Singita’s success is built on the collective strength and vision of deeply committed people, all passionate about Africa and linked by a common purpose to protect and preserve the world’s last remaining wilderness areas through conservation, community development and hospitality. The highly-trained field guides at each of our 12 lodges are a critical part of the guest experience, and we are proud to employ a large number of women in this traditionally male-dominated role.
Three of these dynamic and passionate women can be found leading twice-daily game drives for guests at Singita Kruger National Park in South Africa. Chantelle Venter, Jani Lourens and Deirdre Opie are part of the team responsible for conducting unique guided safari experiences, whether on foot, by bike or in state-of-the-art Land Rovers.
Head Guide Deirdre loves to wow guests with “those once in a lifetime situations where you as a guide know that what you have just experienced is a unique and special moment, your excitement becomes infectious and the guests feel like they have really seen something extraordinary.” Growing up on a farm instilled a fierce love of animals in Deirdre, who volunteered at the Johannesburg Zoo during her school years, looking after the farmyard animals, birds and primates. She studied Nature Conservation at university and later completed a guiding course which allowed her to share her love and knowledge of the outdoors with others.
Chantelle also fondly remembers growing up outdoors: “My childhood was spent running around, climbing and falling out of trees, riding horses, falling off skateboards and getting bloody noses in the karate class. I realised after two years in the corporate world that I was not cut out to sit behind a desk.” All three guides share a common distaste for traditional office jobs, preferring instead to be in the bush and far away from “high heels and pantyhose”! As Jani astutely remarks; “There is always something new to discover. Not only within nature but also within myself, one can learn so much by just observing what goes on around you. And that is what keeps the continuous inspiration burning.”
Singita’s guiding experience is designed to be delivered with humility, professionalism and flexibility, with the end result being an educational experience for all. This attitude, along with an uncompromising sensitivity towards the environment, is embodied in all our field guides and trackers. Guests are often impressed by their ability to read the signs of nature, track animals and wield an enormous game vehicle across unforgiving terrain. Jani tends to make a big impression in this regard, as her diminutive size can be misleading. “I am not one of the tallest people out there and I sometimes have to elevate myself from the seat to check where I’m driving when off-road. I always get positive comments from guests after they experienced my mad 4×4 skills though!”
When asked about the most memorable moments in their time at Singita, all three guides have an interesting wildlife story to tell. For Deirdre it was a rare encounter with a pangolin, Jani got between a lioness and her cubs while on foot one day, and Chantelle was chased around the staff laundry building by a honey-badger! “This is the simple life where one does not need to own a lot of things because the environment around us is what makes us rich,” says Jani.
They also have good advice for aspiring female field guides or any women following an unconventional career path. Chantelle believes that “you create your own opportunities. Aim to be the best so that nobody can question your ability. Never complain and always remain humble and compassionate. Start doing push-ups.” Deirdre says that focus is also important: “You have to decide where you want to go, how you are going to get there, and then stick to it. In careers that are unusual for women, you will have to work far harder and prove to be far more competent in order to be treated as an equal. I would like to think that by being one of a few female Head Guides it shows other women that with hard work and determination you can be a leader in any industry of your choice.”
Please visit our website to find out about career opportunities at Singita, and learn more about the experience of working in a “place of miracles”.