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By Shona 06 February 2018

If you have ever met a die-hard safari-goer, you’ll know they are more like groupies than opportunistic travellers. They understand that a knowledgeable, charismatic and personable guide can turn a good safari into a story of a lifetime – which they will cherish and retell for the rest of their lives. If the building is the body of a lodge, it’s the guide that makes up the heart and soul.

As a company specialising in Safari Africa, we have very high expectations of our ‘bush protectors’. It may be the end of the watch for safari greats, such as Norman Carr and Robin Pope; however, the changing of the guard does not mean their legacy will be forgotten – quite the opposite. Over the last few years, we’ve kept our eye on a few emerging guides that we think will become heavyweights in the safari industry. Now, as we head further into 2018, we thought we'd list our Top 5 new safari guides and where you can find them (other than walking through the bush, of course).

Kane Motswana – Selinda Adventure Trail, Linyanti, Botswana

Kane Motswana grew up in a remote village in northern Botswana, where he and his parents lived a nomadic lifestyle moving from place to place in search of game and wild fruits. Over the years, Kane developed his knowledge of the land, and today he combines his guide training with traditional and ancestral skills – his tracking approach borders the spiritual. Armed with a knowledge of the Botswanan bush that has been accumulated and passed down by the Basarwa people for thousands of years, Kane is as experienced as he is passionate, making him one of the best guides in Botswana’s northern territory.

As Kane has just started to lead the Great Plains Selinda Adventure Trail, guests are guaranteed a holiday with some seriously good wildlife encounters. The trip consists of days spent spotting wildlife in the predator-rich Linyanti Reserve and nights spent eating under the stars and sleeping in impromptu fly camps, all the while being entertained by Kane (ask him to do his animal calls – he isn’t called ‘Dr Dolittle of the Bush’ for nothing).

Don Heyneke – Londolozi, Sabi Sands, South Africa

Don Heyneke’s prowess as a guide stems from his incredible photographer’s eye. Where many will see an animal, point and click, Don’s approach to his photos is almost artistic (just look at his blog posts). Joining the team at Londolozi in 2013, Don has, in a short time, catapulted to the top of the guiding leaderboard as his understanding of where to position the vehicle for the best shots and his willingness to help eager guests has earned him numerous brownie points.

Now with several years of experience guiding guests through the Big Five bush, the South African-born expert knows both the land and its inhabitants – and as Head Guide, Don takes some of the top photographers in the world out to capture that ‘winning shot’. Londolozi has a collection of five exquisite camps, each offering luxurious accommodation, stunning views and access to 34,000 acres of pristine wilderness in northern South Africa. A Yellow Zebra favourite, the Londolozi Tree Camp is highly recommended for phenomenal leopard sightings and superb guiding.

Kangachepe ‘Kanga’ Banda – Robin Pope, Luangwa, Zambia

From mechanic to tea-bearer, trainee to first-rate guide, Kangachepe ‘Kanga’ Banda’s path to becoming a guide may not have been a straight one; however, it has led him to become one of the most popular and in-demand guides in the country.

Kanga originally started as an automotive mechanic in the Luangwa Valley yet spent every spare moment studying and exploring the Zambian bush. When he passed the famously tough South Luangwa guide exams and took over from the iconic Deb Tittle, who set the exams, Kanga had a lot to live up to. Now a well-seasoned guide for Robin Pope, Kanga is responsible for the award-winning Mobile Walking Safaris, one of safari’s best wilderness experiences.

The mobile camp, which accommodates a maximum of six people on safari for five nights, moves around the game-rich River Mupamadzi and offers the perfect immersive walking safari, with Kanga at the helm.

Andrew ‘Moli’ Molinaro – Kichaka Camp, Ruaha, Tanzania

In 2005, Andrew Molinaro walked well over 4,000km – a distance greater than walking from Nairobi to Cape Town. Though called many things, such as ‘Tanzania’s Crocodile Dundee’, ‘a walking encyclopaedia’ or simply ‘Moli’, above all Andrew should certainly be named an aficionado of walking safaris.

He may have been born in the U.K., but Andrew has made his home in the wilds of south Tanzania, where he splits his time between conducting the ultimate no-frills walking experience and teaching other guides around the country. Three years ago, Andrew and his partner Noelle set up Kichaka, an exclusive-use camp dedicated to offering an authentic safari in Ruaha National Park – the likes of which are very hard to find.

A typical day at Kichaka starts at the crack of dawn over a light breakfast. Guests then head out on foot with Andrew for the next few hours, stalking animals such as elephants, identifying birds, bugs, trees and plants, and most importantly learning how all these individual pieces fit into and work within the ecosystem of Ruaha.

Phil Jeffery– Musekese Camp, Kafue, Zambia

This is a love story – one between two men and a very remote area in Zambia’s Kafue National Park. Setting up the seasonal camp Musekese in 2015, Phil Jeffery and Tyrone McKeith made their mark on the safari industry, a mark that has earned them recognition as first-rate guides and camp-owners. Their passion and love of Kafue and Zambia is infectious, and evident in their time spent helping with wildlife conservation projects as Honorary Zambian Wildlife Police Officers.

Born in Zimbabwe and bred in the Luangwa Valley, Phil has made the bush his home, in particular an untouched region in Kafue nicknamed ‘Eden’, which guests can visit during their stay at Musekese. Situated in a very remote part of the park, Musekese is for people who are serious about their safaris. Less about the accommodation and much more about the activities available and the movement of the wildlife, a stay here involves being taken out by either Phil or Tyrone to explore the area, which they genuinely know like the back of their hand.

In 2007, Yellow Zebra founder Julian Carter-Manning met Phil in Kafue – and ten years on, Phil’s still there doing what he loves.

If you’d like more information on planning a walking safari to Africa, feel free to call us on 020 8547 2305 or send us an email at [email protected] Alternatively, take a look at the lodges below where you'll be able to encounter our top guides:

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