Chobe Game Lodge, located in Botswana’s first national park, has the first and only all-female guiding team in Africa. The lodge is one of the most progressive safari destinations in Africa, thanks in part to the success of its female guide team with guests.
The decision to employ exclusively women grew organically out of something very practical: the bottom line. Back when the guide team was coed, 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.
How it began
It all started around 2004, when the Botswana Wildlife Training Institute, the government-regulated college that provides safari guide certification, asked Chobe Game Lodge whether it had room for two young women guides. Applicants must complete a standardised course that includes a placement at a safari camp, plus tests to evaluate English skills and scholastic aptitude. When both women performed extremely well at Chobe, the managers asked the institute to send over future female graduates. Today, there are around 50. With 17 guides, Chobe employs roughly one-third. The others are spread across the country.
Yazema Moremong, 37, became a guide in 2007, two years after she first spotted an elephant while visiting her uncle, a biologist. She credits her male colleagues for embracing all new recruits, male and female, equally.
Canah Moatshe, 32, started her career at a different camp in rural Botswana nine years ago. “I was the first and only lady among male guides. They never discriminated. That was the first time I drove a four-by-four, the first time I changed a tire. Those guys helped me,” she recalled with a laugh.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. The women faced some pushback. Male guides at other safari companies challenged their validity, although mostly in a teasing, joking way, the women said. Guests generally worried about safety and competence, questioning the women’s ability to do things like change heavy four-by-four tires if there was a flat; handle aggressive animals and escort guests to the best wildlife sightings. The guides brushed off these concerns, saying they were to be expected because of the situation’s novelty. The women were quickly recognised.
“In many respects, they had to work harder to prove themselves, so you’re actually getting more out of them as guides,” said James Wilson, Chobe’s marketing manager.
According to John Aves who manages the female guide team, “The ladies 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. They complete the same rigorous schooling. They are paid equally. Their days begin and end in darkness, starting about 4:30 a.m. until well after the sun sets. They cite the same reasons for choosing their career path: a love for wildlife and a desire to work in Nature.THE NEW YORK TIMES
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.