Maropeng guide in the running for national award
With four tourism awards already under his belt, Maropeng tour guide supervisor Reuben Tsime has his sights on winning the big one – Best Tour Guide in South Africa – at the South African Tourism Welcome Awards, to be held at the Tourism Indaba in Durban from May 8-11.
It became obvious early in his career that Reuben was destined to shine in his chosen field. Barely a year after becoming a guide, he had taken third place in the Guiding division of the 2008 West Rand Tourism Awards, followed by the Best Outstanding Work for Site Guide at the same awards event in 2009.
These accolades were followed by another in February this year, when he topped the podium in the On-site category at the annual Gauteng Tourism Authority Tourist Guide Service Excellence Awards, flanked by two fellow Maropeng guides, who took second and third places.
Most recently, Reuben was recognised with the provincial Gauteng Tour Guide Award, which gave him automatic entry to the national competition.
His keenness and dedication to his work were recognised early, and Reuben was promoted to tour guide supervisor after just a year and a half at Maropeng. Since many of his colleagues were more experienced, Reuben hadn’t thought he stood a chance of being appointed, but says, “I guess management spotted some leadership potential in me.”
“Reuben has come such a long way and it’s purely because of his enthusiasm and love for what he does,” says Tony Rubin, managing director of Maropeng. “I’m very proud of him, he’s awesome!”
Before becoming a tour guide, Reuben visited the Sterkfontein Caves many times on primary school tours. He was so captivated by what he saw in the Cradle of Humankind, that his mother encouraged him to read books about caves and archaeology.
“My long-term goal is to start my own tourism company and own my own hotel one day,” he says.
Reuben describes himself as a people person, who loves meeting people of different races and nationalities. He has met a few celebrities along the way, including comedian and actor Chris Rock, who encouraged him to “keep up the good work”.
Although he spends a large part of his time underground, conducting tours of the Sterkfontein Caves, Reuben says that being a tour guide presents some unique challenges. He recalls an incident in which a large puff adder fell through a sinkhole, landing on the cave floor between children on the school tour he was conducting.
“There was quite a panic among the children, who screamed and scattered. I had to get the snake into my backpack and keep it there for the 45-minute tour, before removing it from the cave so it wouldn’t pose a threat to anyone else,” he recalls.
Reuben has also had his share of claustrophobics who only discover their fear way down into the cave system, and a couple of Danish tourists who walked on ahead of their group and came upon a “ghost” in a dark tunnel. This turned out to be a maintenance man hard at work, but the pair took a lot of persuading to keep on with their tour.
Reuben believes the awards he’s won also add an element of excitement to his work and inspire him to strive for excellence.
“Who knows, maybe next time I will be number one in South Africa. This has been my biggest challenge so far,” he adds.