Liam Henderson has the kind of job you can’t help but envy.
Why? Well, he is the newly-appointed Head Guide at The Homestead, which means he gets to show you the wonder, the wilderness and the wildlife which envelops us in The Nambiti Big Five Game Reserve in South Africa. “The incredible views here can only be appreciated when you see them with your own eyes,” he says. “It’s so good for your wellbeing if you can experience these incredible animals, hear the wind in the trees, and the birds calling and look up at the stars at night. I love wildlife photography, but I know when it’s time to put the camera down, sit back and take it in. See it, hear it and smell it - you can’t replace those moments.
“They can knock the rust right off your soul if you let them.”
Knock the rust off your soul - that’s the kind feeling we need a little bit of, as we grapple with our busy lives. Liam’s job, as Head Guide at The Homestead, is to show and tell you everything you could possibly want to know about the ecosystem and wildlife which surrounds our incredible destination.
Liam has loved the outdoors for as long as he can remember. He went to boarding school in eastern part of South Africa and enjoyed exploring the countryside whenever he got the opportunity, but he had never considered ‘the outdoors’ to be a career option. All that changed when he went on a gap year to Kenya after high school, to work at a well-established resort on the coast. It was there that fate intervened and presented him with an opportunity that he would grab with both hands. It took him to south-west Tanzania, where he began doing walking safaris and spent the remainder of his gap year living deep in the African bush, which exposed him to the elements without the luxuries of running water and electricity. The escape was not without its challenges, malaria included, but this stripped back experience would shape the man he would become.
“It was there that I learned about the nature of the African bush and grew to appreciate what it does to your outlook on life, “ he says. “I began to understand how the animals and their behaviour could become great food for the soul, for those fortunate enough to witness them.”
He recalls that the first leopard he ever saw was on foot. “At that point in my life, I didn’t know that was even possible. After that, I kind of knew the direction that I wanted my life to go in”.
Liam returned to South Africa to deepen his knowledge, studying Environmental Development and Conservation at the University of Stellenbosch. “I’m not a scientist and don’t pretend to be, but I do appreciate the fact that humans and wilderness areas need to co-exist, and for that to happen, an understanding of the environment is needed.”
“After my degree I knew I wanted to return to the bush and ended up in an area known as the lowveld, adjacent to the Kruger National Park in North East South Africa. I started my career in guiding in this area at a recognised game reserve in the safari industry called Londolozi. I was selected for their prestigious guiding course. I moved onto a well-known and well-established safari destination known as MalaMala Game Reserve, the first ever private game reserve, and spent four years there. I grew from strength to strength as a guide and appreciated the beauty of the wilderness and nature during my time there. I progressed to becoming a head guide/head ranger in MalaMala. They combined those two positions, which is why I have a very healthy appreciation for the ranger side of things.”
So what is the difference between a guide and a ranger? To many, they are the same job, right? Well, not quite.
Guides and rangers are both incredibly knowledgeable about the wilderness and animal behaviour. Although they have a shared passion for the wonder of the African bush. “Guides are there to showcase the wonder and beauty of nature to guests,” says Liam. “Guides do, of course, work hand in hand with Rangers, who are there to conserve and protect the environment and the wildlife, particularly from poachers. Rangers will aid in letting the guides know where certain animals are, since they spend most of their day and nights out in the wild protecting animals, especially the ones that are at high risk from poachers, such as rhinos. Guides aid in providing the resources for the Rangers to provide the protection.”
And so what brought Liam to us? “When I heard about The Homestead, I knew it was for me. Once I saw it, it became apparent that this was something very different and special. This wasn’t another run of the mill copy-paste game lodge. The Homestead is something exciting, challenging, and new, which I think is much needed in the safari industry. I do think that Wayne Scholes’ vision for The Homestead is going to be the game changer that the safari industry needs. I think that today, technology must be used to increase the guests’ experience. Concepts such as electric vehicles are the way forward. It’s an incredibly exciting project to be part of. And it is an incredible place to visit.”
“Every time you go round the next bend in the road you are met with a new vista that is completely different and you wonder how such a place has so many magnificent views. Nambiti Private Game Reserve is home to several different environments, habitats and biomes that allow for the diversity of nature to thrive. One minute you are on this beautiful grassy plain, next you are down in the river valleys and marshes; you go from the rock faces to thickets so dense you must use your sense of hearing to locate the animals by the sounds of their chewing or grunts. There is so much to explore here.”
Liam’s early days at The Homestead have allowed him to grasp the true beauty of the location and what makes it so special. “It’s a stunningly beautiful spot. As we were packing up a presentation on the deck of The Homestead one evening last week, in walked three black rhinos to satisfy themselves with a hearty drink at the waterhole and then made their way past the ruins. That watering hole is nestled between open grasslands and the tall swaying trees that provide shade over The Homestead’s main deck and viewing platform. All manner of animals frequent this oasis to quench their thirst. Water represents all life, so this is a magnet for all wildlife and a place where our guests will be able to find a real sense of deep and lasting contentment as the African bush and animals pass by while they watch on from just a few yards away with a drink in their hand.”
Liam may have seen it all but his emotional connection with and love for showcasing the wildlife and landscape of the Nambiti Private Game Reserve, is why he is leading our team of guides. We want to give our guests real-life experiences that are much more immersive and meaningful than those they will find anywhere else. Experiences that connect them to the beauty around them and the soul of Africa; experiences that ultimately connect them back to nature, back to their roots.
This is what our guests will find for themselves when they begin to explore the Nambiti Private Game Reserve on their luxury South African big five safari at The Homestead. We can’t wait to show it all to you.