Neville Wolmarans is a gentle giant, and I had the pleasure of meeting with him and his business partner Helen recently to chat about everything they’re doing in the area in terms of reptile conservation and education on the North Coast. He describes himself as a bit of a ‘traveller’ and spent his formative years growing up in bush camps in British East Africa – his dad was a field engineer for the British government and he spent his primary school years in the bush camps with his dad – he loved that kind of existence and feels it really shaped his future self.

{Neville & his long-time business partner and friend, Helen.}

When the need for more formalised high schooling arose, Neville was moved to South Africa and for the first time realised that he had to wear shoes and a shirt to school every day! He completed his schooling in Nelspruit and went on to join the Air Force, and then the mining industry where his love and passion for the environment really intensified. He soon realised that he was in the wrong profession and completed a diploma in Environmental Management.

{Neville educating students of a local school.}

Soon after, he took over a lawn-mower repair business in Umhlali and it was at this time that tragedy struck and Neville was involved in an almost fatal car accident whilst snake-catching in Namaqualand. There were a few goosebump moments as Neville tells me about this time of his life, and about how he heard God speaking to him as he lay in his hospital bed. He tells me the hardest thing for him about it was going from being such an able person to being virtually handicapped, but that the power of his mind and the strength of his faith allowed him to overcome and he has not let it get in the way of him pursuing his passion and his dream.

{Neville & Helen do reptile demonstrations and educational talks with many local businesses on the North Coast.}

Neville and his business partner Helen started the Ndlondlo Reptile Park 12 years ago, and since then, have become synonymous with snake capture on the North Coast. The pair have been able to train many others to pick up the slack when they are not able to catch and release the snakes personally. With up to 800 snake captures a year, it is not hard to see why and there is a real demand for skilled people such as Neville and Helen who are able to catch the snakes and release them into a place that is sustainable for the animals and the environment. There is so much of their work that the public doesn’t see, such as their vision for conservation in the area, as well as educating people in the particulars of snake capture and release.

{Helen and a client with their Burmese python!}

Neville and Helen are in the process of rebuilding their Ndlondlo premises and would love any donations in the form of building supplies, wooden pallets etc – if you would like to know more, please get in touch with Helen on helen.ndlondlo@gmail.com or 079 453 3557