Melanie Groenewald is making a name for herself in Big 5 land. Picture: Supplied.

Clinton Moodley speaks to Melanie Groenewald, a female ranger at Senalala Lodge in the Kruger National Park.


Tell us about a day in your life?

My day usually starts at 5 am. A typical day in my life consists of game drives, showing international guests the animals and environment of the Greater Kruger National Park. I also host my guests at all meal times and do daily admin duties like washing my cooler box. It usually ends around 10 pm.


What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the drives and meeting new people from all over the world. I love showing guests animals and the inner workings of the natural environment out here.


...and the most challenging part?

The most challenging part can be the physical part. Trying to pick up a heavy spare tyre by yourself when it is half your weight can sometimes be tricky. Thankfully, there is always someone willing to help.

Enjoying a game drive. Picture: Supplied.

Any interesting stories from your game drives that you would like to share?

There are so many interesting stories that happen every day. No game drive is ever the same. We have to expect the unexpected out here. You really don't know what you may bump into around the next bend. It boils down to being at the right place at the right time, and a bit of luck on your side.

Favourite destination?

Anything that embraces nature. Put me next to a flowing river or stream under the canopy of tall majestic trees and I'm in my happy place.

Melanie Groenewald with her guests during a game drive. Picture: Supplied.

How do you deal with rude guests?

I've worked in the service industry for many years now though and have learned over the years that dealing with someone that is rude can be easy if you remember it is not personal and directly projected towards you. The person may be having the worst day of his/her life and just isn't in a good mood. There are so many varying factors that can potentially make someone act rude and you shouldn't ever take it personally. I also try to be as compassionate and patient and understanding as I can be.

What sets your lodge apart from others?

My lodge, Senalala, is a very small and personal lodge. We host guests at all meals and that allows us to form friendships with them.

How do you handle a wildlife encounter: i.e. agitated animal?

I handle an agitated animal by assessing and observing their behaviour before I approach them. If they look distressed or in any way upset then I always proceed very slowly and with caution. Bad situations happen when someone is unable to read the animal’s body language and behaviour. For guides, it's always safety for yourself and your guests first.

Melanie Groenewald with her guests. Picture: Supplied.


What is your most embarrassing moment on the job?

I've never had an embarrassing moment doing my job. At the end of the day, we are all human and there's not a lot that embarrasses me.


Advice to aspiring rangers?

Work hard and be patient. You need to work the long hard hours to gain experience. You are not going to become the best guide overnight. Your progress in this industry is always up to you. Read your books and never stop learning and never lose the passion to learn new things.