#Saluting our Rangers on International Rangers Day

The Garden Route National Park (GRNP) is a picture-perfect open access Park with approximately 160, 000 hectares of unique fynbos, lush indigenous forests, tranquil lakes, cool rivers, wetlands, pristine beaches and protected seas. The GRNP spans from Wilderness to Knysna to Tsitsikamma.

From the Tsitsikamma team: Gershwin Krige, Andiswa Khethelo and Franco Nell

All the 8 rangers were asked the same 5 questions and all answers from marine rangers from Wilderness to Knysna to Tsitsikamma indicate the need to conserve for current and future generations and the pressing need to escalate educational initiatives.

Meet Quinton Solomons, Wilderness section of the GRNP, marine ranger

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: When I was still in Primary School and we had regular walks with rangers from SANParks, the way they taught us how ecosystems work and why the protect and conserve . From there on, I started becoming really interested and started building a relationship with some of the rangers. There was one ranger in particular who taught us a lot and he had come from the ‘Bosbou’ from the Department of Forestry and transferred to SANParks, his name was Joekies. We struck a good relationship which gave me a foot in the door.

Q: What route did you follow to your current posting?

A: I threw in my CV for an EPWP Programme and at the time, I was told the Programme was full but 2 days before the closing date, I got a call from Owen Govender who was a Senior Ranger in Tsitsikamma at the time, I left my job at the time at the Bloukrans Bungie as a video editor. A week before Valentine’s Day, February 2012, I went on a 5-week Field Ranger Course in Welgevonden. The Programme was challenging but good, we were the first lot to do such a Programme. This equipped me to start in Bloukrans as an environmental monitor and a year later in Harkerville where I worked as a terrestrial and marine rangers (worked with People &Conservation), programmes with NGOs on schools Programmes, working with the community, law enforcement etc.

April 2018, now a Ranger corporal, in 5 years, I have climbed 5 steps, all from 01st April!

From the Knysna team: Shandro Jordaan and Nico Oosthuizen

Q: What is the #1 thing you wish visitors understood about your job?

A: We are not just here to enforce the law, but to educate people as well. Ours is to protect and conserve. Fines issued must be seen in that light. 

Q: What does your typical day look like?

A: I check attendance, update the roster, organize patrols (foot, boat and vehicles) according to resource availability and needs for the day. We prioritize the Lakes Areas in Wilderness because of their (Langvlei, Eilandvlei, Island Lake), watch out for bird and fish kills if any and or any for example. Scientists do also call on us for work they are doing on mudprawns, eelgrass, etc.

We are big on law enforcement, trail maintenance (Green Flag status standards) and Blue Flag for beach areas, visitor safety and others. We also have to be prepared to accommodate any changes during the day.

Q: What is your most treasured sighting?

A: Definitely on the Otter trail just 2km past the Andre Hut, there’s this little cliff where you can stand on top of the ocean. On that specific day, the weather was clear, the colours of the blue ocean, colours of fynbos, birds flying (Cormorants and Cape Gulps) and the haziness caused by the ocean….for me, that’s what made me want to conserve more and more….the sounds were amazing! Although there are loads of sightings during the Otter trail, this one provides the most needed motivation to finish day 4 of the multiple day hiking trail.

Meet Jonathan Lottering, Wilderness section of the GRNP, marine ranger

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: Sounds like a joke, but the ranger corpse form Wilderness in the 1990s really inspired me. That team had such passion for what they were doing, just watching them go out and putting their equipment together for night patrols. I knew then I wanted to be just like them one day although I did not have enough information at the time.

I started reading up about conservation and the rest is history…

Q: What route did you follow to your current posting?

A: Although I didn’t have a lot of information, I read up on conservation, I didn’t have enough money to pursue my studies in conservation but I did a lot of reading. I decided to open up my own business in 2004 but had to close it a year later the minute I was approached about a learnership opportunity (tourism field guiding) with SANParks. Once the learnership was completed, my contract was extended by a few months contract to work in the Park. In 2006, I was appointed as a field ranger, this made me realize I needed a formal qualification, so I went to study for environmental education with UNISA because being a field ranger isn’t just about writing out fines, it’s also about educating members of the public.  In 2009, I was appointed as a ranger corporal.  Last year I also completed a Higher Certificate in Conservation with the Wildlife College, next year, I plan to study further for a diploma.

