Demonstrating a commitment to nurturing the best talent in the expedition travel industry for the benefit of its guests, Silversea Cruises recently held its second Expedition Leadership Training Academy, on land and aboard its cruise vessel Silver Discoverer. A small group of ambitious trainees—each with specialist knowledge in an expedition-related field—met in Durban, South Africa, on December 7, 2018, to commence their training. On January 22, 2019, the group disembarked Silversea’s ship in Chennai, India, and Silversea welcomed eight new members to the cruise line’s Expedition Team, after almost seven weeks of intensive preparations.
The innovative program, which saw the trainees complete a varied range of beneficial exercises, began with an immersive experience in a Zulu village. They developed a deeper understanding for cultural sensitivity when visiting a remote community, among other things. The experience cultivated a greater understanding for what a remote community experiences when interacting with visitors from Silversea’s expedition ships. The trainees focused on how best to manage these types of cultural exchanges for the benefit of all involved.
Subsequently, led by the Wilderness Leadership School, the group spent three nights remote camping in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and Game Reserve, a massive 96,000-hectare wildlife park in the heart of Zululand. They camped under the stars and took turns to stand watch for wildlife, such as lions and elephants, which could have approached in the dark of night. While based in this wild setting, the group worked on the development of skills such as situational awareness, on-foot risk assessments, incident prevention, group management, effective communication strategies, conflict resolution, management of emergency scenarios, and orienteering.
“The experience in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi served as a solid foundation in the theories and best practices of being a strong wilderness guide and natural history interpreter,” said Kit van Wagner, Silversea’s Director of Expedition Training and Staff Development. “Exposure to the Zulu culture and traditional knowledge of the landscape served to give our trainees an intimate understanding of these people and their place on the planet. Our Expedition Teams share similar experiences with our guests and these trainees now know how best to deliver an authentic interaction.
Following their time in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, the trainees boarded Silver Discoverer for an intensive, hands-on initiation to the role of an Expedition Team member, as they shadowed existing team members. With a detailed orientation to the ship, the six-week program focused on core competencies, such as boat handling skills in difficult conditions, seamanship, emergency drills and other scenarios. Attention was given to cross-training in various academic disciplines, environmental and ecological knowledge, and cultural sensitivity, among other things. The cadre of trainees had many opportunities to familiarize themselves with points-of-interest, wildlife, and landing sites, all the while building their Zodiac handling and first aid skills, content knowledge, sustainability and guest relation skills. In the waters off Bazaruto, Mozambique, the team practiced anchoring and towing Zodiacs, accompanied by a pod of Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins; snorkel instruction seminars took place in the crystal clear waters of Aldabra, Ibo Island in Mozambique, and the Lakshadweep Islands of western Kerala in India, among other places; and navigation – by both GPS and compass – was practiced in the wilds of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa and on the islands of the Seychelles.
“By recruiting ambitious, multilingual individuals with a graduate degree or equivalent life experience, the goal of the program is to bring new perspectives, enlightened minds, and solidly trained staff members to our expedition ships and thereby further enhance the expedition experiences offered aboard and ashore,” continued van Wagner. “The latest cohort has emerged from the Expedition Leadership Academy with guiding, customer service and group management skills honed; ideas for lectures and evening recaps solidified and developed; and, above-all, an enhanced comprehension of the complex operational protocols involved in safely and carefully hosting our guests on authentic experiences world-wide.”
The eight trainees who have now been recruited to Silversea’s industry-leading Expedition Team include a Physical Geographer, a Historian, a Wildlife Biologist and Naturalist, a specialist in International Studies and Anthropology, an Ecologist and Conservationist, a Marine Biologist, an expert in Tourism and Sustainability, and a General Naturalist and Master Mariner. Each has now returned home and is preparing for her or his first contract aboard a Silversea ship.
Silversea Expeditions enables guests to travel deeper into the authentic beauty of the world’s remotest destinations, in superfluous comfort. Complete immersion into cultures, landscapes, and moments, under the guidance of Silversea’s industry-leading Expedition Team. From the Arctic to Antarctica, across all seven continents, the world’s most alluring travel experiences are unlocked by the cruise line’s fleet of intimate ships, each of which provides intense comfort, fine cuisine, and exceptional service.
Inquiries or letters of interest in the Silversea Expedition Training Academy can be directed to Kit van Wagner, Director Expedition Training and Staff Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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