Walking Safaris, Phinda Private Game Reserve

Private guides and specialists

Private Guides – In Our Hands from Beginning to End

From the moment guests touch down in Phinda, to the moment they leave, &Beyond will be at your side throughout your adventure. Our wealth of expertise found in our private and specialist guides, ground logistics teams and over 2000 &Beyonders means that guests will experience a journey unlike any other!

Meet your private guide

Nikki Muller-  Specialist &Beyond Guide

Nikki’s enthusiasm for conservation started at an early age, on a farm in the heart of South Africa’s Free State. Learning about, and discovering farming practices that were based on the principle of conservation and sustainable development, his passion for the environment and conservation grew. This led Nikki to pursue a qualification in Nature Conservation and Game Farm Management. Over time, he has spent his life dedicated to all activities related to the environment, including the recording of rare plant species, rehabilitation of previously disturbed areas, and partaking in environmental educational programs. Nikki joined the &Beyond Inkwazi Ranger Training School at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and compiled an environmental management plan for the reserve. This included the geology of the reserve and anti-poaching legislation. He has been involved in a number of rhino notchings, collaring and dehorning, and replacing collars on elephant and cheetah. Incredibly inspired by the way &Beyond looked at sustainable development in the communities surrounding &Beyond Phinda, Nikki was encouraged to include a number of ideas and methods into his management plan. Actively involved in caring for the land, wildlife and people, Nikki believes that conservation should not be a job, but a lifestyle that is practised each day.

Specialists you will meet in this small group journey

Les Carlisle (&Beyond Group Conservation Manager)

Les Carlisle has been an intrinsic part of the &Beyond team for more than 25 years, providing invaluable conservation management across the group. He also works in close proximity with the Africa Foundation as one of their trustees. Les’ long history with &Beyond began in February 1991 with the creation of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. Not only was he involved in the building of the reserve but he played an instrumental role in reintroducing predators and other species onto the reserve, managing the game translocations required to transform it into the world-renowned reserve that it is today. As Group Conservation Manager, Les represents &Beyond on the boards of two conservation areas and advises the company on the proper management of such areas. Les is often invited to international conferences as a keynote speaker to talk about &Beyond’s successful business model. He is heavily involved in &Beyond’s sustainability initiatives, which are aimed at minimising the environmental impact of the company’s lodges. In addition, he has taken on the role of Project Manager for Rhinos Without Borders, a joint project by &Beyond and Great Plains Conservation. An adventurer at heart, Les is an advanced scuba diver and has skydived and piloted aircraft. He is a keen naturalist, an avid birdwatcher and passionate about sport and flying, building his own model aeroplanes.

Simon Naylor (Reserve Manager – &Beyond Phinda)

Simon Naylor has been an integral part of &Beyond’s conservation and guiding teams for the better part of two decades. After completing a degree in nature conservation, Simon joined &Beyond as a guide at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. When he got his first glimpse of the sand forest and plains of the reserve, as well as the Indian Ocean and Lake St Lucia, from the plane that was bringing him to his new home, an enduring love affair was born. Five years later, the exciting opportunity arose for Simon to take &Beyond’s Ranger Training Programme to East Africa. The Mwewe Ranger Training School was launched and Simon communicated the &Beyond way throughout Kenya and Tanzania, exploring the region’s most remote and beautiful natural sanctuaries in the process. After nearly four years, Simon was due for a change of scenery and moved to Kasane to take charge of &Beyond’s Botswana Mobile Camping Expeditions. In 2006, when fate came knocking with an opportunity to return to &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, he accepted the position of Reserve Manager without hesitation. Simon considers himself blessed to have worked in some of Africa’s most beautiful and pristine wilderness areas. Watching wildebeest cross the Mara River, seeing wild dog hunting in the Selous and herds of elephant swimming across the Chobe River, stargazing in the Namib Desert and scuba diving off &Beyond Mnemba Island are all special moments for him.

Craig Sholto-Douglas (Ecologist/Research Technician)

Craig obtained BSc degrees in Zoology and Environmental Science from Rhodes University before joining the Rhodes Restoration Research Group as the project research technician. Following academics, he worked for an environmental consultancy as an ecological specialist and project manager, conducting numerous ecological assessments and faunal surveys throughout Southern Africa. Craig heads up the research and monitoring department at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. His role involves the co-ordination and management of ecological monitoring teams, internal and external researchers, data and samples collection and management, and the maintenance of the reserves databases. Craig also assists with general reserve wildlife management, veld management and off-take strategies, and the facilitation and implementation of annual reserve game counts.

Andrew Schoeman (&Beyond Private Photographic Guide)

Andrew’s love affair with photography began almost by accident when he came across an unopened roll of film lying in the midst of a dusty bush road at a game reserve where he was guiding. Fired with inspiration, he could hardly wait for the next game drive to try his hand. While the film turned out to be completely overexposed, he was hooked! Driven by a desire to take the best photos he possibly could, he devoured as many photography books he could get his hands on, scouring the National Geographic and BBC Wild channels for ideas. 17 years later, he has enjoyed many years of guiding and photography experiences, including four years in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, where he was privileged to capture iconic wildlife and traverse extraordinary landscapes of the continent, including the breathtaking beauty of the Serengeti. The highlights of his photographic career have included seeing his images in print all over the country. Andrew thrives on sharing his love and passion for photographing Africa’s wild places with his guests, helping them capture indelible memories of their adventures.

James Rawdon (Conservation Team Member: Ornithologist)

With a BSc degree in Zoology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg under his belt, James followed his dream and started out as a game ranger at MalaMala Game Reserve for three years. He then joined Wilderness Safaris for five years as a guide and lodge manager, in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. He researched the resident lion prides on which he published a scientific paper and magazine article for Africa Geographic. He obtained his bird ringing license in 2012 through SAFRING (University of Cape Town) after 18 months of training with other licensed ringers. He has been ringing birds at various sites around KwaZulu-Natal including the Drakensberg, Midlands, Zululand and the North Coast as well as venturing into Mpumalanga (Crocodile River of the Kruger National Park and Wakkerstroom) and the Nylsvley Nature Reserve in the Limpopo Province. His most recent ringing trip has been to Sierra Leone. To date, he has rung over 6 600 bird, of 270 different species, during the 220-odd ringing sessions conducted to date.

Bheki Ntuli (Africa Foundation Regional Manager Kwazulu-Natal)

Bheki is a Regional Manager for Africa Foundation (&Beyond’s community development partner) in the KwaZulu-Natal region, based at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. Working closely with five communities that neighbour &Beyond Phinda, since joining Africa Foundation, Bheki’s passion for community development has grown through experience. Bheki joined Africa Foundation in February 2004, starting as a Community Development Officer, later moving to Regional Program Officer and, now, KZN Regional Manager. Having completed his Bachelor of Science Degree (Agriculture) at the University of Zululand, while Bheki was working as an assistant, his interest in community development was sparked when he was conducting research about the impact of poverty in the rural areas. His findings led to the scope of the research being increased, to answer the question of what relevant methods of poverty alleviation could be introduced in previously disadvantaged communities. An advocate of life-long learning, he has also completed short courses on Introduction to Project Management and Advanced Project Management through the Regenesis School of Business, as well as additional short online courses through the University of Cape Town.