Tuesday, 8 September 2015

TOP 10 TIPS FOR KENYA’S PROFESSIONAL SAFARI GUIDE



Generally speaking tour guides are perhaps the most vilified people in the travel industry. They could be blamed for any trouble encountered by guests in their company while on tour, such as unpredictable weather, vehicle breakdown, and traffic jams just to cite a few examples. Being present in person before a tourist they are expected to solve all problems of tourist within or outside of their control. Failure to do so is deemed as a poor performance. This is unfair as well as challenging. Tour guides therefore become ‘cushions’ between the tourist, the site visited and the hosting tour company.
 

But why is this so?

Until very recently, in Kenya, there was lack of training opportunities and formal training course for new entrants, which resulted in to variable levels of professionalism, lack of recognition and a poor image of profession. Other challenges include potential problems resulting from unethical industry practices; need for a certification, registration or licensing system; absence of any monitoring of tour guide performance; and more active and visible role to be taken by the local tour guiding association. It is very disheartening to learn Africa’s leading Hospitality and Tourism training institution, Kenya Utalii College, chose to drop Tour Guiding and Administration course! The Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association, an independent non-profit making body and a few other independent commercial colleges are just but a few recognized institutions licensed to provide certification of Safari Driver Guides, Lodge Naturalists and other individuals within the Tourism Sector. The KPSGA’s aim is to provide an effective, inexpensive and voluntary certification process giving awards of Bronze, Silver and Gold standards through an examination process.



There are far more skills and responsibilities to being a tour guide than most people imagine. Good tour guides have to be knowledgeable and resourceful, and they have to know how to communicate efficiently and effectively. They also need to be able to plan and execute logistics in a rapidly changing environment, all the while prepared for medical emergencies and a variety of other problem-solving situations. And in addition to all of this, guides need to have polished social and diplomatic skills. All things considered, few jobs demand the broad spectrum of skills required by a professional guide.

Tour guides must address multiple stake holders simultaneously. Visitors expect that their safety and health will take a high priority, but at the same time expect an enjoyable and rewarding travel experience. Some have special needs and expectations associated with their particular cultural background, their physical and intellectual capabilities, and their passions and interests in particular subject matters.

Employers expect the guide to provide high-quality service to visitors in order to meet these expectations, as well as to manage the group, the itinerary and other logistical aspects of the experience to maximize not only visitor satisfaction but also profit margins.
Tour guides face challenges both from within and from their operating context. Guides may have personal limitations of skills, competences, etc. Externally, they must also subscribe to rules and regulations of their areas of operations, their employers and their clients. The guides are often pressed for time, caught between their obligation to please their employers and the tourists, and subject to strict government regulations.
The role of a tour guide is far more complex than most people think. The spectrum of skills and responsibilities, and the horizon of opportunities, can be a great source of inspiration to the beginning guide if enthusiastically introduced.


