Compare your results with the Energy Kilometers method.
How much Energy do we need on a walking trip? A sensible and healthy diet is vital when physically active. Over and above any normal expenditure of energy under stress, you must also anticipate extra energy requirements caused by certain typical situations such as cold (even when you are resting), altitude, and a drop in atmospheric humidity.
To trek/hike successfully, the body must produce the right kind of energy to fuel the muscles. Without that fuel, the body will slow down, falter and refuse to walk.
Energy is obtained from the foods that we eat. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins which are modified by enzymes in our bodies to produce a form of energy the muscles can use.
Our Three Main Energy Needs:
This is for a short period of time, e.g. dodging a falling rock, regaining balance after a stumble.
Energy used for short bursts of intense exercise lasting less than 30 seconds usually, like running away from a fire. This uses stored glucose and glycogen but has lactic acid as a by-product. e.g. the muscles feel like lead.
Here the addition of oxygen from breathing promotes efficiency and strength in the cardiovascular system and burns the stores of fat for energy. Fat is very efficient at producing energy and the colder it gets, the more fat is the best choice of energy. In Polar Regions, pure fat is often eaten to produce energy.
Good nutrition is the key to energy. Individual nutritional needs vary, but all of us have a continual need for the essential nutrients supplied by food – for energy, growth, maintenance and the renewal of the body tissue, and for the regulation of vital functions in the body.
- Without water we cannot process food. Regardless of altitude we need to take in a minimum of 30 ml or water per Kg of body weight per day to process the food you take in or the energy stored in that food is wasted.
- At 2000 to 3000 meters (top of the Drakensberg) you must drink at least 3 litres of water a day to make up for losses just due to the altitude. Even when resting you will be consuming about 6000 kilojoules in twenty-four hours.
- Under stress when trekking, with an oxygen consumption rate that can reach 3 to 4 times the normal rate, consumption can reach as high as 15 000 to 20 000 kilojoules a day.
- The optimum food ration, however, is only 50% of the Kilojoule requirement; it is advisable to divide it into small, repeated snacks of 1000 – 2000 Kilojoules each, so as not to overload the digestive system. The Kilojoule deficit indicated above is not significant for short periods of up to 4 days as your body has enough reserve to cope with this.
- The ideal diet contains one gram of protein for every kilo of body weight per day, dividing the rest between 70% Carbohydrates and 30% Fats. However, do not get all your kilojoules from simple carbohydrates such as sweets. Rather get them from complex carbohydrates such as full grain products. (Whole wheat Pasta, Brown rice etc.)
- The glucose required by the body’s cells is stored by the liver in the form of glycogen, extracted from carbohydrates, fats and proteins (Food). The body normally converts the glycogen to glucose with enzymes and oxygen before using it in the muscles.
- With exertion, the consumption of oxygen in the tissues increases, but if this is not sufficient, there is a shortage of oxygen and the body starts drawing directly from the glycogen reserves, with the resultant production of lactic acid.
- This ‘oxygen-less’ reaction releases 16 times fewer kilojoules than those produced in normal aerobic metabolism. In this state the muscles become intoxicated and there is a typical sensation of fatigue. (The heavy burning sensation in the muscles)
- Lactic acid can only be digested when resting, with an inflow of oxygen through breathing, which turns it into carbon dioxide and water.
Time and Energy is often more important than Distance
You are out on a trek. It’s 9:30 am. The sign at the trail start says there is a great lake just 1.5 kilometres from the camp you are staying at. Easy enough for you and children in the group to do with you and be back at camp for lunch. No need to take food with. Right? It’s only 3 kilometres return. Even at a child’s pace that’s only 2 hours.
What the sign does not tell you is the lake is 300 meters higher than where you are now, and gaining altitude takes energy.
As you gain altitude each 100 meters of ascent uses the same energy as walking between 1.5 to 2 kilometers depending on your walking speed. So that 300 meters ascent will equate to 4.5 to 6 kilometers extra “Energy kilometers”.
