WHAT THE EXPERIENCE GUIDE SAID.
So, does a two-week nature guide crash course prepare one to take on the job?
“This green badge programme is a good basic foundation for guides but they have to take it to the next level with field experience, observation and also learning from experienced guides,” said Irshad Mobarak, 46, a naturalist and nature guide in Langkawi Island with 15 years of guiding experience. Good nature guides should care for animals and plants and shouldn’t be feeding eagles to keep their tourists happy, for instance,” he added.
Rohani Rahmani, 51 an adventure tour operator based in Kangar, echoed Irshad’s sentiments. Known as Ronn to his guests, he took the green badge course in 2001 at Perlis State Park . “The short course is not enough for us to absorb everything, we still need to take the initiative to gather info from books and media,” said Ronn, who takes tourists on trekking and caving trips to Perlis State Park and camping in Ulu Muda Forest Reserve (Kedah). But when you get the licence endorsed by Motour, you tend to be more responsible for your actions .”
In his six years of dealing mostly foreign tourists, Ronn finds that just spewing facts about an area’s biodiversity to tourists isn’t enough. “Most Westerners are very knowledgeable. They don’t want someone who just regurgitates facts,” said Ronn, who guided the Animal Planet crew filming in Ulu Muda recently. “They’re more into the local myths, natural history, cultural info and locals’real-life experiences.”
One of the examiners at Lanchang, Sabri Yunus, attended the green badge training himself in 2003. A full-time guide specialising in bird-watching at Fraser’s Hill, Kuala Gula, Taman Negara and the east coast islands, Sabri reminded trainees that after getting the jobs don’t just land in their laps. “You need to rely on your initiative and creativity to find fulfilling jobs,” said Sabri, 43.
Nature guiding is a niche product in Malaysia and new guides should realise they have to compete against the veterans, Malaysian Tourist Guides Council (MTGC) President Jimmy Leong added. “You have to keep upgrading your knowledge, prove yourself in the field and market your services,” he advised.
But most importantly, as Irshad rightly summed it up, one has to be a nature guide for the love of it, not for the money.
By LEONG SIOK HUI – November 2006.