Being a malaria soldier is a dangerous adventure

2014-09-09 00:00

GROWING up Bruce Leslie dreamt of travelling Africa, so when renowned adventurer Kingsley Holgate offered him a job, he packed his bags and never looked back.

Thirteen years later Leslie has been stabbed three times, shared meals and drinks with child soldiers from all over Africa and contracted malaria several times, but he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The 33-year-old Shongweni man is a photographer on Holgate’s team. He met Holgate in 2002 during a wedding at Stonehaven Castle in Shongweni, the family-owned wedding venue. Leslie said, “It was a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

During the wedding, Leslie’s sister approached Holgate and told him that Leslie would be perfect for his team.

“He called me for the interview and it was the best interview of my life because when I was young I dreamt of travelling Africa,” he said.

Leslie can still remember his first expedition.

“Holgate gave me the keys to the Land Rover and I went on my first trip was with the Great Explorers.” The team have navigated all over Africa, even to the most remote villages, handing out mosquito nets to mothers and children under the age of five. Leslie said the team have trailed so many expeditions that he has lost count.“The Outside Edge Expedition is one of my favourites,” he said.

Leslie said he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else with his life.

“It’s an adventurer’s dream to work with Kingley Holgate. I love the priceless afternoon sunsets and sitting around the fire sharing meals and drinks with child soldiers.

“I have been stabbed three times, been held at gunpoint and had malaria several times but I would still go back out there because when you see the mothers and little children suffering with malaria, you realise that they are fighting something that we can combat,” said Leslie.

Leslie has been back in South Africa for eight days and he is already preparing for his next trip.

“I am leaving at the end of the month. We are going the Zambezi River on another leg on the Ma Robert — our boat that we use to get across rivers,” he said.

Leslie said he was looking forward to going back to rural schools around Africa.

“We educate children about rhinos through the Kingsley Holgate Project Rhino. They enter the Rhino Art competition and the winner writes a message on Ma Shozi the Land Rover.”

Leslie said, “Helping people is our life. When we wake up in the morning, we jump out of bed to start a new day because Africa keeps us on our toes.”

• amanda.khoza@witness.co.za

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