Our pick of the safari guides
In all of the regions in which we work throughout the world, securing the most inspiring guides is our highest priority. Below we have highlighted some of our favourites, who we have known for years and who embody the qualities we look for when choosing a guide for our clients.
Throughout all the regions in which we work, securing the most inspiring guides is one of our highest priorities. These are the people who will introduce you to the country and allow you to uncover the real soul of the place you are visiting. Nowhere is this more important than on safari – where the guides we choose not only inspire you with their vast knowledge and thrilling stories but also, through their highly skilled and intricate tracking, can tell you exactly when a leopard is nearby and even communicate with the animals you encounter. Quite simply, the guide makes or breaks a safari, and through our team’s substantial experience in Africa, we can call the very best guides our friends.
For a truly extraordinary experience, we can arrange a private guide to accompany you from the start of your holiday to the finish, in several countries if you so wish. The incredibly skilled people that we work with are rare beasts, who are totally attuned to the wildlife and land you are exploring and will lead you to some awe-inspiring sights in a safe and secure way. The experience is very personal, as your guide will learn exactly what you’re interested in seeing and you’ll find a great continuity in your experience, with him or her able to reference wildlife you spoke about days before and put everything you see into context. There is no way of feeling more connected with Africa than exploring it with someone whose life has been dedicated to unlocking the best of the continent.
However, a private guide travelling with you is an expensive luxury, so usually, it is about lining clients up with lodge-based guides. This is why we work predominantly with owner-run lodges and camps run by seasonal guides who will remain with you for the entirety of your stay. Lodges and camps can look great on a website or in a brochure, but the culture of great guiding is part of the DNA we look for in building an itinerary that brings a place to life.
Below, we have highlighted some individuals who embody the qualities we look for when choosing a guide for our clients.
Kyle Branch, Zambia
Kyle Branch co-founded two of our favourite mobile camps in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park – The Chula Island Camp and The Kutali Camp – with Luke Evans. Both men are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the Zambian bush, wildlife and tourism. Luke usually works behind the scenes at the camps while Kyle does most of the guiding.
Born in the South African town of Tzaneen, near Kruger National Park, Kyle spent his childhood exploring the park and its surroundings. Having qualified as a guide, he spent five years guiding at &Beyond’s South African lodges until, in 2012, he left for Zambia, where he became a guide and manager at Sausage Tree Camp in Lower Zambezi National Park. Now, as well as running The Chula Island Camp and The Kutali Camp, Kyle is a private guide for birding, photographic and fishing safaris, accompanying guests all over Southern Africa and Uganda. Our Destination Expert, Cara Maitland, was lucky enough to have Kyle as her guide in Zambia last October. She says, “This is authentic safari at its purest, with bucket showers, no electricity and certainly no Wi-Fi – ideal for our clients who are looking to get back to the real essence of the African bush. Kyle is one of the best guides I have ever had. His knowledge knows no bounds and his love of the African wilderness and its wildlife is completely infectious. I couldn’t recommend him more highly to any of our clients.”
Jackson Looseyia, Kenya
Owner, host and guide at Tangulia Mara Camp, on the western boundary of the Mara Reserve, Jackson is one of the most famous guides in East Africa. His story is legendary: born in the Mara in 1967, his father taught him to be a hunter-gatherer and to track animals, spending months at a time in the bush. His extensive experience and potential led him to be put through guide training by Ron and Pauline Beaton – he was the first Maasai to do this. He was also the first Maasai to present on Big Cat Diary and has made several other television appearances over recent years. Claire, head of our Africa division, has spent a lot of time with Jackson, and described him as follows: “His passion and knowledge for what he talks about are truly remarkable and his manner is hypnotic. He has the ability to turn the most simple fact into the most enthralling story. I have seen first-hand the effect he has on those he accompanies. What I find so special about him is the opportunity to learn not only about the intricacies of the African bush but also about Maasai culture and Kenya in general.”
Deb Tittle, Zambia
England-born Deb grew up watching African wildlife on television. However, this was enough to kickstart her fascination with animal behaviour. After graduating from university, she signed up to drive Overland Expeditions throughout Africa, and several years (and many miles) later, she decided on South Luangwa National Park as her home. Deb passed her guiding exams in the mid-nineties and, over the past 22 years, she has revelled in the magic of the Luangwa Valley with her guests. She has shared her fantastic knowledge with local Zambians, many of whom have gone on to enjoy successful careers as guides and conservationists. She founded the wonderful Mapazi Camp, in South Luangwa, in order to deliver the kind of exclusive safari she herself loves. Bush walks here are totally tailored to each group and every guest is involved in tracking wildlife and developing his or her own skills along the way. The camp is also a base for anti-poaching patrols in low-season months to help protect Luangwa’s amazing wildlife.
