Born in Grootfontein, Namibia in 1972, Mark had early exposure to Africa’s wild places through opportunities created by his geologist father, Nick. He loved nothing more than to escape into the bush with his father on mapping trips and one such excursion proved particularly formative for the youngster. Although his life ambition had always been to become a Game Ranger, it wasn’t until a chance encounter on foot with a pack of African Wild Dog in the dry Limpopo river bed, that Mark knew he could do no other work.
After completing a business degree at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, he went straight into a field guide apprenticeship at a premier Big 5 game lodge in the Waterberg district of the then Northern Province, ZA. Barring a short stint as a river guide in the Cape in 1996, Mark remained in the Waterberg area for several years while studying the National Diploma in Nature Conservation through TSA / UNISA.
Moving through the ranks of senior ranger and later head ranger at the reserve, Mark joined FGASA in 1998, immediately completing the Level 1 and 2 requirements due to prior experience. Level 3 and SKS (Dangerous Animals) followed in the next couple of years and he carried out his first guide assessments for FGASA in 1999. Having been trainer and assessor internally at Mabula Game Reserve, this came naturally and it was clear that he would pursue training from then on. By this stage Mark had been appointed Wildlife Services Manager at Mabula and together with Head Ranger Schalk Pretorius, the two of them not only built a fine team of Field Guides, but also launched the Bush Academy in collaboration with the International Hotel School.
In 2003 Mark left Mabula and formed the Limpopo Field Guiding Academy. Drawing on his years of experience and having recently qualified as a National Assessor of Nature Guides, the aim was to create a vehicle for improving standards in the growing eco-tourism industry in Southern Africa and beyond. The school proved an immediate success and is still going strong today; indeed LFGA has established itself as one of the top field guide training schools in Africa and continues to feed quality graduates into the greater conservation industry.
With a thirst for knowledge and constantly wanting to improve, Mark continued working on his qualifications and it was not surprising that areas of specialisation would follow his special interests in the field – these include Birding, Tracking and Dangerous Game. Achieving Tracker Level 3 on the CyberTracker system in 2004, he went on to become Professional Tracker in 2006 and ultimately Track and Sign Specialist in 2007. Following time spent with Louis Liebenberg and Adriaan Louw, including the North American Tracking Workshops in California, Oregon and Washington states, Mark began assessing Track and Sign qualifications for CyberTracker in 2008 and the Limpopo Field Guiding Academy has become known as a great feeder for this process as well.
FGASA SKS Birding and later SKS Dangerous Game qualifications were picked up along the way and these remain areas of strength within the Academy. Perhaps the greatest success of an illustrious career thus far is the development of individuals within the industry. Guides, trackers and trainers have all benefited from time spent with Mark – who constantly pushes people to improve and break through their own perceived boundaries. This has resulted in LFGA gaining recognition as a brand in its own right, no longer dependent on one individual to carry the torch.
Sensing the need for a greater entity within the industry, Mark and his wife Linky formed the African Field Guides Association in 2010 and this organisation now has a presence in several African regions. That year also heralded a time of change for Mark as he stepped down from the training role in LFGA and began to focus on growing the business. Marketing and Operations Management now form the bulk of his time, but his first love is his family and Mark makes every effort to spend as much time as possible with them.
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