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A Family Safari Benefits From A Child Friendly Guide

Picture this...You've painstakingly planned your family safari, spent thousands to make it happen, flown all the way to Africa, only to find that the guide doesn't really know how to get along with your children.

Now a scenario like this won't completely ruin your safari because you'll still be experiencing an African adventure together, but it would really elevate your trip to another level if you have a guide who has a natural affinity with children, can engage well and have fun with them.

The guides that I've tracked down and listed below are not only exceptional in their own right with high qualifications and lots of experience, but they have also built up a reputation for being very good with children on safari.

So if you go on a family safari with them you get the best of both worlds, a highly skilled guide to locate and interpret the wildlife and surroundings for you, and someone who will get along well with, and make it fun and interesting for your children too...

QUALIFICATIONS
  • KPSGA GOLD LEVEL (Only 26 gold guides in Kenya, highest qualification level possible).
  • TOURISM AND WILDLIFE STUDIES (Alumni of Moi University).
  • CERTIFICATE IN TOUR GUIDING & ADMINISTRATION (From Centre for Tourism Training and Research)
  • CERTIFICATE OF GUIDING (From Wildlife Clubs of Kenya).
EXPERIENCE
  • 2004 TO 2006: Guiding in Lake Nakuru National Park.
  • 2006 TO PRESENT: Guiding in Amboseli National Park.

HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME A FAMILY SAFARI GUIDE?

Having been born and brought up in the Great Rift Valley where there was an abundance of wildlife and beautiful scenery, my love with nature started while still a young boy when I spent most time exploring the bush while herding my father's cattle.

This resulted in a very deep affinity with nature, a month did not go by without planting some trees or rescuing trapped birds.

I could join tourists who were trekking and hiking the volcanic plugs and hills in my village and I could even join them for park clean ups.

My parents wanted me to study law but they later came to realise I was studying Tourism and Wildlife Studies, and after my second year I was voted as the best itinerary student in my class.

My dedication, professionalism and a big love of nature makes me an informative, entertaining guide. My combination of flexibility, easy-going disposition and natural affinity with children has earned me a reputation as an ideal family safari guide. /p>

WHAT MAKES A GOOD SAFARI GUIDE?

The amount of knowledge required of a first class family safari guide is prodigious. They should be able to answer the kinds of questions that curious guests ask professionally and in a diplomatic way.

Be able to "read" the body language of the guests, have to be able to identify a wide range of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and plant species, topography and physical features and be knowledgeable about their behaviors and natural history, as well as on issues of wildlife policies and laws, not to mention the historical and cultural background of the communities (people) and their customs.

They must be able to interpret the movement, intention and the moods of wildlife, be able to know the best and convenient position in case there is a sighting.

Should also strongly adhere to the professional code of conduct which I believe that is what makes a prospective top notch field guide.

FAVOURITE ANIMAL?

My favourite animal is the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), having studied them and followed one female for more than three years. Their hunting prowess, being the king of camouflage, they are very shy and timid; they don't like eye-to-eye contact, like any other predator.

They are super predators that take their cubs to training schools and they only eat and feed on fresh kills, don't scavenge.

Apart from the walking style on their toes (digits grade) they are one of the few predators in the world where a female cheetah with cubs will have and go for three meals in a day i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner!

MOST MEMORABLE SIGHTING?

I once spotted a pride of four lions - sub adults males - trying to take advantage of a giraffe drinking water while spreading its legs.

They were not very experienced and they started attacking the giraffe from all angles. One lion made a big mistake, trying to grab the tail of the giraffe, and it got kicked, thrown through the air for about two meters and when it landed there was a big bang.

The other lions ran away in one direction while the giraffe ran away in the opposite direction. the injured lion lay lifelessly for more than an hour and I radioed the rangers.

They tranquilized it, but the whole jaw was dislocated and all the teeth broken and he had a fracture on his head. He was taken to the animal orphanage for specialised treatment but he lost one of his eyes and could not hunt or be taken back to the wild again.

He is now at the orphanage being fed and taken care of.

Back to the best wildlife sightings

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT?

