Paradise Camp Blog | Transfrontier Africa | Michael Scholl

Paradise Camp Blog


Some news from Paradise camp, Balule, Kruger Park...

In order of rank: 

Warden: Craig Spencer

Craig Spencer aka Bwana.

Born in Africa, Craig worked for the South African government in the Department of Environmental Conservation and resigned as Head of Department to pursue his passion for wildlife research and conservation. Craig qualified in environmental science and holds a master in primatology as well as other qualifications in natural sciences. 

Before establishing the savanna project Craig managed the primate research project in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and worked as a WWF project executive. Craig has also conducted over 30 safaris and expeditions throughout Sub Sahara Africa. Furthermore Craig also established and commanded the marines anti-poaching unit until 2006. Craig has worked as an environmental consultant and lectured at various universities and continues to mentor students in the field every year.

Since establishing the savanna project Craig has involved himself with elephant research and conservation and works with the ‘Save the Elephant Foundation’ and the ‘Endangered Wildlife Trust’.

Because of the work that Transfrontier Africa has done in Balule Craig has been appointed as warden of the oliefants west region. Craig is still involved with mentoring of conservation students in the field and hires two interns on an annual basis to help with the conservation and research taking place in Balule. 

Craig is the boss. If he says jump we say how high. Craig is a chirpy boss and always compliments us with insults. Everything he says seems to be double edged.

Assistant Warden: Tim Girling

Tim Girling aka ‘Sasquatch

Studied through Bush Wise academy and qualified with FGASA, SASSETA (fire arm handling), advanced rifle handling, advanced weapons handling, advanced 4x4, THETA (tourism and game ranging), trails guide, game tracking first aid and snake handling.

Originating from UK with a background in law and farming, Tim has now dedicated his life to helping conserve Africa’s wildlife. As Assistant Warden Tim is responsible our anti-poaching, security staff supervision and general administrator unit as well as info structure maintenance.

1st Student: Stefan Bosman

Stefan Bosman aka ‘Gabbler

Born in South Africa and studied at a local film school and currently advancing studies in the faculty of environmental sciences through UNISA (University of Southern Africa). Stefan has worked in property valuation throughout Southern Africa (rural and urban areas). Stefan then started working at the West Coast Fossil Park in tourism, education and environmental coordination. Stefan now manages Paradise Camp. Managing the Camp includes coordinating volunteers and ensuring wildlife data capture and monitoring is stream lined.

2nd Student: Francois Vander Merwe

Francois van der Merwe aka Bubu

Born in South Africa, Francois is currently a 3rd year student studying in the faculty of applied sciences in the CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology). He has also gotten certified as snake handler level 1 and he has his first aid level 1. Francois was a competitive swimmer before deciding to dedicate his life to SouthAfrica’s natural recourses. Francois has spent much of his time observing wildlife in South African national parks. Francois primary function at paradise camp is the capturing of field data, surveys, and assists with camp management.

Tracker: Happy

Happy AKA lucky

Happy is an expert tracker and was previously employed by a private anti-poaching unit. Happy is qualified as professional game tracker, first aider, ambusher, weapons handling, and is a certified member of the South African security board. Happys primary duties include anti-poaching patrols and general security.

My name is Stefan Bosman. I used to work at the West Coast Fossil Park in South Africa as a tour guide and lecturer. Craig says that I was a big fish in a small pond. I’m studying through the University of South Africa and am registered with the faculty of Environmental Sciences. I was given the opportunity to work for Craig as an intern helping with the conservation of this fantastic wildlife gem called Balule Nature Reserve. I’m not sure what I expected but this is by far the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Okay fair enough I’ve never left South Africa, but at this point why should I when there is Paradise Camp. The facilities here are very restricted, limited electricity no tv and nothing goes cold in the fridge. However in this overwhelmingly hot environment I have no problems with the fact that we only have cold showers and with the sounds of lions and hyenas at night, who needs tv to block out this natural African ambiance. Having said all that, I do miss the taste of a nice cold coke after a hard day’s work.  This is truly worthy of the name Paradise camp.

