Knowledge vs. Safety in Guiding

Guiding a group of clients successfully in any activity requires the Guide to have knowledge of the subject in order to educate and entertain as well as the ability to look after the safety of the clients. These are the soft and hard skills of guiding.

In some industries the hard skills or safety skills are far more pronounced then in others. A guide, who leads white water paddling trips, offers mountain climbs, leads a nature trail, or goes hiking etc, needs to have a very well developed ability to ensure the safety of the clients in what is potentially a high risk activity. The ability to provide the activity safely is far more important than the educational knowledge imparted during the trip. We can think of these hard skills as the Guides “Drivers Licence”, the skills needed to run the physical activity.

The soft or knowledge based skills are less important in Activity or Adventure Guides then a Guide whose primary focus is providing an overview of South Africa to a visitor from the comfort of a coach.

However these skills work together – so where should we place the greatest importance?

Camping near the base of Thabana Ntlenyana

Any Guiding activity that is primarily low risk and focuses on educating the client should have a high importance placed on the soft skills of guiding. A Guide who works from a coach or vehicle primarily imparts knowledge, and the safety of the groups travel is in the hands of the driver. This is what prompted the regulations about driver guides, as a driver of a vehicle can not adequately look after the safety of the physical trip (driving) if they are focusing on educating the visitors about South Africa.

In activities that are primarily high risk, it is imperative that importance is placed on the hard skills, or the ‘Drivers Licence”.

If we cannot guarantee the physical safety of visitors during an activity because we are focusing too much on imparting knowledge then we are failing in our duties as guides. The physical activity MUST take preference over the knowledge imparted in all cases.

In this light, a guide who holds a national qualification in Culture or other knowledge based subject, and who guides outside of the safety of a coach, should also hold an additional qualification that proves their competence to run the physical aspect of the trip, such as, Mountain Walking, Paddling, Dangerous Game, Rock Climbing, Surfing, Kite-boarding, 4×4 etc. Not to do so could be regarded as a failure in our duty of care and could be regarded as gross negligence.

To Summarise:

There is a safety aspect and there is an educational aspect to all guiding. Being able to recognise birds in a coastal forest should not qualify a Guide to take clients to view Bearded Vultures by foot on the Drakensberg escarpment unless you also hold a qualification to enter into that specialist environment.

The safety of clients is fundamental and that is often dependent on the environment we enter into – if you are a qualified SCUBA diver, does that mean you can now fly a Kite Board as well – and walking on flat terrain is very different to walking in a mountainous area?

Training guides in the educational aspects of History, Culture, Nature etc is one thing, training them to escort clients safely is completely different and non-negotiable and the current industry associations recommendations where available should be enforced by Provincial Registrars for all guides.

Are Guides Who Lead Walking Tours Different?

We must define the duties, and examine the hazards faced by “walking  guides” before deciding what qualifications need to be held.

THE TERRAIN

Walking guides” are those guides who lead groups on tours where the primary means of travel is on foot in remote areas, such as game reserves, the coastline or mountains, in fact, any area could be included where the party walks over terrain that has not been modified by permanent fixed walkways, and is remote enough that assistance can not be reached on foot within one hour. This makes it “Walking Guide” terrain.

Clients going on such a trip are in many cases not adequately prepared by the tour operator and guide for a trip into the outside environment. Serious problems arise when the “easy” walk gets more difficult because of unexpected changing conditions. Nobody is prepared for or recognises the changes, but the trip will often go on as planned. Modern civilisation makes the average person inefficient to travel in the outdoors. It strips us of our skills of walking in remote unmodified areas.

Says experienced Tour Guide Dave Sclanders,

I believe that anyone who goes into the outdoor environment should have appropriate walking training and registration. (There is) a problem with large tour operators who have guides who have no ‘Mountain Experience’ taking day tours by foot into the mountains. If tour guides are city graded, that’s where they must stay.

THE QUALIFICATIONS

The usual qualifications that tour guides hold fall into three main categories: Culture, Nature and Adventure. Neither the Culture nor Nature qualification unit standards have any “walking skills” built into them. (Although some providers may add some as extras) There are no requirements that the guide knows how to cope with for example:

Group Leadership on foot in the outdoors,
• Navigation
• Hazardous obstacle avoidance
• Steep ground movement
• Water hazards

Only the Adventure Guide Qualifications include these as specific requirements.

Says Grant Hine of FGASA,

Given the nature of and potential dangers in mountain areas it is imperative that Nature Guides working in this type of “speciality” environment attain the relevant mountain guiding unit standards over and above the nature unit standards, before being legally allowed to guide in these areas.

