My happy face as I headed to the Waterberg and the NJ MORE Field Guide College, which was the venue, once again, for the Safari Guide of the Year 2021. The 10th anniversary of the event which should have been held in 2020, but we all know how THAT year turned out!
I did stop on the side of the R33 to take this picture and did not attempt to drive AND play the photographer at the same time.
My home for the next 5 nights. Although it was relatively warm during the day, it was bitterly cold at night…even for me. A blanket, duvet AND a sleeping bag were required to keep me warm through the hours of darkness and I have to say that it was REALLY tempting not to get up at 06h00 for those morning assessment walks/drives.
All COVID-19 protocols were observed, including wearing masks even if it was an outdoor event. Took some getting used to wearing a mask for almost all of my waking hours, but I wanted to be safe and at the same time, make certain that I kept the others that were involved safe and healthy as well.
The main building at the college. I have been visiting this college for the past 5 years and I have seen it evolve from how it started to the stunning venue it is today. The building houses the nerve centre of the college, the kitchen, as well as an office and a bedroom for visiting lecturers when there are students on course here. During the SGOTY event, the entire college is turned over to judges, sponsors and a limited number of guests, both local and international.
A view of the rear of the main building in the background with the firepit, lecture room, and recreational area in the foreground. The latter was where the judges, finalists and sponsors spent a lot of after-hour time around the pool table.
It is said that an army marches on its stomach…and the same goes for guides! Given the location of the college, I was constantly amazed by both the quality and diversity of food served at every meal. Not only that, the kitchen staff had to cater for a variety of dietary requirements as well. And judging from the comments that I heard from both vegans and vegetarians alike, those requirements were not only met but were exceeded every time.
But when THIS is your office view, can you really complain? I don’t think so. That being said, this became the backdrop, rather than the focus for the finalists. But still, nothing to complain about.
This was the first drive of the event, not to be assessed, but merely for everyone to get to know each other.
The NJ MORE staff. Many thanks to every one of them for making our stay such a memorable one. Hidden in the middle of this picture is Chef Nicholas, who was able to make magic with food and dietary requirements.
And we cannot forget Gawie and his team. Without these guys, the event would NOT have been the success that it was, albeit delayed for a year. Seeing that the contract was only for two events, we will miss them next year when SGOTY moves to a new venue.
In case you are wondering who are behind the masks… From L to R: Scott (Buffel), Francios, Gawie and Barry.
And what would the event be without the finalists? This was at dinner on the first evening when they each drew for their position when it came to the various events that form part of SGOTY.
From L to R the finalists were: Mike, Civilised, Sean, Wayne and TJ.
One thing that this area does have is spectacular sunsets…and here is one to prove that statement.
Time to gather around the fire for story-telling, one of the most important components of the competition. Some interesting stories were shared around the glowing embers on the cold nights during the competition.
With the Milky Way overhead and the Southern night sky above us, it is time to say both goodnight and goodbye to NJ MORE Field Guide College and thanks for the past two years. I hope that in years to come, there will be finalists who started their guiding careers at this college and who are inspired by those who had gone before them. And that they will, in turn, inspire others to join the professional guiding industry.
- Provide educational opportunities to promote the conservation and rehabilitation of the cultural and natural heritage of southern Africa.
- To maintain and serve a professional association of highly-trained tourist guides, tour operators and hospitality institutes.
- To promote a culture of professional guiding based on a strong ethical, well-informed, safety conscious approach that provides the visitor to southern Africa with a pleasant and memorable experience.
- To fully commit to the development and implementation of the national qualifications, promoting the development of all tourist guides including historically disadvantaged individuals, as a part of the South African transformation process.
- To promote the development of guides through the use of training programmes that conform to high standards of learner development.
- To promote the highest standards of guide assessment by appointing fully qualified and experienced assessors.
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