Knowledgeable South African guides and interpreters represent a vital link between tourists and their experience of South African tourist attractions, and can make a great difference in how visitors perceive the country.
Because of this role, guides in South Africa are required to undergo a process of qualification and registration.
The training is undertaken by a number of institutions accredited by Tourism, Hospitality & Sport Education and Training Authority (THETA), while registration is through the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and must be renewed every 2 years. Registered guides are issued with identity cards and badges which must be worn at all times when conducting tours. They must also adhere to a Code of Conduct and Ethics and must have a certificate in first aid.
South African guides specialise in certain categories - nature (including wildlife, wild flower and wetland guiding), culture (including such field as heritage sites, rock art and archaeology) and adventure (the likes of abseiling, paragliding and river rafting). Other specialities are in sport guiding and professional hunting. Within these categories guides can qualify at 3 levels - site, regional or national.
In speaking languages as diverse as Arabic to Yoruban, guides are also interpreters. As interpreters in South Africa they perform a crucial role in smoothing the way for speakers of other tongues and enhancing the overall experience