Antares | Get to know us
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Get to know us
the owners
Ian Owtram

I was born in Malawi in 1965 and grew up in the countryside of Zimbabwe. Throughout my schooling years I was deeply committed to any wildlife pursuits that came my way and was actively involved with the Natural History societies at both schools. After completing my schooling I then moved to England to further my education. This was the start to my professional career with wildlife. I worked at a number of wildlife centres but primarily at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park where I worked as a zoo keeper for five years. I completed, with distinction and the highest marks in the country, a City and Guilds diploma in Zoo Animal Management.

Having obtained my diploma I returned to Africa and started working at Thornybush Private Game Lodge in the then, Eastern Transvaal. I stayed there for eight years improving on my knowledge of wildlife and also how to deal with people and other aspects of the lodge industry. I have an enthusiastic interest in wildlife photography, an aspect I place with high importance to my wildlife interest.

I qualified as an SKS(DA) (Special Knowledge and Skills- Dangerous Animals) guide with FGASA, and have passed the theory aspect of the SKS Birding exam. During my time at Thornybush I facilitated over 200 companies on team building programmes and feel well qualified to help students understand the principles of teamwork and working in close-knit communities. I also served as Chairman of the FGASA Lowveld North region for several years. I also served on the Grietjie Nature Reserve committee, including as chairman from 2004-2008. From 2016 until 2018 I was employed as the Guide Training Project Manager for BirdLife South Africa.

I have been a member of BirdLife South Africa and the local Phalaborwa bird club since I moved to the area in 2000. I have been involved in surveys over the past eight years looking for the rare and elusive Pel’s Fishing Owl along the banks of the Olifants river, and have been lucky enough to have had several sightings of these beautiful birds.

I am deeply committed to providing a professional service to any client or guest. When it comes to training new guides I am determined to ensure that successful students will complete the course with the same set of values and carry these through to wherever they end up working as guides.

Mel Owtram

Mel, my wife is also involved with the training programmes from time to time. She has a degree in Environmental Biology, spent three years working as a zoo keeper and two years as a teacher at a children’s environmental education centre in the UK as well as having completed her FGASA level 2. She worked at Kingfisher Private School as a teacher’s assistant for over three years and she headed up the wildlife club, and eco-schools programme for them as well as the Health and Safety portfolio. She then home-schooled our children for three years before they moved to Southern Cross school in Hoedspruit.



I met Mel on the reserve soon after Antares started and we were married in March 2003. Between us we try to ensure the smooth running of the centre and lodge. While Ian is devoted to the actual teaching aspect of the training course, Mel performs a great deal of hard work behind the scenes, regularly upgrading the course content amongst other things and serving as back-up guide when required. We have two children; a son Cary who was born in 2004 and a daughter Savanna born in 2008, both of whom are keen naturalists and will always be keen to exhibit their knowledge to the new students when they arrive. Both our children are junior members of FGASA and have already made leaps and bounds with their Pangolin qualifications. Cary is currently busy with the Wild Dog levels and both have completed various specialist subjects such as birds and reptiles.