This topic was discussed in a lovely blog last year by my ex colleague Ben. I happen to agree with all 10 of his reasons, so I will proceed to just update you the reader on the relevance a year later!
Still the same all encompassing job description. There is no role that a guide may not ask to be fulfilled during their cycle and this a great way to get exposure to multiple facets of life and social skills. Dealing with people in a professional arena is a great way to learn how to survive in the real world should the life of guiding not be your long term plan. Having to forge relationships over a matter of days, as well as remain professional and look after people’s safety thrusts a lot of responsibility on young guides and this will be invaluable in later life.
The world we live in is still, just as last year, very much a ‘not what you know, but who you know’ society. Many guests that visit safari lodges are high profiled business people from all over the world. Considering a guide’s locale, deep in the African bush, this offers a unique opportunity to forge relationships, be they business or personal, with a myriad of people. A good guide will make such an impression on their guests that often they will never be forgotten and this can open up wonderful networking opportunities for future opportunities.
Guiding has always been one of spontaneity, and never less than it has ever been! One of the beauties of the field guiding industry is that nothing ever stays the same. It is about as far from a mundane office job as you can imagine. Instead of staring into an overpopulated office space every day whilst filing papers, guides explore the natural environment discovering new and exciting things around every corner. In this day and age people get bored quickly but in the Bush, there is never a dull moment. You can see nothing in 2 hours 59 minutes and then drive around the corner to find a pride of lions snarling at a leopard and its kill suspended in a tree! The excitement that nothing is set in stone is like a drug and once you have experienced it, relinquishing it is very hard…
There is nothing more soul destroying than being stuck in traffic. It is beyond frustrating and those of you that live in cities will understand this better than most. Despite your office being only 5kms away you need to allow 45mins travel time due to traffic congestion! What a miserable way to start the day… Out here, guides have no commute. Most stay on site due to the early mornings and the worst traffic they encounter is a heard of elephants blocking in the road!! Traffic has never been such fun!! However, in today’s times, be mindful of where you as a guide work, as some reserves have a very large vehicle tolerance (Numbers of safari vehicles operating in a given space) thus it can be easy to find oneself, even in a nature reserve, with more traffic than you’d like!
Friends for Life
Despite most guests staying only on average 2 or 3 nights at a lodge, guides can expect to spend up to 16 hours a day with their group, this is still exactly the same today! This time, without the pressures of normal life to get in the way, is more than sufficient for strong relationships to be formed and as previously mentioned, those guides that excel can expect to forge friendships that will last a lifetime. Invites to visit foreign countries to return the hospitality shown on a safari is common place. Considering the short time spent with these people, this shows just how powerful a safari can be, and just how important the guide is to their experience!
Part of a community
Living and working at a lodge among a team of guides still has its ups and downs. Whenever people are put in such a melting pot there will always be flash points but as a rule, living within this community is a great experience. You get to spend time with like-minded people and share your knowledge and experiences that only they will fully understand. How many other people would find the photo you took of a strange looking beetle interesting (most will think you are mad!) What better way to spend your day than with those that hold the same interested, morals and ethics as yourself.
Changing people’s lives
Wielded correctly, guiding can change people’s lives. For many, a trip to Africa is a chance to reconnect with nature and sooth their soul: to find something that they did not even know they were missing. Many guests are so overwhelmed by the experience that they are moved to tears! These memories, despite only 3 days long, will stay with them forever and their stories will passed down through generations. People are deeply moved by the bush and it can have a profound effect on their lives. The feeling of freedom and humility in the face of nature can be the push that someone needs to change their life on some level, be it their career path or their outlook on life. Quite the responsibility for the guide facilitating their stay….but what a rewarding feeling to be able to positively influence strangers.
Protecting the Natural World
Perhaps the most important of all these suggested reasons (there are plenty more!) is the feeling that a guide is doing their duty to protect the natural world. We all know the plights being faced by the multitude of species on this planet thanks to Man’s poor practices, ignorance and selfishness. Guides should be seen as ambassadors for the environment and set an example to all about how important and special these wilderness areas are to the planet.
Guides are not only conduits to explain the natural world to guests, but also to educate them in the importance and complexities of nature. For many guests their main reason to come on safari is to work through their checklist of animals but many do not realise they have an interest in the other facets of nature. A guide should be able to open their eyes to the small members of our planet and teach about not only their habits and behaviour, but how without many, our ecosystems would just collapse. Guides educate people to increase their understanding and appreciation for the wild and a great guide has the power to influence these people to become more involved in raising awareness of some of these issues. We can only change the world one step at time and even something as simple as getting people to turn off unnecessary lights or close the tap whilst brushing their teeth is a step in the right direction. The Dalai Lama once said “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”….
Vaughan Jessnitz (With some help from Ben Coley ; )