While guiding, one needs to be very keen - all eyes and ears open. I once did a safari with a renowned wildlife photographer where we were following a female cheetah on her daily exploring activities.

As usual, all guests usually depend on their guides, so I told him to prepare all his tools of work (telephoto cameras) because in a few minutes, we might see a cheetah kill. All was set.

I directed my guest to where the cheetah was laying its ambush for a gazelle, all the focus was there. We waited for the cheetah to wake up and sprint for more than 1 hour and 42 minutes.

We decided to drive closer to change the angle, and to my embarrassment and shame it wasn't a cheetah. It was a dry, dead log, a "petrified" one, and my guest was standing all those hours to capture the moment!

THE MOST INTERESTING ANIMAL BEHAVIOR YOU'VE WITNESSED?

I came across a 4-month old baby elephant which had fallen into a well, suddenly my safari vehicle was surrounded by its entire family of 42 elephants, who started mock charging. What do you do?

I stayed calm, switched off the car engine and reassured my guests. I stood my ground, eventually the elephants calmed down when they realised we didn't mean any harm to them.

They surrounded the well, digging trenches with their tusks, throwing dust, stones and logs with a lot of caution for the small calf to have a platform for it to step on.

One teenager bull got into the well, folded its trunk and the calf sat on it like in a couch - it was lifted out gently while the other elephants were celebrating by trumpeting while my guests were dumbfounded.

The altruism of the behavior of the elephants overwhelmed me, that they managed to rescue the calf and reunite it with its mother without a "single shot" being fired. Those are some of the memories I cherish as a family safari guide. Good endings.

YOUR FAVOURITE CAMPFIRE STORY?

I usually like to engage with my family safari guests their ideal experience for that particular day. African folk stories will go hand in hand with wildlife.

Narrating to my guests how some respected African legends died a long time ago and resurrected as wild animals, while some tribes think that the African elephant (female) is one of their women who was very much respected for bringing and nursing babies to them, that's why whenever they find an elephant carcass they pay very special tributes and respect by laying a wreath of "flowers" in form of some special tree branches and grass in the dead elephant.

Some of them even believe that if you get an elephant placenta, you have hit the jackpot. That respect for elephants makes them live in harmony and co-exist with the elephants.

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QUALIFICATIONS
  • KPSGA SILVER LEVEL
EXPERIENCE
  • 1988 TO PRESENT: Guiding mostly in Kenya with luxury mobile camps, but also in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Namibia, Botswana and Australia.

HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME A SAFARI GUIDE?

I grew up in the wilds of Tsavo National Park and wanted to pursue a career in which I would still be connected to nature and wildlife.

I began my career building and managing camps in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti National Park for Archers Tourism and Travel, which then became part of the And Beyond portfolio of properties.

During that time, I met a lot of guides coming through with their clients and realized that I could have all the fun of hosting without being stagnant and being tied to one place. That's how I decided that I wanted to guide and host guests on safari.

I then met Francesco Piernina, who groomed me, and I worked as a freelance guide for his mobile tented safari operation in Tanzania for a number of years. Since then, I have never looked back.

While living in Arusha, Tanzania, I met my wife, Anita, who is Australian. After I got married, we went to live in Australia, where I mainly guided in the Northern Territory for a couple of years. I also ran a few trips guiding around the entire Australian continent, which was magical.

However, the pull to go back home was too strong and so Anita and I left Australia and I joined a prestigious safari outfitter in Kenya as a partner and professional guide for 18 years, specialising in luxury mobile safaris in Kenya.

I left there in 2014 and I currently operate my own luxury mobile safari outfit.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FAMILY SAFARI GUIDE?

It's difficult to say, as each safari guide has his own individual strengths and knowledge base, but on the whole, a family safari guide should be a consummate host: somebody who can make clients feel comfortable and at ease in their presence from the moment you meet them.

They go out of their way to make their guests feel comfortable whatever the situation and are able to read what their guests want and deliver without them realizing that was what they needed!

A good family safari guide should be able to impart their knowledge in such a way that they can be as informative and interesting and exciting as possible about a given topic.

