Who are the great safari guides?
People often ask me, who do you reckon the best safari guide in Africa is? Every year there are awards through FGASA and various bodies for the top guides. In my opinion there are many fantastic guides out there and there is no way to put one above the other. There are so many variables in guiding and possibly the biggest of these is the group of guests. I have compiled a list of the 10 traits that we at Okavango Guiding School consider the traits of a great safari guides. I will share these with you in this 2-part blog.
Too often we have people wanting to become a safari guide because they love animals. It is true that to be a good guide, you need a passion for nature but guiding is a PEOPLE’S game. If you don’t get a real kick out of sharing your knowledge and passion for the wildlife and wilderness with others, this is not the career for you. When the going gets tough out there it is your personality and relationship with your guests that can make the difference between plain-sailing and disaster!
This is the number one thing that guests pick up on. When guides cannot wait to get out into the wilderness and share their knowledge and skills with guests, the enthusiasm becomes contagious. I have seen guides getting guests animated by a small brown bird and I have seen guides with so little enthusiasm that even a wild dog sighting holds no joy! It is only through constant learning and challenging yourself as a guide that you can retain your passion.
Many safari guide training programs are too knowledge based and often a guide does not need a vast amount of knowledge to impress guests. However, you do need to continually be learning because it is impossible to be enthusiastic about facts you have been regurgitating for 10 years. Once guides get into a knowledge rut they lose their spark and become tedious. Occasionally you will guide a Professor of ecology or a fanatical birder and if you do not have the depth of knowledge, it can be a humiliating experience. On the flipside, it is at times like these that great safari guides step-up and make their mark.
A field guide must be a born leader. You need to have enough authority to maintain control of a group in a potentially dangerous situation. You also need enough strength of character to deal with difficult guests who may be negatively impacting on other people’s enjoyment. In many situations the guide fulfils the role of a manager and has to deal not only with the guests but staff issues, vehicle problems and more.
There is no doubt that sharp eyes and the ability to pick out camouflaged and distant wildlife and birds makes a huge difference to a safari. Sadly, people often expect the guide to see everything and do not get involved in the quest for wildlife. Just a short lull in sightings and the people behind the guide are discussing where they purchased their safari gear from. The great safari guide doesn’t only have to have great eyes, but the ability to process what he or she is seeing. If the guides is distracted by personal issues or eavesdropping on guest conversation great opportunities can be missed.
In my next blog I will discuss more traits of great safari guides in Africa! If you fancy learning more about becoming a safari guide in Africa or would just like to improve your knowledge of the African bush and train alongside top safari guides contact us.