Dawn interviews Florence Kagiso from Chobe Game Lodge
1. Why did you decide to become a guide? Has it lived up to your expectations?
Born and raised in Ngamiland but mostly around the Okavango Delta somehow silently drifted me towards guiding. My love for wildlife came from my kinder years as I was exposed to them a lot when growing up, but just like any other child I had to go to school. My parents were so adamant for me to do fashion designing of which I tried for a bit but since it wasn’t what my heart desired it didn’t settle right with me, so I quit and changed my path. I went to further my studies in guiding at Botswana Wildlife Institute and just like that I took first my stepping stone into guiding and never looked back. My expectations are continuously being exceeded on a daily basis.
2. Was it difficult to be accepted in a male dominated career?
When I first started it was very tough. The guys were not welcoming to the idea of women working as guides and would many times suggest we look into office jobs or something more feminine-friendly, but I held my fort tight and did not despair.
3. Chobe Game Lodge has the only all-female guiding team in Africa, do you think the Lodge made a good decision and are guests ever surprised about having a female guide?
I commend Chobe Game Lodge because had it not been for them we would still be trying to prove ourselves with very little hope. They gave us a platform to shine, spread our wings and sore with the eagles. Nowadays more and more companies are open to employing female guides.
4. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Where do I start really (she laughs). It might sound a tad cliché but I honestly love everything about my job. No two seconds are ever the same. I get stars in my eyes still when I am on safari activities as if it is my first time, something which always surprises my guests (who become my family for the duration of their stay). Meeting wonderful individuals from all around the globe and sharing the beauty of Botswana’s Fauna and Flora as well as our diverse culture with them is my highlight. My country, my pride and my office is the wilderness which I adore.
5. Most guides spend many months away from their families – what do you find the hardest thing about this?
Every job has its lows and highs and true, we get to be away from our loved ones for months but one needs to prepare herself mentally when taking on guiding as a career. I am a mother, so you can imagine missing your child’s milestones. My motto is to work harder so I can enjoy sunsets in future with my family. All it takes is focus and Tebelopele and the rewards shall be abundant not just for guiding but for everything you set your mind to.
6. What do your friends and family think about your choice of career?
My family and friends are happy for me and some of my cousins are studying to be professional guides as well. I have paved the way for them I guess (she giggles)
7. What makes Chobe National Park so special?
Chobe National Park is a diamond in the rough. I believe it is a jewel because it has not been tampered with as conservation is a big deal here. The wildlife is unparalleled to anywhere else with the largest population of elephants in the world. This park is land of the gentle giants.
8. Of all the sightings, which has been your favourite?
Oh my! It is so hard to pick just one. Okay I got it.
I remember one special moment when a teenage elephant crossed the channel after wallowing, came straight to our vehicle and when he was close enough he stopped. He observed the vehicle for a moment and started dust bathing. It was more like he wanted to include us in his treatment at the spa. Guests thought it was hilarious for the Ellie to come and spray us with sand which happened to be their most memorable as well.
9. Chobe Game Lodge was awarded the highest Ecotourism Level recognised in Botswana, can you tell me about the lodge’s initiatives and projects?
Chobe Game Lodge is such an inspiration not only to the other lodges but to us as employees too. We are all involved in recycling and using materials to help save the environment. They crush bottles and make bricks with them, compress cans, return plastic bottles to Aquarite and are trying to make their own bio-gas using waste materials/food. One of the other interesting projects is the sewage system; they mix the grey water with river water to irrigate the gardens. Here we don’t let anything go to waste. In the laundry, clothes are washed with bio-degradable products and air-dried. Now as we make our way to my office, Chobe Game Lodge has converted 4 vehicles to electric and 4 skimmer boats are electric (3 of which are solar-powered). These beauties are silent and let you approach the animals without startling them. In addition there are 24 solar panels on the rooftop of the main lodge to heat water in the geysers and for lights. I think they are looking into running the lodge completely on solar-energy in the near future.
10. Has the existence of the all-female-guiding team encouraged more women to train as guides?
A lot of women are venturing into guiding and on behalf of all my sisters I would like to say “Thank you to Chobe Game Lodge” once again for making it possible for us women to turn our dreams into reality.