So back in the day if you wanted to be a “Game Ranger” there were not too many prerequisites to the job. Be macho, know the difference between a Black and White Rhino, have a basic grasp of driving a 4×4 and be able to wear tight khaki shorts. Being a game ranger at a lodge or camp, was a break from the real world for a couple of years, a dream job, a life of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Today all of this has changed.
Tourism is a massive industry in most countries throughout the African continent. The industry has evolved dramatically over the last 2 decades in order to keep apace with a fast changing world, and is growing year on year. New facets such as liability, professionalism, standards, regulations have all entered the market and companies and individuals have had to adapt with these changes.
As a result where we once termed any man with a large rifle, big knife, beard and short khaki shorts a Game Ranger, we now have a Game Ranger and a Field Guide, a Field Guide and a Tourist Guide, a Provincial Tour guide and a National Tour Guide. A Field Guide is the person who guides the tourist around a specific natural area. Usually driving the Land Rover, leading the walk, the one in charge the one responsible. Today in South Africa the Guiding industry is professional, standardized and highly regulated through FGASA, the Field Guides Association.
To be a Field Guide, one must do a training course, write theoretical exams, complete practical evaluations, you must hold a certificate in 4×4 driving, in first aid, in weapons handling and a host more. This is essential if we are to keep growing the Tourism Industry in this country and on the continent.
This regulation has also resulted in more diverse and better qualifications for Guides to achieve, with the hope that this then creates better remuneration from companies and the industry for well-qualified guides, like any other major industry.
What it has also created is a career pathway for guides, a way and a chance to be a guide for life, a “career guide”, to make it your profession. In order for Guiding to become a full time profession and not something that young men do for 2 years after school in order to shag some foreigners and make some dollars in tips.
So today we have a new generation of guide, a Private or Specialist Guide, a passionate, experienced, highly skilled and extremely knowledgeable individual who will take your Safari or vacation to the next level, this is someone who has worked in the industry usually for a minimum of a decade and has now taken their guiding to the next level, conducting longer tours, which encompass many different habitats, attractions, cultures etc. This guide might specialize in photography, history or reptiles as well as having a broad base of in-depth knowledge of all relevant subjects ie history, politics, birds etc. This Man or Woman will be qualified both as a Nature Guide as well as a Provincial or National Tour Guide.
So why use a Private or Specialist Guide, these guides will be with you all along the way helping with logistics and travelling, they get to know the travelers personalities and your likes and dislikes and are able to tailor make your trip as you go along in order to get the very best out of it for each individual person.
You will learn more, you will experience more, your photographs will be better, and you will get a better understanding and feeling of the countries and places you are in.
In the Kruger Park a Private or Specialist Guide will bring together all the varied habitats and species making sure in each area you get the very best of what it has to offer. You will still use local guides along the way, but your Private or Specialist Guide is able to tailor make the experience these local guides are offering.
If you have children a Private or Specialist Guide can really make the difference to their experience, making sure to specifically tailor-make the experience to their level as well as for all other age groups in the party. Young people’s lives will be changed on Safari and they will forever have a passion for the natural world in their hearts.
A Private Guide is a friend, mentor, conservationist and conversationalist and is there to help and guide you every step of the way on your Safari experience. To tell stories around the fire and make sure the photographs in your album are ones to be very proud of.
A Private Guide offers you a deeper more meaningful Safari experience, where you learn more, experience better and leave with an understanding of the environment and conservation.
Searching for Big Cats, attempting the perfect shot, being there in the perfect light, immersing ourselves in the natural world and the Safari experience, this is what it is all about, so consider a professional, dedicated specialist Private Guide for your Safari, it WILL be the difference.
By Brett Horley