There is no bond stronger than the indelible and intuitive connection between a ranger and a tracker. In the case of Juan Pinto and Wilson Masiya, that bond endured for over 20 years.
On most private safaris in Southern Africa, guests are guided on specialised Land Rovers by a ranger 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 while the ranger engages with the guests and ensures safe passage.
Juan Pinto was the first employee of The Royal Portfolio and is a director of Royal Malewane. He is the most qualified guide in the business but remains committed to his daily quest for self-improvement.
Juan has a keen sense for what his guests do and do not know, and what they might want to know. He never goes in for the kind of formulaic facts that some guides rattle off in an attempt to impress guests or kill time – he is always thinking, observing, listening to guests and gauging their interests and curiosities.
But Juan’s most endearing characteristic is not a formal qualification, it’s his humility and openness to keep learning from his former sidekick – Master Tracker Wilson Masiya.
Juan and Wilson were the most experienced and knowledgeable game ranger and tracker team in Africa. As Head Ranger and Head Tracker respectively, Juan and Wilson created an ethos that permeates throughout Royal Malewane.
Wilson passed away in July 2015 after a long battle with cancer. Wilson was a true master of his trade. A wise and insightful man who would notice and interpret nature’s subtle clues imperceptible to the untrained senses. He saw life in high definition. As head tracker at Royal Malewane, Wilson touched many lives. From celebrity guests, to colleagues and junior trackers under his mentorship at the Tracker Institute – all were left richer and wiser for the encounter.
Juan was not the only one devastated by Wilson’s passing. So too was Wilson’s best friend Jonas Mhula – at the time himself a Senior Tracker at Royal Malewane. Juan and Jonas spend many months despairing at the loss of Wilson.
Juan and Jonas are now two of only seven living Master Trackers in the world.
With this passing of time however, despair turned to pride and a realisation of the legacy that Wilson had left at Royal Malewane. This pride spurred both Juan and Jonas on to achieve their Master Tracker qualifications themselves and to ensure that Wilson’s legacy continues into the next generation of guides and trackers, not just at Royal Malewane, but across the safari industry.
The Master Tracker qualification is an honorary recognition of unparalleled knowledge of animal tracking and behavior. In 1994, Louis Liebenberg, tracker and author of several scientific papers on tracking, founded CyberTracker in the Greater Kruger National Park. By formalising various levels of tracking standards, the organisation has played a critical role in developing and maintaining only the highest standards of tracking worldwide.
These CyberTracker Certifications ensure that trackers play significant roles in education, ecotourism, search and rescue, anti-poaching, scientific research, and the monitoring of rare and endangered species. CyberTracker Certificates fall into five categories: Learning Certificates, Primary Certificates, Secondary Certificates, Tertiary Certificates, and finally, a Master Tracker status.
Over the last 20 years CyberTracker has issued over 5000 certificates around the world. Despite this, there are only seven Master Trackers living today.
The role of a Master Tracker goes beyond excellence in tracking. To obtain Master Tracker status the tracker must play a major role in the mentorship of Senior Trackers, develop the tracking community, and show a large degree of originality, creative insight and humility.
We are extremely privileged to have such incredible trackers and rangers at Royal Malewane. A team dedicated to self improvement and to our guests’ experience. Their passion for wildlife and conservation and their commitment to education and safety ensure that our guests enjoy an unrivaled wildlife experience.
To find out more about the most qualified guiding team in Africa visit our Expert Rangers and Trackers page here.
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