Why Zimbabwe Guides Might Be the Best in Africa
Even among African safari guides, Zimbabwean guides are considered the best on the continent. That’s not to say other guides are not personable and knowledgeable, but the training required in order to be a safari guide in Zimbabwe, known as a “Pro Guide,” is the most demanding and extensive in all of Africa, so it sets the standard.
Typically, the whole licensure process and education takes about four years to complete! So, anyone interested in safari guiding needs to be determined and passionate. The requirements and examinations are created and administered by the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) in collaboration with Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association (ZPHGA).
In order to become a Zimbabwe guide, students must pass a lengthy written exam covering a variety of topics related to flora and fauna. Typically, prospective guides study for a year before taking the test. If they pass, they go on to an apprenticeship with companies such as Wilderness Safaris (whom we partner with in Africa). They will spend three years as a trainee under the tutelage of a professional walking guide. In addition, there are several milestones they must hit that their mentor must sign off on.
After three years of hands-on, experiential training, there’s a panel interview. The trainee is questioned on breadth of knowledge, experience in the bush, safety procedures, and must display practical skills, as well. Even for guides who will not be involved with hunting, there is a firearms exam to test proficiency with the rifle that guides are required to carry on game drives and bush walks for safety.
After all of that, the ultimate test is still yet to come—a seven-day “mock” safari. For this final examination, the trainee guide sets up and runs his/her own tented camp safari with “guests” from the ZPWMA and ZPHGA judging on a range or criteria including hosting, safety, knowledge of wildlife and botany, bushcraft, and many other details. If the mock safari is successful, the trainee then becomes a fully-licensed safari guide in Zimbabwe…finally!
However, just because a guide may be well-trained and incredibly knowledgeable, does not mean they are a great guide. Our partners also require a certain personality to be considered for their lodges and camps. Some things are pretty basic, such as having a guest-centric attitude, patience for tracking, and a good understanding for dangerous game behavior. Being a people person and not being a risk-taker are also incredibly important. Other traits, such as an appreciation for lighting and vehicle positioning for photography is a bit less quantifiable, and as a guest, you may not even realize that thought goes into details like that. It’s also vital for guides to be good storytellers. During game drives and at sundowners, or at times between animal sightings, guides will often regale guests with stories about funny animal behavior, incredible wildlife moments, and their own background. A vivid and animated storyteller is much more memorable and entertaining than a dull one!
Interested in experiencing how great these guides really are? Learn more about our Zimbabwe safaris.