Get to Know Wildlife Guide Joseph Ouma Oluoko

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Joseph Ouma Oluoko loved to draw and paint Kenya’s wildlife as a child. Then, after completing his studies, he decided to fuse his passion for Kenya’s natural assets with a career in tourism.

Now, as a guide, he shares his knowledge with his clients. He takes some time to give us a glimpse into his world.

How did you get into wildlife?

I developed a passion for wildlife when I was 10 years old and at this age I would do wildlife drawings and paintings. This was followed by mentoring from my geography teacher for some years.

How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

After I completed high school the timing was right and I was admitted into college to study Hospitality and Wildlife Management. The two diploma course led me on a new path when I graduated as a skilled job seeker. My first job was with a US based tour company as a guide/tour leader – an assignment that I undertook for six months before the company went under.

What does a typical day look like for you?

To be honest, a typical day for a guide actually begins when you have just finished your working day. This is normally after reflecting on the day’s achievements – what sort of wildlife species my team and I managed to spot or not spot, checking if all my guests are well and also if they are still enjoying the safari as per that specific day. Then, after the daily debrief, the planning for the following day begins. This involves informing my guests what the day ahead will look like, the distances to be covered, wake up time, arranging the packed lunch and addressing any picnicking issues, outlining our expectations and above all the importance of time management.

In the morning, a warm morning greeting normally heralds the day. Checking the wellbeing of my guest is also very important, followed by confirmation that they have taken breakfast, have been given their packed lunch boxes and have completed the checkout procedure from the accommodation facility to ensure that their luggage is wheeled back to the vehicle. The guide is always the last person to slide the tour van’s door closed as an assurance that all my guests are in the vehicle.

Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

My style of guiding is already well-developed. What I have to do is to ensure that I follow it with passion and some degree of flexibility to accommodate my guests’ requirements but without compromising standards. A few unavoidable changes here and there are normally part of the very demanding but enjoyable day as guide and tour leader.

What is the best part of your job?

An appreciative remark during a safari is one of the best parts of the job. This normally accompanies a great wildlife spotting, excellent accommodation or great views on the way.

What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had on a guided tour?

There was a nasty instance when a client diverted the day’s plan for the purpose of visiting his aunty. I gladly accommodated the one hour that he requested, but everything changed when they decided to spend the night there and not in the arranged accommodation. To make it worse, they wanted a refund for not staying in the specified hotel – something that could not be compensated for. Luckily we managed to resolve it amicably and our company is still in good contact with this family who remain our loyal clients.

Ever had any odd requests from clients?

Yeah, as guides we sometimes do have to expect the unexpected from clients. One scenario involved a male client hooking up with a local “twilight lady” and preferring to skip some sectors of the safari in favour of his new catch. It took us some time to restore some order on the safari and we finally continued on our journey leaving him to handle his new catch after the safari.

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?

The job is good although it does come with unknown degrees of pressure at times. The best ways to tackle this to remain sober and calm as you focus on your job and the day ahead.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?

As a traveller, you must accept that you are a guest and this has to be complemented by a native with knowledge of the attractions, sights and sounds of your chosen destination. A guide is your most trusted source of local information and at the same time he/she will guide you through a destination.

Tell us something about Kenyan wildlife that only a guide would know.

A guide’s local knowledge is profound and comes second to none. Here there are migrant bird species whose movements would only be known by a local guide. In my case, my local knowledge of natural science and wildlife behaviour come in handy when I am handling my guests.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

Honesty, politeness and time management make a good tour guide. But knowing your guests and their likes is important above all. Appreciating them during the safari is the key to success while treating them with the dignity that they deserve equally augurs well during the safari. As a guide you must know that every guest is different. Enjoying your job all the time is the foundation of being a good guide – guides who put money first have never impressed their guests in any way.

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Comments

  • Aloboosafaris
    Reply

    Yes, I know him very well. He is an excellent guide.

    Anthony

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