Although the Sabi Sand hosts countless wildlife experts across the Reserve, very few can call it home. For Victor Mkanse, this is where he, his parents and his grandparents were born, raised and taught a very special way of life that has fundamentally shaped what they know and love to do.
Now tracking for nearly 20 years, Victor has certainly taken to his roots to pursue a career in wildlife. Not only was he surrounded by the untamed wilderness growing up, but he was raised in a family who all share a sixth sense for the rhythm of nature. “It passes from generation to generation,” he says. He likes to describe himself as “an ambassador for nature,” as the part he enjoys most about being a tracker is the educational aspect. He seeks to enlighten and intrigue guests from across the world with his endless and inherent bush lore.
I want my work to inspire a passion for wildlife and conservation. I want to show people how vulnerable wildlife is.
He’s often referred to as “Dr. Vic,” an enduring nickname given to him in 2016 by one of his American guests, who was charmed by his extraordinary ability to deliver sightings on request. Victor thrives on tracking in the morning while the tracks from the hustle and bustle of nocturnal life are still fresh—”the morning newspaper of the Sabi Sand,” he calls it. One such nocturnal creature is the ever-elusive leopard.
These days, he’s especially fond of the leopard named Kuchava, the female cub of Thandi. She earned her name from being quite shy and skittish, but over the years has grown more familiar with the sight of vehicles and people and has now become a local favourite. Besides leopards, Victor adores elephants. He’s fascinated by their intelligence and way of communicating through gestures, such as their ceremonial greetings, where elephants insert the tip of the trunk into the mouth of another elephant.
Shangaan culture and tradition are the golden thread that runs through everything Victor is and pursues. It is this connectedness that inspired him to pursue a career in tracking and wildlife. He describes it as the sharing and shaping of human experience, expressed through language, symbols, norms, and customs. When he is home in the local village of Utah, Sundays are spent under Marula trees.
Inherently significant in Shangaan culture, the Marula is an ancestral tree that offers shade and fruit and provides the place where a weekly ceremony is held under the tree to connect to his lineage. It is believed that Marula trees cannot be cut down, as they are the conduit to connect to the ancestors. Victor is second in line to be the leader of his tribe in his community, a deeply meaningful calling and practice of being an elder.
… But in good spirit, nothing beats a bit of rivalry between tribal clans over a good game of soccer. Vic takes pleasure in playing football and is a member of the Napoli FC, a team made up of his tribesmen that is supported by our local neighbours in Buffelshoek.
Victor exudes a presence—a deeply knowledgeable and distinctly intuitive being—that brings enormous weight to our guiding team. His “Xiviri,” his dignity and identity, are his North Star.