Those off you that know me, know that I used to be a guide in the KNP from 2000 to 2007. I met a couple off the yellow ribbons in the park. Dan if I can remember correctly it was Me that came to chat to you in NkhuIu picnic spot( If not sorry) Also had the pleasure to talk to Meandering mouse a couple of times on Granokop (know it’s one of her favorite places) and also met most of the guys that were on a mission to find DUKE (Duke pack) I used to work for one of the larger OSV companies and had wild child phoning me before he came to Kruger to find out the latest sightings happening in the park.
I worked for one of the larger OSV companies based in Hazyview. Now let me put it this way to you from n guides view:
Most of us JJ spent between 200 and 280 day’s a year in the park. I will say that 90% of us love nature, as this is not a normal Job. Most of us don’t see it us a job but more off a live style. Yes you do earn money and get tips but this “Job” takes over your life. You work constantly 12-18 hour days in Africa’s harshest conditions. You can never plan ahead, as at 18h00 in the evening you don’t have work for tomorrow and looking forward to a day off, and at night time around 22h00 you get a call telling you that you will pick up Phalaborwa or Komatipoort at 05h30 meaning that you should have been in bed by 20h00 as you have to wake up at 03h00 to be on time for your pick-up. Say all that if your heart is not in it and you don’t have the stamina for the long hot( or cold, try driving through Bushbuckridge of crocodile gorge in the middle of June/July with no windows) you will not last even if you love wildlife. We had a lot of guides starting out that did not make the first 4 months before looking for other jobs. Now the one thing that is like other jobs is that same morning you wake up fine en other morning you don’t. Yes this is no excuse, but how many of you did not have at work were the people working around got same bad attitude dew to you not having a good day? Yes you will meet good guides out there and yes you will meet bad ones as there is no company, doesn’t’t matter which industry you are in. Some days (and not your fault) you will have even a good guide not having good manners. Just give some of them a break!!
As for radios….
This is one of the tools guides use. Yes it does cause problems from time to time and a specially by those that is trying to do “just another job” but the radios I can guarantee you is also the reason it doesn’t’t happen all the time. Guides are just like the normal tourist and also don’t want to be caught up in the Traffic jams. There was many times I avoided sightings were lions are walking on the road as there is just too much traffic there. You are all right if you say that the radios are the problem as not all the companies are on the same Frequency as different companies share with one other. Now the problem to me is that because everybody is not on the same radio channels they can’t communicate to know what is happening. If everybody was on the same channels then you would have had less problems as for everyone can now communicate and know whether it is worth going to the sighting or not. But for those that call to take them out, does now that it will great bigger problems as currently Experienced. Let me put it this way……You can find on some mornings about 30 OSV picking up bus groups from Phabeni gate. No one has radios so the guides beforehand decide that the breakfast stop will be at Skukuza. Now for those that don’t know is that is not n popular choice to split up the vehicles from one group. Let say you have 45 guests, meaning you will have to have 5 OSV to drive them around the park. Let’s also say your people are from Germany. Ask any guide whether good or bad what happens in a group if two cars sees lions and 3 cars didn’t’t? All hell breaks loose. You can be how good and give the people whatever info you want, same nationalities just don’t care as all they want to see is the same as the rest even if you explained that it all up to luck. Discovery and National geographic made it look so easy and way that the other saw it and we didn’t’t? Given that, none of the guides driving in a group with an OSV with no radio will deviate away from the group then, meaning everybody will drive the same road. Think for yourself all the guides have the same idea to go down diospan from phabenei gate to Skukuza. None have radios and 15km from the gate lions brought down a buffalo 3 m from the road. No put this scenario in play…….there were 25 normal vehicles entered phabeni this morning of with 18 deciding to drive down diospan road as well as 2 delivery trucks going down the same road and top it off with 3 45 seater busses. Now picture what this sighting is going to look like after an hour just from the vehicle from phabeni. Now what about the vehicle coming from Skukuza and Kruger gate that morning? Everybody wants to see the lions on the kill. The guides don’t have radios to tell the other to just hang back that at least the 3 busses and delivery trucks past the sighting, meaning everybody piling in to the sighting and the normal public thinks it the radios are the culprits as where does all these OSV came from but nobody concern at the 3 busses the 2 delivery trucks and the 30 other vehicles on the sighting. Everybody just want to know why there is 20+ OSV there? Now the lions move off from the side off the road and the OSV is to blame? Because they called their