Home to the Big 5, diverse ecosystems and an abundance of bird life – among its many treasures – a visit to Kruger National Park is a bucket list destination for both local and international visitors, and rightly so. Covering an expanse of some 20 000 square kilometres, it’s a space best navigated with the assistance of a safari guide.
Interestingly, Euromonitor International, a leading provider of global business intelligence, market research data and analysis, lists guided tours as one of the fastest growing travel categories in the world. Guided tours are one of the best ways to learn about places and things from experts who are committed to sharing their intimate knowledge of a topic. As such, it’s a fast and cost-effective way to embrace a new experience.
Going on safari with a knowledgeable guide guarantees an enhanced, more intimate experience and is likely to bring you closer to the animals found in Kruger National Guide. “Safari guides are passionate, they’re informed, they understand Kruger and all its glorious nuances, and they have great stories to share that make the tours so much more intimate, interesting and memorable,” says Anton Gillis, Kruger Gate Hotel CEO.
In fact, Gillis says there are a number of reasons why a guided safari tour in Kruger National Park is a must-do for visitors.
In on the secrets
A safari guide is a connection between the visitor and the finest Kruger Park sightings. They’re there to bring the magnificence of the landscape, the animals, the birds and the flora to life.
“Most safari guides are very eager to share their knowledge and insights, and enhance the visitor experience in that way. Don’t shy away from asking them questions – the more you ask the more Kruger comes to life,” Gillis shares.
Interesting questions to ask a safari guide are around the daily routines of the animals, what one is likely to see on a night safari versus a day safari, and in what way seasonal changes impact the movement of the animals. Many safari guides know exactly where to find the best
Kruger Park sightings and will also have insightful views on topics like conservation and changing weather patterns, and almost all of them have fascinating stories about (close) encounters with the animals.
The greater good
The safari industry in South Africa is an important economic enabler that creates employment opportunities for hundreds of people from the local communities surrounding Kruger National Park. As with any economic opportunity, employment in the safari industry has a knock-on effect, supporting not only those directly engaged but also sustaining the livelihoods of their families.
What’s more, many safari guides are skilled professionals with dynamic skill sets and in-depth knowledge of the bush. They also understand Kruger National Park weather patterns and will make recommendations that account for the guest’s comfort in that regard too.
“A guided safari is about so much more than driving tourists and pointing to the odd giraffe or buck. They understand the park’s ecosystem and the nuances within. They have a wealth of knowledge that ensures that our guests not only witness extraordinary wildlife sightings but also gain insights into the intricate web of life that makes Kruger National Park such a captivating destination,” says Gillis.
Opting to experience Kruger National Park with a safari guide is a way of showing an appreciation for the passion, experience and expertise of not just an individual guide but indeed an industry of safari guides who, beyond sharing their knowledge of paradise with visitors, also contribute to conservation efforts and research undertakings that are crucial to maintaining the status of Kruger as a world-class wildlife destination.
Elvis Gazide is one of Kruger Gate Hotel’s most experienced guides, with a keen understanding of what makes for a great safari experience. “Guiding is my passion. Bringing the bush to life for people is what I love doing and it is what allows me to support my family. It’s also great to witness somebody seeing wildlife up close for the first time.”
Personalisation is all the rage, and definitely also possible on a guided safari tour. A seasoned safari guide can curate an experience to match the client’s interests and preferences.
Whether it’s nature photography you’re into or keen to learn more about the birds of Kruger National Park, or if it’s the rees that interest you, a safari guide can help ensure a more intimate encounter with these interests.
In fact, Enock Mkansi says curating a personalised experience for guests around their interest is one of his favourite things about working as a guide at Kruger Gate Hotel. “I love it when I can make the guest’s experience more special by showing them more of what they are personally interested in. My job also allows me to share my knowledge and understanding of Kruger National Park with others. It’s such a special place and it’s great when guests get to see that too,” he says.
What’s more, for those keen to do a self-drive safari, a guided safari is a great way to “acclimate” to Kruger National Park before taking on the thrill of doing it yourself, at your own pace. “One could view a guided safari as a ‘short course’ on how to best go about your safari, taking the lead from those who do it every day,” Gillis says.