Following the great success and impact of the first Wilderness Group Guide Mentor Workshop held in Hwange earlier in 2015, November was the perfect time to run another workshop – reinforcing the learnings from the first workshop and focusing on specific guiding techniques and practices… this time in the eastern sections of the Okavango Delta in the diverse Khwai area.
Sixteen guides from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia made their way across to the Okavango where we hosted the guiding workshop over a week of intensive training. The guides were selected based on being considered our best guides in each region and with the potential to be a mentor to all other Wilderness guides, both new and old.
The low down…
The workshop was designed to show the guides the importance of their role in the guests’ overall experience with Wilderness Safaris and to establish the best guiding team in the safari industry. The training included various ‘classroom’ sessions where we exposed the guides to different guiding concepts, techniques, advanced photographic skills, how to focus on biodiversity, effective story-telling, tracking, entomology and birding beyond the name.
A focal point of the workshop was how to effectively engage one’s guests and provide them with an experience going beyond the typical game drive and merely providing guests with facts, but actually capturing your guests’ interest and effectively interpreting the natural environment in an intriguing, enthusiastic, authentic and professional way.
Following the ‘classroom’ sessions, the guide trainers had the opportunity to take a game drive, displaying the various techniques and ‘’Do’s and Don’ts’’ , creating an interactive discussion where the guides could discuss the techniques at length – with one of the highlights being guides from very different regions trading ideas and concepts!
The guides then had the opportunity to put their new skills into practice as they were all to take an assessment drive, hosting and guiding their fellow guides and trainers. At times, very challenging and stressful scenarios were put into play, allowing the guide to operate under pressure and deal with a number of difficult situations.
However, most of the time, the natural environment provided the perfect stage for the guides to perform and effectively manage their ‘guests’ needs and expectations’ as well as operate in a sensitive and ethical manner. One of the two sightings which come to mind was the morning drive spent following a large pack of wild dog on the hunt. It was the perfect opportunity for the guides to display safe driving techniques, sensitivity to the animals, correct positioning of the vehicle for photography, and to interpret the sighing as it was unfolding – all culminating in a great sighting involving four kills, followed by hyaena scavenging from the wild dogs. The hyaena had a short-lived victory as a male lion and lioness soon arrived, attracted by the squabbling of vultures, taking control of the spoils.
On another occasion, the guides took the opportunity to follow a young female leopard directly back to her den… which was concealing two tiny cubs which I am sure were seeing a vehicle for the first time. This was a perfect opportunity for the guides to find the delicate balance between showing the animals sensitivity and providing their guests with best possible view.
Overall the workshop was a resounding success, leaving the guides enthused and inspired to take their new learnings and put them into play, but more importantly, to return to their various camps and mentor their fellow guides – fostering a winning guide ethic and quality throughout all our camps – The Wilderness Way.
See more images from the workshop in Warren's safari album here.
Photos © Brett Wallington, Barberton Munduu, Honest Siyawareva, Isaac Kalio, Warren Ozorio and Dave Hood
Dave Hood was one of the trainers for this workshop. Read his writing for Into Africa here or follow the magazine's page on Facebook here.