A while ago there was a video posted to Youtube called “Rude safari guide spoils game sighting” and, being in the business, the team at Outlook Safaris was keen to have a look at it. The behaviour most certainly wasn’t very nice, and it prompted us to talk to different people, read a few blogs and watch a few other videos to see if anyone had a similar experience.
However in internet searches we found no other videos of rude safari guides. You’d think that if this was such a common occurrence, the internet would be flooded with video clips of poor behaviour.
Somewhere along the way I started to digress and I also started paying much closer attention to other videos that caught my attention. I was in for a rude awakening as I encountered video after video of South Africans breaking the rules of the bush and getting themselves into trouble! This realisation confirmed my belief that most visitors would benefit tremendously by going on an organised guided safari in Kruger National Park with a qualified game ranger, rather than trusting only what they have learned by watching a few wildlife programs.
For instance, in 2013 a British teacher got seriously injured when an elephant bull flipped over a car that her South African fiancé was driving. However this is not an isolated incident of reckless behaviour by tourists in the Kruger National Park that simply just did not know any better. It could be argued that if these people had been escorted by trained individuals, this horrible incident might not have happened.
The problem is that a typical South African may well be just as ignorant of the ways of the bush as a tourist who’s never stepped foot in South Africa or a national park. The difference is that a lot of international holidaymakers choose to be accompanied by a professional in order to ensure that their experience is as fabulous and safe as possible. Many South Africans, on the other hand,jump into their pick-up truck with a cooler bag and set off for the Kruger Park.
Professional guides know the best times and places for sightings, so their guests can relax while nature unfolds right before their eyes and their guides interpret exactly what they are seeing. On the other hand the average self drive visitor to the Kruger National Park has to drive on roads that they have never seen before, look for and stay out of the way of animals and attempt to interpret what they are seeing – a rather daunting juggling act for most.
Do not get me wrong, I am aware of the fact that there are professional guides who are inconsiderate and possibly even disrespectful of the park or guests. As a safari industry we are taking this matter very seriously and guides that are found not abiding by the rules are severely disciplined and if offences are repeated such guides are removed from the industry all together.
The difference is that a professional guide is doing a job, which means that they have a boss and guests to please. Almost all guides choose this career path out of an absolute passion for the safari industry and for the animals. They make sacrifices in the name of this passion, they are away from their families for long periods of time, they work long hours and they are out there in the bush sharing their passion come rain or shine. If you are planning to do a self drive to the Kruger National Park take a minute to talk to one of the guides, if you paths do cross. They are very knowledgeable and will be more than glad to share that knowledge with you.
My point is that we should all be more tolerant of each other – not all guides and safari companies are rude. In fact many have a lot to offer that will greatly enrich a safari experience in the Kruger. Likewise, I am also aware that there are South African tourists who do abide very closely to every rule in the book.
The most important thing to bear in mind whether you choose to have a professional guide by your side or drive on your own, is that the conservation is the priority. The animals are in their natural habitat and going about their usual business and it is our ignorance that can cause danger to them or to ourselves.
I understand that not everyone can afford a guided safari, so if you do choose to do one independently, just take a moment to read all the information that you receive before entering the gate.
There is no shortage of information, and in the end we all want the same thing – for this magnificent heritage to be conserved and protected for generations to come. It is big enough for everyone to have an unforgettable experience if we are all considerate.