The African wildlife safari world is continually changing…

New luxury safari properties, altered migration routes, changes in ownership, and game reserves in South Africa and beyond… and so, our advice about how and where to go on your next African adventure will always be different. There is only one thing that never alters for us.

luxury african safaris© Leora Rothschild

The quality of your safari tour guiding is absolutely key to our success.

Finding incredible safari guides is the key reason we are always on the road visiting and re-visiting destinations throughout Africa. And the special people we find to guide you on your African holiday? They might just be the magic ingredient in our award-winning safaris.

© Susanna Cloete-Jones

What is a safari tour guide?

Wildlife guides are highly trained. It takes years to acquire all the knowledge needed to understand and read the bush. Even then, education is not the only marker for a great guide.

Every area you visit is unique. Even within one game reserve, the different quadrants may be frequented by diverse wildlife populations. And in their tendency to have individual natures, wildlife is not so unlike humans. An excellent safari tour guide will have spent time in an area, getting to know every road and many of the creatures that roam there.

Finally, to get the most out of your safari, your guide must be very personable and well-matched to your personality. The best guides know how to make the most of every sighting and bring out everyone’s interests and entertain every member of the group.

And our incredible guides do not limit their expertise to the wildlife either:

Do I need a private guide?

In many camps, you will be joined by other guests on your game drives. Camps are very good at choosing people with similar interest to share a vehicle (more seasoned safari-goers may be better together/ bird lovers will enjoy being paired with other bird lovers etc).

If you have particular interests, you may want to hire a private guide. We can discuss your needs and advise the best course of action.

african adventures© Susanna Cloete-Jones

Making the most of your guide on a luxury African safari

The answer to this is straightforward. Communicate!

The more questions you ask and the more you engage in conversation with your guide, the more you will learn. Every guide we have ever met has been a well of incredibly exciting and entertaining tales. From the culture, traditions, and local practices of their people and country, to the medicinal use of trees and the most unique facts about a dung beetle… they can have you hanging from their lips for hours.

Many of our guests become life long friends with their guides.

How to tip your African travel guide

We will provide you with a guideline (often around US$10 per guide per day), but you can always use your discretion. Tipping the guide directly on the last day of your stay at a camp is usual. If a particular camp has a different approach, you will be advised.

luxury safari south africa© Leora Rothschild

How do safari guides differ from country to country?

The requirements for guiding differ between countries, but also from one property to another. There are also different governing bodies for guiding. In our experience, excellent guiding is a skill, but also a talent, and it isn’t always possible to teach excellent guiding. We choose our guides not on qualification but rather, on performance.

Can I go on safari without a guide?

Can you eat a cone without the ice cream? Of course.

Will this result in less enjoyment? Certainly.

Most camps will not let you leave the grounds for an African adventure if you are not accompanied by a licensed guide. The bush can be a dangerous place for anyone who does not have an in-depth understanding of it. If you are driving yourself, there will be an incredible amount of wildlife detail that you will miss – even before you calculate the cultural connection with local people that is very difficult to recreate without a guide.

You may also miss all the entertaining little bits of magic:

The difference between a world-class professional guide and a regular guide

The safari guiding profession is not unlike many other jobs where different proficiencies claim the same title. It is possible to call yourself a guide when you are not particularly interested in people, wildlife or work. Other guides have all the enthusiasm but little of the experience. A guide with minimum qualifications, earning a minimum wage, and speaking almost no English will not provide you with world-class guiding.

The extraordinary guides are few and far between. They are funny, knowledgeable, and personable with a sixth sense around wildlife.

How does a tracker differ from a guide

In some countries, a tracker will accompany your guide. Trackers are often guides in training… but in some places, the tracker specializes in tracking and will not use it as a stepping stone to guiding. A guide and a tracker usually choose to work together, and the teams do not change often.

About female guides

Say the words ‘safari guide’ and most people will immediately conjure an image of someone that is a perfect combination of Indiana Jones and David Attenborough… And in most instances, they will be exactly right. The African wildlife safari guiding world used to be 100% male.

But, change comes to every corner of the world eventually, and you may find that your guide is female.

And you may wonder if she will be up to the task.

We asked the wonderful Andrew Khosa a Cheetah Plains guide and his tracker Edwell for their expert opinion: