Guide Recommendation Thread

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Jul 12th, 2004, 08:33 AM
  #1
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Join Date: May 2004
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Guide Recommendation Thread

It is clear on this board that many are passionate about certain countries or lodges and that many have different tastes that they prefer. However, it seems that everyone agrees that having a great guide/tracker/spotter is essential to having the best experience.

I am starting this thread to serve as a reference to who are great guides. If you have had an excellent guide who you want to recommend add them to this thread with a little verbage on where they work, when you were there, and what's great about them. This will also be a good way over time to keep track of the guides that you have an attachment to if they move to other camps.

I'll start with my 2 recommendations:

Cilas at Duma Tau (January 2003): Cilas was a very personable, mild mannered man who wanted to find what you wanted to see. What is really excellent about him though is that he is an exceptional wildlife spotter and tracker. Our highlight was following wild dogs on a hunt where you would see them running and then they disappear into Mopane woodland. Cilas had to anticipate where to enter the woodland to keep up and actually got us to the kill in the middle of the woodland moments after it occurred. Amazing piece of driving. Also, he was very knowledgeable with his facts and good at sharing information.

Katembo, Duba Plains (January 2003): Duba is sometimes a hard place to be a guide as mammals are less diverse and less frequently spotted and the concession is enormous. Thus, the guide has to work harder to keep you entertained and find the wildlife - particularly lions, which once found often deliver National Geographic type action. Katembo was phenomenal in tracking down male lions (12 different males in 3 days)for us to see very exciting viewing. He has a very kind demeanor and takes time to open bird guides to show you what he has just identified. Also, taking time to talk about the trees and ecology of the area. If you just want to rush around and see the sights he may not be the guide for you but if you really want to learn about all that is around from someone who really cares about his heritage Katembo is the man. And beyond being a guide he is just a kind, intelligent, wonderful man who wanted to learn from me about wildlife in the United States as well as share his knowledge. A real treasure for me to get to know this man as he helped me learn about life in Botswana.
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Jul 12th, 2004, 10:56 AM
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James Tembe is a relatively new guide and works in Ndumu at the Ndumo Wilderness Camp. He grew up nearby in a village close to Tembe Park. He has a wonderful ability to really adapt his service/ game drives according to the interests, previous experience and personalities of the guests. He has a passion about the wildlife and is particularly keen on birding. He is kind, thoughtful and intelligent. He has only been guiding for a couple of years and is still learning and yet our activities (boat and drives) with him were among the best on our trip.

Grant, currently at Tubu Tree in the Delta. An absolutely excellent guide. Passionate about birds and lions in particular but about all the wildlife, small and large. Has a wonderful sense of humour and so game drives are just so much fun. Has so much knowledge, one learns so much on each drive. Incredible skill at finding the bird and game, even spotted a tiny Acacia Tree Mouse whilst driving and swinging the spotlight. (Plus a genet, a bushbaby etc etc). The best guide we had on the trip.

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Jul 12th, 2004, 11:56 AM
  #3
 
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The best guide I have yet come across is Nic Polenakis at Chichele Presidential Lodge. He really could have his own television show.

During my first night at Chichele, I was unfortunate enough to be in the other vehicle, while Nic was able to produce three leopards for his guests. We did manage to catch up to him for the last one. From then on, I rode with Nic.

The very best thing is that, as camp manager, he is able to call the shots. One morning, there were three of us, and we just kept going and going and going. Our morning game drive turned into a 7 hour game drive, and Nic never lost patience or requested we return to the lodge.

Also, Nic was very receptive to my request that our bushwalk not be some slowpaced affair, and took us on a great bushwalk that was fastpaced, but also slowed down when it was necessary to avoid elephants and possible run-ins with predators. That bushwalk was about 4.5 hours and I am sure that we covered 10+ miles while encountering quite a few different herds of elephants.

Other quality guides I have experienced:

Derek Shenton (owner and guide at Shenton Safaris)

Ian, Shenton Safaris

Morad, Kulefu Tented Camp. Missed out on his 3 leopard spotting, when again, I was in the wrong vehicle. Morad is expert at negotiating a canoe through walls of hippos and crocs. What an adrenalin rush! Morad is an excellent guide and his a friendly, outgoing personality, interacting better with guests than any other local guide that I have met.

