Savannah Guides meet for one of their
Photo: Kathryn Thorburn
Savannah Guides is a network of professional
tour guides who aims to educate visitors through its guides and
tourism sites about the environmental conditions of the tropical
savannas of northern Australia. It was established as a non-profit
company in 1988 by John Courtenay, the Chief Executive Officer of
the Gulf Local Authorities Development Association (GLADA) at the
Members were initially drawn from local
communities within the Gulf Savannah but the network has since
expanded to encompass the tropical savannas of northern
A group of sets off on a river tour at Normanton
in the Gulf country. The river is famous for its crocodiles ...
Photo: Wendy Hillman
Travelling to the Savannah Guide Schools have
been both enjoyable and challenging. The schools I've attended were
held in Normanton–Croydon (Qld), Katherine (NT) and the
Mareeba Wetlands (Qld). One of the main challenges was getting to
the Mareeba Wetlands in between cyclones. I have also travelled to
Longreach to attend a School there as well as participating in
several of the Guides' own ecotours which added enriched and
comprehensive data to my research focus.
I have forged an extremely beneficial link
with the Savannah Guides through my research of their group. They
are a co-operative and friendly organisation. Through this
interaction I have also made deeper friendships with some of the
members. I am always warmly welcomed by them, even if I turn up for
a tour unexpectedly. They are all wonderful people.
James Cook University, Townsville. Completed.
Summary | About Savannah Guides | Key research
questions | Study area | Research methods | Supervisors | References | More information |
This study explores salient issues related to the perceived
professionalisation of a collective group of tourism business
individuals called Savannah Guides. The guides’ philosophy is
based on a collective sense of identity and recognition as an
exclusive ecotourism organisation. This has been used as a means of
positioning themselves in the competitive ecotourism market. The
organisation has regimented levels of attainment and can be
considered as quasi-militaristic in its orientation. The guides
have implemented various forms of assessment and training which
serve as a measurement of competency and uniformity.
The guides present themselves to the public mainly through their
individual tourism businesses. Emotional labour is one of the ways
they interact with the public on their tours. They incorporate the
emotional side of their interpretive work into their tourist
products and tours, through the ways they impart both education and
knowledge to the tourists. Their educative and cultural expertise
is also informed by usage of emotional labour.
Concern for, and an extensive knowledge of the environment, are
also components of their specialised form of guiding. Many of the
guides see work in the ecotourism industry as a form of alternative
employment, and as an option to the decline in rural employment.
Others perceive a niche for this type of tourism and embrace the
opportunity. This thesis details the guides’ way of life as
individuals within the Savannah Guides organisation and the
The aim of this study is to investigate the occupation of the
ecotour guides as workers, the relationship between ecotour guides,
interpretation of guided tours and ecotourism practices and how
they relate to, and are utilised by tourists, as part of an
expanding service economy.
Reference studies that provide a comparative basis for
investigation of Savannah Guide enterprises in the tourist industry
sector within Tropical Savannas will be examined. First, these will
examine the status, role and scope of Savannah Guides within
Tropical Savannas. Second, Enterprise Level Ecotourism case studies
will be carried out. These will include an in-depth study of the
Savannah Guides organisation. Third, individual Guides will be
investigated. This section of the study will endeavour to ascertain
a profile of individual Guides and their roles, perceptions and
values, together with their own expressions of these components in
terms of conducting guided ecotours.
Other important questions may be:
What do the Savannah Guides do?
What is significant about the discourse of the Savannah
Guides? How do they acquire their knowledge, and from what
What is the philosophy of the organisation? What are the
inclusive and exclusive practices of the organisation?
How do they present themselves to the public? To what extent
do their values fit within the wider discourse on environmentalism
Why are they drawn to ecotour guiding as an occupation?
The research is being undertaken within and adjacent to the
tropical savanna area of northern Australia: from northern
Queensland, across to the Northern Territory and possibly also into
the Kimberley Region of Western Australia, i.e., from Cape York to
Broome. More specifically these sites will include, travelling from
east to west: Undara Lava Tubes, Tyrconnell Historic Goldmine,
Chillagoe, Cobbold Gorge, Adel's Grove, Lawn Hill, Hell's Gate,
Borroloola and Katherine. The study also includes mobile operators
of the Savannah Guides association such as Wilderness Challenge,
Far Out Adventures and Odyssey Safaris.
The research is undertaken using qualitative research techniques
such as participant observation and in-depth interviewing.
Interaction with the subject group is an ongoing process, carried
out over the entire timeframe of the candidature.
To date, little research has been carried out covering this
subject field and this study will add an insightful and significant
contribution to the areas of sociology of tourism, ecotourism, tour
guides and guided tours.
The project contributes to two themes within TS-CRC. These are
Ecosystem Management and Human Capability Development. The
Ecosystem Management section encompasses interrelationships between
my subject group, the Savannah Guides, and the environment. This
will investigate a balance between the guides and the tourists who
depend on the savannas and the savanna environment. The purpose is
to understand a blending of people's needs and uses with those of
the environment. In the study, the ecosystem management section
looks at the move away from site-specific or individual land-use
management, and instead examines the interactions of the Savannah
Guides with the entire ecosystem of the savannas and with their
The Human Capability section of the investigation covers the
Savannah Guides as a stakeholder group within the Tropical
Savannas. It will also contribute to an added awareness about
information on the savannas, as well as sustainable development of
natural and cultural resources. As my research is conducted from
within the discipline of Sociology, my research will add
significantly to an understanding of social and sociological issues
within the tropical savannas region of northern Australia.
Dr Roger Wilkinson, JCU.
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Hynes, R. (1996) Draft Strategic Land
Management Plan: Cobold Gorge Interpretation Site Savannah Guides,
Cooperative Research Centre for the Sustainable Development of
Tropical Savannas, James Cook University Townsville.
Hynes, R. (1998) Understanding and Maintaining
Biodiversity: Background Information for Savannah Guides,
Cooperative Research Centre for the Sustainable Development of
Tropical Savannas, James Cook University, Townsville.
Kleinhardt - FGI Pty Ltd (1998) Strategic Plan
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for Savannah Guides Ltd and Queensland and Northern Territory
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