Empowering Women in the Safari Industry: The Rise of Female Safari Guides


Safari guiding was traditionally thought to be a male role and has been dominated by men for decades. The role was thought to require physical strength, in-depth knowledge of wildlife, and wilderness survival skills that were traits customarily associated with men. Women have been interested in guiding but cultural and societal norms, as well as all male quarters for guides in safari lodges in East Africa have also played a role in keeping women out of the industry. 

Becoming a guide is not easy but women also have to compete against decades of preconceptions. The vision has been a brawny male safari guide as set in many Hollywood movies.

The African wilderness has long been an area where myth and majesty intertwine, where the thunderous roar of lions echoes across the boundless savanna or the gentle rustle of leaves means a herd of elephants is passing by. Gender equality for guides must involve the traveler, and more safari-goers are helping empower women to become the face of the safari industry. 

The Pioneering Women of Safari Guiding

To accept that a female guide is as knowledgeable, passionate, and capable as the historic male vision of the Africa safari guide. they must demonstrate their ability but also show more empathy for their guests’ needs. A number of foundations, including African Bush Camps in Southern Africa, is helping with all-female guiding programs that include training to receive the precious 4x4 driver’s license, handling of a jeep, changing tires in the bush, and handling a weapon in case of emergencies. 

With unwavering determination, the women are challenging age-old norms and forging a new path, one where the vast knowledge and expertise of female guides take center stage, offering an unparalleled window into the wonders of Africa's wilderness.is empowering women to become the face of the safari industry. With unwavering determination, they are challenging age-old norms and forging a new path, one where the vast knowledge and expertise of female guides take center stage, offering an unparalleled window into the wonders of Africa's wilderness.

The road for women in the safari industry has been long and arduous, but trailblazers like Kenyan-born Verity Williams have paved the way. In 1962, Williams started as a secretary at Ker & Downey, and two decades later, she became one of the continent's first female safari guides. Her tenacity and love for the great outdoors inspired generations of women to follow in her footsteps, challenging societal norms and proving that they, too, could excel in this demanding profession.

Addressing Gender Inequality

Before 2021, more than 90% of safari guides in Southern Africa were male, with less than 5% of women receiving regular training and development opportunities. Companies like Africa Bush Camps, Ker & Downey in Botswana, and Dunia in Tanzania recognized this glaring disparity and took action. 

While African Bush Camps has set a goal to have 25 female guides in the safari industry by 2025, Dunia has created Africa’s first all-female-run safari camp, employing only women, from the camp manager to the expert guides.

The Journey to Becoming a Safari Guide

The path to becoming a safari guide is a demanding one, requiring a unique blend of knowledge, skills, and determined focus. For the women enrolled in the African Bush Camps Foundation's program, this journey begins with a comprehensive theoretical and practical training curriculum.

Theoretical and Practical Training

Participants delve into the intricacies of wildlife biology, ecology, and conservation principles, laying the foundation for their future roles as ambassadors of the natural world. Practical training sessions take place in the heart of the bush, where they learn to track animals, identify bird calls, and navigate the rugged terrain with confidence.

Alongside their formal training, the aspiring female guides have the opportunity to learn from experienced mentors and job shadow seasoned professionals. This hands-on approach allows them to gain invaluable insights, develop their skills, and build a network of support within the industry.

The journey is not without its challenges. From navigating cultural and societal expectations to mastering the physical demands of the job, these women must overcome numerous obstacles.

Female Safari Guides Have Access and Opportunities

The rise of female safari guides is more than just a milestone in gender equality; it represents a transformative shift in the industry that promises to enrich the experience for visitors and local communities alike.

By diversifying the ranks of safari guides, the industry is embracing a wealth of perspectives, experiences, and approaches. This diversity not only enhances the quality of the safari experience but also fosters a more inclusive and representative environment, inspiring future generations to pursue their dreams. As more women take on leadership roles in the safari industry, they become powerful role models for young girls and women, challenging traditional gender norms and demonstrating that no dream is too ambitious. 

Their presence in the field serves as a beacon of hope, igniting a passion for conservation and environmental stewardship in the hearts and minds of those who witness their dedication firsthand. Their sensitivity to the subtleties of the natural world can enhance the overall experience, from interpreting animal behavior to sharing cultural insights. Female guides offer a fresh and compelling narrative that enriches the understanding and appreciation of the African wilderness.

As a woman-owned company established over 50 years ago, and led by seasoned female safari professionals, Born Free Safaris is proud to support initiatives empowering local women and their communities. More female guides also provide the independent, solo female traveler with a greater comfort level—not only feeling safer in their guide’s company but also often enjoying a woman’s perspective of life in Africa.

Experience the Future of Women as Safari Guides

Ongoing training, workshops, and mentorship opportunities will help participants continuously enhance their skills, stay abreast of industry developments, and grow into leadership roles within the safari industry.

The mission of many foundations and established projects in Africa are meant to share in the conservation efforts demonstrated in the impact of the Female Guides Training Program. By empowering women and challenging traditional gender norms, the safari industry is undergoing a transformative shift. These trailblazing women are not only redefining the face of the industry but also inspiring future generations to pursue their dreams, no matter how daunting the path may seem. 

Find new and exciting ways to learn from the current and future women safari guides in Africa by creating your safari wishlist