Frequently asked questions
There is no cut-off age for our courses’, provided participants are of a reasonable fitness level. Regarding age restriction, we will accept participants from 12 years of age (accompanied by an adult) and 16 years of age unaccompanied. Please understand that our unfenced bush camps are all in dangerous game areas, and it is with the participant’s safety in mind that this restriction is in place.
- Must be 18 years or older (applicable to FGASA courses)
- Must have a valid driver’s license (applicable to FGASA courses)
- Must enjoy a reasonable level of fitness (All courses)
FGASA is the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. CATHSSETA is the South African government’s Culture Arts Tourism and Hospitality SETA (Sector Education Training Authority). These bodies are responsible for regulating the standard of guiding in South Africa. We are an FGASA-endorsed training provider, with our Field Guide (NQF2) and Apprentice Trails Guide status courses approved by them. We now have our Field Guide qualification (Nature Site Guide) directly accredited with CATHSSETA.
Becoming a qualified safari guide (also referred to as a field guide) can be accomplished in various ways. The 55-day Field Guide (NQF2) course and a full-year Professional Field Guide course cover subjects from Geology to the History of Human Habitation, Botany to Ecology and Animal Behaviour. Still, one of the most rewarding would be joining an EcoTraining course.
Absolutely; the bush is there for all to enjoy and gain knowledge about. Please feel free to enquire regarding any course at all.
Quite a few of our past international students have worked in the guiding industry here in South Africa, but they have been persistent. Please understand that as a foreigner, following the successful completion of your course, you would need to be offered a position of employment before applying for a work permit in South Africa. The problem is that because of the high rate of unemployment in our country, an employer must be able to prove that they cannot find a more suited South African candidate for the job in question before they employ a foreigner. This process does make it tricky, but not impossible.
To be considered employable, the industry requires a minimum of FGASA Field Guide (NQF2), FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide status and some practical experience. With this in mind, we started with our highly successful one-year Professional Field Guide course.
Graduates can walk away with FGASA Field Guide (NQF2), FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide status, several short specialised qualifications (Tracking, Birding/Advanced Birding, Wilderness Medicine, and Basic/Advanced Rifle Handling, etc.), as well as practical experience from the Placement Programme.
This combination effectively produces a sought-after and employable entry-level field guide. As a foreigner, we suggest you start with no less, should you hope to secure suitable employment in South Africa.
Following the successful completion of your course, we will certainly put you in contact with recruitment agents who specialise in the lodge/ hospitality industry. We believe this to be their area of expertise, while ours remains training. We will pass on your contact details to the many lodges that contact us looking for permanent Field Guides. It will be our pleasure to also assist with character references and, wherever else possible, for you to secure employment.
The position and estimated salary vary significantly from Lodge to lodge and even more so when branching out to other avenues such as rehabilitation and conservation work. It also depends on your performance and the character references you obtain while on course and the Placement Programme. For instance, students who do not pass their FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide qualification cannot expect to earn the same as individuals who do. There are just too many variable factors. We can say that Guides are usually employed and start out in a junior guiding position until the Lodge feels you are competent enough to take their guests out unsupervised. An in-house training programme may be involved, and almost all Lodges will offer at least meals and accommodation as part of the remuneration package. Most guides enjoy tips (gratuities) from guests.
It’s also possible to work yourself up to Senior guide then Head guide, from there it’s possible to move into the Management sector where you become the Assistant Manager or even Manager. These promotions are based on your performance, quality of work and competency.
In terms of field guiding OR establishing a foundation in any wildlife-orientated career, we would suggest either our 55-day EcoTraining Field Guide course (followed shortly thereafter by the 28-day EcoTraining Trails Guide course) or the Professional Field Guide course (just short of one year) – the Professional Field Guide programme being the most comprehensive.
Regarding Field Guiding or establishing a foundation in any wildlife-orientated career, we suggest our 55-day EcoTraining Field Guide course or the Professional Field Guide course (one year) – the Professional Field Guide programme being the most comprehensive.
Many countries throughout Africa do not have guiding authorities of their own (such as FGASA in South Africa, BQA in Botswana, and KPSGA in Kenya). As a result, FGASA qualifications will hold some merit. You will need to approach the relevant country’s department of tourism/wildlife to determine the exact requirements to legally guide in a specific region. A guiding license may be required and this will need to be applied for.
