Patrick Brakspear
Australia AU
Oct 20, 2015 October 20, 2015

Patrick has been an Africa travel specialist, based in Australia, for over 10 years and prior to that was a safari operator in Mana Pools in Zimbabwe.

Categories: Responsible travel, Safari Planning Guide, Safari Tours, Travel Tips

10+ Ways to Help Your Guide (and Yourself)

Help your guide to help you. Your guide is probably the most important single factor in ensuring that your safari is an enjoyable and interesting experience. A good guide will without doubt make all the difference in ensuring that you get the most out of your safari.

A good guide needs to be many things: your host, your teacher, your driver, your mechanic, your encyclopedia of knowledge, and your first aid nurse. And, perhaps most importantly,  your friend in a foreign land.

Being a guide might look to be ‘The Life’ but it is far more demanding than it would at first appear. Added to the intense pressure of dealing with people ALL day, the hours are also long.Your guide is up before dawn and to bed after the last guest. A great deal of time is spent away from family and friends, with little opportunity to exercise or to de-stress. By the way, going for a run is generally discouraged! Time off is infrequent and irregular, especially in the high season. That said - most guides wouldn’t even consider doing anything else!

So here are a few ways that you can help your guide (and yourself):

How to help your guide:

  1. When you arrive, let your guide know whether you have been to Africa before. And what your special interests might be. Let him/her know where you have been on your safari so far, what you have seen to date, what type of activities you prefer. This will give him/her some essential background information. And if they are any good, this will allow him/her to take these facts into account.
  2. Ask questions. It helps the guide to get a feel for where your interests lie, alleviating the need for him/her to ‘fill in the silence’.
  3. Try to get to know your guide as a person. Ask about their family, home town, training and background. Take the opportunity to engage with them on a more personal level. Whilst they might love what they do, like us all, they have a whole different side to their lives that you might find equally as fascinating.
  4. Perhaps the most important thing of all - be enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm is what brings out the best in your guide!
  5. Listen to the instructions of your guide at those crucial times when the situation requires judgment and experience. They are in the best position to make a decision for your group. Not following instructions may well put everyone in danger.
  6. If on a walking safari (or other adventure-orientated activity including canoeing, mokoro trails, horse riding), be sure to stay in single file behind your guide. Keep together as a group and pay attention to your guide’s instructions. Try to keep quiet and do not distract the guide unless he/she has stopped to address the group.

How to help yourself:

  1. Ask in advance about what you might need before going out on a drive, walk or other activity. (a warm jacket, walking shoes or water-proofs by way of example).
  2. Try to be READY to go out at the agreed time, so that you are not rushing or holding up your group. And so that you get the most time ‘on safari’ as you possibly can.
  3. If your guide gets too close to an animal, make him/her aware that you are uncomfortable with the situation and ask him to back-up. (either on foot or in a vehicle).
  4. If you are apprehensive about an activity you are about to embark on, let your guide know. That way he/she can keep your concerns in mind and ‘guide’ you through the early stages.
  5. Do not be afraid to ask about matters of safety. Can you walk around camp at night? What should you do if an elephant is standing outside your tent? Ask away…
  6. Refrain from encouraging your guide to disturb an animal or manipulate a situation to allow you a better photo opportunity. This places the guide in an awkward position. And more often than not, such ‘forced’ animal behaviour does not pay dividends in the viewfinder.
  7. Be prepared to be out longer than anticipated. You might get a sighting of particular interest toward the end of your drive which might mean staying out for that extra hour or two. Enjoy it (and don’t feel bound by meal times).
  8. If your guide is driving too fast or the (inter-camp) radio is too loud, politely let your feelings be known. The radio can be especially annoying if used too frequently or left on too loud. You are the guest. If you find it is spoiling your enjoyment, then you're perfectly entitled to bring it up with the guide (or the camp manager). No use being shy.
  9. When you have seen enough lions, suggest to your guide that you set out with a different objective in mindhyena, serval or buffalo perhaps. The reason I say this is that most guides will at some point fall into the habit of focusing almost exclusively on the one thing that everyone coming to Africa wants to see – LION. This can develop into a never-ending cycle of ‘lion lust’. This is not good – not for your safari - nor for your guide’s job satisfaction or guiding skills.

You will likely have more than one guide on your safari, especially if you are flying from camp to camp.  So, the more you keep these suggestions in mind, the more you will get out of your safari.

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Being a safari guide might look like ‘The Life’ but it is far more demanding than it would at first appear. Here are a few ways that you can help your guide (and yourself).