An insight into life as a walking safari guide…

We had a lovely interview with Tony Zephania, one of the walking guides at Namiri Plains.  Tony has had an inspiring career, starting off as a waiter for a safari camp before his enthusiasm for all things wildlife shone through and he was entered into the Asilia training programme to become a fully fledged safari guide.  He is now one of Asilia Africa’s head guides and, as Tony puts it himself, “a childhood dream has come to life”.  Read on to hear more about his love of the smaller wildlife, and some of his experiences on safari.

Tony Zephania

Can you tell us more about Asilia’s Trainee Guide Programme?  
So the duration of the initial walking training was 30 days – this was safe rifle handling, elephant rifle shooting and safe walking how to approach and avoid dangerous animals. Then I did a year as a backup guide with a very experienced walker – totalling to 100 hours of walking – then I was coached and assessed as a lead walking guide for 20 hrs. Fortunately I had learned well as a backup guide and I passed.

What’s the best part of your job?
Birdwatching and exploring the small life on a walking safari.

What’s been your biggest challenge?
When guests come in with high expectations of big game and on walking safaris that is not what we are looking for – we appreciate the smaller life in the bush – who are just as exciting.  I also struggle with guests who do not speak English so I take more time with them to ensure they understand.

Lilac Breasted Roller

What do you do in your spare time when you’re not with guests?
I like spending my time watching or listening to wildlife programmes. I also like to sit with my guides and discuss work challenges and how to overcome them.

Which National Park is your favourite to visit?
Even though I’m now based in Eastern Serengeti I have to be honest and say it is Ruaha National Park because the wildlife and landscape is so diverse.

What animals do you enjoy seeing on safari?
Birds mainly, but for large mammals, I enjoy watching elephants.

Namiri Plains, Serengeti

How many miles do you end up walking every day?
Depends what we come across and what we see and what the guests want out of their walk- but on average 3 miles a day.

What’s the best experience you’ve had on safari?

When I saw for the first time an elephant giving birth in Ruaha and it was almost dark but I could see everything. So very special and a moment I will never forget.

Have you had any amusing experiences with either animals or guests?
Yes! One of my guests jumped out of the car when we were viewing a leopard and the leopard climbed out of the tree. He did this to impress his fellow photographic friends who had been waiting for hours for the leopard to move. He thought it was very funny but it was so dangerous.

Leopard climbing down a tree

Huge thanks to Tony from Namiri Plains Safari Camp for answering all our questions.  Namiri Plains is currently undergoing a complete refurb, and we’re super excited to see how the renovated camp looks once it reopens in Autumn 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our top tips on making your trip to Africa more eco-friendly

1. Stay in eco-friendly lodges

We can help you choose lodges with eco-friendly credentials such as Mwaleshi in Zambia’s remote North Luangwa, or Mumbo Island in Malawi for the true Robinson Crusoe getaway. Many of these lodges are powered from solar panels, use compostable loos, and will recycle as much as possible. Even if a lodge doesn’t have particular credentials, you can still do your bit by reducing the number of towel changes in your accommodation, kindly refusing any plastic straws in your sundowners, and trying not to use too many paper napkins.

Mwaleshi Camp, Zambia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Choose lodges that give back to the local community

Many of the lodges we use make various forms of charitable contributions to the local area to help with sustainable tourism and other benefits to the environment.  Serra Cafema is one lodge where nearly all the staff are locals, and the land is leased to the Himba people for their livestock grazing.  Make your own contribution by helping with “Pack for a Purpose” which is widely recognised by a lot of the lodges we use.  This involves packing items that will be of use to the area you are travelling to and handing them over to your accommodation when you arrive for distribution.  Let us know if you’d like to contribute and we can suggest some suitable items depending on your destination.

Local Himba People, Serra Cafema

3. Consider alternative modes of transport

Walking and horse riding safaris are the obvious choices here, but how about looking at a mountain bike safari, or for those who’d like a more relaxed version of a biking safari, there’s the option of hiring e-bikes as well.  A few of the lodges, Lewa Wilderness being one, are now adopting electric safari vehicles too, many of which are being charged through solar panels back at the lodge.  Another option would be a leisurely canoe down one of the many rivers, in particular the Okavango Delta, Botswana in a mokoro.

Safari at Lewa Wilderness

4. Use a reusable water bottle

Often these will be supplied by lodges to be used instead of sipping out of plastic cups, and can often be taken home with you afterwards to continue the good work at home!  Many bottles will also claim to keep your drinks ice cold for up to 24 hours, perfect for those long days on safari in the midday heat.

Nomad Tanzania Water Bottle

5. Take a reusable shopping bag

Foldaway shopping bags take up very little space in your luggage and will eliminate the need for plastic bags during your trip.  These would be especially useful if you’re planning a trip to the shops in places like Cape Town, Zanzibar and Nairobi.  Tanzania have also now banned plastic bags completely, so all the more reason to go prepared!

6. Meet the local community

Take a trip into the local villages to meet the locals and browse the local shops.  These shops will provide you with much more authentic gifts and souvenirs than the larger hotel gift shops, and it will help to inject some money back into the local area.  If you’re off gorilla trekking in Uganda, be sure to visit the Bwindi Bar in Buhoma for a refreshing drink or a quick bite to eat.

Bwindi Bar, Buhoma