Safari and ranger training at Albatros’ Ranger Camp in South Africa
Step into the shoes of a safari ranger on this journey to an exclusive lodge in the African bush
Enjoy a unique safari ranger experience with an international group of travellers. This trip is perfect for nature lovers who want to take it a step further.
We explore the savannah in SUVs and on foot and get close to the wildlife and incredible nature. Learn about animal behaviour, how to recognise insects and birds, tracking and the unique African ecosystem in daily ranger training classes. Our English-speaking instructors are experienced rangers who are passionate about sharing their knowledge of these amazing surroundings and its wildlife.
The Albatros Ranger Camp, perfectly located in the Entabeni Game Reserve, is a small, exclusive lodge with a swimming pool and restaurant.
Day 1 Flight to Johannesburg, South Africa
We arrive in Johannesburg today. Dinner and breakfast will be served on the plane.
Day 2 Arrival Johannesburg – Pretoria (city tour) – Ranger Camp
Upon arrival we drive to Pretoria, the South African capital. In Pretoria, we embark on a small city tour of the bustling South African metropolis. We visit, among other sites, the beautiful Union Building – South Africa’s government headquarters that offers magnificent views over the town. After lunch (not included), we have about three hours’ drive ahead of us through the vast expanse of the South African landscape.
We travel north and pass through huge wheat, maize, sunflower and peanut fields, and small towns reminiscent of the Wild West. As we go further north, the stunning and red glowing Waterberg mountain range starts to appear. The Entabeni Game Reserve is situated in this area and we arrive in the late afternoon.
Our camp, aptly named Ranger Camp, is located at the foot of the mountains in a sandveld with dense bush, savannahs and wetlands.
Apart from the staff and rangers, we virtually have the camp to ourselves, if we don’t count the lion prides, giraffes, hippos and other big game that sometimes wander into the camp area. This happens especially at night and you must therefore be accompanied to your tent by an armed ranger. But don’t worry; the rangers monitor the area around the clock!
Waterberg is also the common name of a large area that includes Sand River Mountains, Hoekberg, Swaershoek and the Mopel mountain range and is one of the oldest mountain areas with magnificent and dramatic scenery. The southern slopes are characterised by steep, bare hillsides and peculiar rock formations, while the northern slopes gradually decrease towards the bush country and the open savannah plains. Entabeni simply means “the place with the mountain”, and once you’ve seen Entabeni Mountain – the imposing monolith that rises above the area – you’ll understand why the name is so apt.
Upon arrival to the camp there is time to relax with a drink. You will be introduced to the ranger responsible for training during the next few days and you will also meet your fellow participants.
Day 3 Safari and introduction to the ranger training
This morning will be the first of many early mornings that begins with a cup of coffee or tea and a few biscuits. Then we explore the surroundings that make up our home for the next 12 days. On this trip we will embark on many safaris and there are more activities than on a typical safari holiday.
A morning safari starts early in the day, maybe at sunrise. Not much can compare to the spicy scents of the morning and the special glow over the savannah at this hour. The air is cool and it’s peaceful now that the night’s hunting is over. We encounter wildlife at water holes where the animals quench their thirst.
From experience, we know that before this safari holiday is over, we will have seen a variety of Africa’s famous and well-known game such as lion, rhino, wildebeest, kudu, warthog, giraffe, elephant and impala. There is no guarantee as to what we see when or where. And this uncertainty is part of the charm that makes a safari a different and exciting experience. When we return to our lodge, a well-deserved breakfast buffet awaits us.
An afternoon safari begins late in the day, when the sun’s position is lower and it casts its warm rays over the landscape in a golden hue. Along the way, we stop to enjoy the sunset and rinse the beautiful experience down with a cool drink before turning on the headlights for night driving. It’s a bit of a sensory revelation when the sky suddenly dazzles with its swarm of bright stars, the night’s foreign sounds that are almost deafening, and the earthy smell of the savannah fills your nostrils.
A safari in the evening and at night is quite different from one in the morning. It feels as if you are in another world. When the headlights sweep the bushes, hundreds of large and small eyes are lit and the wildlife seems suddenly much closer. There is a rustle in a bush and something is rattling around us; is it a herd of munching wildebeest, or have the hungry lionesses started the night’s hunt?
Safari vehicles are open terrain vehicles and it is an awe-inspiring feeling to be just a few metres from a giant elephant, not to mention a lion or rhino. But luckily, a car with passengers are not considered food!
Moreover, it can be chilly on safari when darkness falls or in the early morning hours. There are blankets in the open safari vehicles, but we recommend that you bring a hat and a windproof winter jacket or fleece.
