This week we spoke to Jimmy Chikombe, a guide at Mkulumadzi Lodge in Malawi. Have a read of his interview below to find out more about his life as an African safari guide!
How and why did you become a guide?
I am originally from Kasungu and was always close to the National Park. My interest started when I was a small boy growing up. Conservationists used to come to the village to encouraging us to take interest in wildlife and ways of preserving it. When leaving school I joined a company operating in Kasungu and was working in the F&B stores. The General Manager offered me in-house training to become a guide and I qualified after a year.
Do you have a specialism? What are you most interested in?
All facets and I try to keep up with conservation practices.
What is your favourite country/national park/reserve to guide in?
Majete Wildlife Reserve- as it’s a fantastic conservation effort restoring Malawi’s wildlife and heritage.
What has been your favourite sighting to date?
Two stand out for me. Whilst on a drive we came across two male waterbucks fighting. During the struggle, one was pushed into the river where a hungry crocodile was waiting which snapped the animal up! Recently, on an early morning game drive with guests, we went to a hide nearby and found two male lions. The lions moved off so we followed, but it turned out to be a rouse as they lions circled back to the hide and were found sniffing the area that we had just left!
What’s your favourite activity?
If you could go to any other country to see its wildlife, where would you choose?
I would love to go to South Luangwa or the Serengeti.
What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to become a guide?
You first have to have the passion for it and then should study hard!
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There is a world of difference between one of our tailormade safaris and most package holidays printed in a brochure. Package holidays are usually designed to be as cheap as possible and of course involve large numbers of people doing the same thing. Our safaris use small, more exclusive and remote camps usually with guests flying in, and often virtually everything is included in the price. The experience is completely different.
Many of these small lodges and camps have broadly similar prices, and it is possible to arrange a superb two week safari for between £4,000 to £7,000 per person ($7,000 – $11,000) season dependant, all inclusive. Realistically it is difficult to reduce that figure, and by including Botswana in peak season, chartering a private plane, disappearing to some magical desert island, or flying at the front of the plane it’s easy to substantially increase that figure!