Botswana wildlife guide Neo Canah Moatshe tells Rose Gamble what it’s like to be part of Africa’s first all-female guiding team, known as the ‘Chobe Angels’
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in a village called Molepolole in southern Botswana. I went to a small local school and enjoyed wonderful African stories, which my grandmother would tell me when I visited her.
What inspired you to become a guide?
I read a lot about animals as a child and developed a passion for them. So I decided to attend wildlife and guiding school.
What did your training entail?
A great deal of practical exercises such as rifle handling, driving a boat and 4WD game-drive vehicles, and learning how to operate them safely in the wild. And, of course, the flora and fauna of Botswana.
What other experience do you have?
I have been a guide for eight years now. I started at Khama Rhino Sanctuary, which hosts the country’s largest population of rhino in a fenced concession. They are bred and later released into the wild. I used to educate guests on important issues such as rhino poaching. Another highlight of my career was working as a Savannah Guide at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida, USA.
What does your average day entail?
We start with an early-morning game drive, followed by a mid-morning safari boat cruise. Later we either go on a sunset cruise or another game drive.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Happy customers. Many guests share their adventures on social media these days and it makes me feel very proud to be mentioned as one of their ‘highlights’.
What is the hardest part?
When I can’t meet a guest’s expectations. Fortunately the park has a huge volume of wildlife so guests usually see exciting animals but sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t track down that lion.
What makes a good guide?
Knowledge is important, but it’s crucial to be outgoing, a good communicator and have an eye for experiences that will leave guests with lasting memories. People come to learn about wildlife but also to make new friends and learn about our culture and way of life.
How does it feel to be part of Africa’s first all-female guiding team?
It’s an honour. We’ve inspired a lot of women who didn’t believe it would be possible.
How did the name ‘Chobe Angels’ come about?
It’s just a collective name for us, and a bit of fun.
Have you faced any particular challenges being a female guide in a male-dominated industry?
Not really, although it requires genuine passion to excel because of the rigorous training. But the girls are always ahead of the pack. We give our male counterparts a run for their money!
What skills can women bring to the job?
Women and men should be considered equally for a job and each individual guide has his or her strengths, but often women possess strong communication skills and are particularly sensitive to guests’ needs.
Are more women training as guides?
The Botswana Tourism Organisation encourages locals, especially women, in guiding. Women are being given a chance to enrol in the field. It’s been a real success here at Chobe Game Lodge.
Can you describe the most memorable wildlife encounter you have had?
There are so many, but recently I witnessed a female leopard hunt a male impala. We waited with baited breath for about an hour, but it was worth it.
Can you tell me about an amusing incident from a game drive?
A male baboon once tried to carry a baby under its belly like the mothers do. But the baby was facing the wrong direction. It showed me some animals are not good at parenting. Or should I say men?!
What is Chobe famous for?
The concentration of elephants on the riverfront. We can see hundreds of them from the lodge deck — swimming, foraging and playing. It’s magical.
Are there conservation problems in Chobe? And if so, how are they being resolved?
Human and wildlife conflicts: sometimes animals cross to the Namibian side of the park and feed on locals’ crops. The government, together with conservationists, is creating safe corridors so wildlife can reach the river close to urban areas.
Are you personally involved in any conservation work?
The lodge has acquired the highest ecotourism certification. We are hoping that the introduction of electric boats and vehicles that do not emit carbon dioxide will become a benchmark for other lodges. It’s thrilling to be a part of this new initiative.
Neo Canah Moatshe is a guide at Desert & Delta’s Chobe Game Lodge.