Assuming the distance to the lake is 1.5 km each way, that makes it 3 km total, but now we add the energy kilometres needed for the altitude gain which is an additional 4.5 to 6 kilometres. (We only count the up hills)
So now the trip to the lake is going to be a total of between 6 to 9 “Energy Kilometers”. Can you and the children do that before lunch without having substantial drinks and snacks along the way?
A child walking at 1.5 kilometres an hour is now going to take between 4.5 and 6 hours. An adult will take 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
I have found this method to be a bit more reliable than Naismiths Rule, but like any method you need to personalise or adapt it to your own hiking style.
Give a few examples of trips you know that take longer than anticipated. Do the math. How about Table Mountain in Cape Town? Work out the Energy Kilometers of the popular routes up and add your suggestions to the comments below…
You are passionate about your activities you offer, spending an inordinate amount of time out there doing it. It consumes all your free time in addition to the time you spend guiding others. But does this make you an experienced guide?
No matter how much time we spend honing our technical skills, we will always be able to learn something new, or better equip ourselves to provide what our clients need. Often what they want and need are very different to what we offer.
Take for example simple things like greetings. Many cultures will shake hands as a form of greeting, but there are others that do not. Could you inadvertently upset your client by offering your hand when meeting for the first time? What about foods, dress codes, sacred days etc. There are many different ways we can be ignorant about what our clients expect or are used to.
Yes, they are on a trip away from home in another culture, and we do not want to try to make our country just another version of their own, but understanding their background and framework of understanding will go a long way to help us accommodate their culture, needs and expectations in a way that is positive.
Over the many years we have been training Adventure Guides, one of the biggest failings we see is that guides fail to travel enough themselves outside of what they do daily.
- When last did you take part in an activity that is not one of your guiding scope?
- When last did you travel to someplace you have never been, (local or international), simply to see what is there?
- When last did you book on a guided trip with someone you do not already work with?
- What research have you done on the culture and backgrounds of the clients you regularly work with?
In my own experience a ‘wake up’ came when I had a client book for five days climbing. On the first day of the trip we discovered that his interpretation of ‘climbing’ and mine were very different. To him he wanted to ‘climb some mountains‘, to him that meant ‘walk up them‘. To me it meant harnesses, ropes, carabiners etc and vertical rock faces. It took some very fast negotiation to quickly set up a new itinerary that would serve his needs.
Having traveled a lot world wide, I have a far better understanding of what is considered the norm in many other countries. ‘Wild Camping‘ and ‘Wild Swimming‘ are regarded as the extreme end of the activity to many, whilst it is the norm in South Africa. (TIP: Maybe this is a niche market you could tap into – Wild camping/swimming tours)
Think of the horror on your multi day trek when the clients expecting a heated refuge or at least a ‘Bothy‘ are presented with a tent and sleeping bag, or even worse a rock shelter.
Imagine your predicament when your group of clients strips off for a bit of nude sunbathing on Clifton beach. Quite normal in many places around the world on public beaches, but did you inform them about our local rules, and can you explain why it is still okay to sit watching a local tribal dance group when often the ladies will be topless, but they cannot get a tan themselves?
Even understanding the cost difference of items between your clients home country and your own can be used to your advantage. That easy cappuccino at R27.90 in South Africa, (M&B) is a steal compared to a similar coffee converted to +-R52.00 in the UK (Costa). You can use this information to your advantage.
Travel tends to broaden the scope of reference we all have and allow a Guide to better meet the expectations placed on them by their clients. Not only is it a great way to experience unknown places, cultures and activities, it allows you to observe other guides working and learn from their mistakes and best practice.
Travel is fun and all Guides should make an effort to travel as much as they can outside of their own guiding operations. It does not have to be international if money does not allow it, even just going to explore the next town from where you live, taking part in a new activity, or, hiking an area you do not know will assist you to become a better guide.
