2023 is the year of the female safari guide! Kimberlee Le Hanie of the MORE Family Collection’s Lion Sands Game Reserve in South Africa recently became the first woman to win the prestigious Safari Guide of The Year title. Kimberlee earned her win by coming out on top in many of the events, which included game drives, bush walks, guided photographic experiences, and storytelling, to name only a few.
GILTEDGE recently sat down with Kimberlee to celebrate her triumph, delving deeper into what drew her into the profession and what she wants other aspiring female safari guides and rangers to know.
Becoming the first female to be named Safari Guide of the Year is truly momentous – how does it feel?
I’m incredibly proud of being the first female to win such a prestigious award. There are so many incredible women in this industry, so it was only a matter of time, but I’m so grateful that I was the first to smash those glass ceilings, make history, and open the door for more females to step up and do the same. It’s a humbling feeling. I’m inspired to keep the momentum going.
What was the most challenging aspect of the competition?
The most challenging aspect of the competition was keeping a clear mind and stopping self-doubt from creeping in. Being around the best of the best in the industry was such a privilege. I knew I would walk away a better guide no matter what.
What inspired you to become a safari guide?
My moment of inspiration, funnily enough, was when I was a guest on a safari. At the time, I was a pharmaceutical sales rep in the corporate world. The stars aligned for me that weekend, and I just knew this was my calling. So, I went for it, left corporate, and followed my dream to make a living doing what sets my soul on fire. It has been six years, and I have not looked back.
You started at the MORE Field Guide College in 2017 and then worked at Marataba and Lion Sands. What about the college inspired you to remain in the MFC family?
Everything about MFC resonated with my core values. I feel connected to what the company stands for, and I love the high standard set within the group. They genuinely care for their people, and I felt that from day one all the way to now. They are a real family and support growth.
What challenges do you face as a woman in this male-dominated industry, and how do you overcome them?
It’s not common to encounter difficulties as a female in the industry. We are in the 21st century, and most people are on board with having a female guide them in what was once perceived as a male-dominated role. I’ve had one or two negative encounters, but the best thing you can do is stay strong. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone other than yourself. Keep showing up, be a team player, and do what you love – the rest will take care of itself.
Do you have any advice for women starting as safari guides and game rangers?
I advise any woman who wants to pursue this as a career to make the decision first and foremost. Put your heart into it and lean into what makes us unique as women. Don’t be someone you’re not; dedicate yourself and work hard, and even when you fail, keep getting back up, aiming to be 1% better than you were the day before. Believe in yourself and the impact you’re making when people come and spend time with you when out on a life-changing safari.
Congratulations from team GILTEDGE, Kimberlee! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Are you interested in booking a safari at Lion Sands Game Reserve and potentially being privileged enough to have Kimberlee as your guide? Contact one of our travel experts today to start planning a safari customized to your needs, preferences, and budget.