The Safari Guide of the Year 2022 competition was nothing short of spectacular. The five finalists spent the week showing off their skills in multiple events, from advanced rifle handling to bush walks, game drives, and track and sign. It was the ultimate show of skills and knowledge in the guiding industry, and Bushwise was thrilled to be the host sponsor. The finalists were:
The week started with contestants, sponsors, judges and media arriving at our Kempiana campus at the Southern African Wildlife College (SAWC). Bushwise was proud to host this prestigious event back in the home of field guiding, the Greater Kruger National Park. This was also an excellent opportunity for us to show off our newest campus, where we train field guides in collaboration with SAWC.
This was the 11th annual SGOTY, an event that was started in 2011 by Mike Karontonis in collaboration with the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). Guests, judges, sponsors and other leaders in the safari industry were present to cheer the competitors on, while waiting with bated breath to see who would come out the winner overall, and in the individual categories.
One thing that stood out for all attendees of this event: it wasn’t just about the competition, it was equally about the camaraderie and friendship shown between the finalists.
Whenever there was a moment to relax between activities, you could find the five contenders huddled in a circle, laughing and swapping stories. Their shared passion for the bush, love of wildlife, and years of experience brought them close together throughout the week.
But still – someone had to win! Without further ado, we present the overall winner of Safari Guide of the Year 2022: Cameron Pearce. Cameron was the overall winner of Safari Guide of the Year 2022. He also won in the categories of Guided Walk, Track and Sign, Birding and Storytelling.
Nico Brits won the categories of Hospitality and Best on Camera. Throughout the week, Nico paid close attention to every guests’ needs, taking utmost care to ensure that each person felt welcome and cared for. When he was interviewed live on WildEarth, he did an excellent job of engaging with and entertaining the audience!
Ruvan Grobler won the Photography category. During his evaluation drive, he did an incredible job of angling the vehicle for photos, stopping smoothly and exceeding many other requirements for a photographic safari.
Solomon Ndlovu took the award for Advanced Rifle Handling. His shooting was quite impressive – hitting an exact spot multiple times on one target. When he would finish an exercise, the excitement in the crowd was palpable.
Liam Henderson took home the best in Game Drive category. Liam navigated the reserve professionally, incorporating many elements of the ecosystem into his discussions, interpreting animal behaviour and sharing excellent sightings with his guests.
The wildlife played ball with us this week with some truly incredible sightings. When it came to interpreting animal behaviour, the finalists had more than enough opportunity to show off their knowledge!
On one game drive, we were even treated to double male lion sightings. But it wasn’t just about the big game – birdlife was also plentiful. On the guided walks, the finalists were also able to discuss some really interesting animal activity, such as an aardvark excavation.
The final evening of the event was a bittersweet moment, as guests, judges, sponsors and finalists alike had made lifelong friendships throughout the week. As the countdown to next year’s event begins, we at Bushwise would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in Safari Guide of the Year 2022.
To Michelle du Plessis and everyone at FGASA, Mike Karontonis, the SAWC, WildEarth, RuggedWear, Sapmok, CanonRSA, AccidentAngels, Kruger2Canyon, and all individual sponsors who joined us: thank you for making SGOTY 2022 so memorable.
A special thank you as well to the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Mr Fish Mahlalela, who honoured us with his presence at this significant event. You can watch the SGOTY 2022 awards ceremony on the WildEarth YouTube channel.
BY: Annie DuPre, photography by Louise Pavid