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RANGER'S BLOG

24 Apr

The Life of a Tintswalo Ranger – Part II

It’s a unique type of person that chooses the lifestyle of a ranger or tracker, and their reasons for spending every day searching for animals vary, however there is one characteristic that they all seem to share —a passion for Africa and its natural spaces.

In celebration of our wonderful rangers and trackers, here is a continuation of our series of profiles from members of the Tintswalo team that get to the heart of what it’s like to live and work in this beautiful wilderness.

Ntsako Mathonsi (Tracker)

I always dreamed about being in the bush! I love being around animals, and getting the opportunity to work at Tintswalo was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When I first got to the lodge, I was employed in maintenance, but my calling was to be a tracker and I put in a lot of hours to gain the experience for me to finally become one. I have never looked back!

What is your favourite time to be in the bush?
I love winter in the bush; especially in the afternoons! The afternoons allow us to see more animals because there is more water around in winter time.

What’s your favourite sighting you have witnessed?
My top sighting was the time we saw a lion hunting a buffalo calf. The mother buffalo had come back to save it. But in the end, both the mother and calf were killed by the lions. As the lions feasted, the hyena’s came in and we saw an amazing fight between the two powerful predators. The sounds of the roaring and the yelping is something I will never forget.

What aspect of the bush/animals do you love to learn about and why?
I love to see leopards, and to learn about their behaviour and how they hunt. To me, it is spectacular how a leopard can can drag a dead impala up a tree.

What do you love to show guests first? What gets people excited about the bush?
The first thing I want to show my guests is a leopard, because they are so difficult to find and when I do find one, it is a sense of relief because they are so skittish.

What does the Manyeleti mean to you?
Manyeleti means a lot of things to me. But truly, it was the Manyeleti and Tintswalo that made me who I am today.

Erick Ubisi (Tracker)

I love the bush! Before I became a tracker, I spent 5 years as a field ranger; every day protecting animals from illegal hunters. Today, I am glad to work at Tintswalo so that I can share my bush skills with guests.

What’s your favourite sighting you have witnessed?
The best sighting I have ever had was a pack of wild dog chasing an impala. The impala leaped into a small dam, and as it was trying to escape the water, the resident hippo killed the impala in the dam—while the wild dogs just watched!

What aspect of the bush/animals do you love to learn about and why?
I love to learn about the small things—like birds. I love to see how they feed; especially forked-tailed drongos and how they cooperate with mammals. The bird gets to feed on all the small ticks and fleas, while it helps signal to the animal when a predator is around.

Wise Mnisi (Tracker)

I am in love with nature! I enjoy every minute I spend in nature. My family was born in the bush and many of them also work in the bush, so the wilderness is in my blood.

What aspect of the bush/animals do you love to learn about and why?
I love to simply sit and watch the animal behavior. There is always something strange and unique that happens, and I am constantly surprised.

What’s your favourite sighting you have witnessed?
The sighting involved a pride of lions that we call the Nkhuhuma pride. I found their tracks in the sand, and Alistair (the ranger) and I tracked their spoor until we found them. It was great to see how the pride had grown! Because they have cubs, the whole pride was 2 big male lions, 5 cubs and 6 females.

What do you love to show guests first? What gets people excited about the bush?
I just love to show guests elephants! It is one of the few animals that you can really communicate with—if you know how to read their mood.

What does the Manyeleti mean to you?
Manyeleti is my home, my legacy, it’s my source of life.

Foster Mathubela

I was born in the bush on a farm, and my father was a fortune teller. It was through him that I learned about animals and all the different type of bush medicine that you can use to heal.

What keeps you in the bush?
I learn a lot every day, and that is the reason I plan to work in the bush all my life. Being an experienced tracker, I get to teach the new generation about all the experiences I have gained.

What is your favourite time to be in the bush?
My favourite day is every day! You never know what the day holds in place like this.

What’s your favourite sighting you have witnessed?
My favourite sighting ever was a female lioness with cubs. We knew that she had recently had her cubs, and we noticed her heading into the bush. When she came out, she was carrying a small baby lion in her mouth. But she was aggressive and protective, and she tried to charge our vehicle. She stopped about 10 meters from the car. It was the first time in my life I have experienced something like that.

What aspect of the bush/animals do you love to learn about and why?
I like to learn about the behaviour of the male lions. When a male lion is mating with a female lioness, his behaviour changes dramatically and I find him to be unreliable and sometimes aggressive.

What do you love to show guests first? What gets people excited about the bush?
I like to start by showing and teaching the guests about African medicine because it is tradition in my culture and I like to share this with my guests.

What does the Manyeleti mean to you?
Manyeleti Game Reserve is a beautiful and quiet place, where you don’t have to share a sighting with many cars, and this allows us to enjoy the sighting more freely.

Pardon Mokoena (Tracker)

When I was young, I used to visit my father in the bush for school holidays. He was working as a guide at a lodge, and he used to take us into the bush and show us animals and teach me about the their behaviour. I started to really love the bush! As I got older, I kept on coming back to my dad to learn more. When I finished school, my dad asked me: “what you want to do now?” I said I wanted to do exactly what he was doing—so he helped me to get my experience and qualifications to become a tracker.

