‘The Wild Woman Interviews’ is a series of Q&As with women who do interesting, brave and inspiring things. The name hints at how nature, the outdoors, travel, the natural cycles of life etc. motivate and influence their passions and pursuits.
This month, I’d like you to meet Fatima Sait. At the end of 2018, she quit her job and – within the space of two months – completed all the necessary courses to become a certified mountain guide. I came across her profile on Instagram recently, while scrolling through #fishrivercanyonhike pics and found her exuberant love for nature and exploration both inspiring and infectious.
If you had to rewrite all your social media bios to capture who you are right at this very moment, what would it be?
Female Adventure Guide, Nature Lover – The Mountains are my oyster.
You recently completed a mountain guide qualification – congratulations! Where did you do your course and what did it entail? What was the most challenging part? Most enjoyable?
I completed my course through Venture Forth International.
I had to complete 3 courses in order to become a Registered Hiking Guide. First is the General Adventure Site Guide (GASG) and then my Scope as Mountain Walking Guide and also Level 3 First Aid.
The most challenging part was that I did the entire course in less than 2 months! Most people take 18 months or longer. I could do it in 2 months because I quit my job. It was an insane amount of work in such a short period, though.
Most enjoyable was the Mountain Walking Guide Course together with the First Aid Course. I love learning anything mountain-related.
Even now, I love researching the history of the various trails.
What inspired you to get a guiding qualification? Will you be doing this full time now?
I have been taking beginner groups to the mountain for years and have been told by quite a few people that I should be doing this for a living, as I am good at it.
In October 2018, I marshalled the Marloth Mountain Challenge in Swellendam and we hiked to a hut that had no cell phone reception, no running water and an outdoor toilet. We only had our fellow marshals as company. Being out in the mountains brings me peace and tranquillity, especially in such a beautiful setting.
When I returned to work and as I sat at my desk, staring at my monitor, I burst out crying. I can’t be confined to my desk any longer. That very day, I contacted my HR manager and told him how I felt and he understood.
In November, I started doing the course and in December I passed all my assessments.
The day after I completed my assessments, I started a 6-month contract at Investec. It took 4 months for my registration to come through and would have been without an income before then so the contract was a Godsend.
I loved working there but still wasn’t happy. I declined further offers and I am now a full-time guide.
Where did your love for the outdoors and mountaineering originate? Did you grow up doing this kind of thing or was it a hobby that developed later on?
My entire family love the outdoors. Camping mostly but I am the adventurer and explorer.
Every long weekend and school holiday, we would be camping in the Overberg. While everyone kept to the camping and fishing grounds, I was the one who explored. I would be the one out and about with my book and a cup of coffee watching the sunrise and sunset.
After my divorce in 2005, I started to explore Cape Town with my children and we got lost in Newlands Forest and found our way out Kirstebosch Gardens.
I didn’t know this to be hiking.
In 2006, I also occasionally joined friends up Lion’s Head but still didn’t consider this hiking but I knew I enjoyed it. I also started doing big walks viz 30km Cape Town Big Walk.
Wanting to get fitter, I joined a friend in 2009 for a hike up a route called Tranquillity Cracks with – as they were known then – the Muslim Assembly Hiking Club (now known as Mountain Ascent Hiking Club).
I complained all the way up! But when I was rewarded with the views, I fell in love with hiking! Despite having blisters and hiking barefoot down Kasteelpoort because of it.
I actually wrote a blog post on how it all started out and how my hiking has evolved.
A quick scroll through your Instagram feed or blog reveals that you’ve done a super impressive number of hikes in and around Cape Town. Have you kept count? Which is/are your favourite local hike/s?
I haven’t kept count on the number of trails I’ve done but I have photos of each and every one of them on Facebook.
If Facebook shuts down, I will lose all my photo albums!
I love Platteklip Gorge! I can’t choose a favourite as no matter how many times I repeat a trail, each experience is different.
The most scenic for me are Cape Point, Smitswinkel to Simon’s Town, Hout Bay to Sandy Bay and Duiker Ridge.
I also love Lion’s Head sunrise and sunset hikes. I enjoy all the more challenging hikes but if I had to choose a favourite, it’s the Cederberg Mountains.
6. Which hiking trail (local or international) is at the top of your bucket list?
I’ve just completed my Fish River Canyon which was the top of my bucket list a month ago!
7. You’re a mom of two. How old are your kids? Do they join you on hikes? If so, what would your top 3 tips be for parents who’d like to hike with their children, but feel slightly nervous to take the plunge?
My children are 23 and 19 respectively. My son joined me twice and my daughter joins me on occasion. We’ve even rock climbed together.
In 2017, we took a Mother/Daughter trip and hiked the Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga 😀
There are a number of family-friendly trails to choose from. Depending on their fitness and stamina, I would recommend Constantia Nek Contour Path, Newlands Forest, Pipe Track and Lion’s Head.
Where can people find you online? And are you currently taking bookings for guided hikes?
My web-developer is still busy with my website but I hope to have all my social media pages up and running soon and can look out for Captivate The Cape!