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Expert Guides and Trackers

Royal Malewane has the most experienced and qualified guiding team in Africa. Our team consists of career guides who strive for excellence and are passionate about the African bush.

On most private safaris in Southern Africa, guests are guided on specialised Toyota Land Cruisers by a Professional Field Guide who drives the vehicle and by a Tracker who sits on an especially precarious seat at the front of the bonnet. The Tracker’s job is to find elusive wildlife. To notice and interpret nature’s subtle clues through acutely honed senses while the Guide engages with the guests and ensures safe passage.

There is no bond stronger than the indelible and intuitive connection between a Guide and a Tracker. Wild adventures, unique encounters and proud achievements punctuate their derring-do filled days. Watch our video below, which explains more about this incredible team.

Juan Pinto is the former Head Guide at Royal Malewane and has now taken up a position as a Director at the Company, allowing him to concentrate on the broader wildlife experience as well as critical conservation efforts. He is the most qualified Guide in the business and has a unique set of formal guiding qualifications.

Juan and erstwhile Head Tracker, Wilson Masiya created an ethos that permeates through Royal Malewane, sharing their passion for the African bush and ensuring that all the Guides and Trackers strive towards the same goal – to be the best guiding team in Africa.

Royal Malewane is proud to have two of only seven living Master Trackers in the world and the only two employed in the entire Greater Kruger National Park. All the Field Guides at Royal Malewane hold the highest FGASA qualifications as well as Advanced Rifle Handling (ARH) certificates. These qualifications ensure guests enjoy an exceptional wildlife experience – not only while on a game drive but also on foot.

Our greatest priority is guest safety. All our Guides and Trackers receive ongoing, on-site wilderness emergency training from experts in the field. The guiding team has over 356 years of African bush experience between them, which means that each safari can be personalised according to our guests’ knowledge and interests.

Meet the Guides

Juan Pinto

Juan has worked in the guiding industry since 1993 and has been instrumental in raising the professional standards of the industry. Juan implemented Royal Malewane’s highly sought after Guiding and Tracking Apprenticeship programmes. His endless desire to learn, improve, and innovate ensures that the wildlife experience at Royal Malewane goes from strength to strength.

Juan’s qualifications:

  • Level III Professional Field Guide
  • Professional Trails Guide
  • SKS Dangerous Game
  • Master Track & Sign
  • Master Trailing
  • Master Tracker
  • SKS Birding
  • FGASA Scout

Ryan Jack

Ryan is the Head Guide at Royal Malewane. Born in Zimbabwe, he started working in the guiding industry in 1999 after completing a Diploma in Game Farm Management. Ryan joined Royal Malewane in 2004 and also holds a Diploma in Photography, which is adds to his merit as a photographic guide for guests who are interested in wildlife photography.

Ryan’s qualifications:

  • Level III Professional Field Guide
  • Professional Trails Guide
  • SKS Dangerous Game
  • Level III Tracker
  • Specialist Track & Sign
  • Level III Trailing
  • SKS Birding
  • SKS National Birding

Nicola Bargiacchi

Nicola is one of the most qualified female guides in the industry and has been at Royal Malewane since 2011 when she trained in the Royal Malewane Apprenticeship Programme, after which she became an invaluable member of the team. Nicola has an Honours Degree in Nature Conservation and has a professional history working in game capture and the large-scale re-introduction of herbivores into Gorongosa National Park.

Nicola’s qualifications:

  • Level III Professional Field Guide
  • Professional Trails Guide
  • Level III Tracker
  • Professional Track & Sign
  • Level III Trailing
  • Honours Degree in Nature Conservation
  • RM Apprenticeship Programme Graduate 2011

Nikolas Vounnou

Nik graduated from the Royal Malewane Apprenticeship Programme in 2009 and was appointed on the Royal Malewane guiding team upon graduating. He went on to win FGASA’s Safari Guide of the Year in 2012, and he brings a depth of environmental knowledge through his National Diploma in Nature Conservation.

Nik’s qualifications:

  • Level III Professional Field Guide
  • Professional Trails Guide
  • SKS Dangerous Game
  • Level III Tracker
  • Specialist Track & Sign
  • Level III Trailing
  • SKS Birding
  • SKS National Birding
  • SKS Birding Southern Africa
  • RM Apprenticeship Programme Graduate 2009

HJ Esterhuizen

HJ grew up in Hoedspruit on the border of the Greater Kruger Park, and in the neighbourhood of Royal Malewane. For the last 10 years, he has honed his guiding skills across the Greater Kruger and Kruger National Park region, giving him a competitive level of knowledge and experience in the area. He is a true outdoorsman with the bush running deep in his veins.

