Nathifu Abdi, driver guide at Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge is a real gem. Beautiful, blessed with a calm and friendly nature, it is her love for the wildlife, the environment and a good measure of sheer determination that has seen her choose a path very different from other women from her community in Northern Kenya, opting to pursue a career as a naturalist/ guide, rather than the expected more feminine fields like nursing,teaching or stay at home mum.
The game drive experience through the dry and dusty terrain of Amboseli is all the more interesting as Nathifu easily rolls out details about the exploits of Adam, the rogue elephant,why the hyena may not win the’ best looking animal’ award but is an important part of the nature cycle in the animal kingdom and about the majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro, a sight to behold on a clear morning.
Make no mistake , she is no pushover as a driver who tried to bully her found out. He didn’t want to give way despite being the one to do so, but she stood her ground until he moved. Just another day in the office for Nathifu.
As we mark this year’s International Women’s Day, we talked to Nathifo about her choice of career and her experience working inside one of Kenya’s best known national parks.
How long have you been doing this:
I began my career in 2007 as an assistant naturalist at the then Samburu Serena Safari Lodge, and in 2010 I began working as driver guide at Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge
Why this and not any other career choice
I am passionate about nature, and hence my decision to do this just for the love of it and for general conservation
If you weren’t a tour guide, what would you rather be doing with your life
I would like to do community work especially in marginalized community areas, to empower women in arid and semiarid areas and help in addressing their day to day challenges
What has your experience been so far
This field is male dominated and it can simply be tough. Expectations are high for women who must do twice as much to prove equal ability with the male counterparts. That notwithstanding, I have learnt that one can make it in any field of choice if you like what you do, have reasonable determination, dedication and resilience. As a lady driver guide I have gained so much and realized that with reasonable ambition in a career ladies can do even much better than expected by men.
Do you have any favorite animal
My favorite animal is the Leopard. This animal’s power, behavior and strength have been a huge source of inspiration to me- challenging me to be courageous in my approach to issues and more so, my day to day activities as a lady driver guide. (Remember this field is male dominated).
What has been your best game drive experience(s)
I have many memorable experiences (I may need to write a whole book about them). But one of the highlights would be one Christmas eve. There had been a heavy downpour earlier in the day. So when I took guests on a game drive our vehicle got stuck in the mud, and before we knew it we were surrounded by a pride of Lions. There was no help nearby, and I must admit it was a bit scary for me. On the contrary though, the guests were so elated just coming so close to the king of the jungle. One of those times that I thank God for technology because I was able to call for help. But- not after sweating out of nervousness… When I look back however, I get thrilled knowing as a woman, I handled the situation just as fine, and that everyone was safe under my watch. I feel proud of that moment.
Best time to go on a game drive:
Game drives in the Amboseli National Park are best from 4.00pm onwards. This is because around this time, animals were moving to and from the watering points towards cool and safe places where they can graze peacefully. You are almost guaranteed to see quite a number.
What can guests expect when they go on a game drive at the Amboseli National Park
Expectations are usually very high whenever people visit national parks and game reserves in Kenya- because these are naturally known to be abundant with game. Specifically for Amboseli National Park one is guaranteed to come closest possible to the elephant, spot a buffalo, bird watch and on a good day, the cats will say hello…yes – you can see the cats here.
What must one bring to a game drive
As a guide one must bring sense of humor and seek to establish a strong bond with the guest since this creates a relaxed mood and a conducive atmosphere for guests to pay attention to the information coming from the guide. Again as a guide one needs to understand the client interest and build their confidence from the very first impression. First impressions last forever. Guests on the other hand- well, just be there- relax and enjoy the moment, and please bring a camera to capture all the memories.
Best clothes to wear
This differs from one place to another, and may in some cases be determined by time of day or night. For instance warm clothes are advisable during early morning game drives and light clothes during afternoon drives. If you should like, take on your favorite sunglasses (not as an accessory to the clothing)- and this is highly recommended because Amboseli is a really dusty place.
Quick tips for guests
Ensure your camera battery is fully changed and always have your camera during game drives.