Qualities To Expect Of Your Tour Guide. 10 Things To Look Out For

Qualities to expect of your tour guide. As you think about your next African Safari adventure, one other thing to give some thought to is your tour guide. While you are touring around, it is your guide/driver that you spend more time with. Be it on the hikes, game drives or long drives from place to place.

This article is intended to put this important bit of concern into perspective. At the onset, you might think that all you want is a single quality over others, but you are going to realise that all these merge with equal importance.

Your driver/guide is a big part of what makes your overall experience exceptional. And you don’t want that. Not after all that preparation and the amount of money invested.

Without taking any more of your time, let’s see which qualities you should be on the lookout for in your tour guide.

1. Charismatic

There is no obvious way of measuring someone’s charisma. We all know that dictionary definitions don’t quite explain human qualities. Your tour guide should be someone who can properly lead a group, make people feel comfortable and get along with many people (even outside of your tour group).

You will be spending some days with your guide and he/she is your first point of contact for anything (information, assistance, whatever). It only makes sense that you feel very comfortable and trust this person.

On average, Ugandan Wildlife Safaris last at least 8 days and that is a lot of time to spend without feeling comfortable with your guide.

But how will I know, you ask? Well, a very experienced guide will probably exhibit all the qualities. The best advice here is to ask for someone that matches the qualities you are most comfortable with. Ask your safari experts (that’s hopefully us) to pair you with someone who has a character closely related to your own but is experienced and has gone to your itinerary locations a lot. That should do it.

The right kind of charismatic person will create greater cohesion with your whole group, and the other people you meet. This is only a positive thing.

Make sure charisma is not confused with extrovert personality. More about this in the closing thoughts.

2. Knowledgeable

Information is power. We are giving you this information to help you with your travels – but also such that you will identify with our brand. Identify with our commitment and passion for the work we do – and maybe trust us to show you around.

Your tour guide should be informed about the places you visit and which activities are there. They should be able to inform you of subtle social norms such that you become a great guest wherever you go.

Being knowledgeable of your interests also means showing you the ‘many little extras’ that don’t get mentioned in the actual itinerary. An informed tour guide will go the extra mile for you – and that extra mile is why we work with them.

3. Interpersonal Skills

Being knowledgeable is great, but can become exhausting if your guide keeps stating fact after fact like a robot. Interpersonal skills, however, do work when both you (the visitors) and the guide work on it together.

Since you are already spending so much time together, you might as well engage in ‘human’ conversation. Talk about what fun activities people like to do and all the other stuff that might interest either of you. You can even talk about hobbies, music tastes and even funny stories. Such things help in creating a good connection with people.

Most experienced guides will have good interpersonal skills and you will learn much more as long as the conversation is not shut down. While you might travel for sights, animals and activities, nothing will fill the soul as connecting with a human can.

4. Flexibility

Flexibility goes a long way. Having an itinerary is great for planning and having structure but that should not limit what you could do.

The itinerary is usually laid out in a way that allows for a little extra time and some small changes. A good tour guide will accommodate your flexibility or advise accordingly without breaking the curse for the next planned items.

This could be stopping along the highway for some fresh fruits or taking pictures. It could also be buying some souvenirs or simply organising an optional hike or community visit. While much of the itinerary is already planned and scheduled, the flexibility of your guide is what makes your trip different from any other.

5. Punctual

Time management is key. The itinerary provides a standard framework to follow for the entire trip, for example, specific time for waking up, breakfast and estimated time of travel from one place to another.

Failure to follow a set structure could put you way off track and possibly miss doing some of the activities aligned. Certain places that use ferries like Entebbe to Kalangala island have a specific time it sets off, which means once you miss it there will be a huge dent in your flow of activities.

A good tour guide is knowledgeable about all of this. Punctuality is golden in cases where flexibility is not a good option. For example, gorilla trekking starts at 7:30 AM and being late means you will miss out.

