At one with nature



An affinity for wildlife and ensuring its sustainability in the ecosystem has led seasoned game ranger Brian Olver in the direction of training others with the same passion to take up the outdoor career.

Olver is a ranger trainer at the Inkwazi Ranger Training School that is part of the Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.

Olver said: "I have various roles and responsibilities, including assisting guides to become world-class guides; providing visitors to Africa's wildlife hot spots with a world-class interpretive guided experience while hosting them; keeping them safe and maintaining the balance between visitors' expectations and conservation ethics,"

Phinda is host to South Africa's Big Five - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo - and more than 380 bird species.

Olver has eight years experience as a ranger. He has worked as a head ranger at several lodges in southern Africa and as a full-time trainer at the ranger training school.

"Becoming a ranger trainer was a natural progression for me after being a ranger and head ranger, fulfilling both my love for the natural world and my passion for sharing that with others.

"I am in the enviable position of being able to positively influence attitudes regarding hospitality and conservation issues," he said.

To qualify as a ranger one must have a matric and a Level 4 Nature Guiding National Qualification.

The ranger training course runs for eight weeks and covers all aspects of big and small game guiding.

In the first week trainees focus on team building and setting up a platform of personal development dynamics on which to build; and the interpretive guided experience.

The trainee rangers' days start as a team, with coffee at sunrise, before embarking on the day's activity, with the evenings spent on knowledge acquisition and review, using the camp's library.

Tourism is recognised as one of the best ways of ensuring the conservation of Africa's wilderness and cultural inheritance.

"Our role can be challenging since we are required to maintain ethics and professionalism in a money-driven industry. It's often up to the guides, usually operating on their own, to make decisions that can have long-term consequences for the environment and the industry itself," said Olver.

Membership of the Field Guides Association of South Africa is beneficial to anyone in the field.