Expert Rangers and Trackers
Royal Malewane has the most 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 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. To notice and interpret nature’s subtle clues through acutely honed senses while the ranger engages with the guests and ensures safe passage.
There is no bond stronger than the indelible and intuitive connection between a ranger and a tracker. Wild adventures, unique encounters and proud achievements punctuate their derring-do filled days. Watch our video below which explains more about the unique qualifications that our team has and how that impacts on the guest experience.
Juan Pinto is the former Head Ranger at Royal Malewane and has now taken up a position as a director at Royal Malewane allowing him to concentrate on the broader wildlife experience as well as critical conservation efforts. He is one of the most qualified guides in the business. Juan has a unique set of formal guiding qualifications:
- The Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) – Level 3 professional guide;
- Special Knowledge and Skills (SKS) – Dangerous Game;
- SKS – Birding;
- Master Tracker;
- Juan was the first active guide to be awarded the honorary title of Scout by FGASA in recognition of achieving the highest qualifications as a guide and as a tracker.
Juan and erstwhile Head Tracker, Wilson Masiya have created an ethos that permeates through Royal Malewane, sharing their passion for the African bush and ensuring that all the rangers and trackers strive towards the same goal – to be the best guiding team in Africa. Royal Malewane is proud to have three of only seven living Master Trackers in the world and the only three in the entire Greater Kruger National Park.
All the game rangers at Royal Malewane hold the highest FGASA qualifications as well as advanced rifle handling certificates. These qualifications ensure guests an exceptional game experience – not only while on 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 300 years of African bush experience between them.
Meet the Rangers
Riaan entered the industry in 1999. He holds a National Diploma in Nature Conservation and is a FGASA Level III Professional Field Guide with SKS-Dangerous Game and SKS-Birding. He is also a Level II Tracker. Riaan worked as an ecologist in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and as a Game Ranger in the Sabi Sand and in the Karoo. He joined Royal Malewane in 2006 and is a highly skilled and entertaining guide. Riaan was recently awarded the Safari of the Year Award 2019 by FGASA, a remarkable achievement.
Ryan is the Head Ranger at Royal Malewane. He was born in Zimbabwe and having grown up in the outdoors on many a fishing trip, he started working in the guiding industry in 1999. He completed a Diploma in Game Ranch Management before he started guiding. Ryan also has a passion for photography and holds a Diploma in Photography. Ryan joined Royal Malewane in 2004. He is a FGASA Level III Professional Guide with SKS-Dangerous Game and SKS Birding. He is also a Level III Tracker.
Juan has worked in the guiding industry since 1993. Juan is unique in his qualifications (see above) and is instrumental in the evaluation and education of other safari guides and game trackers.
Rudi Hulshof has a complete set of skills when it comes to offering an all-round safari experience. Since 1997 he has actively engaged in guiding, being appointed Head Guide numerous times as well as maintaining senior management roles within the industry and pursuing his keen interest in Professional Photographic Guiding. He started out by studying a BSc in Geology. Rudi is a FGASA Level III Professional Guide and a Level III Tracker. He is also an Advanced Trails Guide. He was appointed at Royal Malewane in 2014 and has been a valuable addition to the Royal Malewane guiding team ever since. Rudi recently achieved his his SKS DG (Dangerous Game) certificate.
Nicola achieved a National Diploma in Nature Conservation from the Tshwane University of Technology in 2007 after which she gained practical experience working for South African National Parks in their game capture division. During this period she was especially involved in the well-published, large scale re-introduction of large herbivores into the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.
Nicola joined the Royal Malewane apprenticeship program in 2011 and spent the next two years living in a tent as part of the apprenticeship. It was under the tutelage and guidance of the highly experienced Royal Malewane guiding team that she showed great drive and commitment to a career in nature guiding, and the decision was made to offer her permanent employment at the completion of the apprenticeship. Nicola is a FGASA Level II Field Guide, a full Trails Guide and a Level I Tracker.
Nik, the Lone Ranger, completed his apprenticeship in 2009. He is an enthusiastic and committed guide who has his National diploma in Nature Conservation. He is a FGASA Level III Professional Field Guide with National and SKS-Birding. Nik is an advanced trails guide and a Level II Tracker. Nik is currently working on some exploratory projects for The Royal Portfolio.
Jonathan has been working in the guiding industry since 1995. He is a FGASA Level III Professional Field Guide with a SKS-DG qualification. He also holds a Diploma in wildlife management and has substantial wilderness experience which was gained through his interest in the country’s flora and fauna. Jonathan joined Royal Malewane in 2005.
Darrel started his guiding career in 1999,and brings vast experience and knowledge to the Royal Malewane team. He’s work has taken him to the North-west, Limpopo and Gauteng provinces, and he established himself as a trails guide for Zululand walking safaris in Kwazulu-Natal before making the move north to Royal Malewane. Darrel is a keen and accomplished photographer, and even owned a photographic company during his illustrious career.
He holds a FGASA Advanced trails guide and professional guide qualification, and a diploma in game farm management.
Obakeng Medupe, or ‘OB’ as his friends call him, was born in the rurals of the North-West Province in a small village called Mabeskraal. OB obtained his first guiding qualification through a Kruger based academy and started his career in 2008.
