Copyright 2017 © SA College For Tourism, Tracker Academy :: Graaff Reinet :: South Africa
SA College for Tourism
PO Box 314
Karel ‘Pokkie’ Benadie
Trainer at Samara Private Game Reserve
Karel (Pokkie) Benadie was born on 24 July 1963 on the farm Stoltzhoek in the Beaufort West district, now known as the Karoo National Park. At a very young age Pokkie joined his father looking after his sheep and setting traps for jackal and caracal, the scourge of sheep farmers at the time. As it happened, walking the arid Karoo with his father turned Pokkie into the master he is today, not only of the ancient art of tracking, but also as an equally revered expert in the medicinal qualities of trees and plants.
Pokkie joined SANParks as a general worker at age 14 and worked as a field ranger, researcher and tracker at the Karoo National Park for 33 years. Using a data-capture device, Pokkie collected the information for the publication of a scientific paper describing the feeding habits of black rhino in the Karoo. All the data collected was by means of tracking
Pokkie started at the Tracker Academy in 2010 as the principle trainer based on Samara Private Game Reserve, 150 kilometres from his birthplace. The Academy considers itself extremely fortunate to have man of his calibre as a trainer and Pokkie believes he is living a dream as a teacher of indigenous knowledge to young aspiring trackers.
Trainer at Londolozi Game Reserve
On 16 March 1963, Renias Mhlongo was born in an area which is today part of the greater Kruger National Park. The Mhlongo family sustained themselves on the land by growing vegetables, tending cattle, hunting and gathering. Renias, almost as soon as he could walk, was sent out to tend the family’s cattle. He is one of the last people to be raised in the original traditions of a Shangaan pastoralist and naturalist.
Without any formal education he was forced to seek work at a private game reserve as a labourer. In 1984 he became a tracker at Londolozi, thereby putting to use his exceptional skills as a naturalist. His intuition while tracking is uncanny and he played a major role in the habituation of the world-famous leopards of Londolozi
Renias has conducted tracker training workshops in South Africa, Kenya, Brazil and America, teaching people the traditional skills of trailing animals. Renias has travelled internationally, and in so doing has touched many with the gracious manner in which he teaches people about the African landscape, its culture and indigenous knowledge. In 2010 Renias became the principle trainer at Londolozi game reserve campus of the Tracker Academy.
Janetta Bock Benadie
Samara Game Reserve
Janetta was born in Namaqualand in Northern Cape. She was educated at Steinkopf Secondary School and matriculated in 1988. Janetta held several positions at various companies, among other things as a data capture clerk at a large retail outlet. Several years later Janetta started work at the Karoo National Park, thereby realising her dream to work in the tourism industry. Soon afterwards she completed a qualification in hospitality and reception. Her diligence and commitment propelled Janetta into the positions of receptionist, food and beverage assistant and finally manager.
Having met at the Karoo National Park, Janetta married Karel Benadie in 1999.
In 2010 Janetta accepted a position at the Tracker Academy as a camp attendant. However, her desire to be meaningfully involved in the tracker training resulted in her undertaking further studies. In 2011 she completed an accredited CATHSSETA NQF 2 guiding qualification. She has also worked on her own tracking skills over the past two years, having passed the tracker Level 2 qualification. In 2012 Janetta was accredited as a CATHSSETA assessor and is now responsible for the facilitation and assessment of all the theory components of the Tracker Academy skills program. Not only is she a permanent trainer but also the “house mother” and camp administrator for the training base at Samara. The Academy considers itself privileged to have this ambitious and talented woman as part of the Tracker Academy family.
" Very few skilled trackers remain. Talented trackers who possess these traditional skills of tracking are disappearing fast. It would be an indictment of modern conservation to lose this important traditional knowledge."
Alex van den Heever
Alex van den Heever
Alex spent his formative years growing up on a cattle farm in the Western Cape, South Africa. After completing his studies in Marketing and Business Management, he joined world-renowned Londolozi game reserve in 1995 as a game ranger. During his 13 years at Londolozi, Alex led habitat restoration projects, presented for the marketing team and conducted specialised safaris.
However, Alex’s greatest fascination during his time in the bush was tracking. To this end, he dedicated much of his time to learning the ancient of tracking skills. During the course of the last two decades, Alex’s dedication to tracking has afforded him the opportunity to track many of the world’s big cats, as well as grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park.
In 2008 Alex approached Mrs Gaynor Rupert, the Chairperson of the SA College for Tourism (SACT) in Graaff-Reinet with a the view to establishing an institution where the fast disappearing traditional art and indigenous knowledge of tracking animals in the wild could be taught in a formal education and training environment. In 2010, with the encouragement and support of Mrs Rupert, Alex co-founded the Tracker Academy
The SACT Tracker Academy is a not-for-profit organisation which trains disadvantaged rural people in the traditional skills of wildlife tracking. The accreditation of its tracker training programme with the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) made the Tracker Academy the first tracker training school to achieve this distinction in South Africa. More than 94% of our trainee graduates have found permanent employment within the tourism industry.