Meet The Female Faces Behind The Fair Trade Certification
Last year December Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) announced Siyabona Africa Safaris as the 22nd product - and the first mobile safari company - to qualify for coveted FTTSA certification. The company recently completed female guide training and added a few new faces to their Lowveld venture:
Mapula Ramoshaba loves nature and wild animals, and can think of no better place to be than in her job as a field guide at Kruger National Park. The proud 27-year old Pedi woman hails from Limpopo and was placed with Siyabona Africa Safaris by the Tourism, Hospitality, Education and Training Authority (THETA), with whom she was awarded her field ranger accreditation. A passion for the safari experience appears to run in her family, with a brother based at Limpopo Parks Board.
"It really means a lot to me meeting different people from around the world, and sharing with them the importance of protecting our natural heritage," she says. Ramoshaba adds that one of her best bush moments was the time when she was able to share with a tour group "all of the Big 5 before midday." "Seeing the tourists' faces light up after a safari outing is definitely the best reward of my amazing job!" Mapula notes, adding that it is vital that clients are happy at all times.
Ramoshaba's colleague, 23-year-old Dominique Khoza, a proud Shangaan woman from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga, inspires her community as she forges a career in the traditionally male-dominated African safari guiding domain. However, Khoza's enterprising spirit was evident even before she was snapped up by Siyabona Africa Safaris to be trained as a field guide: she initiated her own vegetable farm at her home town of Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga, which her teacher mother ran for a while after mother-of-two Dominique left home to pursue her dreams as a field guide.
Her mother is now back in teaching and has left the management of the vegetable farm to two women. Dominique is currently in the process of registering the vegetable farm as a closed corporation (CC), as a result of the income earned from guiding.
"I really enjoy coming to work!" says 24-year-old Holly Tlou who hails from Middelburg in the Highveld. For Holly, customer service is the name of the game - and it shows! The former Kentucky Fried Chicken chef supervisor thinks she was "born to be a safari guide." Acknowledging her mother's role in alerting her to radio advertisements calling for field guide training applicants, she says she has not looked back once. Following a gruelling theory session, Holly embarked on the practical elements - things like learning to cook for a safari group.
"Treat customers with respect - they pay the guides' salaries and they must come first at all times." "I am proudly African and proudly South African," she adds. "South Africa has come a really long way in terms of gender equality and issues such as the racism of the past," she notes. She adds that Kruger National Park is not just about vast visitor numbers and money. "The Park has a deep history, and it's my job to help share that history and keep alive the traditional knowledge systems and memories," she adds.
For 22-year-old Vivienne Mathebula, a White River, Mpumalanga resident, life is looking very rosy. The 22-year-old, whose native tongue is Swazi, has previous tourism experience in the Hotel sector and has worked as a chef as well as a waitress. Together with colleague Prudence Sibundeni, who is one year older, they remain eternally grateful for the experience afforded by their inclusion in the Siyabona Africa Safaris team.
Perhaps the guides' philosophy is best summarized by 21-year-old Queen Thobela, who frequently concludes her sentences with the word 'Cool!' For Queen, who was previously a community worker in her native Nelspruit, nothing is too much trouble - and she is inspiring her younger sister into considering a career in tourism.