Can you think of other reasons to travel more as a Guide? How will it improve your own guiding? Tell us in the comments section below…
Walking is one of those skills we mostly take for granted and people who spend a lot of time in the outdoors will develop efficient walking techniques over time without having to think about it.
Many others however often spend little time in the outdoors except when on a walking trip. The rest of the time is usually behind a desk at work, so these skills and techniques do not come naturally but can make a huge difference to your experience on the trip by relieving stress and strain on the body, conserving energy, providing good balance and confidence and generally making it easier to cover the distances required comfortably.
Of course the first aspect of good walking skills is to be properly prepared with well worn-in and fitting boots, good socks, comfortable balanced pack and possibly trekking poles. There are two very different techniques when using walking poles. Trekking technique and Nordic Walking technique. It is not our aim here to teach the difference, but just to say once you know both you will be about 80% more efficient when walking.
Once out on the trail, there are a number of things you can do to make life easier. Even walking on a good trail will make your heart and lungs work harder so you need to take it easy the first few days. Steep terrain and rough trails put extra strain on the body so this is where good technique comes in to make your body into an efficient walking machine.
To find out more about how the terrain conditions, what we call ‘Conditions Under Foot’ (CUF) affects your walking, have a look at the section on the CUF Scale.
Before we get into the actual techniques, here are some basic principles that always apply:
- Keep balanced. Nothing should be tied loosely to your backpack – swaying / swinging items affect balance.
- On easy terrain legs are generally swung from the hip and the head is centred between the front and back foot for good balance.
- Start off dressed a little cooler than you’d like to be – strip off a layer just before starting so you do not have to stop after 10 minutes to take off a layer.
- Check boots and laces before starting to walk. Seems obvious but most people don’t and they have to stop a short while later to tie them properly.
- If you still need to make adjustments, stop after the first 20-30 minutes:
- Adjust backpacks
- Adjust boots
- Shed or add a layer of clothing
- Pace your self – most walkers start at a fast pace, enthusiastic to get out on the trail, but this is counter-productive. The body needs time to warm up. You should not get out of breath when walking. If you cannot hold a conversation and walk at the same time you are going too fast.
- Try to maintain a constant rhythm when walking – if necessary adjust your stride length. You need a pace that you can sustain all day.
- Try not to take too frequent breaks – they disrupt your rhythm and you never really get going. Resting for 10 minutes every hour is great, but in very wet or cold conditions you may want to keep going until you have found shelter as you may become more prone to hypothermia. If there is no natural shelter, carry a portable emergency group shelter. Just a two person one is fine.
- On up-hills take baby-steps: find the smallest step up that you can each time.
- Trekking poles are a great tool for saving energy.
- They assist with balance, saving leg muscles and reducing injuries.
- Also useful for river crossings and difficult terrain.
- Using Nordic technique will turbo boost your walking.
The placement of each footstep must be deliberate and focused on stability. This will become automatic with practice.
- When moving uphill step over small rocks, not on them.
- On boulder terrain, use the stiffness of your boots sole to ‘bridge’ between rocks.
- If you are forced to cross boulders, step directly on top of the boulders, moving slowly from one to another, always ready to hop to the next if the one you’re standing on shifts or rolls.
- Look at rocks and judge what leverage you’ll be applying before you step. Will it move? If it does what will I do? What’s my next step going to be?
- In grassy areas step on the uphill side of the grass tufts – the ground is more stable
- In areas of boulders look for texture on the rock on which to get grip. Choose lichen-covered rocks, since lichen is usually a sign of long-term stability, the rock is less likely to move.
Walking in Groups
Walking in a group can be a challenge for many people. You may not be able to maintain your favoured pace, and on narrow trails, stopping can hold up the whole group. However we need to adapt to the situation finding our most efficient pace and walking style whilst still in the group.
