

Personal interests

Traveling, Reading, Hiking and Birding

Why I enjoy guiding
When I am out there in nature, my life is complete!

On the trail...

When guiding at Ongava, I took a family in to visit Etosha for the day. We had just been to the fairy forest near Okaukuejo and were on our way back when one of the children spotted some movement in the distance. We stopped to have a look at what it was and saw it was a cheetah dragging a springbok fawn it had just killed, and it was clearly dragging the fawn across the plain towards a thicket in the shade of mopane tree. Once it had got finally got there and reached the shade, it suddenly got ‘spooked’ and ran away from its prey. The father of the family I was guiding was taking a photo at the moment this happened so we zoomed in and saw that a python had appeared and latched onto the fawn. We thought that that was the end of it, but the cheetah returned and it soon turned into a tug of war between the cheetah and the python. It looked like it might be a stalemate but we then noticed that, as the battle was going on, the python was slowly swallowing the fawn inch by inch until he finally wrestled it away from the cheetah altogether. This was nature at its best, with survival of the fittest clearly on show. It was a privilege and a pleasure to be able to witness this fantastic and unique sighting.

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