No shortcut to Trails Guide
BY: Lindi Hutchinson, a trainer at the Bushwise Balule Campus.
I remember my journey to become a full Trails Guide.
It was everything but easy. There was a lot of sweat, tears and frustration. I jumped from lodge to lodge in the hope of finding a quicker way to achieve the hours and encounters I needed.
I exhausted myself.
In the end, I realised that if I had just stayed at the reserve where I first started guiding, it would’ve made my journey to trails immensely faster. I jumped around because I thought there must be an easier way than walking four hours a week with a full Trails Guide and guests. “Reaching 150 hours will take forever!” I thought. Sadly, every other lodge had other obstacles that slowed down my progress even more. There are no shortcuts and there is no easy way to fast-track the process.
At the end of the day, a Trails Guide is responsible for the whole group’s safety and without the right knowledge, experience and alertness, things can go pear-shaped very quickly in a dangerous situation. That’s why trainees require a mentor when completing the hours and encounters needed to qualify as a professional Trail Guide.
In other words, you can’t achieve the full Trails Guide qualification on your own. You need mentors, other fully qualified Trails Guides and real guests to walk all the hours and encounters with.
It’s not like the FGASA Field Guide qualification that you can pretty much achieve on your own. A mentor is someone who is qualified as a FGASA SKS(DG) guide, FGASA Trails Guide or Professional Trails Guide, which requires 600 hours on foot, 300 encounters on foot, and tracker level 2. And, to find a lodge where a mentor works is almost impossible. Nowadays, it’s even difficult to find lodges where full Trails Guides work.
The next problem is that there aren’t many of these qualified individuals who want to sweat in the sun during their off-time for someone else’s benefit, which is understandable. This makes mentored hours valuable and expensive.
So, if you’re a guide at a lodge that has rifles, Trails Guides and a mentor – stay there! Work on your qualifications bit by bit. Don’t grow impatient. Offer payment and work hard. If you’re working at a lodge that lacks a mentor or even rifles, remember Lowveld Trails is near to the Bushwise campuses and they offer a lot of primitive trails that might fall over your off weeks. Book, pay and learn.
There is no shortcut to becoming a Trails Guide. It’s a slow journey – 4 years minimum. My advice? Work hard, have patience, never give up and remember that every little bit counts.