In previous decades the career of game guiding in Africa was always strictly reserved for men. The perceived image was rough and tough and definitely too dangerous for any woman to undertake. How times have changed in this new world of breaking barriers, where women are more and more entering into previously predominantly male dominated occupations. And in recent times women who are passionate conservationists are being welcomed, saluted and respected as highly competent field guides, with Sabi Sabi having taken the lead several years ago in training and hiring its first female rangers.
There are at present 6 female guides in the Sabi Sabi team. Nothing has been done to make the process of training any easier for the girls than for the guys. The courses are as tough, the internship as intense, the interview process still as demanding. Because, at the end of it all, if they are chosen to be Sabi Sabi rangers they will be driving the same high powered vehicles, leading their guests on walking trails through the same Big 5 bushveld and handling the same rifles which have a recoil that can knock you off your feet.
For many female guides, the dream of becoming a game ranger began in early childhood with a love of nature, animals and the environment, but career possibilities and opportunities of actually working in the bushveld were few and far between. And when the cherished trainings were offered, few candidates (be they men or women) realized how arduous and detailed that training would be. Besides needing an education in one of the natural sciences, the courses include learning about animal behavior – the little warning signals that could potentially indicate danger, tracking, interpreting clues of the bushveld, and of course guest safety. And all of Sabi Sabi’s field guides must have empathy, a sociable nature and be able to impart their knowledge to visitors from all walks of life and cultures from all around the world.
These 6 talented guides; Chanyn-Lee Zeelie, Kerry-Lee Roberg, Louise Murray, Lee Swart, Angelique Borlinghaus and Ally Ross, see their work as a privilege as much as a career. They get such joy in witnessing the excitement and wonder of their guests as they introduce them to our Reserve and offer them incredible close-up wildlife encounters with the bounty of Africa’s game. They don’t feel the need to prove themselves as good as their male co-rangers. As Lee put it “we know our capabilities and our Management Team knows we are just as competent as our male counterparts.” And don’t be fooled into thinking that being physically smaller means being weaker. These ladies are strong, committed, know how to multitask and also know when to ask for help.
During Women’s Month, Sabi Sabi salutes all women challenging the status quo and blazing trails for future generations to take an interest in the conservation of our incredible planet earth and all its inhabitants.