Q: What is the #1 thing you wish visitors understood about your job?

A: Local communities and visitors must understand this world is not ours, it Is borrowed from our children. We must all look for the environment for our children. We are not the bad guys.

Q: What does your typical day look like?

A: We have a quick cup of coffee because we’re not a large group. This might be the only time to catch up during the day as we split up and head in different directions of the Park. We task daily based on yesterday’s information. We do foot patrols, beaches, lakes, boat patrols etc….In the afternoon, we regroup to report to seniors.

Q: What is your most treasured sighting?

A: There is this little cave in the North Camp of the Ebb & Flow Rest Camp where a Khoi family used to live. It is now a heritage site…I love sitting at that spot and reminiscing at least for 5 minutes when I can. Even if I could relocate from Wilderness, I would certainly still come back to that spot during holidays, it’s such a special place!

Meet Daniel May, Wilderness section of the GRNP, terrestrial ranger

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: I was working at the garage when my brother-in-law was working for SANParks and you could see how passionate he was about his job. I wanted to know more, so I applied and got the foot in the door via tourism and then moved to conservation where I have worked as a ranger then to a corporal ranger and now a sergeant. 

Q: What route did you follow to your current posting?

A: In 1994, I even remember the date, it was on the 17th October, Paul Sieben who was the Park Manager at the time, invited me for an interview, took the time to show me around the Park.  

Q: What is the #1 thing you wish visitors understood about your job?

A: Rangers who live in communities must continue to educate their own neighbours of Park rules and regulations. If you don’t respect nature, nature won’t respect you!

I have been with SANParks for 25 years.

Q: What does your typical day look like?

A: I have a team of 9 people I work with, we team up people daily according to daily needs which are ever-changing. We get into a 20-minute discussion before we head out to the field, Monday until next Monday are how our rosters are slotted, anything can change anytime.

Q: What is your most treasured sighting?

A: In the 25 years I have been working for SANParks, I have seen a lot but what’s made an impression in all those years, the Woodville Big Tree is by far the most impressive attraction in Wilderness.  See the number of people visiting the tree bears testament to this! 

Meet Andiswa Khethelo, marine ranger, Tsitsikamma, GRNP

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: I grew up here in the Tsitsikamma section of the GRNP, living inside the Park, my auncle was working for SANParks as a gate attendance and worked for the organization for about 30 years and I used to see legends like him and Oom Popo Scott who was one of the main rangers in Tsitsikamma at the time.

Q: What route did you follow to your current posting?

A: After working for Coast Care, I became a Police Reservist and my passion for law enforcement grew. I spotted a post for a field ranger position and got it to start on the 01st February 2012 in Tsitsikamma.

Q: What is the #1 thing you wish visitors understood about your job?

A: I would like them to understand rules and regulations of the National Park, most people don’t know what to do and not do in a Marine Protected Area- you find people picking up sea shells, drifted wood, etc….

Q: What does your typical day look like?

A: I work in the MPA, this includes patrolling, policing and visibility, visitor safety and sometimes gate duties.

Q: What is your most treasured sighting?

A: I saw a blue duiker on the Otter trail while we were patrolling one day. 

Meet Gershwin Kriga, marine ranger, Tsitsikamma, GRNP

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: The skill of being a ranger is to demystify what people hold dear and believe, that there is a lot of fish in the sea, which is not the case.

Q: What route did you follow to your current posting?

A: I started off as an intern upon completion, I received a national certificate where I was employed on a contractual basis and then eventually became a field ranger.

Q: What is the #1 thing you wish visitors understood about your job?

A: We are not out there to monitor and to police and reprimand people, the responsibility to take care of nature. We are just ambassadors for nature.

Q: What does your typical day look like?

A: Coming together as a family in the morning, deciding on tasks and execution. Everyday there’s always a new lesson.

Q: What is your most treasured sighting?

A: Definitely the Storms River gorge, it’s absolutely spectacular! As soon as you enter the gorge, you look minute and realize how majestic mother-nature is!

Meet Franco Nell, marine ranger, Tsitsikamma, GRNP

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: I am from the George area, where there was a forest patch just across my home where my friends and I used to use as a playground when we were little. In no time, houses mushroomed and the forest disappeared. The generation after me did not have the privilege to play in the forest. This inspired me to want to protect forests and nature.

Q: What route did you follow to your current posting?

