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.
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.
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.
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.
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.