The Secrets of an Adventure Tour Guide

It’s many a travel blogger’s dream to make money from a life of travel, but have you ever thought about becoming an adventure tour guide?

Greg and Choccy Thomson are living the dream. They met while running tours around Western Australia, got married and now run camping tours for Adventure Wild, a company in Broome that operates outback trips into The Kimberley region.

The secrets of an adventure tour guide by Jo Castro

Greg and Choccy Thomson

For six months of the year Greg and Choccy take off into the outback on  camping trips that last up to 12 days with up to 16 guest on the bus each time, and the trips run almost back to back.

I caught up with them to find out what a life on the road is really like, and spoke to them individually to get their personal takes on what it takes, what’s great and what’s tricky.

The secets of an adventure tour guide by Jo Castro

Greg in just one of his roles on a tour – this time, “Bush Ranger”

In the next post I’ll be speaking to Choccy, but today, a big welcome please to the very personable, hugely capable, very knowledgeable and  entertaining, Greg!

How long have you been a tour leader, Greg?

For about 10 years altogether, and nearly 5 years with Adventure Wild.

What’s the best thing about your job?

People are on holiday and they want to have a good time. So it’s really satisfying because we’re showing them fantastic scenery in The Kimberely and they love it.  If they’re happy, then so are we!

The secrets of an adventure tour guide by Jo Castro

Wherever you go in the Kimberley you can be sure of fantastic scenery

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened on a tour?

One of our guests put her pants down in the shower block and when she put them back on there was a lizard in them! Oh the screams :)

And the worst?

We had to make a citizen’s arrest and called the police because one of our guests decided not to take his prescribed medication and became abusive.

What surprises you most about people?

They forget to pack sufficient prescription medication, they forget to pack their torch, and sometimes they even forget to bring their brain! When they’re with us they don’t have a care in the world because we organize everything, but then they tend to ask silly questions too, like “Where’s the milk?” and it’s day three already!

What’s the age range of Adventure Wilders?

From about 25 upwards. Age isn’t too important on our trips as long as people are fit enough to walk a reasonable distance, especially over rocks. The oldest we had was an 83 year old but he was very fit and was able to independently walk over rocky terrain.

What’s the main questions you’re asked?

When we’ve just told everyone the plans for tomorrow someone will inevitably pipe up, “What are we doing tomorrow?” People are in relax mode! We tend to give out quite a few instructions and write reminders on the windows, but even so!

What advice do you have for people exploring the Kimberley?

Always have a couple of back up plans and expect the unexpected. We live by the motto ‘Perfect planning prevents poor performance,’ and there’s lots of tweaking that goes on behind the scenes that our guests probably don’t see or know about, in order to make each trip great. Sometimes for instance roads may be closed due to flooding, or camp sites closed, so we have to make quick alternative plans.

The secrets of an adventure tour guide by Jo Castro

Greg in another of his tour guide roles – that of the entertainer. He play the Didgeridoo.

What piece of equipment could you not live without?

My air compressor and battery charger. There’s lots of pumping up and letting down tyres for different road conditions in the Kimberley region.

If someone only had a few days to spend in The Kimberley where would you tell them to go?

Galvans Gorge, El Questro Gorges, or head straight to The Bungle Bungles and do a 3 day walk such as Piccanniny Creek Walk where you’ll need a satellite phone, plenty of water, and don’t forget to tell the Ranger you’re doing it as it’s really remote. Best to do it on a full moon then you hardly need torches.

Do you have any superstitions?

Each time I begin a new tour I make sure that I erase all my attitudes about the previous trip. I believe if I’m happy then everyone else will be happy. And also some of the decisions I have to make on a trip don’t always suit everyone, so I start each trip anew and start myself off on a clean slate.

What do you love about the job?

I’m a DJ, an entertainer, a cook, a nurse, a mechanic, bush ranger, safety officer, driver, manager of people and psychologist. I’m not ‘just a tour guide’! For this job you have to do everything and that makes it so variable and therefore enjoyable.

The secrets of an adventure tour guide by Jo Castro

He also has to be part comedian!

What’s difficult?

It doesn’t take much to destroy a tour and the worst thing that can happen is mutiny on the bus. As a tour leader you need to minimize gossip and prevent people from comparing our tour with other tours for instance, or comparing the food they’ve had elsewhere, that sort of thing.  On the longer stretches we keep people busy with puzzles, games, playlists, instructions on the windows – we try to keep our guests engaged, never bored.

