The simple act of tipping can be an anxious moment for many people while on safari, and the subject of much discussion and seeking of advice.
We like to reward excellent service, but hate being worked over for a tip. There is nothing worse than lodge staff hovering expectantly near you while checking out – which we are sure does happen every now and then. And we object to a tip being expected or automatically included in the bill. On the other hand, a tip can be empowering for all concerned, and adds to the value that we all provide as safari goers in Africa’s rural areas. Your tip does make a real difference, where it counts.
Based on the many queries our team has fielded, we realise we are not alone in this.
So, here then are a few ‘tips’ from some of our travel team members about this prickly issue:
• I tip only when I receive good service, and when I feel that the person has worked hard, going beyond the call of their job. And a happy smile also works for me. This firm line helps me avoid the stress of being undecided;
• I tip lodge/hotel staff at the end of my stay, to a communal tip box which many lodges have, or in an envelope handed to the manager. I always ask about tipping, so that I follow the correct procedure for that lodge. I do not tip porters and waiters for ongoing chores like carrying bags and serving drinks;
• For group safaris, it’s often a good idea to pool tips. I have seen some groups arranging a fun presentation at the end of their stay – which is a great idea. Some people in groups prefer to tip directly, and that’s also fine;
• I usually tip about US$5 – $10 per day of my stay to lodge staff, and an additional US$5 – $10 per day to my guide and tracker, if relevant. Sometimes I also give my bird book to my guide – if he is interested in birds, and if he does not have the latest version;
• One golden rule: Never tell your guide/tracker that the tip is dependent on him/her finding certain animals. This is unfair and may encourage bad behaviour and damage to the environment and wildlife;
• And lastly, remember that tipping is entirely at your discretion. There are no rules, only guidelines.
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