How can you reward a great guide?

If you have travelled in search of mammals, the chances are you will have used local guides. Some of them are exceptional naturalists and play a vital role for conservation. How can we support them?

One question that I am often asked is how much someone should reward their guide. Here are a few suggestions.

Tipping: whether or not you come from a culture that tips for good service the reality is that most guides, particularly in the Global South, hope to get tipped. A general rule of thumb when you are on a group trip is for each member of the group to contribute a tip of $10 a day to a pooled fund. If that money is to be shared out among several people you might want to let the lead guide decide on how best to do that.

If you are travelling in a smaller group then it is harder to suggest a particular amount. But before deciding you might at least think about the cost of the entire trip and recognise that any tip you give will be a tiny fraction of the overall cost. Yet very often it is the expertise and effort of the guide that determines whether the trip is a success.

I tend to tip more when I have had exceptional help or am in an area where the wildlife is particularly threatened. Tipping can send a powerful signal of how valuable the animals are alive in the wild, particularly for heavily trafficked valuable species like pangolins where there must be a constant temptation to hunt them.

You can also think about giving the guide your field guide or even an pair pf binoculars or other gear that might be either expensive or even impossible to find in their country.

Recognition: time and again I have been in places where there is a genuine bewilderment among the locals that someone has travelled thousands of miles to their village to look at a squirrel. Simply taking the time to tell people how important that animal is can generate a sense of civic pride. Russell Mittermeier makes tee-shirts of the rare primates in an area to distribute to the community.

Supporting a Guide’s Career: last, but not least, one of the greatest gifts you can give a local guide is a glowing review in a trip report which includes details of how to contact them. If the guide is setting up their own business then why not give them an advert on this site, particularly if they don’t yet have their own web page? Mentoring can also be helpful: many guides starting up are unsure how much to charge or how to navigate western culture. Keeping in touch when you are home, and offering a little advice can be empowering.