African cultures, like almost every culture on the planet, have streaks of gender bias. To guide is to lead, and leadership knows no gender boundaries. Guiding is to show the way to others; it requires respect for the leader, trust in their knowledge and abilities, and confidence that the guide will share knowledge and keep the group safe.
Women are just as capable of leadership as men, but old attitudes in the safari industry have kept women in roles where they are subordinate to men or remain behind-the-scenes. However, with the welcome shift in global attitudes towards gender equality, we are seeing more and more female guides in Africa. It is essential that traditionally male-dominated industries develop an attitude of inclusion. Keen senses, natural charisma, and the ability to learn favor no gender over another.
A recent New York Times article focused on the all-female guiding team at Botswana’s Chobe Game Lodge. This talented team of women, known as the “Chobe Angels,” were brought on not only for their skills, but because they are better drivers. “…the managers quickly noticed a pattern: Vehicles driven by women used less gas, required fewer repairs and lasted longer over time. Simply put, the women were better drivers. They were saving the company money.”
A snapshot of a few of our favorite women guides…
Gladys Na (pictured) Gladys’ mother encouraged her to become a guide/conservationist. When Gladys father left when she was young, leaving her mother to raise and educate Gladys, and her brother and sister. Because she had plots in both Mara North and Naibosho Conservancies, she was able to gain an income through conservation and put her children through school. From this experience Gladys saw the importance of wildlife and conservation and how it had helped them as a family, and so applied to and was accepted into Kenya’s Koiyaki Guiding School. She did her internship at Serian the Original and after graduation came on as a full-time guide.
Maggie Duncan Simbeye first began working for a local safari company in 2008 where her “classroom” training moved from Tourism Training School to hands-on experiences in the bush. She was one of the very first women guides in Tanzania. As of 2018, Maggie is the only Tanzanian woman owning and operating her own Tour Company. Tanzanian women in business are very unusual in her country.
Her own love of learning and experiencing nature on all levels motivates her to make every safari trip special for her clients! She has a belief that we all learn from each other, so she invites all questions and asks plenty herself! Her extensive knowledge of flora and fauna is delivered with much enthusiasm. She has an incredible understanding of animals and their behaviors which adds so much when clients observe them in their natural surroundings.
Having often thought she had been born on the wrong continent, Deb left her native United Kingdom and started working in tourism, eventually heading to Africa. She soon realized that Africa was the place for her. She eventually landed in Zambia’s South Luangwa in 1994, and began leading walking safaris. She worked with Wild Zambia Safari, Robin Pope Safaris and other operators, before going freelance and eventually opening her own camp.
Deb is regarded as one of the best guides in South Luangwa National Park, and serves as a mentor to many trainee guides.
We applaud the women in Africa who are breaking barriers and bringing their special touch to the wilderness. We look forward to seeing female guides being the norm, rather than an unusual sight.
If you are interested in traveling with a female guide in Africa, or giving your business to camps that champion employing women guides, give us a call – we’ll find the best camp and best guide for your safari.