The New Year sees eight celebrities undertake a grueling, four-week ranger training course at Shamwari Game Reserve. The 20-episode ‘Safari School’ series, produced by Initial (part of Endemol UK), will transmit on BBC Two in early 2007.
The eight intrepid Safari School trainees are former Eastenders actress Brooke Kinsella, actors Jeremy Sheffield (Holby City, Wedding Date), Paul Usher (Brookside, The Bill) and Blair McDonough (Neighbours, The Vegemite Tales), Fame Academy vocal coach Carrie Grant, Claire King (Emmerdale, Bad Girls), Olympic athlete Jamie Baulch and broadcaster Jan Leeming.
Shamwari Game Reserve forms nearly 25,000 hectares of malaria-free bushveld at the eastern end of South Africa’s Garden Route. Shamwari’s goal is to conserve a ‘vanishing way of life’ by supporting responsible tourism and enjoyment of the reserve, and the project has been named one of the world’s most successful conservations, with the land having been bought and rejuvenated piece by piece by its founder Adrian Gardiner.
The reserve forms a sustainable conservation area to develop and rehabilitate the game and its surrounding eco-system. The wildlife department, consisting of a wildlife manager, ecologist and an anti-poaching unit, has received the Global Nature Fund Award for Best Conservation Practice, and the group intends to protect and improve the environment in order to sustain the diverse ecosystem. Shamwari also contains 3,000 hectares of true ‘wilderness’ area, which is defined as a piece of unmodified land that retains its natural character through careful protection and management.
Safari School’s rookie rangers will live together in a rustic lodge in the heart of the African bush, and train from dawn to dusk under the guidance of Shamwari’s wildlife department. In the wild and unforgiving African landscape, the novices will try and learn in four weeks skills that take professional rangers years to master. Approaching lions and elephants on foot, getting hands-on with white rhino and buffalo, analyzing every kind of animal dung, joining the anti-poaching patrol - it’s all in a day’s work for the celebrity trainees.
Top TV wildlife expert Dr. Charlotte Uhlenbroek (Talking With Animals) presents the celebrities’ trials, tribulations and triumphs as they compete to keep their place at Safari School. Every day, the instructors set the group a series of uncompromising tests to assess their ranger potential, and at the end of each week the two worst trainees face a head-to-head challenge to remain in Africa. The winner keeps their place at Safari School, and the loser packs their bags and flies home.
The climax of the series sees the two best trainees compete in the Safari School Grand Final. For the winner, the title of Safari School’s Top Trainee and a unique prize: to release, with their own hands, the first rescued big cats into a safe new home in the African bush - the brand new Born Free enclosure at Shamwari Game Reserve.