what is it to be a safari guide?

Who are we as Safari Guides (Rangers)? The dictionary describes us as ‘a person who advises others, especially in matters of behaviour on an expedition to observe animals in their natural habitat.’ This is an extremely broad definition and really doesn’t highlight the expertise and the type of guide I see here at Sabi Sabi. Let’s be honest, it’s not just about khaki, short shorts and people carrying rifles with smiles.

safari rangers at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

Being a guide is a process that highlights your passion, enthusiasm and knowledge to explore this magnificent African Bushveld and to be able to share this with your guests who travel the world to experience this truly magical place. Of course, not just anyone can be a safari guide. It requires a unique set of skills that is not always obvious to the outside observer. Building those skills is no easy task either, and it can take years in the field to develop them fully.

safari rangers at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

As Safari Guides we try to give the whole rounded experience and not just focus on the obvious larger animals such as the ‘Big 5’. Here we try to install the focus on the interactions between species and how to protect the wilderness that we work in and to understand how each of the creatures, from the smallest insects to the largest herbivores, plays a vital role in keeping it healthy. Even when we are out on safari we try to avoid elephant dung scattered along the roads as each of these rather large ‘land mines’ are a self-contained ecosystem, with all manner of insects taking up residence. By driving around them, those ecosystems are allowed to flourish and continue playing their role in the much larger environment of the bush.

safari rangers at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

In my own experience of being a Safari Guide for two and a half years this is not a job but an incredible life experience that I get to share with the most unbelievable guests and my amazing work colleagues. It’s not often where people can say that they wake up with excitement and fuelled with energy to see what is waiting for them at work. How many people can say before they have had breakfast that they have successfully tracked down a pride of lions and witnessed a life changing sighting with guests? I do not think that you can find people who are happier and smile more than a Safari Guide. This is truly a career that can open so many doors for you in life and create magnificent opportunities. If it’s not the team work with one of my best friends/tracker Heavyness, to playing soccer at lunch only to be interrupted by a leopard hunting warthogs to having an ice cold beer with guests as we chat about their lives and what we witnessed out on safari then it’s the experience of learning about new cultures and guest diversity. This is my description of not my job but my passion that allows me to be known as an employed professional.

safari rangers at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

safari rangers at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

“It is always the little things that build up. Often there is no dramatic reason for discontent in life. It seeps in slowly over the years. You don’t even notice it creeping in. It happens, trickle by trickle. You do not realise when or how the easy familiarity gets replaced by a ‘taken-for-granted’ attitude over the years. By the time you do, it is often late. Habits have been formed, patterns have been set. And comfort-zones have been established. A zone that is hard to get out of.”

safari rangers at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

If I can give one piece of advice, always follow your passion and heart and never be led into obstacles and challenges that other people may want you to follow in. This is what I have done and have now achieved my dream that I first had at the age of 7.



  1. annemarie calkins says

    Beautifully said! We were so amazed, enthralled, and in awe of our ranger Richard! His love of what he does shows. The way his enthusiasm guided our days on safari was awesome! There wasn’t anything he didn’t have incredible knowledge of, weather it was insect, bird, plant animal or human! We will never forget our first safari! Thanks Richard and Sabi Sabi!

  2. joy says

    I am fortunate to have done this many times at Sabi Sabi and a few more local reserves. Loved it, would do it every month forever!

  3. amy says


    Wonderful blog! Are you from South Africa? We live in the U.S. and were able to experience a safari a few years ago and now our son (who is currently 15) desperately wants to be a safari guide/ranger! Just was wondering what advice you would give him.


    • steve says

      Hi Amy,

      I am from South Africa. If your son would like to become a guide he should most definitely pursue that passion and come train and do FGASA enabling him to become a guide here in South Africa, you are welcome to contact me directly and maybe i will be able to help you further.



  4. vanessa says

    Just looking into safari’s and reading the post – just beautifully written from the heart and then the comments. I have to bring that goal forward!!
    Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *