This week’s “Meet Your Guide” blog is about Wayne Lubbe, our head guide at Madikwe Safari Lodge, who, believe it or not, originally started out studying architecture!
What made you decide to become a guide?
I never used to think I could actually make a career in the outdoors. After high school, I was encouraged by my family to pursue architecture, which is what the tests in school directed me towards. I pursued that for two years but didn’t find any passion in it, so began thinking of ways I could get into the wildlife industry. The thought of becoming a herpetologist was appealing to me since snakes and reptiles were a big interest of mine, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back for a degree.
Around the same time when I was thinking through a career change, I went on my first camping trip in the Kruger National Park. I was in my early 20’s. It was one of the most amazing times of my life. I spent a lot of time chatting with my field guide about his job and how best to get into the field. He advised me to do a career placement course and that if I was passionate about it, to go for it whole-heartedly.
I took his advice and within a few months, I was enrolled in my FGASA course. It was a 6-month course. My mind was blown on the course. For one of the first times in my life, I was surrounded by people who thought just like me. Before then, I had always been shy, but then I had the opportunity to be surrounded by a group of people with whom I could talk about all the things that really interested me, and I felt that it was ok to be myself.
I came to Madikwe Safari Lodge in 2017 from Kapana in the greater Kruger National Park and after several years have never lost the passion for it.
What has been your most interesting sighting/experience as a guide?
I remember one afternoon, I drove by a massive tree and noticed a weird creature stuck way up in the top. A male leopard had killed an aardvark and pulled up! Myself and the guests were all cracking up because it looked like an alien in a spaceship. But in all seriousness, it was an incredible (and rare) thing to witness.
What is your favourite animal to spot and why?
Leopards. First of all, because they are so beautiful and photogenic and also because of their elusive nature. It’s also so rewarding when you find them because it’s a challenge. You have to follow alarm calls, scent marking or tracks, but once you get it, it’s like hitting the jackpot!
Then I also love the giraffe anatomy, they are so odd. They don’t look like all the parts go together and yet when you see them moving, they are one of the most majestic animals on the planet. I am in awe of them.
Picture: Wayne Lubbe
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I like knowing that as a guide in the tourism industry, we are contributing to the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats by helping to bring people to these areas and educating them. We have the opportunity to change a person’s perspective.
The other thing that I love about my job is when as a guide you see the expression on faces when you’ve shown a guest something for the first time. It’s something that never gets old.
What advice would you give aspiring guides?
Do your research and choose the right training provider for what is important to you. Your fundamentals as a young guide are very important. The NJ MORE programme is fantastic and I have been very impressed with the quality of the trainee guides that I have worked with from there.
Also, a year course really makes a huge difference. Experience matters! Guiding is a niche career. The longer you can spend training, the better. Career courses are expensive but you can’t put a value on it, it’s really worth the investment.