As a boy his favourite animal was the leopard, till one tried to eat him!

Bio of Emmanuel Kandiero – GM and Head Safari Guide at Tongole Wilderness Retreat

Early Days  – At the tender age of three,  Emmanuel Kandiero was taken by his father, on walking safaris in the Nyika National Park, Vwaza Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park.   In 1988, tourism in Malawi was in its infancy and his father’s role as a game scout, involved looking after eco-systems and the well-being of animals.

Emmanuel was born in northern Malawi, in Vwaza game reserve and today he reflects fondly on his childhood, recalling times exploring the bush with a patriarch who passionately shared his wealth of nature scouting experience and keen observation skills.

As a young boy, his favourite animal was a leopard – or at least it was, until one tried to eat him!   He recalls a day when he was just six, preparing a meal with his mother and younger brother.  A leopard appeared at their kitchen and stood watching the family for 15 minutes.   It was a tense stand-off, and the family were frozen with fear until the timely appearance of a field mouse distracted the leopard, who seemingly moved away.

After checking the coast was clear,  the family made an adrenaline-fuelled dash for their more secure sleeping quarters. But suddenly, the leopard was back and gave chase.  Reaching their home just in time, they managed to slam the door shut in its face, its teeth bared and it snarling and clawing at their door!

After this close encounter, the leopard was no longer his favourite animal.

Subsequent interactions with elephants endeared him to the large pachyderms, whom he loves to this day for their incredible intelligence, herd communication and visible emotions.

I asked Emmanuel about the key characteristics needed to be a good guide and he listed four. Firstly, having first-hand bush skills and knowledge born from years of practical experience.  Secondly, imparting safety rules and adhering to them, in a big game environment.

Being a generalist can prove more useful than being a specialist in that it allows him/or her to be able to share a broader spectrum of knowledge with a wider audience. And fourthly, having the personality and humility to manage your quests’ expectations and their varying levels of knowledge, whether of the bush, its wildlife, geology or astronomy,  connecting with all types of guests, from ‘first-timers’ to seasoned safari travellers.

Emmanuel has been with Tongole Wilderness Retreat in the Nkhotakota Game Reserve for six years.  After attaining his scout guide and wildlife management certification from Malawi’s Department of National Parks & Wildlife, he joined as a safari guide at the lodge and swiftly climbed the ranks to the top.  Today he is both the head guide and the general manager in charge of guest relations and the lodge team.

A testament to self-determination,  he taught himself all the departments involved in running a game lodge operation. Learning  H.R. to logistics from previous lodge management teams and Tongole’s staff skills transference succession program. Being in remote locations in the bush requires an all-round skill set – including mechanical engineering qualifications and lodge maintenance – it all comes in handy.

Emmanuel’s scout guide training certifies him to carry a firearm in the capacity of Honorary Ranger. This enables guests at Tongole Wilderness Retreat to explore the Nkhotakota Game Reserve, Malawi’s last, truly wild conservation area with him on foot on walks, hikes or longer mountain treks or on nature drives.

Malawi’s oldest and least-developed reserve has not been exposed to mass tourism. It takes skill and local knowledge to coax shy elephant and buffalo herds, kudu, hartebeest, roan antelope, sable antelope, zebra, warthog, reedbuck, common duiker and impala from their natural camouflage.

The beautiful Bua River that runs in front of the Tongole has a fish bounty that includes trapia fish which is Malawis national fish (Chambo) and lake salmon, that travels upstream from Lake Malawi to spawn – he assures me that even novice anglers are guaranteed to land a catch. And then release it.

One of his favourite activities is navigating the rapids on the river after heavy rain.  Guests can opt for a white-water thrill with an experienced river guide or paddle a canoe at a gentle pace observing wildlife from the vantage on the river, at sunset.

The Nkhotakota Game Reserve is also a haven for birds, with 280 identified species. The drier months from July to November are the best for sightings and its not unusual to hear a deep, booming call from a Pels Fishing Owl or to see the pretty emerald-and-white Klaas Cuckoo or a very rare, African finfoot.

Tongole Wilderness Retreat continues to consistently, receive rave reviews on Tripadvisor. Consistency is a mark of quality, achieved in no small part by Emmanuel’s attentive approach to guest relations and overall lodge management skills.

His brother Aaron is also employed at Tongole Wilderness Retreat as a safari guide.  They are compilling conservation fables that their parents shared at night around the hearth. Sharing important life lessons, would always start with a story and the aim is to have them published for future generations.

Like father like son, today Emmanuel and Aaron spend hours in the bush, the brothers continuing the legacy of their father’s passion and respect for wildlife and nature. They know their father is watching from the great beyond and he is happy that he passed on knowledge that has become useful to both of his male children.


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