Jeni Smithies

Jeni is one of the most daring, optimistic, generous, energetic, gifted and talented people we know. Her list of achievements is endless, from raising six children while managing a large transport company, overcoming cancer, to running a back-packers and two four-star lodges in the Eastern Cape. During this time, she studied to become a nature guide through the Field Guides Association of South Africa and started her business, Kakuli Safaris.
Jeni won numerous global awards, as well as two Lilizela Awards provincially. She was always disappointed in the quality of her photographs, so enrolled to get her diploma in photography. She bought a decent camera and lenses and once again made a huge success. Jeni also does the most wonderful paintings of wildlife and has raised thousands of Rands for anti-poaching efforts and to rehabilitate much-threatened vultures.
Sadly Covid-19 put an end to many of the tourism businesses in South Africa, with Kakuli Safaris being one of them. So, a new chapter begins in her life in the form of a book. Sharing her wonderful experiences as a guide, incorporating her beautiful photographs in this illustrated guide to the Addo Elephant National Park.
Her mother wrote a book titled Bwana Kakuli at the age of seventy-seven, sharing her amazing experiences of Zambia from 1946 to 1970. We look upon this book as a sequel to Bwana Kakuli, expanding on the story of the Slabbert family and their innate drive, passion and true grit. Jeni’s knowledge, vision and never-ending optimism will really inspire and be enjoyed by all who read this book.

King of the road

King of the road

A true and magic experience, a captivating safari through Addo Elephant National Park with a passionate and knowledgeable tour guide – with fascinating facts, good laughs and fun – but also the sadness that sometimes happens in wildlife and the reality of the authors’ own life.
Jeni takes the reader on a memorable day safari and creates, with every sentence, an exact account of the event – so realistic that one can even feel the slightest bump in the road, hear the elephants trumpet and the roar of a lion.
In her notes on the brief history of Addo, she mention that the park was literally borne out of tragedy. In a sense, the idea of this book, too, was inspired during tragic circumstances. We are currently under level 3 Covid-19 lockdown and she, like every other nature guide and tourism operation, had no source of income. The tourism industry is one of the hardest hit by the implementation of the strictest lockdown measures worldwide and four months later, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. For an industry that contributes four hundred and twenty-six billion Rand to the economy annually, many guides did not qualify for government assistance and approximately one and a half million tourism partners are on their knees.
Jeni lost her business due to the corvid-19 outbreak.
This is her story: “There was a little voice from within that told me I couldn’t do it, but my heart said otherwise. My heart simply reminded me that I needed to get out of my head, concentrate on something positive, something that I would enjoy and that would give me the opportunity to share my knowledge as a guide and showcase my favourite photos taken in the park. It also told me that even if it never got published, I would have survived the mental anguish that tortured my soul during the dark days of lockdown, and I would have a memoir of note. I listened to my heart, which also did not surprise me, because I’ve always been one to do everything with the utmost passion and my heart is filled with Addo and every single creature that lives within her. So, this is my book. A book written from my heart. The same heart that proudly guided thousands of guests through Addo, happily sharing knowledge, experience and passion for its wildlife and biomes. I have so many stories of funny experiences, hilarious moments with guests, sad moments when we all cried and those moments when no-one dared speak, nor breathe, too afraid to make a sound until the moment had passed and we all looked at each other with big eyes, then burst into laughter of utter relief and awe.”
This book is not intended as a field guide, but rather a guided safari through each loop, relating some of the amazing sightings in that area, to celebrate the innate beauty, history and sense of peace that the Addo Elephant National Park presents to each and every person who enters her domain.

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A spirit of stone and a keyring

A spirit of stone and a keyring

“It is here where true courage is found. It is here where we find our true life purpose and learn to accept the things we cannot change. It may be the scariest thing you’ve ever done and may feel like the dark night of the soul, but you will grow so much as an individual and come out the other side with utter peace in your soul.”
Change comes through adversity.

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