A: In 2015, when the Department of Environmental Affairs decided to rezone 20% of the Tsitsikamma coastline to allow for angling by local communities only, I was one of people hired as an environmental monitor. This was during the pilot project phase. I then moved to Bloukrans where I worked with the trails team and then from trails back to the marine teams. Last year, I was appointed as a ranger.

Q: What is the #1 thing you wish visitors understood about your job?

A: Leave the area like you found it, don’t disturb anything

Q: What does your typical day look like?

A: I have a full time starting at 04:30am in the morning, working on the 3 rezoned areas using all resources at our disposal. I get home after 20:00 at night.

Q: What is your most treasured sighting?

A: I can never get enough of whales frolicking in and out of the MPA!

Meet Shandro Jordaan, Knysna section ranger (Harkerville), GRNP, terrestrial and marine

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: Probably influenced largely that I grew up on a farm so from a young age, there were forest rangers who we looked up to and even emulated as kids. I aspired to be like them.

Q: What route did you follow to your current posting?

A: Went to school in Port Elizabeth and started working for SANParks during the holidays for Coast Care at the time to feed my passion and also to get a foot in the door and my passion. We also had great mentors such as Neill Swartz who has taught me a lot.

Q: What is the #1 thing you wish visitors understood about your job?

A: It is all for the future generations!     The future is important, our kids must see what we’re seeing and experience it too! I am inspired by my daughter (Mischke) who is 8 years old, when I am on standby, I’d bring her along and try impart as much knowledge as I can. She even knows the difference between 2 Yellowwoods. The best part for me is….Mischke is already teaching her peers about nature.

Q: What does your typical day look like?

A: I wake up at 04:00am but need to leave the house at 04:45am to make it to the N2. My mind races through what wasn’t done yesterday which needs to be included in today’s plans too.  I actually like the ever-changing environment and plans and people think I’m over-enthusiastic, but I love it, I love being in-field patrolling, which for me includes trail maintenance largely. 

Q: What is your most treasured sighting?

A: In the 9 years I have worked for SANParks, I have a lot of treasured sightings, but one day I went down to the coast, there is a tidal pool that looks like a picture taken from Hawaai. Its off the Fisherman’s trail in Harkerville, I have never seen anything like that! The water was crystal clear!

Meet Thobeka Dlamini, marine ranger, Knysna section, GRNP

Q: What inspired you to become a ranger?

A: I have always had love for plants and animals. My parents sent me to an agricultural High School in Ulundi. The setting is a school on a farm in KZN, inland. I spent lots of time with domestic animals. Out of curiosity, I wanted to know more about wild animals, I wanted to know which career path to follow.

Q: What route did you follow to your current posting?

A: When I completed matric, I went to study further (nature conservation) with Mangosuthu University of Technology and completed a diploma. Started a B-tech in nature conservation thereafter with the same University.

Q: What is the #1 thing you wish visitors understood about your job?

A: In Knysna, people walk through and ask about permit-related information and regulations which is great to ensure the sustainable use of resources. I would also like visitor to know that we have a big educational drive, we have information brochures, I would encourage visitors to use the information and knowledge, we are there as rangers for this reason not only for law enforcement.  Rangers are approachable, most anglers speak Afrikaans for example, well, most of our rangers speak and understand Afrikaans which should facilitate easier communication.

Q: What does your typical day look like?

A: That question makes me breathe in and out! My day starts at 05:00am and ends at 22:00 but can extend at times. I start off at the gym, when I get to the office, I get information about the previous day and include that into the day’s planning for ranger duties, field work (law enforcement patrols), clean ups, maintenance, educational and awareness work, administration for the Knysna Lakes area, stakeholder relations (meetings, etc).  When I knock off, I head to the library because I am still studying and then to the gym again. Then head home to cook. I can’t say I am a mean cook because I enjoy fruits and veggies mainly.  But call outs are the order of the day so there’s never a fixed time to start and end.

Q: What is your most treasured sighting?

A: In the year that I’ve been in Knysna nothings comes close to the Viewpoint of Knysna which is picture-perfect!  I remember when I first got to Knysna, the Area Manager at the time, Johan de Klerk took me to the Viewpoint, it’s a site to break your Instagram. I always take a picture when I get there.

Caption: From the Wilderness team: Jonathan Lottering, Daniel May, Quinton Solomons

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