The Big Cheese


Mavourneen Pearce

Director / CEO

Mavourneen is the daughter of Peter Lawson, founder of Lawson's Birding, Wildlife & Custom Safaris. She was roped into birding and wildlife holidays from an early age and to this day retains an interest in wildlife, visiting the Kruger National Park regularly on caravanning holidays and to cater for our tour groups on occasion. Mavourneen is the brains behind the operation, coordinating things from the office while our guides are out on tour.


Leon Marais

Director / Marketing / Guide

Leon was born and raised in South Africa and is a THETA/FGASA (Level 3) and SKS Birding Specialist Guide. He was introduced to the pleasures of bird-watching by his grandfather and has been looking at birds through binoculars since he was but knee-high to a Marabou Stork. He studied for a Postgraduate B Soc Sc Degree at the University of Natal and then began his guiding career in the safari industry, spending around 6 years guiding at various game reserves in South Africa, where he developed a special fondness for African mammals and the predators in particular. After leaving the safari industry he joined Lawson's as a freelance guide in September 2005 and then joined full-time as the third partner in the business in March 2007. He is well-travelled, and has spent time in both the UK and the USA. He is also a widely-published freelance photo-journalist, with a special interest in travel writing. He enjoys hiking, running, tennis, art, DIY projects and gym.

The Office Team

Sue Ricketts

Sue Ricketts


Sue was born in a little village in the UK called Cliffe, in Kent. She immigrated to South Africa in May 1982 with her husband, Graham, and three year old daughter. She now has three daughters and seven grandchildren. She enjoys mountain biking with my husband, daughters and grandchildren. Both Graham and Sue are great animal lovers and have two Great Danes a German Sheppard, and two cats. Sue joined Lawson’s in 2007 and has become a very important part of the organising team.


Lyndell Luyt

Inquiries / Set Departure Manager

Lyndell joined Lawson’s in 2011. After studying Diplomas in Travel and Tourism and Desktop Publishing, she worked and lived in England for two years, travelling extensively during this time. Upon returning to South Africa, she married Christopher, a childhood friend. They lived at and worked for a Christian NGO in the Southern Drakensberg for six years. Lyndell successfully developed three craft projects, employing approximately 30 rural ladies and marketing the products within South Africa and overseas. Christopher and Lyndell then moved Nelspruit, with Christopher moving into a formal ministry position, where he is now the Priest at the Nelspruit Anglican Church. Lyndell’s time is spent in the office in the mornings, and playing “Mom’s taxi” to their four daughters in the afternoons. During her “free time” (not that there’s much of that), she enjoys baking, being creative with various arts and crafts and spending time with her family and friends.


Nadine Strydom

Fleet Manager / Assistant to CEO

Nadine originates in Johannesburg, where she grew up, before moving to Durban during her senior school years. After school she worked at Safari Center, a specialist 4 x 4 vehicle fitment center. From there she moved back to Johannesburg, working for various outdoor retailers and 4 x 4 vehicle specialists. Her journey then brought her to Nelspruit, where she met her husband and started a family. She joined Lawson's at the beginning of 2016, quickly fitting in and taking on more than her fair share of the workload! Her interests include reading and travel (well, when you have three daughters all you can really do is read about travel...).

The Nature Nerds


John Davies


John has worked for Lawson’s as a freelance guide since 2009, and now works for us on a contractual basis. John was born in Skukuza in the Kruger National Park where, and during the 21 years that he lived there he developed a keen interest in nature and built up his knowledge of all its components. Butterflies were his first major passion, but by the age of 9 it was clear that birds would become his leading interest and travelling Southern Africa and parts of East Africa allowed him to develop great bird identification skills and knowledge of bird behaviour. After School John completed a BSc in Geography at the University of Johannesburg and then worked as a guide in the Kruger National Park, further honing his skills and constantly increasing his knowledge. He enjoys sharing his interests with guests from various parts of the world, and has also participated in a number of research projects involving a whole range of species, from the South African Bird Atlas Project; assisting with studies of Egyptian Slit-Faced Bats as well as the various subspecies of Golden Blind Legless Skink; and helping in the annual Pel’s Fishing Owl census in the Kruger National Park. Besides birds and nature, John’s other interests include travelling to new off-the-beaten-track places, hiking, fiddling around on a wood lathe and playing the guitar.


