How do you rate a great guide?

Mar 24th, 2006, 08:24 PM
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How do you rate a great guide?


I know during our ventures, we often have a chance to meet and interact with guides from various camps across Africa....

Here's my question.....what criteria are you guys looking for in a guide? and who in your opinion sets the bar for guiding standards from your various travels.......

Mar 24th, 2006, 08:38 PM
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I am looking for the following qualities:

- great sense of humour + good people skills;
- an extended knowledge on animal behaviour and on the area he/she is working in;
- he/she has to know something about photography;
- he mustn't do silly things that can put his/her life and that of his/her clients in danger.

If I have to name one guide it will be Chris Bakkes (Palmwag Rhino Camp).



Mar 25th, 2006, 02:57 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 993
Hi Hari,

To me, the ranger does do a lot to making or breaking a great gameviewing experience. I agree that he/she needs to be a very socially adept person with a good sense of humour. Your life depends on him/her being able to read the wildlife and not leave you in a situation where you are in danger, and I guess this is nearly always connected to ele and rhino.

I also like a good history of the cats, if possible. Obviously, the more experienced rangers are usually better with this, but a younger ranger to me can be just as good, because he will find out information and I do not expect them all to answer my every question then and there, but I expect them to get back to me with something, even if it is, I can't find out, and that has happened.

The other thing which doesn't always happen when you are sharing a vehicle with someone that you would not choose to share a vehicle with, is to have the ranger deal with the problem that has arisen. I have been in a vehicle with a cigar smoking Amercian, and he sat in the front seat besides the ranger, so we got all that foul smoke and I would have liked the ranger do deal with him, without my having to complain. That didn't happen, but he was asked not to smoke in the vehicle again, which he didn't though he did smoke that cigar everywhere else!

I have had some really great rangers, and one or two, that were less than great. Hopefully, the great rangers will continue for the two trips planned this year.

The best rangers for me, were all at MalaMala, and because I have enjoyed the company of so many of them, I will not single anyone out, as they were all fantastic and they all gave me great gameviewing experiences! What more could I ask?

Kind regards,
KayeN is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 04:06 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 391
Good communication.
Letting you know what they are doing.

(You see an animal but they don't stop? They don't tell you! You then find out it's because they can get a better view of the animal a bit further on... or they know it will be passing over the road a bit further up... )

My parents loved George who works for Eastern and Southern. One thing he had was a couple of bird books and books on the animals.. and encouraged the children to look things up in the book.
Pumbavu is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 04:23 AM
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Thanks Johan, Kaye, Pumbavu......for your thoughts.........

The reason i brought this whole issue up........on my last safari (i wont name the camp or guide), the guide was tracking cheetah on foot.....after a point, he got tired of walking back to the jeep and drive to the next spot and then getting down again to walk some more. So he wanted one of us to drive after him and the tracker.......we didnt mind it. We were a party of 4 and found the whole experience wonderful. However, that was the only drive over the whole week that we had another couple (who were not a part of our group) in the vehicle and they (had every right to be) not very happy with the situation. So here it right or wrong??? Also, part of the reason probably may not be that he was lazy, but, really it was a hell of a long time of tracking activity, with the possibility of the sun setting and losing the sighting........also a possible thunderstorm brewing.....

Later at dinner........the other couple did mention that, our guide could hv continued walking and atleast the tracker couldve taken over the wheel. However, they didnt make a hue and a cry about it.....just stated their concern.

Yes, it is very difficult to please everybody......i'm considering getting a private vehicle for my nxt trip.

Mar 25th, 2006, 05:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 50
Hi Hari.........I have been fortunate enough to been on quite a few upper end Safaris........The rangers of Mala Mala have people skills. From the day they pick you up at the air strip they are by your side from dawn to dusk. You seem to develope a very warm friendship and they almost seem to read your mind of your needs........ I have to sign off, I'm on my way to Botswana......Regards, Larry
daddog is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 08:08 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,766
Johan has it spot on, and for me the rangers at Mala Mala are terrific.
One point though, a female ranger will almost always be more considerate of her guests comfort than a male IMO.
napamatt is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 08:17 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553
1. Personality (and enthusiasm)
2. Personality (and sense of humour)
3. Personality (and common life experience, meaning he has not been limited to the bush all his life)
4. Knowledge of Flora and Fauna
5. Flexibility On Game Drive Times and Destinations

My favorite guide, thus far, have been Nic Polenakis, who was my guide at Chichele Presidential Lodge but who has now returned to private guiding in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

A close second would be Jaco, formerly of Simbambili, but not sure where he is at this season. He just has this infectious enthusiasm and dorky sense of humour, and absolutely loves guiding and loves the wildlife.
Roccco is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 08:20 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553
Regarding people skills, they are vitally important to guiding. I am friends with a former ranger & manager for Sabi Sabi and he told me that the number one thing that Sabi Sabi looks for is personality & people skills. Everything else, he said, can be trained. However, you cannot train a person to have personality and people skills...either they have them or they do not.
Roccco is offline  
Mar 25th, 2006, 05:57 PM
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Thanks daddog, Rocco, Napamatt.......

Yes, Personality does make one's safari a lot more fun and interesting. After all, you are on holiday!!!

Recently, i have had a guide in Botswana........his knowledge of flora and fauna very good.....however, his patience and people skills very questionable........that really brought the whole experience down a notch....for example, he would say well........the lions are just going to sleep it out, dont expect them to move today........20 mins later, "ready to leave?" Maybe he was just tired.........who knows.....
Mar 26th, 2006, 01:15 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 993
Hi Hari,

I am sorry, but I am do not think I am getting what the problem was with the other couple in your vehicle.

If money was not a problem, I certainly think a private vehicle is a great way to go, then everything is your way. But some of the private game vehicles are expensive, especially if you are gameviewing for 21 days or so, so that normally means having to share. I really am not a sharer, unless you have gameviewing people in the vehicle, then I am usually happy to see whatever we see. But I have been in a vehicle with a Brazalian couple who were very nice, but they had the attention span of a dead flea, so we stayed at no sighting for any length of time, even an incredible sighting of an african rock python attempting to eat a steenbok, not something that you see on a daily basis!

Kind regards,
KayeN is offline  

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