Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a woman working in conservation and eco-tourism in a wilderness reserve? As Field Guide at Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat since 2011, 24-year old Simone Wood-Callander is well equipped to answer this question. In this challenging and exciting role, Simone takes guests on the reserve’s renowned Nature Drives and Rock Art excursions, introducing them to a world of wide open plains, abundant wildlife and majestic rock formations.
Located at the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains, only 270km from Cape Town, at Bushmans Kloof guests are able to reconnect with their inner selves and the essence of life amidst a haven of staggering beauty and timeless tranquillity.
What makes being a Field Guide at Bushmans Kloof special in your opinion?
The amazing rock art that lends a cultural richness to every guest experience and the magnificent diversity of plant species make my job here a real joy. These are two aspects that are often taken for granted and sometimes the smaller things in life are overlooked or overshadowed by larger mammals, including the Big Five! The Bushman Art brings a cultural point of view to the surrounding mountains and wildlife, while Bushmans Kloof also allows guests to get back in touch with nature and gives them an insight to a way of life that was much simpler than ours is today.
What inspired you to become a Guide?
I have always loved being outdoors, and I find plants and animals awe inspiring. Every part of nature plays a role and fits in together perfectly! I believe it’s the same with men and women. Each has their role to play in the grand scheme of things.
Do you feel that you had to overcome more challenges as a female guide in what is known to be a male-dominated field?
Like any male-dominated field there are challenges and some prejudices. However, it’s becoming more and more acceptable as a career for women too, and I have found that on more than one occasion, guests actually request a female guide! Some of the challenges are evident though. There are the large landrovers to drive, and a flat tyre can be an interesting experience. It might take a little longer for a woman to sort out, but it is not insurmountable!
What part of the job do you feel you handle better because you are female?
I think as a woman you are more perceptive to guest emotions and you are more attentive to their personal views and needs. We tend to be more caring by nature and I believe this enhances the guest experience. I remember asking a male guest about a cut that he got on a hike the previous day, and I could see his eyes light up because I had cared enough to ask.
What part of your job is tougher because you are a woman?
Definitely the physical side of the job. Sometimes the job demands you to be physically strong and this is slightly tougher for women, of course. When you are a guide you are very often called upon to fix fences and repair roads. Luckily I work with a team of real gentlemen who help me out and do all the really heavy lifting!