As we have mentioned before, the hospitality industry is a very competitive one. This does not solely apply to the lodge, but also to guides as individuals. The industry is also a very small one; staying on top of your game is very important in order to be recognised for bigger and better things.
So here they are, from years of cumulative experience (good and bad), my top tips for upping your guiding ‘game’:
Many years ago, I was on a vehicle with a guide who hardly blinked an eyelid when he found a leopard. His immediate response was “oh, we see these almost every day”. This stuck with me because I could visibly see the guest’s excitement turn to mediocre acknowledgement. The guide didn’t think it was special, so they didn’t either.
Aside from the massive range of field guides and textbooks, Facebook has many nature-orientated groups where you can question anything, if you are really stuck, from trees and insects through to birds and behaviour and you are bound to have one or more expert opinions (whilst keeping in mind that not everyone on Facebook is an expert…..).
The list can go on…. Find out about specific interests, and cater for them. Some guests also come to Africa for a true African experience, and want the drive to be bumpy and full of branches to avoid, others come to relax and enjoy a smooth ride….. Of course, it is impossible to keep everyone happy all the time and you will get a grumpy guest or two over your career, but I guarantee that paying attention to what your guests are like and what they want, will not only make their experience better, but will also make your career more rewarding.
One particular guest who has stuck with me over the last 10 odd years, was a quiet American lady who had sold her house and most of her belongings to take one last holiday. Sadly, this lady had stage 4 cancer, but it was her dream to see African Elephants in the wild before she passed away. Had I not taken the time to speak with her, I would have never known this… her dream could have never been realised and her financial sacrifice for nothing. I made it my mission to find her the best elephant sighting possible and arranged with the lodge to take her out on a private drive – just myself, my tracker and my guest.
We found those Ellies and she cried – to be honest, I think we all shed a tear. Taking a simple moment to care had not only changed her life, but mine too.
Charles Delport Head Trainer (Guiding Division)