A successful safari experience starts with a guide’s ability to identify and manage the different needs and wants of guests. This, according to photographic safari guide and owner of Track & Trail River Camp, Peter Geraerdts, all comes down to the knowledge and experience of a good guide…
Your Guide is Key To A Successful Safari Experience
A good guide is essential for a great safari experience. First, he or she will be able ‘to read the bush’ and secondly, your guide must be able to ‘read the guest’. In the end, it all comes down to knowledge and experience and the more experience a guide has, the better their ability to read a guest will be. However, this comes hand in hand with the genuine ambition of your guide. For many, being a safari guide isn’t just a job, but also a calling. Sure, we need to make a living, but it’s not just about the money.
Guides should relate to what they are doing and show the passion they have for their guests. There are guides who, for their own reasons, prefer to guide people from certain countries, while others are rather enthusiastic about the big “tippers”. Luckily in most countries, tipping is considered as a way to show gratitude to someone for having provided good or even excellent service.
Sometimes I myself am a guest at a safari lodge being driven and guided by others at a safari lodge and it’s not uncommon to hear what sounds like the word-for-word living Encyclopedia version of an answer to a guest’s question about a specific breed of animal. It is as if the guide has his textbook somewhere between the steering wheel and his chest! Guides have the power to make the difference between a mediocre trip and that of a lifetime!
Travel + Pleasure & Leisure = An experience
Good guiding should be about informing people what they can and cannot expect. It’s humour. It’s safety. It’s entertainment and excitement, led by a guide with an eye for details. Successful safaris are sustainable and unobtrusive and they interact gently and empathetically with the places, animals, and people that they encounter.
A safari should not just be a lifestyle experience with a list of animals to tick off of a list. There is beauty even in the small details and patience pays off in the end. It’s about embracing those small moments: Going out early in the morning, off the beaten track to where there are fewer vehicles, slowing down to spend some time watching bee-eaters catch their meal on their wings or to observe a troop of baboons interacting with themselves instead of rushing to the next pride of sleeping lions 10 kilometres away from you.
A safari should be about the feelings it provokes, the experience of being out there in the wild, experiencing nature just as it is, with no rush and always with a respectful mind to the animal kingdom, whether it’s a dung beetle crossing the road or a leopard on a kill.
As a professional guide in Zambia, I must count myself privileged to take people out in nature. I specialize in photographic safaris, mostly done privately or in a small like-minded group. In fact, the smaller the group size the better for photography, however saying that I have had some groups that had a lot of fun together with very rewarding results.
Track and Trail River Camp
Track and Trail River Camp in South Luangwa, just five minutes from the main gate. We are more focused on photography than most camps in the Luangwa Valley. We have our own purpose-built photographic hide at a waterhole where guests can stay whenever they want. This waterhole is visited on a regular basis by lots of species including Elephants – Giraffes – Hippos – various Antelope and in the evening predators as well.