THE ADVENTURE LIFE
The outdoor activities sector in Southern Africa is growing fast. This means a growing number of jobs is becoming available in the sector. Here’s your chance to make a career in the adventure industry doing what you love to do.
Who are you?
You may be just leaving school or seeking a mid-career change. Adventure tourism offers opportunities to all types, the more the merrier as diversity is a vital part of any team that explores the world we live in. You may find yourself in fulltime work or freelancing. Like any industry, ours offers a spread of career choices:
Don’t like desk jobs? Then get out there and do your thing, leading tourists who depend on you to know the way, coach them and look after their safety. This is highly responsible work and not a holiday for the guide or an opportunity to show off. Guides work very long hours, day and night. It requires fitness, presence of mind, love of nature and the ability to “read” people. Guiding is for both sexes and all ages over 18 (but you can start to get experience earlier). Friendliness and competence mark out the good guides from the unpopular ones. Almost all the jobs below recruit from the ranks of guides.
Top guides graduate to instructor status. They run courses for newcomers. Some eventually become officially registered as facilitators or assessors under South Africa’s tourism laws. We at AsAfrica also need Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in various fields where we need the expertise (an Assessor will be present when you test candidates). Find out more about our support for expert guides by telling us your experience.
Scrumptious, energy-giving meals are the staple of great adventure businesses. Most clients after a trip comment on the food. Like the quality of the guiding, delicious catering brings ’em back again and again. Guides are often the chefs but on larger operations the caterers are career pros. Hygiene is the No 1 concern, along with waste management for minimum environmental impact. Caterers plan, buy, pack, prepare and serve meals on trails. It’s demanding work – but you do get thanked for tasty treats!
One of the most challenging, stressful, but satisfying jobs is that of expedition videographer and stills photographer. You’re generally on your own watching for spectacular shots. You must be quick to process and provide the best images to clients eager to see themselves in action. Photographers often take risks over and above the call of duty, and must be skilled adventurers. Cameras are improving all the time but in the end its your eye that makes the difference.
Lives are saved by those who can keep their heads and manage the stress of accidents in the outdoors. Adventure operators need their staffs trained in wilderness first aid. Trained paramedics are on hand for most professionally run adventure events. To take up a career in this area requires a background in adventure sports and possibly tourism, as well as extensive training for the role of first responder in remote locations. This is a growing field and offers good opportunities.
Co-ordinating teams, organisation transport, planning operations. This is a more senior job to which experienced guides may be appointed. It requires a cool head, computer skills and emotional intelligence to keep the group motivated. While a lot of the work is office-bound, the Ops Manager stays in close touch with events on the ground (or in the water or in the air). He or she is the leader of the pack and a key staffer in the business.
Marketing & Sales
The rainmakers in any adventure business are those who promote the excitement of it all and pull in the clients. The business is nothing without a strong appeal to the emotions – but also, potential buyers want to be reassured that there are high standards of safety, efficiency and health. If you are a good communicator and know the operations you could make it here.
At the top of the tree are those who worry about money, capital investment, systems and public reputation. It’s never easy. Major costs like transport, maintenance, salaries and insurance can quickly kill an unprofitable adventure business. Managers need to set their focus on the unique needs of the adventure travel sector, learning how to how to effectively leverage partnerships with suppliers, resellers and international trade partners.
The adventure industry is constantly evolving. California is often hailed as the origin of the newest, craziest innovations in adventure activities, South Africa has come up with some amazing offerings. Scooting on specially adapted fat-tackie scooters is an example. There are plenty of other ways to break new ground, and the creative spirits in the industry are hard at work exploring new technologies, trails and tricks.
In the age of climate change, nothing is more important than caring for the natural environments in which we work. Educating the clients, who are often city dwellers out for kicks, is an important duty for all of us. Some go on to become skilled field guides, interpreting the wilderness to groups and passing on their love of nature to new generations. A background in any of the sciences from biology to zoology and geology helps.