colleagues? How could they, they don’t have radios? Now the question is to ask how to avoid this? Take out the radios? But they didn’t’t have radios in the first place. Now the only way to avoid this is to give everybody radios and have everybody on the same channels. The first thing that would have happened is that there are 3 routes the guides could have followed to Skukuza….1 Diospane, 2 river road 3. S1 via Napi. Also the guides would have taken the smaller loops and went in to the different dams as now they can tell the others if there is something and don’t have to stick together. If the first OSV did get to the sighting he could have told the others to hang back and wait for at least the morning staff, delivery trucks and 3 busses to past the sighting. Maybe none of the other would came to the sighting as they find other lions on the river road and no need to came to that sighting as he already find their own lions. Also think for yourself that most off the OSV do breakfast at Skukuza. If none of them have radio and one normal public tell one guide there is lions on Eloff street, where do you think most of these OSV will go to? If they had radios some guides leaving early after breakfast could have told them that there are possible 5 other lion sightings as he can ask for an update when leaving camp and go to a sighting were the lease vehicles are as he now a choice. There is some scenarios that cannot be avoided as for same days there is not a lot happening or lions decide to bring down a giraffe 2km form Malelane and n group of 350 people coming in at Malelane with 35 vehicles. Impossible to avoid a traffic jam here. But be leave me, it doesn’t seem that way but radios actually prevent more traffic jams than what they create……..
For those that think guides chase or speed for the sightings to get big tips……
The one big thing that is different from a private game reserves and Kruger park OSV is the tips. The guides in the Private reserve make the so called big tips compared to the ones in Kruger. It is also a different class of tourist that came to Kruger compared to the one going to the private reserves. The ones going to Private reserves are very well off people other than the ones coming to Kruger. An average night in the Sabi Sands is from $200-$1000 a night and most of them spend about 3 night or more in this reserve. Your average prize for an OSV full day game drive is $50-$120 and most off the tourist don’t do full day’s but half day safaris as financially they can’t afford the high prices and therefore your average tip for a private reserve guide is R100-R150pp per day for n guide and R10-R20 for n Kruger park guide. Having 8 people in an OSV and they tip you R15 pp is giving you R120 for the day. Now that is not a lot of money. The salaries in the industry is also not off the best and most guides struggle to make enough for the month and that is also way I am working in Iraq to make extra money, pay off my dept and hopefully return and guide again in my beloved Kruger. Most of the tips are already specified and the national guide traveling with the bus group tells the people beforehand that n tip of 15 to R20 is the norm for the day. You can show them everything and still not get a better tip. The one time you do get extra is when you pick up 2 pax from the hotels and then it is also national base as to who will or will not tip you. I went some times a week doing 8 full days in n row and did not received a tip and only the golden hand shake. If you do this job for the tips, I am sorry but you will not be satisfied. Also you nationality plays a big part in will you or not get a tip. Most of the times if you have n national guide traveling with the people, they will tell them to tip the guide. If not the chance is good you will not get one. American, British are tourist that will normally tip you without any one telling them. German, Spanjes, Italian normally travel in a group and if the guide traveling with them tell them to tip you, France, Australian tourist don’t tip as in their country service fees is worked in and therefore they don’t know whether to tip you or not unless told by someone. None off the nationalities is bad but it the info or the custom in the countries that will depend on if they tip you or not. Yes from time to time you get the “regular traveler that knows the areas and he will then tip you according to the experience you provide him. My best tip yet for n single day, and not for n group doing 2 days or more, was by Dutch tourist on a 4 hour night drive. We saw 1 Zebra and two heard of Impala, a night jar and Spotted Eagle owl, and they tipped me R850 for that. The reason was that we got stuck in the sand river en these people refused that anybody must come and help us as we got stuck and they wanted to get out of it by them self’s. They loved that and they tipped me for the Experience and not for what we have seen that night. So yes there is that 1% of guides that think he as to show you the big 5 to get a big tip, but most of them know that it does not help and the Experience you provide them is normally the thing at the end of the day that can sometimes help you to get a bigger tip. And believe me if the people is not happy with you they will notify their tour agent and they will let you company know that you gave them a bad service. Some of these contracts with tour companies is worth a lot of money and the owners can’t afford to use bad guys as you can lose you contract.
