What is a guide and what is a ranger?

As custodians of the natural environment, guides and rangers are required to work hand in hand in the conservation and management of wilderness areas around the world, and this is where the differences between a safari, field or nature ‘guide versus a game, park, wildlife or forest ‘ranger’ need to become clear. It is common for guides to be called rangers, but this is not technically correct.


Guides, including safari, field or nature guides, as the name suggests, guide guests through nature, whether by vehicle, canoe, horseback or on foot. It is a guide’s job to explain some of the remarkable secrets hidden within the natural environment, and to act as a link between the guests and nature. Guides are also considered to be crucial to conservation since they are able to spread their message far and wide through the many people they meet.


Rangers, whether game or safari rangers in Africa, or wildlife, park or forest rangers in the United States, don’t deal with guests, but rather with the conservation management of wilderness areas. Rangers are generally responsible for veterinary aspects of the wildlife, population control and breeding capabilities, for example, as well as more hands-on issues such as fencing, fire control, road maintenance and invasion of alien plants.

However, the various roles of guides and rangers do overlap, and this makes sense when you consider that they share the same motivation: a deep love and understanding of the ecology of the natural environment.

The training and experience that is offered by an EcoTraining course are invaluable in building on that very motivational foundation. Through learning about the complexity of ecology and understanding animal behaviour and various functions and techniques involved in conservation, the student develops a well-rounded basis from which to branch into either of the guide or ranger functions.

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Annemi Zaaiman

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