Experienced walkers will often have forgotten what it was like on their early treks so will set a pace inexperienced walkers cannot maintain. When walking in a mixed group, remember newbies will take longer to get ready, walk slower and stop more frequently. Experienced walkers can assist the group by helping newbies with packing, advice and befriending them whilst walking. The conversation can help them maintain a faster pace. If they are still slow however, perhaps offer to carry some of their load, or simply accept the slower walking speed.
Group sizes should ideally be small, but commercial treks become unviable in very small groups so they tend to be larger. Large groups have a greater impact on the land, local population and other trail users. Also the bigger the group, the more there will be differences in abilities.
Walking in a group has other benefits. More knowledge and expertise to draw on, easier to carry loads, bigger range of interests and experiences to share, better safety. However you will also be less likely to see wildlife in a large noisy group.
If there are children in the group, everyone will have to realise that the pace will be much slower. There are advantages though as children tend to see much more than adults do. For the child the experience is totally new and opens their eyes to the wonders and excitement of the natural environment. Adults can be reawakened to this as well by the children’s excitement.
A few tips for walking in a group:
- Discuss at the start of the day how the group will plan the day. How often will stops be? Fast or slow pace? What will the group do if someone is battling?
- In a group, try not to get too close to the person in front – 3m is already too close as:
- You can’t anticipate foot placements
- You can’t compensate for changes in place
- You can’t compensate for sudden stops
- Try not to get too far away from the group – if the group gets too spread-out the leader has to stop too frequently to re-group which ruins everyone’s pace.
Walking Through Bush
Trails often have sections of dense bush – especially in the gullies where rivers flow. Certain precautions make walking in bush easier:
- Allow additional space between yourselves to allow for branches flicking back
- Remove your hat – the brim obscures the branches you’re going to hit your head on.
- Be aware of the possibility of stumbling across wild animals who may be frightened by your sudden appearance.
Trails will invariably try to avoid waterlogged ground, but if the weather has been very wet this may not be possible. The mud becomes very difficult to cross with each step becoming an effort as the mud sucks at your boots trying to keep you in one spot.
If you have to cross waterlogged ground, try to follow as many of the following hard spots as possible. Look for and follow natural hard spots. Tufts of grass will often provide a firm footing, as will the ground around larger trees a shrubs. Rocks also provide hard stepping-stones. Your poles come in handy for balance here.
Most walking routes will avoid steep terrain, but they do not always do this. If you have to walk in steep terrain there are additional skills and knowledge which can make life easier and safer for you.
Gullies are narrow areas which channel falling rocks like a funnel, so avoid entering or passing below a gully when sun is melting snow or ice, loosening rocks above or when there is a group ascending or descending the gully. If you have to climb a gully, do so one at a time, and don’t climb directly above or below companions. You could send a rock flying onto someone below you. If staggered travel is impossible, walk close together so rocks loosened by one walker doesn’t have time to gain speed before striking those below. If a stone goes flying, shout “Rock!” to alert others. Wearing a helmet is wise if they are available.
Be very weary of climbing up unknown gullies or slopes unless your leaders / guides have specifically told you to. Scrambling upward is always safer and less awkward than coming down, because your eyes lead your body, making holds easier to find. That’s the reason people get stuck up high, they’ve climbed up through sections they later find too frightening or difficult to descend. Look down while going up, imagining yourself coming back down. Don’t like what you see? Then turn around before you get too high.
The constant freeze and thaw of some environments loosens potential hand-holds. These can come off suddenly if pulled on, causing falls or showering loose stones on others. Test every hold before you rely on it; pull, hit or kick down to see if it shifts and listen for a hollow sound which means the hold is loose.
If you have to cross snow slopes, check the “run-out”, the place you’d end up if you slipped and slid. Don’t cross hard snow if there is a cliff or hard rocks below. Look for a crossing place with a smooth soft run out of snow or grass that will catch you.
Moving Up Hill
Ascending is physically more difficult than descending, but is easier for most people as your eyes can easily see where to go and what the next safe step is. When descending your vision is less clear and often you cannot see exactly what you are going to step onto making for a more hazardous movement.