Bert Palthe


Bert is a long-standing registered South African Tourist Guide and has a wealth of experience, both in tourism and wildlife conservation. After qualifying as a specialist in Nature Conservation he went on to manage exclusive private game reserves in South Africa's Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces. Bert is now a full-time tour leader based in the Magaliesberg and has being guiding for Lawson’s since 1993. He has a passionate interest in wildlife, birds and nature conservation in general and genuinely enjoys sharing his knowledge with others. He speaks fluent Dutch and is a favourite with our clients from Holland.


Jason Stewart


Jason Stewart is a guide and herpetologist living in White River. During the later part of his schooling and while studying at Pretoria Technicon, he worked as a temporary assistant to the curator of the Transvaal Snake Park on weekends and holidays. The five years there gave him his grounding in herpetology and reptile husbandry. The year after completing his Diploma in Nature Conservation and 2 years military service he worked with a game capture unit for a once-off capture in Namibia and an overland safari company doing multi day trips into Botswana. Since then he has worked at Khamai Reptile Park and Croc River Reptile Park. Jason has also worked on a fish farm where he helped with induced spawning techniques, the construction of Otters Den Lodge and as an adventure guide. This involved taking groups white water rafting down the Blyde River Canyon, nature walks and fishing. He also guided on the Sabie River in Hazyview. Other activities he was involved in were multi day nature hikes in the Drakensberg and abseiling. During this period he completed his B-Tech Degree in Nature Conservation. After leaving the adventure business at the end of 2007, he started "Reptiles Rock" doing educational talks with indigenous reptiles to various groups in Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Jason is involved with environmental work specialising in reptiles and amphibians doing baseline surveys and recommendations on their conservation. He is also active in guiding in the Kruger National Park and informative excursions into the Mpumalanga Drakensberg.


Nic Squires


Nic was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in Durban, South Africa. He achieved a Diploma in Nature Conservation and spent 12 years working in the area known as the Lowveld, which encompasses the Kruger National Park. Nine of these years were spent leading walking trails in the Kruger, which gave him an incredible amount of hands-on bush experience.  It was during this time that he acquired an enviable birding knowledge, born out of being in the field for days at a time. Nic is passionate about the Kruger Park, and its birds especially - his personal list for the park is 400 species - and has  THETA / FGASA SKS Dangerous Animals and Birding qualifications. Nic has been a freelance guide for Lawson's for several years and is one of our leading guides when it comes to the serious list-keepers. He lives in White River and also enjoys golf as a hobby.


Casper Badenhorst


Casper was born in South Africa where he grew up near Dullstroom, Mpumalanga. Family holidays and many more weekends each year were spent in the Kruger National Park or other parks and reserves. Since an early age his parents instilled in him a deep appreciation for nature. It was during one of those visits at the age of 10 when he was given a copy of Newman’s birds of Southern Africa. He was instantly hooked. During university each possible long weekend was spent chasing a “lifer”. After completing his qualification in Chemical Engineering he lived abroad in North Africa and Central America for several years continuing his birding passion. For the last 10 years he has been free-lance guiding in Limpopo, Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal of which the last two years has been spent running a private birding company in Limpopo. He also guides for several birding tour operators. Casper is married to a Guatemalan wife and has two beautiful children. They live in Hoedspruit, South Africa. He speaks Spanish, English and Afrikaans.


Mariana Delport


Mariana was born and bred on a farm in the mountains surrounding the picturesque Tulbagh Valley in the Western Cape. As a young child living on the farm, she became aware of the beauty of nature and especially the Cape fynbos, Renosterveld and the few remaining patches of Afro-Montane forests, together with the birds, butterflies, reptiles and other creatures, large and small, dependent on these eco-systems. She made a study of the natural history of the Western Cape and is a member of, among others, the Cape Bird Club, Tygerberg Bird Club, BirdLife SA, the Botanical Society of SA, Indigenous Bulb Society of SA and Field Guides' Association of SA. During her 5 years as chairperson of the Tygerberg Bird Club she organised and led many birding outings, mostly all of which ended up in natural history outings as many of her birding friends share her passion for nature. Becoming a qualified cultural and nature guide was the best thing that could have happened to her, as nothing makes her more happy than sharing her passion with visitors to our beautiful country.


