As a schoolboy, I remember writing in my journal that someday I wanted to be a ranger. I was most influenced by my older brother – he was a ranger, and I looked up to him. I used to visit him during school holidays and he would take me out on safari. I had a big passion for it. My father also used to work as a park ranger and in anti-poaching, so I grew up around the industry.
After leaving school, my brother helped me enter the safari industry, too. I completed my training as a tracker at Londolozi Game Reserve and then got my first job as a tracker in 2001 at Lion Sands Sabi Sands, where my brother was working as a field guide.
I wanted to become a tracker first before becoming a field guide, because I think learning to track animals is a very important skill and good training to start with. While tracking, I could also constantly be learning from the field guide I was working with. I learned a lot during that time.
I was a tracker at Lion Sands for 5 years, and then they helped me register to complete the FGASA (Field Guide Association of Southern Africa) Level 1 qualification. I wrote the exam and did not pass the first time, but I was passionate about becoming a guide. With the help of my mentors at Lion Sands, I did earn my qualification.
One of my favourite parts of guiding is taking guests on a bush walk. It is a time to track animals, identify the tracks, and talk about the vegetation and its medicinal uses in my culture. Most of the stories I know about the bush were told to me by my dad, grandfather and grandmother. I learned a lot from her – she can go into the bush, collect leaves and roots, tell me about and how to use them. She grew up in an area that is part of the Kruger National Park today.
I have now spent 17 years in the bush, and every day is different. You never know what you are going to see. For example, just before I went on leave a month ago, a puff adder gave birth in front of me. Instead of laying eggs like most snakes, puff adders incubate their eggs internally and when they hatch, they give birth to live young. It was something I had never seen before. The bush is always full of surprises!
Interview and photos by Charlotte Arthun