A few points to remember when moving uphill on steep terrain.
- The first tip is do not rush. Constant slow movement will get you to the top faster than trying to race up. By constant movement we include mini breaks of a few seconds to get your breath back. It does not mean you cannot stop.
- Look backwards often to see how much you have climbed. The top always seems far away, but when looking back you will be reassured that you are gaining height.
- Soft scree is hard to go up (two steps up and one step back), but great to go down. Try to kick toe steps and create platforms for firm footing. For better traction zigzag with your feet angled across the slope rather than pointing straight up.
- On harder surfaces with stones on them, put your toe on the slope and heels onto a stone. This will help level out your foot-bed.
- Employ the mountaineer’s rest step to conserve energy in very steep terrain. With each step, pause for a breath or two with your lower knee locked, bearing weight on your skeletal structure.
- Loosen any pack straps that inhibit your ability to twist and turn or step high. For instance, the “stabilizer straps” on the sides of your hip-belt, shoulder straps and load-lifters, but do not make them so loose that you become unbalanced.
- Loosen the upper laces on tall, stiff boots so your ankle can flex fully forward to relieve strain on the Achilles tendon.
- When moving uphill step over small rocks, not on them.
Moving Down Hill
Moving downhill can be more dangerous because it is not as easy to see the footholds you will use, and because the mind thinks it’s easier so relaxes your concentration just when you need to concentrate more. Make an effort to keep concentration high when descending slopes. Most accidents happen on the downhill section of trails.
- The best way to go down a steep, soft surface such as snow, scree or soil is to plunge your heels hard into the surface (Plunge Step) with your knees slightly bent. Bend forward at the waist slightly for stability.
- Pull your pack’s hip-belt and stabilizer straps comfortably snug to prevent your load from shifting.
- When crossing slippery slopes, use the edge of the boot to ‘cut in’ to the slope to make a more comfortable footing.
- On harder surfaces with stones on them, put your heel on the slope and toes onto a stone. This will help level out your foot-bed.
- Lace your boots snugly by lacing the lower half of the laces tight for optimal support and stability, and to avoid jamming your toes into the front of the boots.
- In descent, the centre of gravity should be over the load bearing leg which prevents tumbling forward.
- Step down moderately steep slopes sideways crab style. This will assist with keeping good balance and allows edging with the boot for good stability.
- When descending steep terrain, “Bum It” by facing away from the slope and go down “crab” style, using your bum for friction (but don’t let your pack launch you out from the slope). As the descent steepens, face sideways to the slope. This allows a good view of holds and the route below. When it’s nearly vertical, face directly into the slope, just like when climbing down a ladder.
How many times have you waited for someone to organise an adventure?
That was me for many years. It slowly dawned on me that I could create my own adventures and invite others to share them. The helping hand was miraculously at the end of my arm!
I spent too long watching “Days of Other peoples’ lives”, instead of living my own life.
Once the penny dropped I was away. I have no idea how many weekends, day trips, climbs and longer events I have planned (many hundreds). What is wonderful is that so many people benefit from you simply being able / prepared to get an idea and then act on it. BUT FIRST you have to realise that you can do it – you ARE allowed to dream and plan.
I was once told about folks who needed help in building a business in Walvis Bay. So I phone a friend who I knew was able to help. He explained that he was going to help people in Tanzania, oh dear!!!
I then panicked a bit and phoned another friend who is also capable of assisting them – Guess what, he was literally off to Ghana to help folks there. So no one could help these people.
Then it dawned on me – Keith, why don’t you go and help them??? WOW, I had never thought of that before – you know I can do it!!! So I started planning it – and lo and behold, I went and it all went well. That was a HUGE eye opener to me – I don’t have to wait around for other to do everything – I can do it!!!