HJ’s qualifications:

  • Level III Professional Field Guide
  • Professional Trails Guide
  • Level III Tracker
  • Professional Track & Sign
  • Level III Trailing
  • Registered Range Officer

Wayne Myburgh

Wayne was born in Cape Town and grew up in Johannesburg where he was in close enough proximity to spend time in the bush. He went on to qualify with a National Diploma in Game Ranging and Lodge Management in 2008, before entering the industry more than a decade ago. Wayne worked on the Thornybush Reserve for seven years before joining Royal Malewane.

Wayne’s qualifications:

  • Level III Professional Field Guide
  • Trails Guide
  • SKS Birding
  • Level III Track & Sign
  • Diploma in game ranging and lodge management

Andre Fourie

Andre has been a part of The Royal Portfolio since 2016 when he was selected for the two-year Royal Malewane Apprenticeship Programme. He showed incredible drive and commitment and became only the third Field Guide to be offered permanent employment at Royal Malewane upon completion of his Apprenticeship. Andre has a Degree in Film Making and a deep passion for Africa’s remote wilderness areas

Andre’s qualifications:

  • Level III Professional Field Guide
  • Trails Guide
  • Professional Tracker
  • Professional Trailing
  • Professional Track & Sign
  • RM Apprenticeship Programme Graduate 2016
  • Degree in Film Making

Matthew Grossett

Matt started his career in the industry in February 2017 and entered the Royal Malewane Apprenticeship Programme in 2019. Since graduating, he became a fully-fledged member of the Royal Malewane guiding team, of which he is now an integral part. He is passionate about camping, hiking, photography and birding, and is just as enthusiastic about the ocean.

Matt’s qualifications:

  • Level I Professional Field Guide
  • Trails Guide
  • Level III Track & Sign qualification

Conrad Zeelie

Originally from Pretoria, Conrad completed a BCom degree in Tourism Management in 2013 and went on to complete his guiding apprenticeship qualification and become a guide in the southern part of Kruger National Park. He has extensive industry experience across the fields of guiding, managing, and training in the Greater Kruger National Park ever since in guiding, training and management.

Conrad’s qualifications:

  • Levell III Professional Field Guide
  • Professional Trails Guide

Jacques Briam

After living in different parts of the world, Jacques began following his dream of working in Africa’s wilderness areas. He qualified as a Field Guide in 2012 and later worked in the Greater Kruger. Fluent in French and Spanish, in addition to English, he has a Degree in Economics and has also worked as a Field Guide trainer in Tanzania.

Jacques’ qualifications:

  • Level II Professional Field Guide
  • Trails Guide
  • Level II Track & Sign
  • Advanced Rifle Handling

Meet the Trackers

Jonas Mhula

Jonas grew up in the bush with his best friend – former Master Tracker Wilson Masiya. Jonas was inspired to achieve his own Master Tracker qualification at the end of 2016 and with over 40 years’ experience is considered to be one of the top trackers in the country.

The Master Tracker qualification is an honorary recognition of unparalleled knowledge of animal tracking and behaviour.

This CyberTracker Certification ensures that trackers play significant roles in education, ecotourism, search and rescue, anti-poaching, scientific research, and the monitoring of rare and endangered species.

There are only seven Master Trackers living today. Three of which, including Jonas, are at Royal Malewane.

Lucas Mathonsi

Lucas Mathonsi’s story as a Tracker began as a five-year-old boy. He would accompany his father who was a Guide in the Timbavati reserve.

Over the next 47 years, Lucas honed his tracking skills, before coming under the tutelage and mentorship of Juan Pinto and Wilson Masiya.

He received his Master Tracker qualification while working at Lion Sands before returning to work with fellow Master Trackers Juan and Jonas at Royal Malewane.

His deep-routed passion for wildlife and conservation and commitment to education and safety ensures that all guests at Royal Malewane enjoy an unrivalled experience in the bush.

Robert Ndlovu

Born just 15km away from Royal Malewane, Robert was immersed in the African bush from the start, quickly developing a passion for wildlife and conservation.

Robert has a Professional Tracker qualification through his 25 years of bush experience. He also has a Field Guide Qualification from the Southern African Wildlife College.

Shadrack Mnisi

Shadrack was Wilson’s first protégé at Royal Malewane, having honed his game tracking skills under Wilson’s guidance from the time he started as a swimming pool cleaner at Royal Malewane in 2001.

Shadrack is a Professional Tracker with over 22 years’ experience.

Patrick Moyeni

Patrick is a local tracker who was raised on the borders of the Greater Kruger National Park.

‘Pat’ is a vastly experienced and skilled Tracker. He has a Professional Tracker and a Trailing Specialist Qualification.

Before joining Royal Malewane in 2008, he worked in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve for a decade.

