(If only) I had a farm in Africa…. now this will warm you up on a cold winter day. Safari is an ancient African word for journey and our latest Jobs of the Wild career advice post comes from awesome husband and wife team Katherine and Josh Knight whose journey took them to South Africa in 2014 to fulfil their dream of working with big game. Kat managed the Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge in Greater Kruger National Park and Josh became a Ranger there. We’re not jealous at all…..!
If you want to know how to be a game ranger then read this useful resource.
Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa covering 19,485 square km (7,523 square miles) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in South Africa. It became South Africa’s first national park in 1926, being situated south of Zimbabwe and west of Mozambique and is a great place to see Africa’s ‘Big Five’ – the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and rhinoceros.
The park has nine main gates allowing entrance to the different camps of which Mohlabetsi is one.
Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge
Situated in the Balule Nature Reserve in Greater Kruger, Mohlabetsi means ‘Place of Sweet Water’ and is the local African name given to a small stream or ‘spruit’ that flows there. The 4-star Lodge is an intimate 20 bed family run business.
Ranger: Josh worked at Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge taking paying guests on game drives and walking safaris through a large game reserve to encounter all animals large and small including the ‘big five’. He was in charge of ensuring the safety of all guests whilst working alongside other Rangers and Trackers whether in the camp or out on safari.
Lodge Manager: Kat was in charge of both the guests at the lodge and 32 staff including the rangers and trackers, housekeeping, groundsmen and security. Tasks included: –
- Staff pay and shift rota management
- Kitchen menus and ordering
- Housekeeping and maintenance
- Reservation management
- Guest relations, safety and transportation (and generally ensuring they had a wonderful time!)
Completely dependent on the lodge you work at and your experience, but you don’t become a guide or lodge manager to make a lot of money. For us, we were also given free accommodation and food was provided and we were given a share of the tips.
- Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) Qualification
- First Aid
- Basic Rifle Handling Qualification
- Tracking and Guides Qualification.
- Previous experience of managing teams, working in hospitality and events or similar
- Ability to speak other languages very advantageous
Ranger: Six month intensive course in all aspects of guiding, wildlife, hosting, driving, shooting and first aid.
Lodge Manager: No particular training needed – just previous experience.
Top tips for getting the job
Passion and enthusiasm – having a passion for wildlife and conservation whilst being enthusiastic is an infectious combination which will impress and leave an impact on your guests so show this in your application and at interview.
Make sure you’re a ‘people person’ too.
Top tips for doing the job
Rely on all your senses– tracking animals isn’t easy and requires patience and often good fortune. As well as looking for signs, you must smell, touch and listen to your surroundings in order to improve your chances of finding the animals!
Remain calm under pressure – you will often find yourself in unpredictable situations which could quickly become dangerous, especially when guests are on foot. It is how you react to these situations that ensure an enjoyable and safe outcome. Being able to make informed decisions under pressure will aid you in this.
- Living in and being surrounded by the African Bush
- Seeing wild animals up close and personal on a daily basis and having encounters that will live long in the memory
- Meeting many different people
- Very long hours!
- Getting visas from the UK is no longer easy as you now have to prove you are better equipped to do the job than local people (Visa requirement: -Despite a diligent search, the prospective employer has been unable to find a suitable citizen or permanent resident with qualifications or skills and experience equivalent to those of the applicant)
4.30/5 am (depending on the season) until the guests are all in bed (around 11/12 pm.) The working pattern at Mohlabetsi was 21 days on, 7 days off as leave.
Anything else to consider?
The threat of poachers is unfortunately something which is a reality in Africa and one that you may have to face head on and be able to explain to guests.
Why we love the job
Josh: There is nothing like the African Bush. It is a raw and untouched land which nature rules; being able to live and work in this environment was truly an adventure. Every single day there was something new to see and explore. There is no better feeling than finding an animal having tracked it for some time using only clues left behind by them!
Most of all though, I was able to inspire and educate guests about the beautiful land and the animals that inhabit it, and by understanding their behaviour we were allowed to get up close and personal to dangerous animals safely.
Kat: The African Bush was my office! I could watch the animals at the watering hole just in front of the lodge each day and do my work. There was nothing more amazing than being mere metres away from elephants, zebras, giraffes etc. all happily grazing, playing and drinking from the watering hole. When the grass was denser during the rainy season, you would always hear or smell them long before you would see them, and when it was drier you could hear their feet on the ground with the twigs snapping as they appeared. There were many times I was able to go on my own game drives as I was driving between our lodges and I could easily spend hours being surrounded by whatever animal or bird that decided to wander past. Because our lodge was situated a fair distance from the main road, the guests would have to drive down dirt tracks to get to us, and I loved receiving calls from them having stumbled across our resident rhino who used to consider the road part of his territory. We’d have to jump into the safari vehicles and help them get past! Falling asleep listening to the coughs of the lions or the sounds of leopards was magical.
Kat and Josh allowed us access to so many of their stunning photos we’ve included an extra gallery to whet your appetite if you’re thinking of safari work in Africa.
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