Mike Reed was born in South Africa on the Highveld in 1942. His father, Royce, was an avid naturalist and a natural tutor who spent thousands of hours with his four boys ringing birds, catching snakes, finding bird nests and noting bird behaviour.
Born into an era when working in conservation was almost impossible for a family man, Mike pursued a career in accounting when leaving Cape Town University. However, the passion for wildlife never left him and at every opportunity Mike would immerse himself in nature. Mike led weekend trails into the surrounding game reserves and botanical gardens for several decades for various conservation bodies and was widely respected for his broad and in-depth knowledge on all aspects of wildlife and ecology.
Mike went on to start the Ranger Environmental Awareness Programme (REAP) with several other of the top guides from the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Southern Africa (WESSA). This programme flourished under the leadership of Mike and trained up another generation of enthusiastic guides. In 2007 Mike moved to Maun and Okavango Guiding School with his 2 sons. Having lead people through the wilderness for more than 40 years Mike is a natural guide trainer and has a wonderful rapport with both the local and international students.
Mike is a FGASA Level 3 guide and has completed his SKS Wildflowers.
Born into a family of naturalists, Grant put up little resistance and by the age of 5 he had a modest collection of snakes and a love of birds. A childhood in the foothills of the Magaliesberg Mountains was the perfect place to nurture this passion and by his early teens he shared an impressive collection of reptiles with his brother Brent. The constant hunting for prey for the captive snakes sparked an interest in frogs, small mammals, nesting birds and other elements of wildlife.
Grant would often join his father Mike on walks he would lead for the Wildlife Society of South Africa for birders, tree-lovers and general wildlife enthusiasts. At the tender age of 16 Grant became the youngest Senior Honorary Ranger for the Wildlife Society of South Africa as well as qualifying as a botanical guide with the National Botanical Institute, and so began his guiding career.
Grant continued his weekend guiding while completing a National Diploma in Nature Conservation through Pretoria Technikon. He completed his in-service training in the Kruger National Park and moved to Botswana in 1996. Grant went on to do a post-graduate degree in Nature Conservation and did his thesis on waterfowl census.
In 2001 Grant and his brother Brent started the highly successful mobile safari company- Letaka Safaris and in the following year they registered Okavango Guiding School. Grant has become one of the most highly qualified guides and trainers in the industry, having completed his FGASA Special Knowledge and Skills (SKS) Dangerous Animals, SKS Birding and SKS Wildflowers and his passion for learning and teaching continues…
Brent spent his early childhood in the hillsides of the Magaliesberg with his younger brother Grant. Day after day Brent would lead these expeditions armed with a garden fork and a rucksack full of snake bags through the veld, digging up termite mounds, turning over rocks and prizing open crevices to find snakes and other animals. The interest in snakes spread to other areas and birds and botany became 2 major areas of interest for Brent.
The desire to travel took Brent away from his passion for several years where he worked in Information Technology for several years and travelled extensively. It was on one of these travels that Brent joined his younger brother on a safari through Botswana. Within a week Brent had left his old life behind him and became his career as a nature guide in Botswana.
Brent never forgot his love affair with birds or snakes and quickly became one of Botswana’s top birding guides. His passion for snakes nearly ended his life in 2007 when he was removing a black mamba from the grounds of a lodge in the Kalahari. He was fortunate and became one of a handful of people to survive a bite from a Black Mamba.
Brent’s combination of computer skills and deep understanding of wildlife and ecology has helped the school to develop unique visual training materials that have revolutionized guide training.
Brent has completed his FGASA Level 3 and Trails Guide and has been training for more than a decade.
Jami Van Der Merwe
Jami joined the Okavango Guiding School team in 2015 and immediately established himself as an incredible guide training asset. Jami is an accredited trainer and assessor for FGASA as well as for the Botswana Qualification Authority.
Jami’s guiding career in South Africa gave him exposure not only to the savannah habitats where most guides start and end their careers, but also to the Kalahari of the northern Cape and the vastly different Eastern Cape.
While Jami comes with an impressive array of FGASA qualifications his most important assets are his incredible enthusiasm and his deep self-taught knowledge on the little things that most people ignore.
Having worked with a wide range of game rangers and FGASA guides in South Africa, Jami brings the best of this industry to Botswana.
The next generation
Royce, Jarryd, Kayleigh, Troy, Merrick and Ross are truly privileged children to grow up in the wilderness of Botswana with parents that love to teach about wildlife. There is little doubt that through these young naturalists, the legacy of Royce Reed will continue.