16 years ago, this young African man along with 10 other individuals, had fortune come their way when they were selected to attend a sponsored four-week EcoTraining Tracking course. An international guest on safari in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve of South Africa was inspired by the role of trackers in the safari industry. The Londolozi guest hosted a fashion show in Europe to raise funds which were successfully attained and given to an NGO, the Africa Foundation. The Africa Foundation managed the process of selecting and enrolling 10 worthy candidates on the EcoTraining Tracking course. Raymond and his fellow course participants started honing their tracking skills and studying all there is to know about Africa’s wildlife.
Upon completion and graduation of the course, the doors of Raymond’s future were flung wide open. Raymond began his safari guide career in 2004 with the Kruger National Park based at the Berg en Dal camp as a safari guide. In 2010 Raymond was promoted to senior Field Guide of Lower Sabie camp in Kruger Park in preparation for the World Cup Soccer visitors. Only three months later, Raymond was promoted to Head Guide of Berg en Dal camp. The promotions kept coming and in May 2013, Raymond was promoted to the status of a Wilderness Trails Ranger at Wolhuter Trails camp, one of the oldest camps in the park dating back to 1978. From there he was moved to Napi Trails in the Pretoriuskop area as a Trails Ranger.
Raymond continued to grow and develop himself and his career. He went on to obtain the FGASA Field Guide Level 2 and Trails Guide qualifications and is now accredited as a CATHSSETA NQF Level 4 Guide.
We caught up with Raymond this month after hearing about his recent outstanding achievement and he briefed us on his successful past two years and exciting future movements.
In 2015, Raymond Khoza walked away with the 2015 Provincial Lilizela Award for Best Nature Guide in Mpumalanga. These awards recognise and reward tourism players and businesses who work passionately and with pride to deliver a world-class product and service, and whose delivery grows South Africa’s global destination competitiveness. He has recently been nominated again for the same award.
‘’I was nominated for this award by people who saw me go the extra mile in my working environment in the tourism industry. Every year people are nominated from different categories in tourism from hotels to cultural centres to safari operations. I was nominated for the guiding category.”
What happens after you have been nominated for such an award?
“I was invited for an interview where I had to produce a portfolio of evidence of my work. In this portfolio, I included compliments and requests from my guests that were sent to my employers requesting to take them on activities; photos of guests on activities; close dangerous game encounters with elephants, rhinos, buffalo and lions on foot.
The interview panel consisted of various members of the Department of Tourism as well as an external auditor. The most important thing was to convince the panel that I was the perfect candidate to win this award”.
In the same year, Raymond walked away with the ‘’best walking trail award’’ of the Safari Guide of the Year competition.
How do you feel about winning these awards?
“I feel honoured. People who nominate you for these awards see something in you that others don’t see. I have made a promise to my clients who I have been working with all these years that I won’t let them down or do anything that they wouldn’t expect of me”.
You recently went on a trip to Germany. Tell us more about the trip.
“The all-expenses paid trip was an invitation from my Kruger Park safari guests with who I have built up a wonderful relationship over the past years. They took me to see some of Germany’s famous landmarks including the Berlin Wall, their parliament and some of the museums there. We also went to ‘Checkpoint Charlie’, a famed allied sentry post where the United States, Britain and France military police were situated during the division of Germany. It was an experience that I will never forget!”
Raymond is also busy planning for a trip to the USA also paid for by other guests and it does not stop there. He has been asked to do private guiding for some guests at Itala National Park and Mkuzi lodge to name a few. These are places he would not have been able to see if it was not for his guests.
What drives and motivates you?
“I have an appreciation for the job that I am doing. I do it for the love of it. One day I will be rich in the great memories I made while on game drives and game walks. That is something no one can take away from me.”
This is an inspiring story by an amazing man. This shows you that hard work and dedication do pay off and that any person with a passion for his job can make a difference in many people’s lives as well as his own. We can’t wait to see what is next in store for Raymond. Good luck Raymond, you are an inspiration to us all!