Ever wondered if you have what it takes to become an &Beyond guide? It’s no easy journey! by Claire Trickett13th September 2017
Would you ever consider quitting your job in order to enrol in a gruelling (both emotionally and physically) survivor boot camp of sorts, even if there was no guarantee of actually making it through the entire course?
Not many of us are such risk-takers, but that’s what the majority of determined young men and women do in order to embark on the challenging, yet truly rewarding, journey of becoming a fully-qualified &Beyond guide. Not only is it a dramatic change of scenery and career, this inspiring journey is also, undoubtedly, a complete change in mindset too. Do you have what it takes?
The industry’s finest guides
Did you know that &Beyond has three ranger training schools? That’s right, we take guiding seriously and it’s no mean feat for these enthusiastic wildlife-lovers to merit the hard-earned reputation of being among the industry’s finest guides. We operate two permanent schools: &Beyond Inkwazi Ranger Training School, which is based on &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa, and &Beyond Mwewe Ranger Training School, which is based at &Beyond Klein’s Camp in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. We also run a mobile ranger training school that moves regularly between our safari lodges and camps in Botswana.
&Beyond rangers come from all walks of life and the reasons behind their career choice differ. Among our almost 200 expert guides, there are friends, couples, siblings and relatives, not to mention two sets of twins, one of them a father and twin sons trio. Men and women, both young and young at heart, have successfully completed this gruelling education, some of them hailing from local Maasai, Shangaan and Zulu communities, while others have joined us from the big cities (and other continents too!).
Some guides have never held a job before, some are boldly stepping away from their current careers, while others are already employed at our &Beyond lodges (from butlers, security guards and trackers, to receptionists and safari hosts) and are looking to further develop their career paths. Some have never driven a car before, some are university graduates while others have never been to school, some support countless family members back in their respective communities and, for some, English is far from being a first language. Yet they have all persevered and taken the initiative to expand their knowledge and enrich their own personal development.
Their individual reasons for becoming an &Beyond guide differ greatly too. Many of our guides grew up spending time in the bush with their families, while others actually discovered &Beyond through the Conservation Lessons that our teams regularly give to the local communities to educate them about the preservation and protection of wildlife. Some guides are on a deeper, more emotional personal journey of soul-searching and self-discovery. However, the one overall driving factor for all aspiring &Beyond guides, is an overwhelming passion and respect for wildlife and conservation.
Some rangers’ journeys are short-lived and they eventually leave the bush in order to start a family, whereas many &Beyond guides have created highly successful, long-term guiding careers for themselves. Many of our rangers have gone on to become well-respected ranger trainers (did you know the combined guiding experience of our current ranger training team is an impressive 86 years?), highly specialised private guides, as well as &Beyond Directors. Even our CEO Joss Kent was once a guide, not to mention a Harvard MBA graduate, pilot and Lieutenant in the British Army (how’s that for some CEO envy!).
Expect the unexpected
There’s nothing that can fully prepare aspiring guides as they embark on this exciting journey with us. They can expect to experience a full spectrum of emotions (from pride, joy, elation and unwavering comradery, to disappointment, defeat, frustration and fatigue) and an even more pronounced and tumultuous ebb and flow of confidence.
Arriving on the first day with gusto, confidence and the bravado of a lion, hopeful trainees are constantly pushed to the limit and faced with adversity, challenges, triumphs and losses, and in the coming weeks, their training is interspersed with confidence-boosting achievements and many deflating and humbling moments of near-defeat. They are put to the test with multiple challenges that are aimed at naturally revealing their true colours, whether they like them or not, and they are motivated to grow and develop from these often surprising personality revelations.
The course delves far beyond general knowledge, guiding skills and flora/fauna identification and interpretation. It also shapes and develops interpersonal, hospitality and communication skills that are crucial in the field of guiding. Each trainee also undergoes a series of official walking, shooting, birding and game drive assessments.
When the course eventually comes to an close, those still standing will graduate with a renewed confidence and sense of pride, only to then start the whole process all over again as they join the lodge and have to prove themselves all over again for phase two of their training programme.
Our training is character-building and not only does it help prepare these men and women for a fruitful career in guiding, it also equips them with valuable life skills and admirable personality traits. And while it does encourage our future rangers to work hard, it also aims to inspire them to play even harder, because we all know there is an ever-present element of fun on an &Beyond safari. Knowledge sharing, storytelling and the security of our guests are paramount, but our guests are on holiday – some of them once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated bucket list adventures – so the element of surprise, a jovial sense of humour and some good old-fashioned fun make for a truly memorable safari.
Do you have what it takes?
We have developed a unique, personalised and inspirational approach to nature guide training for new and experienced guides alike and we are constantly on the lookout for exceptional guides to join our teams. Do you have what we are looking for?
Are you fascinated by wildlife and the natural environment and keen to share this passion with others? Do you have a positive outlook, resilient character and excellent interpersonal skills?
Our training covers the necessary guiding-related topics of fauna/flora, 4×4 driving skills, tracks and signs, night skies, hospitality, effective communication and weapons training and assessment where relevant. This training also takes into account the national guiding legalities and requirements for each country.
Depending on which &Beyond ranger training school you are accepted into (following a rigorous interview process), you will join other hopeful recruits and undergo an intensive six-week course in South Africa, and provided you make it through to graduation, you will then be placed at one of our lodges and will then embark on a second two-month phase of training, which includes several assessments before becoming a fully-qualified &Beyond guide.
Alternatively, if you join our course in Tanzania, you will undergo a much lengthier 3-month training course, ultimately graduating and joining the lodge as a fully-qualified guide already (hence no second phase of training).
Training and employment is for residents of the country in question; only residents or those with existing work permits need apply.