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How do I become a Back-up Trails Guide for EcoTraining?

The traditional concept of a ‘backup guide’ is someone who works as an apprentice under the mentorship of experienced senior field guides to gain valuable practical working experience in the bush environment. EcoTraining instructors will select the chosen few students from the one-year Professional Field Guide programme as part of the ‘lodge placement programme’ offered exclusively on this course. The lodge placement programme occurs in the second half of the one-year course where EcoTraining students are placed at various lodges, animal rehabilitation centres and even EcoTraining camps across Africa to gain practical work experience as a professional Field Guide. EcoTraining is recognised by these lodges for its credibility and standard of excellence in nature guide training; a reputation built on decades of trust.

To be selected to become a backup trails guide you need to have excelled extremely well in the trails guide module and FGASA Field Guide level 1 component in the first half of the Professional Field Guide course. If you are one of the fortunate few to be selected as a backup trails guide for EcoTraining you get the opportunity to walk in beautiful wilderness areas and experience amazing moments on foot with wild animals. Most importantly you provide support to the lead trails guide while conducting guided nature walks where encounters with potentially dangerous animals occur.

elephant encounter

Selected backup trail guides have the opportunity to earn walking hours which helps towards obtaining their Lead Trails Guide qualification.

The Lead Trails Guide is responsible for conducting safe guided walks with guests to view potentially dangerous games in the wilderness.  Gino Cinquina, former EcoTraining Backup Trails Guide and currently working at Waterbuck Game Lodge, Thornybush Private Nature Reserve in Hoedspruit says, “To be selected as a backup trails guide is a privilege and carries great responsibility. You are responsible for the life of the Lead Trails Guide as well as the lives of guests that are with you and that requires a great deal of reciprocal trust. You need to be level-headed and not panic in dangerous situations. You need to be assertive and able to clearly communicate instructions to ensure the safety of those around you. You need to have courage and more importantly, integrity which are all the makings of a great Trails Guide. Having been selected as a backup for EcoTraining allowed me to learn so many additional skills in the practical working environment that have served me well in my current job, underestimated skills such as building, plumbing, carpentry, welding and even vehicle maintenance. These extra skills are all useful if you are considering working at a bush lodge or similar.”

Lead (Russel Crossey) and Back-up Guide (Gino) discussing the route back to the vehicle, avoiding a breeding herd of elephants that blocked the route

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Annemi Zaaiman

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