One could argue that the single most important aspect of tourism and guiding is knowing your audience. A good, dynamic guide can have knowledge and efficient communication, but if it is not relevant to the audience, the audience is exhausted from rigorous travel or anxious with fears and insecurities, the guiding will be unsuccessful.
Here are a few important elements of an effective guide:
  •   Prepares in Advance
Part of knowing your audience is knowing what kind of a tour package or tour experience they
have purchased. It is always a good idea for a guide to see the promotional material, so that the
guide is aware of the group’s expectations. Good tour companies make sure that their guides are familiar with the promotional materials and any special interests of their groups, though unfortunately this is not always the case.
  •   Gets to know the group upon arrival
Many people travel as part of groups that sell tour packages based on specific interests. Some examples of these might be botanical groups, birdwatchers, historical tours, photographers, conservation groups, hikers, and many, many more.
  • Immediately provides critical information related to safety, comfort & enjoyment
Introductions and briefings are two types of presentations that give a guide the opportunity to set the tone for a tour or an upcoming activity, and to clearly and confidently anticipate questions and insecurities. This will help a guide to establish confidence and leadership with their group. Prepare good detailed briefings so that you anticipate the important questions that guests might have in preparation for an upcoming tour, excursion or event.
  • Speaks loudly and clearly
Guides will develop good posture, good breathing techniques, strong voice projection, and engaging presentation techniques. Guides will show confidence and authority when speaking to groups.
  • Learning Names
It is generally in a guide’s interest to learn the names of their guests, especially on a full day or long safari. On a circuit or multi-day tour, it is essential that guides try to learn the names of their guests as quickly as possible. It creates a more personal connection, and it also helps the guide take notice of individual characteristics and needs.
  • Communicates knowledge and information
People hire guides for the local knowledge and familiarity that visitors can’t easily access. Guides know the areas, the routes, the inside stories, and much, much more that can save a visitor a lot of time and hassle, and enhance the visitor experience. A knowledgeable and resourceful guide can be a valuable asset for a tour company, and for tourists.
But having the knowledge is only half the story; the ability to effectively communicate that knowledge will ultimately determine the success of the guide. Communication skills are highly valued in many professions. Effective communication can be highly persuasive, demonstrate leadership and organization, and give clarity to complex issues.
  • Handling problematic and difficult situations
This is probably the hardest part of a guide’s wide set of responsibilities. From crisis management to inappropriate guest behavior to the delicate presentation of misunderstood issues, a guide is expected to handle the most challenging of situations with unflappable professionalism, confidence and dignity. This calls for good leadership and decision making skills
  • First Aid and Emergency Skills
Guides must at least be aware of the ultimate importance of knowing how to respond in an emergency situation. It is probably the most important responsibility that a guide can have. Unfortunately there are very few national tourism associations, private companies, or guide courses that offer certified first aid and emergency response training for tour guides in an organized manner. Training takes time, and usually the guide is expected to get the training and certification on their own from the local Red Cross, and keep their licenses updated.
  • Exhibit Excellent Working Relationship
As groups of guests come and go, the consistent relationships that a guide develops are often the working relationships that they share with the service-providers at hotels, restaurants, and visitor sites. These are people that guides see repeatedly, and with who they share common goals and problem-solving experiences. Developing and maintaining strong working relationships will lead to more support in times of difficulty, a better atmosphere and environment for tourists, and more personal satisfaction as a guide.
  • Reference Books
Due to our ethnic background and dialect sometimes pronunciation of words and names may not be clear and audible. Also a guide may no be in a position to remember practically every aspect and finer detail on the flora and fauna of nature, plus wildlife and their behavior. Therefore to clear any doubts and myths plus offer good factual information, reference books on the relevant subjects is a must.

At INCLUSIVE HOLIDAYS AFRICA we do recognize the importance of the above named tour guide aspects. We therefore endeavor to hand pick and engage the best available professional guides in the job market to deliver guest expectations in all the countries we represent. Be it a local guide, specialist guide, adventure Guide, interpretive guide, nature guide or tour escort you can rest assured Inclusive Holidays Africa to provide the most reliable, honest, ethical, patient, friendly, respectful, proactive and a good communicator able to focus on areas relevant to the guests needs. Here are some of our Guides resume for your perusal

  • Vincent MachariaSpanish Speaking Guide
Vincent is an excellent guide with good people skills, a sense of humor and a deep knowledge of the bush, the wildlife, the culture and the different Eco-systems. He is very patient and accommodating, an ideal host for senior guests who wish to take it slow and easy. With over 25 years hands-on experience and a fluent in Spanish, guide Vincent clearly understands the challenges, anxieties, uncertainties, and desires of his audiences. Vincent has a certificate in Tour Guiding and Administration from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).

  • Nasoor Ali – Multi Lingual Guide
Ali is a very patient and ethical guide with special eye for details. He is ever punctual and his willingness to get up in time for dawn-shoots and commitment to driving tirelessly all day in search of the perfect settings makes him an excellent guide for professional photographic safari lovers. His coastal Kenya upbringing and ability to fluently communicate in Spanish, French, Italian and English makes him an extremely accomplished safari guide. Ali has a certificate in Travel and Tourism from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).

  • John Gichohi
John is an engaging and sympathetic guide who enjoys the variety of clients that he accompanies on trips throughout Kenya. Having worked for some time in USA, John is open-minded, organized, eloquent and articulate. He is a darling to all the guests he has hosted.

