Usually, guests are guided on specialised Land Rovers by a ranger who drives the vehicle and by a tracker who sits on an especially precarious seat at the front of the bonnet when they are in a private safatis in Southern Africa. The tracker’s job is to find elusive wildlife. To notice and interpret nature’s subtle clues through acutely honed senses, while the ranger engages with the guests and ensures safe passage.
The indelible and intuitive connection between a ranger and a tracker is stronger than anyelse. In the case of Juan Pinto and Wilson Masiya, that bond has endured for over 20 years. Wild adventures, unique encounters and proud achievements have punctuated their derring-do filled days together.
Juan is the Head Ranger at Royal Malewane and he is also a director of The Royal Portfolio. He is one of the most qualified guides in the business but remains committed to his daily quest for self-improvement.
Juan has a unique set of formal guiding qualifications: the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) – Level 3 professional guide; Special Knowledge and Skills (SKS) – Dangerous Game; SKS – Birding; and Senior Tracker. Juan was the first active guide to be awarded the title of Scout by FGASA (SKS – Dangerous Game and Senior Tracker).
Juan has a very keen sense for what his guests do and do not know, and what they might want to know. He never goes in for the kind of formulaic facts that some guides rattle off in an attempt to impress guests or kill time – he is always thinking, observing, listening to guests and gauging their interests and curiosities.
But Juan’s most endearing characteristic is not a formal qualification, it’s his humility and openness to keep learning from his sidekick – Master Tracker Wilson Masiya.
Wilson is now in his mid-60s and is one of only a handful of living Master Trackers. He has spent his entire life in the bush and his interpretations and insights are uncannily accurate. Born in Mozambique, Wilson lived on the boundary of the Kruger National Park where he honed his skills by living off the land. When the Mozambican civil war broke out in 1977, Wilson and his community had no choice but to flee their homes. Forced to choose between a mine strewn battle field and the ferocious perils of the Kruger National Park, Wilson decided to take his chances with the Big 5. Against all odds he led his family and community through the Kruger to safety in South Africa. On not just one trip. On multiple trips. Risking his life for others on each occasion.
Juan and Wilson have put their lives in each other’s hands since 1995. They are the most experienced and knowledgeable game ranger and tracker team in Africa. As Head Ranger and Head Tracker respectively, Juan and Wilson have created an ethos that permeates through Royal Malewane. The pair have guided some of the most famous names in the world – from heads of state, to entertainment icons and sporting heroes. They continue to share their passion for the African bush ensuring that the earth’s cherished lessons are never lost and her mysterious ways are revealed and entrusted to the next inquisitive generation.