Day 4-14 Safari experiences and ranger training in Ranger Camp, Entabeni
Over the next ten days, there will be an exciting mix of safari experiences and short courses and workshops in wildlife guiding. We provide daily classes where we cover various subjects related to the African savannah and the duties of a ranger.
Each safari is different from the previous one and the possibilities are rich in Entabeni. We embark on early morning safaris and afternoon safaris in four-wheel drives, as well as walking safaris where we follow animal tracks in the bush. We alternate between safaris at the foot of the Entabeni massif in the wet lowlands, and safaris in the highlands, where the landscape and wildlife is different.
The main group will be divided into smaller ones during the safaris. Note also that the order of the planned excursions may change, depending on the game and weather.
The first class will review the basic rules of good guiding and the ethical rules that underlie this. We also learn about the savannah’s wildlife. We begin with a little ecology – food chains and symbiotic relationships that are ever-present in the wild.
The beauty of learning about the wildlife here in Entabeni is that within minutes of a classroom setting, we can be seated in our safari vehicles on the way to observe the very animals we just talked about.
During the course of the holiday we learn interesting facts about the animals and good stories that help make a guided safari an extraordinary experience. We also get a brief introduction to the vehicles and a short driving course that give participants the opportunity to know how to approach the animals without disturbing their behaviour. During ranger training, the focus is on safety, and the instructors will also provide information about using rifles.
Frogs and toads are not usually animals you notice from the safari vehicles but in the evening when we enjoy the star-studded African night sky, you can hear thousands of them call. We learn how to distinguish the various species by listening to them.
When darkness falls, we learn about astronomy, an important tool when
you are in the bush. By means of the beautiful constellations, we learn how to orientate themselves in the dark. Along the way we learn different survival strategies in the bush and try out some of our skills when we spend the night under the open sky.
Entabeni is located in the Waterberg area, known for its huge reddish rock formations that form a beautiful ridge in the area. We learn how they were created as well as their impact on animal and plant life. It is also important for a guide to know about the flora in the area. This will be covered in a lesson on how to recognise the most common trees and plants.
Alongside classroom lessons we learn how to track the savannah’s wildlife. A track is not just a footprint, but fur, scratches and stool, also help reveal the animals’ movements. Tracking is said to be like reading the morning newspaper – you can see what has taken place the night before. But one must be able to read between the lines, a good imagination is crucial to reconstruct the animal’s actual actions. A track is in fact rarely clear and easy to read, and often it is necessary to follow the trail to get more details and a more accurate assessment. The South African guides are experts in tracking animals in this way.
We gain insight into their knowledge and ability to infer the tracks secrets; a track reveals not only the animal, but also the direction in which it was headed, the speed in which it moved, and often the gender – it’s unbelievable!
Besides the ranger training programme at the camp, there will be other activities and excursions in the surrounding area.
Pedi village and wildlife conservation projects
During the trip, we will spend a day outside the game reserve and get a taste of one of the indigenous cultures in the area, the Pedi culture. We visit a village, which is not inhabited, but designed to show the structure of the village and the community among the Pedis. Although present-day South Africa is a very modern country, it has kept many of the original cultural traditions alive, and this village allows visitors to see the various traditions and understand how the different tribes and ethnic groups lived. We will also taste some traditional African specialities.
Later we visit a conservation centre that works with injured and orphaned predators. Here lions, leopards and cheetahs are cared for until they can be let out in the wild again.
Then we continue to a breeding station for buffalo. This kind of game production is becoming more and more popular in South Africa, as there is more money in it than traditional agriculture.
Doormdraai Dam Reserve
We drive to Doormdraai Dam Nature Reserve located nearby. In these beautiful surroundings, we can swim, fish and enjoy a delicious meal from the braai – the special South African version of a barbeque.
Hiking in Yellow Wood
Another activity is a full-day hike in Yellow Wood gorge that cuts through Entabeni’s massif. The gorge’s waterfalls and wooded slopes are home to baboons that are often spotted here, along with elephants and zebras.
On the hike we move from 900m to 1,500m above sea level. We enjoy a picnic in the open and swim at one of the waterfalls – depending on the weather.
Sleep under the stars
A very special and rare experience is in store when we spend the night under the starry skies and next to the warm flames of the bonfire. This activity is subject to favourable weather conditions.
If you are a golf enthusiast, a few hours spent at the renowned golf course, Legend Golf & Safari Resort located just outside the Entabeni game reserve, will be unforgettable.
Day 15 Ranger Camp – Johannesburg. Flight home
After breakfast and checkout, we say goodbye to Ranger Camp and the instructors – but all the skills we have learned, and not least the memorable experiences, we will bring home with us.
On the way to Johannesburg we stop at a shopping centre where we can spend some hours and spend the remainder of our South African rand. Early in the evening we drive to the airport in Johannesburg and catch the plane for our homeward journey.