Riaan was born in Zambia on a frontier copper mining town called Mufelira – From an early age he was exposed to the natural environment with the then intact sub-tropical forest around the town - sadly now diminished due to uncontrolled tree felling for charcoal making and farming. As an 8 year old his family moved back to SA to yet another frontier village – Phalaborwa as stone throw away from the Kruger Park. On arrival in Phalaborwa they were met with elephants roaming on the school rugby fields, hyenas catching town folk's dogs and hunters showing off lions shot which were eating the cattle on surrounding cattle farms.
Living 1 km from the unfenced Kruger Park gave rise to the spirit of exploring and discovering new places in the bush and every day like clockwork he walked with his dog and enjoyed the undisturbed nature in the Lowveld heat. It was the cool micro-climates surrounding small perennial streams which he noticed and was attracted to. They were all surrounded by trees – it was at 10 years old he discovered how the trees make a difference to our world.