News - February 25, 2010

Game drives, proposals and big tips

Student Joost Besijn is going to be a ranger in South Africa in the exclusive wild animal park Sabi Sabi which boasts clients such as the Hilton family and Elton John.

This fourth year Wildlife Management student of Van Hall Larenstein was on cloud nine when he was offered the job. 'I didn't scream, but I was ecstatic when they phoned me. I knew beforehand that that one telephone call would change my life. It's either South Africa or staying here in the Netherlands.'
The 22-year-old Joost will be a guide in the private wild animal park Sabi Sabi on the border of the famous Kruger National Park. 'I will lead small tour groups. Two game drives and an excursion per day. Always exciting. You could walk about for hours without seeing anything, and then suddenly come across two leopards during a short ride. My days will be long, though. I'll have to get up at four thirty and I can only sleep when the last guest goes to bed.'
Marriage proposal
Although thrilled to bits, his appointment didn't materialize out of thin air. Joost had previously spent his internship at the adjacent Kruger National Park and did his PhD research there as well. 'Others told me not to choose the same place twice, but I did that on purpose so as to make more contacts.' Joost tried to blend in as much as possible and played football twice a week. He even had more than one marriage proposal, which he 'amicably declined'. 'Several women took a fancy to me just like that; that happens easily there when you have money. Something like this will never ever happen to me in the Netherlands.'
Joost was certain that he wanted to work in South Africa after his second internship. 'As comparison, I've also done an internship at Imares in the Netherlands. Africa is completely different. The Netherlands has diversity in the summer, but in the winter, only birds remain.'
Joost began applying for jobs when he was prompted by his supervisors. 'I was invited for an interview at Sabi Sabi, followed by a selection in the bush. Eight job applicants trekked for one week with two guides into the area. Water ran out and we had to rely on our own wits. It was amazing; our guide just knew everything there was to know. It was like a big lecture.'
Joost is the third foreigner allowed to work in this wild animal park. 'Sabi Sabi is very exclusive. The Hilton family and Elton John have been there before.' However, Joost won't be getting a fat salary. 'But with tips, you can double your salary easily. One of my colleagues got 11,500 euros for just one weekend.'
Also hoping for such a dream job? Joost has some tips:
1. Don't worry about work permits. 'I was employed without any work permit. They said to me: No problems, we'll arrange one for you.'
2. Brush up on your languages. 'I had four years of German and French in secondary school. That certainly helped.'
3. Look beyond your internship assignment. 'I did research work into leopards during my first internship, but my real aim was to get to know South Africa.'