phillip wessels

Meet Our Captain – Lead Trainer Phillip Wessels

With over 20 years of guiding experience, our Lead Trainer Phillip Wessels is the perfect mentor for our students.

We chatted to him about his work, his passions, and more…

We know that you have a wealth of experience in guiding. How did your passion for nature begin?

I grew up on a farm, and was always running around barefoot, helping with horses and cattle. This is where my love for nature and animals started. My parents were both from Zambia so we spent a lot of time in there, and we also went to the Kruger National Park three or four times a month, as my father loved it there. A love for wildlife was instilled in us from both my parents from a young age.

What led you to become a field guide?

I never really thought about becoming  a guide because I always wanted to be in the military. But then one day a couple’s vehicle broke down on the highway close to our farm. The man happened to be a guide, and he asked me what I wanted to do, and if I would consider guiding. After our conversation, I was invited for an interview, got the job as a Trainee Ranger, and that is where my career took off.

What is your favourite part of training future guides, and why?

I get to see people grow from having no knowledge about nature, the environment and animals, to becoming potential guides. I also get to build a solid foundation for them at the start of their careers.

You have a passion for walking safaris. What is it about this experience that you love?

Freedom, peace and tranquillity. There is no better way of getting in touch with nature than doing a walking trail. Knowing anything can happen at any time, or nothing at all… It’s the adrenaline of being ready for the unexpected.

In your 20 years in the field guiding profession, what is the most valuable lesson that you have learned?

Trust your gut and get in touch with the sixth sense that grows within you every day while out in the bush, stay humble, and above all, safety always comes first.

What advice do you always give students while they are training with you?

Study hard. Have an open mind, and a good sense of humour. And just trust me – there is method in my madness!

In your opinion, what makes a good field guide? What qualities would he/she embody?

They must have integrity, and be humble, trustworthy, dependable and accountable for all their actions and decisions. Lastly they must have great people skills. It does not help if you say that you love animals, but you cannot work with people.

What life lessons has field guiding taught you?

Hard work is everything. You as a guide or a trainer have the opportunity to change a person’s life through that what you do. So, do what you do with passion and remember that it could possibly be that person’s first, or the only safari they will ever go on.

What is the most challenging experience you have had while guiding guests?

Dealing with expectations that can sometimes be very unrealistic.

What sets NJ MORE apart from other field guide training facilities?

Everything from the passion, love and care that is put into this place from Arin, my dear wife, who manages the camp, and makes sure every single thing is in order, to the staff members who treat every student with respect and as a family member, to the trainers that put all their effort into laying strong foundations for up and coming young guides.

What is your advice to a young person trying to get into the guiding game?

Work hard. You must love not only nature and wildlife, but also working with people. Long hours and hard work is what you will be walking into when becoming a guide. But the great news is that guiding has become a profession. Come to NJ MORE Field Guide College and allow us to assist you in changing your life and making your dream of becoming a guide a reality.

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NJ MORE Field Guide College student Jasmin Stäheli managed to capture this beautiful picture of two hippos surfacing at Fish Eagle Dam at just the right moment.

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You'll often see Kudu out on the reserve, but it's always a special treat when a Gemsbok makes an appearance, as it is one of the rarer antelope species we see at Marataba

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Enjoy the freedom of the bush and gain invaluable knowledge of the natural world with our 60-Day Apprentice Field Guide Course. We're offering 20% off our July intake to the first 4 people who apply, so book your spot now! T&Cs apply. The course starts on the 10th of July.
Email to make a booking.

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Nothing quite compares to an orange-hued African sunset...

📸 : Field Guide Student Jasmin Stäheli

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A letter to the editor of the Sunday Times ZA, by Robert More.

"There is a limit. A limit to how long businesses that have had no revenue and people who have had no income for 80 days of lockdown can survive.

That statement, made by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announcing adjustments to the Level 3 lockdown, brought a small, but short-lived sigh of relief from the Tourism Sector; hope that sense would prevail and amended regulations would pave the way for a meaningful reopening so that businesses and jobs could be saved.

This pandemic, which has seen a global health and economic crisis of ever-increasing proportion, has hit Tourism especially hard. One of the first economic sectors, and certainly the one earmarked for reopening last, the Tourism Sector was affected long before the 27 March lockdown date was announced.

Feeling that pain with us have been the communities, associated sectors and informal businesses who rely on an active Tourism Sector for their livelihoods.

At present, the Level 3 regulations allow hotels, lodges, B&Bs, timeshare facilities, resorts and guest houses to host business travellers and remaining tourists, as well as provide accommodation for quarantine and isolation purposes. Travel for leisure purposes has not been allowed explicitly, whether that is across provincial borders or not.

On paper, the accommodation sector seems open, albeit for certain categories of guests only. In reality, many accommodation establishments only serve leisure markets, or a mix of leisure and business. Their survival depends on leisure tourism reopening, and while the gradual reopening of domestic business travel, including inter-provincial business travel, is welcome, it alone will not sustain the thousands of small and large accommodation providers whose businesses are inextricably linked to leisure tourism.

Statistics South Africa indicates that as much as 90% of the domestic accommodation market is leisure, and that 60% of all domestic overnight trips are across provincial borders – in the case of Gauteng, that percentage is higher, 70%. Many accommodation businesses in surrounding provinces rely entirely on Gauteng’s outbound domestic leisure business.

We have seen extraordinary inconsistencies in the gradual reopening of South Africa’s economy. The welcome further relaxing of restrictions on accommodation establishments, as announced by President Ramaphosa, will be well and truly meaningless – yet another inconsistency – if domestic leisure tourists are still barred from travelling, inter-provincial travel remains in lockdown and businesses are unable to trade due to lack of demand.

Travel is happening. Whether it is across provincial borders for business, for study, for funerals or to care for vulnerable family members. These travellers can travel safely because of the stringent health and safety protocols that have been put in place by the tourism and hospitality sector to curb the spread of the pandemic, for all travel. And if these can travel safely, why can’t leisure travellers?

We remain hopeful that, as our regulations are being drafted, our pledge to safeguard our guests and staff through these robust health and safety protocols and the nature of how our Tourism Sector operates will ensure the President’s encouraging announcement will result in the meaningful easing our industry needs right now to survive.

Yours in Tourism,
Robert More
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