In a largely male dominated industry, Marataba’s guiding team stands out amongst the crowd. Of our 12 guides (including junior guides from NJ MORE Field Guide College) six are women – an unusual and progressive roster.
Like most outdoor professions, field guide roles are predominately held by men. ‘Back then’, in its nascence, safari was a truly rugged and remote endeavor, which attracted a certain type of person to the role. But safari today has changed. Just like in other jobs across industries, women are given the opportunity to pursue their passion as a career. In fact, women are just as likely to be passionate about nature and wildlife. There are more and more female guides entering the industry and rising to the top, working at some of the premier safari lodges across Africa.
There are certain perceptions of women working as guides, e.g. they are less capable of some of the physical tasks, like lifting heavy luggage; changing a tyre; off-road driving; dealing with dangerous animals; and handling a firearm. While women may be at a slight disadvantage with some of the physically strenuous tasks, these are only a small component of the job. Women can do all of the above, but these are not what make a guide great. The most important aspects to exceptional guiding are knowledge, situational awareness, and people skills – qualities men and women can equally possess.
No doubt guiding is a hard job. It’s long hours, which involve a lot of mental and physical work, in remote environments, away from family. Guiding is a ‘passion job’ and if women have the passion, they are just as likely to excel. In fact, I’ve heard people say that women may actually make better guides as a result of having to work harder to prove themselves and overcome stereotypes. Women also tend to have good social awareness, or a sensitivity to how others are feeling. This is key for creating an experience. Safari is about so much more than ‘seeing wild animals’ – its about being immersed in and inspired by nature.
But I’ve spent time with many different guides, from all backgrounds, and have to say that exceptional guiding really has nothing to do with gender. There is no doubt these gals are tough; they can lead a walk in Big Five territory and change a tyre with as the best of them.
Words and photos by: Charlotte Arthun