To come to a close….
Yes you will have traffic jams from time to time, and yes you will have OSV out number the general public also from time to time(most of the time and meaning 80% the general public outnumber the OSV’s), but this is depending on where the sighting is, what time of day, and depending on group size. In the 3 year’s working in Iraq I have been to Kruger every time and most of my traffic jams was more the general public than the OSV and the ones behaving badly was the public them self’s. Taking radios away wouldn't solve anything, it will make it worst, Try to get everyone having the same radio frequency will maybe be better as all are on the same level and better control can be done. Both side of this is equally guilty and to point fingers to who is at fault will get us nowhere. Guides think the general public is more at fault and the general public thinks guides are at fault. Both sides have equally at fault here in my opinion and even the parks board. Bring park board in this is something for a different topic, and yes I am the first to say they do a good job, but like the guides and the public their vision to do their daily duties, are much to desired. My point always towards them is of good attitude, but why start blowing your horn or even getting out of your car if you can’t get past a sighting? Who is paying their salaries? Is it not the public that make use of these parks? There are people spending great of amount of money to came to these parks and for a parks board official if not an emergency to blow its horn or to get out of his car and chase the animal because he wants to regulate traffic is not fair to the people that came from far to view these animals. This is also where we as South Africans don’t always realize how fortunate we are to have these parks on our door step. I have read on many places where people don’t even brother to stop at n sighting if there are too many cars. That is all in you right, but next time you pass one of these sightings blowing the steam out of your head because you hate everybody that is there before you, think of this……A lady from England that is 65 years old never had the opportunity to visit Africa and sees a wild lion, that could afford it for the first time in her life to came to Africa spending about R30 000 on her trip to get here and only have 8 hours to do a game drive, for her sitting in the same traffic jam just waiting for the lion to lift he’s head, just to say she saw a real wild lion in Africa. And believe me there are many of them even South Africans that don’t mind being it that traffic jam waiting to see that lion. 60% of the population living in Nelspruit never been to the Kruger Before and they only live 30min from it. We that have been there 100 of times sometimes don’t take these people in consideration as we wanted to escape the City madness to enjoy the bush and now there is even n bigger traffic jam than JHB. In the first place if you want peace and quite don’t come anywhere south of Satara. Whether it is public of OSV or even delivery trucks as they are everywhere. You maybe be lucky on the Randspruit(5) or the Bume road and even some of the gravel roads to the west of Tshokwane but that is it. The north is you only salvage here. If you want to see animals in a short period of time go south but be prepared for the traffic as this will be part of your experience and the quicker you accept it the better your stay will be in the south. Just be more tolerant of your fellow park user be it public, OSV or parks board, Kruger needs the money to keep this park running and others and without it this wonderful paradise will turn in to circus, cattle and mining farms. I would rather tolerate the traffic before losing my precious KRUGER….
Well that was my 5cent.....or 5000 words!!!
_________________My TR:The " Great 8" in one trip to Kruger(+2 nights extra) Been More than 3000+ Days in Kruger and counting!!
Have slept more than 350+ night in Kruger and more coming!!