Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Staff Highlight: Gerry Jacobs

Gerry is one of the new rangers who have joined our team at Rhino River Lodge. His passion and enthusiasm for the African bush and its animals is already shining through in his guest reviews. Here we ask Gerry to share a little more about himself with us:

What led you to your position at Rhino River lodge?
I was informed by one of my previous instructors that there was an opening for a ranger position at Rhino River lodge, I had been wanting to get onto Zululand Rhino Reserve for some time, so as soon as I heard about the position I immediately contacted the owner of the lodge to hear if the position was still open, and it was. At that time I was still in Cape Town but none-the-less we set up the interview for when I returned and from there everything just went as planned. I then officially was the happiest man on earth once I’d been told that I could have the position. 

What aspect of you new position are you most excited about?
Doing drives every day, as where I worked previously I only conducted them about 3 times a week. Due to that I never really got to see to many interesting things, but now that I have the opportunity to do so, I find that I’m able to talk about a lot more interesting things now to guests. I can now also share more stories about what I’ve seen and experienced in the short time that I’ve been here at Rhino River Lodge.

What is your favorite part of being a game ranger?
My favorite part of being a game ranger is the fact that I’m always out in the bush, which is what I all ways wanted. I just love getting out there to see animals doing what they do on a daily basis even though days go by and you end up seeing the same animals, they are always doing something different. Sometimes it just takes time and patience to get the outcome of the animal’s behavior. Sharing knowledge with the guests that I myself have gathered over time would also be one of my favorites, educating people about what happens out here in the bush from plants, to birds and other general game which we see from day to day. To see the reaction on a guests face after you have told them something new or told them something they would never have believed could actually happen the way it does, really just makes my day.

What advice would you give someone coming on a safari for the very first time?
What I tell my guests is that the bush is vast and the area is bigger than we think sometimes so it is not always easy to find all the animals they want to see but with the help of them and my trained eye I’ll do my best to find and give them the experience they were looking for. I always tell them that anything is possible out here, there are days we see nothing and then there are days we see it all I suppose sometimes its also luck of the draw.

Do you have a favorite animal to view on a game drive? If so, why?
Love watching cats do their thing, but when it comes to monkeys, I could literally watch them all day. They are always doing something new or interesting, they always make me and my guests laugh. As much as they are always wary about what’s going on they always seem to be having fun. For example, the other day myself and guests where watching baboons, some were on the lookout while others were sliding down a fig tree. We found it so interesting to watch how they can be serious but have fun at the same time and how the hierarchy works between them.

What do you love best about living in the bush?
What I love best about living in the bush is that I have the opportunity to get out there and find new things to observe and learn about, to go to the same spot every day if need be to see these animals making progress. Being out in the bush allows you to learn about small things, big things, how they move, where they are going and why they do the things they do on a daily basis. Waking up to the sounds of the bush also makes my day. Animals at most times can be quite vocal when it comes to expressing themselves, so get to be able to get up close and find out what is actually going on can be quite fascinating.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Lions abound at Rhino River Lodge

Written by Claire Birtwhistle

Dashing up a dusty road in the Zululand Rhino Reserve, none of us minded the bumpy ride as our guide, Kyle, had promised us a lion sighting. It had been a slow start to the morning drive and when we heard that there was a pride of lions not too far, we just couldn’t resist going to check it out.

On my last trip to Rhino River Lodge, I was treated to some of the best wildlife sightings I’ve ever had, including a fantastic encounter with five adorable little lion cubs and two lionesses. As you can imagine, expectations were set high for this trip.

As Kyle slowed the vehicle to a halt and we all peeled our eyes in search of the lions, we were not disappointed. Just 50m off the side of the road were the very same lion cubs and lionesses that I had seen on my previous trip, three months earlier. They were much bigger but it was definitely them! I couldn’t believe my luck to be seeing these lion cubs yet again. The pride had a kill nearby and the cubs were having fun playing in the dust and occasionally chasing vultures off their leftovers.

Absolutely enthralled by their antics, we sat there for what seemed like ages, just watching the cubs. We were so absorbed by them that we barely even noticed one of the lionesses walking directly towards our vehicle! As if to pose for the camera, the lioness strode within a few metres of us and stood there examining the scene for a while before sauntering back off into the bush.

