Wildlife and Adventures: A Tour Guides Journey
May 2024

It goes without saying that there are times when encounters are simply next-level!

Alan Tours Safaris

Starting out
After meeting with Alan and the team in September 2022 and learning the ropes from amazing guides, I had my first solo tour that November. I must admit starting my tour guide profession at the beginning of the high season was maybe not the brightest decision, but I regret nothing! Jumping right into what I then thought was the deep end was just what I needed to get my head in the game. The following high season showed me just how shallow that first jump really was. Nonetheless, I swiftly found great joy and enthusiasm for my work.

Investing in Photography
I soon realised the photographs I was taking with my phone were not of the quality I wanted for both myself and my guests. My first investment was a proper camera followed by a good, multipurpose lens. These purchases, made with my tour guide income, were definitely worthwhile! The ability to zoom in on an animal while still maintaining quality is invaluable when compared to cell phone cameras. Don’t get me wrong I love my phone but not for wildlife photography. Trust me, as a guide I spend a lot of time out in nature and that provides some amazing photo opportunities. I wanted the right equipment to capture those moments in all their glory.

Wildlife Encounters
It goes without saying that there are times when encounters are simply next-level! Elephants walking so close to the vehicle they practically rub against your side view mirror, lions and hyenas strolling along the road just in front of you, zebras so near you’d think they should be in the car with you; these are just a few examples. No matter how many times I experience these moments, it never gets boring. There is a certain magic to them, making you feel as if you are part of their world.

Imagine sitting in your vehicle on safari, window open, or even better, in an open safari vehicle, and an entire family of elephants walks right past you with barely a sound. You find yourself eye to eye with these gentle giants, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see a little baby elephant walking beside its mother, just short enough to walk under her legs if needed. For most guests, it’s their first time seeing these animals outside of a zoo. Even if I’ve seen zebras a thousand times, I get excited like it’s my first because I know it’s their first. That alone is enough to reignite my enthusiasm every time!

Connecting with Guests
Meeting people from all over the world has been incredibly informative. I have learned so much about other countries and ways of life, which I was not expecting. I thought that the guests would only want to converse about South Africa and its natural world…I couldn’t have been more off the mark. I’ve had conversations of all kinds from all guests about South Africa and the country they are from. History, culture, architecture, wildlife, standard of living, education, you name it and I have probably had a conversation about it. The number of guests who were also interested in my life here and what I do was also surprising. It is genuine interest as well. They were curious as to what I studied and how I live my life in South Africa. A fair number asked if I am married, have a family etc. (mainly the guests that already have families asked me this). Some even came up with a whole life plan for me and how I can find a wife and have a family, etc. in their homeland and then come back to South Africa with them. They even offered to help me achieve this. Keep in mind that this happened during lunch a full five hours after meeting them for the first time! These genuine and fascinating conversations add another layer of enjoyment to my job.

Marine Adventures
Addo Elephant National Park is the main tour destination but it is not the only tour I do. One of my other favourites is spending the morning on the water of Algoa Bay and the Island of St Croix. I don’t take the tour myself but I am on the boat with the guests and marine guides answering questions and taking pictures. I wasn’t sure if a get seasick since I hadn’t been on the sea for some time. I soon found out that I have mild seasickness, especially when using the camera’s viewfinder. Luckily the more of these tours I did, the less seasick I felt. My body seemed to have adapted quite a bit which is great! It definitely would not be as fun taking in the wonderful marine fauna, flora and scenery while sporadically feeding the fish. The fauna we find range from common species of birds all the way to majestic whales, which are always a win to see. They are absolutely massive! Whales are definitely one of those animals that you know are big but only really get a proper perspective of when you see them in the flesh. That was definitely the case for me. It’s always a little sad to see these wonderful creatures leave our waters on their migratory journey, yet there is comfort in knowing that they will return.

Just as the whales end their time with us until they return at a later stage so too will this post. There is still so much more to share and learn. This is just a taste of what I do. I am continuously learning and growing both in my profession and as a person. I can’t wait to see what the next season has in store!

Anthony Evlambiou