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How to become a safari guide with Lauren Arthur

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Lauren Arthur (pronouns: she/her) is a biologist, wildlife educator, and TV presenter as a live safari guide with WildEarth, a daily wildlife show that is broadcast across the world. Lauren shares the ins and outs of a day-in-the-life of a live safari guide living in a safari camp in the savannas of southern Africa. We also do a deep dive and shares advice for not just starting but sustaining your career with wildlife – and Lauren addresses the over-glamorization of careers in this industry, and provides pointers for anyone looking to carve their own pathway out in the wildlife space.

How to become a safari guide with Lauren Arthur | #itsawildlife

LAUREN’S JOURNEY

Lauren started out in the wildlife space at 17-years-old studying zoology but discovered midway through that she was more drawn to the ocean.

“So, I completed my undergrad and I decided to go on an expedition into the marine conservation world in Fiji to explore how that would really work with me. And naturally, I loved it!”

Lauren completed her PADI course right up to Rescue Diver and decided to return to university and do her Master’s in marine biology, tropical coastal management. This provided Lauren to complete her thesis on whale sharks in the Maldives.

“I had been passionate about sharks all my life growing up on the east coast of Scotland. Sharks were just fascinating to me – but they were always washing up on the shores.”

“Other girls loved barbies. I just loved sharks.”

At this time, it was 2011 and marine biology was only just in its infancy in the maldives– whereas comparatively, today marine biology is prevalent and every resort has a resident marine biologist. Lauren shares –

“I just landed lucky, I met the right people, I networked, I connected, and it all just fell into place. So as soon as I left the Maldives, I actually received a job offer as a marine biologist. So, of course, I jumped at that and ended up staying for eight years.”

“I just loved the Maldives so much, and I still do. But after eight years, the Maldives felt like a small place, and I was at the top of my ladder, so I decided it’s time to go.”

Although Lauren left the Maldives not knowing what she was going to do, she trusted the universe and knew that everything would fall into place. And it did, as Lauren explains –

“There was actually a job offer for a marine expert on a brand new pilot show with a company called WildEarth, and they were piloting a new series underwater at the Cayman Islands, where you go live with a marine biologist underwater, answering your questions.”

“I did not expect to get it but off I went to the Caribbean and I did this pilot show for three months and while it was both fun and hard – and when I finished that, the company called me and said, Hey, we really like you. Do you want to come over to South Africa and be a safari guide?

Immediately I said, no. No, thank you, I’m a water baby. The company said, please just try it. Give us one month. Just come over, see how you feel. And I said, okay.”

Lauren had always wanted to go to Africa and decided she’d try it out and see how she felt – and from the moment she arrived, the team was incredible, she was learning a completely different set of knowledge and she loved the experience. She shares –

“And fast forward five years later, I became a safari guide and one of the top level presenters for WildEarth Safari Live. And that is where I am today.”

Recently, Lauren left WildEarth for the time being to embark on a brand new and exciting journey, so for more information on that head to her social media.

A DAY-IN-THE-LIFE OF A LIVE SAFARI GUIDE

Especially from her unique perspective as a biologist, safari guide and live TV presenter, Lauren sees the stark contrast between the realities of working in the wildlife conservation world – and how it is perceived from the outside, especially on social media. Lauren explains –

“I think a lot of people out there have glamorized and romanticized working in the wild. I think social media plays a big part in that and I think, although I would encourage absolutely everybody to follow their dream, I also think it’s really important for people out there to fully understand what they’re applying for, what it is they want to do.”

“Working with wildlife or in any wild environment, no matter which avenue you go down, is really tough. It’s exhausting, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and amazing.”

In her role as a presenter and guide with WildEarth, a typical day was focused on education, Lauren’s favourite part of wildlife conservation.

“Conservation is a huge topic and you can do it through field work, education, analyzing data, fundraising – there’s so many different avenues of conservation and the one that resonates with me is definitely educating people.”

For work, Lauren would wake up at 3.30 AM or 4 AM to get ready for morning game drive. She explains –

“Straight to the kitchen for coffee (coffee is my sacred routine!) before getting ready in the dark, doing all the vehicle checks with your cameraman and then doing checks with the final control in Johanne     sburg to make sure your audio and pictures are okay, you’re in sync and the signal’s okay.”