So, with that in mind, I thought that I would share my strategy with you:
I always use the following strategy when planning adventures: (Notice this is almost exactly like the Adventure Trip Plan done on the GASG Course. Editor)
BRAIN STORM – think of amazing adventures that you would like to be on as well as share with others. What about taking a group down the Fish River Canyon? (I’m taking a group down in September this year – I decided to!!), What about organising a group to do the Klipspringer trail at Augrabies Falls!! What about booking 10 on the “Whale Trail”? Or simply doing a day hike up Devil’s Peak or Dark Gorge”. The adventures are infinite.
E.g. As I write this article I am busy chatting to an MCSA buddy (Graham D.) about a wonderful weekend (last weekend) we had with 10 other friends in Steenboksberg, Bainskloof. While we were sitting around having supper, Roy M, told us of a camp up on the left hand ridge that he had visited about 40 years previously – it had water and we could camp there prior to launching a hike to Bailey’s Peak (1500m). So we did a little recce on Sunday morning but didn’t see anything promising. On the recce I used my Garmin Extrex 30 GPS to track the hike. At home I loaded this onto google Earth as a .kmz file and saw that we had stopped about 300m short of a heavily wooded and green area wher water may very well be found – we had not gone far enough. So, I am whatsapping Graham to suggest that sometime in March we invite everyone back to Steenboksberg and we do another recce up the ridge to check our ideas. This gives everyone another amazing weekend and a chance to have fun swimming and exploring the area. We can also update the hiking maps in the area. So, GET THE IDEA and ACT ON IT. MAKE IT HAPPEN
GATHER BETA (as much info as you can) on the event / venue / area. (GASG: Task 02 Educational)
PLAN in DETAIL (GASG: Task 03 Adventure Trip Plan)
- Booking of venue, trail, camp – find out what you need to know.
- Permits required (private land, mountain club land, National Parks land, etc..).
- What transport is needed.
- Meals (ideas, formats, spreadsheets) I always whatsapp a suggested meal format
(i.e. food ideas for Day 1, 2, 3 etc.., morning, afternoon and evening)
- Clothing (winter, summer) checklist – Never underestimate – always build in redundancy. Over prepare.
- Equipment – checklist
- Safety (Once again – redundancy – check, check check).
REMEMBER: There is No democracy around safety. NO EXCEPTIONS.
- Collect info on your hiking members (i.e. what special talents can they bring to the group in case of emergency and just generally – maybe a nurse, a doctor, a mechanic, a guide, and so on).
- Brain storm a lot of “What if’s”) – e.g. “What if a sudden snow storm occurs”, What if someone breaks a limb”, “What if there is no mobile coverage and we have an emergency”, and so on.
ADVERTISE (newsletter, word of mouth, web) – If it simply taking a non-paying group of friends you have advantage of knowing their capabilities and choosing folks you generally get along with. If you are advertising to take a paying group of customers, the selection process is much more complex – you don’t know them or their capabilities.
FILL PLACES – Firstly decide on a MAXIMUM number. As folks indicate they want in, keep an excel spreadsheet of their info: Names, Mobile no’s, Wild Card No’s, Payments, Can they provide transport, Ailments, etc..
STABILITY CHECKS VITAL: is the person capable of completing the hike / event – If they are not known to you, you have to ask them to fill in some sort of questionnaire – e.g. Have they ever hiked before, when last did they hike, can they easily climb Lion’s Head, Would they make it up and down Platteklip Gorge relatively comfortably, what allergies, other ailments do they have. Then be brutally honest – e.g. “You will not make it on this hike.”
COLLECT MONEY – if a paying adventure.
REGULAR NEWSLETTERS giving info and keeping interest up..
CREATE A WHATSAPP GROUP (eg. “Sprinboksberg Weekend 10-12March” and enter all participants names therein. Everyone is in touch with everyone.
DO ALL YOUR DEEP THINKING and then EXECUTE the actual event – DO IT!!!
FEEDBACK – When the event is over ask for feedback – for paying customers this is more important than it is for old friends.
THEN, VERY IMPORTANT: Immediately start to plan next adventure.
