Shane Kloeck has lived and worked at Morukuru Family Madikwe for over eight years now. He started here as a student doing his training for his Degree in Nature Conservation. Now he is an essential cog in our ranger operations, working closely with our experienced tracker teams.
We asked him about the special ranger/tracker relationship. “I usually pair up with Boiky. Having a good relationship with your tracker is important as the team effort gives the guests the best possible experience out in the bush. Boiky and I have a good relationship, and we can communicate with very few words. When he is sitting on the front seat, I can read his body language, which indicates that he has spotted something, be it animals or tracks. At night, he uniquely uses the spotlight and moves it in different ways if he wants to double-check something or see something. Learning all these little things and having an excellent relationship take time but is crucial in providing guests with an experience of a lifetime. Boiky helps me immensely in my job. He’s my right-hand man and allows me to answer more questions and interact more with the guests. His skills and experience in tracking animals and following up on foot are invaluable. And he is great fun to have around, and guests love listening to his stories”.
Shane credits childhood holidays in the Kruger National Park as sparking his interest in wildlife and conservation. “As a six-year-old, spotting a leopard lying in the thicket during midday when none of the adults had noticed it - was the definitive moment of falling in love with the bush and dreaming of a career in the wilderness.” Many years of “playing ranger” during safari holidays sealed the deal and once he finished school he pursued his Degree in Nature Conservation and realised his dream.
No two days are the same in the bush, and nature rarely repeats itself. Nevertheless, Shane has witnessed some amazing wildlife sightings, and we pressed him on his top experience. He said,” My vote goes to seeing three male lions hunting and killing a buffalo. The whole kill took about 45mins. This one is special and memorable because we had tracked the lions in the mist to a watering hole when three buffalo cows arrived, resulting in the lions catching the buffalo ten meters from my vehicle. And best of all, we were the only vehicle for the whole sighting.”
Big cats feature heavily in Shane’s life, and he confirms that the elusive leopard is his absolute favourite Big Cat. With all those years of professional experience under his belt, Shane is our go-to guy for Big Cat tracking tips? “When tracking Big Cats, always take it slow and easy. First, always listen for the faintest sounds, such as a growl, hiss or even the tail hitting against vegetation. Then secondly, when following the track, try to think like they would which path they are most likely going to take. Finally, look at the speed and gait that the animal is moving (this can be seen in the track with spacing and foot movement and which direction the pads are facing.).”
Rangers do enjoy their fair share of excitement, what with animal rescues, vehicles getting stuck in the mud and thrilling wildlife sightings. Shane rates another Big Cat moment as his most exhilarating moment at Morukuru Family Madikwe. “While on foot, witnessing lions make a zebra kill! Nothing beats that adrenaline rush!”
So Shane, tell us why is Morukuru Family Madikwe the perfect holiday? What makes Morukuru a perfect holiday destination is that everything we do is completely tailored to our guests’ needs; there is no set schedule. We go out on Game drives whenever the guests would like to (obviously, we have our suggested times but do what the guests want). We accept children of any age on our Game drives. (The youngest child I have had on Drive was three months old). We also have many activities with the guests, from identifying tracks and track casting fishing in the summer months.
As a seasoned game ranger and eight years at Morukuru Family, Shane has seen and done plenty, but at the end of the day, he says his favourite bush ritual “is most defiantly the sundowner stops. Nothing beats Africa’s red skies as the sunsets. Always listening out for the roar of the lion or the rasping of a leopard or even the various calls of the different antelope species as they move into areas where they feel the safest from predators.” An African sunset has a way of stopping everything for one fleeting moment and brings the promise of a new dawn” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)