Before embarking on this topic, let the reader first be made aware of what the Aim of Field Guiding is and what is meant by a Guided Experience. This to dispel any false expectancies and/or impressions of what Field Guiding is all about!
“The aims of guiding are to reveal and expose people to the natural and cultural heritage, history, folklore and beauty of our country, creating an awareness of the complexities of the natural and cultural environment, by sharing factual knowledge and meaningful interpretation of the environment.” Ref: Fgasa Guiding Skills Manual
Thus, a guided experience is an experience that (paying) clients are exposed too, made possible by the presence of an experienced field guide within a field of expertise and/or interests and with the related communication skills.
One must remember that although the guiding industry is flourishing at a rapid rate, and the demand for experienced, professional guides are ever increasing – thus providing abundant career opportunities for the youth of SA – that field guiding is not simply “something to do while trying to figure out what to do with your life”. Those days are long gone, to be replaced by the Tourism Industry’s requirements insofar as many qualifications, registrations and compliance to various Acts and Laws to ensure the highest level of expertise.
In the same way that an Airline pilot or a Surgeon must improve him or herself to keep abreast of new developments in their respective fields, so too is a professional Field Guide expected to keep ahead of the changes in the guiding community! Do not imagine for a moment that to become a field guide you need only pass a course and you are set in a comfortable “job” and an Animal Planet or BBC Wildlife TV personality, if so, perhaps you need to accept that you may never become a professional field guide and may not last long in the guiding industry.
To summarise, if you are a “multi-skilled individual” (as you will be required to perform duties outside of your guiding framework for example mechanical skills, especially if you are working in remote wilderness areas), are tolerant (guests and fellow colleagues can be ‘draining’), are a team player with a reasonable sense of humour, are open and honest in your approach to people (as you will be dealing with people all the time, not only wildlife as you may have thought!) then you are set for a long, rewarding and fruitful career as a professional Field Guide.
Yours in Guiding