A Day in the Life of a Safari Guide
Many people are under the impression that safari guides lead a charmed and romantic existence, never actually doing a day’s work in their lives. After almost a decade spent guiding safaris in Africa, I can tell you that this is not always the case. Allow me to debunk this ridiculous misconception with a quick glimpse into a day in the life of a safari guide!
04:30 AM – Beep-beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep-beep! As I reach over to silence the awful alarm buzzer, I catch a glimpse of the numbers on the clock… 04:30 – you must be kidding me?! Why do I do this again? Oh yes, to enjoy the splendour of nature before the sun has had a chance to destroy the feel of the crisp morning air… and also because the lions will most probably be asleep before breakfast time! You always have to look neat and tidy in this game, so a bleary-eyed shave is a must before heading up to the lodge.
05:00 AM – Knock-knock-knock, this is your wake up call! “How do you sound so friendly at that time of the morning?”, my guests will ask later. The answer is, because I am a brilliant actor and completely running on auto-pilot! Time to load the rifle, fold the blankets and fill the hot water bottles before parking my trusty Land Rover in front of the lodge.
05:30 AM – Tea or coffee, anyone? I am greeted with a momentary blank stare from my guests before they snap into action. The warm liquid and caffeine slowly bring us all back to life as we listen to the sound of lions roaring off in the distance. Coffee should be called “the guide’s elixir”. How did I ever live without it?, I wonder to myself.
06:00 AM – By this time, everyone is thoroughly excited to be getting down to business. This is safari. This is the real deal. Once everyone is seated in the vehicle, we head off in the direction of the roaring lions. I usually prefer to focus on finding the big cats early in the morning. They are often still active at this time and this is when we tend to have the most interesting sightings. It is not long before my tracker, sitting on the front of the vehicle, picks up the tracks. We follow quickly and instinctively. Sometimes he gets off the vehicle alone, to follow the tracks through the bush, armed with only a machete. When we sense we are close, I join him with the rifle. An antelope’s alarm call and the flick of a tail in the grass gives the lioness away. We only see one, but we know they are all there. After going back to fetch the vehicle with our guests on board, we spend the best part of an hour watching the pride head down to the waterhole for a drink. Simply magnificent.
08:00 AM – Time for a quick cup of coffee out in the bush – but the catch is that we usually spike the coffee with Amarula. This liquor is similar to Bailey’s and is made from a fruit loved by elephants. I wish I could join the guests, but I’m driving us home!
09:00 AM – Back at the lodge, it’s now time to refuel with a full and hearty breakfast. Eggs Benedict never seems to get tired.
10:30 AM – Once everyone has changed into their hiking boots, we decide to head out for a morning bush walk. This is a great chance to focus on the finer details of the bush. We take the time to learn about the medicinal uses of some plants, examine some creepy crawlies, and find out the difference between a rhinoceros track and an elephant track in the dust. I’ve always said that the game drives are like watching a movie and the bush walks are more like reading a book.
12:00 PM – Nobody wants to spend their entire lives working and sleeping, so this is when I try to hit the gym, go for a run, download some photos and charge camera batteries. Often I will have to head over to the airstrip to pick up guests or drop them off. Every now and then the vehicle breaks down and needs to be fixed and filled with fuel. Only on the very rare occasion do guides ever get to catch a few zzzzz’s. Sometimes exhaustion takes over and I may sleep more during the day than I do at night!
15:30 PM – I head back up to the lodge for afternoon tea. Chasing birds and monkeys away from the tea stand takes up most of my time. The chocolate brownies catch my eye. I give in. I feel guilty, but only a little.
16:00 PM – The afternoon safari usually gets off to a slightly slower start. It is still warm at this time and many of the animals are still seeking shade under trees and bushes. This is when I like to focus on the bigger animals. Giraffe, zebra and antelope stroll across the plains, whilst elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo can often be found having their daily mudbaths. When the sun dips below the horizon, we stop to admire the incredible view. We savour gin and tonics as the day draws its last breath. On our way home, out comes the spotlight and we spend an hour or so searching for the creatures of the night. Hyenas, civets, genets and porcupines are just some of the animals on our list.
20:00 PM – Dinner time, and the chef has prepared an almighty feast for my guests and me. I host them at dinner and regale them with some old war stories I have been saving… like the time I wrestled a giant python and saved a damsel in distress from sure death. Who am I kidding? It must be all the wine catching up with me!
22:00 PM – We call it a day and head over to the campfire for a nightcap and some more stories. Some of the guests will carry on drinking until the wee hours of the morning and I will have to stay up with them to escort them back to their rooms and make sure they don’t get eaten. Yaaaaawn. I am absolutely buggered, but I cannot wait to do it all again tomorrow!