Local nature guides act as cultural and conservation ambassadors to outside visitors, and are the foundation upon which most educational and engaging tourism experiences are built. Local residents often possess a deep understanding of the land and culture that surrounds them, and empowering those residents to interpret and share that knowledge as guides is not only an effective way to create jobs, it also makes for a unique and authentic visitor experience.
Based upon the award-winning guide training program that has trained more than 500 local guides, most with basic education levels, through 30 iterations around the world over the last decade, this intensive training course focuses on cutting-edge guiding and interpretive techniques, natural and cultural history of the region, and language training. The full ten-week course produces guides with conversational English skills, while a condensed 3-4 week version is taught in the host language.
Environmental Interpretation: Based on Sam Ham’s methodology, the guide training program’s environmental interpretation curriculum is designed around the “20 Characteristics of a Good Guide”. During the training, students learn increasing complex interpretive techniques – from basic communications (#1: A Good Guide Speaks Loudly & Clearly) to engaging clients (#8: A Good Guide Gets to Know His/Her Audience) to self-improvement (#20: A Good Guide Evaluates His/Her Tour).
Natural & Cultural History: Each guide training program hires a host-country naturalist with a university degree to develop and document a natural & cultural history curriculum that is unique to the ecosystems and ethnic groups of the region. The resulting “Guide’s Guide” is a natural and cultural history reader that presents scientific information in an interpretative way that is intended to engage clients. Topics range from basic ecology and biology to specific ecosystems like reefs and rainforests, and also include a module designed specifically for birding tours.
Conversational English: When needed, Solimar’s guide training program can train local guides with no prior English skills to be conversational in just ten weeks. The program employs an “English for a Specific Purpose” approach that focuses on vocabulary and situations unique to guiding. An immersive English environment is created by bringing in English-speaking volunteers who live, eat, study and interact with the course participants 7 days a week, 24 hours a day to reinforce vocabulary and grammar over the ten-week immersion period.
What to Expect
- A comprehensive guide training program documented in an award-winning manual that covers every aspect of the course, including staff and volunteer teacher training, student selection, course budget and logistics, course curriculum, lesson plans and training materials, and evaluation tools and templates.
- Dynamic and participatory classes…no eight-hour lectures. Interpretation, English and natural history classes are shifted outside into the surrounding natural environment as much as possible.
- An applied approach. Each week, students develop and lead “practice tours” that incorporate the interpretive techniques, natural/cultural history, and new English vocabulary taught during the previous week’s lessons.
- Proven experiential learning techniques. Throughout the course, students create and lead tours, give oral presentations, collaborate to solve problems, and carry out role-plays that prepare them to interact with actual visitors.