REMEMBER: – If it is to be, it is up to me. It is no good sitting around waiting for someone else to create adventures. This way you get to do the adventures you want to do. You can have as many adventures as you want. Above all you ENRICH other peoples’ lives.
Explore your area… What do I mean?
By now you should be confident with the trips you are running for your clients, so it is time for you to grow your knowledge some more. Take a couple of days and head out into the area you operate in visiting some of the accommodation establishments and other operators. Introduce yourself and what you offer and find out more in person about what they offer.
Most hotels or accommodation will take you around and show you some of their rooms and facilities as everyone likes a bit of free publicity – just don’t plan on visiting if you know there is a big conference or wedding on as my experience is then staff are really busy – but if you are looking at a big hotel, there is still normally someone around to show you. But make sure you have some questions to ask so you can file the answers in your memory for future.
Visiting other operators can be a little more tricky, especially in the paranoid environment of South Africa where most Adventure Operators think you are out to try and steal their ideas or clients, when in reality it would be so much better for the industry as a whole if everyone worked together. So do not be affronted if you are made not welcome when visiting. The more of us who strive to be welcoming and willing to assist will slowly develop an industry that respects other operators and promotes a sharing of ideas which will grow the industry and so help everyone. You will however get to meet some operators who like you, are striving to be the best, and they will be open and willing to share ideas – these are the ones you will want to develop good relationships with.
From personal experience getting to know the hotels and other accommodation in the Drakensberg and what they can offer, allowed me to recommend a particular establishment to a group of Israeli ladies for their holiday in the Drakensberg as this establishment was able to cater to their specific dietary needs, which a lot of the big hotels were not able to do. So although not the actual adventure activities, without the accommodation, the tour would never have happened.
Next time…. Networking.
Michelle owns Globetrotting My Way and has 22 years experience planning trips.
Following on from: Tour Planning for Adventure Guides…
For me the next level in Trip Planning, means getting to know the areas you run your trips in – not the geography of the area but the history and other operators working in the same area.
A good guide will know their activity really well and will run a safe trip for their clients. A great guide however will add to the experience with information – you become an ambassador for your country. So get to know the history of the area you operate in so you can inform your clients about this history and what makes the area so special.
By getting to know what the other operators do in the area you operate in, you will be able to suggest other points of interest to your clients as most of us are with clients for a couple of hours at least, so you will be getting to know all about their interests and it makes you come across as informed and knowledgeable which is great customer service.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to be guided by different people in all sorts of activities and those who had information to share that was historical or funny or helpful has meant that I remember those guides far better than those who were technically competent in the activity they were running but whose “people skills” and customer service was very lacking or non-existent.
Top Tip: When talking to a group, make sure they are looking at the view so what you are saying becomes relevant to what they are seeing. See picture at the top.
Strive to be the great guide!
Next time… Explore your area.
Michelle owns Globetrotting My Way and has 22 years experience planning trips.
Reaching a high point on a hike to where views stretch into the far distant landscape is only part of the reason I hike in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg and Lesotho.
The stunning vista is in itself a reward, but for me the journey, each footstep that reveals a multitude of diverse beauty, is actually more important. Evidence of ancient people having been in those landscapes opens yet another dimension and meeting and interacting with people whose lives and culture are so different from mine, initiate a reflection of my place in this world.
I became a KZN Tourist Guide in 2007, having qualified as a Nature and Culture Guide. These reflected my passions, and also if I’m honest, is the reason I hiked in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg and Lesotho in the first place. The idea of sharing these passions with people was my primary reason for guiding.
A few years later I qualified as a Mountain Guide, KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg and Midlands, through Adventure Qualifications Network. My path to becoming an Adventure guide started with a passion for the mountain environment I had hiked through, initially for recreation.
As a result of my passions I have guided several exceptional day and multi-day hikes for international and local clients with particular interests, Mountain Hiking, Wildflowers, Bushman Rock Art, Culture (particularly that of Lesotho), Photography and Mountain Sketching.
