tour talks

What Makes a good guide?

No fixed address, a tan line in the formation of a pair of wrap around sunnies, a beard that is somewhere between stubble and sunburn, yarns about fixing a leaf spring with a bloodwood branch. If this describes the person you are talking to, you may have found yourself a tour guide. They frequent the watering holes of Darwin and Broome when they are not up a winding track somewhere and are a particularly thirsty bunch once they get going. But what is it about these unkept vagabonds that makes a good tour guide?

One key trait of a good guide is local knowledge, and is not something that can be faked. The best guides have spent years in their chosen area and in this time have learnt a lot through experience and relationships. They know the nicest swimming spots and when they’re not so crowded and the local name for the brown snake as well the best times of day to avoid them. The definition of a local in these areas is a highly debated topic and it’s not uncommon to get the french backpacker who’s lived in Broome for 2 months to tell you he’s a “local”. But when you get a local guide you will know and it makes a massive difference to your trip. 

Guides have to rub shoulders with a varied bunch of travelers every season from gray nomads to gap year brits, from sydney mums to singapore stockbrokers. It’s the guide’s job to see that everyone gets along and everyone comes home with happy memories. Generally an easy job when people are on holiday but nonetheless a good guide keeps the group laughing around the campfire and makes sure there is a good playlist to soundtrack the corrugations. 

Guiding in perfect conditions is a job anyone can do, it’s when the going gets tough that the tough get going. Blinding optimism is a valuable trait for any guide and the best guides will make the rainy morning or truck break down a highlight of the trip. 

Guides face a range of challenges from trip to trip, and having good mechanical and medical knowledge is essential for emergencies. Due to the remote nature of guiding, self reliance is essential and there is often nobody to call to come save the day or not for up to 12 hours anyways. While having a base knowledge is useful, being adaptable and innovative in the face of adversity is the main skill and the best guides will make do with what they have. 

The last thing that makes a good tour guide is a passion for good times and beautiful places so if you ever see one of these curious creatures in the wild stop in for a chat and if you take a genuine interest they will probably share with you all they know.

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