Safari Guides: Maggie Simbeye
Tanzania's Wonder Woman
We found Wonder Woman in Tanzania's Wilderness.
When I dialed Maggie Simbeye’s phone number, I expected to interview a successful professional guide. When she answered the call, I also met a teacher, an entrepreneur, and an empowered woman devoted to her calling and her community.
Maggie Simbeye was one of the first female guides in Tanzania. She continued to reshape the safari landscape when, in 2018, she became the first Tanzanian woman to own and operate her own tour company. In a male-dominated industry, Maggie carved a path for female guides. In the wider community, she empowers women to pursue their ambition through The Dare Women’s Foundation, a local NGO she established in 2013. Maggie has been pioneering ‘firsts’ her whole life, so it seemed only fitting that she should feature in the very first edition of our Safari Guide Series.
"Why not me?" - The Question That Started A Career
Growing up in Tanzania, Maggie had a front-row seat to the exciting life of a safari guide. She watched people from around the world explore wild spaces searching for wildlife and wished she were leading the adventures. Maggie didn’t have a mirror-image role model in the male guides, but that didn’t answer her question, “Why not me?”. When Maggie looked at the characteristics of a good guide, she saw a reflection of her charismatic personality, her passion for conservation, and her love of nature. “The job is about taking care of people”, Maggie explains. “So, of course, women will excel as safari guides. You need dedication, respect and passion for wildlife and people. Anyone can learn to drive a 4 x 4 or change a tire.
Maggie could see herself becoming a guide, even if she didn’t see herself in the faces currently behind the wheel. She worked part-time while she trained and studied for her Guide’s License. Today, she is known for her excellent reputation as a Professional Guide and as the enamoring owner of Maggie’s Tours”.
Maggie's Most Memorable Wildlife Experience
Maggie and her clients were in their element. They were on an afternoon game drive, and her guests were enthralled by everything they saw. “They just appreciated the experience without expecting what should happen”, Maggie recalls warmly. “They were asking questions about birds, fauna, flora, and loved the space we were in”. With sunset approaching, Maggie decided to change course slightly and enjoy the sunset under the silence of the acacia trees, away from the more popular areas where other vehicles would be. “Every person is different, so you must learn why they are on safari, what matters to them and then make the experience around that”. Space and serenity were more meaningful to the guests than spotting wildlife, so they jumped on the idea. Little did they know, they would be getting the best of both worlds. Play the audio below to hears Maggie’s recount of an unexpectedly eventful game drive involving three lingering leopards and an exacerbated lion in labor
Finding the Lesson in the Experience
Maggie believes that every wildlife encounter teaches us valuable lessons from nature. Her experience with the lion and leopards epitomizes a few essential takeaways for everyone on safari:
1). Every safari is different, but there is one fundamental trademark rule: Respect the environment and the wildlife. Incredible sightings foster respect and appreciation for the bush, but Maggie explains that sometimes, respect is shown in the things guides don’t show you or places they won’t take you. Vehicles are not allowed to go off-road because this disturbs the balance of nature. By following this rule, even when clients ask you to do otherwise, guides respect the wilderness. The restrictions apply when even when no one else is around to watch you follow them.
2) As Maggie says, “This is not the Lion King”. Your television or phone screen is not a window into the wilderness, and no one can guarantee what you will see on a game drive. Animals aren’t concerned by the promises made by people, and when you are on safari, your experience is authentic, not prescribed. You might go to the watering hole where leopards usually drink in the evening, but they are stuck in a tree trying to avoid the wrath of a female lion. Release expectations, embrace unpredictability and appreciate other miracles and memories that moment will give you.
3) There is more to discover than there is time for discovery, but don’t ask your guide to go on a full-throttle chase. “I love lions too”, says Maggie, “but we must take our time in nature. Otherwise, we lose the joy in the journey because we are too busy racing to a destination.
What I learned while talking to Maggie:
Later on in the interview, Maggie and I were discussing the fascinating world of insects. She told me about her love for dung beetles with the same enthusiasm radiating through her voice as she had when describing the lion chasing the leopards. You don’t need a once-in-a-lifetime sighting to have a meaningful and enriching experience. There is magic in every corner for those who engage with their surroundings.
Empowering Women: The Dare Women's Foundation
Maggie’s vision for community empowerment bears no relation to the obstacles that may stand in her way, and she takes humanity to the harshest realities.
With a clarity borne of careful thought and conviction, she says, “You have to bring the change you want to see in your communities.” Through her story, legacy and career, Maggie tells women that they are strong and capable. It is not just validation; it is an invitation to pursue greatness. She has accomplished so much for herself and her community. Yet when you listen to her speak, you get the sense that she is just getting started.