EcoTraining 1-Year Professional Field Guide Course

This comprehensive and unique one-year course has been designed to supply the safari industry with high-caliber FGASA and CATHSSETA qualified professional field guides. 

Students live and learn at four different wilderness camps giving them exposure to diverse ecological and geographical terrains, wildlife species, climates, and more. These remote wilderness camps may include the Makuleke Concession (Kruger), Karongwe Game Reserve, Selati Game Reserve, Pridelands Conservancy, and Mashatu Game Reserve (Botswana). The unfenced bush camps provide a consistently stimulating environment in which to learn, supported by highly qualified and experienced instructors, each with their own unique way of training and guidance that will enhance the overall student training experience.

There is no other course that offers this breadth of wildlife immersion and knowledge.


This course comprises approximately five months of theoretical and practical training with highly qualified instructors, in which participants will complete various separate certificate courses. Following this is a placement programme period of 5 – 6 months which will make up the second half of the course. Students are placed at a property where they will work with professional staff and management in order to develop their newly acquired skills.

At the end of the course the student will not only have potentially ganed qualification/certificates, but will have also gained substantial practical working experience.


You Could graduate with:


FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) – EcoTraining is an FGASA-endorsed training provider that is accredited by CATHSSETA. We will assist you by registering you with FGASA. FGASA will automatically register you with CATHSSETA. 

PFTC (Professional Firearm Trainers Council) – Firearm proficiency training during the Rifle Handling section. 


Course syllabus and outcomes


1. Wilderness Medicine


Level 1

  1. Principles of First Aid and Safety Emergency Scene Management
  2. Artificial Respisration (AR)
  3. Single Rescuer Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation
  4. Choking (FBAO – Foreign Body Airway Obstruction)
  5. Wounds and Bleeding
  6. Shock, Unconsciousness, and Fainting
  7. Fractures
  8. Burns
  9. Head and Spinal Injuries
  10. Environmental Emergencies
  11. Envenomation
  12. Evacuation Procedures

Level 2 – Additional inclusions of modules, noted

  1. Principles of First Aid and Safety Emergency Scene Management
  2. Artificial Respisration (AR)
  3. Choking (FBAO – Foreign Body Airway Obstruction)
  4. Wounds and Bleeding
  5. Shock, Unconsciousness, and Fainting
  6. Fractures
  7. Head and Spinal Injuries
  8. Joint Injuries and Rescue Carries
  9. Chest Injuries
  10. Hand Injuries
  11. Eye Injuries
  12. One and Two Rescuer Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  13. Child and Infant Resuscitation
  14. Pelvic and Abdominal Injuries
  15. Burns
  16. Poisoning, Bites, and Stings
  17. Chest Pains and Paralysis
  18. Fits and Seizures
  19. Elementary Applied Anatomy and Physiology
  20. Environmental Emergencies
  21. Evacuation Procedures

2. FGASA Apprentice Field Guide


  1. Introduction to Guiding in the Natural Environment
  2. Creating a Guided Nature Experience
  3. Geology
  4. Basic Ecology
  5. Weather and Climate
  6. Introduction to the Biomes of southern Africa
  7. Botany and Grasses
  8. Animal Behaviour
  9. Mammals
  10. Birds
  11. Arthropods
  12. Reptiles
  13. Astronomy
  14. Amphibians
  15. Basic Taxonomy
  16. Fish
  17. Conservation Management and Historical Human Habitation

Various assessment processes are undertaken throughout the course, including the results of the FGASA Exam, and practical driving assessment to provide an EcoTraining score for this module.

3. Basic Birding


  1. Birding Ethics and Code of Conduct
  2. Birding Equipment
  3. Bird Anatomy and Physiology
  4. Species Identification in the Field
  5. Conservation

Various assessment processes are undertaken throughout the course, including the results of the FGASA Exam, and practical driving assessment to provide an EcoTraining score for this module.

The course includes multiple identification assessments, including the NQF2 requirements for Bird, Nest, and Call identification.

4. Animal Tracks & Tracking


  1. Theory of Animal Tracking
  2. Tracks & Sign Interpretation
  3. Hunter-Gatherer Techniques
  4. Animal Trailing

5. Advanced Rifle Handling

The aim of this course is to develop and practice skills pertaining to rifle handling, in a dangerous game area and to ensure safety when approaching dangerous game.