You will require a firearm proficiency certificate, issued by a PFTC-accredited training provider, in order to handle a rifle while on course. We request this certificate specifically for the Trails Guide. If you are a international participant, we suggest you fly in a couple of days prior to your course and arrange this while in Johannesburg, before your scheduled transfer to camp. We can put you in contact with a relevant contact provider.
A white card allows you to carry a firearm for work purposes. You will need to be 21 years or older and be a South African citizen to apply. Your nearest South African police station can provide you with further information.
EcoTraining does not offer FGASA Field Guide (NQF4) courses (also known as FGASA Level 2). Your NQF4 qualification can be obtained while working in the industry. FGASA requires certain encounters and hours to be logged before attempting to do your FGASA Field Guide (NQF4) qualification. The same applies for FGASA Professional Field Guide (previously know as FGASA level 3).
A Public Driver’s Permit is required to drive a commercial vehicle with guests. Many lodges will require their guides to be in possession of this permit.
The PDP is an extension on a South African driver’s licence, for which you must be 21 years or older. Unfortunately, international participants are not eligible to apply. In this case you will be accommodated on course with your conventional driver’s licence.
Please visit your nearest traffic department and collect the necessary forms. You will be required to undergo a medical exam (with your own GP), eye testing and fingerprinting. You will need to pay for the application process and submit ID photographs together with your completed documents. The process usually takes six to eight weeks.
No, you will need to use your regular driver’s licence while on course and when applying for work. Once you have your work permit or permanent residency here in SA, you will be able to apply for your South African driver’s licence and then your PDP.
You will require a Basic First Aid certificate for the Field Guide (NQ2) course only.
First aid training is not included in the 55-dayField Guide (NQF2) syllabus and must be obtained preferably before the start of your course. A Basic First Aid certificate is required and we require a copy of this on file. Should you not be able to attend Basic First Aid training prior to your Field Guide course (NQF2), FGASA will hold your certificate “back” until a copy of your Basic First Aid certificate is provided. Please contact your nearest accredited first aid training provider to make the necessary arrangements.
FGASA will accept a first aid certificate issued internationally.
EcoTraining is private training institution and is therefore not able to assist with any form of a bursary or scholarship. Please consider approaching your local bank (or other registered financial institution) for more information on a study loan/financial assistance, for one of our career courses.
We will consider a payment plan for the one-year Professional Field Guide course.
In terms of a payment plan, you are welcome to pay a course off over time with us, but payment must be made in full prior to the start of the course. So, you could book a space on a course for later in the year or early next year and slowly make payment to us during the course of the year, so that payment is made in full before the course starts.
Please let us know if you have any further questions along the way! Contact us.
To be considered employable, the industry requires guides to have a minimum of FGASA Level 1, FGASA Trails Guide Back-up and some practical experience. It was with this in mind that we started with our highly successful one-year Professional Field Guide course.
Graduates can walk away with FGASA Level 1, FGASA Trails Guide Back-up, several short specialised qualifications (Tracking, Birding/Advanced Birding, Wilderness Medicine, Navigation & Orientation, Basic/Advanced Rifle Handling, etc.), as well as practical experience from the Placement Programme.
This combination effectively produces a sought-after and employable entry-level field guide. As a foreigner, we suggest you start with no less, should you be hoping to secure suitable employment in South Africa.
During the placement period you can expect to receive meals, accommodation and mentorship from the lodge staff and management. The purpose of this placement is to provide you with practical experience to make you more employable, and to bridge the gap between a newly trained guide and a competent/confident guide.
This is a vital process in terms of guide development, and it should be considered a mentorship. In exchange for this, the lodges will appreciate an extra set of hands. This arrangement must remain balanced, with both parties benefiting – an internship, really.
Should you have been successful in obtaining your Apprentice Field Guide qualification, you may have chance to start logging your hours towards your Field Guide (NQF4) qualification. This is a great opportunity to implement your theoretical knowledge and develop your practical skill!
We book on a first come, first served basis and therefore it is tricky to advise as to when you should book for your course. We can’t guarantee availability at any time, but can suggest that the sooner you book the stronger the likelihood will be that we can offer you a space on a course. Some courses are more popular than others, and certain times of the year are also busier. Our advice is that as soon as you are ready to commit, please make your booking.
