As a writer and a teacher, I have a deep admiration for people who are skilled at their craft. I love reading well-crafted writing, and observing teachers who make managing a classroom of 12-year-olds look like a breeze. So, when we went on a safari last weekend, I was struck by how skilled our guide and driver were at their craft. It was inspiring to see their expertise in fields of work that are so foreign to me.
Ben, who grew up near the Masai Mara, went to college to become a guide, and has been leading safaris for 8 years. He is one of only 170 silver-level certified guides in Kenya, and next year will take his exam to become gold certified. Currently, there are only 10 gold-level guides in all of Kenya. Ben’s not only at the top of his game; he’s at the top of the game.
In addition to spotting lions, cheetahs, and leopards, Ben’s knowledge of the flora and fauna in Kenya was deep. He knew the three types of wild dogs in the Masai Mara. He knew which bushes have leaves that act as an insecticide, and which animals are color-blind. He set up a picnic lunch for us with one hand, while pointing out two dueling hippos with the other.
His compatriot, Tipa, drove a 12-person vehicle across the savannah, over boulders, and through rivers. Tipa has been driving safari vehicles for 10 years, and it shows. He knew how to ease the big truck down 45 degree inclines, and just how close to safely get to lions (let me tell you, it’s very close!). He drove us through forests of thorn trees and herds of wildebeest without danger. He even found us the best camera angles without blocking the view for other tourists and trucks.
These two men reminded me that when you enjoy what you do, and when you spend years practicing your craft, you become an expert. It was beautiful to watch them work so effortlessly at their craft, and it inspired me to keep plugging away at the difficult task of improving my own craft of writing.