With that, the pride was on the move again and once they’d disappeared out of sight, we decided to move on as well. It wasn’t long, however, before we spotted yet another lion! Just down the road, as we turned the corner, there he was! A huge male lion with some seriously impressive battle scars, marching with determination across the veld. We stopped the car to watch him and couldn’t believe our eyes when just a couple of minutes after arriving, he walked directly across the road right in front of us and then disappeared into the bush on the other side! Had we been a few minutes earlier or later, we would not have even known he was there.

Still in a slight state of awe, we decided that it was time for a coffee break and headed off. However, the lions were not done with us yet! By complete chance, we spotted the same pride from earlier just a few metres up the road. We all had to do a double take, as when we’d left them, it looked as though they’d been heading in the complete opposite direction! We weren’t complaining though. Emerging out of the bushes, the five lion cubs and two lionesses proceeded to walk right behind the vehicle and across the road, barely even noticing our presence.


It just goes to show, timing and luck is everything when it comes to having good sightings on safari. But I like to think that these lions were showing off especially for us!

Article originally published on Africa Geographic.
All photos copyright Claire Birtwhistle.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Staff Highlight: Wyatt Airton

While only newly promoted to the position of game ranger, Wyatt has been with Rhino River Lodge for longer than any of our other rangers on staff. In fact, Wyatt has been with Rhino River Lodge since his birth, two and a half years ago. That’s right, this month’s staff highlight, is Wyatt Airton, Africa’s youngest game ranger.* 

Wyatt is the son of the owner/manager team Dale and Shannon. At two and a half some of his favourite things to do at Rhino River Lodge are play in the river sand, beg muffins from the kitchen, help to feed Lucky the rhino, ride motorbikes with Dad, and take game drives to see animals. 

Here we learn a bit more about Wyatt in an interview. Interviewer/mom notes in parentheses.

What is your favourite animal to see on game drive? Zebra (this is news to me, mom would say it was rhinos or wild dogs)
Where is your favourite place to drive on game drive? In the river


What is the scariest animal? What is the scariest animal? (He repeats questions when he doesn’t know the answer, mom guesses this Wyatt thinks crocodiles are the scariest.)

At this point in the interview I was informed that he was going to go play with his cars. A game ranger leads a busy life, after all. Since Wyatt is a little short on words, we thought we’d share some photos of his life as a game ranger…

If you would like to follow Wyatt’s further adventures please check out our Instagram account @livingamounglions at:

*Please note that we are just joking. Please do not expect Wyatt to take you on a game drive at Rhino River Lodge. At least for the next 16 years ;-).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The 'Big 5' tips for great wildlife photography

In recent years, wildlife photography has seen a massive growth in popularity. DLSR cameras are now readily available, reasonably priced and user-friendly. However, as ‘easy’ as cameras are to use these days, we’ve all had those moments when you take a photo of something beautiful and the result just isn’t what you imagined or doesn’t capture the essence of what you were photographing. It’s frustrating and can be a little disheartening. That’s why we decided to chat to wildlife photographer and Rhino River Lodge regular, Heidi Watson.

Heidi has always had a fascination with wildlife and the bush in general, from behaviours of animals to the interactions between them. Like many South Africans, her interest in wildlife photography was sparked on her first day trip into Kruger National Park. Combine that obsession with the tools to capture those memories and interactions, and the rest is history.

We asked Heidi to share a few tips on how to take better photos while on safari.

Copyright Heidi Watson

1. Invest in good lenses
I would have to say invest in your lenses – good quality glass is key. Next, a minimum focal length of 200-300mm. If you are birding, the longer the focal length the better for these mostly shy creatures (400mm and longer) I would say a 70-200 f2.8 (depending on budget) and then something on the wider side like a 24-70mm, and if you wish to go longer than anything over 200mm, it should be a prime lens (which has no zoom capabilities but is a superior lens generally).
At the end of the day I believe you should use and invest in whatever works for you personally. Start with the basics and build from there, not everyone can afford the “pro” equipment from the get go.

