To The SANParks Forum From: Thompsons Indaba Safaris, Hazyview
In Defence Of The Open Vehicle Operators
For some time we have been following this site with a mixture of excitement, amusement, sorrow and downright anger.
1. Most OSV guides are very hardworking and long-suffering men and women spending many hours behind the steering wheel trying to find game and educate our largely overseas clients in some small way, a sometimes thankless and frustrating task, as many overseas clients have been educated by National Geographic and Wildlife movies and expect to see in one game drive, the kind of sightings that the moviemakers could have spent years filming.
2. Most OSV guides are THETA registered as well as FGASA qualified to SANPARKS required standards, including Public Driving Permits, which have to be renewed every two years. The Park authorities hold regular inspections on guides and their vehicles to ensure that the standards are upheld, we legal operators are very pleased that these checks are in place. Having said this there are a few rotten apples in every barrel but I can assure you however that EVERY REPUTABLE operator will not operate with unregistered guides and vehicles. I don’t know if the public is aware that an unregistered guide caught driving clients will be fined R5000 personally and the company employing the guide will be fined R10000 and also be banned from the Park. No reputable operator will take this risk.
3. Yes sometimes under pressure to find game from impatient clients an inexperienced guide may speed, we are all human. Our guides see many badly behaved private vehicles, buses, mini buses and official vehicles on a daily basis that we could fill a very large book with complaints of our own. Hats off to all those wonderful visitors who actually are there for the love of the Park & all of its’ wildlife.
4. Blocking sightings, this does sometimes happen if there are a lot of vehicles near popular, roads, clients would like a decent photograph however most OSV operators do NOT have time to sit at a sighting for a long time and will have to move on, unlike some private vehicles who have been observed at good sightings for hours, hogging the best views. We do however teach our guides to be considerate of other tourists and limit the amount of time they spend at a sighting (sometimes to the annoyance of our own clients!).
5. Radios, yes we use radios and so do many members of the public in their private vehicle convoys. Please remember that the various companies have their own private channels which they sometimes share with other OSV companies, the radios contrary to popular belief are NOT just used to report game sightings, they are used for administrative purposes, e.g. a large group of tourists might be on game drive with two or three different OSV companies, the radios are used to co-ordinate the groups movements with regard to meals, drop off and pick up times etc etc. Radios are also used for emergencies which include breakdowns, reporting of fires, injured animals, snares, poachers, refugees etc. Many operators such as ourselves insist that the guides use earphones to cut down on annoying background radio noise.
6. The Kruger Park now experiences record numbers of tourists, especially since the introduction of the wild card, but there are no new tourist roads in the busy south of the Park which does led to congestion around the camps and at good (Big 5) sightings. The size of the OSV vehicles and their height often enables them to see over normal cars, which makes other tourists envious.
7. The private OSV industry brings in many millions of rands to the Kruger and helps in some cases to reduce the numbers of vehicles on the road in the Park i.e. 10 clients on one OSV is better than another 3-4 cars entering. Four OSV carrying 40 clients split up around the Park makes less impact than one 40 seater coach roaring up and down the main tar roads.
8. The demographics of the OSV industry has changed dramatically since its pioneering days in 1996, in those distant days 95% of guides were white males, today it is more like 50%. Our company employs 10 guides full time, 8 of them are from PDI communities. Other companies such as Untamed Africa in fact have about 95% of their guides coming from local communities. So the OSV community by and large are playing their part in the new SA and do not deserve these largely unwarranted attacks.
9. We do continuous on-going training of all guides, however as I said before all the poor old guides are also humans, not robots. We hold regular guides meetings which focus on the Kruger Park and its' rules & regulations.
10. Guides who consistently break the rules in reputable companies will lose their jobs and I can assure you will find it difficult to get another job.
Thanks to SANParks for all their hard work trying to preserve this African Eden.
I have now covered my head with a steel helmet in anticipation of a storm of you know what coming down on me!! You are welcome to send your complaints to me by e-mail email@example.com
or by fax 013 737 7403. I can assure you that I will investigate each one thoroughly. Please try to include the registration number of the offending vehicle as well as the date and place so that I can speak to the person responsible. All of our vehicles also have a vehicle number on the side i.e. T1, T2 etc., so if you don’t manage to get the registration number, that will also help.
THE BEARDED ONE.