The Most Underrated Skill A Guide Can Have

As guides, we are quick to jump into our textbooks and start learning about all the wonders of the bush. From bird calls to tracks, gestation periods of a Zerula, and anything else in between. But does knowing all of this mean we are a truly great guide?

Probably not. We also need some first-hand experience guiding, managing our guests and their expectations, all while still being professional to the other guides on the reserve. It’s a lot and I feel that none of this will fast track you to being an excellent guide.

I feel that the secret sauce or the defining factor that separates a good guide from a great one is diversity.

Photograph © Christoff Els

Each area has a particular nuance about it and with that, it will have its very own set of rules for the species that reside in it. This in itself is a very complex system that can offer up a lifetime of lessons and discoveries. But the more you learn about the area the slower your rate of progression becomes. It’s natural, as with any profession, the more you know the less room there is for development.

One way to overcome this is to simply change your environment. It means you will have to learn about a whole new way of life. Some aspects may be similar but others will be drastically different from what you are used to. This unfamiliar territory keeps you on a constant learning path which can greatly improve your understanding of life within these wild spaces in a shorter space of time.

Photograph © Christoff Els

This diversity often leads to a guide being far better equipped to adapt to their environment which can accelerate your path to greatness.

This is why learning in new areas as a student can greatly improve your understanding of these natural spaces and how to define your own path to becoming a great guide. In fact, this method has proven so successful that it has been incorporated into the learning process for some educational facilities and is fundamental in gaining new educated experiences.

Photograph © Marie Schmidt

On top of this, you will also be learning about the lodges themselves which, like the natural spaces around you, will be different in their own unique way. This is highly important as it provides you with valuable experience about life in a lodge, what may be similar between all lodges, and what is unique to the one you are in. All of these experiences play a vital role in your success and is a skill that is often overlooked when it comes to guiding, but without them, you may find yourself struggling to progress or fit in. This could mean the difference between being a great guide and a guide that is just passing through.

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About the Author: 

Lawrence Steyn is a former EcoTraining student on our Apprentice 55-day Field Guide course.