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Natasja van Zyl - Wildlife through the lens of a field guide

Natasja is a 27 year-old field guide at Garden Route Game Lodge. In her free time, she also pursues her interest in wildlife photography as a hobby. She has a great love for animals and her job grants her the opportunity to spend time with them – and photograph them!

“My love for nature actually stems from my grandparents. My grandmother, she absolutely loved the animals. So it’s actually really cool to able to do something that I know they’re proud of. I’ve always said, since I was very small, that I want to be a game ranger, to be somebody that sits in the front of the vehicle and tells everybody about the animals. My favourite animal is a baby giraffe, they’re so cute! And a close second is the baby eland, they’re really, really adorable.

“I couldn’t become a vet, I wouldn’t be able to stomach those kinds of problems with the animals, but this is the next best thing that I could do. About five years ago, I did my field guide course and from there on I did my university course in nature conservation. I got my diploma and then went over to do my BTech, and then I started working at game reserves. I just started about four months ago here at Garden Route Game Lodge. Before that, I was at a little tiny game reserve just around the corner, it was a privately owned reserve and before that I was at Shamwari in the Eastern Cape. I did some conservation work on that side.

Natasja van Zyl, field guide at Garden Route Game Lodge and wildlife photographer.
The giraffe is Natasja van Zyl's favourite animal at Garden Route Game Lodge

“I’ve always wanted to get a really good picture of a leopard, and last year I finally found my picture - it took me about ten years."

“Photography is a hobby I started about ten years ago. I bought my first camera and I was just so excited about it, worked with that and so far I’ve just been building skills and things like that through. To find a really good picture of an animal is difficult. I’ve always wanted to get a really good picture of a leopard, and last year I finally found my picture – it took me about ten years. It was in the Kruger National Park, we were out that way for a vacation and I saw this one male leopard – it was a massive male – he walked past the car. It was just as we left the gates so it was really, really early in the morning, during that golden hour in the morning where you can get really nice pictures of animals. And I got that one picture where he was standing there and he was just looking off into the distance. I was very excited about it. I immediately came back and I made an A1 canvas photo of it.

“We have long hours as field guides, it’s not just running around doing game drives all day. We’re up from six o’clock, so the hours are long, but I get to see animals all day. Every day the animals do different things, every time we’re out there, so that excitement kind of balances it out. If you do the job that you absolutely love, it’s not a job. You’re actually just doing what you want to do.”

Natasja van Zyl's leopard photo, Garden Route Game Lodge

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  • Desre Belling April 24 2019

    Well done Natasha, super proud of your achievements and the passion you have for your job and most importantly the animals. Oh and might I had, I won’t kill those creepy crawlies, I’ll call … wait who you going to call… Natasha Busters. Garden Route Game Lodge gained a true gem.

  • Lia April 25 2019

    your work is really useful . it’s good that you take care of animals. By helping animals you help the nature. I am very proud of you because you are very kind, sensitive person, you love animals. Please be careful, take care of yourself as you care for animals. Because your work is very dangerous. I miss you and always love you. Lia

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