Have you ever wondered what makes your guide tick? How did these khaki-clad men and women find themselves steering 4x4 vehicles through the wilds of Africa? Well, if anything, we know this is a job born of passion, and it takes a special kind of someone to dedicate their lives to spending many weeks away from home, starting every morning before sunrise, and knowing how to read the behaviour of wild animals. Field guides love what they do, and are continuously fascinated by the natural world they surround themselves with. They wear uniforms, they carry rifles, and they know the medicinal uses of elephant dung! These are the people who watch the seasons change, listen for the arrival of summer birds, wait patiently for the rain to wet the dry earth once again, and can appreciate the cycle of life, even when it might seem harsh.
In the interest of getting to know how a field guide is born, we've interviewed two of our own: Alister and Tyrone. Here is what these guys had to say when we asked them a few questions about what led them to life in the bush!
Meet Alister Kemp: Coastal kid now committed to waking up pre-sunrise just to hear the bush wake up around him.
Meet Tyrone Barthorpe: Passionate about wild dogs and living out his days on a game reserve.
Let's get to know these two a little better...
Where did you grow up?
Tyrone (T): In the dead centre of Johannesburg in a little town known as Witpoortjie. After school, I moved to Ellisras to study.
Alister (A): I was born in Durban, about an hour from South Beach. My family moved to Johannesburg when I was around 12, and we stayed in that area until I left home.
What made you choose to become a guide?
T: I always had a love for animals and knew from the age of three I would only be happy if I could work in a field that allowed me to be close to and interact with them on a daily basis. Being a field guide gave me just that opportunity, and I haven’t looked back for even a second to consider what might have been.
A: I have always had a love of nature. I worked with animals as often as I could, volunteering in zoos and rehabilitation centers as much as I was allowed to. Becoming a guide was my ticket to spending all my time with wildlife.
Who inspired your love for nature?
T: My parents did. What makes it more special is that they love nature too and always supported me in my choices. The rest of the family work as mechanics, electricians, and builders, whereas my passion and love has always been in the fields of science and biology. Most of all, my father’s words have stuck with me: “If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.”
A: I always watched nature programmes growing up, and have always been inspired by leaders in the field like Steve Irwin and David Attenborough.
What is your most special/memorable experience with wildlife?
T: Up until recently, it was when I was only ten years of age, when I had to help a bat out of our swimming pool. I fished him out with my hands, wrapped him in a towel and dried him off, then I held him outside to fly away and he stayed attached to my hands for several moments before flying off. Since then, something new has beaten out this experience... A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to see three African wild dogs on Tshukudu property after they broke through the fence from the Greater Kruger.
A: My favourite part about working with wildlife in tourism is seeing and experiencing the reaction of guests when they see their favourite animals for the first time. Some people cry when they see an elephant, others can’t stop smiling when they meet the cheetahs. These moments are the most memorable.
What is your favourite time of day in the bush and why?
T: Night time, because it is breath-taking to see all the stars out with the silhouettes of trees and animals completing the picture. Most of all, the nocturnal animals become active, which is always a treat to see.
A: Just before sunrise. I especially enjoy sitting and watching the sun rise, listening to the bush wake up.
Game drives or bush walks?
T: Bush walks, simply because you get to focus on the smaller things that you do not see on game drives. It is even more gratifying to see guests' interests spark when they learn something new about something they first thought might have been small or insignificant.
A: Bush walks. It’s the closest way to get in touch with nature. It’s the only time you can disconnect to the rest of the world and marvel at the smallest animals. It’s here where you really see how the bush, the animals, and the people all connect together.
What is a place in Africa you would love to go?
T: Newlands rugby field!
A: Ngorongoro Crater in Northern Tanzania is my first choice. I would love to see and experience the beauty of the Crater.
What is your favourite wild animal?
T: African wild dog.
A: Giraffe. They are nature’s most graceful hiccup, meaning that they have a lot of amazing solutions for problems that they shouldn’t have had in the first place. If you want to find out more, come see me!
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
T: Play Action Cricket and other sports, watch sports and catch up with friends and family, and play some video games.
A: Woodwork, watching shows like Forged in Fire and playing Playstation.
What would you like to do in your future?
T: If all goes well, I'd like to become an owner of my own game farm to just enjoy nature and the animals.
A: I would like to be a family man. I would like to pass on my knowledge on to my kids and watch them grow up with the same love of nature.