Running, jumping and very little standing still. An overview of Safari Guide of the Year 2021.

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"Cherish times like these. They are very special and the opportunity for guides to compete for themselves does not come around very often. Make this a week to remember and one that you can look back on in years to come as a very special time where knowledge was shared and bonds were formed. Just be you." Mike Karantonis, Co-Owner at Africa Direct and founder of Safari Guide of the Year.

 

 

COVID-19 stopped this event from taking place in 2020. But despite all the adversity, the coordinating team was able to put together a spectacular event that made all those involved proud to be a part of SGOTY 2021. Thanks to all concerned behind the scenes, especially the NJ MORE Field Guide College team for once again stepping up to the plate and providing such a special venue. This event set the benchmark for the competition and it will be spoken about for years to come.

 

 

When THIS is the backdrop to an event of this nature, then it is no wonder why this venue is such a special one. The Western range or the Waterberg mountains are truly a sight to behold in the fading afternoon light. I was able to do an evening cruise with some of the judges and past winners on board. A great way to get to hear stories and share experiences.

 

 

Early morning at the NJ MORE Field Guide College. Everyone had to be up almost before sunrise as there was coffee to be enjoyed and rusks to be eaten before heading off with the finalists to undertake the morning activity, which was either a game drive or a bushwalk. The latter leaving slightly later, once the sun had risen. You DON’T want to be trailing in dangerous game territory in the darkness.

 

 

In fact, the moon was still very visible when or game viewer set off… Luckily, although it was chilly, it was not FREEZING cold.

 

 

Clutching his notebook, finalist TJ took his time to make sure that he was certain of the track before putting pen to paper. and giving his answer to the judge that was accompanying him on the exercise. A good tracker can read the signs in the soft sand like I read the newspaper. Tracking skills are some of the hardest to master but the most impressive to share.

 

 

One of two events where all the finalists compete at the same time. Safe weapon handling is an important aspect of this competition. All the participants had to take part in several rounds of shooting, and unlike most competitive shooting events, all the shooting was done from the standing position. The rationale being that if there are dangerous game incidents in the bush, guides will not have the time to lie or kneel, but would have to deal with it from an upright position. Seeing all these elements were static, there had to be one round that tested their capability to perform under increases heart rate and stress…

 

 

And THAT event is called Hayley’s Hop. Contestants have to run to a target and back to the firing line. They then have to fire at targets set at different distances and then repeat. Tiring, but a good test of insurance and accuracy. This was Wayne, from the Eastern Cape, completing his Hop.

 

 

Making certain that the target can be hit consistently and competently is important.

 

 

Always on the lookout for something interesting. This Solefuge was discovered on the shooting range and became the centre of attention while the targets were being replaced.

 

 

Bird calls and slides. Judge Juan telling the finalists how this particular event would be conducted. 60 bird slides and 60 calls to identify. Not an easy task, even for the most ardent of birders.

 

 

“What could that be”? is what the body language of finalist Civilized seems to be saying. But I might be wrong.

 

 

A rather unusual sight and a first for me… This is a Yellow-bellied eremomela. A species that I thought had been ‘invented’ specifically for Safari Guide of the Year!

 

 

 

Out on a morning drive. Although always on the lookout for the larger species, often there is a surprise just around the next corner…

 

 

In this case, the surprise was a Bat-eared Fox. Just one of many that we saw while out on drives. They seem to thrive in this area and we spotted them alone, in pairs and, in one case 3  feeding together.

 

 

A trails walk is designed to show guests the smaller inhabitants of the bush. Some things that might be missed while in a vehicle. It is not about distance covered, it is all about the experience while on foot in an area where there is the potential for an encounter with dangerous game species.

 

 

We came across this rhino rubbing post that contained both mud and the remnants of ticks.

 

 

This area is well-known for stunning sunsets…

 

 

And what could be better than falling asleep under the Southern African sky with the Milky Way being so prominent.

 

 

The aims of FGASA.
  • 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.

 

 

Stay tuned for the updates over the next few weeks as we lead up to the Awards Event to reveal all the category winners as well as who will be crowned as Safari Guide of the Year 2021.