Ker & Downey Q&A

Q1. How long have you been guiding for and what interested you in guiding in the first place?

I have been guiding for the last seventeen years. I have always been interested in doing this since I was as young as seven years old. I was a chairman of the Wildlife Club at the age of twelve and for my National Service I was based in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. I was a little boy who played with ants and snakes and frogs and lizards.

Q2. How difficult is it to become a guide? What training do you need?

Being a guide does not mean just having a license. Today they have Guiding Schools that young people go to and train for a couple of years, Academics even in the field then they go sit their exams. The longer you are out on the field with the international guests, the more you learn


Q3. You run specialist trips with children, what are the main considerations when taking kids on safari and how do you make sure they stay entertained?

I have been working with kids in the bush for over ten years. I know it is very easy to entertain them and it is very easy to bore them. I can make them like what they never liked, easily! I am just a kid myself and I like to have fun, I do have the energy to do that. I seriously think it takes someone who is naturally patient and creative so they are able to direct a child’s energy into fun activities. When they come to the bush, I am like a new parent and the kids will listen to me as they are in a new unfamiliar environment.

Q4. Tell me a bit more about some of the activities you arrange specifically for kids.

We have lots of fun. This is normally during siesta time while the lion and the lioness take a snooze break, myself and the cubs do some what I call “camp craft” activities. I teach them how to make bows and arrows, and they do get involved in the making and the curving of wood, I give them a full lesson on fire arms and safety then they have practical’s with the air gun, shooting at cans, the making of slingshots and I teach them how to shoot them. They also learn how to make a fire with and without matches.

Q5. Your Young Explorers safari also teaches the kids quite a lot about being in the bush and how to survive. What’s the most important lesson you teach them?

I think the most important lesson that I teach them has got to be fishing, there is a saying “If you give a man a fish you feed him for one day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life”. In Botswana we often live by this concept.

Q6. What is the most exciting sighting you have ever had and why?

The most exciting sighting I have ever had is my next one”Ha! Ha!” Ok, this is not an easy question, I think it has to be when I was on a walk once and I heard a jackal making alarm calls and I went there, He does that when there is a bigger predator. We hid nicely by the reeds to watch a huge male leopard with this little jackal behind him, jackals do that to try and drive him out of his territory and every now and then the leopard will charge at the jackal because he was irritating him. They walked to the side where we were no longer hidden, then the leopard saw us and then ran away and the jackal did not see us and thought that the leopard was running away from him and he chased the leopard. One of my guests had this amazing shot of this huge leopard running away from a jackal. When the jackal walked back you can clearly see that he was very proud of himself.


Q7. I think guides have a tough time – when you drop the guests at their tent at night, you have to walk back alone – aren’t you ever scared?

Walking by myself is fine, I am never scared then, what can be scary is when I am with the guests to the tents because they would have had few glasses of wine and I might not be easy to control them when danger comes!

Q8. Most guides spend a long time away from their families working in a camp, what do you like to do in your spare time in camp?

My spare time in camp… I was never much of a reader till I came to the bush. I am like a worm in a book. I like also to do a bit of fishing and cooking my own food.

Q9. I want to see an aardvark where and when should I go looking for one?

Go and look for an aardvark at Paul’s pan at 01:13hrs sharp! Ha!
There is no such thing as where and when do you see an aardvark. That is a very illusive animal that only comes out at night. He finds a mound with termites in it and he feeds, then back to hiding, so sometimes he is only active for less than an hour a night making his sightings very rare.

Q10. What is the most difficult situation you have found yourself in out in the bush?

The most difficult situation that I have ever found myself in out in the bush was when I had this guest once, He came to Africa wanting to have a hundred percent adventure. So he tried all sorts of things that I couldn’t allow him to. He sneaked out of camp at night to try and do a night walk, I was very lucky to see him before he went too far, so I remember grabbing my big spotlight and going after him, and he was wearing a camouflage outfit and had his survival knife! He also tried to sleep outside at night!

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