In this edition of “A day in the life of” we interview Africa tour guide Pierre Duval from Bushbaby Safaris. We find out more about what it takes to be a tour guide and some of the unique experiences that it offers.
Our “A day in the life of” series focus on various travel professionals from around the world. If you work in the travel industry and would like to be featured on Soul Drifters Travel Blog, please get in touch with us at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you!
Africa tour guide from Bushbaby Safari’s
Pierre has been in the tour industry for just under 20 years. Winner of several awards, including the Lilizella KZN Nature guide of the year 2015/ 2016, finalist for 2017 and winner of the iGasp exclusive tour operator award.
How did you get into the tourism industry and why did you become a tour guide?
Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be in the African Bush. It was a lifelong dream to work and live in the wild but circumstances led me to the corporate world, but after 9 years I just decided it was now or never. 18 years later still think it was the best move I ever did.
What kind of tours do you specialize in?
Wildlife is probably what I am know for best but I am also a KZN battlefield guide and I am qualified as a National Nature and Culture guide. There are only a hand full of guides with this qualification.
What are the benefits of hiring a tour guide?
So many to cover in an article but the obvious ones are that you get a full experience and don’t have to spend your holiday doing research to try and figure out what you’re looking at. Guide, good guides at least should be able to put you where the action is. Obviously when it comes to wild animals nobody can guarantee anything, but your chances should be much better.
Which countries do most of your clients come from?
I have a lot of Australian clients, making probably 45% or my guests. The balance comes from all over the world but USA and UK would probably be my next biggest markets.
What has been some of your most memorable moments while being a tour guide?
I think making some of the best friendships anybody could ask for. Both with guests that have become very loyal and tour with me every year or second year, or the staff at lodges which we spend so much time at, these guys become your family away from home. Then seeing the sheer delight and amazement on your guests face as you show them something they never thought they would ever experience.
In February this year I had guests in Tanzania and we made a point of getting away from main stream tourist spots while visiting the Serengeti. We were rewarded with a female cheetah along with her 5 sub-adult cubs. At one stage we have one on our bonnet and one on the spare tyres at the back of the land cruiser, while the others had a game of tag around our vehicle. You cannot ever hope to experience a better cheetah sighting than that. Best part was that we sat with them for well over an hour without seeing a single other vehicle. Africa at its best.
Some of the most rewarding parts of your job?
To show off Africa’s finest destinations to my guests, and get paid while doing it. Don’t tell anybody but I would pay to do this job.
Some of the hardest parts of your job?
We don’t have many difficult/demanding guests but from time to time you do get them and if you’re in a group you need to manage this to not affect the other guest’s experience/enjoyment. While not touring the hardest part of my job is finding my guests.
What area do you cover?
I am very lucky to have guests who are willing to explore new areas with me. So over the years we have expanded the areas we tour in. When we started 18 years ago, we only did South Africa but very quickly open into Southern Africa. It stayed like that for many years and 2012 we decided to look for new areas to tour. This takes a huge amount of research and time and we did our first trip into East Africa in 2014. Since then we have been offering tours throughout Southern and East Africa as well as Madagascar which is truly unique. We are busy exploring Ethiopia and hope to have our first tour running by end of 2018.
Favourite places to visit during your tours?
I love taking my guests off the beaten track. If I can I always choose remote parks where I know there will be a good experience for my guests. On a personal note it always nice to tour areas that you don’t get to very often, that way its keeps things new and exciting for you as the guide and that carries across to the guests and they get caught up in your excitement.
What are people’s biggest misconception about Africa?
That its small and has wild animals everywhere. Also crime, while crime is an issue in the larger centres, I have never locked my door in a game park and have never lost anything in the parks.
Any advise for anyone that would like to become a tour guide in Africa?
Think long and hard. If you don’t have a real passion for it then don’t do it. The pay is not great and the hours are the longest of any industry, but if you’re willing to spend long periods away from home, earn less than your worth and are happy with working 18 hour days, day after day then you probably do have the passion for it. I always say that the day I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning to take people out to explore our wilderness that’s the day I quit and fine another passion. Also keep in mind that while you may have a passion for wildlife, you need to have the passion for people as well as they are the people that will pay you and in turn make or break your business.
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Thank you Pierre for the interview, all the best for your tours and adventures ahead!
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