Meet the team

Katie Rooke:

As an 11 year old girl living in the UK, Katie decided that she wanted to work as a guide in the African bush ….. and 20 years later, here she is, living her dream. In 2005 Katie graduated with a BSc in Zoology and Marine Biology, then moved to South Africa to start her field guide training. At Bush Academy she qualified as a field guide with FGASA Level 1 (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) and then went to Entabeni Private Reserve. Here she happily took guests around and taught them about the bush. During this time she gained her Level 2 award, and then her Trails Guide qualification.

Moving to the Lowveld, Katie started working as a science officer with volunteers on a predator research programme. In 2008 she was offered a chance to move to Askari, and, in her own words, “I didn’t hesitate for a second!”

Katie has a real soft spot for lions. She has recently completed her Masters in Biological Sciences with the University of Bristol, incorporating brown hyaena research done on Pidwa. When not in the bushveld, Katie loves travelling (49 countries on 6 continents so far), sport and snowboarding (although the latter not in sunny South Africa!).

Edward Smith:


Edward was born and bred in South Africa and grew up in the heart of Zululand. From his earliest memory, wildlife has been his passion and after completing his studies at one of South Africa’s top rugby schools, he obtained his FGASA Level 1. Ed qualified in both terrestrial and marine guiding and got his trails guide qualification after being the first in his class to pass the Advanced Rifle handling assessment. Ed went on to work at one of South Africa’s oldest private game reserves where he guided from the vehicle, on foot and by boat.

Ed decided to pursue his passion for wildlife full-time when a devastating shoulder injury ended his hopes of a professional rugby career. He began a degree in Nature Conservation which led him to Pidwa for completion of his university practical year. Starting as a member of the reserve management team, Ed was quickly snapped up to join the Askari staff. It was evident from his fun-loving personality that he would be perfect in the role of teaching and sharing his love for nature and Africa with others.

Ed sees every day as an opportunity to achieve greatness and believes anything is possible in the amazing African bush. Birds and honey badgers are his areas of expertise and he wishes to do a Master’s degree on honey badgers in the near future. He is a sports fanatic and keeps fit in his spare time; when he’s not out in the bush hunting for the perfect wildlife photo.”

Edward and Katie are supported by the Pidwa Reserve management team to ensure that Askari is involved in every aspect of the reserve. As part of Askari, you really do become an extension of the reserve staff team, so much more than a volunteer.

Edward and Katie look forward to welcoming you and sharing some great experiences with you.

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