10 examples of a growing ethic, copy and paste guiding in the Kruger National Park.
The guide’s knowledge is repeated parrot fashion straight out of his/her training manuals.The guide uses a radio to move from one sighting to the next.The guide is more concerned about the ‘best sighting’ for his/her guests than their safety.The guide ignores fundamental rules and regulations of the area he/she is guiding in.The guide believes it was ‘quiet in the bush’ when there were limited sightings or no visible mammals present.The guide asks other guides what they’ve seen, and where it is!In front of their guestsIn a language their guests cannot understandOver the radioOn the cellular phoneThe guide looks at the sightings board when preparing his/her routeThe guide believes that the Big 5 will get him/her a better tip at the end of the drive.The guide’s information is incorrect or not true.The guide believes that his/her responsibility is only to his/her guests and shows no respect to other people at the sighting.
The game drive
There are very basic rules to follow before and during a game drive. Fist is the guide’s ability to introduce himself/herself, assess the welfare of his/her guests, and to see that they are suitably dressed for the activity.
The guide then informs his/her guests of the rules and regulations he/she subscribes to, the type of guiding he/she will deliver and to ask his/her guests to please let him/her know if they have any special interests, etc.
The guide should inform his/her guests of distance and a rough idea of the time the drive will take. It is always good to check ‘bladder and bowel’ issues and to mention the time to the first comfort stop.
The above is called pre-activity preparation, along with the checks the guide has made on his vehicle, weapon (if carried) and communications, medical bag and water. The guide then introduces ‘good sighting practice’ and informs his/her guests of the safety elements and procedures to follow at a sighting. The guide will explain to his/her guests that his/her first priority is to their safety and to the protection of the environment that they are in. The guide should also highlight that point by using examples.
The bush walk
All the above points apply but on a walk – the guide must constantly remind his/her guests of safety and approach procedures. At the beginning, during the walk, before approaching the animal, and with particular attention after the rest break when guests are relaxed.
The points do not need to be recited parrot fashion, nor do they need to be dictatorial in delivery. They do need to be given seriously, and with guest participation. Questions must be answered firmly and positively, and the guide must ask guests if they have any additional questions, or require answers for issues he/she may not have asked.
It’s easy! By following these simple and basic steps – you will not limit the guest experience but rather enhance it! You will develop a guest/guide relationship – and manage that relationship much quicker and more professionally. You will also be contributing to the sustainability of your profession, the KNP, the ethic of conservation and environmental awareness, the enjoyment and understanding of wildlife viewing, etc.
Real people want to interact with real people!
One of the most frustrating and limiting aspects of ‘copy and paste’ guiding in the Kruger National Park is when the field guide chooses to be seen as the instructor/leader and falls into what I call the ‘show and tell’ trap. A field guide’s role – besides being the person responsible for the groups’ safety, and for disseminating accurate information, is also to provide and enhance their guests ‘pleasure’ experience. So many guides forget that their guests are their on holiday – they have spent money and time to be on vacation – not to endure a schooling activity by the school teacher.
It is of absolute importance that the guide interacts with his/her guests on their level. To be able to talk about other aspects of life, to include nature and natural processes as part of a holistic experience, and to be interested in the guests interpretation of an encounter or sighting.
Too many field guides feel an overwhelming need to be seen as the leader (I even see this power play between guides) This is a horrible ethic, and can only end in disaster.
A field guide does not have to feel like he/she has to answer every guest question. “Nobody can know everything!” Every field guide will have a special interest in a particular subject, or a few subjects. Every field guide will have a limited knowledge about certain things, or have very little knowledge about some aspects of nature. That’s OK! We are all learning, and we can all learn from just about every ‘moment’ that happens in nature.
One of the golden rules of guiding is “To guide within your own knowledge base!” not to go to the areas of ecology, geology, astronomy, etc that you have limited knowledge of. If a guest asks a question you cannot answer – there is nothing wrong with admitting that you are unsure of the answer, or you don’t know the name of the plant, etc. It is, however, essential that you follow through by providing the guest with information at a later stage. The name of the book or reference you got the information out of, or the person you asked.
There are times as a guide where I have felt totally inadequate. There have been days where I’ve been asked the names of trees or sedges or grubs or butterflies that I couldn’t answer, and there are times as a guide where I really felt that I was on top of my game. Life as a guide is full of these moments because if your ethic is to learn – then these are the moments that keep you going forward.
There is no need to be dictatorial or instructive in your approach to guiding! You are simply there to share your passion, your knowledge, your interpretation and your skills with real people – people who have already made the choice to want to see nature, who want to be on holiday, who want to enjoy their time in the bush, and who want to meet new and interesting people.
Why must you be a ‘copy and paste’ guide if it really is no fun for anyone!