They are able to take on board the individual interests of each person within a group and immerse their guests in a world that is new and inspiring. They should also have the ability to be able to converse and have fun with guests of all ages and backgrounds.

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT?

I was driving my guests across the southern Serengeti plains from Ndutu to the Moru Kopjes. I lost my landmarks owing to the thick smoke of distant grassfires and we ended up going round in circles until the sun went down.

I was so disoriented that we had to sleep the night in the vehicle until the sun came up the following morning. All we had in the car was one bar of chocolate, two Coca Colas and a harmonica. Strangely the clients still came back for another safari.

FAVOURITE ANIMAL?

It sounds a little corny, but I would have to say the leopard, because it is the quintessential cat: sleek, beautiful and elusive, with the most incredible eyes.

Locking a stare with one of these magnificent creatures makes you feel that they are looking into your soul. Because of their amazingly camouflaging coat patterns, there is a real feeling of achievement when you do eventually find one for your guests.

YOUR MOST MEMORABLE FAMILY SAFARI SIGHTING?

Two male lions fighting in the Maasai Mara. An old alpha male being challenged for his right to stay leader of the pride by a younger aspiring male.

The pride females came to the old male's rescue, helping him to win the match. I have never seen this before, nor since.

GUIDING AREA OF SPECIALIZATION?

I'd like to say that I am an all-rounder and I hope to be able to impart as much knowledge as I can in all fields.

I would say that, being an overgrown kid myself, I can engage well with children on a family safari. I was named Billy the kid on one safari…I take it as a compliment!

THE MOST INTERESTING ANIMAL BEHAVIOR YOU'VE WITNESSED?

I had a fascinating experience over a period of time in Samburu in the Northern Territory of Kenya. There was a lioness that adopted a baby oryx.

She didn't have any cubs of her own and wanted to practice being a mother and so she would continuously go out and separate a baby oryx from its mother and would proceed to nurture and groom the little calf until it followed her wherever she went.

Unfortunately the other members of the lioness's pride would eventually enjoy a tasty snack of baby oryx, but, undeterred, she would head back out to steal more oryx calves in her quest to be a good mother.

Back to the best wildlife sightings

YOUR FAVOURITE CAMPFIRE STORY?

On my first solo safari, I had guests from Germany who had never been on safari before and were extremely nervous about being in a tent in the bush.

For some reason, perhaps because the animals sensed their unease, they seemed to attract lions and hyenas every night into the camp. It didn't matter which camp and where, but each campsite seemed to have serious predator action with lions roaring and hyenas laughing, bringing their kills right into camp.

The poor guests were so incredibly scared by this, and as much as I tried to reassure them, they didn't really know how lucky they were to be a part of this amazing experience.

The final straw for them was a herd of buffalo walking into camp rubbing their bosses on the tent poles and collapsing the tents as they walked through. Needless to say, we had to find a lodge to stay in after that - with an electric fence to keep the wilds of Africa at bay!

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QUALIFICATIONS
  • KPSGA SILVER LEVEL
  • TOURISM AND WILDLIFE STUDIES (From Utalii College).
EXPERIENCE
  • 2004 TO PRESENT: Guiding in Kenya National Parks and Game Reserves like Masaai Mara and Amboseli.

HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME A SAFARI GUIDE?

It all started when one of the companies I used to fix vehicles for in the Mara lost a driver, and requested me to drive their clients that evening. I said to them I can only drive but not guide and luckily for me they only needed a driver.

After several crash courses from the guides I developed an interest in guiding, and from then on they engaged me in training due to my enthusiasm.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FAMILY SAFARI GUIDE?

Guiding is essentially about a genuine enjoyment of people and an honest appreciation of, and dedication to, all the many faces nature has to offer us.

A good safari guide holds in their hands the opportunity to realise a clients dreams and fantasies of natures beautiful office. It all depends on one little thing that in fact should play the biggest part in life; the guides attitude.

They must also understand how much a day costs, and therefore he/she must never waste a clients precious time, by being disorganized, disinterested or burnt out.

Should also be knowledgeable (know your office better) and someone who is bright, cheery, friendly, happy, energetic, vibrant, uncomplicated and exciting.