After all these checks are complete, eventually it’s time to get in the field and you go live on TV. As WildEarth is a daily wildlife show broadcast across the world, Lauren and her team would head out with literally no idea what will unfold!

“You may drive out and there’s a pride of lions just sitting on your doorstep. You may drive out. And follow tracks for three hours and never get lucky – one of those quiet, painful days.”

After the safari broadcast, Lauren and her team would return for brunch together. The middle of the day is filled with other duties – meetings, cleaning cars, swapping out tyres, refuelling and studying for the next game drive.

“Lots of camp duties and then you’re ready to go out for the afternoon drive. Same story. So, it’s quite repetitive, and a large proportion of the day will involve studying – a big part for me.”

“I find that guides or people in this field can sometimes think that they know everything, and I think it’s really important when it comes to the natural world to understand that we will never know everything, not one single human. There’s still so much to learn – so, it’s still really important to keep on top of new science, new topics, read, be aware of what’s trending, what people talk about. That was a large part of my job as well with WildEarth.”

SUSTAINABILITY IN YOUR CAREER

When working in passion-fuelled industries like this one that require huge amounts of energy each day, we asked Lauren, how do you take care of yourself and maintain a routine to keep this style of career sustainable!

“I think that’s the toughest part! Here at WildEarth, we do six-week cycles. And I have to say by the end of the six weeks you are just tired! It’s every single day – good days, bad days you’re out there.”

“And for me, as I’ve gotten older, I mean, I’m 36 now. I have realized I need to prioritize selfcare, realize that you will go through the rollercoaster of emotions in six weeks and just really take time to just chill, calm down, go for a run and maybe put on a face mask or take an hour to do your hair. Otherwise, you will burn out.”

“And I think as a youngster, in my twenties, burnout was cool. But as you get older you realize that’s really not sustainable, it’s not cool, and it’s really not good for you. Now in my career, I definitely understand the importance of looking after yourself.”

ADDRESSING THE GLAMOURIZATION OF THE CONSERVATION INDUSTRY

And, in terms of the industry being glamorized, what does Lauren wish more people knew?

Although it depends on which job you’re pursuing within this space, on the whole, Lauren sees that social media just has this way of glamorizing everything. She explains –

“I see the younger generation thinking, I want to take cool photos of lions and selfies with me and these animals. And I just think not enough emphasis is put into understanding the nature of the job – the tough parts in uncomfortable conditions and emotional challenges.

“You have to deal with boiling hot, freezing cold and changing a tire in the gathering dark when you’re racing home for dinner after a long day.”

Another thing Lauren thinks most people don’t realize when pursuing a career with wildlife – is how important it is to build people skills and to become extremely self-aware and forgiving.

“It’s quite an intimate job – working in the field normally involves working with really small teams – often for long hours, in uncomfortable conditions or when you’re over-tired. You need to learn how to dance around each other and understand that everyone has bad days.”

“I just don’t think a lot of people realize that working with wildlife comes with its challenges – you have to be fully dedicated and you’re going to see some difficult things.”

CAREER ADVICE FOR ASPIRING BIOLOGISTS

For Lauren, her biggest advice for wildlife enthusiasts pursuing a career with wildlife, is to take the pressure off immediacy and take the time to explore your options and try out different roles before jumping in blindly. As a starting point, Lauren suggests –

“Get the foundations. Once you’ve grown and evolved and you know yourself a little better, make your decisions to what part you want to go further with.”

And like everyone pursuing a career in this industry, regardless of what stage they’re at, Lauren says we all know what it’s like to feel lost –

“I know what it feels like when you just finished uni, you’ve had those great four years, probably partying and studying and then you’re just expected to know where to go next. It’s really tough – but everyone goes through that.”

“You will receive rejections, but rejections are what make you stronger. So don’t take it personally and stay focused. You will get that job. If it’s meant for you, it will happen!”

KEEP IN TOUCH

Want to hear more from Lauren? Tune into the podcast or follow her on Instagram @lauren_arthur7. And in terms of WildEarth, jump onto YouTube @WildEarth.

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