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Our Trainers

Alex van den Heever

Alex van den Heever

General Manager

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 Londolozi game reserve in 1995 as a game ranger. During his 23 years living at Londolozi, Alex worked as a guide and environmental manager and ultimately general manager of Tracker Academy.
He has dedicated most of his life to learning the ancient skill of wildlife tracking, eventually qualifying as one of six Senior Tracker evaluators in 2003 – the youngest ever to achieve this distinction. Over the course of three decades Alex has tracked jaguars in the Amazon jungle, bears in California, grizzlies and wolves in Montana, and Pumas in Patagonia.
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 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.
Renias Mhlongo

Renias Mhlongo

Trainer Mentor

In 1963, Renias Mhlongo was born in the southern greater Kruger National Park. The Mhlongo family sustained themselves by growing vegetables, tending cattle, hunting and gathering. Renias is one of the last people alive to be raised on the original traditions of a Shangaan hunter-gatherer.
Renias worked at Londolozi game reserve as a professional tracker, trainer and evaluator for the past 36 years. He played a pivotal role in habituating the now-famous leopards of Londolozi. Renias was certified as a Senior Tracker in 2002. In 2010, he became the principle trainer for the Tracker Academy based at Londolozi. In 2013, he qualified as a CATHSSETA-accredited Lead Tracker (NQF4).
Renias has conducted tracker training workshops in South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Malawi, Australia, Brazil, Chile and North America, teaching people the traditional skills of tracking animals. Renias has touched many with the gracious manner in which he teaches people about the African landscape, its culture and indigenous knowledge. 
Janetta Bock Benadie

Janetta Bock Benadie

Operations and Internal Moderator

Janetta was born in Namaqualand in Northern Cape and educated at Steinkopf Secondary School where she matriculated in 1988. Realising her dream to work in the tourism industry, Janetta joined the Karoo National Park where 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.
In 2010, Janetta accepted the position of camp attendant at Tracker Academy based at Samara game reserve. In 2011, she completed the FGASA Level 1 (CATHSSETA NQF 2) guiding qualification. Janetta has subsequently qualified as a FGASA Level 2 guide, Tracker Level 3, CATHSSETA assessor and internal moderator (NQF5). In her position as Operations Manager, Janetta oversees all administration, logistics, facilitation and assessment relating to the Tracker Academy training skills programme – for all three training sites.
Most importantly, Janetta is ‘mother’ to all Tracker Academy’s students. The Academy considers itself privileged to have this ambitious and talented woman as part of the family.
Karel ‘Pokkie’ Benadie

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 tending their sheep and setting traps for jackal and caracal – a sheep farmer’s scourge at the time. He learnt the ancient skills of tracking from his father, including the medicinal qualities of the Karoo plants.
Pokkie joined SANParks as a general worker at age 14 where he worked as a field ranger, researcher and tracker at the Karoo National Park for 33 years. Using the Cybertracker data-capture device, Pokkie collected the information for the publication of a scientific paper which described the feeding habits of black rhino in the Karoo. All the data collected was by means of tracking. Pokkie was certified as a Master Tracker in 2007 via Cybertracker.
In 2010, Pokkie became the principle trainer for Tracker Academy based at Samara Private Game Reserve, some 150 kilometres from his birthplace. Not only is Pokkie a deeply experienced tracker, but also a patient and dedicated teacher. He believes he is living the dream by teaching young men and women wildlife tracking skills.
Innocent Ngwenya

Innocent Ngwenya

Trainer: Londolozi Game Reserve Campus

Innocent Ngwenya was born on 17 May 1991 in the Village of Utha situated north of the Sabie Sands game reserve. He grew up with his grandmother and three siblings. The family sustained themselves on his grandmother’s monthly pension payment, and tendered vegetables on a small piece of land owned by the family. Motivated by hunger Innocent and his siblings began trapping birds and small mammals for food. Despite his circumstances Innocent completed matric in 2009.

Innocent’s father introduced him to a project that he was running called the Ntlaweni Wildlife project – a non-profit endeavour that teaches children methods to care for nature. As a guide, his father also introduced him to the knowledge and techniques of nature guiding.

In June 2010, Innocent enrolled at Tracker Academy where he graduated as the top student of the year.  Upon graduating he found employment at Ngala Game Reserve as a Tracker. In 2013 Innocent was invited to undergo the intensive 8-week Lead Tracker programme at Tracker Academy, finally passing in 2015 as the youngest Lead Tracker in South Africa. A year later Innocent was selected to start a leopard habituation project in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana.

In addition to his tracking accolades, Innocent holds a Field Guide level 1, Trails Guide and CATHSSETA assessor qualification. He is currently the Trainer at the Londolozi campus for Tracker Academy.

Ivan Buregoo

Ivan Buregoo

Trainer: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve Campus

Ivan was born in a small town of Noupoort in the Northern Cape on 10 May 1992. He attended Colesberg High School where he passed my Matric in 2012.

Ivan began working at a local lodge in the Colesberg district. Sensing an emerging need to be outdoors Ivan enrolled on a farming apprenticeship with Anja Pienaar. He learnt to work with his hands, a skill he enjoyed learning. Mrs Pienaar quickly noticed Ivan’s love of nature and arranged for him to study at Tracker Academy in 2014. In his words, starting his studies at Tracker Academy represented what he believed would be ‘a lifelong commitment to nature’.

A year later Ivan graduated at the top of his group at Tracker Academy. He became the first-ever tracker student to score 100% for a final ‘tracks & signs’ and ‘trailing’ practical assessments. His overall aggregate remains an unbroken record at Tracker Academy. At 23 years of age he was the youngest man in his course. Ivan graduated with Tracker Level 4 (Advanced Tracker).

Upon graduating Ivan found employment as a tracker at Kwandwe Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape where he worked for 5 years. During this period he won the KAROHA award for Tracking Excellence in the Eastern Cape in 2018.

In 2020, Ivan’s journey came full circle when he was employed as a tracker trainer for Tracker Academy based at its Tswalu Kalahari Reserve campus. Ivan says, ‘I am on a quest to fulfil as many hopes and dreams as I possibly can. I owe it to myself and to Tracker Academy. The journey coming back to Tracker Academy is so much sweeter because they helped me on my way.’

FRANCIS MEYER

FRANCIS MEYER

Theory facilitator and camp administrator: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve campus

Frances was born in Cape Town on 5th December 1995.

After her first year of school her family moved to New Zealand and lived there for five years.

Frances spent her childhood growing up on farms raising every conceivable animal she could get her hands on. From chickens, geese, ducks, guineafowl and doves to pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, cats, dogs even the hedgehogs in the garden. She also has a love for the wilderness and is drawn to exploring it.

In 2015, she studied equine behaviour based in California for 2 years. Once qualified Frances travelled the world training horses.

After 6 years of working overseas in the equine industry, Frances had a calling to come back home and live a life immersed in nature. She was in search of broader horizons and wanted to offer something more meaningful to others.

In 2019 Frances, enrolled with EcoTraining on the Professional Field Guide Course. She completed her FGASA level 1, apprentice Trails Guide, tracking, birding, wilderness first aid level 2 and advanced rifle handling certifications.

In 2020, Frances started as the theory facilitator and camp administrator for Tracker Academy based at the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve campus. She believes her position at the Tracker Academy found her. And what broader horizons to find than that of the Kalahari wilderness!

""Our committed and highly experienced group of trainers form the backbone of Tracker Academy’s credibility". Alex van den Heever

Enquiries and Contact Details

SA College for Tourism - Tracker Academy

Magazine Hill
PO Box 314
Graaff-Reinet
6280

 

 

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