One of my favourite spots in Kruger has to be Tsendze rustic camp. I’m not sure if it’s the peace and tranquility that lingers beneath the canopy of Mopani and Apple leaf trees, or if it’s the beautiful little owls that are concealed within the branches. That being said, a huge part of any stay at Tsendze is getting to know the “owl spotters” , AKA camp managers Rodger and Elina. They are wonderful people and their company most certainly adds greatly to the Tsendze experience. Rodger and Elina frequent the grounds daily, regaling campers with all sorts of outrageous tales of bush life in between pointing out impossibly well camouflaged Scops Owls and African Barred owlets. Yes, it’s a culmination of all of the fore mentioned that makes Tsendze feel like home.
Rodger and Elina can be tracked down in two different ways… If you’re a guest at Tsendze, Rodger always sticks to his promise of telling you three good stories a day- two a day if you’re staying for an unusually long period of time as he reckons that any good repertoire has its limitations when it comes to quantity . Let me assure you, Rodger has a gift when it comes to adding a comedic element to the tales he tells, so if you follow the sound of eruptive fits of laughter around the camp grounds you’re bound to find Rodger, Elina standing quietly by his side shaking her head in affectionate acceptance of her friend’s boisterous story telling antics.The other option of tracking the owl spotters down is to just sit quietly in your camp site, soon enough they’ll make there way over to you for an unobtrusive friendly chat.
It may be the owls that are the focus of this story, but knowing Tsendze as a whole is vital to understanding why painting them is so special to me.
I’ve painted one of the little barred owlets before, I worked off of a photograph my fiance took whilst we were camping at Tsendze. Rodger had taken great pride in pointing out the owls to us and knowing how passionate he was about them, upon my next visit to Kruger I gifted Rodger with a print of his beloved owlet. It was a very special experience, he promptly told me it was one of the nicest gifts he’d ever been given. I love that I was able to do that for him.
Rodger enjoys photographing the owls himself and he sends me pics from time to time so when I was recently asked to do a commission of an African barred owlet I knew exactly where to look for reference material! I started working on the piece a few weeks back and it’s coming along nicely. I’m so enjoying it because as I paint my mind wanders peacefully along the pathways beneath the Mopani trees and I picture Rodger, scanning the trees for his owl friends, and Elina with her big beautiful smile… that being said Elina and her big beautiful smile are another story all together… let’s just say that I cannot wait for my next visit to Tsendze when I’ll be bringing with me another very special gift.
But back to the owls… Here’s a look at my progress so far
Looking forward to sharing the finished product with you!