“The key to being a good nature guide is the ability to create a unique guided nature experience and promote conservation. It is about combining one’s individual talents, abilities and personality with educating and entertaining guests and instilling in them an interest in all aspects of nature and ensuring that they have a richly rewarding experience. People who do well as nature guides are generally passionate about nature, enthusiastic, good communicators and get on well with people.” – Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA).
Field Guides are the critical link between the guest and their wildlife/safari experience. As a visitor to a Game Reserve or National Park you want an overall amazing experience from the food and service to the accommodation and all important game drives. Most of the time guests are coming to see Africa’s iconic animals and unforgettable sunsets! For many, the most important aspect of a visit to the African bush are the game drives, this is where the field guide makes all the difference – tracking and spotting animals, finding the right position for the best viewing spots and photographs, being at the right place at the right time all the while explaining and giving guests interesting facts about what they are seeing, smelling & hearing. The field guide needs to be able to translate the secret language of nature and it’s intricacies for the guests, to give them a true understanding and appreciation of the wonders of the wild.
Good communication skills are key!
“See through your guests eyes: Anticipate their wishes before they are voiced. And remember what it was like to see a giraffe for the first time.” – James Kidd, creator and editor of Ranger Diaries.
This is an important part of gauging the expectations of your guests. The key to this is to read between the lines and pick up on bits of general conversation and interest on what they would like to see, rather than asking the obvious question ‘what would you like to see?’ Explaining certain situations, signs and interactions is also vital to the guests understanding of your reasoning and helping them to understand the environment they are in. For example, explain why it is important to not get too close to rare and / or skittish animals in case you make them uncomfortable and chase them off.
‘Passion, passion, passion’ are what the top & most experienced Field Guides have told me is the most important attribute of a field guide when asking them what their TOP TIPS are for our up and coming field guides. In addition to passion and possibly as a symptom of it, a positive attitude and enthusiasm goes a long way. Guides can spend up to 10 hours per day with their guests and this goes a long way in creating a memorable experience. If field guides are not passionate, pleasant and enthusiastic the guests can sense this and there is nothing to ruin and amazing experience for a guest than an insincere or disinterested guide.
Humility should be an understated and valued asset!
“Stay humble and don’t be subservient. Be thankful for the blessing that nature allow us to enjoy every on the job we do.” – Trevor, Senior Bushwise Trainer.
Long time safari guests often say, ‘If the guide is humble s/he will tend to listen to the guests requests. They will realize that they don’t always know everything and that they should be willing to learn new things. A stubborn, know-it-all guide will get NO TIP from us! Some guests feel obligated to give tips yet the tip should be for service above and beyond’’
It’s all about your ATTITUDE!!!
“Enthusiasm is one of the most important traits in a guide’s arsenal. Someone very influential in my own guiding career, many moons ago, pointed out that if you don’t show enthusiasm for the smaller things, you can’t expect your guests to be excited about it either. This applies especially when viewing or explaining the non-Big game, when big game may be scarce.” – Charles Delport, previous Head Trainer for Bushwise and now owner of Nightjar Training & Consulting.
Knowledge is power….
“You can never stop learning about the Natural world. Knowledge is key, so take advantage of that fact that you are in the environment on a daily basis to keep on learning and experiencing new things. If you think you know everything, then you need to stop guiding!” – Ben Coley, Bushwise Head Trainer
The Lodge industry is highly competitive and most (if not all) lodges are looking for the best guides, the guides that will make their lodge stand out. Guides who are a cut above the rest will achieve this and add so much more value to each guest’s experience.
Bush greetings from Kim & The Bushwise Team