This can apply to all on foot areas and not just mountain areas, as well as to all categories of guides and not just nature.

Searching rough terrain

ACCIDENT STATISTICS

Very few statistics are available that look at accidents and causes, but there is one good resource, the Mountain Club of SA – Cape Section, which looks at the Western Cape area over the last 100 years or so, (1881-2004), and the statistics are interesting:

Of 1041 accident entries in the database, 645 or 62% of accidents involved walkers, the highest of the eleven categories listed. Of 197 fatalities in the same period, 88 or 45% were walkers. Table Mountain was detailed as the most dangerous area of the Western Cape as the access is so easy, and it is still today the area where the most unsuitably qualified guides are leading walking trips.

DANGER POINTS

In outdoor & or remote areas…

  • Weather: Changes occur much faster and effects are more severe and the guide must know what to do, in all circumstances. Temperatures down to -10° C occur in mountains regularly in winter causing hypothermia. However, high temperatures can also occur, causing hyperthermia.
  • Altitude: 8 in 10 clients who go beyond 2400m above sea level will experience mild (or worse) symptoms of altitude sickness. High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema is possible in the Drakensberg. A person not treated correctly can die within 18 hours.
  • Fitness & Nutrition: The tough outdoors environment takes its toll on people who would be seen as fit on average tours. Energy consumption is higher and dehydration is more likely. Guides need to provide suitable meals and advice as well as closely monitoring the clients.
  • Injuries: Distances to get help are much greater. Often, the nearest help may be 2 hours to 2 days walk away. There are no easy communications and cell phones often do not work. Normal first aid courses are not suitable, especially the current minimum requirement of Level 1. There are specific protocols for alerting rescue teams that are not known or taught to normal guides.
  • Biodiversity in our remote areas is often more spectacular than in the more urban areas. The environment is much more sensitive to our impact. Guides need advanced environmental training to learn about this complex system, not only to tell guests about it, but to keep them safe and preserve it.
  • Distances: Trips led by walking guides vary from less than a kilometre to over 300 kilometres in South Africa. Walks are usually unsupported. A greater degree of fitness, strength and self-sufficiency is needed.
  • Navigation. Practiced skills and local knowledge are essential. Restricted visibility is very possible year round. Compasses are not usable in some remote areas due to magnetic aberrations and Guides must know how to use alternative methods. The survival of a group is dependent on the Guide being able to navigate in zero visibility. And this includes “urban areas” like Table Mountain.
  • Leadership qualities: A walking guide requires better leadership and team skills than a normal guide. Walking guides work 24 hours a day on tour. They are guide, friend, companion, shoulder to cry on, cook, dishwasher, general encyclopaedia and story teller. Many matters have to be attended to during the night, such as chasing away predators and standing guard over toilet visits.
  • Cultural heritage: Remote areas have a rich cultural heritage that requires specific knowledge. Visitors to rock art sites need special training, as do guides walking through sensitive tribal lands.
    10) Steep Terrain: Movement on this type of surface requires specialised training and skills which normal guides are not taught. A “walking rope” is invaluable.
  • Camping: There are no facilities in remote areas so specialised equipment is used. The use of this equipment is not taught to standard Guides, and some of this equipment can be highly dangerous in inexperienced hands.
  • Water hazards: Rivers and other water bodies are a significant hazard to anyone. Many people are killed each year trying to cross rivers incorrectly.
  • Dress: The outdoors requires specific dress codes, especially if one is to stay out overnight. Simple things like inadequate footwear can cause major problems.

A walking guide qualification can be seen as your ‘drivers licence’. Without a drivers license, regardless of how expert you are on the fauna, flora, culture or history of an area if you crash the coach you will kill your clients. If you want to guide on foot, obtain the correct drivers licence first then enhance that with your specialist knowledge. Brilliant knowledge and stories will never make a badly led walking experience safe.

What a walking guide needs to know is learnt from many years in the outdoors and from targeted training – it cannot be learnt from a book in a few weeks. If you lead trips on foot in the outdoors, make sure you hold the correct qualifications — both for your safety and that of your clients.

Long term patient care on a walking trip

Glossary of Terms

AQN

ADVENTURE QUALIFICATIONS NETWORK is a company and a CATHSSETA  accredited training/assessment provider. We have been operating for 18 years. AQN is not in any way a national governing body, and does not control the adventure industry as is often mistakenly reported.

WILDWAYS NQ was established in 2001 in response to an emerging need for a provider body to handle the administration of NQ assessments for the Adventure Industry.

