The success of your African safari probably depends much more on the quality of your guide than on most of the other factors – accommodation, food, environment and so on – all put together. Ideally your guide will have been appraised of the level of your knowledge before you set off. There is nothing more boring than being given Level One comments (‘that is a zebra’), when you’re at a stage of knowledge where you’re ready for much more detailed information (e.g. as to why zebra always look so rounded and well-fed – it’s not actually due to their being well-fed after all).
Ideally, too, the camp will have tried to group guests of a similar level of experience, and tried, for example, to avoid mixing keen big game viewers with fanatical.Sometimes your driver will also function as your guide: alternatively the guide occupies the seat next to the driver. In either situation the guide will display an unbelievable ability to spot wildlife that you, perched on high with binoculars, cannot. But don’t judge your guide on your day’s ‘animal count’ – unlike with a zoo, you’re the one in a cage – your car – and the wildlife doesn’t appear to order.
They warn against an attitude that is too macho, too obsessed with ‘the big five’, too escapist, too pro-bush (and anti people) or too interested in the female guests in the party, and so on. One cogent observation here is that, while there are old guides and there are bold guides, there are very few old, bold guides. However the overwhelming tendency these days (except perhaps in South Africa) is to replace people like this, almost certainly constantly on the move, progressing up their career structure, with guides who are almost always drawn from the immediately local native population, hence possessing an enormous amount of local knowledge, which is vital to your getting the maximum out of your visit.