Guest Post by Richard Laburn.
To become a Game Ranger means choosing lifestyle and passion over anything else. It means being able to understand and interpret the wilderness around you and it means sharing the wisdom and emotion that the bush imparts.
Despite all of the theory and legal requirements for game rangers throughout Africa as well as the wealth of information online, the really great game rangers are more so because of their personalities and experience than anything else. Great game rangers have an innate ability to engage, entertain and have fun. They understand their guest’s individual needs, wants and expectations and then deliver on them.
Furthermore, they make sure that they also keep their own personal passions alive so that they can continue to share it with people that they guide. Great game rangers are continually learning from and respecting their diverse experiences in the wild.
In the past, game ranging was born from raw passion in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. Guides like Lex Hes and Ian Thomas spent hours on end in the Londolozi bushveld, in order to understand their chosen subjects and become more knowledgeable about them. So much so that Lex ended up writing “The Leopards of Londolozi” and Ian “The Power of the Pride”. To be a great game ranger meant spending more time in the bush and thus acquiring more wisdom with which to give a better experience.
Owing to South Africa’s dynamic conservation model, the country has exploded onto the safari scene. With this, there is a growing demand for South African safari experiences and thus a growing number of lodges. Hence, the opportunities for more and more people to become rangers is rapidly growing.
In the 21st century it seems though, that the more game rangers there are the more diluted they are becoming. Knowledge is pulled from the internet without the wisdom of experience, rangers spend their time as glorified wine stewards and khaki has somehow found a way to be fashionable and macho. The one thing missing? The wild itself….
What about getting reconnected back into nature? What about interpreting the feeling and the emotion of the bush rather than the scientific name? What about being led by someone who cares more about the colours of a sunset than how big his leatherman is? What about taking the time to climb a tree rather than watching your ranger flex his arms as he races around?
Great game rangers are not the ones who can be flashy, trendy or contrived, great game rangers are the ones who can touch your soul. They should never be praised for responding to a sighting but rather revered for their art of sharing darkest Africa.
Here at Londolozi , the new trainee rangers arrived two days ago. Our soul objective is to put the bush back into the experience for them. The whole notion of a safari experience is to experience the African wilderness and give people time to spend in nature.
There is no rule book, no obligation and no ‘5 steps’ to determine what makes your game ranger great. There is only the connection that they empower you to feel with the wild and the aching desire to return once you have gone.
Written and Photographed by Rich Laburn. Former game ranger who now blogs and films at Londolozi Private Game Reserve. blog.londolozi.com