With the large number of ranger/guide training organisations that have popped up in recent years, it can be very confusing trying to decide which guide training course to do. Here follows a list of questions that you should ask when you make your enquiries. The way that these questions are answered will help you decide.
1. How long have you been in business?
Over the years that EcoTraining has been in business, we have seen many training companies come and go. Make sure that the company that you are dealing with has been around for a few years. You don't want to book your course with someone who may not be around when it is time for your course to start!
2. Is your course accredited with FGASA and/or CATHSSETA?
FGASA is the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa and CATHSSETA is the tourism, hospitality and related industry sector training authority, of the South African government. These are the two bodies responsible for regulating standards within the guide training industry in southern Africa. If the organisation isn't accredited by one or the other, be careful.
3. Are your trainers accredited by FGASA and/or THETA and do they have experience?
Make sure that the people who are conducting the training on the ground are accredited by FGASA or Theta. Also, find out how long the trainers themselves have been involved in guiding. We believe that trainers should have a minimum of 5 years experience as a working guide.
4. Which company will be facilitating the training?
Many of the web-sites that you come across belong to travel companies or tour operators who are marketing guide training courses amongst a host of other products. These companies do not necessarily run the courses themselves, but are merely getting commissions from companies that do. Before making a booking, find out exactly who will be conducting the course. In addition, certain courses are conducted by game lodges or reserves simply to fill up capacity when their lodge guest numbers are low.
5. What is your instructor/student ratio and the maximum number of students on each course?
There should not be more than 10 students for each instructor, and you do not want to be in a camp with more than 20 students.
6. What training experience does your organisation have?
An organisation that has previously done training for recognised institutions and organisations is more likely to give you a good learning experience.
7. Where is the training conducted?
Make sure that the training isn't mainly conducted in classroom situations. The best learning experiences are gained by living in the wilderness for the duration of the programme. In addition consider whether the "bush excursions" conducted are in a separate location from the camp and whether their activities or traversing are therefore limited, i.e. they may not be able to conduct night drives, they may be restricted to the formal roads, they might not be able to conduct extensive bush walks.
8. How long is the course?
If you are serious about learning about guiding, not much can be taught in a period of less than a week. In addition, you should consider a course where you get the opportunity to really experience a period of extended living in the bush.
9. What subject matter is covered?
Find out if the subject matter that is being covered on the course is related to your interests, relevant to your future employment prospects and taught those who truly understand it.