Jan Pienaar grew up in the flatlands of the northern Free State, pretty much in the centre of South Africa. From a very young age, he yearned to be outdoors, a yearning he took full advantage of when visiting his grandparents on their farm in northern KwaZulu-Natal. After completing his schooling, a chance sighting of an opportunity to work in the bush set him on his path to a career in guiding. Having spent the majority of his 16-year career based at some of South Africa’s most prestigious lodges, he has gained an intimate knowledge and understanding of the Southern Africa’s fauna and flora, and thoroughly enjoys sharing this with anyone who joins him in exploring these natural wonders. Jan worked for Rockjumper for a number of years as a full-time tour leader and it’s great to have him back again, albeit on a part-time basis.
More about Jan:
What got you into birding?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one defining moment, as I have been birding since my earliest memories. I do, however, remember a sighting of a Greater Double-collared Sunbird in our garden and being struck by the colours and iridescence of its plumage. I got my first bird book for my 5th birthday and used my dad’s old 7×50’s – they were about as big as me at the time!
What attracted you to a career in tourism?
This happened quite by accident really. I was looking for something to do after leaving high school, as I intended to go to university but was unsure of what to study. I saw an ad for a guide training course in one of SA’s outdoor magazines and thought it might be a good way to spend two years or so whilst I get my thoughts together. Guiding and I took to each other, and 16 years down the line, I am still loving every moment of it!
What are some of your other hobbies?
I love reading and am getting more and more into photography.
Are you a lister?
Yes, I am quite keen on my life list, as well as my Southern African list.
What are your strengths as a tour leader?
I believe that working as a lodge-based guide, travelling in a vehicle to find animals big and small, has taught me to use all my senses. My ability to spot the smallest movement or pick up the faintest sound often has me finding a host of interesting species, including birds and reptiles. I am a patient teacher, and enjoy sharing all the knowledge I have gained with all my guests. A joke, and especially a bad pun, is also never far away!