We managed to gather some inside info from our very own founder: John Holley, in order to understand what it really is like to be a real life-game ranger.
Here’s what John had to say:
What camp did you work at?
John: “Londolozi for 2 years mostly at Tree camp.”
Take us through an average day:
Early Morning Drive
John: “In summer you are up at 4:45 a.m. My tracker was very senior and had been at the camp for 37 years but he didn’t believe in driving so I had to do all the pre-game drive scouting. I would meet Richie at 5 and then the guests at 5:30-6:00. We would then do a 3-5 hour drive (in winter you can do longer ones but in summer by 9:00 it is too hot!) Then we would have a nice breakfast with the guests – unless they were a honeymoon couple! Sometimes it was just a quick roll on the run.”
Late Morning Adventures
John: “Bush walks, picnics or even clay pigeon shooting are options for guests so if they were up for any of these we would happily organise for them.”
Late Morning Down-time
John: “If I was lucky to have the “Abadis” (his now partners in Iconic Africa) they would go and have a sleep and I would have some time to kill! Sometimes the rangers would go to the gym or play touch rugby on the soccer field… it’s not a hard life being a ranger.”
John: “Early afternoon we would meet for a ranger meeting to discuss recent sightings, roads, game-count and route decisions. Then we would pack the vehicles with G’s and T’s and snacks depending on our guests’ preferences. Perhaps even pack a selection of wine for wine-tastings. We would have then have afternoon tea with the guests and then head out for the afternoon drive. Next stop, sundowners and snacks at one of the many beautiful viewing points on offer. The night drive back to camp is full of Chameleon’s, Night Jars, Bush babies and if we are lucky some cats.”
John: “We would join the guests for dinner every second night unless they were a honeymoon couple then only every 3rd night! After dinner we would check the day sheets for the next day’s guests and activities. When my guests were the Abadis they often… in fact they always got what they wanted!”
What is your favourite part of the day?
John: “The game drive and game walks and just being out in the bush. There is so much to learn and understand. Oh and also sunset wine-tastings out in the bush! Those were something special.”
What was the worst part of your day?
John: “There wasn’t a bad part of the day.”
Best wildlife sightings?
John: “There are so many possible answers. You go to Londos and you see crazy stuff… for example:
- Watching wild dogs hunt – going at 60 kms an hour.
- Watching a lion and buffalo interaction… quite a thing to witness.
- Buffalo killing a lion – quite hectic and really exciting too.”
What was your ultimate sighting?
John: “It was actually on my birthday and my parents were visiting… typical bush Karma. We found leopards mating! The night progressed and another leopard (the dominant male) came to investigate and began to fight the original male… when a third male arrived and we had ourselves a leopard foursome! This is particularly amazing as it is very rare that you bump into more than one predator!”
Have you ever been fearful for the safety of your guests?
John: “Not with guests. In a vehicle you are safe – the only risk is elephants and I am always very respectful of elephants. Once or twice I had some encounters with lion or buffalo when I was on foot but never with guests.”
Do you ever get tired of entertaining guests?
John “You work for 6 weeks solid without a break so yes sometimes you get excited for some alone time and some (not-having-to-talk) time! But the guests are all such down-to-earth, interesting people that this hardly ever happens.”
What was the best thing about the job?
John: “The relationships you make with the guests, camp managers and trackers. The relationship I had with my 74 year old Shangaan tracker was quite incredible.”