Ngala Tented Camp is located in Lowveld on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Luxurious Magazine’s Gina Baksa caught up with Ranger Andrew Nicholson to find out more.
LM: What or who inspired you to become a ranger?
Andrew Nicholson (AN): My parents and my grandparents used to take my brother and me to the Kruger National Park on holiday at least once a year. Their appreciation for all creatures big and small definitely rubbed off on us.
LM: What do you love most about being a ranger?
AN: To be able to watch and appreciate the sunrise each morning, in the knowledge that you are in the middle of 2.2 million hectares of natural wilderness is surreal. The things that excite me are to breathe the fresh air, to watch the circle of life and to see the seasons change.
It is amazing to be able to experience the survival of the fittest, learning to ignore the temptation to interfere. I love being able to work with like-minded people, who are as passionate and concerned about conserving the environment as I am.
LM: Where did you work before Ngala?
AN: I began working at Ngala after finishing my honours degree in Industrial Psychology at the University of Johannesburg.
LM: What strengths and qualities does a successful ranger need?
AN: Each ranger has his or her unique way of conducting a game drive. Although knowledge of the bush is important, I truly believe that connecting with people is the most important quality for a ranger. However, this can never be achieved without successful communication. In my opinion, a good ranger is not necessarily the one who can show you the Big Five in an hour.
LM: What have been your recent highlights?
AN: Being able to unobtrusively watch a pack of endangered wild dog attempt to raise a huge litter of 17 puppies earlier this year has to be my highlight. My most unique sighting was probably watching the same pack of wild dogs kill a buffalo calf. I have also been fortunate enough to watch a giraffe give birth, which was incredible.
LM: What advice would you give to a guest who has never been on safari before?
AN: Arrive with an open mind. Going on safari in Africa is a rare privilege that only a select number of people worldwide get the opportunity to experience. Don’t expect to see everything as it appears in marketing brochures. The bush is not a zoo; quite the opposite, really. Here we view the animals in their natural environment. Try to make use of all your senses. Lastly, your lifetime memories are far more valuable than a series of photographs.
LM: Describe your working relationship with your tracker Adam
AN: As in any working partnership, the more you put in the more you get out. We spend approximately eight hours a day together, so we have got to know each other pretty well.
Adam has been working in the bush for 19 years and was born in the area, so I respect his local knowledge. He has taught me more about the bush than anybody else. We laugh a lot together.
I always make a conscious effort to involve him in our drives, to introduce his role to our guests and to portray his unique tracking skills to them.
LM: What training does andbeyond give rangers?
AN: The ranger training process at andBeyond is rigorous and well respected within the industry. All our rangers in South Africa attend a training course at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. Three dedicated and brilliant trainers run a few of these courses each year. Off-road driving forms part of the training. At the moment, andBeyond’s preferred vehicle is the Toyota Landcruiser. It can seat nine guests, but, whenever possible, we prefer to limit it to six guests per vehicle for comfort.
LM: What makes Ngala Tented Camp so special?
AN: I would have to say its location. Ngala is nowhere near as commercial and heavily populated by safari vehicles as most other reserves in the area. It was also the first private game reserve to be incorporated into the Kruger National Park, with exclusive off-road traversing rights. It has become a place where you can expect the unexpected.
LM: You’ve taken some beautiful photos – where can we see them?
AN: I have a photography page on Facebook (Andrew Nicholson Wildlife Photography). This page is the perfect stage to share some of my favourite photos with friends, family and like-minded nature lovers who also appreciate the things that make me happy. Some of my photography also appears on the andBeyondRangers Instagram account.
LM: What are your professional and personal goals for the coming year?
AN: I am in the process of writing the thesis for a Master’s degree in Environmental Management through the University of Stellenbosch. I am hoping to use this as a vehicle to get more involved in the business side of andBeyond, where I hope to move into more of a sustainability or marketing type of role.
Ngala Tented Camp – Where and How?
andBeyond operates 33 lodges and camps in six African countries, as well as India. They also design personalised luxury safaris in 15 African countries, as well as arranging bespoke tours in India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Chile and Argentina.
Kruger National Park: www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/