Today he holds a FGASA Level II, Full Trails Guide and Level II tracker qualifications. He is currently a few steps away from obtaining a full Level III qualification.
OB is very interested in animal behavior and he has a particular passion for birding and astronomy. He is a passionate, driven and charismatic guide, and a great new addition to the exceptional guiding team at Royal Malewane.
Andre has been a part of the Royal Portfolio since 2016, when he was selected for the two-year Royal Malewane Ranger apprenticeship program. He was one of those rare finds who showed incredible drive and commitment and became only the 3rd field guide ever to be offered permanent employment upon completion of his apprenticeship.
Andre has a deep passion for Africa’s remote wilderness areas, and when he is not guiding, you might find him exploring the continent in his Land Rover.
He holds FGASA Advanced Field Guide, Advanced Rifle Handling, and Level 3 track and sign qualifications, and also has a degree in film making; a skill that comes in very handy when helping guests with their photography.
Meet the Trackers
Jonas grew up in the bush with his best friend, master tracker, Wilson Masiya where his skills were used for everyday living. 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.
Shadrack is 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 has come an exceptional distance, and is currently a level 3 tracker with over 20 years experience.
Robert has established himself as a Level II Tracker through his qualifications and 25 years of bush experience. Born just 15km away from Royal Malewane, he was immersed in the African bush from the start, quickly developing a passion for wildlife and conservation. He also has a Field Ranger Qualification from the South African Wildlife College. He has 9 years’ experience in the bush at Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, where he was involved in anti-poaching, wildlife conservation, patrols and game counts. Robert has been a great addition to Royal Malewane’s formidable guiding team.
Mumps Mathonsi was born in southern Mozambique and grew up in the Greater Kruger National Park. He has been a tracker for 25 yrs having worked at Simbambili and Mala Mala in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. Mumps has incredible knowledge of the flora and fauna from small insects to medicinal and cultural uses of many tree and plant species. Having joined Royal Malewane in 2016, Mumps brings 27 yrs of tracking knowledge to our team. Mumps is a FGASA Level III Tracker.
Patrick is a local tracker whom, like Piet, was raised on the borders of the Greater Kruger National Park. Pat is a vastly experienced and skilled Level III tracker who worked in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve for a decade, before joining Royal Malewane in 2008.
Selby represents the new, younger rank of tracker, who helped revive a tradition that was threatened to be lost forever. Selby grew up on the border of the greater Kruger Park, and honed his skill as a tracker in the Timbavati Game Reserve for the past 11 years. He holds a tracker level3 qualification.
Bennett came to SA from Mozambique in 1981, and started working as a tracker on the Thornybush Reserve in 1987. He is very well-known as a highly skilled tracker, having been on the reserve for more than 26 years. Bennett joined Royal Malewane in 2013, and holds a FGASA Level III Tracker qualification.
Lodrick was no stranger to the guiding team at Royal Malewane when he joined in 2017. The bulk of his 14 years of experience were gained as a ranger and tracker on the Thornybush reserve, and it was only a natural progression for him to join our expert team. Lodrick holds a Level2 tracker qualification.
Lawrence is another individual that was well-known to the Royal Malewane guides long before he joined our ranks. He has worked in the area for the last 25years, and has been working as a tracker on Thornybush for the past 15 years. He is a level1 Tracker.
Lucas Mathonsi’s story as a tracker begun as a five-year-old boy. He would accompany his father who was a ranger 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 Pinto and Jonas Mhula at Royal Malewane.
Juan Pinto and Wilson Masiya have been instrumental in creating one of the most sought after guiding apprenticeships in South Africa.
Royal Malewane takes on two apprentice rangers 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.
Earlier this year, we received an application from a young man from the local village outside the reserve applying for a Tracker Apprenticeship. We had to explain that unfortunately we do not run an Apprenticeship programme for Trackers and that even if we did he had no experience.
A few days later this young man, Kevin, arrived unannounced at Royal Malewane and knocked on the door of the Ranger’s Office. Our Head Ranger, Ryan Jack, went to meet with him and explained once again that unfortunately we do not offer an apprenticeship for tracking. But Kevin had other ideas…
He explained in fluent English how, for a while, he had been watching the Royal Malewane staff bus come and go through his village with the impressive Royal Malewane logo emblazoned on the side of the bus. From that moment he was determined to work for the prestigious Royal Portfolio.
Kevin had ventured into the nearest town and managed to get online to research The Royal Portfolio, learning eagerly about the great legacy of the Master Trackers – of Wilson Masiya and Juan Pinto and of Jonas Mhula and Lucas Matonsi. These men were legends. And he would become the next Master Tracker.
There was something about this young man – he was bright, smart, internet savvy, spoke English and could drive. He also had an understanding of hospitality from his Uncle who worked at nearby Singita. So Ryan went away and spoke to Juan Pinto…
Kevin is now our first Apprentice Tracker. He is excelling under the mentorship of the Jonas, Lucas and the rest of the incredible guiding team. He achieved 95% in his first major assessment, he refuses to go on leave and is the first tracker to be able to help out by driving guests and staff around the lodge.