When I first came to Marataba Luxury Lodges as a guest, I found this beautiful pamphlet placed in our tented suite with the headline, “Live Your African Dream”. It had always been an ambition of mine to become a guide, and at the time I was thinking of leaving the corporate world. Our Field Guide, Hein Myers, painted an exciting picture of what the life of a guide entailed, and I was hooked.
My first few weeks at NJ MORE were filled with many different emotions. I was nervous and also a little shy, but those feelings were mostly overridden by my excitement. My eyes had been opened up to a whole new world and I remember feeling like the luckiest person alive.
In the beginning, I didn’t really know much about the bush so I had a lot to learn. This learning never stops, and to this day I am still learning new things.
A typical day at the college would be waking up early, and if you were on duty for the day you would be in a little earlier than the rest, making sure the vehicle checks were done, coffee was ready and wake up calls were actioned.
Once everyone had gathered, we would depart on a morning game drive. This is where the magic would happen! Our instructors would teach us different things about our environment, like what trees were in the area and what birdlife we might spot. They also would track animals for us to learn about.
It was all like creating art to me, with every day presenting itself like a blank canvas. After morning drives we would return to the lecture room, where we would tackle all our FGASA learning modules. The classroom was a fun environment where we could broaden our knowledge of everything around us.
After that we would break for scrumptious breakfasts and lunches, then it was back to the books until it was time to head out for the second drive of the day. Going from learning all of the theory to applying it practically out on the reserve was the perfect formula for success.
As you progress through the 6 months, you complete everything needed to be a qualified Field Guide. I particularly enjoyed the Advanced Rifle Handling course – even though it was nerve-wracking learning to shoot a .375 or .458 caliber rifle! It was a new skill that I felt proud to have acquired. I loved the discipline needed as well as the rush that came with it.
On a different and ‘softer’ note, I also took a liking to learning about the smaller creatures, and butterflies and moths became an obsession of mine.
Graduation day was a big moment for me and for every one of my team members, who I considered to be my bush family by then. We were now officially qualified, and all our hard work had finally paid off.
It was then time to see which lodges we would be placed at for a further 6 months of practical training, and the stars aligned to make Marataba my new home!
The placement programme was no walk in the park. We now had to learn how to take all of the knowledge we had gained and turn it into the perfect guest experience. We would shadow on drives with seasoned guides, and I instantly fell in love with guiding!
During your placement, you get an inside look at how a lodge fully operates. You see the challenges faced and solutions needed for everything to work as one well-oiled machine. This encompassed everything from housekeeping to maintenance, to the kitchen and butler services. Everyone works in harmony to create something a guest will never forget.
You work hard and you have to prove yourself, but in those 6 months you shape yourself into the kind of guide you wish to be. This is all done with the support of the instructors at the college and those around you at the lodge. I can’t express enough how valuable those 6 months are.
I have now been a Senior Guide at Marataba for almost 4 years. I’m a mentor to the new students coming in, and I’ve achieved my NQF4 (FGASA Level 2) and my full Trails qualifications during my time here.
I am living proof that if you do what makes you happy, anything is possible. I encourage anyone who has a passion for the bush to take a leap of faith and truly live your African dream!
Words & image: Senior Field Guide Kim le Hanie