The secret to a great safari is having a great guide!
It makes no difference whether you go on a small-group safari with a guide, stay in a budget-friendly camp, or pay top dollar for a luxury lodge. The most important aspect that will influence the overall quality and satisfaction of your safari is the quality of your safari guide.
The safari guide is, without a doubt, the most crucial aspect of the entire safari experience. You will have an amazing safari regardless of the wildlife, the weather, or the resort if you have the right guide.
As with any profession, there are a handful of truly experienced guides, absolute professionals who know their craft, understand the bush, work well with people. They are simply excellent at guiding. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some guides who are either painfully inadequate, indifferent, unprofessional, unskilled or simply lazy.
The good news is that poor guides are very rare. The tourism industry in each country has their own wildlife qualifications and certification. Sadly, average guides are more common. Exceptional guides are few and far between.
It is generally considered though that the best safari guides in Africa are from Zambia and Zimbabwe. They train for 4 or 5 years and the guide qualification process is thought to be the most testing throughout the whole of Africa.
Here are some aspects we consider as essential for a good safari guide.
A good safari guide is knowledgeable
A good safari guide will provide you with a wealth of information. There is a lot to learn, especially if it is your first safari. A knowledgeable guide will be able to answer all of your questions. A great safari guide will also be able to acknowledge when they do not know the answer to a question. From there, they will then research the answer and come back to you later that day, or before you depart. This thirst for knowledge is an important aspect of being a great safari guide.
A good safari guide can relate to their guests
Like a great host or anyone in the hospitality industry, a good safari guide will be able to read their guests and adjust accordingly. If guests are fatigued after a long travel, for example, a guide will know not to overwhelm them on their first drive, instead easing them into bush life. If guests are frightened, the guide should make them feel at ease and safe; similarly, if a guest has been on a hundred safaris before, a guide will be able to keep the experience enjoyable for them. Communication is the key. The best guides make sure they understand what their visitors want out of their safari, whether it’s to see their first lions, be interested in plants, or be keen birders.
A good safari guide is a good conversationalist
It is generally up to the guide to keep the conversation going, whether it is at sundowners or dinner. A competent guide will be aware of which themes to pursue based on the personalities, ages, cultures, nations, and other characteristics of the guests.
A good safari guide ensures your safety
A good guide will be able to keep people safe by understanding animal signals. This is very vital when on a walking safari. Your safari guide will also know how to drive safely and responsibly, lowering the chances of getting stuck – though even the best drivers can get stranded at times! When it does, they’ll at least know how to rapidly resolve the issue and not cause alarm among visitors.
A good safari guide keeps you entertained
No animal sightings? What happens if things don’t go as planned? When you can’t find any of the large, famous animals or it’s raining? That’s when having a fantastic safari guide comes in handy. They’ll shift gears and concentrate on the details, such as how trees signal elephants when it’s time to stop browsing, and what goes on within the worlds of termites, birds, chameleons, and dung beetles. When the renowned faces miss their cue, guides can keep the bush exciting.