Conservation Careers has teamed up with Bushwise to provide professional Field Guide Training in South Africa. With over 10 years’ experience in training field guides for the lodge, safari and conservation industry in South Africa, Bushwise is a leading Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) field guide training provider. “95% of Bushwise students are being offered permanent positions within a month of graduation”, said Dr Nick Askew from Conservation Careers. “If you’re interested in a career working as a field guide, field research and eco-tourism sector then read on and register your interest here“. Sign up here today and get 12 months of Lion membership with Conservation Careers included.
We currently offer the following three programs:
- The 60-day FGASA course
- The 23 week Professional Field Guide course
- The 50 week Professional Field Guide course, including work placement
Life on the Course
No day is the same on the course. Each day you will be learning something new but Bushwise has a daily structure in place so that we all get into a routine. However, things will remain flexible depending on the needs of the student, the season and the program requirements. Although we aim to give a balance of theory and practical training at all times the first 3 months of the program are focused on bombarding you with knowledge and wonders of the bush in both practical drives and lectures. So be prepared to work hard and get studying! The last 2 months will be focused more on the practical side to put all your new knowledge into practice and get up close and personal with nature and the big game! A typical day varies but the day will often start early at around 5.30 – 6am. You will usually grab a cup of coffee before heading out into the bush for a morning of practical training laden with reference books of the African bush and a pair of good binoculars, or have a morning of lectures. Each week you will be focusing on different modules such as birds, mammals, 4 X 4 skills etc.
Bushwise follows the curriculum of FGASA and we use the manuals as a reference tool, as you will be taught by experienced guides and instructors. On your practical sessions in the bush, either a walk or a drive, you will concentrate on these modules and put all the theory you have learned in the classroom into practice in the field. At the end of each week all the students are tested on that weeks module before moving onto the next one. However, the learning of each topic is continuous as nature is all around you so you cannot help but increase your knowledge and skills while you are out in the bush as the weeks progress. By midday you will be pretty tired and the African heat will certainly make you drowsy so all the students have a break to relax, rest or study. Remember though you have a test at the end of the week!
Depending on what activities you had in the morning, after a break you may be timetabled to get some more fresh air and head out for an afternoon practical session building on your skills and knowledge gained in the morning session. All the teams return for an evening meal sitting around the fire discussing their experiences that day.
The program runs for 4 weeks and then you will have 1 week off to relax, either at camp or you are welcome to go off exploring. There is plenty to do here with Kruger National Park on our doorstep, visits to the Blyde River canyon, whitewater rafting, microlighting, horse back safaris, and often students go further a field to the coast for some diving or whale watching, the list is endless! Please note that during time off, students are welcome to stay at the campus but please note that food, laundry, transport etc. is not included during this time as the Bushwise staff will also be having time off. Please note, as no staff will be at campus during off weeks, students are responsible for their own well being.
As you can see days are long and you must be prepared to be focused, dedicated and to put in the hours to reach the standard required to pass both the theory and practical assessments as without a 75% pass rate we cannot offer a placement. Staff will assist and support you during the course but the motivation to learn must come from you, the student. So although the experiences you will have will be amazing this is not holiday and we require dedicated and focused students for this course, this is something you should consider before signing up.
The course varies between classroom based theory and practical sessions, the proportions of which depends on the module and course requirements, however over the course an even balance is achieved. An average day could be as follows, dependent on season and logistics:
- 05h30 – 07h00: Meet in the kitchen for coffee and light breakfast, then depart for the morning game activity (either a walk or a drive), or a lecture in the classroom
- 11h00: Brunch
- 12h00: Free time
- 15h00: Afternoon game activity or lecture in the classroom
Bushwise carries out its practical training and skills development element of the course in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve, a vast nature reserve in the Lowveld, covering an area of over 25000 hectares, dedicated to wildlife conservation and home to dangerous game (“Big 5”). These reserves will be visited regularly as part of the practical training and skill development element of the course. On occasion, we also do practicals in the Makutsi Reserve.
