Being Safari Guide Of The Year 2019 has certainly kept the winner, Riaan Fourie, very busy at Royal Malewane, the lodge at which he is currently employed. Travel & Things, was involved in the 2019 competition and will once again be a media partner in 2020, discovered that tracking him down was not easy and finding time for a chat, well it would have been easier to find a Pangolin while on a game drive. But, eventually, he was able to take some time off to answer a few questions about his reign that will come to an end in June 2020.
Travel & Things: On what basis do you believe that the guides should be nominated? Is it for a single skill or should they be well rounded and a good ambassador for both the industry and the lodge that they are working at when the nomination takes place?
Riaan: I feel that the various lodges should take a good look at the depth of talent that they have working for them and nominate those who have a well-rounded knowledge not only all aspects of bush skills but also interaction with both guests, their colleagues and management. It pays in the long run as the guides feel appreciated and the properties get exposure on a variety of platforms.
Travel & Things: Have you seen any changes in your schedule in the months since you won the title in 2019?
Riaan: (Laughing) Not really. I still have to get up at the crack of dawn to get visitors out on game drives. But it has given me a confidence boost as well as being acknowledged by Royal Malewane, where I currently guide.
Quote: “My job involves doing something that I am passionate about. I don’t think there are many people who can get up in the morning and truly say that they are excited about going to work.” – Riaan Fourie
Travel & Things: If you were to offer potential nominees any advice, what would that be?
Riaan: Practice, practice, practice. And I don’t just mean your technical skills. I include storytelling as well. I believe it was that particular skill that gave me the edge in the 2019 competition. As guides, we don’t always get to share stories with guests, but when we do, we should be informative, educational and most of all, entertaining. Always leave them wanting more, as it is not the duty of the field guide to be the centre of attention for an entire evening.
Travel & Things: What do you suggest that the nominees do not do?
Riaan: Don’t try to be something that you are not! Humility and being yourself goes a long way. It is not about impressing the judges with your knowledge, but more about what sort of person you are. How you interpret what you see and communicate that knowledge to those that you interact with. Remember that during the competition you have the lives of the judges as well as the media to be concerned about on walks as well as drives. Not only are you representing yourself and your lodge, but you are also FGASA ambassadors, and should act accordingly.
Travel & Things: The nominations have closed for 2020, what would you say to those field guides who were not nominated or who did not make it through to the final 5?
Riaan: Don’t give up! Just because you were not nominated or did not make it through the selection process, does not mean that you should give up on the industry or your capabilities. It just offers new opportunities to be better and perhaps undertake new FGASA courses. Look for the positives, which can be hard and focus on those aspects going forward in your career.
Travel & Things: Any final thoughts that you want to share?
Riaan: I look forward to spending time with the 2020 finalists and I would like to thank Royal Malewane and SGOTY 2019 for the awesome opportunity to wear the crown (or should that be bush-hat) with pride. I wish FGASA all the best for this year’s event, with the knowledge that each year the nominees are better qualified and the competition gets tougher.