What keeps you in the bush?
I want to help conserve nature in the best way I know. My job is to find animals and inspire people to love this ecosystem and its animals. Having the ability to see animals every day and watch their behaviour keeps me going, and makes me want to be here in the bush forever.

What is your favourite time to be in the bush?
I really like early mornings in the bush. I love waking up and seeing the sunrise, and experiencing the fresh tracks from the night before. I also prefer the winter months, when we get to see rare animals like porcupine and pangolin, and the weather is nice and cool and there are less insects.

What’s your favourite sighting you have witnessed?
My favourite sighting was of a very relaxed leopard, which unexpectedly walked underneath our game viewer, popped his head out on the other side, and carried on walking without any issues. The guests were nice and relaxed and everyone took a lot of photos. When we stopped for drinks, the guests asked me how I enjoyed my experience, and; that day I realised the leopard was my favourite of the Big Five.

What aspect of the bush/animals do you love to learn about and why?
I like to learn about trees and animals. I learn a lot from the rangers and their conversations with the guests. I was once very afraid of snakes, and my ranger is really fond of snakes, and has taught me about the dangers and also the fun of snakes. In fact, he got me to hold a snake the other day! There is so much more to the bush than the Big Five, so we always try and draw attention to the smaller things as well; like spiders, snakes, trees and birds.

What do you love to show guests first? What gets people excited about the bush?
I always try and show the guests leopard first, because leopards are skittish and always the most difficult one to find. As soon as I find a leopard, I feel very happy and relieved for my guests.

What does the Manyeleti mean to you?
It means Place of Stars in the local language. It is truly a unique safari destination, and well off the beaten path. You can be certain to not encounter big tour groups travelling around in buses but rather expect a pristine bush experience in one of the world’s most beautiful places. The Manyeleti is also prime Big Five territory, with exceptional possibilities for viewing illusive lions, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalos.

Alistair Leuner (General Manager and Guide)

I have always had a passion for the bush and for wildlife. I grew up listening to stories told by my Father of chasing leopards and lions while he grew up in Utosha in Namibia. We also had a holiday house at a place called Ingwelala, in the Timbavati Game Reserve, so all our family holidays from the age of 2, were spent in the bush. I always knew that I wanted to be a Game Ranger, but after school, I spent a year playing rugby and coaching in the UK. After that, I was ready to go to the bush, but my mother insisted that I get a degree first. I went to UJ and got a degree in Marketing and my Honours in Logistics. Every opportunity I had, I was in the bush, gaining experience and working wherever I could. In 2012, I decided to try the corporate life, and got a job in Cape Town. This is where I met Emily.

This wasn’t for us, and so we both decided to take up jobs at Tintswalo Safari Lodge in the Manyeleti. After starting as a guide, a few months later, I was promoted to Assistant Head Ranger. When the Head Ranger resigned in 2015, I was made Head Ranger.

In 2016, I was promoted General Manager of Operations and am now the General Manager with my fiancé, Emily. I still love guiding and often guide guests.

I am a confident, sociable person who loves meeting new people and making connections and networking. I validate people well and always try to bring out the best in others and lift them up where I can. I love being with and meeting new people all the time. I love being out in the bush and giving my guests the best safari experience possible. I love the reactions of guests when they see their bucket list animals for the first time. And I love sharing my knowledge with those who are interested and want to know more! I also love having such wonderful owners who support and believe in us, and who are so involved with Tintswalo.

We would like to make sure that we set a good standard and have the happiest, most productive staff members, who love their jobs as much as we do. We would like to continue to ensure that all guests that visit Tintswalo have the most amazing and ‘out of this world’ experience possible as some guests have saved their whole lives for their trip and have been dreaming of it since they were children.

We would like to make sure that our ‘soul’ rubs off on all of our guests and that they leave here with ever-lasting memories that will make them smile and warm their hearts every time that they think of us. We would like to take the Tintswalo Safari Lodge brand to the next level, by keeping setting the bar high to ensure that we are always taking on new challenges and always making things better.

David Jacobs

Ever since I was 5 years old, I always had a passion for the African bush. You could never find me indoors. I was always outside playing around with insects and animals. Into my adult years, this has transferred into becoming a field guide which I am still crazy about.
What keeps you in the bush? 
My passion, a great team and pristine wilderness of the Manyaleti
What is your favourite time to be in the bush?
All the time! Anytime! Except when it is hailing.
What is the favourite sighting you have witnessed?
I have so many, hard to isolate one! Just for an example – watching an elephant giving birth was special.
What aspect of the bush/animals do you love to learn about and why?
I love to learn more about birds and butterflies – but honestly all aspects of the bush!
What do you love to show guest first? What gets people excited about the bush?
Well, if I am lucky: rhino and leopard as these are hard to find. I believe people get excited about the bush when they have a passionate guide. Spending time out in the bush for them to see the behaviour.
What does the Manyeleti mean to you?
It means a lot! Not only the place of stars but the wildest and least vehicle traffic in terms of game viewers. This is a very special place!