20 Years of Stories, 20 Years of Jabulani

by jabulanisafari

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A letter from Adine Roode, Jabulani Owner & MD

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories lately. The ones we read as kids, the ones our parents told us in bed at night, and the ones we made them tell over and over again on long car rides. Perhaps this has been splashing about in my mind because our lodge, Jabulani is 20 years old this year. Jabulani, our saving grace that gave a home to elephants in need of a wilderness. Perhaps it’s because HERD is growing up too, turning five this year, or because a new little bull, just like Jabulani back in 1997, came into our care.

That’s me on the right, with my mother, Lente, and daughter Lente, spending time with young elephant bull, Jabulani

I’ve been thinking about the memories that happen every day and how easy it is to lose them. We always think we will remember our dreams, but we wake to find our minds swept clean. We think we’ll recall the details of a life-changing time in our lives, like being pregnant, giving birth, but we get caught up in the smell of our newborn’s head and the softness of their skin, and suddenly milestone after milestone has leapt past, and we have nothing to tell the grown-up young adult when he asks, “When did I start walking?”

We think we’ll remember the pain in our hearts when saying goodbye to a parent, but the heart needs to protect itself and closes over the wound to help you move on. We never remember the exact conversations had, only the echoes of emotions. We don’t hold onto the joy we saw in the faces of our loved ones, the impressions drift away like the feet of wild elephants silently stroking the earth as they pass. In an instant, we have moved onto the next call, a fire not put out properly, a visit from a community leader, better put the kettle on, get the fire extinguisher. Life is a heady journey and keeping clear senses at the ready is hard enough.

Together with my HERD family

Years later, 20 years later, five years later, we wonder: How did I get here? I’ve made it my mission to capture the stories as they happen, because I know this head isn’t getting younger, or less full. There are memories that might die with me. There are people I want to keep alive, and elephants whose tales I need to share. One of the reasons I film and photograph almost everything is so that I can do this. Pass on my life to another, this blessed and beautiful life I have been able to live, with the elephants, the rhinos, two beautiful children and a dog named Nandi. I’m capturing the words and voices of the men who walk with me, who are helping me to raise the babies and look after the elders. Their knowledge is invaluable and I have been so lucky to witness it over the many years of our journey together. But I need to ensure it continues its path, and that it finds a safe home where someone might help it on its way.

You have all been that for me, sharing the elephants and the mission through your own words, your messages cast out into the world, giving an anchor to the elephants’ passage.

This year I’m going to keep writing it all down, filming even when my hand aches or my kids have had enough of Mom and her camera phone. I’m going to talk into my voice recorder and tell it the tales of the day, to share with you, or myself, when I’m an old grey mdala like Stavros. Who will share Stavros’ wisdom when he is gone? Who will I lean on for that hard-earned knowledge?

Me with my son, Xander and bull, Jabulani

I know Tigere is telling his son about Mambo’s latest escapades and Tokwe’s vanishing silhouette in the black moonless night. I know his son, Aldin will paint it and continue the story. Dear hearts, Obert and Albert who have been part of Jabulani for so many years are seeing to it that our family keeps growing as their children have found employment alongside them in our wilderness. The river will wind its journey through generations. But what about the stories lost? Surely the world is richer by keeping them safe.

This year I’m not just celebrating 20 years of a path walked with an incredible herd who taught me how to live when it felt hard, how to love when it felt near impossible, and how to wake up and embrace a new day with joy and gratitude in my heart. This year, I’m celebrating the stories. I’m celebrating that we have one worth telling. One that has inspired the world, and that continues to reach out its arms to welcome other eager hearts and ears.

Come and listen to our stories, join us at the campfire, we’ll keep each other warm. Joshua will keep you awake until you beg him to stop talking, Blessmore will make you laugh until your sides ache. Together, the stars over the homestead will look back at us and remind us that a million more stories still wait to be told, held, felt and shared. Together, we will help share them.

Happy 20th birthday, Jabulani.

Things have changed since these early days at the lodge…
Me and the team that treated Fishan after his injury in 2018
Our COVID lockdown team in 2020
What new memories await?

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