Meet the guide team – Ultimate Safaris

2021-11-24T15:13:12-05:00October 18th, 2021|

Ultimate Safaris is a Namibian owner-managed conservation travel company dedicated to the protection, conservation and sustainability of some of the most pristine and delicate wilderness areas on earth. Their privately guided, tailor-made driving, fly-in and small-group safaris showcase the best of Namibia’s countless natural wonders. Ultimate’s award-winning guides are amazing story tellers, bringing Namibia’s flora, fauna, geography and history to life for visitors.

An Ultimate Safaris naturalist guide will quickly turn a normal safari into a life enriching journey, creating a deeper understanding and appreciation for the incredible places and people that we visit. The guides are the link between travelers and the intricacies of the natural world, sharing their knowledge with enthusiasm and humor. Guests are taken on a journey through some of the world’s most beautiful wild places, encountering wildlife spectacles and engaging with age-old authentic cultures while receiving detailed interpretation as offered by highly trained naturalist guides.

A guided safari offers Ultimate’s guests constant access to one or more of these exceptional guides who have an intimate knowledge of each camp/lodge and area visited. This allows them to be able to expose the relevant highlights, adding continuity and depth to your safari, and effectively tailor-making your experience. It also means that they are able to take guests to stay at less sophisticated rural venues which might not otherwise be suitable for discerning visitors. The presence of one of Ultimate’s guides adds another level to the hospitality and service that can be offered there and ensures the widest reach of options available while still maintaining excellent standards.

Ultimate’s guides share in a philosophy that ensures they never cease adding to their encyclopedic knowledge and this makes them lifelong scholars in the fields of their expertise. Their infectious enthusiasm, dedication, character, and in-depth knowledge of the country ensure that guests are at the forefront of real, unique and authentic experiences throughout their journey. Being native to Namibia, Ultimate’s guides are welcomed as friends or family everywhere they go, thus ensuring authentic and life enriching journeys. These often result in guests becoming personal friends of both our guides and the people that they visit.

Here we get behind-the-scenes with a few of Ultimate’s exceptional guides.

Franco

Why I enjoy guiding

Through my choice of career, I can have my office almost anywhere I like, and I also get to meet a lot of different people who are all fascinating to talk to. I always like being surprised by Mother Nature in all aspects and I really enjoy being able to share those moments with my guests – as well as being able to see their reactions. This is what keeps me motivated and enthusiastic all day and every day.

On Trail…

While on a drive in one of the ephemeral rivers up in northwest Namibia, we came across a herd of desert adapted elephants. We followed them for about twenty minutes, observing their behavior and the way they were able to move so silently through the bush and then, as they went through one of the salvadora bushes, they flushed out two cheetahs, a mother and her sub-adult cub. We were so surprised that we just watched them run across and disappear and none of us thought about taking pictures. We all got out from the vehicle shortly afterwards and we saw them walking off at a distance with all the springbok and oryx looking at them. I decided this would be the perfect time to have a coffee break so I laid the table with all the goodies and all had their cups of coffee close to their mouths when, within 50 yards of us, a honey badger mom trotted with her baby in her mouth. She was trying to relocate it and, again, we were all frozen in that moment of awe. We all just stood there silently, watching her disappear and looking at each other, trying to come to terms of what just happened. It was a truly memorable day which none of us are ever likely to be able to repeat!

Johann

Why I enjoy guiding

I like to explore and discover new things with guests while still being able to show them what it is that I find so exciting about Namibia, its environment, and its inhabitants.

On Trail…

On a rhino tracking expedition in Damaraland, we spotted a black rhino in the distance but, when we got closer to where it had been, we discovered that it had moved on. However, I was not prepared to give up on this so I asked one of the trackers to stay with the guests and rest, while I went on with the others to climb a small hill. This worked well as we spotted the rhino resting just a short distance off.

I kept watch while one of the trackers went back to get the guests and the rest of the team.  While he was gone, I took my backpack off and sat down to watch the rhino. When I saw the rest of the group approaching the rhino from down the hill, I went to pick up my backpack in preparation for joining them. As I turned to get it, I suddenly noticed a leopard crawling towards me, and only about 25 meters away.  On making eye contact, I moved my backpack across my stomach and chest to provide extra protection if necessary, and slowly took out my jacket from my backpack and raised it in order to look bigger and more intimidating.

The leopard remained in a crouched position for a while longer, then raised itself and gave me a lateral pose, showing off his impressive size and giving an intimidating growl. Seeing it was still making up its mind, I gave a “controlled” shout in order to convince it that I was not suitable prey. It eventually started to move off slowly, and then suddenly disappeared altogether.

