Heartfelt congratulations to Tom Imrie of Londolozi (pictured above), who was awarded the prestigious and richly deserved Safari Guide of the Year award last Friday, after a phenomenal week of finals held in the Kruger National Park. What a man. He is a shining inspiration, natural leader and African bush legend, with the deepest humility in his heart and equally deep sparkle in his eyes. For true insight from one who knows, take a look at the beautiful post by James Tyrrell on the Londolozi blog: Safari Guide of the Year.
It was our absolute privilege and non-stop pleasure to capture the unforgettable action of this year’s competition in still images and video. Every moment hummed with vibrant energy, amazing camaraderie and expert input from the 8 exceptional finalists and their esteemed judges, all initiated by the vision of veteran guide Mike Karantonis (below left) of Africa Direct tour and travel operators, supported by his company’s superb efforts in collaboration with FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa, MD Grant Hine below right) and a number of generous sponsors.
These included Parktown Stores and Outdoor, Cape Union Mart, Nikon, Empowers Africa, EcoTraining, Sadec traders, Whylo distributors, the African Snakebite institute, Bushnell, Awesome Tools, Jacana Publishers, ORMS, Africa Geographic Magazine and Nkambeni Safari Camp, which was our warmly hospitable home base for the week. Special mention also goes to Rebecca Green, who was an honorary guest and a primary sponsor of the competition.
In addition to Tom, who was awarded top honours for the best guided experience in the walking and driving categories, as well as story telling, the accomplished line-up of finalists featured Nico Mulder (pictured below) from Singita Lebombo in the Kruger National Park, who won the shooting and tracking categories and was runner-up overall, Richard Sachse from Simbambili part of the Thornybush collection in the Sabi Sands, who won the birding category, Wiehan Stapelberg from Shumbalala in Thornybush, who won the photography category, Richard De Gouveia from Sabi Sabi in the Sabi Sands, John Ditsele from Molori Safari lodge in the Madikwe game reserve, Mark Lautenbach from Phinda Andbeyond, and Frank Bouwer from Game Trackers in the Pilansberg, who the rest of the guys voted as Mr. Personality.
Frank Bouwer is holding the camera in the above image, taken during the shooting exercise, with Richard Sachse (far left), Wiehan Stapelberg (left) and Richard De Gouveia (right). Frank’s well-earned accolade was that much more meaningful given that across the board, personality shone throughout the week, encompassing brilliant birding, breath-taking bush walks, magical game drives, challenging shooting, obscure track identification and creative photography, as well as compelling fireside conversation that ranged from enigmatic to hilarious.
Words fail to fully express the once-in-a-lifetime gift exquisitely wrapped in the 2013 Safari Guide of the Year experience, so here are links to our Facebook albums that tell more of the story: Safari Guide of the Year – Team, Safari Guide of the Year – Lodge Magic, Safari Guide of the Year – Bush Magic, Safari Guide of the Year – Awards, Safari Guide of the Year – Shooting, Safari Guide of the Year – Tracking, Safari Guide of the Year – Winners.
One thing is certain: this industry is richer for the phenomenal calibre of guides as represented at this competition and led by Tom Imrie, as well as for the competition’s achievement in bringing the guides from different areas of the industry together to inspire each other, while also raising the profile of the industry and recognizing what professional guides really do.
May each one of them (pictured above) and the Safari Guide of the Year competition grow from strength to strength, contributing to a lasting legacy of ambassadorial excellence and invaluable custodianship of our wildlife.