A retrospective look the FGASA Safari Guide of the Year 2019.

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“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.” William Burchell (English explorer)

 

Quote from FGASA: “Sadly, due to the current Covid19 impact on Tourism, travel and our guides, we have made the decision to not proceed with the competition in 2020.
We will be celebrating 10 years of the Safari Guide of the Year competition in 2021 and it promises to be the best yet”

 

I decided to take a retrospective look at the 2019 competition and where the finalists currently are.

BUT FIRST…

 

I tracked down the current titleholder, Riaan Fourie, where he was very busy at  Royal Malewane, the lodge where he still works.
Although these questions were about the 2020 nominees, I feel that his answers would still be pertinent seeing that the event has had to be postponed to 2021, due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Travel & Things: What should lodges be looking for when they nominate staff?

Riaan: I feel that the various lodges should take a good look at the depth of talent that
they have working for them and should nominate those who have a well-rounded
knowledge of all aspects of bush skills. 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 experienced any changes personally 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 an acknowledgement
from Royal Malewane, where I work.
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 those skills that gave me the edge in 2019
competition. As guides, we don’t always get to share stories with guests, but when we
do, they should be informative, educational and most of all entertaining. Always leave
them wanting more, 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 how you communicate
that to those with whom you interact.
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: Any final thoughts that you want to share?
Riaan: I would like to thank Royal Malewane and SGOTY 2019 for this awesome opportunity to wear the crown (or should that be bush-hat) with pride. I wish FGASA all the best with their 10 Anniversary event in 2021, knowing that the COVID-19 enforced delay will bring with it guides who have had more time to prepare and the competition will be tougher than ever before.

 

Margaux Mathey. A quadruple winner. Game Drive, Advanced Rifle Handling, Birding AND Runner up for SGOTY 2019.

Where is she now? “I can still be found working at Singita. My Singita family has been incredibly supportive since SGOTY 2019 and the competition has changed my personal life for the better with staff from all of our sister properties supporting me”.

 

Very well done to…Rassie Jacobs. The youngest guide in terms of experience walked off with the Originality Creativity Award.

Where is he now? “Rassie is still working at Kapama Private Game Reserve, where he is currently Head Ranger at Kapama Buffalo Camp”. 

 

Julius Mkhize was the proud recipient of the Ambassador Award…

Where is he now?  “It’s frustrating and sad at the same time to be away from the bush, I’ve been home in PE for this lockdown but hope to be returning to work at Samara Private Game Reserve as soon as we are allowed to travel. Luckily I live and work in the same Province, so I don’t have to worry about the travel ban”.

 

Anthony Collett won the Guided Walk and Track and Sign segments of SGOTY 2019

Where is he now? “You know working as a safari guide over so many years, my career has often taken me far away from home and family. Due to the epidemic and our camp being closed for 3 months, I headed back to the Karoo /Eastern Cape to my spiritual home – and this has allowed me to become a resident in my own home!! Once the lockdown has been lifted and the camp reopens, I shall be returning to Tanda Tula.”

 

What, really? Three of the 2019 judges pose to show how transparent the competition was…From L to R: Brian, Quentin and Mike ham it up for my lens.

 

The sun has set on the 2020 competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown that has been enforced. It has NOT stopped preparations being put in place for Safari Guide of the Year 2021!

 

 

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