Over the last ten years of guiding I have come to realize that the most important aspect of being a guide is a passion for the work you do. It has a way of enthusing clients and enhancing their experience. So it doesn’t matter which particular discipline of adventure guiding you work in, as long as you are obviously passionate about it, that, for me, is the secret of facilitating successful experiences for clients.
As ‘Southern Secrets Hiking and Backpacking’, Philip Grant (my husband, who is a National Mountain Adventure Guide) and I also share a passion for creating awareness of, and facilitating Mountain Wilderness Experiences.
For clients, the experience can sometimes be overwhelming; many have never been in a place truly unaltered by humans. We also take small groups of South Africans who have not had the opportunity, but are passionate about nature, on a volunteer basis into the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg pristine wilderness. Our hope is that by heightening awareness of our unique and irreplaceable heritage they will develop a desire to conserve these special and vulnerable places.
What does “Careful!!” actually mean? To a Guide it may mean, the rocks are slippery, the edge is crumbling, a rock is tumbling down the hill… In your mind it all makes sense, but what are your clients thinking?
Very often I hear Guides shouting a warning, or telling their clients…
When in fact a slight change in wording will be more beneficial… and understandable.
- Careful here… could rather be said as “Listen to the rocks rolling under the water“, or “Look how fast the water is flowing“.
- Careful here… rather say, “Move your feet quickly over the boulder bed of rocks rather than trying to balance on each rock. The momentum will keep you balanced.“
- Careful here… could be replaced by, “Look at this poisonous plant. Can you see any of the other group members getting too close?“
- Careful here… could mean, “These rocks are slippery.“
- Careful here… it’s better to say, “Try using your hands to balance.“
- Careful of the stove… better said as, “Can you feel the heat coming off the stove? It’s very hot.“
- Careful… “Whats your plan if you cross over that log across the river?“
- Careful… “How will you get down?“
What makes sense to you, may be totally misunderstood by your clients. Speak in a way that is understandable to all and cannot be misunderstood.
Most Adventure guides I know think of tour planning as that annoying and sometimes frustrating part of being able to get out and do the activities they love, so I thought I would share my thoughts on the benefits of good tour planning.
For the newly qualified adventure guide you will have worked on a trip plan or two as part of your assessment process and so will understand that taking clients out to do those adrenalin activities you love has a lot more involved, especially if you want to bring back your clients safely and ensure your business continues to grow.
As a professional you will have decided on an activity to offer to paying clients and initially this may be one activity or in one area, so you start with your first trip plan. In addition to the activity itself though there is much to take in to consideration.
- Access permits to the areas you will be travelling through;
- Equipment required for the activity;
- Transport – do you need to pick up your clients (if so do you have the required licences for yourself and your vehicle);
- Food – will you be supplying lunch and snacks for your clients or all meals; Staff – do you require assistants to help with your group or is it just yourself running a trip from point A to B with clients, do you have a backup guide available to call on should you fall ill the day before the trip starts;
- Accommodation – does your activity require overnight accommodation;
- Emergency contacts – it is good practice to know the closest hospitals and doctors to where your trip will be run and contact telephone numbers.
I won’t go into detail on each of the above points as I am sure you are all aware of these and will have looked at each point in developing your own trip plans. It is important to note however that it is these additional aspects that added to an activity make the trip plan and once you have each item listed it is easy to look at the relevant costs associated and so work out the cost of your trip for each client.
Once you have your first trip plan done you are now in a position to work on your second one, whether it be a different activity or the same activity in a different area. I would recommend revisiting your trip plans twice a year to re-evaluate if it is still working or after significant cost changes – fuel price rises or changes to access permits costs etc.
So this is how we have all started as professionals in the Adventure guiding business and next time I will look at what can be done next to take your business to the next level…
Michelle owns Globetrotting My Way and has 22 years experience planning trips.
Featured image credit: Willemien Du Plessis