  • Moses Mwachia
Not only is Moses a knowledgeable and great guide, he is a wonderful person full of life and kindness. He is very enthusiastic, flexible and versatile and ideal guide for outdoor safari activities like accompanying guest while hiking, bicycle riding in the park just to mention a few. He has on several occasions led Christian groups on missions where he also doubles up as translator for the locals. Moses has a certificate in Tour Guiding and Administration from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).

  • David Mwandawiro
After 18 years of professional hands-on guiding in Kenya, his remarkable ‘spotting’ abilities always add an exciting dimension to game viewing. When he conducts Village visits amongst his own community in Taita, he brings a very special touch and remarkable insights to this unique experience.  With David on steering wheel of his jeep there’s certainly never a dull moment. He is a cheerful guy who oozes enthusiasm and is always thinking out of the box discovering unique sites for sundowner with the African sunset at the background. David has a certificate in Tour Guiding and Administration from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).



  • Joshua Njoroge – Spanish Speaking Guide
Joshua is very passionate about tourism, well-groomed and a multi-lingual guide who loves Kenya. His social and networking skills, as well as his resourcefulness and perpetual motion, has given him extraordinary exposure to many different people and interests and has resulted into many opportunities. Joshua enjoys guest interaction, and feels that he also learns so much from everyone he meets. His incredible knowledge of the flora and fauna of nature, and diverse facts on various subjects makes him a unique "host" and entertainer. Joshua has a certificate in Travel and Tourism from Utalii College and is a bronze level member of  Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association (KPSGA).

  • Joseph Muthui – Mountain Guide
Due to Joseph's superior mountaineering skills, coupled with his team of experienced professional guides, INCLUSIVE HOLIDAYS AFRICA has quickly become one of the premier companies offering mountaineering adventures in Africa. Joseph's professionalism and skills have been recognized by various travel books including The Rough Guide To Kenya (2003, page 141) and The Lonely Planet's East Africa Trekking Guide (2003, page 142) which recommends him as a leading guide. Joseph's has achieved further accolades through being selected as renowned mountaineer Tim McCartney Snape's choice for providing contracted services for his trekking climbs to both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya every year.


  • Dennis Nyakundi – Russian Guide
Dennis is a graduate of Moscow State University and speaks fluent Russian. He is friendly, flexible and proactive. He has good verbal communication skills and able to impart excellent knowledge about points of interest of specific sites,  the flora and fauna of nature and wildlife. 

 To enjoy the services of some of our expert guides and enjoy affordable migration safari you can book our Migrate with the Migration Tour.

For any inquiries please contact charles@inclusiveholidaysafrica.com
Stephen Mwasio is a Tourism Consultant and CEO for Inclusive Holidays Africa – Twitter @inclusiveafrica

Sunday, 15 February 2015

EXPERIENCE KENYA'S RICH CULTURAL HERITAGE



#Kenya is rich in cultural heritage. We spare no effort to protect and preserve this treasure. Our country is well known for non tangible natural diversity, manifesting largely in our rich wildlife heritage. Indeed, #Kenya is home to world-renowned wildebeest migration in the #Maasai Mara, the majestic snow-capped #Mount Kenya, the panoramic #Rift Valley and our spectacular beaches along the coast.

#Kenya, which is considered by anthropologists to be the epicentre and cradle of human origins is therefore inevitably the aboriginal home of all mankind. Just as important as the tangible heritage, though somewhat lesser acknowledged, are the diverse yet potent culture and traditions that define #Kenya’s cultural contours. These are clearly evident in the attached 16 Day Rift Valley Circuit Tour intended to showcase and sample our reach cultural heritage.

Above all, there is a whole legion of unsung traditional practices pertaining to traditional religious observances, births, initiation, marriage, death and life thereafter. It is instructive to note that embedded in this intangible cultural heritage of our people is the expression of important social sensibilities such as respect, dignity, integrity, honour and other values that were inculcated into the body-morality of the society.   