Copyright Heidi Watson

2. Experience is the most important thing when it comes to wildlife photography
Get out there, and practise! Learn as much as you can about your subjects and, of course, be patient.

Copyright Heidi Watson

3. Tell a story with your photos
Capturing the soul of an animal in a photograph isn’t easy, but for me that’s what makes a great photo. An attempt at capturing a moment that cannot be recreated by another.

Copyright Heidi Watson

4. Be considerate of the animals
The topic of flashes is highly debatable, however used correctly they can be effective. This is done with offset brackets and cables to trigger the flash so that it does not flash directly into the subject’s eyes. I do however disagree whole heartedly on using pop up flashes. The other big issue for me is ethics, for example don’t antagonise the wildlife to get a reaction from the animals you are photographing.

Copyright Heidi Watson

5. Spend time, not money
My main advice would be, don’t follow the fads. Rather spend money on going places. The camera is just a tool; you are what makes the photo speak a 1,000 words. Work on your skills rather than buying the latest and greatest equipment. After all, what use is a bag full of gear when you have nothing to photograph? And lastly, see the world for more then what it is at that moment.


To see more of Heidi’s beautiful photographs and get inspired for your next safari, visit her Facebook page.

Originally published on Africa Geographic.

First time safari tips from rangers in the know

For the first time safari traveller, going on safari can be an overwhelming prospect. Often considered a bucket list trip, expectations are high and the territory is unfamiliar and a little intimidating. Here we offer some advice to help prepare safari goers, courtesy of the guys who know the business best – game rangers! 

We asked Rhino River Lodge's rangers, Kyle, Alex and Ryan, to share with us their top safari tips.

Here are a few of their recommendations:

1. Bring binoculars
It’s the number one piece of equipment that guests forget to bring along that substantially improves the safari experience, and it’s just as important as your camera! Not many people own a great pair of binoculars, but if you are planning to go on safari, now is the time to invest in a quality pair. Even when sightings are fairly close, binoculars allow you to take in details that would be missed with the naked eye. Ranger Alex mentioned bringing binoculars in the answer to every question he was asked about giving advice on safari… their importance shouldn’t be underestimated!


2. Keep the noise down on game drives
Guides know that guests’ excitement can reach epic levels at amazing sightings but by keeping quiet and sharing the excitement later, you can actually improve your sighting by not disturbing the animals. Also, keeping quiet during the drive itself will increase the number of sightings you have as you do not startle animals before you are able to approach them.


3. Slow down
When planning your itinerary make sure you take time to enjoy each place. Ranger Kyle says, “Try and stay in each place for at least two nights. That gives you enough time to relax and enjoy every aspect.” The last thing you want during a safari is to get bogged down in the logistics of transfers, settling bills, packing and repacking. Spending a little extra time at each spot will make your trip much more enjoyable.


4. Let go of expectations
Just relax and enjoy! All three rangers listed this as the number one piece of advice for the first time safari goer. Letting go of expectations and simply living in the moment is the number one way to increase your enjoyment of the whole experience. In the words of ranger Ryan, “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to see big game. Take pleasure in just being out in the bush! The fresh air, the wind in your hair as you travel in an open vehicle, the warmth of the sunshine on your skin, the bird sounds – it’s a delight for the senses. But all too often people forget this as they burn their eyes scanning the horizons for elusive animals. These sightings should be a bonus, not a requirement!”


No two days on safari are ever the same and our rangers have their own ideas of what a typical day on safari involves:
Kyle says, “A typical day on safari would be having a good time out in the bush – enjoying the sunrise and sunset, listening to all the different birds, and looking for all the interesting things that we do not get to see everyday (like dung beetles in a rhino midden rolling balls of dung or female lions teaching their new cubs to hunt and catch their food).”

Copyright Heidi Watson

Alex believes guests can expect, “A variety of flora and fauna, from big sycamore figs to small bushes, from the big five to smaller creatures like dung beetles and ants. It all makes a day of safari exciting.”


For Ryan a typical day on safari involves, “Great scenery, sunshine, plains game, birds calling from tree tops, butterflies fluttering around, flying insects buzzing past your face, a sky full of stars, warthogs fleeing in a cloud of dust, vultures soaring miles above our vehicle – basically the time of your life!”