So, the lesson I learned from this was be persistent, but to remain vigilant – especially when concentrating on a single sighting as there is nothing at all to say that what I am watching will be the only animals of interest around

Perez

Why I enjoy guiding

I love meeting new people and showing them our beautiful country

On trail…

When out on safari as a guide you see many fascinating aspects of wildlife and nature, but there will always be one that sticks in your mind. Mine shows the lengths that elephants and other animals will go to in order to survive. While driving in the Hoanib River in the North West of Namibia, I noticed elephant tracks leaving the river bed and heading up a valley which got very narrow and steep. I decided to follow them to see where they led and I soon got to a point where the vehicle could go no further so I continued to follow the tracks on foot. They went up into a ravine which shortly turned into a watershed by a steep mountain face. The tracks continued and as I looked up, I saw elephants on the watershed having a dust bath. I continued my way up to the watershed and I saw the elephants had moved down into the next valley, but that was not all that I saw. There was another reason why they had climbed this steep mountain and left their tracks were all over the place, even up sheer cliffs that came up to my chest. This was to chew on the Commiphora plants on the side of the mountain. There were remains of plants everywhere, some of which had been ripped up, chewed on and spat out. For some reason they needed to get something from this plant into their diet and were prepared to climb this mountain to do so. This sort of behaviour has always absolutely fascinated me.

Peter

Why I enjoy guiding

Peter loves learning about a wide variety of subjects and thoroughly enjoys sharing this knowledge with the guests who travel with him – while also learning from them about the very different world that they live in

On Trail…

Astronomy has been a significant part of the experience at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge since the lodge opened, and much of the experience that allows guests to take advantage of staying in ‘dark sky zone’ is brought by volunteer astronomers from all over the world.  I was lucky enough to travel around the country with a visiting volunteer astronomer on an extended tour of Namibia in 2008, and this allowed me to see the country through very different eyes and to understand why it is such an appealing destination for star gazers – especially when away from the towns and other sources of ambient light. This gave me an enthusiasm for star gazing in addition to the more normal safari interests, and I have always found that guests enjoy learning about the night skies, even if this is not something they had given much thought to before starting their safari. I have had many challenging evenings as a result, as guests’ own enthusiasm for star gazing often increases during the course of a safari and their questions become more difficult to answer. I have normally been able to rise to this challenge, but some questions require a professional astronomer to answer them and I am afraid I am not there yet…

Tim

Why I enjoy guiding

My long term love for exploring the wilderness has given me the knowledge and the opportunity to pass on this enthusiasm to others. I am fascinated by nature and by conservation, so this is the ideal job to allow me to learn more about both as well as ‘giving back’ whenever the opportunity to do so arises. Conservation in Africa is amazing, and the unique aspects of the climate and geology in Namibia make it very special indeed.

On Trail…

While out in Erindi with a BBC film crew who were trying to film African Wild Dog behaviour for a kids’ programme called ‘Naomi’s Nightmares of Nature’, we found the resident pack relaxing on an overcast morning with all their pups. As the pups became more restless and starting hinting they wanted food, the pack began to hunt after a routine nuzzling and chitter session. We followed them through the bush for about ten minutes until they located, and started chasing, a herd of large antelopes which turned out to be eland.  Chaos immediately ensued and we temporarily lost sight of both species.

This was in the middle of a drought season when there was lots of dust, but we soon saw a weakened, sick animal tumble down to the ground through the bushes ahead of us. We moved towards it and arrived to a truly incredible scene. A mix of strong emotions overcame us all. Sadness, shock, awe, and enlightenment that this group of an endangered dog species with less than 5000 estimated individuals left on the African continent was going to survive another day. This was all thanks to their opportunist, expert hunter parents and the natural circle of life and death, but it was probably a bit too gory and revealing to be used for a kids program!

Usko

Why I enjoy guiding

Guiding brings me closer to nature and it allows me to share my fascination over all aspects of with the guests who come out to visit. It also allows me to meet people from all around the world and learn more about them and where they come from

On Trail…

When I was working at Damaraland Camp, we went out early one morning for Rhino tracking at a place called Arikana. I had four guests with me and we were lucky enough to find three Black Rhino fairly quickly, so we settled down to watch them from the thin cover of a single medium seize commiphora tree. Unfortunately, the wind changed direction and the Rhino caught our scent and decided to investigate what was behind the bush that smelled so unusual. This was all a bit alarming and we were trying to work out how close we could let the Rhino get before having to break cover. The Rhino kept coming closer, but they were clearly as jumpy as we were, and not at all sure they wanted to know what was hiding behind the bush.  I told everyone to remain quiet and not move a muscle even though the Rhino were close, but one of the guests lost his nerve and decided he had to get away. Fortunately, I didn’t have to try to stop him as this was at the same time the Rhino also decided they had had enough and needed to get away too. We could hear rocks cracking under their feet as they ran off, and I looked around to see genuine relief in the eyes of those around me as they all took a deep breath and said thank GOD! As we moved away, we found the guy who had run lying flat on the ground behind a Salvadora tree with his hands firmly over his eyes.  At the end this thrilling adventure we were all happy and making fun of each other, and the other guests were particularly harsh with ‘the runner’. However, it was all taken in good heart and the important thing was that no one was hurt – despite what could have happened.

About the Author:

Gretchen Healey
Gretchen is the Marketing and Social Media Manager for the Kusini Collection.

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