Game guard Ncediso Headman Nogaya negotiates an Addo herd. Nogaya was trained in a project that works with local communities near the park.
Game guard Ncediso Headman Nogaya negotiates an Addo herd. Nogaya was trained in a project that works with local communities near the park. Chris Nelson/NPR
Ncediso Headman Nogaya's office is the green and brown savanna of the Addo Elephant National Park, a 700-square-mile wildlife reserve in eastern South Africa.
Bushes with hand-size thorns make good cover for everything from lizards to lions, but Nogaya can spot an ear twitch from a distant hill.
Nogaya is a game guard at Addo: part tracker, part driver, part educator — and fully responsible for his guests in the bush. He works in all sorts of weather, in daylight and in darkness.
Nogaya got his start in the bush with the Eyethu Hop-On Guides community project. He waited at the park gate each day to offer his guiding services for an hourly fee. Then in 2005, with South Africa's ecotourism sector booming, Nogaya was offered a full-time job at Addo.
Addo boasts the "big seven" animals: elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark. The park is home to one of the densest African elephant populations on Earth and to the unique — and vulnerable — flightless dung beetle species.
"There's no guarantee of what we will find," Nogaya says. "We will just take what nature offers us."