Dale Jackson: aka Bush Jacko

This month we decided to get Dale into the hot seat and asked him some pertinent questions about his time and experiences at Tanda Tula. This honest, kind and funny gentle giant is not only a great leader, husband and father, but he is at the very core of everything we stand for and it is an honour for all of us to call him a friend and colleague.

Tanda Tula - a photograph of Dale in the Timbavati

How did you get into the safari industry?

My journey into this amazing lifestyle/workplace started thirty odd years ago as a young boy growing up in the Low-veld. My father was a real bush nut and I was very fortunate to be exposed to some incredible safari experiences throughout my formative years. This really captivated my passion and love of the African bush and its people. I remember running around our back garden in my khaki’s (which had to be slightly ripped so you looked like a real “game ranger”) and almost burning down my wooden Wendy house just so I could welcome my imaginary guests back with a cosy fire. We are incredibly fortunate in our industry to meet and establish some really special relationships with people from all over the globe, and from varied walks of life. It was through one of these special relationships that I got a foot in the door and never looked back. I will always be very grateful to the individuals who helped shape my career, none more so than the team I currently work with. They are an extraordinary bunch of human beings and I am very lucky to spend time with them every day!

How has Tanda Tula changed since you joined?

At the heart of our operation is the Tanda Tula family,headed up by Don, Nina, Formen, Hayley and me. We have stuck to our core values and beliefs and maintain an incredibly loyal and dedicated team who have stood by us for many years – that hasn’t changed! We have gone through a number of infrastructure and back-end changes to streamline our operations, but mainly so that we can work in a far more ecologically friendly and sustainable manner. I think the world has fundamentally altered the way we do business and the speed at which we conduct business; connectivity has been both a blessing and a curse in our industry. I see how hard it is nowadays for our guests to completely switch off and disconnect with the outside world. They struggle to allow themselves the opportunity to immerse themselves and truly reconnect with nature. We have really tried to balance this at Tanda Tula and have limited access to Wifi in certain parts of camp just to allow people the opportunity to switch off, to be still and to appreciate what is around them.

What was your craziest, funniest, scariest moment while working out here?

Proposing to my wife on game drive!  Hayley was so keen to get stuck into the champagne she almost swallowed the ring. That was definitely one of the scariest, craziest and happiest days I have had out here in the Timbavati.But, seriously, there have been so many incredible experiences that I would really need another entire blog post or two!

Tanda Tula - Dale and Hayley in the Greater Kruger

What is the best part about leading the TT team?

For me, the best part is seeing how our team have grown as individuals over the years –  this has been hugely rewarding. I have had a number of role models in my life and fortunately I still work with some of them. Watching individuals like Formen and Scotch, who I have known for close to twenty years, share and impart their knowledge and passion for the bush and it’s people with our guests is a hugely humbling experience.

Tanda Tula has been in operation since the late 1970s and some of our team have been with us from the very beginning. Their children have now followed in their footsteps and joined the Tanda Tula family – what a huge privilege to be able to provide the training and skills they needed to develop themselves. I am constantly learning from our talented team – this also includes some new tech millennials (Chad is outside of this bracket, by the way). They educate me on the use of Instagram, Twitter and the pros and cons of Mac versus Android – thanks very much Luke!

It has been a hugely challenging year for us all, but I consider myself very fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible team of people who will assist us in navigating our future Tanda Tula.