National Qualifications were being developed and many assessors trained, but no provision had been made to assist an industry, which in general hates paperwork. Also, policy that was being put in place did not understand or take any note of the particular needs or circumstances of the Adventure industry, and as such, the industry was incapable of accessing National Qualifications.

Wildways, with very limited recourses, decided to attempt to fill this gap. In 2004 Wildways converted all this work to the Adventure Qualifications Network cc and in 2014 converted to a PTY (Ltd) in 2017 as a stand-alone body.

AQN is a dynamic industry needs driven organisation that responds to the needs of its Affiliates, to meet the demands of an increasingly complex system and the needs of practitioners who need to hold formal qualifications.

AQN is willing and strives to work with other national organisations in order to share resources and make qualifications readily available in the country.

CATHSSETA

The Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) is one of 21 SETAs established under the Skills Development Act (No 97 of 1998) in 2001.

CATHSSETA was formally known as the Tourism and Hospitality Education and Training Authority (THETA) until 1 April 2012, when we became the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority.
Our mandate is to facilitate skills development within our sub-sectors through the disbursement of grants for learning programmes and monitoring of education and training as outlined in the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS).

SAQA

Among other things, the SOUTH AFRICAN QUALIFICATIONS AUTHORITY is the body responsible for registering qualifications onto the National Qualifications Framework

THETA

Now known as CATHSSETA

QCTO

The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) is a Quality Council established in 2010 in terms of the Skills Development Act Nr. 97 of 1998. Its role is to oversee the design, implementation, assessment and certification of occupational qualifications, including trades, on the Occupational Qualifications Sub-Framework (OQSF).

The QCTO also offers guidance to skills development providers who must be accredited by the QCTO to offer occupational qualifications.

SITE GUIDE

They have attained the minimum qualification in order to guide in a “limited defined area”. Could be a place or activity i.e. A specific museum, A local attraction, Hiking in the Drakensberg, Paddling the Vaal, Rock Climbing.

PROVINCIAL GUIDE

Provincial Guides are qualified to take tourists around an entire Province and they will have been assessed theoretically and practically in that Province. i.e. Western Cape, KZN etc

NATIONAL GUIDE

National Tour Guides have been and are permitted to conduct tours all around South Africa, crossing all provincial boundaries. They will have knowledge of all nine Provinces.

It does get a little complicated as most Adventure Guides tend to operate Nationally although they are Site Guides, this is due to the site descriptor which is generic to the activity and not the geographical environment. eg. a Archery Guide can do archery anywhere. Some limitations do exist for some activities.

QUALIFICATION

Strictly speaking a ‘Qualification’ only applies to a program that consists of at least 120 credits and registered by SAQA.

SKILLS PROGRAM (Part Qualification)

A Skills Program is less than 120 credits and is resisted by a SETA (Sector Education Training Authority – CATHSSETA for example).

The GASG, Generic Adventure Site Guide program, is a skills program as it has between 46 and 60 credits.

DNT or NDT

The National Department of Tourism is mandated to create conditions for the sustainable growth and development of tourism in South Africa. The Tourism Act makes provision for the promotion of tourism to and in the Republic and for regulation and rationalisation of the tourism sector, including measures aimed at the enhancement and maintenance of the standards of facilities and services utilised by tourists; and the co-ordination and rationalisation of the activities of those who are active in the tourism sector.

The department is mandated to oversee the Registration of Tourist Guides in terms of the Tourism Act.

Provincial Registrars

Registrars under the DNT are the people in each province who register Guides.

DNT FAQ’s

Frequently asked questions.

How to be a Professional Guide in South Africa

Be Professional, Be proud

All Guides operating in South Africa have to be registered or they are unprofessional and liable for prosecution.

A Guide is…

Any person who, for monetary or other reward, accompanies people who are traveling through or visiting any place within a country, and who furnishes those people with information or comments concerning a place or objects visited is defined as Tourist Guide. Many tourist guides may also wish to run their own tour operations in which they are both tour guide and tour operator.

 

Categories of Guides

There are three categories of tourist guides:

Site Guides

They have attained the minimum qualification in order to guide in a “limited defined area”. Could be a place or activity i.e. A specific museum, A local attraction, Hiking in the Drakensberg, Paddling the Vaal, Rock Climbing.

Provincial Guides

Provincial Guides are qualified to take tourists around an entire Province and they will have been assessed theoretically and practically in that Province. i.e. Western Cape, KZN etc.
 

National Guides

National Tour Guides have been and are permitted to conduct tours all around South Africa, crossing all provincial boundaries. They will have knowledge of all nine Provinces.

