Where we started
The Other Animals Safaris – where in the world does a name like that come from? Well, it is quite simple really. Let me start right at the very beginning. I was working for SanParks, and my lovely partner Dianne, who I had not even met yet, was still living in the Netherlands. During the year of 2001, after the big floods of the year before, a different kind of flood hit the Kruger National Park.
There was a complete reshuffling of the staff structure during the course of which hundreds of people lost their jobs. Most of us in management positions at the time were informed that our posts no longer existed and that we would have to re-apply for any new post which may interest us, failing which we were redundant. To cut a long story short, I found myself promoted to a position known as Hospitality Manager at one of the larger and busiest camps in the Park. Truth be told, I was way out of my depth and probably the least hospitable I have ever been in my entire life. After one high stress year, SanParks and I parted ways after a relationship of over 12 years. I joined the newly formed Wilderness Trails Company and started doing walking trails in the Park, extending my stay in this magnificent place for a few more years. At the same time and unbeknown to me, Dianne was yearning to return to South Africa, the country of her birth, so she could feel the African sun and have her cubs grow up without them having to look bewildered when a game of rugby or 20/20 cricket was showing on the TV. I did trails for a couple of years and then worked permanently as a guide for a big tour operator before the idea of starting my own business began to take place in my mind. After 17 years of living in the Kruger National Park, I finally had to call it a day and face the reality of life on the outside. I was fortunate enough to be guiding a group of international tourists in the Kruger Park when we witnessed an incredible event which one of my American guests captured on video. It found its way to YouTube, and dubbed The Battle at Kruger, it became one of the most watched wildlife videos of all time and made me famous overnight. Unfortunately, it did not make me rich so you will probably still see quite a lot of me in the coming months – maybe even years ☺
Under pressure from family and friends, especially my brother, I decided to write a book and ride on the back of my unjustified fame as the guide who witnessed the epic battle. It felt sometimes as if I had orchestrated this amazing show rather than just being at the right place at the right time and having somebody with the presence of mind to calmly capture the event. So, I wrote the book, and had a lot of fun doing it and attending various little events launching it. Truth be told, some of those “little events” are stories in themselves, maybe best left untold for the meantime ☺ I hear sniggers from the members of a local book club. The book, a selection of short stories about guides, guests and other humanoids interacting with the wildlife of the Park needed an appropriate title. At the risk of offending some “sensitive viewers” I decided to title my book THE OTHER ANIMALS OF THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK. Much to my great disappointment the book never threatened the livelihood of Wilbur Smith, Ian Fleming or even Tony Park for that matter and although I doubt Quinten Tarantino will ever pay me for the rights to make a movie from it, I did sell a few copies and received great feedback from those who took the time to read it. So....... when I finally decided to take the plunge and start my own business with the ever-present encouragement and support of my young brother Mally (who at that stage was my partner) we decided to call it The Other Animals Safaris. As great as the African names are for safari companies, most people can’t pronounce them and even fewer know what they mean. We also felt that if we were lucky enough for our site to pop up on a Google search by a prospective traveller, it would be unlikely they would fail to open a site with such a ridiculous name. Once they open our site, we believed they would love us. The name also says where our passion lies – as much as we really love the animals, it is the people – the “other” animals that we are committed to.
In the interim, Dianne was moving closer. She came back to South Africa and found herself a position as a travel consultant with an excellent safari company. Her personality made her an outstanding consultant and her qualification as a psychologist made her a brilliant partner for a wayward guide. We finally met on a safari and our friendship progressed to where she is now; my business and life partner – not necessarily in that order. Watch this space folks for more news on where we are, what we think and where we are going......