Safari Guide of the Year

What is Safari Guide of the Year


Safari Guide of the Year (SGOTY) is the most highly anticipated annual event of the safari guiding and ecotourism industries. The event was founded in 2011 when Mike Karantonis (founder of Africa Direct) and current Tintswalo Group Head Guide approached the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) with the idea of hosting a competition with the specific aim of recognising and celebrating field guides across southern Africa.

The Safari Guide of the Year competition honours the hard work, sacrifice, training, skills development, knowledge, and expertise of field guides across southern Africa. These guides need to deliver an ethical, immersive, engaging, and informative safari experience to guests from all over the world. The career path of a field guide is more than just a job, it is a lifestyle the requires passion and commitment not only to the natural world, but also to hosting and hospitality.

For a guide to be nominated they need to have a minimum of five years experience guiding, must have the Nature Site Guide (NQF4) qualification, must be a paid-up member of FGASA, must have the Trails Guide (NQF4) qualification and must currently be working as a field guide at a lodge, field guide training delivery partner or as a freelance guide. Once the nomination period is complete, the Director of FGASA, Michelle du Plessis and the co-founder of SGOTY Mike Karantonis interview each nominee. Only five may be selected and deciding who those individuals are is a challenging task. 

For a long time, field guiding was never considered a ‘real’ career path. The skills, qualifications and knowledge needed to become a guide were not valued in the larger scope of post-school education. Field guiding was often thought of as a ‘fallback’ job or something to keep busy with until deciding on a ‘real’ job. Safari Guide of the Year has slowly been changing this misconception about field guiding by celebrating guides who have achieved highly in their careers, pushed their theoretical knowledge and who have spent years in the wild honing their practical skills.  

The event is a competition that invites the top five guides from around southern Africa to compete in a series of safari-related events over a week. These top five guides need to impress a panel of highly experienced and expert judges who then score and decide who is crowned Safari Guide of the Year. The week is filled with delight and camaraderie as guides and guests from all over the world gather to participate in the eight events that determine who Safari Guide of the Year will be. 

The events themselves have been specifically chosen to test the top five finalists on a variety of skills, these events are: 

   • Game drive 

   • Bushwalk 

   • Guided photographic experience 

   • Bird slide and sound 

   • Track and sign 

   • Advanced Rifle Handling 

   • Storytelling 

   • Hosting and hospitality 

 For each event, an expert judge defined the criteria for scoring; at the end of the week, the scores are tallied, and winners for each event as well as an overall winner is chosen. The awards evening is a night filled with celebration and glamour as the usually khaki-clad bush people don their finest and wait in anticipation for the winners to be announced.  

The importance of Safari Guide of the Year lies in showcasing the skills of guides already in the industry, but it also inspires future guides to apply themselves and become the best guide they can be. The event not only celebrates guides but brings together an industry of people all committed to celebrating the professionalism and skills required for success.

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