Topics Included on the Course
The curriculum is designed to encompass the highest level of skills, experience and qualifications possible that you will need to get be a high quality, professional employable guide, researcher or conservationist in the given time. Although we follow the FGASA syllabus we add additional training, equivalent to FGASA level 2 knowledge, as well as drawing on the knowledge and experience of the trainers, to broaden your knowledge, enhance experiences and put you a step, or two, above the average graduate. We have purposely and carefully picked additional activities that will not only add to your enjoyment but more importantly make you more employable long-term, without compromising the vital foundation needed to reach your best potential as a field guide. Students come out at the end of the Bushwise course having had the most amazing experience and exposure to African fauna and flora, whilst gaining the highest standard of knowledge and expertise possible for an entry level guide. This is what Bushwise graduates sort after employment in the industry and what they are renowned for.
The curriculum includes the following topics:
- Introduction to guiding in the natural environment
- Creating a guided nature experience
- Weather & climate
- Biomes of Southern Africa
- Botany – trees & grasses
- Understanding animal behaviour
- Conservation management & historical habitation
- Vehicle Skills and basic mechanics
- 4 x 4 training
- Specialist guest speakers
- Hospitality & hosting basics in a lodge environment
- Principles of anti-poaching
- Survival & navigation
- Viewing potentially dangerous animals
- Rifles & rifle handling
- Bush first aid skills
- Tracking (Cybertrack Track and Sign)
- Wildlife photography
We aim to incorporate practical sessions specifically aimed at the topic covered, after each lecture to ensure the knowledge is immediately imbedded in your memory. These include activities such as “Frogging Night” in the dam after the amphibian lecture, or astronomy practicals on sleepout after the astronomy lecture and survival practicals in the bush – making fire, collecting water etc. To study all areas in as much detail as we think necessary to become a top quality guide there is a lot to cover and you need to be prepared to be focused, dedicated and willing to put in the hours to reach the standards require to pass both the FGASA and the Bushwise’s internal standards for theory and practical assessments. Students will not be offered a placement if they have not passed both sets of evaluations. Staff will assist and support you during the course but the motivation to learn needs to come from you, the student. So although the experiences you will have will be amazing, this is not a holiday. It is a training institution that strives for the best results in our students, and we require dedicated and focused students for this course. This is something you should consider before signing up.
Saturday afternoons and Sundays are free time (although it’s recommended that students use this time for personal study and preparation for the upcoming lectures). However after every 4th week students get a full week off and are encouraged to leave campus, travel and explore the local area. Some highlights to be enjoyed:
- Blyde River Canyon – boat trips, kloofing, whitewater rafting, hiking, paintball, hot air ballooning and camping to name just but a few!
- Kruger National Park – Orpen and Phalabourwa gates are 1.3 hours drive from the campus. Daytrips/overnight camping available.
- Moholoholo Rehab Centre – endangered species rehabilitation
- Panorama Route – Bourke’s Luck potholes, God’s Window and waterfalls are just some of what you can see, easily completed in a day
- Giant Baobab/Upside Down Restaurant – get up close with huge baobab trees, and don’t forget to try the great pancakes!
- Debengeni Falls, Tzaneen – stunning waterfall, picnic area and hiking trails
Car Hire: If you plan a trip away in your weeks off you may need to hire a car as public transport is almost non-existent in this area. The estimated cost for hiring a car is R450 per day, including insurance and unlimited mileage, cost could vary according to car size and different additional options. The more friends you take with you the cheaper it makes it. Many students also travel further afield to places such as Mozambique (Tofo area), Cape Town, Durban and St Lucia World Heritage Site during their off weeks.
Bushwise gives students daily exposure to working and guiding around dangerous game, such as elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and hippo. This is invaluable experience and gives students excellent grounding for placements and possible future employment in ‘Big Five’ reserves. Bushwise has worked closely with various reserves and lodges to ensure students are trained to meet, and exceed, the guiding standards required by employers in Southern Africa. We succeed in developing professional guides with relevant and proficient skills in both theoretical and, importantly, extensive practical skills. The course is known for producing the highest calibre graduates for this demanding industry. 95% of our graduates are offered employment after the course.
