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Driver guide watching a lion eating from a kill.
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By Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association.
Safari glossary
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On safari:
All safari tour packages to Kenya or Tanzania include guides. Some are guided by the local driver guides that drive the safari vehicles, and some by tour leaders, usually from your own country.

If you travel on your own, driving yourself, you may be required to hire an official guide to enter certain parks, for example the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.

Driver guides
All safari vehicles on packaged tours are driven by a driver guide, i.e. a local driver who is also guiding the safari. Most guiding is in English, but some driver guides also speak other languages, such as German, French, Italian or Spanish.

Driver guides generally have a good knowledge of the wildlife, nature and safari areas where they work. Their background and training varies, from autodidacts and ex-hunters to graduates from 4-year wildlife management colleges. Some have special interests, such as ornithology.

Tasks and duties
Besides driving and guiding, the driver guide assists when checking in at lodges and tented camps, helps you solve any problems arising, plans the days, maintains the vehicle etc. He (female driver guides are very rare) usually doesn't take part in social activities such as meals, get-togethers in evenings etc with his clients. The driver guide is mainly on duty with his clients during daytime, and then retires for other duties and for resting.

Driver guides are not employed by the travel company where you book your safari, for example in the US or Europe, but by the local tour operator contracted by your travel company to provide the local safari services.

More about local tour operators

KPSGA guides in Kenya
In Kenya, poor knowledge levels among driver guides led to the founding of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association in the mid 1990's. Today's members of KPSGA have proven their guiding skills in examinations, and carry a guide badge visibly at all times when practising their profession.

Tour leaders
Packaged tours may also have an extra guide in form of a tour leader, usually a native speaker of your own language and employed by the travel company where you book your safari. The tour leader doesn't drive safari vehicles, but is focused on guiding and on servicing the group. He or she stays with the clients, takes part in social activities and is available to assist the group round the clock.

The tour leader usually has good knowledge about and a passion for the East African nature and safaris. In Kenya, he or she may be a member of KPSGA, i.e. a certified guide.

When the group travels in more than one vehicle, the tour leader alternates between them.

Self-drives without a guide
It is possible to rent a safari vehicle and drive to and in the parks yourself, i.e. without a driver guide or tour leader. It is a fun and exciting way to travel, but to attempt this, you should have previous experience from safaris, both to find the animals and, for safety reasons, to know how to behave when they are around.

To enter some parks, for example the Ngorongoro Crater, you may be asked to hire an official guide from park headquarters. The reason is safeguarding both you and the park. We ourselves have experienced quite poor service, knowledge and driving skills from some such guides, below the general level of driver guides and tour leaders.

More about safaris by road

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Page updated 27 April 2013