How I Met Gerald Hinde
Updated: Nov 23
The man behind the Camera
Gerald Hinde, my dear friend, and I have been working together for more than three decades. During this time, we have shared incredible experiences, faced dangerous situations, witnessed stunning beauty, and enjoyed numerous long lunches! Together, we have produced six books, over 20 wildlife documentaries, and, more importantly, have contributed to conservation efforts in our favorite wilderness areas in Africa.
I wrote about how Gerald and I first met each other in our recent book “The Big Seven – Adventures in search of Africa’s iconic species”. Here is an extract from our book that tells the story of How I met Gerald. I hope that you enjoy it so much that it inspires you to read the book.
"In the meantime, my career had also caused me to look at opportunities in this part of the world. I had recently completed my Masters degree in Zoology at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg and had been asked by my professor, the late and great Gordon Maclean, to consider continuing with my doctorate while teaching practicals in comparative vertebrate anatomy in the department. The looming likelihood of more academics, research, symposia, lecture theatres and practical laboratories filled me with dread and a great desire to return to the bush from whence my passion for zoology had stemmed.
I was lucky enough to be accepted as a trainee game ranger at the Mala Mala Game Reserve and gave up my academic life (and fun University lifestyle!) for an opportunity to spend more time in the bush.
My boss and owner of Mala Mala, Mike Rattray, gave me the opportunity after a few months at the reserve to become a senior ranger and part-time manager. I jumped at it and have been forever grateful for the path my life took at that wonderful place.
Early one morning, I was on my customary daily phone call with “The Boss” when he mentioned he had been approached by a fellow named Gerald Hinde, who had been working on a neighbour’s reserve and had been asked by Gerald if it would be possible for him to continue his research and photography at Mala Mala. In his customary gruff manner, Mike asked me to: ”have a look at this fellow and see if he is any good”. Little did I know what an effect this call would have on the course of my life, and one crisp winter’s morning, I found myself sitting in my Landrover awaiting the arrival of this new photographer. Gerald is a pilot and was flying his own plane into the strip… I soon heard the distant sound of plane engines and, after chasing a few warthogs and wildebeest off the airstrip, took up position to watch the landing. In a manner that I was to become all too familiar with in the way Gerald approaches almost everything in life, the landing was skillful and bold, with an element of flair and a lack of nonsense. Gerald stepped out of the plane, and after a cordial drive back to the camp, we got straight down to business and set off on a familiarization game drive.
We have always said it was leopards that brought us together, and over the next couple of weeks, we had a great time together while I showed Gerald the massive network of roads, tracks and boundaries and familiarized him with the territories of known leopards we viewed regularly.
Gerald was given complete freedom to move around the reserve in his own vehicle and worked on no less than 14 individual leopards in his seven-month stay. Because of the strict rules and protocol of operating vehicles at sightings at Mala Mala, we had managed to habituate many of the animals we viewed by gaining their trust and treating them carefully and with respect. Gerald proved to be a great help to the rangers as he was often out earlier than we were with our guests and had located leopards that he then called us in to view. On my days without guests, I would go out with Gerald and his tracker, Hendrik – and we had many wonderful experiences photographing and chatting together. Gerald asked me to write the scientific chapter of his leopard book, which I was happy and proud to do, and our partnership went forward from there. "
WILL TAYLOR - founder of Khashana Travel, is an award-winning documentarian, filmmaker, game-ranger, best-selling author, conservationist, and traveller. He enjoys sharing his love and knowledge of the bush on safari with friends and clients.