BIOGRAPHY

CRAIG BARROWMAN

 

I was born in 1969 in Port Elizabeth, 800km east of Cape Town on the Indian Ocean, and have been a tourist guide in Cape Town since 2000.

Most of my happy childhood was spent in the Eastern Cape interior, the heartland of the Xhosa people, close to the Transkei Wild Coast, where I learned to love the beautiful land and people around me. I returned to Port Elizabeth to study social science – and what an exciting time to be a student! The heady sense of change was in the air, and excitement around the events leading up to the reforms, including the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, shaped many choices I made.

I opted to work in the non-profit sector, and became a fieldworker in a human rights and development NGO based in Port Elizabeth, serving poor rural communities in the region. Besides the wonderful people I met and worked with, traveling around the countryside was a highlight too.

Some of the greatest days of my life were spent as a volunteer peace monitor during South Africa’s landmark first democratic elections in 1994, when I was deployed in the streets of a sprawling township between the long snaking lines of voters. A remarkable day indeed!

But never having left South Africa, I had itchy feet and it was time for new adventures. A short backpacking trip in Europe grew into a three year experience of work and travel which took me to various parts of Europe and North America. I worked in various jobs but again became drawn towards those serving people such as care work and working on a special needs summer camp in the USA. I saved every bit of hard earned cash to travel, usually on a shoestring budget.

My time away reinforced what I already knew – that I came from one of the most beautiful countries on earth, and one that the world would soon want to see! This inspired me to get involved in the rapidly growing tourism industry on my return.

The first job I got back in South Africa was managing a lodge and outdoor activity centre for independent travelers in the small country town of Swellendam, 2˝ hours east of Cape Town. I loved the place and the work, and was proud to win a Rotary award for outstanding service to the town’s tourism industry. My favourite part of the job was taking guests on day trips to nearby places of interest. I quickly realized that this was something that could develop into a career. After a happy two years, Cape Town beckoned!

The turn of the millennium took me to the city. After my first tourist guiding course, I was thrilled to be offered work at one of Cape Town’s largest tour companies. In my five years there I developed a niche doing private tours for small groups, with a focus on nature.

The next step was to become more independent and to expand my skills. Working in a freelance capacity, it’s always useful to learn skills in other fields. Being a lover of language, I decided to take a break from touring and do a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate course in Cape Town. This led to a few months of teaching English to language students from abroad, as well as organizing outings in and around the city for them. Which in turn led to a year of teaching English in high school … in Japan! This total cultural immersion turned out to be one of the most exciting adventures of my life. It gave me the rare chance to take a step back, consider life and the world anew from a fresh perspective … and travel some more!

I was delighted to return to Cape Town with recharged batteries in late 2006 and get straight back into guiding as planned, this time on a freelance basis. Since then, most of my work has been for Abercrombie & Kent, with small groups of one to six guests. Many of them come to Africa primarily to enjoy the safari experience, and they are often bowled over by the surprises of our cosmopolitan city and its spectacular environs, in addition to the thrill of seeing the Big 5 that drew them to Africa in the first place.

Besides showing visitors the city and country that I love, I find that guiding keeps me connected with the world and all the places I’ve traveled to myself, in Europe, North and South America, east and south-east Asia, Australia, and of course other parts of our own beloved Africa.

When I take a break from guiding, I team up with friends, pack the car, and go on big road trips to explore the far flung parts of the land my work doesn’t normally take me to, in South and Southern Africa. Kenya and Tanzania are next on my dream list!

Many of my leisure pursuits involve nature and the outdoors. I particularly love mountains, and I often go hiking on the mountains around Cape Town and its hinterland, and from time to time join friends on multi-day overnight hiking experiences in places as far afield as the Eastern Cape and Namibia.

I also enjoy local music and theatre, and am building up a network of art venues to visit with guests. I love dining out, and find that trying to keep abreast of Cape Town’s burgeoning restaurant scene is a very rewarding challenge!

I’m presently qualified as a guide in the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape provinces, and am in the process of expanding to Gauteng, the North West and Mpumalanga provinces. I’m an active member of the Cape Tourist Guides Association.

Specialties: Nature, flowers, walking and hiking, local music and theatre, art and sculpture, senior and disabled guests, winelands.