Safari Guide of the Year 2022. The judging panel.

Since 2011 year, FGASA along with Africa Direct, has been hosting the Safari Guide of the Year, giving recognition to the Best of the Best in the safari guiding industry in South Africa. Here are all the winners from Safari Guide of the Year 2022.





The judging panel for Safari Guide of the Year 2022.




We are so proud to power this prestigious event that has been running since 2011. It means we continue to support all our guides that dedicate their lives to this exciting career, even during the toughest of times. SGOTY 2022 is all about FGASA guides, professionalism, and recognition for their contribution to tourism.

I believe that this event is not only important for the local guiding industry but for safari guests both local and international. This event captures the essence of what FGASA represents.

FGASA has set the highest standards for guiding in Southern Africa and every person involved in this event is an outstanding example of industry standards and professional guiding at its best. This event acknowledges the guiding industry and it showcases the FGASA standards and levels of professionalism.

Our guests and sponsors from around the world and locally benefit when they get to experience the event with the finalists and judges that have thousands of hours in the field.

We welcome Gawie Grobler to the Judging Panel this year. Gawie was one of the finalists in the inaugural event in 2011 and as such brings a unique perspective to the 2022 event. The panel brings almost 100 years of experience and expertise to the event. What a privilege it is to have them with us this year.

My advice to the finalists… Be authentic and true to who you are. Be natural, immerse yourself into the SGOTY experience, and share in the knowledge the wonderful group of people is willing to impart.




Mike shared some of his thoughts on the event that he was instrumental in starting back in 2011.

“For me, it is seeing the camaraderie amongst the guides who come from different lodges. One of the things that the contestants are most concerned about is how will they all get along, but by the end of the week close bonds have been formed. SGOTY has become the personification of what I had in my head when I started this competition, which was to unite guides and give something back. And this is what has happened at the end of every year so far. The contestants look united, look happy and it is all for them. Goal achieved”.

What am I looking for in the finalists? Humble competence. The industry has the potential to produce guides who have a lot of knowledge but can come across as cowboys. Overconfident with years of knowledge and stories to share constantly are not traits that endear these guides to guests. To be remembered, guides need to allow their guests to discover their depth of knowledge and passion in their own time. Being humble is a great trait that shows a touch of class.

My advice to the finalists? Enjoy the opportunity to be around like-minded people as this is not an event that happens to everybody every day or every year, so focus on what is in front of you at the time and don’t stress about what categories you still have to compete in.

Like a good game drive, the wildlife set the tone and it is up to each guide to interpret what presents itself. So let the competition unfold for you, no matter what event it is.




Many will recognize James from his stint as a presenter on 50/50 and his bush knowledge is second to none.

The winner of the competition is not necessarily particularly good in one aspect of guiding only, but rather competent in all of the different categories of the competition. We look at overall guiding ability and how the individuals present themselves.

For instance, in the guiding context, the term hospitality refers to a guide’s soft skills, which are as important as his/her bush skills. Examples of this are friendliness, politeness, patience, presentably, and good communication skills.

My advice to the finalists? First and foremost, not to arrive thinking that the environment is competitive, but rather to understand that the contestants are all like-minded people with different strengths, personalities, and guiding styles. Ultimately this leads to an exchange of knowledge, rather than competing against each other.

For me, the best memories are made by the people and the places. The time spent with the participants in beautiful conservation areas, and not so much while judging them, but the social aspect the competition brings.

James has said on many occasions “You don’t know that you have been with a good guide…until you have been with a good guide”. He hopes that the finalists will be the epitome of that quote.




Juan is a man of few words but a judge that brings an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise to the panel.

“I look for a Guide that reads their guest and opens up nature to them in a way that is a memorable experience. The Safari Guide of the Year is a chance to let like-minded Field Guides together to learn from each other and reflect on the skills and professionalism of Field Guiding”.




With more than 50 years of experience, it is a privilege to welcome back Lucas Mathonsi to the SGOTY judging panel this year. Lucas received his Master Tracker qualification while working at Lion Sands before returning to work with fellow Master Trackers Juan Pinto and Jonas Mhula at Royal Malewane in 2019. Lucas will be focussing his expertise on the track and sign portion of the competition.




Last year Gawie was the venue host for the event. This year sees him on the judging panel. As a contestant in 2011, he understands what the finalists this year will experience and will therefore bring a unique perspective to his input into the panel.

The finalists already have a broad knowledge base and strong skills set across ALL the categories. A safari guide that has exceptional professional conduct is also well presented and charismatic, a leader and a team player. I will be looking for someone who is an ambassador for our field guiding industry with great personal skills, hospitality, and originality.

What can the finalists do prior to the event? Do your research on where the competition is to be held and understand what each category entails so there are no surprises Don’t be distracted too much by the hype of being involved in the best event of the guiding industry. Identify your weaknesses. You know what they are. If it’s bird calls practice, practice, practice. If it’s shooting get to the shooting range. With the storytelling make sure it’s your own story or a personal experience. One that will keep the guests engaged. Believe in yourself and your abilities. To have come this far is a huge accolade.

Making a great gin and tonic is key essential! Knowing your etiquette and how to make conversation over the dinner table and tell a great story. No excuse, be the complete guide! Presentation is key. Knowing how to set up a magical moment for sundowners in the bush and the little touches are what it’s about for a guest’s experience. Never lose your enthusiasm or forget that this may be the first time they have seen a lion in the wilderness or tasted biltong!

My advice to the finalists? Be proud of your achievement, relish your time at SGOGTY 2022 and remember that the friends that you make here will be friends for life.

Use your experience at the event to give back to our industry and use your accolade to raise the profile of the competition even higher for eco-tourism & wildlife conservation.