Copyright Claire Birtwhistle

So, while it is impossible to predict what guests will experience while with us, if you’re following the sound advice of our rangers, you’re setting yourself up for a successful safari!

Originally published on Africa Geographic.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Staff Feature: Bonisiwe Zungu

Bonisiwe, or as she is known by her nick-name "Siza", is one of our newest staff members. She is our assistant cook in the Rhino River Lodge kitchen. Siza has been one of our favourite additions to the Rhino River Lodge staff as she approaches everything she does with a big smile and a positive attitude. Not to mention, she is a really fantastic cook as well! We get to know Siza a bit better through this interview....

What is your favorite part of being a cook at Rhino River Lodge?
I really like to cook because it always makes my mind creative with ideas of new things that will make the guest happy.

How do you get inspiration for new recipes?
I get inspiration from other professional chefs that I have worked with and on the internet as well. I really like to play with recipes from the internet. Also from my training course on catering.

What is your favorite recipe to prepare for guests on safari? Why?
I do have a few favorite recipes to prepare for guests, my rolly-polly pudding for dessert and my mushroom soup for starter. My rolly-polly pudding is a baked pudding kind of like malva pudding. It's a South African recipe that guests like. My mushroom soup everyone seems to really like.

Will you share an easy South-African recipe with us?
Siza's South African Rolly-Polly Pudding

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
125 g margarine
2 cups self-raising flour
60 ml apricot or strawberry jam

Mix 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups self-raising flour and 125g margarine.
After mixed together roll on baking table with rolling pin, spread 60 ml jam on top.
Roll up like a swiss roll.
Place on greased baking tray.
Make the sauce by dissolving the remaining cup sugar into the water and bringing to a boil.
Pour the sauce over the pudding, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour at 180 degrees.

Serve with homemade custard. Yum!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Guest Experience Highlight: Alison Langevad

Recently photographer, Alison Langevad paid us a visit at Rhino River Lodge. Here she shares with us some of the stunning photos that she captured during her stay with us.

We asked Alison to tell us a little bit about her photography:
"I enjoy both sport and wildlife photography. I first became interested in wildlife photography in 1995 while visiting Africa. My husband and I traveled extensively through Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Uganda. We were fortunate enough to spend time with the Mountain Gorillas in Zaire, and so my passion for African Wildlife and its conservation began. We have since enjoyed the splendours of Botswana, Namibia and most recently South Africa. For me, Africa has a way of reaching deep into my soul and through photography I hope to share this. I sell stunning images on my website and have a Facebook page Alison Langevad Photography so people can indulge themselves a little each day."

Alison found Rhino River Lodge through the recommendation of a friend, "I connected through social media with a local photographer.  After a trip last year where we spent a short amount of time in KwaZulu Natal then left for Kenya and Tanzania, he wrote me this most amazing long email of all the reasons we should of stayed longer in South Africa. He described all the wonderful places close by we could of explored and suggested them for the future. It's people who are passionate about where they live that do the best promoting. Word of mouth is invaluable and now after such a wonderful stay at Rhino River, we can do the same."

We asked Alison to share her favourite memory from her stay at Rhino River Lodge, "My favourite memory would be the look on ranger Ryan Andraos’ face when we found the elephants. He was such a fantastic guide. They hadn’t been seen for a long time and we found them on his birthday. It was a great, light-hearted afternoon."

We asked Alison if she had a favorite safari subject to photograph, "I don’t actually have a favourite animal to photograph. I enjoy moments rather than things in particular. This makes every day on safari a good day because I’m never disappointed."

Alison shared her advice for taking great photographs on safari, "The best thing you can do to get great shots while on safari is give yourself time. It’s not about the equipment because it is quite easy to get up close.  It’s about having enough days to discover these wonderful creatures and then allowing the extra time to watch things unfold. We have learnt over the years to stop dashing around and spend longer in each place. We had enough nights at Rhino River Lodge to enjoy amazing sighting and indulge in our guides deep pit of knowledge, and could of easily stayed longer."

Thanks very much to Alison for sharing her experiences and gorgeous shots. Make sure to check out her website and facebook page for more of her photos.