Best selling Australian author Tony Park writes page-turning fiction around themes like wildlife conservation, political corruption, murder, kidnapping, imprisonment, poaching and plane crashes taking readers on a storytelling rollercoaster ride. In one of his titles African Dawn,two of the characters George and Winston are talking about what they are going to do in the future, weighing up the pros and cons of being teachers or pilots...following in the footsteps of their fathers. Park writes: "There were hippos honking in a newly created bay, behind and off to their left, but they went quiet when the lion started calling again, closer this time. "I'd like to be a game ranger. I like it out here in the bush."
Here at Morukuru Family Madikwe, the team of rangers all went through the process of deciding on a job - just like George and Winston - and they all agreed on making their future in the bush. The rangers do enjoy their fair share of excitement (wildlife sightings, vehicles stuck in the mud, animal conservation etc.) and love to share their extensive knowledge and experience whenever they get the chance.
We recently sat with our team of rangers Armand, Evan, Warick, Johan and Shane to find out more about why they choose a career in the bush.
Armand has a little boy, his son Gerbrand who is 1.5 years old, and he is already showing a keen interest in the bush? I asked Armand if he is encouraging his son to follow in his footsteps."Well, he definitely enjoys being with me, and he loves getting involved with whatever I'm doing. That's probably more about spending time with his dad than the bush itself. I'm happy he sees my passion for the bush, and he sees this is where I am at my happiest. I feel that my love of nature is genetic - in my blood - so hopefully, he has inherited a bit of that. When I was a child, my family used to visit the Pilansberg a lot; these are my earliest memories of being in the bush. We were a very outdoorsy family - always hiking etc. - I hope to pass my respect for Mother Nature - and all her creatures - to Gerbrand. I know many people love spending time in the bush for leisure, but not everyone wants to make it their career The bush is one of my biggest passions and (besides cars) when I was working at the Pretoria Zoo, I realised that I wanted to make it my job”.
Listening to Armand, we thought about school leavers and how they are often under pressure to secure tertiary education qualifications and wondered if this was necessary and what sort of training there is available. Warick jumped into the conversation at this point.
“There are many different avenues leading to a career in the bush, tertiary qualifications are not necessarily essential, but training in conservation or game ranch/lodge management is an advantage. There are plenty of courses to choose from and depending on budget and time you can choose from studying on campus or on-line. There are many good places and options out there.”
Shane took the opportunity to graduate with his bachelor's degree in Nature Conservation and went on to pass his field guiding qualifications. He spoke passionately about his studies.
“The bush offers lots of different careers - from hospitality to management to guiding etc. I knew I wanted to be involved in nature conservation, so I completed a degree in that and then went on to get my FGASA qualification, which is required for guiding guests in the bush. My studies have given me a solid knowledge base and a great background on how things work. That said, practical experience counts for a lot too, so taking a gap-year and getting some hands-on skills before hitting the books is also an option”.
Johan agreed and added that he is very much from "the world is a university school" of thought and that every day presents an opportunity to learn something...
“I agree that FGASA is a must and I would also add the Trails Guide module. I think a great guide is someone who keeps on learning and expanding their knowledge and experience. There are plenty of short-courses on subjects like birding or trees - and self-teaching is an option - never stop growing! There are also many specialised fields like African Folklore, Astronomy, Geology and Photography; these are all essential branches of learning - some of this can be done with ongoing self-study.
With guests often having a keen interest in capturing their safari on camera as well as the rise in interest in specialised photographic safaris. Many of our rangers are keen photographers and are often on hand to assist guests with tips on how to get the perfect shot. Armand explained that photography knowledge is becoming more and more critical, and he would recommend supplementing any training for a career in the bush with a basic photography course. Most rangers develop an interest in photography, the longer they are in the bush, and some go on to be recognised as award-winning wildlife photographers. Understanding equipment, composition and lighting are all excellent skills to assist guests, and photography skills add another string to your bow. Being an all-rounder goes along way in the veld it seems.
Morukuru is well known for being a family-friendly destination, and welcoming youngsters is part of their philosophy. Kids are like sponges and just soak up new information - facts and figures and the most bizarre details. We asked the team what child-appropriate resources are available - to encourage youngsters to learn about the environment, wildlife and conservation. Wildlife and bird books give fascinating insight through full-colour photographs, maps, and easy-to-read text for the beginner but what other resources are for a budding naturalist. For older children, Warick recommends Game Ranger In Your Backpack which is crammed with practical, interpretative information - it's like having a dedicated expert at your side.
Evan also suggested FGASA, which has learning tools for kids called the Junior Field Guide Course with material and workbooks.
It is relatively common for people to make a total change in direction, leave their careers and retrain as a field guide or ranger. Warick's mother is proof of this; she is also a qualified guide. I know the phrase goes Like Mother Like Son, but in this case, it is more Like Son Like Mother!
Young Warick and Armand at the start of careers)
Our passionate team can’t wait to welcome young and old wildlife enthusiasts to Morukuru Family for an experience of a lifetime and to inspire some rangers in the making to make it a career