It’s been said that the heart of your African safari is… the heart of your African safari guide. Is he knowledgeable about wildlife and the land? Does he know just where to find that pride of lions or an elusive leopard seen prowling in the area?
But just as importantly, is he excited and passionate about his work? Does he delight in sharing his love for the wildlife with you, his guests? Is he just as invested in having a magnificent safari as you are?
That’s the measure of a truly great safari leader. At Africa Kenya Safaris, we are fortunate to enjoy the skills and talent of a great many such guides. And we’d like to share the stories of these remarkable people in this series. Today we’ll get to meet master guide Joseph Mbote.
You remember the story about Elsa the lioness, set free by her caretaker, Joy Adamson. So did Joseph – the movie was his first exposure to Kenya’s incredible wildlife. Growing up in Mombasa, his family didn’t have the means to see the country’s national parks so Elsa became his inspiration for a life in the natural world.
This fascination only increased through his childhood so Joseph attended college, did field work, and apprenticed to become a guide. After passing his exams and then working as a junior guide, Joseph was finally able to pursue his lifelong passion.
Joseph says there’s no typical safari day but most mornings he’ll head out with his guests around 6 am, an excellent time to see the animals emerging into the new day. After a few hours on safari, he’ll bring his guests back to their lodge for breakfast.
However on longer safaris and when in the Masai Mara Reserve, Joseph gets box meals for everyone so they can stay out for a full day of game drives. As he says, “I love Masai Mara – I call it a lion documentary. There is so much to see here, so much wildlife.”
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Perhaps the only thing Joseph loves more than the wildlife is sharing the wildlife with his guests, especially on their first safari. He explains, “You can see their excitement. Not even with the cats. When they first see a zebra… it’s ‘Oh, that’s a zebra! Zebra, my god!’ And you don’t want to tell them there are 10,000 zebras still ahead.”
But Joseph wants to make every safari unique and special, accommodating his guests’ requests. Some guests just want quiet, no talking, no radio communications. Joseph will comply and without his network of other guides, just rely on experience and instincts to find the wildlife. He adds, “And when you find a pride, there is that sense of satisfaction. And the guests see you actually know what you’re doing.”
Joseph’s guests appreciate his efforts and his love of the safari life which he shares so generously. He says, “For many, it has been their dream of a lifetime to come and visit the Masai Mara, just to be on safari. So you can imagine the satisfaction and you might end up crying.”