The latest installment in our private guide profile series and the first woman! Kathryn Haylett knew from an early age that she wanted to be a safari guide and now she is living her dream guiding fellow wildlife enthusiasts around Africa. She specializes in photographic safaris in Namibia and Botswana, in fact she literally wrote the book on photographic safaris in Namibia (“The Photographer’s Guide to Etosha National Park." As a guide she spends several months a year leading private safaris for family groups, friends traveling together or photographers and is never happier than when sitting at a waterhole in Etosha watching the drama unfold with her guests. We asked her to answer a few questions about her experiences as a guide.
When and why did you become a guide?
As a six year old my parents took me to see "Born Free" and from then on all I wanted to do was work in Africa (see the below page from my scrapbook). I then had to find a way to do it, so many many years later I trained in South Africa as a guide, started Your Safari and realized my dream
Your most memorable experience as a guide?
Working with Dr Richard Estes (African Mammal Behavior Expert and author of "The Safari Companion" and "The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals" both considered the Safari Guide's bibles.) Dick is now 84 years old, still sharp as a tack and comes to do training courses for us in Etosha National Park. We have guests who travel from all over the world to spend time with him and it is a real privilege for me to consider this incredible man to be my friend.
Safari moment you were most thrilled to have helped a client experience?
Any of many kills! Watching lions stalk and ambush prey species, anticipating the hunt, getting guests into the best positions for photography and then seeing the thrill on their faces when they've captured the action on film - now that is job satisfaction!
Top 3 favorite properties?
- Okonjima Lodge, Namibia ( home of the Africat Foundation )
- Anywhere in Etosha National Park - not because of the quality of the park accommodation but because of the quality of the wildlife experience of staying inside the park with the bonus of the floodlit waterholes
- A tent in northwest Namibia where you truly believe you are the last person on earth with wild desert adapted lions roaring in the distance
Top 3 favorite National Parks?
Etosha, Kgalagadi, Umfolozi and Hluluwe
Your favorite trip?
Damaraland and Etosha
Somewhere you have always wanted to take guests but never have?
What's on your bucket list?
Places bucket list: Madagascar, all of South America and Antarctica
Photo bucket list: tapir, kiwi, kakapo, giant anteater, walrus, polar bear, giant anteater, pangolin
2 things you always tells your guests to bring when traveling?
However many CF cards you decide to bring - double it and add a few more! Have one pair of binoculars for each traveler!
Two things you think guests should know about Africa or Namibia?
Africa as a whole: If you don't want to get hooked on Africa then don't go in the first place - it gets under your skin
About Namibia: With its pristine wilderness, wide open spaces and awesome wildlife Namibia is the perfect antidote to modern living ... and I guarantee your first visit will only be the start of a lifelong love affair.
Camera or binocular recommendations?
I personally use a Canon 5D Mark III but of course Nikon also make fantastic cameras however it is essential to bring a minimum of a 120-400mm zoom lens (animals move!) and my preference for binoculars is Leica
Do you have a specialty?
Very small groups (1-4 passengers but usually 2 ) of wildlife enthusiasts and photographers, scientific tours and training courses. Regionally, Namibia and Botswana.
As we mentioned she is a Namibia expert and wrote "The Photographer’s Guide to Etosha National Park." Now she will often have self-drivers pull up next to her at waterholes, hold up the book and give her a thumbs up, which she calls "embarrassing but rather nice." "I had one couple say that it was like having a virtual Kathryn sitting next to them but they didn’t have to pay for me – that pleased my escorted guests!" Each client traveling with Kathryn gets there very own copy of the book.