It appears to be such a glamorous job to drive tourists around in open game viewers and to wear khaki uniform while in search of the big 5 animals.
If you ask people why they want to become field guides you may get a variety of answers that will include the following:
- I love nature,
- I just love the animals,
- I enjoy the outdoors and fresh air,
- I would like to work with animals.
- I always wanted to become a ranger.
These are all acceptable reasons as to why a person may want to become a field guide, but what is the reality of this occupation?
Firstly field guiding is actually more about the people that you will have on a game drive than any of the above mentioned reasons.
If a person would not enjoy being around people, meeting new people and would not enjoy conversations with guests, then field guiding is the wrong career path for you.
Although field guides do work in nature and are out on game drives in search of iconic African animals, it is more important to be able to entertain and host guests while on these activities. If you don’t enjoy communicating with people then your guests will not have the best time on their safari with you and neither will you.
Field guides do not work with the animals directly but only view them.
Field guides are also not rangers although the term has become a universal name for field guides to many a tourist. Rangers deal with the conservation and management of the fauna and flora of a reserve and do not deal with guests.
Field guides have very demanding work conditions which include a variety of non -guiding related tasks. These tasks are often done in between the normal game drives or bush walks that field guides are required to do. The normal game drives start long before sunrise and all these other tasks will keep guides busy in between and after the normal game drives. During the long summers a day may start at 4 am and end at 11pm or even later.
Accommodation is mostly very basic and rooms are often shared. Remuneration is also below average and a newly qualified guide may start with a salary of around R 4000.00 per month. Gratuities are not a given and are often shared amongst various staff members. Meals and uniform may be supplied while on duty but each lodge has its own rules when it comes to this. To enter into the guiding industry may also proof quite expensive in relation to the potential income.
Higher income levels are possible for those who are truly dedicated and committed to guiding as a career and to those who are able to find employment at top end lodges with higher salaries and great gratuity opportunities. This may be around R 10 500 per month excluding gratuities.
The truly dedicated and passionate guides will find this career very rewarding indeed.
Blog by Gerhard van Niekerk