Ruan van der Westhuizen, the youngest guide at Pilanesberg National Park, may be new to the business, but his Instagram photographs are a stunning depiction of what a truly authentic safari should be. Known as Ranger Ruan, the 21-year-old has been passionate about the wild since he was a young boy.
It was at a private game reserve in the North West Province in November 2016 that he realised he wanted to become a ranger.
“I was mesmerised by the bush, its beauty and the way it was run. I remember asking the guide over a thousand questions about his career. While sitting around the camp fire one night, the guide told me that he saw my passion and called a guide college for me. The rest as they is history…”
For Ranger Ruan, everyday is an experience in the wild. A typical day for him starts at 4am as he gets ready to prepare for an early morning game drive.
“I wake early to prepare for the game drive. When we get back from the game drive, the rangers and I do maintenance work like fence line patrol, water level and cleaning of the vehicles. By 2pm, I start prep again before going on a sunset drive…” he says.
Ranger Ruan finds the most rewarding part of his job seeing the guests happy after spotting an animal for the first time.
“That kind of keeps me motivated…” says the ranger.
Judging by his top notch shots, Ranger Ruan clearly has an eye for taking good pictures. His advice: “Many photographers would start off by describing light condition and angles, but for me to most important thing is having patience to get the shot you want.”
When asked about what his favourite wildlife encounters were, Ranger Ruan immediately says there are too many he can share. The one that stands out for him is one during a night game drive in September 2017.
The guests were indulging in some sunset cocktails when he heard a chirping sound. The guests were curious and got into the vehicle to investigate the sound.
A mere 100 meter away were 5 lions feasting on a wildebeest next to the dam. In the distance were small wild dogs watching. Later a crocodile emerged from the water , eager for a fight. The lion and crocodile fought over the battered wildebeest kill late into the evening.
The lion and crocodile encounter is one memory he remembers vividly.
He hopes to further his studies and lead walking tours.
“My advice is to upcoming ranger would to never stagnate, there is always something new to learn.”