Monday, 16 January 2017

The man behind the uniform – Gary Lyon

Africa Nature Training pride itself on the calibre of instructors that is chosen to conduct our courses. Gary Lyon is one such man. With 20 years’ experience, he is a gem and participants under his tutelage walk away with a wealth of knowledge and an experience par none.

Get to know him better…

Why do you do what you do?
The natural world has captured my imagination for as long as I can remember.
When I was at school we attended veld school periodically. Some people hated veld school and similar school tours to the bush but for me it was the best thing since bread and jam... On one of my trips to the Soutpansberg, a teacher handed me a copy of the South African Tree list. I ran off into bush where I managed to see lots of trees, identify none and got myself stung by a nest of paper wasps. But it captured my imagination like nothing else and I have loved trees ever since.
Once I began to learn about nature it never stopped and it never will. I have been taught many things by many individuals, often by my own students, and I am grateful for the knowledge they have shared with me.

Most favourite wildlife experience?
My most favourite wildlife experience has to be finding something new and unusual that I hadn’t expected to see, like a pair of Cape Clawless Otters appearing unexpectedly in a pool, or a Giant Legless Skink appearing after the first heavy rains.

Favourite animal and why?
I love the honey badger for his sheer tenacity, determination and drive, his fearlessness and his versatility, as well as, his adaptability and intelligence. All these characteristics make the honey badger an amazing animal.

What does the future hold for the guiding industry?
As our wildlife becomes more and more threatened there is a need for better custodianship. This begins with an appreciation of what we have and what we have to lose. To appreciate what we have we need to see it and experience it, so that we can come to understand it and value it. Guiding is the way trained individuals introduce people to nature through ecotourism.
The guiding industry has transformed since I first began working as a guide in 1996. While we have always tried to be professional, the standards of training and level of knowledge has grown tremendously. This is attributable to the hard work of many and the input of numerous stake-holders in the industry including individual, private and public entities and through government legislation.
The industry now has professional guides, at various levels in their training and development that are well-trained and equipped to provide the safest and most informative nature experience possible. Guides are now able to specialise in various fields – once they have acquired the highest level as professional safari guides – and can now focus their attention on their individual passions.
The industry is already at a high level as far as professionalism is concerned and will continue to improve but future wildlife experiences will be defined by a more conscious effort to ensure the welfare of the wildlife with more care taken to ensure that animals are not disturbed excessively just to satisfy the need for a good sighting for a paying client. The industry will also be more conscious of the footprint we have on the environment as we traverse it, on foot , by vehicle, on horseback or by boat. Guides will be conscious of this as they strive to continue to drive the industry forward. Along with this the industry is also moving in a direction that will allow more access to less well-heeled individuals and where the client experience will change from a passive observation to active learning about wildlife.

What are you currently busy with?

I am constantly working to improve my credentials as a guide and presentation as a guide trainer. This includes working towards an SKS-Birding qualification, among other goals.

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