FAVOURITE ANIMAL?

In my view there is nothing like favourite animal as a guide. Though I would actually say all cats are fascinating and are everyone's favourites.

YOUR MOST MEMORABLE SIGHTING?

My most memorable sighting I think is when I witnessed a giraffe giving birth, I think this is one of the many memorable events I have ever encounter during my guiding.

THE MOST INTERESTING ANIMAL BEHAVIOR YOU'VE WITNESSED?

I was fortunate enough to witness a baby elephant being rescued when it fell in a ditch and all the other family members responded to the distress call from its mother. It took some minutes of them trying to rescue it as we watched helplessly in the safety of our jeep, engine shut down and everyone quiet.

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QUALIFICATIONS
  • KPSGA SILVER LEVEL
  • KWSTI DIPLOMA IN TOURISM MANAGEMENT
  • MWEWE RANGER TRAINING SCHOOL
  • ESSENTIAL GUIDING TRAINERS (Refresher Course)
EXPERIENCE
  • 2008 TO PRESENT: Guiding in many parts of Kenya and Northern Serengeti.

HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME A SAFARI GUIDE?

I was born on the slopes of mt Kenya where I encountered wildlife at an early age and developed a passion for mother nature.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FAMILY SAFARI GUIDE?

First is to respect the environment and other people, wide knowledge, be very creative, good host, passionate and ready to learn.

FAVOURITE ANIMAL?

I love animal youngsters as they are always doing something funny but I will spend hours with playful baby elephants.

YOUR MOST MEMORABLE SIGHTING?

I witnessed a pack of 11 African wild dogs in Samburu take down a pregnant impala ripped of from behind removing the inborn foal. Two shared the foal which was alive while the rest were busy enjoying the inside content of the poor mother.

It was so horrible to watch but that's nature.

YOUR FAVOURITE FAMILY SAFARI CAMPFIRE STORY?

I have dozens of African folk lore stories but my favourite one is when Mr hare is tricked by his best friend Mr eagle that when it's night time he cuts off his wife's head and fixes it very early in the morning so that she doesn't make noise at night when he's asleep.

So the following day hare did as he was told by the eagle and cut off his wife's head waiting for the morning to replace it but it was all in vain, so he decided to visit his friend eagle for consultation.

He was warmly welcomed and started to narrate his story which made eagle fall down in a big laughter which caused them to be the biggest enemy up to date and that's why he keeps away from the Eagle at any given chance.

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QUALIFICATIONS
  • KPSGA BRONZE LEVEL
  • KENYA UTALII COLLEGE
EXPERIENCE
  • 2007 TO PRESENT: Guiding in many parts of Kenya.

HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME A SAFARI GUIDE?

I have had a passion and love for nature from an early age. I did basic training after high school and begun applying these skills which were only honed through experience over the years.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FAMILY SAFARI GUIDE?

The guests’ satisfaction at the end of a trip.

MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT AS A GUIDE?

When I got stuck in the Masai Mara and had to be towed out.

FAVOURITE ANIMAL?

Klipspringer because of its ability to stand on only the tips of its hooves on seriously rocky areas and easily avoid predators!

YOUR MOST MEMORABLE SIGHTING?

Cheetah killing a dik dik.

THE MOST INTERESTING ANIMAL BEHAVIOR YOU'VE WITNESSED?

Topi taking turns to stand on top of a termite mound and surveying the area for predators and safety.

YOUR FAVOURITE FAMILY SAFARI CAMPFIRE STORY?

This is geared towards children - A man had a problem with rats in his house. So one day after trying all possible methods in vain; he decided to introduce a mongoose.

He thought ‘what a genius idea’ after all mongooses eat rats and what better way than to bring in some of them to eat the rats! So off he went in search of mongooses which he found and brought them to his house.

However as time went on he realized his problem was getting even worse! The mongooses were also multiplying in number and could not eat the rats as they were active during the day. On the other hand; the rats were also increasing in number on a daily basis because they were nocturnal and thus could avoid encounters with the mongooses.

It was then he realized that man cannot control nature! Nature is powerful and nature needs to be respected.

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