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Jul 12th, 2004, 01:35 PM
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Thomas at Nottens Bush Camp. He is very knowledgeable, kind, gentle and has a friendly pleasant manner and wonderful sense of humour. While he is fairly quiet, he takes time to listen to the guests and tries to meet their needs and answer all their questions. He also spends time looking up birds, fauna and flora books to ensure that you get the answers to your questions. We particularly enjoyed his game walks as he takes time to look at everything and explain what he sees. He also has a collection of skulls, bones and horns he has tucked away for visitors to look at and touch. He uses them to explain the animal's physique and how to tell the difference between males and females.
His driving is very respectful of both animals and the environment. He tries to keep the impact of the range rover on the terrain and the vegetation as low as possible. He is also very aware of photo ops and is happy to stop and wait while a picture is taken.
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Jul 12th, 2004, 01:36 PM
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Another vote for Cilas at Duma Tau (July 2004)- truly an exceptional guide. His knowledge of animal behavior and his tracking skills gave us two of our highlights - lion cubs and a wild dog kill. After noticing the drag marks of a kill, he pinpointed our only leopard sighting as well. It was pretty apparent that the other guides relied on his judgement a lot.
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Jul 12th, 2004, 03:33 PM
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Relax at Chitabe Trails in Botswana-- he is not an entertainer, but he really "works it", and explains clearly how he is working it if you are interested. (EG how he uses his logs, weather, habits of individual animals, etc. to choose routes, as well as the usual signs that tip off that something is happening. He always came up with the key sightings, first, while we were there, so we always had the thrill of tracking and first discovery (wild dogs on a kill... a cheetah with a new kill...and many other unusual encounters in situations which showed his amazing eyesight and spotting capability. I think we saw everything but caracal (haha) and rhino (impossible) while we were there.

Phil Berry (Kuyenda) for walks in South Luangwa. The man. Has a totally encyclopedic knowledge and total recall of literally every encounter he has ever had. (When I heard this, I tried to test him with some very obscure stuff...it was true.) Walking with him is like taking a college course from a very demanding professor-- he is not an entertainer, and would not have a TV show. I see him teaching a graduate course in animal behavior and ecology, and it would not be an easy course. He suffers no fools (especially those that take safety too casually.) Guests at Kuyenda are in for a treat, because I believe Phil does ALL the walks and drives. There is no B team here.

Robin Pope deserves his reputation. A wonderful guide, still as involved and enthusiastic despite the fact that he could just coast on his reputation and let others do the work. One day I was his only guest...he took me for a morning drive. We left at 6am and didn't get back after 1:00. Every minute was fascinating. Also,I've never had a bad guide at any RPS camp, and I've been with alot of them.

Other guides I really liked in South Luangwa were Patrick at Kaingo (and I agree with Roccco about Derek & Ian) but Patrick is really special. His eyes and ears are tuned to the bush, and he is a superb communicator. Of particular note: he is superbly well spoken, and provides guest with more insight about village life and customs than any other guide I've had in Africa.)

Rod Tether a super, super walking guide (and owner/manager) at Kutandala in North Luangwa-- has been guiding ever since he was a small child, I think. Learned so much about the bush, wildlife and conservation issues in Zambia from him. (And the conservation part of the story is so very important.) A guide who is great about both the big picture... and about the tiniest thing you encounter on your walk.
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Jul 13th, 2004, 04:33 PM
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Forgot to mention one technique that Relax used that I love. He'd take us to a place stop the vehicle and ask "What do you see?". Then he might gives us tips about where to look more closely. He really encouraged us to LOOK and not just depend on him to find things.
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Jul 14th, 2004, 05:05 AM
  #8
 
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We had a great experience with Dave from Karibu Safaris in Botswana -- you can read our post-trip comments on this thread:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...rchText=karibu

Dave was not only a wildlife expert, and an accomplished and safe driver, but a great entertainer and raconteur as well. And he really went above and beyond to deliver a great experience for us -- like the day we were walking around an island in the Delta and he spotted a rock python and captured it to show us! Or the night that he and another guide (Richard) starting doing their imitations of a buffalo calf calling to try to attract some lions! It is definitely true that a great guide makes a trip, and Dave made ours an unforgettable experience.

Also, slightly off topic, and perhaps this is obvious, but Selwyn made our experience in Cape Town an awesome one. I would recommend him without hesitation to anyone going to Cape Town.
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Jul 14th, 2004, 07:38 PM
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I don't think this is quite the same as your first love always being special...but it turned out that at our first safari camp and on our first set of game drives ever, we had an outstanding guide and tracker team. Boyce, at Sandibe, is one of the very few guides in Botswana who is licensed to carry a firearm (that we didn't learn until later). He was terrific for "first timers" like us, as he explained not only how he and James, the tracker worked together in our vehicle, but how they worked with the other guides and trackers within the camp. He taught us how to listen, showed us what James was looking for from that little jump seat up front, and what to look for and even try to smell. And how to stay quiet so we could get even closer! His explanations never seemed like lectures or tried-and-true stories that are told to everyone he takes out. He made me feel like he really enjoyed meeting us and taking us out. What a fantastic manner he had, and while later guides were good and knowledgeable, I think his knowledge was deeper and his enjoyment in his work was so obvious that it was clear this is one man who had found a profession that is a perfect match for his talents. And could he drive! WOW! I think we were "off road" about 80% of the time we were in that vehicle. (It really made it seem kind of boring when we went to our next camp, Savute, where we had to stay on roads and couldn't be in the park after dark) So, while my safari experience is limited to only 3 camps, I have extensive experience hiring and managing professionals who need to work with sometimes demanding clients with high expectations. I highly recommend Boyce at Sandibe. ccafrica is VERY lucky to have him.
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