Zimbabwe shines in '25 Best Safari Guides' list

by WildZambezi.com from Conde Nast Traveller • 10 December 2013

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Zimbabwe has always been well known for the exceptionally high standards of its safari guiding.  Aspiring guides have to undergo years of rigorous theoretical and practical training in order to meet the exacting requirements necessary to guide visitors in the country's wildlife and safari areas.

This excellence is aptly reflected in a recent article in The Conde Nast Traveller (December 2013) which lists The 25 Best Safari Guides in Africa and includes no less than eight Zimbabweans among them!

The article is written by well-known travel journalist Graham Boynton who divides the list into two sections:  15 Legendary Guides and 10 Next-Generation Guides.

Stretch Ferriera (Goliath Safaris), Benson Siyawareva (Ngoko Safaris), John Stevens (John Stevens Guided Safaris Africa) and Garth Thompson.

Humphrey Gumpo (Tailormade Safaris), Paul Hubbard, Ant Kashula (Private Guided Safaris) and Beks Ndlovu (African Bush Camps)

Wild Zambezi is proud to be associated with these ambassadors of excellence and example setters in their field. We offer our congratulations to all of them.

Here is what the article says about each of them:-

Andrew "Stretch" Ferreira

Also known as the Elephant Whisperer of Mana Pools, Ferreira can be seen on many YouTube clips standing calmly in front of charging elephants. A tall, bearded, easygoing man of the bush, Ferreira is a former hunter who has lost the desire to kill animals but retains the hunter's bush instincts. Now he runs his own small tented-safari operation, Goliath Safaris, on the banks the Zambezi River, an area he knows so well that he can easily identify individual lions and elephants. Like Pope and Knocker, he too prefers walking safaris ($610, including accommodations).

Benson Siyawareva
A fully licensed guide in both countries, Siyawareva has run some of the region's most significant camps (Little Makololo in Hwange, Savuti in Botswana), in addition to helming his own guiding operation for ten years. He reads the bush brilliantly and is thus an expert tracker. His humor and bonhomie are a delight, but he takes community conservation seriously and believes that the education of African children is key to the salvation of the wilderness. He's based in Victoria Falls, where he is helping to build an orphanage ($400).

John Stevens

One of the standard-bearers of Zimbabwean guiding, Stevens is a former warden of Mana Pools National Park who led anti-poaching efforts throughout the region. He's most at home in the Zambezi Valley, and prefers walking and canoeing to traveling in a vehicle. Stevens has brilliant tracking skills and is noted for his boyish enthusiasm and unaffected, sweet disposition ($1,250).

Garth Thompson
Back in 1983, when Thompson gained his license, there were only eight such guides in the country. Today, he's widely regarded as the best African guide - he's certainly one of the most successful - due in large part to his high energy, boundless enthusiasm, and great storytelling. Though based in Zimbabwe, Thompson guides clients throughout seven countries in Africa, including the Central African Republic. He's currently taking bookings for the 2015 season ($1,000).

Humphrey Gumpo

Widely considered one of Zimbabwe's top young guides, Gumpo grew up in the Kariba area, trained under the brilliant Spike Williamson, and cites Williamson and Garth Thompson (see above) as his inspirations. Gumpo, who passed the exacting Zimbabwe guiding exams with flying colors, also has his river guiding license and led Wilderness Safaris' canoe trails at Mana pools for four years. Listening more carefully to the bush, he says, has made him a better guide ($600).

Paul Hubbard
Because Hubbard's area of specialty extends far beyond wildlife, he's quite possibly the most left-field inclusion in this listing. The 31-year-old is a polymath who grew up in rural Zimbabwe and graduated with a master of science degree in archaeology. He's immensely knowledgeable in a number of subjects, from the Matabele War and the local architectural history to the San rock art and the archaeology of the spectacular Matopos Hills. This last, a World Heritage Site, is well worth visiting for its dramatic landscape but even more so for the privilege of being guided by this brilliant young man ($300).

Ant Kashula
Academic, tracker, and engaging companion, Kashula scored the highest marks ever in Zimbabwe's exacting guiding exams. He holds a master's degree in environmental and geographical science, and believes that getting out in the bush on foot is the best way to embrace the wilderness. He will guide anywhere - his small safari company operates in 12 African countries - but his area of preference is the Zimbabwean lowveld. Kashula is an academic with unique people skills, making him one of the most impressive guides I've traveled with in recent years ($400).

Beks Ndlovu

Born near Hwange and educated at an elite private school, Ndlovu went straight into guiding as soon as he could. He guided and ran camps for Wilderness Safaris for years both in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and has won many guiding awards, including the full Professional Guides License in 1998. Now the owner of luxury tented camps in Hwange and Mana Pools, he still guides select groups at his camps and is one of the most informed wildlife guides you'll find on the continent. Ndlovu is internationally traveled, yet his soul is still in the bushveld ($1,000).

Read the full article at this link:  Conde Nast Traveller: 25 Best Safari Guides


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