The quality of guiding in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana is generally considered to be the best in Africa.
The Zimbabwe National Parks Authority Professional guiding qualification in particular has huge authority in camps throughout Africa and the 500 or so licensed guides who hold this certification are in huge demand.
To achieve this qualification guides have to demonstrate encyclopaedic knowledge of the bush covering not only animals and birdlife but flora and fauna as well as have game management experience too. This is generally attained in problem animal management in the buffer zones where animals stray into community areas and cause disruption.
What this all means is that your Zimbabwean guide is licensed to carry a firearm and is able to take you on walking safaris without any ranger support; which makes for a highly interactive and spontaneous experience.
The Zambian Parks authority by contrast has a strong theory base while examination is done on location with peer guides as the mentors and adjudicators. However guides are not allowed to carry firearms in Zambia so all bush walks are done with a park ranger who is armed.
Botswana draws on a lot of talent from neighbouring regions but also has a base of talented private guides which can be hired.
Our philosophy is that guiding is crucial to any safari and we strive to ensure that you are always in the hands of knowledgeable experts. The camps we work with have a high standard of guiding but you will change guides when you move between camps. If you have a safari that crosses national parks or national boundaries and wish to have a guide to accompany you throughout your safari we can provide this service. It will add cost but then the benefits of continuity and having a dedicated expert are immeasurable.
Here are the profiles of a few of the guides we work with.
John was born in 1948 in Mutare, which is situated in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands. His father was a keen fisherman and a good shot and from an early age, John accompanied him, always with his beloved dog, on many expeditions into the bush.
From his childhood experiences with his father, John’s career took a natural progression and began with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, spanning seventeen years and including spells as Warden of two of Zimbabwe’s most significant game reserves: Matusadona National Park on the banks of Lake Kariba and Mana Pools National Park, in the spectacular Lower Zambezi Valley.
John left National Parks in 1981 to build and manage Chikwenya Safari Camp on the banks of the Zambezi River.
Over the years, many people have influenced John, moulded him and shaped the person he’s become. One such person is an ecologist called Allen Savory; he trained John in tracking, survival, discipline and reading the bush.
Bruce Austin, who was the provincial warden of National Parks for some time, also played his part in influencing the young John.
In 1985, John and his wife, Nicci, launched John Stevens Guided Safaris Africa. John is a purist and his safaris reflect a tradition stretching back to the early years of the twentieth century, when pleasures were simple and time was luxurious.
He prefers the camps he uses to be set up in a remote location, far from tourism’s well-trodden path, with comfortable tents, warm showers and al fresco dining under the stars.
Beks was born in a rural village called Lupane, which is between Victoria Falls and the historic city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. Having spent eight years of his life growing up in a village and spending time with old African folk, Beks gained an in-depth insight of his cultural background, quickly learning their survival skills whilst increasing his knowledge of the bush.
Beks attended a typical old, military-type boarding school; Plumtree, which is a small school close to the Botswana / Zimbabwe border. His already founded passion for the Bush was ignited as he spent his days as a student partaking in activities such as camping, hunting and exploring the wilderness surrounding the school grounds. At a young age he took up Falconry as a hobby amongst many other sports. After completing his Cambridge advanced level studies, he went straight into the wilderness and started working as a trainee safari guide in the Gwayi Valley on the outer perimeters of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and at the same time he spent time canoeing the Zambezi River, where he was soon awarded the Prestigious award of River Guide of the year in 1997.
Beks’ went on to join Wilderness Safaris in 1997 and worked as a guide and camp manager in various National Parks including Hwange, Gonarezhou, Matusadona and Mana Pools. He also hunted extensively for National Parks and other safari companies particularly controlling problem animals causing havoc in the local communities. In 1998 he was awarded his full Professional Guides Licence.
Beks has travelled extensively in the USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand and is a very keen photographer and writer, having some of his pictures and articles published in well-known travel and outdoor magazines such as Getaway, Travel Africa and the British magazine Country Life. Beks speciality has been guiding small groups and families throughout Africa’s most remote areas. Whether he takes you through Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Namibia’s desert sand dunes, or down the mighty Zambezi on a walking and canoeing safari, his passions and excitement for the bush and its wild life influences all in his presence.
Having spent time in various camps throughout Africa, Beks’ realized his desire to build a portfolio of camps focused on the guest experience and the professional guided aspect whilst offering an aura of the ‘Old Untouched Africa’. His dream materialized in 2004 as Beks opened Somalisa Camp on a private concession in Hwange National Park. Since then the portfolio has grown to 9 camps across Botswana and Zimbabwe, with plans to further develop the portfolio in coming years.
Recently labeled by Conde Nast Traveller magazine as ‘one of the country’s most successful black safari operators’, Beks Ndlovu is proving to be one of the most enterprising new players emerging in the Tourism Industry today.
Gary Layard (47) grew up in rural Zimbabwe and has fostered a passion for wild places in Africa from a very young age. He is married to Sharon and has 2 children, Bryony(16) and Jeremy(13)
He qualified as an optometrist in Johannesburg in 1986 and has built up 2 busy optometric practices in Harare.
In 2007 Gary decided to take his bush passion to new level, and undertook to complete his Professional Guides license – after a 3 year apprenticeship, he was able to achieve this,whilst continuing to work as an optometrist – every possible opportunity to get into the bush was fully utilized, as his family and staff will confirm! Sharon, Bryony and Jeremy, fortunately share Gary’s passion for the bush, and they spend a lot of time together,enjoying the wilderness of Zimbabwe (especially Mana Pools National Park) and adjacent countries.
Whilst Gary continues to work as an optometrist, he does make time to pursue his passion with professional guiding – taking a number of select photographic safaris each year.
Nyenge was born in the rural community of Murehwa, Zimbabwe in 1973. Nyenge became involved in the Safari business in 1995, and after 5 years of study and fieldwork wrote and passed his full license in 2000.
Whilst on safari with Nyenge enjoy and benefit from his enthusiasm and knowledge of the African bush, the wildlife, insects, trees and plants and, especially, his love of animal behavior and wildlife photography. Over the years he has built up a faithful clientele, many of them returning year after year, and leading to many friendships. His wide interests include mammalian life, insects, birdlife, plants, history, and culture.
With so much exposure Nyenge has grown fond of wildlife photography and loves exploring the wilderness with guests and where his personal care and attention makes the bush your second home!