As Claire Ferguson, Head of our Africa + the Indian Ocean team says, “Nothing brings a safari experience to life more than being guided by someone who has extreme knowledge and passion for the ecosystems within which they work. Deb has spent more than 20 years guiding and South Luangwa has been her sole focus throughout these years, so there really is no one better to take you on a journey through some of the most remote sections of this beautiful park than her. Her ability to bring even the smallest elements of nature to life on a walking safari is unparallelled and her camp is perhaps one of only a few truly authentic safari experiences to be found in this area.”
Ralph Bousfield, Botswana
One of our all-time favourite camps, Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi Pans, was set up by Ralph Bousfield, in memory of his crocodile hunter and intrepid safari specialist father, Jack. Over time, Ralph has become quite the safari celebrity, but more important to us is his encyclopedic knowledge of Africa. We can arrange for Ralph to be your private guide while staying at either Jack’s Camp or San Camp and for something even more memorable, if requested far in advance, we can arrange for him to accompany you across Africa through a series of countries. Ralph opened Jack’s around the same time that Henrietta Loyd founded cazenove+loyd and we have remained close ever since. We can confirm that he still lives up to the hype, providing an unrivalled insight into Botswana and beyond.
Ant Kaschula, Zimbabwe
Ant Kaschula is one of the most exciting and accomplished private guides working in Africa right now. Based in Zimbabwe, which is thankfully now firmly back in business, Ant is something of a prodigy, having qualified as a fully licensed guide in the record time of 18 months. This is particularly impressive given that Zimbabwean training is among the toughest in the world, with a 5% pass rate. Ant’s traditional mobile-tented outfit, Gonarezhou Bush Camp, is a fabulous option for those longing for genuine wilderness. He knows exactly where to set up and when, and his enthusiasm for the land and creatures is infectious, just wait until you see him communicate with the elephants through a series of clicks and sounds. You will leave knowing you have had one of the most authentic safari experiences possible.
Calvin Cottar, Kenya
The owner and founder of the renowned, family-run Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp, Cottar’s Private Bush Villa and Cottar’s Fly Camp is one of Kenya’s best-known guides. These bush retreats are situated in the Maasai-owned Olderkesi Conservancy, which lies adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve. Calvin’s passion for wildlife and wild spaces means that much of his time is spent managing the Cottar Wildlife Conservation Trust, working with their Olderkesi Maasai neighbours to protect this crucial wildlife corridor. We are proud to have known Calvin for 27 years. He is a phenomenal guide, with a deep knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Mara ecosystem and further afield. His fascinating family history and charm make him a pleasure to spend time with.
Philip Jeffery + Tyrone McKeith, Zambia
Philip and Tyrone are based in Kafue National Park. Initially, they began arranging bespoke walking trails and logistical support for wildlife documentary filmmakers, before setting up two authentic bush camps specialising in walking safaris: Musekese Camp and Ntemwa-Busanga Camp. Born in Zimbabwe, Philip spent his first few years in the Luangwa Valley but has worked for the past 15 years in Kafue. Having lived his entire life in the bush, his expertise and passion for Zambia’s flora and fauna is superb. Tyrone was brought to Kafue when he was just five years old. He has managed and guided in the Luangwa Valley and Kafue, and his knowledge is outstanding. Two of the best young guides in Zambia, this duo has boundless energy and enthusiasm – and would be an excellent choice for adventurous families or couples looking for a real African wilderness experience.
Albie Venter, South Africa
South African-based Albie has been involved in guiding, wildlife management and ecotourism since 1996. He began as a guide in the South African lowveld near Kruger National Park, before managing safari camps with his wife Freda in East Africa and trying his hand at wildlife management. He spends around 150 days a year guiding in southern and East Africa, as well as contributing his photography and conservation-focused articles to publications such as Africa Geographic, Wild Planet, African Birdlife and Getaway. In our opinion, he stands out for his passion and knowledge of many parts of Africa as well as his talent in wildlife photography and the encouraging way he has helped our clients become better photographers themselves. That said, with his outgoing but gentle manner, he would be a brilliant guide for anyone.
John Barclay, Botswana
Raised in Botswana, John hails from a long line of African adventurers. A nephew of the esteemed Ralph Bousfield, his family has guided safaris for five generations. With his uncle as his mentor, he has developed an incredible respect for and deep understanding of the Kalahari Bushmen, wildlife and the environment. After two years working in London, he returned to Africa to run mobile-safari expeditions with Ralph in the Okavango Delta, Makgadikgadi Pan and Central Kalahari. He has really made a name for himself, with his team being awarded the ‘Good Safari Guide Award – Best Mobile Operator in Africa’ not once but twice. Both he and James are young, fun and passionate about people, the African wilderness and its inhabitants. Together, they fly the flag for the next generation of guides in southern Africa.
There are so many fantastic guides in Africa and many new ones coming up through the ranks. We match them to clients based on their interests – from conservation to birdlife. Some guides are particularly good with children, so we choose them for families. Others are much more suited to the low-key intimacy of accompanying couples. The guiding is one of the most crucial parts of a safari experience, and we, at cazenove+loyd, work harder than anyone else to ensure that your guide will be the perfect fit.