As we reach the midway point of our season it’s inevitable that we look back on so much that could have been and reflect on how this pandemic has affected our lives right across the globe. I have no doubt, you like us, have been affected by it in one way or another.
We can turn on the various news sources anywhere in the world and bad news seems to be the order of the day. Journalists have become self-proclaimed experts on any topic of your choice and the next best story soon replaces the last big crisis from yesterday.
I look back on the first half of the season sitting at a cross-road unsure of which route to take. Has our cup been half empty or will the half full approach mean more overflowing than any talk of half at all?
Yes, we have so to say lost our season and the majority of our hunts for 2020. Our loss of income has brought our continued expansion efforts for our wildlife and wild places to a grinding halt. We have had to look our people in the eyes and tell them we will all have to do with much less this year and that whatever we’ve been able to assist with in the past will merely be a fraction this season.
We have had to adapt and endure and we have had to make bold decisions along the way. While we may have lost the majority of our hunts for 2020, we have experienced your support like we’ve never experienced it before. Not only have you postponed your hunt to 2021 and beyond, but you’ve added friends and fellow hunters to your group. You upgraded your hunt and picked up the phone or wrote that mail that made all the difference on a tough day in Africa. You all know who you are. We will forever be indebted to you.
While our loss of income has halted our continued enthusiasm for growth, which has affected our wildlife, it has given us time to take a closer look at the journey and not merely the destination. Instead of introducing a couple of new species or building a new mountain track which would secure a permanent water source in a dry area, we focused on what we had available to us. We took the time to manage our existing wildlife in a manner we are unaccustomed to where time is not a luxury. We slowed down and looked deeper to find the obvious right beneath our noses. Sometimes the default setting in our lives and businesses reminds us that the wildlife cannot do without the grass, and the grass cannot do without the water, and none of them can do without the soil. Call it what you may, I call it simplification.
We’ve spent some time looking at our vision and tweaking our goals to achieve the results we are after with the quality of our game. We know that without hunters our wildlife cannot be sustained, but a quiet season of rutting and growth after the previous six years of drought has and will do our game the world of good. Managing our numbers and removing inferior genetics is an ongoing process, but taking the opportunity to do so during the rut is a luxury we’re seldom afforded.
Looking your people in the eyes and telling them to hang in there as we’re going to be in for a rough ride is not something I wish to bestow upon anyone. In Africa one job equates to more than ten mouths fed. A small sacrifice for an African equates to a sacrifice often unfathomable to the first world. If I learnt nothing during this pandemic I learnt about my people. I saw what commitment and belief in a vision looks like. I realized how happy a person can be with very little and I learnt about loyalty. Unconditional loyalty. I’m blessed to lead a team that most dream of and I relish in that privilege daily.
We’ve been able to spend time with our kids and families, something we’re not accustomed to under “regular” season conditions. We enjoyed a few exciting firsts with our kids in this passion of ours called hunting. And we embarked on a few firsts of our own along the way too.
The world I am told is not what it seems anymore and what we once knew as normal will not be so again. We can focus on the negatives, of that there have been many during 2020 thus far, but I’d like to believe that we can choose to be positive. This pandemic too shall pass and there will come a time for us to share a campfire once again. But for now, we celebrate your loyalty as one of our hunters who has stood by us through thick and thin, the health of our families, our prospering wildlife, our amazing people and our beautiful land, as these are the blessings that matter most.
In saying that we will continue keeping an eye on the future, to ready ourselves if there may be any opportunity of international travel between now and the end of the year, allowing those hunters who wish to hunt every opportunity to do so during the second half of the season.
Wishing you good health and happy hunting wherever the journey may take you.
Carl van Zyl
Woodlands Safari Estate, July 2020