Kimberlee Le Hanie (Kimmy) is now officially the first-ever female guide to claim the prestigious title of Safari Guide of the Year!
Founder of LatestSightings.com Nadav Ossendryver gives us his first-hand experience of this year’s Safari Guide of the Year competition.
“As the founder of LatestSightings.com, I have had the privilege of being a part of some extraordinary events in the wildlife industry. But, none quite compare to the recent SGOTY competition, where Kimmy was the winner. This year’s event, held in the pristine backdrop of the Kapama Private Game Reserve, was an amazing display of talent, knowledge, and passion.”
The competition aims to test the various skills a guide should have. These skills constitute knowledge of tracks and signs of the bush, birding, guiding a walk, guiding a photographic safari, guiding a regular game drive, hospitality skills, shooting and storytelling.
“During the bushwalk assessment, I was lucky enough to participate as a guest with the soon-to-be winner as my guide. On that walk, we almost stood on a puff adder that was in our path. This experience not only showed Kimmy’s great guiding skills but also her ability to control any situation she was faced with. And, not only that, on the same walk, a judge cut himself by mistake, giving Kimmy the perfect opportunity to show the judges her first-aid skills.”
“Kimmy’s victory at SGOTY was well-deserved, not only for her exceptional guiding knowledge but also for her incredible people skills. From our interactions, I could sense that Kimmy had a special ability to connect with others, making her a standout guide.”
“The Safari Guide of the Year competition was not an easy competition. The guides who participated showcased exceptional talent and were incredibly competitive. However, what also amazed me the most was the judges themselves. Some possessed an impressive 30 years of experience in the guiding industry. Yet, they constantly want to learn more and still keep up with all the latest books about nature.”
The judges consisted of a team of veterans in the guiding, hospitality, and photography industries, namely: Mike Karantonis, Lucas Mathonsi, Michelle du Plessis, Juan Pinto, Alan Yeowart, James Steyn, Gawie Grobler, and Roger Machin.
These judges were responsible for deciding this year’s winners in the various categories of assessments that took place as well as the overall winner.
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“Michelle Du Plesis, the organizer of the event, showed true professionalism and attention to detail. Her precise planning and execution ensured that the competition ran perfectly. From coordinating assessments to arranging logistics, Michelle’s commitment to creating a world-class event was seen at every step. Her efforts are reason the Safari Guide of the Year is a success.”
“As for the host venue, Kapama Private Game Reserve, they surely did not disappoint. A competition this big requires a venue that can truly capture the essence of the African wilderness. Kapama proved to be the perfect host, providing us with an unforgettable experience. The reserve’s commitment to conservation, combined with their outstanding hospitality and breathtaking wildlife sightings, added an extra layer of magic to the entire event. All the participants were treated to brilliant sightings of lions and leopards and all of the big 5!”
“As I reflect on the SGOTY competition, I am hopeful for the future. The talent displayed by Kimmy, along with her fellow guides, was nothing short of amazing. I hope this competition continues to grow, providing a platform for guides to showcase their skills and inspire the up-and-coming guides of the future.”
Winners of the various categories:
As the ultimate winner and new Safari Guide of the Year, Kimberlee received the grand prize of R25,000 from Canon, a $1000 cash prize, a two-night stay at Ongava in Namibia, and the opportunity to send an underprivileged candidate to NJ More College Marataba for a guiding course valued at R88,000
Jan Dykema emerged as the runner-up in the overall competition, earning a prize of R15,000 from WISE (Women in Safari Excellence).
Jan Dykema claimed the Hospitality and Professionalism as well as the Advanced Rifle Handling categories and was awarded R5,000 plus an additional R8,000 from Rugged Wear in cash.
Ruan Coetzee excelled in the bushwalk category and was awarded R8,000 in cash courtesy of Sapmok.
Pioneer Moyo claimed the Track and Sign category and was given R8,000 from FGASA.
Warren Deyzel won the Photographic Experience category, with Canon sponsoring a camera and lens worth R40,000 as the prize.
A pair of binoculars was sponsored as the prize for the birding event, which was claimed by Kimmy along with R8,000 from FreeGo Canvas for the game drive category and a book selection along with R5,000 cash from Kruger2Canyon News for the storytelling category.