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Caving in Swaziland


We booked an extra guide for our caving trip in Swaziland this year. Why did we do this? Surely one guide for a family of four would be enough? It’s because our older son has learning difficulties. With additional support he can do almost anything. Generally my husband and I help him. But not this time.


Kitted up, ready to enter the caves!

Kitted up, with our guides Dunsami and Phil, ready to enter the caves!


Let me explain why we wanted two, and the questions we weighed up:


  • Is it new for us? As parents providing support to our son, it’s usually OK when it’s already in our skill set and comfort zone. This time, although I had been a caver before (long ago, when first at university) it was new for everyone else, a stretch and an unknown. It can be hard to support someone when you are new to the experience and under pressure at the same time.


Starting the descent

Starting the descent



  • What are the unknowns or risk? With caving it is quite hard to predict in advance who is going to find it easy and who is going to find it something they hate. Squeezing yourself between rocks and small spaces in the dark is a strange thing to do. You don’t know if someone is going to panic, tire early or find it claustrophobic. These factors justify the idea of more support – which gives more options if there is a difficulty – and not less.


Watch out for bats! (hanging upside down)

Watch out for bats!



  • What will help us enjoy it more? Just because Martin and I could have supported Michael (we assumed our rock climbing son Simon would be OK, fortunately correct in this instance), we felt we would be taking on too many roles at once, which could get in the way of our own enjoyment of the experience.


Martin edging through a tunnel

Martin edging through the gap



For Martin and me to say right from the beginning – two guides please – i.e. to ask for extra support for Michael – required us to face up to a number of things:

  • As parents and adults, we have limitations, including how much support we can offer others, particularly in a new context.
  • Things change. Michael is a young adult now, and the support he needs can be different from that needed in the past.
  • As parents we want, and it’s OK for us, to have our needs met too, so we too can enjoy the experience.
  • We have resources (i.e. the money) to fund this. We can take thrift and pride in our ability to handle things ourselves too far.


Crawling along a 7 meter tunnel

Crawling along a 7 meter tunnel


Does this translate in any way to your workplace?

  • Do you support your team and others so much that you forget to pay attention to and receive enough support yourself?
  • Does your pride make it hard to justify support when you would really benefit from it – perhaps when you and your team are facing a new challenge?

Our caving adventure was a big success. Both guides, with their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm, really added to the experience. Michael was straight in the cave and really liked it. Simon and I got as far as the bottom where the river ran under the mountain. Martin has done a new activity and does not feel he needs to do it again. Actually, that is now true for me too!

To sum up, the support from two guides for us was definitely better than one.  We enjoyed the caving more, achieved more, felt more secure and were very happy with our experience.

Here’s the question for you:

How could more support, for you as a leader in your organisation, help you progress with what you want to achieve? To find out how, contact Gill for an appointment here.


How family caving with SwaziTrails

Satisfaction, relief and smiles all round!


Gill How has twenty years’ experience of supporting leaders in organisations to deliver results and achieve their goals. She offers leadership qualifications, training and coaching, is a National Training Award winner and an Accredited Master Executive Coach.


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Photo credits: Michael How and SwaziTrails, Swaziland 2016.

Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

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