Wildlife spotting app Latest Sightings has been flying the SA flag since 2011, with its YouTube Channel dedicated to sharing SA's wildlife heritage far and wide recently celebrating 1 million subscribers.
But major milestones and firsts are no strangers for the young entrepreneur and app founder Nadav Ossendryver, who has been pioneering this unique and engaged wildlife community.
Channeling his passion for wildlife, conservation and his love of the Kruger Park, he created the online, real-time, wildlife spotting service - Latest Sightings was previously named one of the Top 5 Most innovative apps for culture and tourism in the world. Now 23, he initially designed the technology at age 15, after visiting the Kruger National Park with his parents. Ossendryver was also named as a Forbes 30 under 30 in 2016.
Traveller24 caught up with him to chat about the team's wild ride to the 1 million subscriber mark:
You started Latest Sightings in 2011, which events or videos – if any – had the biggest impact in hitting this 1m subscriber mark?
Nadav Ossendryver, "I think I was very lucky. My first video ever that I posted got over 1 million views.
So I kind of started off with a slightly arrogant idea that “ah, YouTube is easy.” But, I realized that it was only “easy”, because I was building up a YouTube channel that was around what I loved, wildlife. Where a lot of the channels I see, are being done for other reasons.
That being said, a lot of work goes into a channel. I always keep updated with the latest algorithm changes and product updates. I constantly spend hours looking at our analytics to see who likes what footage.
The biggest video that has contributed to reaching 1m subscribers, was definitely our most viewed video by Gert De Koker.
There was something about it that just made it go super viral.
What’s the size of your team and run us through a typical day at Latest Sightings?
The size of the team at Latest Sightings is 4.
The aim of Latest Sightings is to help people have an amazing time in SA’s game parks, we do this by helping visitors with real-time sightings alerts. Out of those sightings, we are able to share a lot of the great wildlife content.
Chris de Jager will look at sightings that come in on a daily basis and choose the best to then see if we can get some nice footage of the sightings.
Simphiwe Phidza posts and regulates all the sightings that come through, making sure all are in good order.
Skye Mclennan is in charge of helping our members with their accommodation requests.
I do most of the other stuff, which includes business development, customer relation, social media and anything else that is thrown into the mix.
It's been a wild ride to the 1m, what's surprised you the most about the process?
I’d say that the biggest thing that surprised me about the 1m subscribers, was the fact that there are over 1m people interested in what Latest Sightings has to share! When I started the channel, I knew what I wanted to achieve, which was a community of wildlife lovers, but I never imagined I actually could!
...And what’s been the biggest learning curve for you?
There has been a lot of them. There are so many aspects to running a successful YouTube channel like ours.
1. Making sure the videos are well edited and optimized to go viral: We quickly learned what people loved in a wildlife video. Our viewers love videos that are story based, that show the beginning, middle and end of a sighting. They also love videos that are raw and shaky. These shaky videos with shouting and talking in the background make these videos relatable. It shows that these videos are taken by normal people, and that makes it very shareable.
2. Running a large payroll: Soon after we started posting a lot of videos from the community and those videos were going viral, YouTube started allowing us to earn off these videos. So we now have hundreds of contributers earning a bit off their video that is shared with us. This process has definitely taught me a lot! Some contributors have earned hundreds of thousands, while others only a few hundred. But most share the video with us for the love of sharing, not earning.
How has the community evolved since you first started Latest Sightings?
Since we started Latest Sightings, our focus hasn’t changed much. Our focus has always been about connecting people to wildlife through technology. And over the years, we haven’t moved much from that, so our same wildlife loving community that was around in 2012 are more or less the same today.
However, with so many pieces of content that we share going viral all around the world, we have definitely grown audiences in different parts of the globe. With the introduction of very cheap internet in India in around 2016, we have started getting millions of views a month from India, for example.
Are you guys still working with SANParks to further conservation efforts in the park, share your thoughts on conservation of SA’s wildlife heritage right now?
We are always thinking about conservation, whenever we receive a report of an injured animal, due to human conflict, we report it to Enough is Enough and to SANParks rangers and vets. With Latest Sightings having many members in the park at any given time, it is inevitable that one will see an animal with a snare, which they then report.
This for me is the incredible power of technology in conservation right now! One person, that is in the middle of nowhere, can use technology to reach the right person with in seconds.
Any tips or advice for planning a Kruger break as we’re heading into the festive season?
As we get into the festive season, we can expect the game park to be fully booked. But, no fear, luckily we can help you track accommodation cancellations in the Kruger National Park, so that we can almost always find space for your holiday.
Once you have sorted out your accommodation, plan routes around Skukuza, Lower Sabie and Crocodile Bridge. After analyzing our thousands of sightings in the past 6 months, these camps, statistically, are the top for big 5 ,cheetah and wild dog sightings. Skukuza and Lower Sabie are along the river, which attracts a lot of predators, and Crocodile Bridge is well known for unbelievable cheetah sightings daily.
Once in the park, the best guide to use is our app.
Tell us a bit more about the tracked cancellations offering?
At Latest Sightings, the biggest thing we aim for is to help people visiting the Kruger to have an amazing time with some incredible sightings.
But, we often saw that people weren't able to get to the park in the first place, because it is so fully booked. If you want a camping spot at Satara next year June, unless you are first in line in July 2018 to book, you can't get a spot.
We saw this problem and now offer a service to help our members get accommodation inside the Kruger Park in high-peak season without them doing a thing!All people have to do is choose the dates they want to visit the park, and we take care of the rest. We will keep track of cancellations 24/7 until we see an opening.
We launched this service in April 2018 and have already sent almost 1 000 people to the park on long weekends and school holidays in their requested camps, which avid Kruger-goers know how hard this can be to do.
ALSO SEE: Follow in the footsteps of giants: New SANParks Kruger pilgrimage 2019 auction date set
MUST WATCH: Lion mega-pride has Kruger tourists jumping out of their skin
Find Your Escape by searching and comparing flight prices here. You can also sign-up for the Traveller24 Weekly Newsletter – Subscribe here. Or download the News24 App here, to receive expertly curated travel ideas and deals directly to your mobile.