Mumps Mathonsi

Mumps Mathonsi was born in southern Mozambique and grew up in the Greater Kruger National Park. He has been a Tracker for over 25 years having worked at Simbambili and Mala Mala in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve.

Mumps joined Royal Malewane in 2016 and is a Professional Tracker.

He has incredible knowledge of the flora and fauna from small insects to medicinal and cultural uses of many tree and plant species.

Bennett Nyathi

Bennett came to South Africa from Mozambique in 1981 and started working as a Tracker on the Thornybush Reserve in 1987. He is well-known as a highly-skilled Tracker, having been on the reserve for more than 30 years.

He joined Royal Malewane in 2013, and holds a Professional Tracker qualification.

Selby Mgwena

Selby grew up on the border of the Greater Kruger National Park and honed his skills as a Tracker in the Timbavati Game Reserve for 11 years.

He currently holds a Professional Tracker qualification and is one of the next generation of trackers who will perpetuate this ancient art.

Lawrence Makhubele

Lawrence is another individual that was well-known to the Royal Malewane Guides long before he joined the team. He has been working as a Tracker in the Thornybush Reserve for over 15 years and is a Level III Tracker.

Lodrick Mkansi

Lodrick has spent the bulk of his 14 years of experience on the Thornybush Nature Reserve and holds a Level III Tracker qualification.

Herman Ndlovu

Herman grew up in the small village of Sigagule, a stone’s throw away from Royal Malewane. He became a Tracker in 2006 and spent the last 13 years plying his trade all over the Lowveld.

His work experience took him to the Timbavati and Balule Nature Reserves, followed by seven years working on the Thornybush Nature Reserve.

Herman currently holds a Professional Track and Sign qualification.

Bush Walks

The advantage of having the most experienced and qualified guiding team in Africa is that guests can get closer to the Big 5 and enjoy Africa’s wildlife from a different perspective while learning about the finer details of nature. Guests can experience an even more intimate wildlife encounter by walking among the Big 5 and learning about the vegetation, eco-systems, insect and bird life on a thrilling and fascinating bush walk.

Apprenticeships

Juan Pinto and the late Wilson Masiya were instrumental in creating one of the most sought-after guiding apprenticeships in South Africa. Royal Malewane takes on two apprentice Guides with aptitude and potential on a rolling two-year cycle before sending them out into the industry in order to raise the quality of guiding in Southern Africa. This challenging apprenticeship includes spending two years in a small canvas tent in the wild, gaining first-hand experience in the bush while at the same time completing essential FGASA qualifications.

In 2019 we received an application for a Tracker Apprenticeship from a local resident living in a village outside the reserve, At that stage, an apprenticeship for Trackers did not exist, nor did the person making the enquiry have any tracking experience. Yet, a few days later, the same young man, who introduced himself as Kevin, arrived unannounced at Royal Malewane and knocked on the door of the Guides’ Office – he was back to talk about a possible apprenticeship!

Kevin explained that he had watched the Royal Malewane staff bus come and go through his village many times, and had done some research on The Royal Portfolio. He had learned eagerly about the great legacy of the Master Trackers – of Wilson Masiya and Juan Pinto and of Jonas Mhula and Lucas Mathonsi – and he was inspired to join these legends and become the next Master Tracker.

Kevin was smart, internet-savvy, spoke fluent English, and he could drive. He also had an understanding of hospitality from his uncle who worked at nearby Singita. Recognising his potential and enthusiasm, Head Guide Ryan took it up with Juan, and the rest is history!

Kevin became Royal Malewane’s first Apprentice Tracker. He excelled under the mentorship of Jonas, Lucas and the rest of the incredible guiding team. He achieved 95% in his first major assessment, refused to go on leave and is the first to lend a hand. Today, Kevin is a Tracker at Royal Malewane, partnering with Guide Conrad, and is an invaluable member of our team.

David Wiggill

David grew up in Phalaborwa on the doorstep of the Kruger National Park, which meant much of his childhood was spent exploring one of South Africa’s most celebrated wildlife areas. Naturally, this ignited a passion that he would visit more seriously later on in life when his career in Logistics no longer felt fulfilling. His network and connections within the guiding industry gave him the opportunity to enroll in the Royal Malewane Apprenticeship Programme in 2022 where he is currently undertaking the two-year long qualification and training.

David’s qualifications:

  • Trainee Field Guide
  • Trainee Trails Guide

Brendan Davis

Brendan is originally from Johannesburg and has nurtured a deep love for the African wilderness from a young age. He started his guiding career in January of 2021 and has since achieved his guiding apprenticeship qualification and is enthusiastically taking part in the Royal Malewane Apprenticeship Programme where he is absorbing knowledge and experience from the highly qualified team that he works under.

Brendan’s qualifications:

  • Apprentice Field Guide
  • Back-up Trails Guide