How do you start a tour?

The most important part of a trip is the beginning. The first few things we say set the mood. We tell our guests to expect the unexpected because some people expect the itinerary to go as listed and run like clockwork but it’s not always possible. I’d say that generally only about two tours a season go completely as planned.

Any rules on the bus?

Yes! Expect the unexpected and Get on with everyone – we’re all different.

Secrets of an adventure tour guide by Jo Castro

Reckon you deserve that burger and a couple of beers after leading a tour group into the Outback for 12 days Greg!

Thanks for taking the time to chat Greg, and if anyone is interested in finding out more you can contact Greg via Adventure Wild.

Please pop back to hear Choccy’s story – and how she came to get her unusual name! Why not join the WAvolution and sign up for ZigaZag updates -just add your email in the Subscription area on the top right hand side of this page.

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Comments

  1. You certainly need to be a “jack of all trades” and wear many hats when you are tour leader, especially in more remote locations. A tour leader can make or break a tour. I have only been on one tour, and he certianly was a “breaker”. I think next time I need a “Greg”.
    The Kimberley is an amazing place to visit, certianly no space to be bored.
    Thanks for the insight Jo.
    Life Images by Jill recently posted..“Oeufs en cocotte” – recreating a little Paris kitchenMy Profile

  2. Glad you enjoyed the insight and yes, if every tour had a Greg (and Choccy) they would all be brilliant. I’ve also been on a couple where the tour guide has been egocentric or managed to split the group into two and it was quite uncomfortable.

  3. Jo great to hear from you.Greg and Choccy are good guides .What made them out standing was their desire to share their love of the Kimberley.We have been on a few adventure trips around the world. This one rates as the best so far.Other tours at the top of the list were run by Oz companies. Jean is now talking about another trip Down under .It would have to include another adventure wild tour. That’s how highly we rate this team.
    PS I have a photo of Greg that I would like to share but do not know how to stick it on. Can you help or do I email it for you to find the right glue? Keep up the good work.
    PPS We are off on a trip to China Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan so next week is far to quick for Choccy. But it does give us a reason to come back home.

  4. Yes, their love of the Kimberley and desire to share their knowledge was awesome, wasn’t it! How wonderful that you are talking about another trip Down Under, and hope it will include the South West! What a wonderful trip you have planned now – enjoy every minute, and can’t wait to hear how it goes. Yes, the right glue for photos on the internet is imperative – I have lots at ZigaZag. If you are keen to share the photo, please email it to me, and I’ll include it in either Greg or Choccy’s interview and I’ll credit you as the photographer of course. Thanks so much for taking the time to pop by and comment. All the best to you both for a great trip x

  5. Being a tour guide would be my idea of hell … so hats off to those like your interviewee who love their jobs!! But tragically, the dumb questions thing isn’t just confined to tours!!

  6. Yep … Tour guides were definitely at the front of the queu when patience was being dished out, Red!

  7. Ah this has brought back very happy memories. About 17 years ago I was expecting No.1 Son and hubby and I came to Oz for a few months of wandering. We did a fantastic camping trip into the Bungle Bungles and then another across the Gibb River Road to Broome. We had terrific guides, great, great fun and saw some amazing places. I want to get back to the Kimberely! Look forward to next week’s interview.
    Seana – Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel recently posted..The Scenic Railway, Katoomba in The Blue Mountains – A Must-See For Tourists, Sydney Locals.. And Us!My Profile

  8. What a life! It sounds like a wonderful job but so demanding too. I’m glad they enjoy it. This is a great insight into their tours though. Funny how people forget their brain while on vacatiion. Love the funniest story. I can just imagine the surprise and screams with that one.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted..A Walking Tour Through Munich, GermanyMy Profile

  9. Yes a peak behind the eyes of a tour guide really gives a good insight to what the tour may be like Wonderful job but extremely hard work!

  10. Sounds like you had an amazing trip Seanna! Please pop by next week for Choccy’s view of life up in the Kimberley!

  11. No two tours would ever be the same, that’s for sure. Love your rock and water photo of the Kimberley.
    budget jan recently posted..Tuesday in Townsville – Cape ClevelandMy Profile

  12. Thanks Jan. Yes, it must be quite daunting in a way.

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