5 Traits of Good Adventure Travel Guides

safari guides in the bush
Kraig Becker

Adventure travel can be exhilarating, eye-opening, and incredibly inspiring, taking us to places that few people ever get a chance to experience, while immersing us in cultures and destinations that have the ability to fascinate and enthrall. But perhaps the most important factors to our enjoyment of such a trip is the guides that we travel with along the way. These men and women have a direct impact on just how memorable our journeys are, with the best of them leaving an impression long after we've gone back home.

Being a good guide doesn't come easy however, and it takes years of experience and refinement to truly excel in the profession. Most really good guides have similar characteristics that set them apart from the competition, and help to send their clients home happy and satisfied. Here are five traits that every good guide possess. 

They Love What They Do

The hallmark of every good travel guide is that they love what they do. If they don't have a passion for travel, and sharing their adventures with others, it becomes evident very quickly and usually results in a less than satisfactory experience for clients. The best guides are enthusiastic, friendly, and very personable. They also exude positive energy, which comes in handy on the eighth day of a two-week long trip that is physically draining and demanding. They often have a genuine excitement over sharing a place with first-time visitors, no matter how many times they've been there themselves.

And while guiding tourists may be their job, it is always an experience that they truly enjoy. 

They Are Very Knowledgable

Every good travel guide possess an exceptional amount of knowledge about the destination they are leading their clients through. They know the history and culture of the place very well, and are not only able to indicate points of interest along the way, but can also answer just about questions that might arise too. Good guides tend to be very curious about their work, and are constantly learning new things that they can share with their fellow travelers. In a sense, they remain eager students, continually brushing up on their facts, reading about new discoveries, and incorporating the latest findings into their tours.

When their clients go home, they generally have learned a great deal about the destination that they never anticipated before setting out. 

They Are Well Connected

The best travel guides seem like the know just about everyone in the various destinations that they lead their tours through, including most of the other guides. This helps them to stay well informed of what is happening in specific places, and provides information that can be valuable for finding their clients good deals, avoiding unusually large crowds, or simply locating a quiet place to have a meal. The very best guides tend to be well known in the destinations that they frequent, and they often have access to places that not everyone can get into.

They'll use that access to provide clients with a unique experience, helping to set their tour apart from the routine itinerary that simply checks off a list of sights to see before moving on. 

They Care About Their Clients

It may come as a surprise to some travelers, but not all guides particularly care about the people they are leading on their tours. For some, it is simply a job and they'll do their best to get through it while putting in the least amount of effort possible. But a good guide not only cares about their clients, but is dedicated to ensuring that they enjoy their travel experience along the way. They'll learn about the people they are traveling with and use that knowledge to show them the absolute best time possible.

For instance, if they know that their clients prefer to be more active, a good guide might cut short a visit to a museum in favor of a hike in the mountains instead. He or she will constantly check with the group to get a sense of how everyone is feeling, and will show concern and compassion for those who take ill while on the road. They'll also strive to make a connection with the people they are leading, which can result in a friendship that extends well beyond the length of the trip itself. 

They Have a Sense of Adventure Too!

The best guides possess the same sense of adventure that compels travelers to want to explore the world too. They truly enjoy what they do, and they often feel lucky that they can earn a living by sharing their favorite places and experiences with others. They are active people who enjoy hiking in the mountains, paddling a raging river, and camping out under the stars. For them, guiding isn't just a job, it is a way of life, and they are just as passionate about their own adventures as they are about the ones that they get paid to lead us on.

They see each individual tour as a unique adventure, and they never get tired of taking their clients to the amazing places that they visit on a regular basis. They share a sense of wonder about the world around us, and it shows through in their enthusiasm and energy. And when gathered around the campfire or dinner table at the end of the day, they can regale their clients with tales of their own exploits. 

These are, without a doubt, the most common traits that I have found in the best guides that I have worked with over the years. Most of them have big, boisterous personalities that leave a lasting impression, but they are also smart, funny, and dedicated to their craft. This shows through in their work, and their ability to help us enjoy our trips more fully. It also leaves us wanting to travel with them again should the opportunity arise.