Imagine this scene: it’s late winter in the Maasai Mara, but the sun in blazing down. On one side of the river, thousands of wildebeest and on the other side, you. One wildebeest ‘gnus’ and kicks at the dusty ground — a small movement indiscernible to most, but your safari guide knows exactly what is about to happen…
To be an Angama safari guide you need to have more than some facts up your sleeve. First and foremost, you need to be very positive. Having a positive attitude is contagious — both for our guests and for the rest of the team. We also look for storytellers. Though each guide has to be very knowledgeable, it’s also about interpreting a sighting, turning the facts that you know and what you see in front of you into a story in a fun and engaging way, pulling the attention of the guest and sometimes even getting them to participate in the guiding. An Angama guide is somebody who can think out of the box, is energetic and self-motivated; they are also proactive and able to predict what is about to happen (I call ourselves the 'prophets of the bush').
Qualifications are great — in fact, all Angama guides are on at least KPSGA Bronze, with five on Silver and some even going for Gold. But ultimately, a qualification isn’t what makes a good guide a great one. It's rather some hard-earned experience. Thousands of hours spent traversing well-worn paths — many of which our guides know so well they could drive them with their eyes closed (don’t worry, they won’t).
Just like how our friends in the kitchen must sharpen their knives regularly, a guide’s skills need sharpening. For that, we turn to our friend, Alastair Kilpin, who comes every year to give the team a refresher course. He generally keeps his training to the fundamentals of our guiding. We can stray from our guiding path now and then, but Alastair is always there to steer us in the right direction. One of the ways he does this is by getting one of us to take a vehicle full of guides on a safari who will definitely keep you on your toes — we call it the ‘hot seat'.
We have also received training from many other professionals. The guides request various courses, such as botany, ornithology, herpetology and astronomy, to further improve their knowledge. Of course, it’s important that we also keep up to date with the wines being served — funnily enough, that's one of the most well-attended training sessions. One of my favourite things about Angama is that if it has something to do with training, the answer is always ‘bring it on!’
Of course, your guest is the most important part of the job. We know the personalities of each guide and we rely heavily on the reservations team to understand the ages, preferences or interests of the guests before they come so that we can match them to the right guide. For example, we always try to pair Alice with children as she is a mother herself and is so loveable; older guests often like Jackson who is a Mzee* himself and knows how to take it slow. The personal connection we create with our guests is what really sets us apart.
Another element that makes the Angama guiding team stand out is our teamwork. We will never leave another stranded — even when one of us gets stuck in the mud (which is a little embarrassing although in most cases unavoidable). But no worries, the guide who got stuck gets to repay the kindness by buying everyone the evening's drinks. We hope to continue to build strong relationships with our neighbours as well. In playing our part as conservation champions, we get involved in various community-based projects and are able to help tell their stories which is not only of interest to our guests but an important part of protecting the beautiful area that Angama is part of and the animals who live there.
Over the last few years, the guiding team has grown but we have always kept true to our fundamentals; we will always put our guests first while being respectful of the land we traverse, the animals we cross paths with and the community of people who co-exist with them. We believe that if you take care of your neighbours — the and, animals and people — they will take care of you.
We hope to welcome you onto our safari vehicles soon.
*Mzee is the term given to a respected elder
Filed under: Inside Angama
Subscribe for Weekly Stories