Benson was born and raised in Zimbabwe, and still lives in Zimbabwe so we have to admit to being rather biased here! Zimbabwe has a very special place in our hearts and we will always argue passionately that it is the best choice for a really true wilderness experience.
Why Zimbabwe? Firstly the standard of guiding. Zimbabwe guides are highly sought after as the training is still the most onerous of any in Africa. Benson was trained in Zimbabwe…need we say more? We have included some information below on the stringent training requirements for the Zimbabwe guiding qualification.
The people of Zimbabwe also make the experience very special. Zimbabweans are incredibly friendly and welcoming, warm and hospitable. Zimbabwe has a rich history and heritage to explore.
The pristine wildlife and nature on offer in Zimbabwe rivals that of any other African country. For those guests who are looking for a genuine wilderness experience, a combination of Hwange National Park, Matusadona National Park and Mana Pools National Park is truly exceptional. To appreciate this experience fully you need to be prepared to get out of the vehicle and walk with your guide. Tracking black rhino on foot in the Matusadona Mountains is a privilege you won’t forget in a hurry.
There are exceptions, but in the main accommodation in Zimbabwe is more traditional in style than its neighboring countries. It is comfortable and functional without going overboard. Here you can still find traditional tented camps, long drop loos and bucket showers. Zimbabwe generally appeals to more adventurous souls with the attraction of walking safaris and canoeing safaris in addition to game drives. Of course there are also the many activities on offer at the majestic Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the World.
Zimbabwe also caters for the luxury end of the market, including the top end Singita Pamushana in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve and the luxurious Camp Amalinda in the Matobo Hills. There is variety in Zimbabwe and uniqueness and a passion from those who own and operate the camps and lodges. Most are owner run and the owners have worked with incredible dedication to keep the camps going throughout the recent troubled years. They really do deserve to receive our support.
So what of the recent troubled times in Zimbabwe? The political and resultant economic turmoil made life incredibly tough for most Zimbabweans. The situation is significantly improved at present – teachers are back at work, medicines are generally available in hospitals, tourists are back and the economy is functioning again…albeit prices remain unaffordable for the general public. The political issue has not disappeared and elections will be due again at some stage in 2013, and this time we hope they will be peaceful. This is something we keep a very close eye on and are well placed to do so, with Benson living in Zimbabwe.
Some people have argued that it is morally wrong to visit Zimbabwe as they feel they are funding the governing system…our argument is exactly the opposite. The people of Zimbabwe still need your support. The camps and lodges employ staff who may be the only wage earner for a large extended family, they often support vital communities, anti-poaching projects, fund local schools and public health facilities directly or indirectly. By not visiting Zimbabwe and withholding your dollars you won’t bring about political change. By choosing to spend your tourism dollars in Zimbabwe you will make a positive difference to the people who often desperately need it. At Ngoko Safaris our interest is in assisting the communities surrounding wildlife areas as they are the custodians of our current and future wildlife heritage.
Training as a Guide in Zimbabwe
The Zimbabwe Professional Guiding License, the best in Africa, is achieved by going through rigorous exams both theory and practical. It is basically an apprenticeship, where a young trainee guide is placed under the tutorship of a senior pro-guide for a minimum of at least 3 years. During this period the trainee takes lessons in basic camp management, geology, weaponry, laws governing parks and wildlife, tracking skills, fauna & flora, history, current affairs, animal habits and habitats so the list goes…
A log book system is introduced for all practical work and is signed by the pro-guide or any other authority supervising events. All field work hours are thoroughly recorded and logged. At the end the guides go through a tough proficiency exam where hunting skills and weaponry expertise need to be shown in front of a board of examiners – a combination of Parks & Wildlife officers and members of the Hunters and Guides Association. People and management skills, hosting, guiding ethics, personal grooming and good etiquette in general are an integral part of the whole exam. The pass rate is usually below 20%, making it a very tough exam.
At the end of the day guides never stop learning as new information slowly drips in even from some of the guests. Guides just keep an open mind and continue to learn. With the help of the internet extra data is now readily available.