Was your family a “bush family”, and where did you spend your family holidays? We were an outdoors family. Ever since a young age, we would go camping. Often Game Reserves.
Many individuals love spending time in the bush for leisure … but not everyone wants to make it their career … what made you decide on this line of work? The first time my family and I went camping in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, I met a guide called Stefanie. She noticed me having a look at the game-viewing vehicles. For some reason, she took a liking to me. I must have been about 14 years old. So she invited me to spend the following day with the ranger team. At that stage, the camaraderie within the team interested me. Eventually, when we did job shadowing at school about three years later, I got to tag along with a team at another park close to Cape Town. During this adventure, I was included in the darting of a caracal in the Cape Fold Mountains. Being hands-on in this process showed me that this life is for me.
How did you get started - Tell us about what training you did to qualify as a ranger. I did my training through The Nature College in the Klein Karoo. That area is not a Big Five destination, so it showed me that there is much more to the bush than just the Big Five. Flowers, tracks and birds were vital in this area.
How long have you been in the bush, and any thoughts on further training/change of direction or - specific areas of interest you would like to study up on? I have been doing this since 2012. I started on an Ostrich farm in the Karoo. The property had a game farm aspect, and the farmer entrusted this department to me. I have been fortunate to have had opportunities to work in many different areas of our country, including the Karoo, Addo, Kruger and now Madikwe. The one thing I would like to learn more about is the history of the Madikwe Reserve. There are many signs of indigenous inhabitants here - things like ruins, pottery shards and village sites. History has always intrigued me, and I want to understand it better.
Learning from an experienced person is always valuable - did you have a mentor who influenced you this far in your career? Who do you turn to if you are baffled by something in the bush? The one guide I see as a mentor is a gentleman called Dean Wilkinson At a young age, he took me under his wing and taught me plenty about assessing different aspects of the bush. Even though it is quite a few years later, I still get to see him on the Madikwe Game Reserve.
What is your favourite part of the job? It is challenging to pick one part of the job. It would have to be introducing our guests to an African sunrise and sunset. The sunsets in Madikwe are the most beautiful I have experienced. The range of colours can only be explained as “breathtaking”. However, I think sunrise has to take the cake. There is nothing like being out in the morning when it is still dark. As soon dawn approaches it is like someone flicked a switch. You can hear each bird waking up and singing to celebrate the new day. Then, the animals start getting vocal, and it is incredible sitting with a cup of fresh coffee and experiencing this every day.
Skills development is very important - tell us a bit about how Morukuru is committed to ongoing training and how you contribute to this by upskilling your team. Training and upping your skills are not always related to new qualifications and courses. Although we are encouraged to work on that, and our management is always happy to support us in this regard, our team makes a difference. This gives us the X-factor in creating a bush holiday like no other. Almost every day after morning drives, we sit and enjoy a cup of coffee. The stories shared the ranger team of Armand, Shane, Dean and Evan. This gives new guys like me an understanding of the game trails, the behavioural differences between the prides of lions and even just something simple as wild dog dynamics. Even though this is not traditional training, this family effect of being part of the Morukuru Family. This is what makes us the best safari team I have ever been a part of, and this is what filters through and brings a better guest experience.
Do you have a favourite animal - and why? My favourite animal must be the Elephant. There are so many animals that have a daily routine and similar personalities. It is the elephant that stands out when it comes to character. Each is unique, and each has a different way of doing things. When looking at a herd it is clear who is in charge. It is clear who the naughty one is and which ones the babies prefer to spend time with. It is just their individuality that makes them stand out miles above any other animal for me.
You are privileged to witness incredible sightings - which three stand out in your memory? The three sightings that would stand out would defiantly have to be the first time we found the wild dog pups on our private property last year. Also, recently my tracker and I found an Elephant cow going into labour, and we got to see the whole birth process. And lastly, it will have to be my first Pangolin sighting in Madikwe. It was late at night, and my wife found it returning from bush dinner. After she radioed me, Evan and Shane interrupted their guest dinners to come and join the sighting. After the guests were back at the houses, we even took the staff to see this rare animal. Just the joy on everyone’s faces made it amazing for me.
When you get some time off from your duties - how do you like to spend your time? I love playing golf on the area's surrounding courses when I am not on duty.
Guests really enjoy sundowners when they are out on the afternoon drive - when you are off duty - what is your go-to tipple? When I am not on duty and feel like a refreshing drink with the sunset, it would have to be the traditional South African drink, Brandy and Coke.
Guests also enjoy experiencing an authentic South African braai. Are you a braai master - and can you share any of your tried and tested recipes? I do consider myself a braai master. My wife and I have a reputation amongst the staff of always braaiing when there is the opportunity. My go-to recipe to impress someone would be Snoek (fish) on the braai. I like a butterflied fish basted with butter, lime, garlic, and apricot jam. Braai it skin side down on aluminium foil on the grid until the translucent meat on the top changes colour. This is when I would coat the meat side with breadcrumbs, and flip it meat side down for an additional 2min and remove. As I am originally from The Cape Town Winelands region, this is a very traditional meal I grew up with.
Share your top 3 tips for visitors to get the very best out of their safari experience.● Be prepared to wake up early. You want to be away from the lodge as the sun rises to experience the bush waking up. ● Don’t only focus on the Big Five, be open to learning about history, birds, plants, geology and their connections. ● Ask your guide questions. Our guides are fonts of knowledge, and the information makes your safari experience much better.