Lessons from the road: Safari guide James Nampaso

After a decade guiding in the Masai Mara, Kicheche Camps’ James Nampaso is one of Kenya’s most sought after guides. Here, 2019’s Best Safari Guide gives us his top tips...

3 mins

Grab your opportunity

When I was a young boy, tending my father’s cows, I’d see lots of animals and they fascinated me. Sometimes I’d see tourists in 4WDs and I’d watch the guides with envy. So I studied hard - you have to want to learn, studying every spare hour – and when I came to Kicheche Camps as a tent attendant I realised I wanted more. First I helped with walking safaris, and then I was given my chance to guide, an opportunity I grasped with both hands.

Reciprocity is critical 

I learn a lot from interacting with different visitors and sharing. I love to learn from them and they seem to like hearing about my culture too.

Communication is key

I always ask clients what their interests are: what animals are they particularly fond of? What they would like to see most? Then I listen carefully and look at them – their eyes, their expressions and their hands. ‘Thawing’ difficult clients can take some time but, with a little help from the most prolific game areas in the world, we always win them around! But it is not just about being a verbal reference book: at Kicheche we do long game drives and often very early starts, so you need patience and you must be able to make people laugh.

Knowledge wins the day

I’ve learned to predict some animal’s behaviour – it’s not an exact science but it is vital when lining people up for that perfect wildlife moment. After ten years, I’ve also learned a lot about photography from my boss [pro-snapper Paul Goldstein]. I now have photographers from all over the world who come with me several times a year.

But luck plays a part!

Once, in 2018, many guests had decided to take the long trek to the Reserve to try to see a wildlife river crossing, but I stayed in the Mara Conservancy with my clients so we were on  our own when we saw a pride of females take down a young giraffe after trying to distract the mother for an hour. It something I’ve never seen before and will never forget.

Coronavirus has hit hard 

It’s affected everyone in Kenya, but two of our biggest industries – tourism and flowers – are savagely hit. This has completely shut us down. Tourists are crucial, not only do they bring hard currency into the country they also deter poaching. I pray every day to get back to work.

Conservancies are the future

Guiding in the conservancies is a joy as these are properly controlled conservation areas. Once I’ve found my quarry I know I am not going to be troubled by too many other vehicles.

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