talking points for nature guides
index to talking points for nature guides
For nature guides: don't be a bad guide
updated Apr 2020
What is a bad guide?

Generally doesn't care about visitors
  • Bores visitors
  • Doesn't pay attention to visitors' preferences
  • Makes visitors depressed
  • Visitors have no fun

Wants to be the centre of attention

  • Insists all visitors pay attention ONLY to the guide.
  • Gets upset when visitors interrupt or prefer to talk about something else.
  • Does all the talking, talks non-stop throughout the walk.
  • Ignores visitors' questions, dismisses visitors' finds, overrides visitors' preferences for pace and subject matter.

Wants to appear clever and smart and know everything

  • Obsesses over scientific names and science details that ordinary people don't understand (or care about).
  • Overuse of science intimidates and turns off visitors
    • Makes visitors feel guides are showing off
    • Makes visitors feel stupid.

Makes visitors feel stupid (this can be unintentional. Be aware of reactions to stories.)

  • Asks questions which ordinary people are sure to answer wrongly.
  • Dismisses visitors' stories and comments. "Are you sure?", "You're wrong!", "Yah whatever, here is what I really want you to know"
  • Cuts off visitor comments
  • Gives depressing lectures of threats to the shores due to stupidity of people in general.
  • Forces visitors to remember things. "What is this? I just told you what it was".

Afraid of appearing stupid and refuses to say "I don't know"
Makes up things, guess things without informing that it's a guess, provides wrong information.

Unprepared physically and mentally

  • Is late
  • Did not eat or drink beforehand, did not bring water, is ill, did not bring a hat or raingear.
  • Is grumpy and takes it out on the visitors

Sets a bad example for impact on the shore
While guides may say "It's OK for a guide to do this but you shouldn't do it", generally visitors will do as guides DO and not as guides SAY. Just imagine every visitor doing exactly what you are doing the next time they are on the shores alone. You can then have a clear idea of the appropriate behaviour to take when guiding.

Some things NOT to do during a guided walk (or any other time we work on the shores).

  • Touch everything. It is bad enough we are trampling the shore during a walk, there is no need to also grope every single thing along the route.
  • "Feed" animals: "Sea anemones eat big crabs you know! I will show you by putting this crab on this sea anemone" This sends an awful message. If every visitor did as we did, the shorelife would be devastated. Visitors should believe what you say without a demonstration.
  • 'Save' animals: "Oh let's save this poor fish from the sea anemone" Instead, point out that it is nature's way for some things to end up as food for others and that we should not interfere.
  • Kick rocks and stones. To overturn a rock or stone, USE YOUR HANDS (with gloves on).
  • Poke animals with pens/sticks/chopsticks/other implements. Visitors will watch how it is done and will do exactly the same thing the next time they visit the shore. They may not be mindful about damage to soft bodied animals when poked, or that some animals will fall apart if handled.
  • Stomp on living things: coral rubble, ascidians on stones, seagrasses and seaweed.
  • Climb slippery rocks and boulders and makes visitors follow. This is especially dangerous with small children and older people in the group. One fall is all it takes for a serious injury.
  • Hurt animals, e.g., taking animals out of water, allowing the entire group to handle delicate animals that will disintegrate or die in the process, e.g., flatworms; poking sea anemones with a stick to find anemonefishes (the anemone may be punctured, and fishes will be stressed).
  • Treating animals as trophies, e.g., encouraging the group to pose for photos with these animals out of water. This sends the wrong message and encourages disrespectful treatment of the shores.
  • Dig animals out of their burrows, pokes sticks into burrows.
  • Knock shells, throw animals into water from a height.
  • Step off the boardwalk to show visitors things. There is no need to do so to point out things to visitors. Learn how to get visitors to see what you have found:
    • Describe it: "It is about 10cm long, brown and cylindrical"
    • Describe its location: "It is to the left to the bright orange flower on the water" (if there is only one such flower)
    • Or take a photo of it and show it to the visitors. Or show them a picture of it in your guidebook. Or on your smart phone.

Be a good guide instead.

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