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Why is it important to choose a qualified accredited adventure guide and tour operator?

A tourist guide is any person who, for monetary or other reward, accompanies people who are travelling through or visiting any place within a country, and who furnishes those people with information or comments concerning a place or objects visited.

Categories of tourist guides:

  1. Site guides ~ these tourist guides have obtained a minimum qualification in order to guide in a limited geographical area
  2. Provincial guides ~ are qualified to take tourists around an entire province
  3. National guides ~ are permitted to conduct tours around South Africa crossing all provincial boundaries.

Tourist guides can be classified into:

Adventure Guides ~ conduct a guided adventure experience i.e. rock climbing, paddling etc.

Nature Guides ~ conduct a guided natural experience in a limited geographical area i.e national parks

Cultural Guides ~ conduct a guided cultural experience in a limited geographical area i.e. wine farm, community etc

There are only two qualifications registered on the South African national qualifications framework (NQF):

  1. National Certificate in tourism; Guiding (NQF2)
  2. National Certificate in tourism: Guiding (NQF4)

Note that the new NQF qualification has recently been registered and this replaces the 20155 qualification.

As  a person looking for a value-added adventure experience it is important to make sure that your guide has got the right qualifications for the activity that you are interested in doing. Less than three decades ago, South African tour operators who were selling adventure activities were discounted as the ‘lunatic fringe’ of tourism, but no more. Today, adventure is mainstream and there is no African country that offers a greater variety of adventure environments and activities than South Africa.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that going with an operator is merely a convenient choice. Its more than that. In choosing an outfit, issues like personal safety, risk vs. reward, the guides knowledge and the strength of the back up organisation, should be great considered. Operators offering the same activities in the same environment can practice with sustainable or unsustainable tourism. These are definitely aspects to consider.

In the ecotourism approach to adventure, the guide is the most important variable in the delivery of a satisfying and safe experience. The largest professional Guide bodies in South Africa (APA, MDT and FGASA) all encourage all round professionalism around their members. Over half the professional tour guides, specialising in adventure, that are registered with SATOUR are members of these organisations.

Eco – adventure is the latest conceptual development in adding value to an adventure trip. This involves far more then carrying trash out in a hike or burning toilet paper. It is a holistic approach that combines the principles of adventure based experimental education and eco-tourism.

Here are a few tips for adventure travellers in South Africa:

  1. By definition, any adventure entails a degree of risk. Proper preparation when planning the adventure will reduce, but never eliminate risk.
  2. You have to decide for yourself whether what you are after is hard adventure, or something a lot less demanding
  3. Make sure that you are comfortable with the activity that you want to do and that you have the right physical capabilities that are required of you for the specific activity.

In South Africa, signing an indemnity is not obligatory; however, if loss or injury or death, results from an operators negligence it can still be sued.

A professional adventure guide teaches technical skills, explains risks, helps to make sense of the inner journey. The guide also helps interpret the natural and cultural environment and is also typically fun to be with as a travel companion. By contemplating all the above mentioned aspects, you should be able to make a more informed choice regarding the operator of choice for your next adventure.