Meet Riaan Botha (Full Time Tour Leader)PREVIOUS PAGE
Riaan was born and brought up just north of Johannesburg, in a lush green suburb rich in bird life. As a little boy he could be seen perched on the rooftop of his parent’s suburban home - doing what he now formally knows as birding. Family holidays were arranged around Riaan's love for wildlife, and visiting game reserves became a top priority, where Riaan was known for being up before the birds and returning long after breakfast to tell everyone what he had discovered. This natural affinity for nature and the outdoors led to his career as a level 3 field guide with FGASA (Field Guide Association of South Africa). Riaan has been sharing his love and knowledge of nature for the past 7 years at some of South Africa’s finest luxury game lodges - hosting ‘Big 5’ open vehicle safaris and leading bush walks in and around the world renowned Kruger National Park.
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Whilst playing cricket matches at school, Riaan gave new meaning to the term 'fielding', as he was often distracted from the match by Crowned Lapwings moving about the oval. He knew where every nesting site was on the school grounds and went to great effort to protect them. Riaan has always found a way to make birding a part of his daily life.
During his third and final year of tertiary studies in Nature Management, he spent a year conducting research at a private game reserve close to the Kruger National Park where he fell in love with the Lowveld Savanna biome. Here he worked with international volunteers and found himself teaching his appreciation for the Lowveld to people from different cultures and languages, and in turn learning from them too.
What got you into birding?
Growing up I had a natural fascination with the birds in our garden. I knew every common garden bird and all their different nest sites before I knew that birding even existed. I have good memories of my findings at home, from a Cape Robin-Chat’s nest in our overgrown ivy, to the Hadada Ibis’s nest in the neighbour’s tree. My fondest childhood memory however, were the hours spent standing in our swimming pool watching Greater Striped Swallows swoop down over my head to scoop up water. I will always remember their calls as they returned to the same nest outside my window year after year. Birding awakens a sense of adventure in me - nothing beats the surprise of unlikely finds in the unlikeliest of places.
Are you a keen bird photographer?
Off tour, I certainly am. Having been around birds and wildlife every day - my lens has become somewhat of an extension of my arm. I'm always in pursuit of getting the perfect eye-level shot. In my free time I could spend hours leopard-crawling closer to elusive species.
What are your strengths as a tour leader?
It’s important to me to be approachable and that everyone around me feels welcome and at ease. I have a calm and collected personality, but am full of energy and enthusiasm. I’m well-travelled and converse comfortably with any age, culture or gender. When it comes to birding, I have excellent eyes and even better ears. I keep it professional and fun, making sure everyone is having an enjoyable experience.