- I have been travelling with Bruce and Judy Meeser of Wildlife Encounters on and off for 10 years now and have had numerous terrific wilderness experiences, learned a tremendous amount and become a family friend. I am very grateful that they shared their expertise with me.- Paul Hendrick, Holland
It’s a difficult thing to write about yourself so I have saved my friends the embarrassment and come to their aid. In a few words; Bruce and Judy Meeser are passionate about the bush and have been pioneers in the lodge industry. The couple have been involved with tourism on and off for the last 25 years and in the gaps between tourism initiatives there was always some conservation drive they were working at. They started out their working lives both as farmers independently in remote and wild areas filled with game and cattle. Bruce spent a few years on horseback in the wild border zones of Zimbabwe and Judy studied grassland science at Natal University. Bruce’s parents who were the pioneering type were also true gypsies and lived in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi and Bruce for the most part went along with them. Later he left them to begin guiding in South Africa and Botswana in 1980.
In 1986 the couple worked together at Tanda Tula Game Lodge and simultaneously started and managed a veld reclaimation project on Nederland Farm in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. The all encompassing project involved road placement and maintenance, bush clearing by mechanical means and chemical treatments, erosion control, treatment of coppice and follow up on bush cleared areas. Income generation for the project was through impala culling and meat sales with the “ Foot and Mouth Red line” presenting an enormous challenge in those days. They canvassed far and wide to persuade land owners to actively manage their bush farms and practice bush clearing and erosion control.
In early 1988 the couple managed to secure a concession in the then largely unknown Manyeleti Game Reserve where they teamed up with Game Trackers and started Khoka Moya and Honeyguide Safari Camps. From these private safari camps the couple and their dynamic young team pioneered and concentrated on giving visitors the experience of walking, tracking and close encounters with wildlife. Maintaining a tourism enterprise in these difficult years required skill and tenacity and just when the political climate appeared to be easing up Bruce and Judy sold their lodges and began a proactive anti poaching initative called Rhino Monitoring Units. RMU was a response to a sudden escalation in poaching of free roaming rhino in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. RMU employed the services of paying volunteers to monitor, document, establish identikits and home ranges of rhino. The then government and nature conservation bodies were suspicious of this proactive all encompassing project that claimed to contribute to tourism, management and research all in one and the Meesers were forced back to a more traditional tourism.
They went on to launch Transfrontiers Wildlife Walking Safaris. The walking safaris used semi permanent tented camps that they erected in various regions along the western boundary of the Kruger Park. Many of these zones were community owned and Bruce and Judes got very involved in community tourism, aiding the locals to access some of the people traffic to these out of the way places. After 10 years, with Transfrontiers now a stable little company with two sought after concessions in Timbavati and Klaserie, and a motivated team of professional bush folk, they sold the company to a ranger- come- friend who’d had many a year with them. Wildlife Encounters was started before then to facilitate other pursuits such as Motapa Estuary Lodge in Mozambique, River Horse riding safaris, The Backpack Safari Lodge and ranger guide training.
They were thrilled by the arrival of their son Troy in 1992 and daughter Sabre in 1995.
Troy Courtney was brought up largely in the Manyeleti Game Reserve and so became fluent in the local Shangaan language. He is a keen and skilful fisherman and has a great love for the outdoors.
Sabre Rayne came home to the Timbavati Reserve after being born in Nelspruit. She shares Bruce’s love for horses and her mothers’ love of plants.
Together the kids were among of the first few to join the newly formed Southern Cross School – a school for the planet with a strong conservation ethic based on a wildlife estate just outside Hoedspruit.
Their triumph was in 1999 when together with friends and staff they captured and successfully relocated a pack of wild dog from a poaching ravished farm in Limpopo to Hluhluwe Reserve in kwa-Zulu Natal.