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Standard Salary for an African Safari Guide?

I recently received an interesting email raising the following question:

“the safari guides’ salary ranges anywhere from 10,000 tsh (Tanzanian Shillings) to 40 USD per day. Is there any ‘standard’ salary for safari guide drivers?”

While I ain’t no expert in the domain, I did a little research and thought I’d have a go at the question.

Here’s my version of the story, and I’ve tried to include some of the key variables to take into account when looking at the topic:

1. Standard of Living + Cost of Living

With the majority of African people living with barely a dollar a day (or even less), salaries are often aligned in terms of the local economy. Practically speaking, if you apply for a job in Tanzania or South Africa, the difference in pay check can be quite drastic.

In countries like Kenya or Tanzania for instance, it is not unusual to find game rangers making as little as $50-60 a month. While I am not aware of official rates for South African guides, I would assume their wages to be at least 5-10 times as much.

2. How Much Money are You Worth?

As previously stated, salaries can vary quite a bit. At the end of the day, it also depends on how much you think you‘re worth! Are you worth $1000 per month, $2000 per month maybe? What’s the minimum amount of money you’d be ready to work for?

Or, in other words, how much work would you be ready to put into the job for the amount of money you’d like to receive? Remember that you fix the rules, as long as they feel realistic to you (and ultimately to the potential employer).

3. Qualifications

How qualified are you as a safari guide? Do you know your birds and animals right? Do you have interesting stories to tell your guests? How about your sense of humor? How good is your English? These skills are highly regarded when a potential employer is skimming through your CV.

Other aspects that may boost your overall value to safari employers:

– Driving skills. Very obvious you might say, but you’d be surprised as to how many so-called “safari guides” can successfully utilize the “4 x 4″ lever.

– Mechanical skills. Imagine this: you break down right in the middle of a pride of lions. What next? :)

Bush navigation (and orientation) + survival skills.

– Dangerous game/rifle handling.

– Eyesight and general abilities at animal spotting/animal tracking.

– Communication and facilitation skills.

– First aid knowledge and assistance.

– Dealing with guests.

– Photographic skills and binocular usage.

4. Tipping

Tipping is another aspect of the deal not to be neglected. In some instances, the standard salary is pretty low ($200-500 per month), but safari guides can make a substantial amount of extra cash through tipping.

If you’re a great safari guide with lots of interesting stories and jokes to tell your clients, I’m pretty sure you can earn a decent wage.

Be charismatic, be yourself, and the rest should follow! :)

How much of a tip can you expect from your guests?

The real question to ask is rather: Did I really do my very best to ensure that my clients had a pleasant and enjoyable time? Did I adapt my objectives to the guest’s needs and interests? If the answer is yes, then you should get rewarded and rightfully so. If not, don’t despair: you’ll sure get luckier next time! ;)

5. Overall Package/Lifestyle

Lastly, you should think of your wage as an overall package. What are some of the advantages that you might get with the job offer at stake?

Do you get a standard salary alone, or do you get a relatively low wage + free accommodation + free food + wonderful lifestyle, get to live in and experience beautiful scenery every day, et cetera?

In some instances, the offer may seem unattractive at first, but in the end (when you really think about it), it becomes clear that you are making the right choice.

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5 Responses to Standard Salary for an African Safari Guide?

  1. Graham Page November 3, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    Safari Guides in South Africa are required by law to have the Field Guides of South Africa (FGASA) qualification. This however does not mean that they get a good salary and most ranches pay them with the idea in mind that the client will tip them. This is why many guides (rangers) don’t stay very long in the bush as after the glamor wears off, the reality of saving for the future kicks in and they need to move on to a better paid position.

    • Africafreak November 4, 2011 at 11:33 am #

      Hi Graham,

      Thanks a million for your valuable feedback, it is highly appreciated! :)

      For those interested, you can find more info about FGASA here: http://www.fgasa.co.za/

      Another great option are some of the ecotraining courses! Took part in one of them (Keer Keer camp, Timbavati), and it was absolutely amazing!

      Cheers,

      Michaël

  2. D Murphy November 4, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Lol, I would want my guide to be an expert marksman, just in case;)

  3. Simon May 22, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    How much do field guides earn in rands please?

    • Africafreak May 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

      Hi Simon! :-)

      From the offers available online you can probably expect anything from R 4000 up to R 15 000 or more per month (depending on qualification, experience, meals, accommodation, tipping, etc.).

      For your information, the current exchange rate is +/- R 10 to the $.

      Hope this helps… ;-)

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