It does get a little complicated as most Adventure Guides tend to operate Nationally although they are Site Guides, this is due to the site descriptor which is generic to the activity and not the geographical environment. eg. a Archery Guide can do archery anywhere. Some limitations do exist for some activities.

Types of Guiding

The above categories of Guides can then also be classified into three specialities:

Adventure

A guided adventure experience.

Rock climbing, Paddling, Diving, Bungee, Sand-boarding, Zip-lines, Hiking, Off Road 4×4 Adventures, Canyoning, Camping, Snorkeling etc

Nature

A guided nature experience.

These are Nature based guided tours. Game Reserves, National Parks, Nature conservation areas, Nature trails, Birding tours, Butterfly tours, Geology tours, Spoor tracking, etc…

Culture

A guided cultural experience.

These are Culture / History / Community based tours which could include: museums, community projects, wine farms, art tours, political tours, historical tours, etc.

Qualifications

 There are only two qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) presently:

  • National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF2)
  • National Certificate in Tourism: Guiding (NQF4)

Note that a new NQF 5 National Certificate specifically for the Adventure Industry is currently being developed. It is hoped this will become available in 2019.

Sometimes several unit standards, within the different areas of specialisation, have been clustered together to form SKILLS PROGRAMMES addressing areas of specialization, and aimed at persons wishing to only complete the specialized minimum area of learning required to guide.

These skills programmes are registered by CATHSSETA (the old Theta) for certification purposes. The applicable unit standards are registered on the NQF.  In order for you to register as a site guide specialising in culture, nature, or adventure guiding you need different combinations of unit standards, these rules of combination can be accessed on the CATHSSETA (Culture Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority) website, www.cathsseta.org.za

If you want to register as a regional on national guide you need, as a minimum qualification at NQF level 4 plus the required unit standard for your area of specialization – view these on the CATHSSETA website

Site Guides just need to hold a Skills program and in the Adventure industry this is the Generic Adventure Site Guide program. (GASG)

Guide Trainers and Assessors

All tourist guide trainers and assessors have to be accredited by CATHSSETA to be able to train according to the national recognised standards and qualifications framework.

Please note that assessors cannot issue certificates on their own as they have to be working for/with an accredited training provider who will then issue certificates from CATHSSETA, upon completion of the assessment. The duration of the course, course content, dates and time of training, fee structure is determined by each training provider.

The Mandatory Registration Process

According to the Tourism Act, any person who wishes to be registered as a tourist guide shall apply to their Provincial registrar.

PLEASE NOTE: CATHSSETA DOES NOT REGISTER TOURIST GUIDES. CATHSSETA GIVES ACCREDITATION TO TRAINING PROVIDERS SO THAT THEY CAN TRAIN GUIDESTourist Guides are registered by the Provincial Registrars of the National Department of Tourism.

The following documents must be provided when applying for registration: 

  1. Signed code of conduct
  2. 2 x ID sized photos
  3. Registration fee of R240
  4. Certified copies of the following:
  5. SA Identity document
  6. CATHSSETA Certificate of Competence (Competence Certificates are ONLY issued by CATHSSETA)
  7. Valid first Aid Certificate
  8. Drivers license and/ or PDP where applicable.

No person shall be registered as a tourist guide in terms of the Tourism Second Amendment Act, 2000 unless he/she-:

  1. Shows proof of competence; (SAQA registered qualification)
  2. Is within the Republic;
  3. Has no criminal record;
  4. Has permanent residence or work permit in the Republic;
  5. Has passed the prescribed quality assurance process that a tourist guide shall complete not later than two years after the date his/her last registration.

Upon registration, the tourist guide will receive a badge and an ID card. The ID card will indicate which province/region/area/site the tourist guide is allowed to operate in, his/her period of registration.

Renewal of Registration   

Any person registered as tourist guide, may before the end of period for which he/she is registered, apply to the Provincial Registrar for renewal of his or her registration and his/her registration shall, upon the payment of R240 be renewed.

International Guides

This all also applies to International Guides leading trips in South Africa. Guides MUST be compliant with the local laws. For example: a UIAGM Mountain Guide may NOT Guide in South Africa without having registered here and hold the local qualifications.

Thanx to Brendon Wainwright for the some of the pictures on this page.

Re-Accreditation 2018 – 2020

Re Accreditation done and dusted…. 18 years and counting providing Adventure Guide Qualifications. We may not be the biggest organisation in SA, but we are the only one accredited. Now if only all the other organisations would be willing to work with us, we could make a big difference to adventure training.