I’ve been staying here in Paradise Camp for 2 weeks. I’ve seen many amazing things, starting off with all the big five as well as many more awesome things.

There is something important that I need to explain. When you view the wildlife it’s all good and well, however there is a major difference between a sighting and an experience. A sighting is when you’re out in the bush and you see the animals just relaxing or drinking or doing whatever it is they do. An Experience is when you have the opportunity to use all of your senses. Such as when you’re busy with a sighting and something extraordinary happens whether it be a lion taking down its prey or a musthing bull charging the car. 

Having explained our definition of a sighting vs an experience I must still add that being part of the Wardens team means that no day goes without some sort of excitement. Even a simple elephant sighting can very easily be awesome. On Christmas day we heard about a herd of elephants crossing Olifants road heading into Pondoro. The question was should we go, I decided very quickly that I was super keen. So Craig, Jess and I went to check out this herd. We arrived on site at exactly 10:05 to see only four or five females hiding behind a dense thicket of vegetation. We decided to circle the site once or twice. We failed to get a good opportunity to study the heard so we decided to return to camp. Our timing seemed impeccable because suddenly a group of bulls came wondering past. Craig followed the herd slowly while I took photos and Jess who was sitting behind me started counting the elies and compiling the data-sheets. Once again we lost them in the forest of trees which seem to dominate the environment at this time of year.  Our drive wasn’t all in vain.  

Besides from getting some quality data on a herd of bulls the cows were also more active after the bulls past through. We managed to count the four or five females with great success and to my amazement there was also a calf. We photographed the herd and took down some notes on the herd structure. It was all going so well till we realized we had miss counted and somehow come between the calf and it’s mother, the mother freaked out and Craig quickly put the car in reverse and I silently shouted something that sounds allot like jeepers. The female past and I managed to snap some good photos. So we continued onwards. Craig was trying to figure out if the cow that charged was indeed the mother or just an older sibling. Jess was counting and we were now on six elies. We had calmed down and were now following the elies with ease. Craig being the ex-army noticed something in his mirror and he suddenly called, ‘look behind us jess! How many elephants are behind us!’ 

We had been flanked by more elephants and quickly lost count of the ones we had already photographed and those that had flanked us. It was awesome there were now nine or ten, we couldn’t be sure. We followed the herd all the way to Nyari Dam where we were now able to count easily and confirm our data sheets. All in all it was a fantastic experience being charged out of the blue by a female and watching the elephants’ bath. Fantastic! There was a Christmas present from Africa to Stefan. 

It seems Leopards are also on the increase; we’ve had several sightings reported and seen two of them ourselves. This is great news for us as the rehabilitation continues. The most recent sighting of the leopards were in fact cubs which unless you go to the zoo you would have to be very fortunate to see. 

Francois is also working here as an intern. He also comes from the Cape, much like myself he was also struggling at first with the heat, but seems to be coming right. He is currently working on the grass survey with Jess, one of our volunteers. 

Today I was bitten by Goosie again. Goosie is definitely legendary. Her personality livens up the camp when things become too relaxed, and she seems to fancy distracting us when we work. She also chases the car every time we leave camp. The other day he chased us for about 500m and Craig had to pull some major skills behind the wheel to lose her. We have also heard rumors of her conducting an internal quality inspection of the of Ezulwini River Lodges new upholstery.

I find it extremely relevant to tell the readers that the anti-poaching unit has done some amazing things and we have recently managed to relocate a white rhino that was last seen in February of 2010 along with three new adults. This is truly a strong indication that the methods for protecting our wildlife are indeed working. 

I apologize for the length of this first post but I had alot to write. And I assure you; from this point on I will keep the blog to a more suitable in length.

Thanks to all who read our blog and feel free to ask any questions I will try answer as many as possible. 

Please join our Face Book Group dedicated to the SAVANNA Project!

© / Michael Scholl Copyright 2012 for TransFrontier Africa and Craig Spencer