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Why you should always listen to your guide

I’ve run hundreds of trips and tours, and been on hundreds too. If there is one piece of advice I could give about being on a tour is, to ALWAYS follow your guide’s advice! There are so many reasons why you should do this. But I’ve narrowed it down to my top 5 reasons why you should always listen to your guide:

1) Your Guide wants to keep you safe

A guide’s number one job isn’t to make you happy, tell you interesting stuff or keeping to a schedule – it’s keeping you safe! No matter what happens on an adventure tour, whether you like the guide or feel like the safety rules stopped you from having fun (which it shouldn’t!). If you come home safe then the guide has done a good job.
When I was in Milford Sound, New Zealand working as a sea kayak guide, the weather could change instantly. It could change from a beautiful clear calm day to a thundering storm in the blink of an eye (and I did get caught out in them once or twice, we’re not perfect, sadly). But because I had first-hand experience, in-depth knowledge of the weather and prepared before the trip (checked weather reports) I knew what it was going to do. I hate having to cancel, delay or change a trip it’s the last thing we want to do. Firstly, although it’s my job, I get just as excited to go out kayaking as the clients do! Secondly, it’s not fun letting people down. But it is always better to be safe than sorry – as our mums would say!

Falling head over heals out of a whitewater raft.

Yes it sucks to have your trip cancelled, we think it sucks too and although the sun may be shining now, we’ve cancelled because we know. We know it is going to SUCK around that corner. High speed winds tended to be the number one problem in Milford Sound. We will always explain to you why we’ve cancelled. If it’s due to wind, it’s because that wind is going to hitting you at 40 – 50knts in the face and that shit is crazy and would not only be dangerous, but absolutely no fun. It’s not the experience we want to give you.

2) Your guide wants to have as much fun as they can

Rafting – I LOVE RAFTING! I think about rafting all the time – when I’m eating, when I’m showering, I dream about rafting at night. Heck, I’m even thinking about rafting as I’m writing this! People are only raft guides because they love it! You cannot be a guide if you don’t like it. It just doesn’t work. You have a bad time, your clients have a bad time and probably complain, your boss has a bad time and so things don’t work out. When I go rafting – I plan to have fun!

Callum Morrison whitewater Rafting in Wales

Now being a guide means that I do this day in day out. That means I know how to have the most fun. I also know how my clients can have a good time. But Rafting, like all adventure sports, has risks and to mitigate those risks I need to know that when I tell my clients to do something (‘paddle forwards’, ‘hold on’, ‘get down’) they will do it. Spinning down a rapid is way more fun than just going down straight. But if you don’t get down when we shout, “GET DOWN”, you could end up out the raft and injured. And that’s no fun or safe (point 1). If I can’t trust you, as a client, then I can’t let you guys experience the best fun you can have on a raft. It’s that simple.

Like I said, I LOVE rafting. I’ve been a raft guide for years and in those years there’s only ever been one trip where I and then, in turn, the clients did not have fun. Can you guess what happened? That’s right, the clients would not listen. So I couldn’t trust them enough to show them the cool things we could do and in turn, nobody had a good time.

So if you want to have the absolute time of your life on a raft. You should always listen to your guide!

3) Your guide knows how you can have a better experience

One of my greatest experiences was being able to Kayak alongside dolphins.Paddling as fast as I could to keep up. On my left was a large mother dolphin (almost as long as my sea kayak) and to my right was a baby dolphin. The three of us were just in-sync! They were loving it, surfacing on either side of me to get a better look at who I was. I was ecstatic! Keeping just out of my reach, playing with the kayak it would have been a dream to have been able to touch them. But I was having to paddle my hardest just to keep up!

Dolphins and other marine life were common sights when I took clients out in Milford Sound. But people got so caught up fiddling with their dry bags and cameras that by the time they were ready to take the shot, they animals were gone. Often you have to keep paddling just to keep up with them anyway! And if you can paddle and take pictures, please teach me how!

So how do you treasure these precious and, for many, dream experiences? Let your eyes just take it in. Don’t worry about the camera, pictures, video or whatever. Memories and truly being in the present made my clients happier than those who fumbled around trying to take a picture instead of enjoying the experience. Sometimes there will be a still chance to get the shot, but if we shout to paddle or to look out, do that first! The best group listened to my advice and we scored the jackpot! Spending 15 minutes surrounded by playing dolphins, jumping up in the middle of us and surfacing close enough for us to reach out and touch! An unbelievable and emotional moment (I’ve had several people crying with tears of joy!), that for most people is a once in a lifetime dream.

Having memories like this will stick with you forever. But the risk of fumbling to take a picture and you lose the experience, that’s when the memories don’t last. So always listen to your guide and trust their judgement. They are the experts in the field and know how to have the best time. Even if it’s crazy like ‘don’t take pictures yet, just keep paddling!’, it’s likely to pay off!

4) Behind-the-scenes management

Organising a group of people is often a pretty hard thing to do. Try it – I dare you! Go away for a weekend with your friends and organise EVERYTHING. Where they are going to eat, where they are going to sleep, what you are going to do. And just to make it harder you have to do it constantly with a big smile even if things don’t quite work out.

Jeep with Kayaks on it

It’s not quite a walk in the park but it comes hand in hand with running tours and being a guide. Your guide pretty much has it down to an art (or at least should have!). So please, please, please listen to them and do what they ask – there is method behind the madness. Even if you disagree with the organising, or it’s now how you would do it. I can guarantee you, it’s probably tried and tested, many, many times. So keeping to time limits and following instructions, as much as you might hate them, are tried and tested ways to ensure everyone has the best time! You wouldn’t want to be late and miss out on an activity because of it, but not just you, the whole group! No one wants to be ‘that guy’. So trust the madness and always listen to your guide, because the method works.

Tom Carrying a crate

5) Don’t be ‘That guy’

Hopefully you’ve never experienced a tour with a ‘that guy’ on it. But probably you’ve been on at least one that has. Young or old, male or female, big or small – ‘that guy’ comes in many shapes and forms. But you will know the ‘that guy’ when you see them. They are the ones disrupting the tour, holding the group up and slowing everyone down. If you don’t listen to your guide and everyone else does, then be careful because your turning into the ‘that guy’ on your tour!

A team whitewater rafting in the sun and having a great time.

Fortunately for you your tour guide will strive to be the nicest person on earth. They will go out of their way to try and make you happy. But if you turn into ‘that guy’, they may be smiling on the outside but inside they’re not going to be too happy. And neither will the rest of the group for that matter.

Remember, they’ve paid just as much as you have to be there and they want an equally great time. If you go and ruin that because you don’t listen and turn up late or do something stupid that held everyone up. Then guess what – they won’t be happy! When people aren’t happy with you then you probably won’t have a great time – It’s as simple as that. Even if the tour guide is the still the nicest person – the rest of the group might not be.

But the important thing here is not to worry about every little mistake. Everyone makes mistakes or can’t remember everything they are told. The point here is when you constantly and intentionally disregard your tour guide and the group’s timings. So I guess what I’m trying to say is just don’t be ‘that guy’, listen to your guide and you’ll help yourself and everyone else to have a great time!

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