January 2014 – Wilderness Safaris is proud to announce that ten of its guides – no less than four current employees and a further six who spent many years working for the company and of whom they are equally proud – have been featured in Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 25 Safari Guides list, compiled by internationally renowned journalist, Graham Boynton.
As a native Zimbabwean, Boynton has spent decades on safari, and, most recently, 18 months traveling through the bush with guides in six countries to come up with this list of Africa’s best safari guides. “Graham is an Africa stalwart and truly understands the importance of quality guiding as the basis of interpretation and engendering a love for Africa in our guests. We are thrilled with this recognition of our guides who are the vital link between the intricacies of the natural world and our guests”, said Marketing Director Chris Roche.
Training is therefore a critical element of the Wilderness Safaris recipe, ensuring that its guides are equipped with the skills and knowledge to lead interpretive and life-changing wildlife experiences for its guests. In Botswana, the Wilderness Safaris Training Division has its own camp (Kaparota) in the Okavango, used exclusively for training courses. Entry-level guiding courses take a month, with students then going on to complete eight to 18-month internships in the camps, where they are periodically assessed by the training team while on the job until each module has been passed.
In the guiding field, after passing Level 1 of the Wilderness Training Standard, guides can advance further by participating in intensive 10-day courses in specialised skills. Guides who show dedication and drive are mentored, trained and assessed through further knowledge courses such as weapons handling, walking qualifications, boating and mokoro (dug-out canoe) skills. In addition, interesting courses with external trainers are arranged, such as with Lee Gutteridge of CyberTracker, or snake handler Johan Marais.
Part of guide training is identifying and encouraging young guides to attain the next level of qualification and to further enhance their growth within the company. In this way, dedicated guides and naturalists are able to share their knowledge with the next generation of staff and guests, creating a love for Africa to ensure the ongoing protection of its biodiversity.
The results speak for themselves, as Wilderness guides have rapidly gained the reputation of being amongst the finest in Africa. The following guides were featured in the Top 25 Safari Guides list:
- Keraetswe Bosigo (Madala K) at Little Vumbura Camp, Botswana; a Wilderness Safaris guide for almost 20 years and is very involved with training the next generation of Botswanan guides.
- Christiaan Bakkes, warden of the Palmwag Conservancy in Namibia; an author, novelist, and guide extraordinaire.
- Florence Kagiso at Kwetsani Camp, Botswana; a Wilderness Safaris guide who graduated from the Botswana Wildlife Institute at the top of her class (she was also the only woman in her class).
- Kitso Lademo at Little Vumbura, Botswana; one of the youngest qualified guides working in the Delta, keen birder and impassioned conservationist.
- Gregg Hughes, Safari Footprints, Botswana; formerly employed by Wilderness Safaris in Botswana.
- James "007" Pisetu, Great Plains Conservation, Botswana; began guiding at Duba Plains in 1996.
- Benson Siyawareva, Ngoko Safaris, Zimbabwe; formerly employed by Wilderness Safaris in Zimbabwe and Botswana.
- Simon Byron, Safari Footprints, Botswana; formerly employed by Wilderness Safaris in Botswana.
- Humphrey Gumpo, Tailormade Safaris, Zimbabwe; formerly employed by Wilderness Safaris in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.
- Beks Ndlovu, African Bush Camps, Zimbabwe; formerly employed by Wilderness Safaris in Zimbabwe and Botswana.