Landing that dream job as a nature lover

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Hate is a strong word, but you hear of people all the time that have to get up every day and travel to a job that they don’t enjoy. I did not really enjoy my first paying job too much either and carried on for two years until other circumstances inspired me to look for something else. That is when I landed my first dream job as a nature lover. It is also part of the reason why I finally got around to starting this blog. 

For any nature lover, landing a job that allows you to spend more time in nature is the perfect match. For me, this job was as a journalist for a publication that reported on the happenings within all of the South African National Parks (SANParks) – the SANParks Times. The organisation is the custodian of a number of South African national parks. I worked for a media company, and we did the publication for them.

What did the job entail?

Simplified, the job entitled reporting on the happenings in all of the South African National Parks. We had to visit all of the parks once a year to ensure our quarterly publication was filled to the brim with good, original content. During a two-day visit, you would spend plenty of time having meetings with the people working on the ground in these parks, the true nature conservationists. I got to visit projects taking place in the parks behind the scenes. I also got to spend some free time doing what people on holiday do, though this was a small part of the work.

Friends often joked I was always on holiday, which was of course not the case. It was hard work. Get up before sunrise for photos. Meet with people. Visit projects in the field. Take photos of everything for stock purposes. A kudu in one park is not the same as a kudu in another park. The vegetation varies across different regions in South Africa, and the experts would quickly point out inaccuracies if you used the wrong photo. If there was an hour or two free by the end of the day, this would be time for a game drive.

Elephants in the Addo Elephant National Park

Naturally, the work also encouraged me to think on my feet. Unplanned field visits to researchers and work teams required quick thinking as there was no time to prepare for the interview beforehand. I often had to make up questions on the spot. People spending a lot of time outdoors generally had great fitness levels, so having to walk and keep up required moderate fitness levels – probably never a bad thing, right?

Disadvantages of the job

There were naturally disadvantages to the job if one could call it that. I spent a lot of time travelling on my own, without the love of my life. It oftentimes required driving to remote locations with little cell phone reception, though this did not really bother me. We grow up being savvy and aware of safety in South Africa. The articles reporting on the crime in South Africa is bad for business, but if you know how to act and how to keep safe, you should not run into trouble when you visit this beautiful country. Travelling alone did not really bother me. It was work, and I loved my job. The only times when I really wanted someone special with me was on Friday afternoons when families arrived. People often asked why I travel on my own.

A beautiful scene in the Garden Route National Park.
A beautiful scene in the Garden Route National Park.

Advantages of the job

There are plenty of advantages when working as a conservation journalist. I once was one of the biggest introverts I knew and never spoke to anyone unless they spoke to me, so choosing journalism as a career was the best way to break this chain. Of course, my love for nature and photography got amplified even more. I got to see the beauty of South Africa, and travel to places many have never even heard of before. I became an ‘expert’ and my friends would ask me where to go to see certain things.

A braai (barbeque for the Americans) is brilliant, but a braai in the bush is just so much better. So on trips, I would braai as much as possible and come up with creative ways to do simple things. I have even fried a few eggs on the braai by creating a little pan out of foil. If I am travelling for five days, I would probably make something not involving the braai on one of those occasions.

During my job as a journalist for SANParks Times, I got to visit every single South African National Park. It took me a while to get to all of them. Between my editor and I, we shared the parks. We visited them once a year. Every park comes with its unique feature. They are all proclaimed for a reason. Every single park definitely warrants a separate blog post, so keep an eye out for this.

The milky way with aloes in the foreground in the Bontebok National Park near Swellendam.
Night scenes Bontebok National Park.

Unfortunately, after a run of five years, the project came to an end in 2018. I then became part of another project – a publication called the Safari News. We pretty much did something similar but focused on so much more than just the South African national parks. As a result, I still continued travelling from time to time, and still had the opportunity to discover the beauty of Southern Africa. Unfortunately, Covid-19 hit the world in 2020, and lockdowns and travel restrictions caused plenty of job losses in South Africa. I decided that this will not hold me back. I will continue spreading the word of conservation and share the beauty of South Africa through my blog.

Work in conservation

Working in an office cubicle is not for everyone. There are so many different work options for nature lovers, but keep in mind that the salary is not always the highest. However, your quality of life will certainly be better working in the fresh air than fluorescent light. Let’s have a look at some of the options.

  • Conservation scientist
  • Zoologist
  • Botany
  • Game ranger
  • Archeologist
  • Geologist
  • Biologist
  • Farming
  • Photographer

    Do you currently work in nature? What do you do for a living? Feel free to drop a comment and tell us what you do, and why you love your job.

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