Taking a safari is one of the most exciting and memorable activities you can ever do. The thrill of seeing one of the big five is an emotion that one can never forget in east Africa you can take a guided safari with a trained safari guide. These guided safaris can either be a drive through a national park or a game reserve or even guided hikes or horse rides.
While a guided African safari may sound the safest option for the new safari goer there are some questions you should ask be asking before you book your trip:
- Does the guide possess a qualification or certification?
There are many different institutions that provide training and certifications for guides. One example would be the USAGA of Uganda whereby other companies train field guides to be able to pass the USAGA exams. Simply asking if the guides taking you are USAGA certified helps you understand if they have the necessary knowledge to safely take you on a game drive.
- Putting the qualification aside, how many years has the guide been working?
Often experience counts more than qualifications but having both would not hurt. The longer the safari guide has been at a company the more experience the guide should have. When it comes to safari guides, experience is the best requirement for a wonderful and memorable trip.
- Will there be more than one guide?
A guided tour will often have more than one guide, if it is a guided walk there could be two guides. On some guided drives there is a safari guide and a tracker on the vehicle to increase sightings of animals. Having two specialist guides can reduce your safety risks greatly. Ask the company how many guides they use and if they say one, ask why?. In most cases the company can liaise with the rangers at the park to be safe.
- What means of communication do the guides have?
If something were to happen on your guided safari how would the guides (or you) contact someone for assistance? Do the guides just have intermittent cell phone signal or do they have a proper radio communication system between safari vehicles as well as central office where help can be reached? The quicker help can be called the safer you will be in case of a bad situation.
- Is the guide linked to a major company?
Going with a big name, well-known safari company is often more expensive but the bigger companies should have proper communication infrastructure, guides that have passed exams and often will ensure there is a second guide with the safari group; they have a reputation to uphold! If you go for a cheaper option with a smaller company, you might be putting yourself at risk. Then again if you do your research, read reviews and ask the right questions, you may be in better hands even in a smaller, more intimate setting. It is all about doing the right research.