tourGuiding OVERLAND GUIDING AS A PROFESSION
Overland guiding is a lifestyle, a respected occupation — an office with a view. It gives you the chance to travel to faraway places, meet interesting people and show them the sights of Africa. Beware though; it is not as easy as it looks. Unforeseen circumstances and demanding clients can put you to the test, says Lani Senekal from Masezane Expeditions.
Text: Lani Senekal
Photography: Leilani Basson
Sometimes tour guides get the feeling that clients forget that they voluntarily signed up for an overland tour. As soon as they realise they are not cut out for overlanding, they take it out on the guide by being as obnoxious as possible.
So, needless to say, it takes a person with a special temperament and personality to be a tour guide. You must be able lead and negotiate, defuse arguments, get the group out of deep mud and sometimes dangerous situations in countries where the authorities are drunk, gun toting rebels. You have to be flexible…tolerant, calm and professional.
There is only one constant factor in Africa: “It will change”.
If the above scenarios do not dampen your spirit, you can sign up for an overlanding tour guide course, earn your qualifications and start a new life.
Guides are generally well educated, skilful, motivated and have the ability to get on with the job, unsupervised. They are trained to cope with any situation that might arise. Perhaps it will be persuading some love sick female with a heavy dose of khaki fever to leave your tent, handling bribe-seeking policemen at a road block, or trying to keep a client positive after his vehicle has broken down for the tenth time.
Most overland companies ask for feedback from their clients in order to improve their services, but sometimes the comments can be very funny. Here are a few well documented favourites:
“The guide didn’t offer any alternative to the optional day trips.” What the hell — must the guide now offer alternative optional preferential selective choices?
“The guide drank too much.” A good one this. For my mother, two glasses of wine is too much, for Oliver Reed a whole case would not be enough. Very subjective criticism.
“The guide shouted too many rounds” (bought the clients too many drinks). Just no pleasing some people, is there?
“The guide was rude and obnoxious.” (The guide wouldn’t go to bed with the ugly old wildebeest, is closer to the truth.)
“I went to Africa to lose weight, and there was always too much food.” Go figure!
So, what do you need to be a guide?
Candidates must hold a Level 1 First Aid certificate, obtained from an authorised institution such as the Red Cross or St John’s Ambulance, before a Tourist Guide ID card and badge can be issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT).
Guides that transport clients must be in possession of a Professional Drivers Permit.
Tour operators must comply with the various rules and regulations drawn up to protect the consumer.
According to the Tourism Act of 1993, no person who has not been registered by the DEAT can operate as a tour guide.
Any person guiding a group of four-wheel drive vehicle owners for reward has to register at SATOUR as a Professional 4×4 Tourist Guide in the Specialist Guide category. Although the Act has been in place for some years, it has not been enforced. Only in the last few years has the relevant training become available.
Once the candidate has passed, he/she will be registered by the DEAT and receive a registration number, ID card and badge, which must be displayed when the guard is on duty.
The Masazane Overland Guide Course, for instance, is designed to train people to safely and comfortably guide clients on long journeys through remote parts of Africa. The course consists of four days of theory, two days of intensive 4×4 driver training and a minimum of two days’ first aid course and extensive practical assignments.
So, what does the course entail?
The Masazane course includes: good guiding practices, environmental aspects, logistics, planning a trip, money matters, border formalities, basic marketing, outdoor cooking, navigation, only the basic first aid and medicines and equipment, common diseases in Africa, evacuation of a patient and vehicle, basic survival and negotiation skills.
The candidates then have to complete various assignments as “homework”. They must do research and complete tasks that vary from planning trips into Africa to scenarios where they must explain how to handle a vehicle accident involving serious injuries in a remote location.
Students must design a brochure for their own company and design the ultimate 4×4 guide vehicle capable of travelling to remote parts of Africa.
Medical facilities may be non-existent in some areas, so a guide must be able to treat a client himself if necessary. Apart from being able to administer normal first aid, overland guides must have a good knowledge of tropical diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and cholera. They should warn clients about scorpions, spiders, snakes and other insects such as phutsi flies and sand flies. They should also recognise poisonous plants and be able to treat anyone affected.
Once the course has been passed, the registration will be processed. The smaller the number on the guide’s badge, the longer he has been registered. The client will know that the guide was properly trained and can report any misbehaviour by using the guide’s number.
The registration of tourist guides is an internationally accepted practice to ensure professionalism in the industry, and provide tourists with an efficient guiding service and enjoyable overlanding experience.
Most national parks and game reserves will not allow unregistered guides to operate within the parks. Going on a trip with an unregistered guide can be costly and dangerous, not to mention frustrating and possibly stressful.
Who do you call?
For more information on Masazane’s Overland Guide Course, or to find out whether a prospective guide is registered, contact us Dave van Graan on 082 772-6682; [email protected] or Lani Senekal on 082 741 7218; [email protected]. Also visit www.masezane.com
4×4 driver training should be done through an institution accepted by the Department of Manpower. Subjects should include environmental issues, legislation about 4x4s, safety aspects, the technical layout of a 4×4 vehicle, electronic driving aids, basic off-road driving techniques, basic maintenance and vehicle courtesy, 4×4 equipment, 4×4 terrain, and 4×4 insurance. For more information contact Tinus Botha, African Off-road Academy on 082 476 7630, [email protected]
or visit www.africanoffroad.co.za