Ranger in a Box
The Kruger National Park's extensive road network is well mapped and maintained, criss-crossing an expanse of pristine wilderness that is half the size of Switzerland. You can spend hours, days or, if you’re lucky, weeks driving on routes that take you from camp to camp, encountering a huge range of wildlife on the way.
While it's always great to have a knowledgeable guide to help you interpret what you experience, this isn't always possible on a self-drive tour of the park. And while nothing can replace a real, live ranger who lives and breathes, there’s a handy new tool on the market called the ‘Ranger in a Box’. Designed as an easy-to-use CD pack, the audio guide profiles many of the animals that visitors to parks like the Kruger, and other game reserves in South Africa, are likely to see on a game drive.
'Having spent years working in tourism facilities just outside the Kruger National Park with professional guides showing guests the wonders of the environment, yet also seeing just how much people still love and enjoy exploring the Kruger National Park in their own vehicles, we realised there was a way to bring the two together,” explains Debby Thomson, who, with Patrick Lyster, produced the audio guide.
This is where the guide is really handy; you can keep your eyes firmly on the animal action, while listening to the Ranger in a Box explain just what it is you’re seeing.
'There is so much more to enjoy in the park if you have a little knowledge of what you are looking at and can understand the behaviour that may be taking place in front of you,' says Thomson. This is where the guide is really handy; you can keep your eyes firmly on the animal action, while listening to the Ranger in a Box explain just what it is you're seeing.
For example, when watching baboons, you can select the baboon track and the CD will tell you all about the usual activities and structure of a baboon troop, and give you suggestions of what to look out for within the troop’s activities. Or, when watching elephants, the CD will ask you to look carefully at an elephant nearby and see if you can notice if one tusk is longer than the other. It will then explain to you why this is and what it may facilitate.
As well as giving you a better understanding of animal behaviour, the CDs also include other interesting, historical and factual information that will help open your eyes to the world around you. There are also hints and tips about safari etiquette.
As well as the CDs, the Ranger in a Box kit also includes playing cards that feature questions taken from the CDs. 'These can be used to further entertain the family and test their knowledge and how much they've absorbed ... especially on long drives or at times when the bush is a bit quiet,' Thomson explains.
Initially aimed at the self-drive tourist market – families, couples and individuals who want to get more from their game drives – the guide has uses beyond this too.
'We have even heard of families sitting in Johannesburg traffic who enjoy listening to the CD and learning about the bush,' says Thomson. 'We have also had a number of rangers and people involved in the tourism industry who have commented on the usefulness of learning additional information and interesting facts about the bush that they can share on their drives.'
Ranger in a Box units are available at shops in the Kruger National Park and can also be bought online at www.ecostudios.co.za, as well as being available at many shops, lodges and hotels around the Kruger National Park.
Thomson and Lyster are also currently working on converting the product into an accessible mobile phone app, as well as working on uploading it to iTunes. "We're also working on Birding in a Box and other titles that will help interpret the environment around us," says Thomson.
- All images courtesy Dianne Tipping-Woods.