A Day in the Life of a Ranger
Before I talk about the daily life of a ranger, let me explain who a ranger is. Though the term does not have a fixed definition (which is very unfair) it gives the listener the freedom to imagine something cool. For me, it’s a cross between Indiana Jones and Sir David Attenborough. Rangers are a unique breed of humans (we prefer to think like that). Even though I am about to disclose my day-to-day life routine, with you I am about 85% sure, it is all the same for the rest of the rangers of Wild Coast Tented Lodge.
Wake Up – Dark and Early
I start my day at 4.30 am. We leave for our morning safaris by 5.45 am. Before the safari, we get a cool box ready, and escort the guests to the restaurant at 5.15-5.30 am for morning coffee or tea. It is mandatory for us rangers to be with the jeep driver at least 30 minutes before the safari begins. This is to plan out the routes and to be updated on sightings.
Check your gear before leaving your room. A First Aid kit is a must, a pair of binoculars, camera, and ponchos for a rainy day. Flashlight (just in case) and a multi tool kit. I usually prepare these things before I go to bed the previous night. Then, after having a chat with the jeep driver, I greet the guests with a big smile and a loud “good morning!” After the guests are done with their morning pep up, it’s time to do my favourite thing….“SAFARI!”
A good safari brightens the day, and you don’t necessarily have to see a leopard; for me, it’s all about the small things. A dung beetle rolling his ball of dung out onto the road is plenty. On safari, my job is to tell you everything you see, be it rocks and soil, trees and birds, animals or humans. We return to the Lodge around 8.30-9.00 am as we don’t want our guests to miss their hearty breakfast.
Meeting and Eating
Then the rest of us rangers catch up with others thereafter, discussing the sightings; this is also a way to formulate a plan for the afternoon safari, allocate jeeps, talk about any issues we ran into and also get some administrative tasks done. Afterward, we run straight for lunch; some of us tend to miss breakfast so by noon we are ready to eat a whole whale (joke!). After hogging down a considerable amount of food (eating till you suffocate – like pythons do) we roll ourselves back to our rooms. We have one and a half hours free time at this point. Every minute counts, so a quick shower and straight to bed for a quick nap. I typically get my phone out and start to read – which I love. And, before you know it, it’s 14.00 pm – time to get out of bed and freshen up. Check gear and we’re out of the room within 30 minutes.
Safari and Sundowners
Afternoon safaris are quite something else. With the progression of the sun, animal behaviour changes drastically, so if you see a deer in the morning doing something, in the afternoon you might see the same deer doing something completely different. After three hours of fun we come back to the Lodge at 18.15 pm where we can enjoy a nice, cool GnT while looking at the roaring sea waves crashing against immovable boulders soaked in golden setting sunlight. At sundowners with the guests we guided, us rangers share stories; being rangers we are never short of stories, and mostly it’s of times where we have experienced narrow escapes or where we’ve been extremely embarrassed by wild animals. Once the sun goes down completely there will be a small campfire. The stars are out and if the guests are keen, I’ll share my very basic knowledge of star patterns and planets, some Greek lore or some Egyptian stories (biggest advantage of reading everything). Sundowners come to an end by 19.30 pm; at this time all the rangers will gather in the library for our second meeting of the day. This is to finalise the next morning drives and allocate rangers. Then, its dinner time!
Eating and Blabbering
Again, the rangers resemble a pack of hyenas going through a buffalo carcass (yup … exactly like that!). And, rolling back to the rooms, washing off all the dust and grime and into PJs. Now the time is around 21.00 pm. This is a fun time. The entire gang gets into a room and starts to have merry conversations; this banter and sharing of knowledge and information allows us to connect and bond deeper. We also tend to tease and prank each other, gossip a bit and before you know it, it’s 23.00 pm. Everyone gets kicked out, lights turn off and then it’s bliss….. SLEEP.
It’s true we have long days, but you’d never hear us complain about it. This is because we are truly passionate about what we do and we don’t care much for lack of sleep and the long hours of work. Going into national parks every day looking at all the wildlife even if it’s the same thing we see every day still beats all the tough and rough things of being a ranger. And this I speak for all the rangers in the world.
On a Day Off
This is a very rare phenomena…..well, it’s not that rare but still .. Usually there are times when a ranger or two has a free morning or afternoon and when that happens, can you imagine what we would do? Yup, sleep. Once in a blue moon the entire team gets a free day. We pool in some cash, get some beers and essentials – and by essentials I mean food. We take up everything and head to a nearby lake, find a quiet rock, light a small fire on it and start to have a small BBQ. Yes, you read me right, it’s a jungle BBQ in the middle of the forest (this is why we never run out of stories) sipping on beer from the cool box. We laugh, we banter, we talk and watch the setting sun. Few of us wait for the stars to come out. The skies cast a scene of colours. The sound of crickets adds to the soundtrack of the evening. The occasional wind causes the trees and leaves to rustle, dance and play.
It is moments like these that make us realise we don’t need many things to be happy and content. In the distance we hear an alarm call of the Spotted Deer. This is the predator’s time. Everyone is having a great time but our senses are super intense, picking up every single noise of a branch cracking, confident of facing anything that comes in our way (most probably due to the alcohol) and then we decide it’s time to head back home. Gather all our belongings, including the trash, walking in a single line till we are out of the jungle. And before you know it, we are back in our rooms, ready for bed.
Until next time.
By Keith Wickramaarachchi
Deputy Head Ranger – Wild Coast Tented Lodge