My first view of one of the safariLIVE cars as my father and I draw closer to Djuma Research Camp (DRC.)

My name is Luke MacDonald. I’m standing on a dust road looking at a small carved wooden sign that reads, Djuma 2.5km. It’s taken me about 10 hours to get here from Durban, my coastal city, and now the camp is just around the corner. It’s dry and hot, and I already miss the smell of salty air. I’ve had car problems so I’m being dropped off by my father with my huge bag in tow. It’s reminiscent of my first day of school, except that I’m 28 now so it’s not so cool, and instead of hundreds of other little kids scurringing about, it’s only mongoose at the gate.

At the camp it’s all smiles and greetings, and we’re straight onto a bumble (a staff game drive). I quickly put my clumsy bag down and join the open back vehicles as we head out. This is what I came for. It’s not long before we’re at an elephant carcass packed with hyenas and vultures. Then we meet up with a leopard, who’s greeted with many “oohs”, “aahs”, and “hello my boys”. Apparently it’s name is Hosana. Then it’s onto lions on a fairly recent kudu kill, before passing some nonchalant warthogs, who seem to know the lions have had their full for the day. An hour later and we’re back at camp. All that in sixty minutes.

On our way to view the elephant carcass.

Crew meeting just before breakfast (with “the wendy” in the background.)

I’m staying in ‘the wendy’ – appropriately named since it’s a wendy house. The camp is a nice balance of rustic and luxury. Most people are in single rooms, I’m sharing. My roommate is Conrad, but he’s out fixing car signals and other technical stuff. It’s a bit deserted in the heat of the day, after morning drive, until it’s closer to lunch time when everyone seeps out of their rooms, like ants to a tasty morsel. Lunch is loud and boisterous. Usually I’m one of the less groomed people in a crowd, with my long hair, but here, everything is a bit more relaxed. Everyone looks a little more weather beaten, the way we should look. A bit sundried from hours on the back of vehicles getting their shots. Well at least in the gentlemen’s cases, and so I feel rather at home already.

After lunch it’s down time for a little while, and I settle in before the preshow shenanigans start at 3pm. Guides are paired with a cameraman each and set off after a bunch of comms tests with Final control (FC) – that’s the team I’m in. In the FC room there’s a collection of camera feeds, monitored by a director, D1. For now I’m to watch the assistant director, D2. They’re feeding questions from the viewer through to D1, who’s creating a narrative between those and what the presenters are finding. This show we’re starting with a school drive, where we’re taking questions directly from a school overseas. Their enthusiasm is tangible, and it’s amazing to be able to share African wildlife with the rest of the world. Then there are broadcasts to other social media platforms, which for now just look like a bunch of buttons and technological things I don’t yet know.

My first day in FC with our HOD, Kirsty Mclennan-Smith, about to direct a sunset safari.
The three hour show goes quickly, but it’s also a solid shift of concentration for everyone. When it finishes it’s supper time, as everyone shares stories of the day and what they saw, as well as the things they liked and disliked about the show. It’s like a big happy argument. The food is impeccable and I eat a five star meal before I head back to my wooden box. Conrad is from Potch, the opposite of Durban, and as we switch off the light at 9pm. I think I like the whole mix of everything. At least it’s better than my first day at school – that day I was punched by Gugu, a girl double my size, and went home with a bloody nose.
Written By: Luke MacDonald