Tswalu guides excel
The team of five guides at Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve have written and passed their FGASA Level 3 exams, says Managing Director Russel Binks. This means that the guides are qualified to “point out and explain in terms of scientific theory and cultural belief, the features of the natural environment in which s/he is operating, and put it into broader ecological context”.
According to The Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA), which provides educational opportunities to promote the conservation and rehabilitation of the cultural and natural heritage of Southern Africa, the knowledge and insight expected at Level 3 is unlikely to be obtained without at least two years of active guiding in the field. “A general distinction between the competence at this level as opposed to lower levels is the ability to explain phenomena by means of valid and well-motivated scientific theories and the concomitant use of appropriate scientific terminology.”
Russel Binks, said that he is extremely proud of the team which is now amongst the most qualified in the industry. “We are privileged to have such a professional, committed field guiding team. Their knowledge and inspiration is vital to both our guests’ Tswalu experience and our conservation vision of restoring the Kalahari to itself.”
Adrian Bantich, Jo Neytzell de Wilde, Christo de Jager, and Richard Visser all work under head ranger Marco Tonoli, who started his guiding career in KwaZulu Natal at the St Lucia wetlands, having travelled extensively in Europe and the Middle East. The desire to explore took him to reserves across the sub-continent, where he worked as an overland guide through Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa.
In 2005 Marco settled at the Sabi Sabi private Game Reserve, where he worked his way up to senior ranger responsible for training. In 2007 Marco left guiding to realise another dream and study wildlife documentary film-making in Cape Town. He became a skilled film–maker, collaborating on major documentaries and working behind and in front of the camera as director, cameraman, and presenter for Wild Earth TV.
He joined Tswalu in 2008, where he now leads what is arguably the finest team of field guides in the country, all experts in this unique eco-system. His personal passions includes astronomy, botany and the medical use of plants
“Tswalu, with over 100 000 hectares of unspoilt Kalahari Desert, is a guide’s dreamland,” says Marco. “Here guides have to use years of experience to traverse, explore and track down what they are looking for. We have an elite team of guides, with over 40 years of collective guiding experience.
“There are few places left in the world where you can spend the day tracking a Desert Black Rhino, climb a mountain to ancient Rock Art, finish off with a picnic next to a waterhole and not see another person the entire time. Tswalu is one of those places. There is no rush, no deadlines and definitely no traffic. Instead there is the peace and freedom to explore, at the pace that our guests choose, in a wilderness that does not bear the scar of man’s presence.
About Tswalu: Tswalu Kalahari is owned by the Oppenheimer family, and covers an area of over 100,000 hectares. It offers a unique malaria-free game viewing experience with some of South Africa’s rarest and most extraordinary wildlife, including desert black rhino, black-maned Kalahari lions, cheetah, rare antelope such as roan, sable and tsessebe, and 230 species of birds, including endangered raptors.
The word ‘Tswalu means ‘a new beginning’ and Tswalu Kalahari is driven by two ambitions: to create an inspirational experience for its guests, and to realise Nicky Oppenheimer’s conservation vision of restoring the Kalahari to itself. These two goals sit in perfect equilibrium; each guest contributes directly to the sustainability of the reserve in a true model of eco-tourism.
A visit to Tswalu is a unique experience. A dedicated complement of field guides and butlers allows guests to choose how they would like to spend their day – from breakfast in-suite, to a leisurely spa treatment on their private deck overlooking the magnificent landscape of the Kalahari with its dunes and grasslands. The experience includes game drives, a private gourmet safari picnic and a visit to see the ancient engravings of the San (Bushmen) whose ancestral home is the Kalahari.
Tswalu caters for a maximum of only 30 guests at a time, and welcome families. At Tswalu, children are actively encouraged to participate fully in the safari experience.
For more information about Tswalu see:
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
Review by: Fabio Rocchi, Verona : excellent meals, great game drives and wonderful lodges. HIGHLY Recommended.
Review by: Kelly & Brent, New York, USA : This was probably the most fantastic experience of our entire South African trip. The service, the surroundings, the lodges, the game drives – everything was of the best standards and we loved every minute.