By Sophie Pollet
Below is an interview with Greg. He is 36 years old, and is a game ranger in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. He tells us about safaris and tries to give us a clear insight into them.
Tell me about yourself, your career path and your current job.
Greg: Well, I was born in Johannesburg. But I was lucky because as far as I remember, I was going to safaris with my family every holiday. The bush quickly became my passion, so I decided to turn it into a job. First, I was a guide for years in the Kruger National Park where I organised walks. Then I worked in several reserves and now I’m here. It is in the bush that I feel good, and I don’t think that I will leave this place anytime soon.
How are the safaris here?
Greg: Here, we offer two safaris a day, one at dawn, very early in the morning around 5, 5:30am and the other in the afternoon; 3:00 pm in winter and 4:00pm in summer. We use open 4×4 vehicles to take the guests to see the wildlife, which is the best way to enjoy the view and take pictures. Sometimes we do safaris by night, but we do not always offer it.
Can you see animals each and every time? Or it is still a matter of luck?
Greg: Sabi Sand Game Reserve is one of the best sighting spots for game in the country. So, we are not really looking for animals. Sometimes, after a few minutes of driving, we find lions and leopards, and even sometimes all the Big Five! But Sabi Sand Game Reserve is obviously special. I have worked in other reserves and there, we kind of know where the animals are. Most of them are not really nomadic and they remain in their territory, so we get to find them. But we always need to be on the lookout for them and follow the tracks. But it’s true; it’s also a matter of luck! Sometimes we do not see all the animals we wanted to. Sometimes we’re looking for them for a long time. That’s the law of nature.
And for very large reserves, some rangers need to communicate. If someone finds a lion or something else, he usually lets the others know, and so on. In short, everything is done in order for the guests to see as many animals as they can, but they must also understand that it is not always possible, and it is not our fault. And sometimes, it takes more time than expected.
Is it not too dangerous to work in the middle of wildlife and organize safaris?
Greg: Oh, I’m glad you are asking that question! I just wanted to talk about it. Here in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, and even in most reserves, the animals are now accustomed to humans. Well, I should say they are used to seeing 4×4’s! They know we’re not a threat, so they do not attack. But it took time, about fifteen years. Now, when our cars make a hellish noise approaching a lion, sometimes it does not even look up. But you can’t generalise, they still remain wild animals and in the wild, you never know what can happen.
Sometimes I have clients who want to get off the 4×4 to closely approach the animals, take a picture of them and come back into the car. You can even see in the Kruger Park, people leave their cars on the side of the road and start walking on foot in the bush! These are attitudes that are unconscious and dangerous. We, rangers, always have a gun if something happens. Here, it’s forbidden to walk alone and even at the Lodge you must be careful. There are rules for safaris: remain silent and wear neutral colours. So, in short, it is not really dangerous, otherwise safaris would not exist! But we need to be aware that all animals here are still wild animals, and yes, if someone walks all by himself or starts to display reckless behaviour and tries to pass for a hero by getting out of the 4×4, then, it is not safe.
What do you think the tourists don’t expect on safari?
Greg: I think that they are often surprised when they see really violent scenes. Sometimes customers do not expect this. Hunting scenes with leopards slaughtering antelopes, crocodiles ripping a leg off of a buffalo, or when wild dogs hunt, etc… Sometimes the guests think they will see a peaceful bush where all animals live in harmony, like, let’s say the Lion King movie. But no, the law of nature is cruel, and wildlife is violent! But it is also what makes it so interesting.
Thank you, Greg, now it’s time to practice!