Like most professions, the standard of wildlife guiding throughout Africa varies considerably. Countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa have a formal qualification requirement which is extremely rigorous, and ensures top quality guiding. On the other hand, Kenya has a reasonably easy entry level so standards can vary considerably. Zambia has good regional training and licensing requirements, and because the industry is quite small, high standards are usually achieved. There are no formal qualification requirements to guide in Botswana and Tanzania, and with guide training left to individual companies, it can be extremely erratic.
But good guiding does not only come from the ability to reel off facts and figures or Latin names. Other factors like understanding animal habits and movements and being able to ‘read’ the bush, allow good guides to be fairly certain about predicting situations. They also need to be conversant and be able to impart their knowledge to their guests.
If you want to be serious about your safari, don’t be shy to ask about the quality of the guides. A good travel company should be able to suggest the best, and they could make all the difference to your experience. If you are planning on being active and adventurous on safari (walking, canoeing, horse-riding etc), then good guiding is essential from a safety standpoint.
Most safari camps in Africa organise game drives with between 4 and 10 guests on a vehicle. In typical game-viewing circumstances, the best camps and lodges will usually not put more than 6 guests on one vehicle.
Whilst sharing your experiences with a few other guests is normal and often great fun, it is usually possible to pay extra for ‘exclusive-use’ of a vehicle for all or part of your safari. A private vehicle naturally comes with a private guide and tends to be very appealing to more experienced travellers who have very specific interests such as birding or photography, or simply wish to prioritise the flexibility and exclusivity that a private vehicle and guide will offer.
Taking things one step further, it is possible to hire specialist ‘private guides’ across much of Africa. This can be within the framework of permanent camps and lodges, or more often connected with some kind of private mobile safari or walking trail. With many years experience as a leading Africa specialist we know personally and have worked with a wide range of specialist and professional guides. These guides are ‘the best of the best’ and are experts in their field. To be hosted and guided by such a guide is a genuine privilege.
Whilst we do not promote ‘hand holding’ just for the sake of it, the benefits of travelling with a top quality private safari guide are not limited to just their guiding qualities, but extend to encompass your whole safari experience. Hosting at meal times, smoothing your way through transfer arrangements and telling entertaining stories of Africa around the camp fire all fall under the remit of a top private guide.
If you feel that you would appreciate a private vehicle and/or a specialist private safari guide for all or part of your safari, please advise us when you speak to us. We are very flexible and different regions present different opportunities, so we will simply work with you to include the level of exclusivity and guiding that you desire.