Samara Private Game Reserve is proud to report that Head Ranger Julius Mkhize has been nominated as one of five finalists in the FGASA Safari Guide of the Year Awards 2019.
Forty-four-year-old Julius’s love of nature was birthed on the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands farm where he grew up. However, it wasn’t until his first attempt at guiding, 20 years ago, that he realised his desire to become a full-time member of the industry. “Once I tried it, I found that I loved it. I eventually became hooked on wildlife and game ranging.”
Julius completed his in-house training as a ranger at Shamwari Game Reserve in 1997. He spent many years at this Eastern Cape game reserve, before heading to the Kruger National Park, where he was based at Jock Safari Lodge. He joined Samara Private Game Reserve in the Great Karoo in 2016.
“I love being in the wild and with animals, but the best part of the job is undoubtedly being able to share this experience with our clients. Seeing their smiles and the joy on their faces is priceless,” Julius says, adding that he also relishes the aspects of his job that are not strictly related to ranging, such as ensuring that guests enjoy a memorable experience.
He’s especially proud of his nomination, because he’s passionate about seeing the professionalism of the industry grow. “I’d love for guides to receive more recognition, as they play an integral part in the game viewing experience,” he points out.
The Safari Guide of the Year is critical in this regard. Organised by the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa, the award applauds rangers who have displayed excellence and who enhance the guest experience at their respective lodges, in an effort to raise awareness of professional field guides. The finalists will take part in a gruelling challenge from 23 to 28 June, which pits their skills in various areas, from rifle handling to birding skills, track and sign identification, and even storytelling abilities. The location for the event is NJ More Field Guide College in the Marataba concession of the Marakele National Park.
“We are delighted with Julius’s nomination, which is so well deserved. His guests always comment on his incredible knowledge of all things fauna and flora, his enthusiasm for conservation and his ability to keep young and old enthralled on safari. We wish him luck for the finals!” says Samara’s Sarah Tompkins. For more information, visit www.samara.co.za