Travel broadens the mind and gives you experiences that cannot be measured in monetary wealth.
My parents believed in this philosophy and we were fortunate as children to travel and camp in South Africa’s natural splendour from when we can remember. Game drives were done standing on the back of bakkies with cattle railings to hold onto, Guides only took adult men on walks to sneak up to Black Rhino, whilst the ladies and children waited on a Koppie with bated breath, watching the scene unfold below them. On one of our Kruger visits, my Father and I enjoyed the hilltop view from Punda Maria. He asked me what I thought of the Park, I replied that it was great and asked if people were employed in the Bush, my Father pointed to the Khaki Clad Staff Members and that was it for me. At the ripe age of 4 years, I decided there and then, that I would one day work in Kruger National Park.
Life often takes us on interesting twists and turns. I was given an opportunity by Andy Dott of Drifters Adventours, to start as an Apprentice Guide. It was hard, but a fantastic experience. We climbed Dune 7 in Namibia, Mokoro’d into and walked the Okavango Delta, drove into the vast expanses of the Serengeti and rafted the mighty Zambezi. Lifelong friendships were formed with guests and fellow guides, bonded by what we experienced. During this time, Botswana cast its wonderful spell and we walked the Delta and traversed the Northern and Central Parks for 5 years with my wife and life partner, Laurika.
7 wonderful years in the game and predator-rich Sabie Sand Wildtuin followed. The 5-star operations of Chitwa Chitwa and Simbambili and the close-up animal viewing formed me further as a guide. The tracking skills of the Baye Bushman of the Delta and the Shangane of the SSW, mesmerizing. Their bush skills and knowledge of animal behavior unparalleled and it made a lasting impression. 3 years in the Pilanesberg National Park followed and the Alkaline Ring Complex sparked an interest in Geology. During this time, the Buys Clan grew a bit with Lienka arriving first followed by Matthias.
Today the dream has come true and for the last 5 years I have conducted Wilderness and Back Pack Trails in Kruger National Park as a SANParks Free Lance Guide as well as being part of teams that assess and mentor the next generation of guides. Has it been tough? Definitely! Was it all worth it at the end of the day? For sure! Every day the Olive Greens are donned and the Kudu epaulets put on, is like the first day I started guiding. The butterflies on the stomach and the excitement of the unknown shared with strangers that will soon be friends. 22 years later and it remains special! What a privilege we have to facilitate guest expectations and their experience with the focus on our Natural Wonders!
It was a huge honour being awarded the Safari Guide of the Year in 2016 and the Provincial Lilizela Tourism Award for 2017.
Being exposed through SANParks focus groups, to the harsh realities of Rhino poaching, and the wonderful people that are all fighting for their survival has become the focus of spreading the message of hope for the species, by either raising awareness on activities with guests or doing official presentations on the Rhino Management Plan.
We have to do what we can to save the Rhino from extinction, not everyone can be involved directly with the Rhino Management Plan, but we can assist by spreading the message and raising funds, and that is where the mission and passion lies for the next phase of an exciting and rewarding career.