Throughout the years our graduates have achieved the highest marks of all the FGASA long term providers many times and are considered some of THE best trained guides in the industry. On the 50 week course field guide students have an opportunity to undertake a 6 month placement. This allows students to gain valuable ‘hands on’ experience, as well as cementing the information and skills learnt during the training period. It also provides a valuable ‘foot-in-the-door’ to the exhilarating and competitive safari tourism industry and, wildlife and conservation careers. There are two placement options currently available. Please remember, the allocation is based on performance, interest and personality as determined by the head trainer. All students MUST pass both the FGASA and Bushwise course requirements before being placed at any placement.
1. Professional Field Guiding Work and guide in 3* – 5* safari lodges, or predator research bases, whilst having regular exposure to working and guiding around dangerous game, such as elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, cheetah and hippo. Field guides interact with tourists visiting national parks or private game reserves, sharing knowledge about nature and the environment. These guiding experiences are either conducted in a 4×4 vehicle or on foot. Field guides act as interpreters between the environment and the guests, with the ultimate intention of promoting conservation and environmental protection.
2. Wildlife Conservation or Management* Become part of a dynamic team of conservationists, wildlife researchers, reserve wardens or managers as guide or support staff member at a wildlife conservation area, game reserve, wildlife rehabilitation or animal care organization. * Availability on Wildlife Conservation or Management programs is very limited and can only be offered when and where available.
- Pre-departure support and discounted services
- 24-hour emergency phone
- Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
- Experienced, long term staff
- Welcome meeting
- Location orientation
- All necessary course training by experienced staff
- All necessary project equipment and materials
- 24-hour in-country support
- Alumni discount – 20% off if booking at the same hub within 3 months, 15% off if booking at a different hub within 3 months and 10% off thereafter
- Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
- Bushwise professional field guide course certificate
- FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) national certificate – Level 1 – practical and theory
- FGASA Level 2 knowledge
- SASSETA (Rifle handling, proficiency, maintaining of fire arms and shooting)
- CATHSSETA(The Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector, Education and Training Authority) National Qualification (Level 2) in Nature Guiding
- National LEVEL 2 First aid certificate and wilderness modules
- Cybertracker track & sign qualification
- National level 3 qualification, 4 x 4 driving qualification
- Wildlife photography workshop
- Bushwise birding specialist course
- Reptile orientation course
- Dangerous game experience
- 6 months work experience from placement venue (50 week course)
- Ethical guiding principles
- Other activities, such as sleep outs, Kruger trips, etc.
- 2 x sets of uniforms
- All compulsory books (if included)
- Transfer from Oliver Tambo International airport (if included)
- Limited internet access at no extra cost
- T-shirt, fleece jacket, cap and beanie
- 12 months of Lion membership with Conservation Careers included.
What’s Not Included:
- Medical and travel insurance
- Visa costs
- Personal kit
- Additional drinks and gratuities
- International and domestic airport taxes
- Laundry, food and transport during weeks off
- Recommended reference books
- Transport costs to placement
- Professional drivers permit & licensing costs, including transportation
You will be offered the opportunity to follow your 23 week course with a 6 month work placement as a professional field guide at one of South Africa’s finest safari lodges or at a leading predator research base. Bushwise is partnered with exclusive lodges across South Africa’s iconic game reserves such as Sabi Sands, Kruger National Park amongst others, and top wildlife research institutions. Here are just a few examples of where you could be working:
KAPAMA RIVER LODGE
Kapama Private Game Reserve is an African Eden. Sweeping across 13 000 hectares of savannah and riverine forest, Kapama represents a piece of Africa as it used to be. With the mighty Drakensberg mountains in the distance and iconic Kruger National Park to the east, Kapama has distilled the finest wildlife safari offerings for the enjoyment of guests. As part of the greater Kruger area, vast herds of buffalo, elephant and antelope are resident on Kapama, along with plentiful predators. The reserve is a slice of wilderness paradise far from the madding crowd; a place of renewal and reconnection with the natural world.
