How good is my safari guide?

by Fran
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Safari guides not only have a deep love for the African bushveld, but are keen to share their experience and special knowledge with you!
Safari guides not only have a deep love for the African bushveld, but are keen to share their experience and special knowledge with you!
  • Safari guides have chosen much more than a career. For most safari guides, guiding people through their much beloved African bushveld is a passion, a purpose and a privilege.
  • Closely observe your guide to tell whether he or she is the best among the best, in terms of knowledge, experience, interest and personality.
  • Guides are also subject to training, licencing and accrediting.
  • Above all, the pros have a deep love for the African continent, and a very close relationship to all of Africa's creatures.

Below the ever romantic cover of an African safari, there is a thick layer of knowledge, experience, tradition, and adventure.  If you are looking to spot a good and experienced safari guide, or even the industry experts—the Calvin Cottar and Reed brothers of the industry—you need to understand the authentic being of a safari guide.  Follow this, and you will find yourself a brilliant safari guide.

Safari guide knowledge

Guides that stand tall above the average, have an in-depth knowledge of their environment.  Not only knowledge of the charismatic and big wildlife, but also the smaller, even unnoticed wildlife species.  The best guides also have a wider understanding of ecosystems—how each species, whether big or small, contributes to the overall harmony, existence and flourishing of Africa’s ecosystems.

Personality & dedication of your safari guide

Without a personality to entertain people, no guide will attain popularity.  Coupled with their outstanding knowledge, expert guides will have endless tales, stories and secrets to share about the bush—a real advantage in those quiet hours when animals are nowhere to be found.  But besides a people personality, the best of guides will show their commitment to wildlife conservation.  Conservation and wildlife protection is like a golden thread throughout any good guide’s career and life.

African safaris: culture & tradition

The best of guides have a deep insight into local and African cultures.  Africa cannot be separated from its cultures.  Often, local cultures have preserved their environment through years of sustainable harvesting and hunting.  It is often among the older generation that this man-nature tradition is still observed.  The best of guides will be able to share the ways in which local communities have supported themselves in traditional ways, yet protected the natural resources for future generations.

Sense of adventure coupled with respect

A sense of adventure describes good guides, but for the great guides, this is coupled with a sense of respect for wildlife and acknowledging of their clients’ safety.  To be able to handle this intricate balance, the best of guides have a fine sense for interpreting wildlife behavior and are able to react quickly on any warning signs.  No good guide will show any fear for wildlife.  With little if any fear for the bush, guides are able to handle any dangerous situation.  If your guide is a pro, nothing will escape his or her eyes, or other sense that is!  Being perfectly in tune with their environment, and watching every movement, while still entertaining clients—that is the best among the best!

Safari guide licenses

Throughout Africa several training institutions, such as the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa, offer accredited safari guide programs.  As an outcome, guides are accredited with professional licenses.  Ask your tour operator or guide about their guide licenses or similar accreditations.

At the bottom of every good safari guide’s heart is a keen observer, someone with a quest to learn and understand Africa’s wildlife—and to share this with others.  So keep this in mind and be able to tell whether your guide is a pro! 

Sources and credits

Photo credits: some rights reserved by Turkinator via flickr [Creative Commons]

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