12 Jan What’s in the day of a Game Ranger …
A game ranger, or field guide, spends years building up their knowledge and skills in the bush combined with rigorous studies and examinations, studying wildlife and the natural world in all its minute detail.
Choosing to work on a smaller private reserve is different from working in a public reserve that is larger.
Smaller reserves offer a more personal experience with one-on-one interaction with the guests. Sightings are able to keep vehicles to a minimum, ensuring guests excellent visuals and photographic opportunities as opposed to the larger parks where sightings may be full of vehicles, making getting a good viewing position difficult.
But it is not only the skills relating to the natural world that a guide needs. Learning social and leadership skills to deal with guests appropriately and to ensure their safety is important too.
These challenges include ensuring that communication with your guests of a variety of nationalities is well facilitated. Another challenge is to always ensure groups mix well, for example guests with similar special interests such as birders or those focusing on larger mammals.
A game ranger’s day can begin at 03h30 with opening the whole lodge, ensuring lights are on and bathrooms are all ready for the guests. A guide can be committed to anything from 4 to 8 guests during their stay. It can take about half an hour in the Summer to open the lodge, set up the coffee and tea station and pack the hot box for morning drive. In Winter it can take a bit longer, due to adding hot water bottles for the guest’s comfort.
Duties aside from guiding usually include washing the game vehicle, cleaning the equipment for the next game drive and doing small vehicle checks.
Depending on the number of days a group is visiting, a guide will focus on a different area of the reserve each day which we break up into north, south, east and west.
Animals will vary in each section and sometimes you may see something twice, but in Nambiti it is possible to break the areas up by also planning a river trip and the battlefields.
What wildlife is likely to be seen depends on the time of the day, the weather and seasonal changes, and quite a lot of wildlife can be viewed on the game drives. Some drives can offer 3 or 4 of the Big Five and up to 40 birds a day with at least 10 to 15 other species of antelopes, mammals, etc.
A game ranger or nature guide has a long day, with the evening ending after dinner is served. A guide can spend years building their skills and knowledge and gaining experience in game ranging, as well as completing various examinations to keep improving and up to date in a number of aspects of guiding.
As with any hospitality position, it can be challenging. Being out in the elements all day and knowing how to deal with different types of personalities can prove challenging.
Being able to be out in the African bush where each day is different is one of the best parts of being a game ranger. The animals are always doing something different and the guests you get to meet are interesting with a diversity of backgrounds. There is also a great camaraderie amongst the other guides and your work colleagues.
Getting to call the bush your ‘office’ is one of the best jobs and industries to be involved in.