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AboutAbout Savannah Guides

Savannah Guides is a network of professional tour guides and tour operators based in the tropical savannahs of northern Australia.

Savannah Guides work with many of Australia’s leading tourism, environmental and community organisations to pursue its Mission of being an economically sound, community based professional body which maintains high standards of:

  • Interpretation and public education
  • Training and guiding leadership
  • Natural and cultural resource management

and, through the promotion of ecologically sustainable tourism principles, enhances regional lifestyles and encourages the protection and conservation of the natural and cultural resources of the Tropical Savannahs of Northern Australia.

See videos of Savannah Guides.


Savannah Guides Limited was established as a non-profit company in 1988 to provide access for tourists to unique natural features on private, leased or public property in a sustainable way. Members were initially drawn from local Gulf Savannah communities and the network has since expanded to encompass the tropical savannahs of northern Australia. Savannah Guides and its members continue to contribute to the development of regional tourism, enhancing visitor experiences and generating employment opportunities while conserving our natural and cultural heritage.

In 2009 Savannah Guides Limited began delivering projects supporting regional businesses and tourism development, drawing on its strong network and the expertise within its membership.

Pursuing Quality in Regional Tourism

Savannah Guides membership provides an accreditation framework for individuals or enterprises located anywhere in Australia:

  • Accredited expert guides
    Savannah Guides are accredited after meeting high industry standards and completing a Peer Assessment. These are expert guides who can progress to the level of Senior Savannah Guide if they demonstrate leadership within the membership.
  • Enterprise level companies
    Savannah Guides Enterprises have been developed by privately and publicly owned operators at specific locations or as mobile Savannah Guides Enterprises that conduct tours within and throughout the region. All Savannah Guides Enterprises feature natural or cultural interpretive activities, demonstrate a commitment to conservation values and meet a high standard of delivery.

Enterprise and individual members must meet strict standards of operation and abide by professional Codes of Conduct.  Savannah Guides’ benchmark in quality tourism has been maintained for over 25 years.  This has underpinned the career development of many individuals and the success of many businesses, both members and non-members.

Find out more about becoming a member.

Two Field Schools are conducted each year, at varying locations across the savannahs, featuring experts in related fields including ecology, land management and tourism. Field Schools provide valuable professional development as well as a strong networking opportunity for members and non-members.

Find out more about Savannah Guides Field Schools.

Savannah Guides has mentored numerous Indigenous and regional businesses and developed a range of resources through various Queensland, Northern Territory and Commonwealth projects. Building business sustainability is an important way for us to pursue our Mission and support local communities.

The Savannah Guides model has been used in the development of Ecotourism Australia’s EcoGuide program and other certification systems. In 2012 Savannah Guides worked with the Wet Tropics Management Authority to create the Wet Tropics Tour Guide Program, including the delivery of Field Schools.

Find out more about our Business Support Program.


Savannah Guides Ltd is managed by a six-member Board of Directors who meet at Schools and by teleconference. There are three executive positions; President, Vice President & Secretary and three non-executive positions. All positions are honorary and the Constitution requires one third of the Board to retire each year at the Annual General Meeting. The Board is supported by a part-time Manager, currently based in Cairns.  Our financial resources come from membership fees, government grants and corporate sponsorships.

Find out more about Savannah Guides activities through our newsletter page.


Savannah Guides received worldwide recognition when they were lauded as Best Tourism Organisation (World) and were the Australian Divisional Winner in the 2000 British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. The organisation has received numerous Tropical North Queensland, Queensland and Northern Territory Tourism Awards for Industry Training in the Private Sector and Tourism Services.

Savannah Guides is regarded by its members and stakeholders as providing valuable services for individuals, tourism businesses and organisations and sets a benchmark for professional standards of tour guiding and tourism operation.

The Savannah Guides Message Stick Hatband

The Message Stick hatband is a stylised pattern that captures many of the concepts of Savannah Guides.

The two panels were designed by John Courtenay, Savannah Guides founder and Lifetime of Leadership recipient. John supplied the concept to a commercial artist in the 1980’s while he was creating the core model and imagery of Savannah Guides. John says: “We talked about the Macassan influence and the Aboriginal element and I remember I had seen an engraving done by early French explorers and they had illustrated 2 men in a bark boat and we stylised this – it was the depiction of the Arafura sea and the fact the Gulf Savannah was not just grasslands but also ocean facing. We were developing a unique image.”

Savannah Guides wears the hatband proudly to symbolise:

  • Aboriginal or Macassan people living like us in a bountiful region
  • The rivers of northern Australia, some with water flowing and many others being dry in our seasonal landscape
  • An acknowledgement of Indigenous perspectives, paralleled in Savannah Guides through our oral tradition, elders and respect for the land and its people

Copy of Message stick