By Gary Underhill
“Excuse me, Madame” said Naftal quietly, as he took my wife, Glenda by both shoulders and pulled her backwards.
It was the spring of 2000, and we were on our first safari with Ken and Lynda Morris, owners of Byseewah Safaris. We were hunting with Willie and Naftal and had been pursuing a nice blesbok ram that kept disappearing into the bush. In an effort to relocate him, we had climbed an old, inactive termite mound. Glenda was looking through her binoculars and was unaware that she was straddling a Horned Adder. Irritated by her presence, the snake was coiled and ready for action! Thanks to Naftal’s interference, both went their separate ways unharmed. Later on, after considerable effort, Glenda made a great shot and took a beautiful blesbok.
In 2002, Naftal was involved in a car accident that resulted in the high amputation of his left arm. The amputation was such that wearing a prosthetic device is not possible. One can only imagine what the loss of his arm meant to a young man with a family, working in the hunting industry of Namibia.
In 2003, Glenda and I were back at Byseewah. As you might imagine, Naftal’s self-confidence was not in great shape at this point. I wanted to do a little hunting, and in discussing the days’ arrangements, Ken asked me to request Naftal to be our guide, and to do so in front of the rest of the staff. Since I was planning on that anyway, it was no problem. My request was to be made in front of the staff to show that, even with the loss of his arm, Naftal had value in the eyes of the client.
It was good to spend time in the bush with Naftal. We were away from the rest of the staff and light conversation was the order of the day. His sharp eyes spotted a gold-medal steenbok which now resides in our trophy room.
We have two boys who are avid archery hunters. In 2004 we took a family trip to South Africa and both boys and their wives had hunted plains game with a rifle. In 2007 we all headed to Byseewah for some archery hunting. Hunting gemsbok with rifle is difficult enough, but archery – you must be kidding me! Ken allows no shooting at waterholes, so if you hunt at Byseewah, it is all spot and stalk.
The only way to sneak up on a gemsbok at Byseewah is to wait until they go deep into the gabba-bush, Cataphractes alexandri. So each day Tom, Patrick, Naftal and Moses (another guide) went off into the bush. With the help of Naftal and Moses both boys each took two trophy gemsbok, as well as other plains game. And with that, Naftal guided the second generation of Underhills.
As part of their inheritance, our grandchildren get a month in Africa with Grama and Grampa when they turn twelve or thirteen. In 2009, our first grandchild, Katie, went on her trip. Since then, Abbie, JB, Jillian, Amanda and Patrick have all spent time in Africa. This last March, Bradley – our last grandchild – had his trip. And as usual, Naftal did a great job guiding us. I stayed back and watched as Naftal communicated with my grandson. Naftal has a gift in working with young hunters. His quiet, patient, deliberate manner of guiding them instills confidence and helps the shooter make a good shot.
Anyone who has spent time in Africa knows that there are people there who become like family to you. This has been the case with Naftal. Glenda and I feel that he has become part of our family.
Naftal has now guided three generations of Underhills and he has been an inspiration to all of us. He showed up at Byseewah 28 years ago when he was fourteen. He was hungry and looking for food. He spoke only his village language and had had only six months of formal education. When Ken asked if he could work for his food, he responded, “Yes”, and has been there ever since.
Naftal is now one of Byseewah’s top employees. He is a licensed professional guide in Namibia. Through his exposure to international clients, he speaks five different languages. He has his own computer and kindle and is comfortable with both. His reading and computer skills are largely self-taught.
Byseewah is an amazing place, located one hour south of Etosha National Park at an elevation of 4600 feet. It is sixty-two miles around the perimeter, so you can imagine the required maintenance to keep it tip-top shape. When Naftal is not hunting, he is involved in maintenance.
His wife took off after his accident, so he has raised his three children as a single parent. His oldest daughter, Evangelina, (19) is now enrolled at the University of Windhoek, and the two younger ones, Smedley, (14) and Herolina (12) are doing well in their studies.
As I reflect upon what Naftal has accomplished, in spite of the hurdles placed in his path, I must conclude that I have very little to complain about. The opportunities presented to us here in America are endless and I hope none of us are guilty of the sin of ingratitude.
Gary and Glenda Underhill retired from health care in 2014 and live in Enterprise Oregon. They continue to pursue their passion for Africa.
For more information about Byseewah, visit their website at Byseewah Safaris or contact Ken and Lynda Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_gallery type=”image_grid” images=”12722,12723,12724,12725″][/vc_column][/vc_row]