I get asked quite often “Why do I need to hire a guide?” If you are an experienced hiker, have a good sense of direction and a good working knowledge of a map and compass, you most probably don’t want to hire a guide to lead you. However, if you are only starting out hiking, don’t have a good knowledge of hiking in the berg and inexperienced in navigation and the workings of a compass, then you need a guide. An added advantage for a new comer is the benefit that you will be able to hire gear from most guides. This will allow you to enjoy your trip without the added expense of needing to purchase all the gear you need.
Any trip into the Drakensberg or any mountain for that matter carries a certain amount of risk. Risk comes in many forms; at higher elevations the weather and the terrain can change at a moment’s notice, and this can turn a weekend away into an emergency situation. It is in times like these where hiring a professional guide comes into play.
Registered mountain guides are experts in their field: A registered guide has been trained to read circumstances and mitigate any risky situations. Their first and priority is to keep you safe and make the best decisions in difficult situations. They will also advice you on suitable equipment needed and help you with its proper use.
They have a good knowledge of the area and safe routes and terrain: The amount of eland paths and other tracks you could encounter on a new route could cause you to get lost quite easily. A guide has in-depth knowledge of not only the best routes but also the best suitable camp sites. Caves might not be that easy to find, even with a GPS and only good knowledge of the area will get you there.
A guide can help you make the most of your limited time: Guides sometimes work together with other guides forming a network of collective knowledge. This will prevent you wasting time looking for that perfect mountain ridge, splendid sunset or sunrise or just a sublime mountain experience.
A guide will help you with the logistics of your trip. Although they are not a travel agent most guides will help make reservations for caves or specific routes even huts where applicable. They can advice you on accommodation options before and after your hiking trip, and give you advice on other activities and places to visit.
Guides make for great traveling companions. They are often quite knowledgeable and social, willing to swop stories with you about different adventures. It is a great way to connect to a local and create a sometimes long-lasting bond.
A guide can help you improve your skills. Guides are also great source of advice for improving your skills and advice on gear and other information. Most guides are also great listeners and always willing to give feedback and encouragement. Occasionally, they may even push you to accomplish things you hadn’t thought possible.
Guides can teach you about local culture & history. Most guides are very knowledgeable about the area’s history, fauna and flora and other interesting facts and stories and will introduce you to their culture. This can be especially enriching when they take you to an exceptional special place not normally accessible without a guide.
These are just a handful of reasons you should think of hiring a mountain guide. A guide will help keep you safe, help with some of the logistics of the trip, and it is this interaction that will make your mountaineering adventure truly unforgettable.
Which mountain guide do I hire?
Use a guide registered with the Department of Tourism. Ask to see the guides registration number or card, this will ensure that you are getting a well-trained guide.
Make sure the guide you use is qualified for the activity or area you want to visit. Some areas especially at altitude, needs special attention and guides need to be familiar with these hazards.
Do your own research, visit their business pages, this could be a webpage, Facebook or Instagram and see what trips they do.