Toby Esplin


Spending his childhood years camping and working on cattle stations in Alice Springs, Australia, Toby has always had a passion for wildlife and the great outdoors. But it was only after his first visit to South Africa and the Kruger National Park in 2001 that his dream of pursuing a career in Nature Conservation and Education became a possibility. After many years of travelling to South Africa as a tourist, Toby made the decision to move permanently to South Africa in 2007 where he began working at a Cheetah conservation project. Working so closely with a variety of wild cat species while at the project gave him a fantastic opportunity to learn about their behaviours, their social bonding and the importance for them to grow up and be raised in a natural environment. After obtaining qualifications as a Nature Guide in 2008, Toby started guiding in the Kruger National Park both in Private Safari Lodges and as a Freelance Guide where he developed a keen interest in bird life. Toby recently moved to the Free State where he manages a privately owned game farm, conducting guided bush walks and educational nature experiences for children with disabilities. As well as his love for the peace and quiet of life in the bush, Toby enjoys Photography, Golf and teaching his daughter about the Fauna and Flora of Africa.


Kim Wright


Kim is specialist nature guide, based in Cape Town. She is passionate about the African bushveld, birds, mammals and the flora of the Cape. She studied Fine Art and has worked freelance as a wildlife illustrator and journalist. Kim also spent many years doing educational work, addressing schools on cetacean biology and conservation. She grew up in Johannesburg and visited Kruger Park and other national parks on a regular basis. Her favourite predators are lions and hyenas and she is particularly keen on raptors and smaller mammals, including bats. She does a lot of hiking and trail running in the Table Mountain National Park where she lives and takes pleasure in identifying the unique fynbos plants of the area. She also enjoys travelling in Africa and visiting new, unspoilt areas.


Martin Benadie


Martin is a fanatical birder with a wide-ranging birding itch. Born and raised in Zimbabwe, his keen interest in birds began at a young age sparking a life-long fascination in all things feathered.  After graduating from University of Johannesburg with an Honours in Finance - where his dissertation focused on the economic and social spin-offs of avitourism of course - Martin decided to rather pursue a career in the natural world. Based in Cape Town, he worked as a specialist guide for several bird tour companies, including being a Lawson’s stalwart guide for many years, before joining Wilderness Safaris in 2007 and relocating to Johannesburg. His position there has been ever-evolving and an interesting ride. He still guides several birding trips each year to varied destinations ranging from India to Malawi, and Namibia to Mozambique. His goal is to see as many African bird species in his lifetime as he can! In a southern African context he is a qualified DEAT/FGASA Level 3 and SKS Birding Specialist Guide. He is also seen as a competent African birder amongst his peers and now has his sights set on mastering Asian avifauna. Martin also ably hosts photographic safaris throughout the Southern African region. As an adjunct to all the guiding he has been an aspiring freelance writer and photographer with articles and images featured in varied publications. When out learning and observing as much about the natural world as he can, and helping to conserve it through awareness and education, is when Martin is at his happiest. Raising a daughter takes up most of his spare time as does chasing bird rarities across the sub-region, wine collecting, mastering Adobe software (Photoshop and Lightroom) and cultivating indigenous plants in his backyard. He is married to Carien, who is pursuing a career in IT.

Gavin Sims

Gavin Sims


Gavin studied Architectural draughting at Pretoria Tech and worked for an Architect in South Africa and in Mozambique for a number of years. After attending various Nature conservation courses in the 90’s he became a guide in 1998. His first tours were 3 week overland safaris in Botswana and South Africa.  He did these trips for a few years then in 2008 he completed a Trails Course (Walking with Dangerous Game) which resulted in him spending a lot of time doing walking safaris in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. He is a scuba diver, mountain climber and nature lover and his passion for birding grew out of guiding. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with others and now leads tours throughout South Africa full time.

The General Dog's Body

Steve the Dog



Steve is an honorary (and part-time!) member of the Lawson's team. He lives up the road but his owners are at work all day, so Steve (not his real name...) trots down to our office in the mornings (well, most mornings anyway), arriving at about 07h00 and heading home some time in the afternoon, whenever he fancies. Steve loves chasing balls, sticks and the neighbour's cat (also a regular visitor). He loves spending time in cars (whether stationary or moving), but has a nasty bin-diving habit he's trying to kick.