We would typically require the registration forms completed and returned within seven days of making your booking, and payment of the deposit within two weeks from then.
Please arrange flights into Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport). From there you are welcome to make use of our own Bush Bus transfer service, which runs between Johannesburg and our five camps in southern Africa.
Alternatively, you can arrange a connecting flight to smaller airports nearer to our camps (Hoedspruit Airport for Karongwe, Pridelands and Selati Camp/Polokwane Airport for Mashatu or Makuleke Camp), with private transfers to the camp meeting point (arrival).
Please bear in mind, though, that these connecting flights and private transfers are quite pricey. We feel the Bush Bus transfer is a far more affordable and practical option, in terms of getting to the camps.
Our Support department will be able to best advise you on your transfer options to and from the camp. Please make contact on s[email protected], should you require further assistance.
We only have 20 beds available at each camp and these are reserved for paying participants only. We also accommodate our past students with volunteering positions in camp. We are fully allocated in terms of staff and volunteers at the camp, and will therefore not be able to accommodate an accompanying non-paying participant on course.
Usually, international participants can attend our shorter courses on a 90-day general tourist visa. The visa process does depend on your country of origin, and visa requirements can change at any time. The responsibility remains with the traveller to ensure they are fully aware of the most current immigration laws and visa requirements of the country/ countries they intend to visit. Consult a visa specialist should you require more assistance. EcoTraining cannot assist in this regard.
A one-year study permit application is necessary when an international participant wants to join the Professional Field Guide course. VFS Global is the official partner for the South African Department of Home Affairs, so this information is the most current. For assistance with visa processes, please look at the following links: https://www.vfsglobal.com/dha/southafrica/study-visa-content.html or http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/applying-for-sa-visa
We can, unfortunately, never guarantee a participant’s safety when travelling to South Africa. A traveller must know that anything can happen (and anywhere). In all our years of operation, we have not yet had a student fall victim to a severe crime incident.
As per our Bush Bus information document, we encourage you to fly in the day before, and be collected at OR Tambo International Airport by the recommended guesthouse as your flight lands.
We suggest overnight accommodation at this guesthouse (near the airport). The Bush Bus transfer will depart first thing on the morning of your course from the same guesthouse, and drive you straight through to camp. This greatly reduces the risk of opportunistic crime, as you will be with your group throughout.
As with travel to any foreign country, we ask that you stay alert and don’t bring attention to yourself by carrying large sums of cash or leave expensive equipment unattended, etc.
As none of us are health facilitators, it is best for you to contact your GP or travel doctor to glean their opinion on the matter. As all our camps are situated in malaria areas, we suggest you impart that knowledge to your doctor when asking for advice.
It is hugely limited – most of the time there is nothing at all, thus we suggest you let your family and business friends know beforehand about the limited contact.
Depending on the type of course you wish to join, it would be best to contact us regarding course availability and opportunities throughout the year. There are various courses available throughout the year, thus giving you the opportunity to choose which dates suit you best.
Although our camp libraries are comprehensively stocked, we suggest you bring along the following reference books on course:
- Roberts Bird Guide: Hug Chittenden, David Allan and Ingrid Weiersbye
- Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park: Ernest Scdmidt, Mervyn Lotter and Warren McCleland
- The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals: Richard Estes
- Game Ranger in your Backpack: Megan Emmet and Sean Patrick
- Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa: Braam van Wyk & Piet van Wyk
- Photographic Guide to Tracks and Tracking of Southern Africa: Louis Liebenberg
- Tracker Manual: Alex van der Heever, Karel Benade & Renias Mhlongo
- PathFinder- illustrated for Nature Enthusiast: Janesta Pulella
- 100 Bushveld Trees: Megan Emmett Parker
We are mainly a training company specialising in eco-tourism and field guide training; unfortunately, we do not offer any volunteer programs as such. However, as part of our Professional Field Guide course we do offer a placement programme, with the purpose of providing you with practical experience to make you more employable and to bridge the gap between a newly trained guide and a competent/confident guide.
This is a vital process in terms of guide development and it should be considered a mentorship. In exchange for this, the lodges will appreciate an extra set of hands. This arrangement must remain balanced, with both parties benefiting – an internship, really.
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