6. Great Communication Skills

This relates to interpersonal skills but differs in a significant way. Being audible, articulate and speaking simply is a good character.

Communication should not stop with how the guide interacts with you but with everyone else. Does he let you (or others) get a word into the conversation or just dictate everything? What about talking with the other people, the rangers and workers at the hotel/lodge?

No one likes to be stuck with someone who isn’t nice to other people. It makes you seem bad for having a close association with a rude person – even if he/she is extremely nice to you.

Depending on which activities your tour goes to, it might be important that the guide knows a local language or two of the area, as Uganda has more than 10 major local languages. This is very crucial when it comes to cultural tours, such as those with the Batwa pygmies in Bwindi. Such situations might require translation, as you learn about the cultures and norms of the various people.

7. Keen Sense of Direction

Your guide should have a good sense of direction such that you don’t get lost – whether in a national park jungle or during one of the long drives. An experienced tour guide already knows the various routes (and even shortcuts) that will take you where you are going without any sort of disturbance.

Having your driver stop other people for directions more than once is not going to build your trust in him.

8. Improvisational Skills

Under perfect conditions, this shouldn’t be needed. But like health insurance, it is good to know that you are covered in case something goes wrong.

While great care is always taken to make sure that everything (from the car, the hotel or the parks) is in order before the safari starts, unexpected situations will creep up from time to time. The hope is that they never do, but if they did, you would rather be with a guide who can handle such situations.

Even something like a punctured tyre is very different if it finds you in a national park, with no nearby help. That is a situation in which you wouldn’t want your guide to start freaking out. If anything, you will want him/her to calm you down and assure you that the tyre change will only be a couple of minutes.

9. Patience

Your guide should be someone patient. A tour will rarely go as planned to the very last small detail. Someone will forget to unplug their charger and need a minute or two. The hotel might be a little slow in serving you.

Those a very ‘human’ situations that require a little bit of patience. Having an impatient tour guide will ruin the experience of your trip. It will be hard to know this beforehand, but you can always ask him to be a little patient with you or other people.

This shouldn’t be a problem for a guide who is well experienced. As all people err, you should feel free to ask him/her to be patient with everyone around.

10. Passionate

Like charisma, passion is hard to measure. The basic trick here is to get someone who loves everything about their work. A passionate person will do their work with the kind of effortless effort that is enlightening.

We have all been served by someone who seemed like they would rather do something else. That kind of service ended up ruining the whole experience.

A passionate guide will very easily meet the qualities discussed above. He will be knowledgeable, charismatic, great with people and ready to show you the absolute best there is. He will be as excited as you, and that creates great energy for everyone involved.


The above points are some of the intangible qualities that can add something to your safari and make it very special. The challenge arises because you are communicating and organizing the trip from far away. The best way to approach this is to ask the direct person who is planning your Safari to tell you about the drivers.

If you happen to have a very strong preference, communicate that as well such that the best possible guide is availed for you.

Most of the qualities mentioned above can easily be confused with someone’s personality – especially for extroverts. The truth is that both introverts and extroverts have these qualities. Given that most people in the world are extroverts to a certain level, there should be no worries about getting an extroverted person if you so prefer.

If you are an introvert or are simply used to spending time with introverts, you can also state so, such that someone of less extroversion is picked for your trip.

These qualities are hard for you to know since you haven’t met the guides. But our safari experts who are drawing up your tour program and organising everything can help you identify the right man/woman. This is because we are already familiar with the guides and have taken trips with them to have a good understanding of their general disposition concerning the above points.

An experienced guide will easily satisfy the above qualities as compared to someone just new in the line of work.

We believe that it is important to keenly look at the qualities of your tour guide. We think it is as important as choosing your Safari tour operator

We hope this article gives you a certain perspective and helps in informing your next African safari adventure. Hopefully, one that you will let us take you on.

Do you think we covered all the points? What do you wish we had included? Tell us in the comments below.

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