If you had to define the ideal romance novel hero, chances are a ranger will win significant votes. And with good reason - how can a life filled with perfect sunsets, dangerous adrenaline rushed encounters with nature's most feared beasts and slimy poachers not be idealized?
But, all true heroes have flaws, or at least, toes of clay. Many years ago, rangers in the Kruger National Park (KNP), acknowledged this truth with an annual prize given to the hero who fit these shoes. Off course they all qualified, but there could only be one winner.
The crown was dusted off recently when regional ranger in the north, Louis Olivier, an old Kruger hand, prompted a revival of this treasured tradition.
The process is peer reviewed with nominations that are sent to Nick Zambatis, a neutral overseer and protector of nominator identification.
This year's deserved winner of the pink gown, which was sponsored by Louis, had a few remarkable encounters with dangerous and not so dangerous game, as well as some transport mishaps.
One of these came when this year's champion wanted first pick for him and his staff of new ranger uniforms that had arrived in Skukuza.
Being based in the northern parts of the park meant a very early start and being the gentleman that he is, he decided not to disturb a colleague to tell him that he would be passing through his section.
"On the advice of his corporal, he travelled along the western boundary and just before reaching Phalaborwa, decided to take a short-cut along one of the fire-breaks and join the Letaba gravel road. Up to this point, all went well until he suddenly felt that something was very wrong with his bakkie; it was not pulling as it normally does so he stopped to do an inspection. To his amazement, horror and disgust, he discovered that all four wheels of the bakkie plus the two trailer wheels were flat,' motivated the anonymous nominator.
"He then contacted Phalaborwa section ranger, Rodney Landela and told him of his predicament, only to find out that he had just driven over a very effective stolen vehicle immobilizer. Rodney then took [our hero] and his corporal to Letaba, from where they continued their trip to Skukuza in an open 10-seater game drive vehicle, with the trailer in tow!"
In another incident, our intrepid ranger was on motorcycle training when he miscalculated a spruit crossing - to the smothered appreciation of his fellow rangers.
Given, they did have the benefit of hind-sight and knew there was some unexpectedly deep pools lurking, but our hero did not surprise when he went down with flailing hands after his feet failed to find land as he tried to steady himself when crossing the spruit.
"After an hour's struggle to get his bike started, he had to leave it and later went back with other rangers to collect it."