Bird guide supreme on our doorstep | iinfo TZANEEN

Bobbi Gerber interviews David Letsoaolo in his 'office': the forest at Kurisa Moya, nature lodge, Houtboschdorp
He loved nature from the start, whispers David Letsoalo, as we sit in the bird hide, waiting for our feathered friends to show up for dinner strewn out on a damp, leafy forest floor. He tells me more about his beginnings as we watch the chorister robin chat, the forest canary, three lemon doves and the forest fire finch descend on the feeding ground.
The latter three mean business and peck furiously. Mr Chat is busily, and somewhat agitatedly, collecting building material for a nest – for sure. Our eyes follow their interaction as we continue our hushed conversation:
Childhood: Appel School from 1981 to 1992 and Makgoka School (at Moria) until 1994.
First job in-training: motor mechanic through the then GTT (Gazankulu Training Tust) in Nkowankowa.
Second job: applying his hands in a totally different way: making pottery (wheel and mould) in Magoebaskloof.
All the while, eagerly attending birding evenings in Tzaneen and later in Haenertsburg, where he met Steven Evans, conservation ecologist and ornithologist, who had been invited to speak about the highly endangered blue swallow. Evans recognized David's passion for birds and facilitated a course of the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) at Wakkerstroom in 2002.
What had been a favourite pastime and beloved hobby was slowly but surely starting to become his means of income. In a way David was thrown into the deep end when a group of people were referred to him for a guided tour. This was the start to his current career: sought-after birding guide.
A printing shop in Haenertsburg where he freelanced, 'helped him to make his dreams come true' by financing half of 400 business cards he had made with their help. Next, he got involved with several worthy projects:
* The Cape Parrot project (monitoring through observation their behaviour, breeding patterns, numbers etc)
* The Blue swallow monitory project (their activities, breeding, numbers etc)
* Eco-school project (educating children, especially in rural schools, about the environment by teaching them to respect and appreciate nature and its inhabitants through acquired knowledge).
David is slowly becoming even internationally known as for three weeks in April he will accompany a Peruvian trio to different birding destinations across the country: Wakkerstroom (Mpumalanga), Mkuze Game Reserve and St Lucia lake and estuary (KwaZulu Natal), Pietermaritburg (inland, high altitude forest to sight the blue swallow), Groblersdal (for the dry bushveld birds of North West Province), Pretoriuskop, Letaba and Shingwedzi Camps (south, centre and north of the Kruger National Park) and the forest of Kurisa Moya (Limpopo) – thus covering four of the nine provinces to share our bird pride with the South American bird lovers.
Personally, David has a dream of still visiting and guiding in India and Central Africa and merely experiencing the amazing Amazon. When he is elsewhere occupied, Paul Nkhumane, meticulously trained and monitored by David himself, steps into his guiding shoes.
If you want to experience the exceptional beauty, peace and quiet of the indigenous forest at Kurisa Moya, enhanced by the flow of knowledge in English, Afrikaans and Latin, oozing from David after 13 years there, regarding birds, ferns, trees and other forest inhabitants, get yourself there! Guaranteed no regrets.
Cell phone reception isn't always great – leave a preferably written message on 083 568 4678 or email
Additional info (for the avid birders among those reading):
The Cape Parrot, found in two habitats, 800km's apart, one here, in the indigenous forest at Kurisa Moya, the other in the Eastern Cape, and the vulnerable blue swallow, are both under threat of extinction due to the expansion of human territory development and resulting destruction and loss of habitat. May they not perish due to man's greed, his lack of wisdom and relevant knowledge, regarding the sometimes precarious and very specific habitats of the precious species of fauna and flora given to us to take care of.

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