SAMSON GAOPELO - Head Guide
Sam (Kega) grew up in a small village about an hour and half west of Madikwe Game Reserve. His bush-life inspiration comes from him being raised on a farm and he always wanted to become a guide. Sam started working at Madikwe Hills in 2004 as a butler. After 8 months he became a tracker, and worked his way up to a guide in 2006. In 2008 Sam married Irene, our Front of House Manager, who he met at the Lodge. Sam has reached his dream and is so passionate about the bush. He says Madikwe Hills is ”home sweet home and will always be around”.
WAYNE JONES – Field Guide
Wayne was born in the capital city, Pretoria. From a young age he was fascinated by animals. He had almost every pet imaginable. He started going to Kruger National Park from the age of 8years old and absolutely adored it. On one of his trips, he remembers seeing a game ranger riding his bicycle through the reserve and decided then and there, that is what he wanted to do.
He started guiding on small farms and reserves and eventually moved onto Pilanesberg, Kruger National Park, greater Kruger and a bit of work in Pongola game reserve in KwaZulu Natal. Wayne is interested in animal behaviour (ethology), interactions and cultural history of an area. He loves walking safaris, spending time looking at the tracks and signs animals leave behind.
ERNST VAN GRUNING - Field Guide
Ernst was born with a passion for the outdoors and from a young age his interest in camping, fishing, the outdoors and his love for animals were very obvious to his family. This also made him the ‘odd one out’ in the family and he often worked on farms in his school holidays. He studied Game Ranging and Lodge Management and in 2002 Ernst started his first guiding work that incorporated security work which enhanced his love for animals. He could actively assist in their protection and had the opportunity to work in KwaZulu-Natal, taking drives into Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, St Lucia and Mkuze, which in its own is an amazing Biome. He got his first opportunity to experience Madikwe Game Reserve in 2005 and it allowed him to develop another passion – trails/bush walks and photography.
In 2007 he had the opportunity to experience the Sabi Sands and Greater Kruger area. He loved time there but my heart longed to go home. In 2008, back at home volunteered his free time as an Honorary Officer, enabling him to give back to the community and to assist in training of new guides in the park. Ernst feels privileged to work at Madikwe Hills in Madikwe Game reserve. He feels Madikwe gives guides a freedom that allow them to share the bush in ways that it is meant to, allowing them to go off road and track the animals. He loves sharing his passion for the bush with guests and sharing the wonder that is Madikwe.
DOCTOR MUNETWA - Field Guide
Doctor was born and raised in Mukhomi village, Limpopo Province, about 50 km from the Punda Maria Gate of The Greater Kruger National Park. His love for nature started with the daily school trips to the Kruger National Park while he was still attending primary school. His parents also occasionally took the family to the Kruger National Park for day visits. When he was in grade 10, he had an opportunity to join the SANParks Junior Honorary Ranger training course and he got to spend an amazing week at one of the bush camps close to the Letaba Rest Camp, learning from some of the most experienced game rangers of the Kruger National Park and his love for nature conservation grew from there.
Doctor went on to complete his National Diploma and B-tech Degree in Nature Conservation with the Tshwane University of Technology. In 2015 he worked as an assessor/facilitator at the Southern African Wildlife College for two years, however, his heart always longed to be in the bush. In 2017 he started his guiding career in Madikwe Game Reserve. He also had a chance to experience Sabi Sands but Madikwe Game Reserve had always been home for him and he started at Madikwe Hills in 2021.
Doctor enjoys doing bush walks and birding and the overall interaction between animals and their environment. He loves seeing the excited expressions on his guests’ faces after experiencing wonderful sightings of their favourite animals on a safari. He is looking forward to seeing your thrilled expression from the overall wonderful experience that you will enjoy here at Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge with him.
BENSON MABASO - Field Guide
Benson Mabaso grew up on a farm very close to Great Zimbabwe, the stone ruins of an ancient city near modern day Masvingo, Zimbabwe. During his secondary education, his dream was to become a geologist. Unfortunately this was not possible due to financial difficulties. In 1998 Benson moved to South Africa and settled in Thabazimbi. South African National Parks (SANParks) appointed Benson as a general worker at Marakele National Park in 2003. That same year Benson was sent to the Kruger National Park for Field Ranger Paramilitary Training. During those two months of training in the bush, Benson encountered some of the Big 5 on foot and had the opportunity to go on game drive. This was it! He fell in love with nature.
A year later, Benson was assigned as a full-time field ranger. 2007 marked the year that Benson qualified as field guide and although he was conducting both patrols and game drives for SANParks, his heart was into safaris and introducing people to wildlife. His passion was the driving force to pursue a career as a field guide and led him to Madikwe in 2010. Benson joined the Madikwe Hills team in February 2022. He enjoys tracking and doing bush walks. His favourite animal is an elephant: “Imagine this big animal spending 80 % of the day feeding. I never get bored watching elephants.”
ROWAN POORTIER - Field & Trails Guide
Rowan was raised on a farm in the Springbok Flats region of the Limpopo province. Growing up, Rowan always enjoyed exploring the farm on foot to find different antelope, snake and bird species to admire. His love for the outdoors and nature emerged from watching endless nature documentaries with his grandfather when he was younger. This sparked his career choice and Rowan kicked off in KwaZulu-Natal where he obtained his qualifications in nature guiding, marine guiding and trails guiding. On completion of his qualifications, Rowan started guiding in KwaZulu-Natal and gained further experience in the Greater Kruger. Rowan has a keen interest in animal behaviour and tracking, he finds pleasure in birding and is an avid photographer. On top of that, Rowan is passionate about all facets of guiding and keen to experience everything that Madikwe Game Reserve has to offer.
Truly the best authentic African safari in existence. Staff are welcoming and go above and beyond to ensure you have the best experience possible. We stayed 4 nights and saw all big five game as well as wild dogs, hyenas and so much more. Our guide and our tracker were very knowledgeable and we cannot commend them enough. Breathtaking. 5 stars!
Daniel Curran, (October 2021)