Rubondo Island Guide, Habibu Hamadi Kissio, shows Anton Crone another world
The second time I met Habibu was on a guiding course in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. The course was for Asilia Africa’s new guides and there were many experienced guides there like Habibu, knowledgable folk who had studied nature for much of their lives, and a few guides who were quite fresh.
As a travel writer and occasional guest of game parks, what I enjoyed most about the course was the focus on enhancing the guest experience, interpreting the sights, sounds and scents of the wild so that guests are left, not only with an indelible appreciation of the wild, but a thorough understanding of it. It was a collaborative exercise and while the youngsters had many questions to ask, there were always answers, things the older guides didn’t need to look up in a book but expounded on from memory; anecdotes and analogies that were expressions of love for nature. Habibu is one of these guides. We would often stop at the sight of the smallest creature to learn more about it, something most tourists pass up in favour of seeing the big five. I used to be this type, but that completely changed when I first met Habibu.
Four months previously I was a guest on Rubondo Island and Habibu took me on a drive through the forest. I scanned the dense foliage for signs of elephant and chimpanzee, but butterflies were always getting in the way. Habibu started calling out their names: African Monarchs, Blue spotted Emperors, Swallowtails, Swordtails and more; wonderful names as colourful as their wings. We stopped at tiny puddles along the tracks where hundreds of butterflies were gathered to drink and Habibu enhanced the scenes with tales of butterfly wars: Battling Gliders chasing African Vagrants from the puddles and Sword Tails descending to take their place. Soon we were studying frogs in the same puddles, inundated with little eggs. On the bark of trees, the camouflaged moths and stick insects that Habibu pointed out astounded me. My world had become minute and with Habibu’s guidance I understood the immensity of this island’s ecosystem, something that will always stay with me. When I think of Rubondo now it’s so much more than an island, it’s an entire world, and I cannot thank Habibu enough for showing me this and for turning me from a tourist into a nature lover.