Inclusive Holidays #Africa will be honoured to host you and your guests during your next trip to Kenya. I have no doubt that Inclusive Holidays Africa and its experienced team of drivers and guides has what it takes to be your next companion on your next holiday to Africa. For more information visit http://inclusiveholidaysafrica.com/Great-Rift-Valley-Circuit.pdf  Twitter @inclusiveafrica.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

TOP 8 ELEPHANT SPOTS IN KENYA



Kenya’s elephants are an important national asset critical to sustaining a functional ecosystem in the dry lands of Kenya and are an essential draw for tourism.
Wildlife tourism is one of the country’s major sources of foreign exchange, and elephants are one of the most important elements in wildlife tourism. The status of Kenya’s elephants has always been controversial. During the 1970s and 1980s it is estimated that Kenya lost over 80% of her elephants due to infamous poaching for ivory. Both the savanna (Laxodonta africana africana) and the forest (Laxodonta africana cyclotis) elephant species are greatly endangered, because as each dawn breaks in Kenya and Africa, the incentives for illegal ivory plummets amidst government's endeavor to curtail this unprecedented poaching of the jumbo.

Former president Moi, in July 1989 set flame to 12 tonnes of illegal ivory stockpiles intercepted from poachers or smuggled from border entry points in what came to be known as the Ivory Bonfire. The war against this poaching is still far from being won, perhaps because humans fail to understand that elephants should not only be conserved because of tourism, but also because elephants, like any other of creation, deservedly need to co-exist with man for their many obvious importance. Indeed, different ecologists and conservationists have arguably asserted that a live elephant is 76 times worth than a dead one. This mantra holds every relevance.

But exactly what are the impediments to elephants' conservation in Kenya?

Threats facing Kenya’s elephant populations differ across the country.

• Kenya’s major forest populations of Mt Kenya, Aberdares, Shimba Hills and Mt Elgon are at present not threatened by poaching. The greatest threats to these populations come from conflict with surrounding communities, encroachment of human settlement and agriculture, habitat loss and changing land uses. These populations are becoming increasingly isolated; former migratory routes have been cut-off by human settlement and local communities have cultivated adjacent to the forest boundaries.

• Land-use changes pose a threat to the Mara and Amboseli elephant populations. The Maasai pastoralists have adopted a more sedentary way of life and recent expansion of large- scale farming has reduced the elephant range. Both of these populations are relatively secure from poaching at present, this is as a result of a combination of factors including high tourism, presence of resident researchers and a buffer zone provided by the surrounding Maasai communities.

• In Kenya’s northern and Tsavo populations, poaching has increased over the last 2-3 years. The situation of elephants in these areas has become more precarious with banditry that has increased over the last few years and with this has come an upsurge in the level of poaching.
Elephant population is dwindling, and at a very alarming rate.
With or without commensurate government action against this prohibitive elephant poaching, all is not lost, because Kenya is one of the best destinations in the world to grace these mammoth wildlife. Did you know these 7 great spots in Kenya that are home to herds of thousands of elephants in Kenya?

1.      Tsavo East and West National Park
The Joint mass of the Tsavo East and West National parks forms one of the largest national parks in the world and covers a massive 4 % of Kenya’s total land area, an equivalent of 13747sq. kilometers. Guarded by the limitless lava reaches of Yatta plateau  and patrolled by some of the largest elephant herds in Kenya has earned the monicker, Theater of the Wild. The azure site of dust-red elephants in Eden wallowing, rolling and spraying each other with the midnight blue waters of palm-shaded Galana River is one of the most evocative images of Africa.

2.      Samburu and Laikipia Eco-system
Over 900 individual elephants are resident or visit this eco-system throughout the year, alone in the Samburu National Park. Owing to recent elephant census, 5400 elephants inhabit  the combined Samburu-Laikipia Ecosystem, an area of approximately 28490 sq. kms(11000sq. miles). This is the definite jungle with a gallant excellent photographic opportunity to capture the real bull elephants paddling mightily hither and thither this habitat.


3.      Mt. Kenya National Park and Reserve
The Mt. Kenya National Park, formerly forest reserve is a biosphere reserve designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 covering a vast 715 sq. km. To behold here, among the great lower lying scenic foothills and arid habitats of high biodiversity, are the 12 remnant glaciers that continue to dazzle the world as one of the finest mountain tourism spots in Africa.Connected to the north via a 9.8 km elephant corridor to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is the best selection to site and study the migrating route of the African elephant.

