We share a passion and love for the Kruger Park and we strive to provide unforgettable tours that mirror the unforgettable nature of the African bushveld. Bongan Safaris will accompany you on your thrilling Safari adventure, a holiday perfectly suitable for the traveler that values wildlife and a certain element of thrill!
Our involvement with wildlife and conservation is demonstrated best by Bongani, our chief safari guide who has spent an infinite amount of time living in and becoming one with the South African bushveld and its varied array of wildlife. Your experience could not be in better hands!
MEET BONGANI – THE SAFARI TOUR GUIDE
I was born on the 26 of February in 1982 in a place called Klaserie Game Reserve near the Kruger National Park, where the Olifants and Klaserie rivers meet. I grew up in a game reserve until the age of 5, when my parents sent me to school in a small village called Acornhoek near Orpen gate. Hearing the roaring of lions in the night reminded me of the game reserve I’d grown up in. Survival in the village was not easy. I did not do much besides wake up in the mornings and go to school. I grew up in my mother’s family calling my grandparents ‘Mama’ and ‘Daddy’, and it took me a while to understand who was who.
During the school holidays I would visit the game reserve and feel happy again. I used to cry a lot when it was time to go back to school. I had no choice – it was time to leave the reserve. My grandparents used to teach me about animal footprints or ‘spoor’. The owner of the camp used to take me around the reserve in a Land Rover and together we identified birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. She also gave me lots of wildlife books.
At age 13 I was given the opportunity to work in the reserve during the school holidays to make some extra money to buy stationary. The work included some road maintenance, bush clearing and controlling soil erosion. It was very interesting, however I never had any time to play with friends as I was constantly busy.
As the time went on I was given the responsibility to look after the camp when my grandparents are gone for festive holidays, leaving me alone in middle of nowhere for 3 weeks. I developed an interest in wildlife conservation. My grandparents used to feed the birds and count them every day – if a bird had gone missing whilst my grandfather was away he would notice immediately and ask me about it.
I started to drive a tractor at an early age, using it to remove trees from the road. The elephants used to break lots of trees almost every day. in the reserve was lots of man-made dams or artificial water supplies for the animals. I used to turn on the water pump and make sure all the dams were full. When I moved on to high school I had to walk about 10km in total as it was not close by.
Every day we used to see many snakes, lizards and birds. At one stage the owner of the camp asked what it was that I wanted to study. Due to my passion of wildlife conservation, I answered ‘animals’. She offered to help with my school fees and investigated a more appropriate setting to pursue my studies. After Grade 12 she organised a position for me at Southern Wildlife College. It is built inside a property of KNP. I attended the college between 2003 – 2004 studying to be a nature guide and doing some volunteer work.
I obtained the following certificates: Nature guide level 2, Fire Management, Artificial Water Management Infrastructure Management, Weapon Handling, First Aid level 2, NQF (National Qualification) Level 2 and 4X4 driving skills. I used to do game drives, bushwalks, night drives and taking groups to participate in the volunteer program in nearby villages.
The Volunteer program included initiatives like painting schools and churches, and also educating new students about trees and animals. I moved on with my life to join the Safari Company in southern site of KNP.
In 2005 I worked for the Safari Company doing full day drives in the Park, night drives, Panorama route and transferred tourists from Hazyview to JHB. Two months later I was promoted to Safari Leader. I only worked for eight months and moved to central site of the park to join another safari company called Viva Safaris. It is based in Hoedspruit area in Limpopo province. At first I was doing night drives, full day safaris in KNP, Panorama route and transfer to local airports, the JHB airport, and hotels around the Gauteng province. I worked hard and the tourists liked me so much they advised me to start my own company. I was too young to start my own business, however.
As time went on started doing 4hr bushwalks, to which I was appointed. It was not an easy task to undergo due to my age, but I was happy to do it. Guests struggled to believe that a young man like myself could be responsible for this kind of job. In 2008 Viva Safaris started a project in Acornhoek to help poor kids, churches, schools and clinics. I was running the whole operation and was in charge of making sure everything was in order before the guests arrived. We used to make Christmas parties for underprivileged kids each and every year to ensure that they felt important and loved as well.
Later on we helped lots of kids from Ekurhuleni orphanage home. We start taking out guests interested in donating to this orphanage home to help them with regards to school stationery and toys. In 2009 I was promoted to Head Guide to make sure all guides knew what they were doing the next day and to run the university groups for the Five Day safaris.
I was happy, but even with all the promotions and success I still had a dream to run my own Safari company. In 2015 I decided to further my nature studies and attain another guiding level under my belt. A I wrote exams and was found eligible for level 4
I run a Safari company operating in a central site of the park nearby Orpen gate. I want to bring people to experience the real African lifestyle by taking them to local villages and participating in volunteer programs whilst also experiencing the African Bushveld on Safari.