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Gratitude versus gratuity

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

In this blog, Bushwise Trainer Darryn Murray discusses gratitude versus gratuity. This delicate question is one that often arises with new field guide trainees. As Darryn describes, it’s essential that we as guides are just as appreciative of earnest gratitude, as we are of generous gratuity. 


Read time: 5 mins

How do you measure gratitude versus gratuity?

Sometimes the joy shared between guides and their guests is all you need. Still, people often wonder about the difference between gratitude versus gratuity.

If you ask young guides where their dream job is, most of them will answer along the lines of Africa’s most exclusive, expensive and luxurious game viewing areas. The major difference is whether the guide is there to change guests’ lives or simply hoping for the gratuity at the end of the guests’ stay.

Several years ago, I guided a family of eight from the USA, a couple that had just retired, their two daughters and their husbands and their two granddaughters. The grandparents had never travelled abroad before, but they had recently retired after 60 + years of working 9-5 jobs. 


Bushwise Trainer Darryn emphasises the difference between gratitude versus gratuity with his student groups.

Their children and their spouses, aged between 40 and 50 years old, had helped pay for the safari experience to bring their parents to Africa on safari as this had been a life-long dream for the family, but they’d never been able to afford it.

A life-long dream realised

I wasn’t made aware of how long they had been saving up for this family holiday to come on safari. It was a standard length stay for a group of guests – three nights and four days. 

A white rhino grazes in front of a game viewer during a safari experience.

We had amazing sightings throughout their stay, many good laughs were shared by all of us on the vehicle, and the grandfather even drove the game viewer around the parking lot on the last morning so that he could tick that off of his “bucket list”.

As they gathered to leave on the last morning after breakfast, the elderly grandmother walked up to me, took me by the hands and began to weep as she handed me a handwritten note. It read as follows:

“Dearest Darryn,

We have saved up for 60 years to be able to come on a holiday like this, we watch wildlife shows on TV every night and always imagined what it would be like to do it in person, well it has been everything that we ever dreamed of and so much more.

You have truly made this experience one we will never be able to forget, Thank you,

Kindest regards”

She then handed me all the South African currency that she had left, saying that she didn’t have much left, but that I deserved to have every last bit to show her appreciation. She extended her hand out and handed me R2.50 (roughly $0.15). 

What is the difference between gratitude versus gratuity? Sometimes it’s simply the smile on a person’s face.

I still have this as well as the note that she left me because this was something that stuck very firmly in my mind to prove that we’re making a difference in the world. 

This may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for this family, they may never have the funds to come back to go on another safari. So at the end of this tear-jerking journey with the family, I got what is still one of the best gifts someone’s ever given me.

The real meaning of gratitude versus gratuity

Sometimes the gifts we are given as guides go beyond gratitude versus gratuity.

Please don’t get me wrong, money makes the world go round, but a gratuity from guests is never a guarantee. It is a gift that guests give if they feel that the service has gone above and beyond the expected level. Regardless of what the gratuity is, the guide should be humble, be grateful and most of all, be gracious regardless of what it is. 

When guests come and stay at the super luxurious, exclusive and very expensive lodges throughout Africa, they are paying a fortune to be there.

It is the responsibility of the field guide allocated to the guests to give them the absolute best experience possible and to make sure that they have the time of their lives. 

A safari guest looks through binoculars while their guide explains something. 

You never know if this is the guest’s only opportunity to go on safari. Whether you’ll receive gratitude versus gratuity shouldn’t be your first thought.

Field guides are the ambassadors of the natural world, we’re there to give guests a great experience, show them the wonders of Africa’s wildlife and natural beauty, and at the end of the guest safari experience if they decide to leave a gratuity for the guide, remember it is an honour and a privilege to receive these gifts from them and not a right. 

The enthusiasm of a field guide goes a long way in engaging guests on safari.

Be thankful that you as the guide get to experience the wonders of the bush and guests leave you tokens of their appreciation for a job well done.   

Become an ambassador for the natural world and start your career with Bushwise. Between gratitude and gratuity, you’ll earn so much in a rewarding wildlife career.


Words by Darryn Murray, photos by Louise Pavid

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