Best places to work as a Field Guide!
In the competitive industry of field guiding and an endless variety of amazing establishments claiming to be the best and offer the best experiences it pays off to work for some of the best. As a guide it all depends of what you want out of the job and the experience and what your future goals are.
Bushwise has partnered with so many of these incredible establishments over the years, offering our students the opportunity to do the work placements. List available on our website.
Guides chose to work at some lodges for the following reasons:
There are so many amazing lodges in Africa to choose from but a good place to start is by a Lodge’s reputation. Word of mouth from guests, Hospitality awards, International reach and reputation in the industry is so important. To be the best you want to work for the best. Many lodge staff, especially management, have had the privilege to work in various lodges and because of this are able to compare and decide which lodge they felt was the best so when it comes to hiring staff it definitely make a difference what lodge appears on your CV
Location & sightings
Many guides chose lodges based on their location, this could be for personal preferences or wanting to learn about different areas. Fauna & Flora vary in each region, from low-lying coastal zones to mountainous escarpment that separates the coast from the high inland plateau. There are so many variation in climate as well as topography which influences nature. This includes regional areas such as the Highveld & Lowveld. Being able to expand on your knowledge in terms of these biomes makes you a very knowledgeable, flexible and experienced guide and this in term can influence your employability and salary. Sightings are another reason guides may chose a reserve to work on. Sabi Sands is well-known for their leopard sightings while places like Madikwe have rare sightings like Brown Hyena, Red Hartebeest and plenty Wild dog.
What the lodge offers
Being able to give your guests as many experiences as possible is a plus and add to their overall experience. So if the lodge you work for offers game drives, as well as Bush Walks and guided tours it is an advantage and can only ad to the opportunity of getting good tips. Some lodges even have unique experiences to offer such as Horse guided safaris & Mountain bike safaris, boating safaris, special birding trips or photographic safaris. This will also add to your repertoire and you are able to gain experiences on each facet of being a field Guide. It will probably also open doors for you to guide in a wide variety lodges throughout Africa.
Although this in not the reason most people get into field guiding, at the end of the day there is potential to earn allot from tips. Choosing a busy lodge with a high occupancy will increase your chance of earning more tips as well as choosing a lodge that takes certain nationalities because some are better tippers than others. It will also be up to you as a guide to elevate the guests experience and go above and beyond to work for those tips. I recently heard of an ex Bushwise guide earning R30,000.00 tips in one cycle at a certain lodge in the Sabi Sands….amazing!
What our trainers say…….
Ben Coley – The best place for me to work is anywhere in the Greater Kruger area. The downside is the commercial aspect and thus vehicle density and the potential loss of the ‘wilderness’ feel but a good guide should be able to plan his/her safari accordingly. These areas have been commercial for many years and thus the animals within them are very relaxed around vehicles and allow for some truly spectacular sightings! The bio-diversity in this area is also great with most reserves boasting a bird list of over 400 recorded species. The year I spent guiding in Katavi National Park in Tanzania was also incredible. Over a million hectares with only 4 tented camps meant for real privacy and submersion in the African bush but the animals were not quite so cooperative! In perfect world I would like to merge the habituation levels of the Greater Kruger with the true wilderness feel of deepest darkest Tanzania!
Trevor Myburgh – For me is the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve – western Cape/Karoo. A 58000-hectare jewel in the heart of the Karoo, with re-introduced so called Big Five and other plains game including Eland, Gemsbok, Cape Mountain zebra, Blesbuck and huge herds of Springbok spreading as far as the eye can see, not to mention vast open vistas with some of the most breath-taking views one could hope for. Quartz patches stretching for miles, studded with stone crops and other unique dwarf succulents, rock art paintings and centuries old human habitation cave sites waiting to be explored, together with fossil sites regularly being discovered, not forgetting the geological formations that have shaped and moulded the landscape are all reasons why Sanbona came to mind as a top guiding destination.
Photos courtesy of Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Apart from this, the management and staff work together as a well-oiled machine, being so remote and off the beaten track, lends to a family feel environment, with each one of the staff being there for one another, catering for couples with children as a school and day care centre is provided. A brilliant way to ensure low staff turnover and a productive work environment!
Furthermore, the reserve attracts the seasoned and well-travelled safari goer who have already done the Ferrari safari experience to “tick all the boxes” and are seeking a more relaxed and informative safari experience and thus forces the field guide to become more au fait with the smaller things to interpret.
In short, a rugged, almost desolate place that grows on you and once experienced takes one back to the early days of proper guiding and personal guiding growth.
Vaughan Jessnitz – The problem with a fancy lodge doesn’t always = nice working conditions. Each guide will have different opinions with regards to what is important – big tips, others want location, others want good sightings, some for the accommodation and others for being pet friendly or family oriented lodge. My advice is to know your priorities and then search for the right balance.
For me the best place I have worked is Honeyguide Rangers Camp and there are a few reasons why. I had great accommodation, and had freedom to use the company vehicle on my off time to explore and do research which is very important to me, so I had freedom to balance my research with guiding.
Blog by Kim van Greunen