4.      Masai Mara National Reserve
Much has been said of the Masai Mara, because it is ostensibly the only easily accessible and widely studied ecosystem in the world. It is the land of Big Cat Diary and Disney's African Cats and the location of the Great Migration, the eighth natural wonder of the world. It is speckled with gloriously beautiful, wildlife-rich savanna landscape. The short grass savannahs of the Mara River basin, between the Loita Hills in the east and the Oloololo Escarpment in the west, hundreds of big-manned lions, cheetahs, leopards, spotted hyenas and jackals co-exist with over 1500 elephants in the Mara Triangle. Here, you will find all the Big Five, and also a great variety of wildlife from the smallest dikdik to the largest eland species. If you couple this with the phenomenal Balloon Safaris in the Mara, and the renowned Mara Culture, it is a real magnet for safaris of every stripe. Come and see the Great Wildebeest migration and live to tell it to generations over.


5.      Aberdare National Park and Reserve
 

Elephants dominantly rule the waterholes and salt licks. There are other animals which also come to drink water such as lions and hyenas; they have to contend with elephants seeing them off at great speed. Some animals such as Leopards are shy and mostly seen under the night-time floodlight.





6.      Amboseli National Park
The park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants. It is home to around  1500 elephants in just 392 sq. km.
The park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants. It is home to around  1500 elephants in just 392 sq. km. The best elephant stories have been told and retold here, beautifully captured by lens, of bull elephants with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. If you have that great passion for these memories, you would choose no other spot.
The best elephant stories have been told and retold here, beautifully captured by lens, of bull elephants with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. If you have that great passion for these memories, you would choose no other spot. 


7.Mt Elgon National Park


Mount Elgon is the eighth highest mountain in Africa and has the largest base area of any free-
standing volcano in the world. The elephants on the mountain are Savannah Elephants (Loxodonta africana africana), not the forest elephants of West & Central Africa
The most frequently visited cave in Mt Elgon is called Kitum ('Place of Ceremonies' in Masai) and it stretches for 160m into the mountain.

As well as the extraordinary elephants, Elgon is home to colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, leopard, giant forest hog, bushbuck, eland, buffalo, duiker, and golden cat.


8.      Meru National Park
The Park is most famous as the setting for Joy Adamson's book "Born Free" -- the story of the Adamson's life and research amongst lion and cheetah. "Elsa" the lioness was the most well-known and her grave is marked here.

In the 1970's the park  boasted of more than three hundred Black Rhinos.  By 1997, this population had been reduced to zero. The plan right now is to re-introduce about 30 Black Rhinos.  After the 1989 massacre of the white Rhinos,  the lone survivor Mukora was re-located to Lake Nakuru.   In 2002, seven White Rhinos, including Mukora were once more re-introduced  from Lake Nakuru National Park.

Restocking Meru National Park will go in conservation books as one of the largest big mammal trans-location undertaken in human history.  In total 66 Elephants trans-located from Laikipia Private-Sweetwaters game sanctuary and Ol Pejeta Conservancy.


Other top elephant sites in Kenya include and not limited to the vast Mau Forest Basin, Shimba Hills National Park and Mwaluganje conservancy in the south coast and Arabuko Sokoke Forest in north coast.
Let us all unite in concerted efforts to conserve our elephants, by keeping our eyes to and hands off them. Kenya is a great destination for wildlife tourism, and there cannot be tourism without the leviathan jumbo. Remember, a live elephant is 76 times more worth than a dead elephant"

Now hit the road, talk to us and we shall make your dreams come true with our erudite guides who have mastered these eco-systems and the jungle law verbatim, where life opens into reality.

To visit some of these magnificent spots you can book Our Best of Kenya Tour by clicking here.

For any inquiries please contact charles@inclusiveholidaysafrica.com


 Stephen Mwasio is a Tourism Consultant and CEO for Inclusive Holidays Africa – Twitter @inclusiveafrica