GVI KARONGWE – RESEARCH PLACEMENT
If you enjoy more of the research side of things, then this predator research base is where you will want to be placed. On Karongwe you will be assisting with leading daily drives whereby they track collared animals with their volunteers. Karongwe is situated about an hour away from the gates to Kruger National Park in a stunning part of South Africa’s Lowveld. Currently there are over 40 mammal species on the reserve, including the Big Five; lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. Our main focus animals on the reserve are lions and cheetah. The research GVI is undertaking on Karongwe is used by the reserve managers, academics and wildlife experts and conservation establishments around the world.
LEO AFRICA – RESEARCH PLACEMENT
Another one for the research lovers. This project takes place on the Selati Game reserve, which is 30 000 hectares in size. This placement offers an exciting combination of predator research, wildlife management and conservation. Your placement will be involved in researching a single pride of collared lion on the reserve, recording and monitoring their movements, behaviour, numbers, kills, as well as habituation of leopards, cheetah, elephant, and white rhino. Your clientele will be volunteers from all over the world.
SIYAFUNDA – RESEARCH PLACEMENT
Siyafunda is on the 26000 hectare Makalali Private Game Reserve and focuses on many research projects such as monitoring the elephants or monitoring the ground hornbill population etc. You, as a guide, would take the volunteers out on data collecting drives for all the big 5 and smaller animals. You may also be able to take part in a lion darting exercise or some type of animal relocation or release opportunity. If you like research / guiding and not having the pressure of finding the Big 5 everyday, then this is a great place for an awesome experience.
AFRICA ON FOOT & NTHAMBO TREE CAMP
Located in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve which shares unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park, it is here that guests can take part in incredible walking safaris. Africa on Foot Camp has five chalets ensuring an intimate and personal safari experience, as well as a pool, lounge and dining area and the traditional boma where guests can enjoy evening camp fires and traditional South African barbecues called “braais”.
Karongwe Private Game Reserve, overlooking the majestic Drakensberg mountain range in the Limpopo Province, is set apart from similar properties by the extraordinary lengths the staff are willing to go to in order to ensure that their guests’ stay is a memorable experience. The group of luxury lodges is located on one of the best natural game reserves in the world, and the staff are there because they genuinely care passionately about their work and their environment.
Dates and Costs
South African Citizens
- 23 weeks – R160,000.00 (incl VAT)
- 50 weeks* – R180,000.00 (incl VAT)
- 23 weeks GBP £13,750.00 / USD $17,600.00 / EUR €16,300.00
- 50 weeks* GBP £15,625.00 / USD $20,000.00 / EUR €18,500.00
*The 50 week course includes a 6 month work placement. South African citizens booking more than 4 months in advance are eligible for a R5,000 discount. This cannot be used in conjunction with any other special offers or discounts Bushwise is recognised by most major South African banks including FNB and Standard Bank, South African citizens can apply in-branch for student loans to assist with payment of course fees!
95% of our students are being offered permanent positions within a month of graduation.
Course Start Dates
- 23 or 50 week course – 07 January 2018
- 23 or 50 week course – 08 July 2018
- 23 or 50 week course – 07 January 2019
- 23 or 50 week course – 08 July 2019
Personal costs – So you can budget, you can expect to spend approx. R750/ GBP40 / USD 65 per month depending on your personal habits. During weeks off you are welcome to stay at the campus, and just cover your own food costs. You will need to budget extra if you plan to travel in these breaks.
Register for Bushwise!
About Conservation Careers - Internships
Conservation Careers has teamed up a family-run organisation with an amazing culture and an awesome team of people across the world who are passionate experts in their chosen field and will make your experience a truly unforgettable one (in a good way).
Their award-winning projects receive over 2000 participants every year, and we’re proud to say that the vast majority of them describe their experience with them as ‘life changing’. Their approval rate from over 20,000 participants since 1997 is over 95%.
A key component of the success of their community development and conservation projects is the participants who join their programs.