The Airtons

Dale and Shannon Airton met in Zululand in the early 2000s, both working on conservation projects in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Dale eventually began working for the WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, and the couple were introduced to Manyoni when it formed to become a site for a black rhino reintroduction in 2004. A few years later, as luck would have it, they ended up in hospitality when the Airton family invested in a property in Manyoni that included a safari lodge. Passionate about Manyoni’s strong conservation ethos, the Airtons viewed hospitality as a way to be involved in hands-on conservation in the long term. In 2014 the Airtons got the opportunity to purchase an additional property in Manyoni and build a camp from the ground up. They wanted to create a camp that was in line with their conservation ethic and that truly connected its guests with the environment. Rhino Sands opened its doors in October of 2017 and the Airtons have been running it as a team ever since.

Shannon first moved to South Africa from the United States in 2002. With a degree in Conservation and Animal Behaviour she worked for various research projects in South Africa and now helps to run Rhino Sands. She splits her time between Manyoni and Ballito, where Wyatt is now enrolled in primary school.

Born in 2014, Wyatt is the youngest game ranger at Rhino Sands. When he is not busy at school in Ballito, he eagerly joins us on the reserve. He has a passion for praying mantises and chameleons, and generally enjoys participating in conservation and management activities on the reserve with his dad.

Dale knew he was destined to be a game ranger from a young age. As a child he developed a love for animals, wild spaces, and the game reserves of Zululand. He obtained a diploma in Conservation and began his career in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in 1999 and has lived and worked in Zululand ever since. Dale serves as the general manager of Rhino River Lodge and Rhino Sands Safari Camp.

Our Team

Our team is an extension of our family. As the camp is small, our team is small, allowing guests the opportunity to get to know the talented and exceptional people that work with us. These are the individuals that create the Rhino Sands experience and create a bridge between our family and yours. We invite you to get to know them all. 

Anton is our head ranger. His knowledge and intuitive understanding of the Zululand bush and animals is vast. He also has one of the best laughs in the business.

Chris is one of our butlers. He is always quick with a smile and a joke and has a talent for putting our guests at ease while providing excellent service.

Esrom is one of our general assistants. You may not always see him but he’s part of the heart of our operations, ensuring everything is working efficiently and flowing smoothly. If you see someone running thru camp, it is Esrom, hard at work.

Gabi helps to keep the Airton family running smoothly, and she helps with housekeeping at Rhino Sands. She has been with the Airtons since Wyatt was born in 2014 and is a cherished part of our family. Her sweet nature and strong work ethic make her an asset to our team.

Jason is our head chef. Jason has come to us with a wealth of diverse experience and creates a truly special food experience for our guests. He loves getting to know individual preferences and creating special dishes which are individually tailored. He is an absolute master of flavours.

Jonno is one of our game rangers. From the moment you step on his vehicle his exuberant love for the bush and enthusiasm for guiding is evident.

Josh is one of our game rangers. Josh is a born naturalist with a passion for conservation and his drives highlight his love of all aspects of the bush.

Nico is our camp manager. He is an absolute professional, yet he has a warm and welcoming manner. Nico loves helping guests make memories to last a lifetime.

Nobuhle is one of our housekeepers. She has taken on the role of team mum and is always on top of things. She’s enthusiastic about creating an environment you feel comfortable and cared for in.

Nonhlahla is our Junior Sous Chef. She is always diligent and quietly sets about her work behind the scenes in the kitchen. She is a quick learner and we proudly watch as her talent grows every day.

Nqobile is one of our housekeepers. Her bubbling energy and warm gentle nature ensure the whole team makes it through the day with a happy positive attitude.

Patrick is one of our general assistants. His duties include night watchman, and his large reassuring presence helps guests sleep soundly through the night.

Philani is one of our general assistants. Philani oversees our camp maintenance and ensures everything in camp is in working order. His unassuming nature and gentle smile is beloved by team members and guests alike.

Sanele is our head housekeeper. Her gentle, warm presence ensures the team prepares the camp for our guests with extra care.

Bonnie is our kitchen assistant. She ensures the kitchen flows smoothly and proudly supports our chef team.

Spha is our assistant manager. He is always calm and collected. Spha’s customer service is unmatched, and his reassuring manner helps the guest experience to flow.

Storm is our guest experience manager. Her positive energy is like a ray of sunlight in camp. She forms strong bonds with our guests and loves to personalize their safari experience.

Thandeka is one of our butlers. She is a warm and welcoming presence in camp, and she works extremely hard to provide guests with five-star hospitality.

Thandi is one of our housekeepers. She always sets about her hard work with a smile that is infectious, and her positive attitude lifts up our whole team.

Zanele is our Senior Sous Chef. She is one of the most naturally gifted chefs we have come across in the industry. She may have a quiet demeanor, but her food speaks volumes.

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