The Wonder Women of Botswana Safari
This article (more of a well-told story, actually) really spoke to me. I found myself grinning and nodding as I made my way through it. It’s lengthy, but it’s worth the read.
The article tells of an all women group of safari guides that work in one of Botswana’s national parks that focuses on photo safaris. It dives into the progressive nature of this park, what these women do, why they do it, and what they had to overcome in order to work in these roles that are typically male-dominated.
As with most African countries, they are not as advanced as the U.S. when it comes to gender equality. However, there is change and growth. For most African countries, tourism is a large source of income, and each country handles the types of tourism differently. Botswana focuses on photography and wildlife viewing. They are primarily non-hunting, but there are few designated hunting areas. They are also bordered by Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia which are very popular hunting destinations. Botswana works alongside these countries for hunts along borders and proceeds are split. Botswana’s Chobe National Park is one of their premier photo-tourist destinations.
I traveled to Africa at the end of 2015. We stayed in the Limpopo province of South Africa in a remote camp situated on the Crocodile River which serves as the natural border between South Africa and Botswana. My party and I watched many animals travel back and forth between countries.
Women in Africa…
Our camp had a mixture of local men and women that worked there. However, there were no female guides or trackers. It was very obvious from my experience with the locals, that gender equality was not a thing. The women were all soft-spoken and worked primarily in “subservient” roles. I think the primary reason for this is culture. Most African countries are rich in ancient, traditional cultures. Some of us over in the U.S. might see elements of these cultures as being oppressive. However, that’s really for them to decide. From what I’ve seen, most of the people tend to embrace their African cultures.
Women as Safari Guides
The Chobe National Park speaks highly of their group of female guides as they are their own tourist attraction. I for one, think it’s just plain awesome that these native women have found a way to do what they love and help support their local communities.
I think women have a knack for spotting wildlife. During my trip to Africa, I often outpaced our guide when it came to spotting and identifying game. My husband is constantly amazed with what I can see and pattern during our hunting trips. So, coupled with my knowledge and all of the research I’d done on local wildlife, that ability translated over really easily when we traveled to Africa and pursued wildlife there.
Women have all the skills that this job requires to be awesome at it.
A love of wildlife watching and hunting is something I adopted on my own, it was not something I grew up with. It’s something I truly enjoy and I take it seriously. After years of sharing this hobby with men (because it’s all male dominated) and a few other women, I’ve really come to notice that women just tend to naturally have the skills it takes to excel in these kinds of roles.
Women tend to be quieter in their movements, are better at staying calm and being patient, are good multi-taskers with more attention to detail, and women have a better eye for color (I rely very heavily on color when out in the field). All of these skills make a pretty efficient wildlife watcher or hunter.
Couple those inherent, womanly abilities with a love of wildlife…and you have yourself a pretty great safari guide.
Women have a place in this industry…and there is potential for them to be dang good at it. Men and women have different skill sets. Sometimes, it’s not about “equality”, it’s about embracing the things you love and the things you’re good at and just going for it.
According to John Aves, a Briton who manages the female guide team, “The ladies have developed quite a tough skin as far as that’s concerned. They stand up for themselves. They give as good as they get out there.” There are more similarities than differences between the male and female guides in Botswana.