Protectors and Interpreters of the Outback …. Savannah Guides

Russell Boswell Savannah Guides – low res

Russell Boswell, Savannah Guides

What is a Savannah Guide?

A Savannah Guide is a “Protector and Interpreter of the Outback”, a leading nature or culture based Tour Guide.

Are there similar programs in other parts of the world?

We actually have a series of linked programs in Australia.  In the Wet Tropics Rainforests we have a region-specific program.  Savannah Guides also runs the EcoGuide Program which certifies many types of Tour Guides, from overnight walkers and Cruise Ship Language Guides to Shark Cage Diving Guides around the country.  Some regions are using EcoGuide as the basis for their own program using local content.

Around the world there are Tour Guiding organisations, but we haven’t found one with the level of engagement provided by Savannah Guides.

How do you become a Savannah Guide?

We benchmark against the Certificate III in Guiding and assess people’s knowledge and skills, including in the field.  Participating in Savannah Guides Field Schools is also required to pick up on the strong sustainability ethos of the organisation.

How is the Savannah Guides program marketed?

Building awareness within the Tourism Industry is our most important messaging.  Operators, National Parks agencies and Indigenous Ranger Groups work with us on many projects.  Promoting pathways for Tour Guides is definitely a fun part of the job – supporting keen career changers or business builders.  We run our website, Facebook, Instagram and E-Newsletter as contact points.

What happens at a Savannah Guides Field School?

Well, what happens at the Field School really stays at the Field School, but I can tell you it’s a lot of fun. We spend most of the four days learning with Traditional Owners, Researchers and locals to really understand the host region.  There is always plenty of knowledge sharing and of course the mandatory campfire guitar session.

What trends or patterns are guides seeing in visitation?

We are seeing Australians looking more deeply at their heritage and wanting more engaging experiences. That includes a new appetite for Indigenous cultural experiences and tours with smaller groups and bigger stories.

What are your plans for Savannah Guides in 2019 and beyond?

Our training capacity is growing rapidly, with 2019 seeing us deliver Secondary School tourism training, a new range of programs for Aboriginal Rangers moving into tourism, and some exciting localised Tour Guide clusters.  We now work with over 500 Tour Guides and the network is growing every month.

About yourself …….

What career path took you to becoming the overseer of the Savannah Guides program?

I’ve been a teacher in Secondary Schools and TAFE Colleges and developed several successful tourism businesses over the years.  The team approach has always appealed to me, so the collaborative growth offered by Savannah Guides inspired me to take on the Manager’s role after ten years as a member.  I’ve now been managing Savannah Guides for ten years.

How do you see the Australian Tourism landscape in the next 3-5 years?

Managing growth will be a challenge for tourism all over the world in the coming years.  Many of Australia’s authentic experiences are based on personal experiences rather than mass sightseeing so we will need to stay creative to find the quiet moments for our guests.

On a lighter note ……

What are you most proud of?

That our kids have mainly picked up our good habits.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

The Mind in the Cave by David J. Lewis-Williams, speculating on why people painted rock art deep in Europe’s caves 20,000 years ago.

What part of the world is on your next holiday itinerary?

Japan with our Japanese neighbours.

When you arrive home from a week away what do you like doing?

Getting into the garden and catching up with the local wildlife.

When hitting the kitchen what is your hero dish?

Gin.  I’ve been having a lot of fun with a vodka base and some zany botanicals.

If you could wave a magic wand what one problem in Australia would you fix?

Closing the Gap.

Favourite web site?


Something most people don’t know about Russell Boswell?

I love to knock out a few tunes on the ukulele.


Savannah Guides