Japie was fortunate to grow up in the mountainous valley of Louwshoek in South Africa’s Western Cape. In fact, his father was a winemaker in this lesser-known part of the country’s fruitful winelands and the Potgieter family lived on a picturesque wine farm.
Their family home sat at the foot of an unrenowned mountain and it is there that Japie encountered his first African big cat in the wild: the Cape mountain leopard. Small and notoriously elusive, this beautiful creature and its mysterious ways had a tremendous impact on Japie’s childhood and he has had an unwavering passion for big cats ever since.
Japie recalls one particular family safari they took to the world-famous Kruger National Park when he was just eight years old … a second encounter that would forever shape his life. Japie remembers proclaiming to his parents, upon entering the wildlife area, that he absolutely had to live and work there one day.
Life certainly has a way of working itself out and Japie now finds himself living out his childhood dream. He graduated from &Beyond’s Inkwazi Ranger Training School in 2016 and has been guiding at &Beyond Ngala Private Game Reserve (which borders the Kruger National Park) ever since.
When asked what his favourite animal is, Japie explains that although lions spend most of their time lying around, he’s fascinated by them. In fact, all of Africa’s big cats hold a special place in his heart, as they truly embody the spirit of the wild.
Japie also has a healthy fascination for the smaller creatures, and the bushveld itself. He loves observing the everyday critters that most people overlook when they come to the bush. Some of his favourites include impala, the grey ‘go-away’ bird and the plains game, such as giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.
To be able to share the intricacies of the African wilderness with his guests, on a daily basis, is, in Japie’s humble opinion, the best job there is.