  1. PFTC (Professional Firearm Trainers Council)
  2. Rifle Cleaning, Maintenance, and Handling
  3. FGASA ARH exercise requirement training and drills
  4. Practical Rifle Safety and Use

6. FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide

This FGASA endorsed course aims to develop and practice skills and gain knowledge to attain the FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide status. At the same time enhance skills and knowledge learned on the EcoTraining Field Guide Course.

Pre-requisites to potentially attain FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide status:

  1. Full FGASA Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2) certificate
  2.  PFTC Unit Standards 117705, 119651, 123519 (as per Rifle Handling section)
  3. FGASA ARH Certificate (as per Rifle Handling section or be prepared to attain during this course)


  1. Weapon Handling
  2. Role of an Apprentice Trails Guide
  3. Conducting Guided Walks
  4. Approaching Animals on Foot
  5. Dangerous Animal Knowledge
  6. Incident Management

7. Advanced Birding


  1. Biomes and Habitats
  2. Bird Behaviours Including Feeding and Nesting Habits
  3. Adaption to Environments
  4. Bird Migration
  5. Conservation (SABAP2 for SA participants)

The practical sessions in the field will assist you in knowing what to look for to successfully identify birds, and also to point out the differences between certain ‘difficult’ species. Both sight identification and call identification is discussed during the practical sessions.

EcoTraining's Unfenced Wilderness CaMps


Other information

Upcoming Course Dates: 

02 August 2022 – 02 July 2023

02 September 2022 – 06 August 2023

01 October 2022 – 03 September 2023

03 January – 17 December 2023

01 February – 23 December 2023

EcoTraining’s local rates are positioned for local citizens to access our training, and to ensure career development and employment in the safari industry.

Entry-level Requirements

The learner needs to be:

  • Able to communicate effectively in spoken and written English
  • Fit and able to walk for at least 5km.
  • Over the age of 18 years and older unaccompanied by an adult.
  • In possession of a valid driver’s license (preferred manual gear shift)

Frequently asked questions

In terms of 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 area and it is with the participant’s safety in mind that this restriction is in place. There is no cut off age to our courses’, provided participants are of a reasonable level of fitness.

To attempt the FGASA qualifications, participants are required to be 18 years or older in age and be in possession of a valid driver’s license.

  • Must be 18 years or older (applicable to FGASA courses)

  • Must be in possession of a valid driver’s license (applicable to FGASA courses)

  • Must enjoy a reasonable level of fitness (All courses)

Absolutely, the bush is there for all to enjoy and gain knowledge about. Please feel free to enquire regarding any course you are interested in.

sually, international participants can attend our shorter courses on a 90-day general tourist visa. This 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 visiting. Consulting a visa specialist should you require more assistance. EcoTraining cannot assist in this regard.

As an international participant for the Professional Field guide course, you will be required to apply for a one-year study permit. For assistance with visa processes please have a look at the following links:


VFS Global is the official partner for the South African Department of Home affairs, so this information is the most current.

FGASA is the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. CATHSSETA is the Culture Arts Tourism and Hospitality SETA (Sector Education Training Authority) for the South African government. These bodies are responsible for regulating the standard of guiding in South Africa. We are a FGASA endorsed training provider, with our FGASA Level 1 and Trails Guide Back Up qualifications accredited with them. We now have our Field Guide Level 1 qualification directly accredited with CATHSSETA.

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 (one year) - the Professional Field Guide programme being the most comprehensive.

With our highly successful one-year Professional Field Guide course, the graduates can walk away with FGASA Apprentice Field Guide and FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide qualifications as well as several short, specialized qualifications and modules such as Tracking, Basic Birding, Advanced Birding, and Advanced Rifle Handling. Certificates also included are the Rifle Firearm Proficiency and Wilderness Medicine level 1 & 2 (first aid) certificates. Graduates also walk away with practical experience from the lodge placement programme.

The fee for the Professional Field Guide Course will include Accommodation, meals, transfers at the beginning and end of the course (as well as inter-camp transfers), Instructors and training, wilderness medicine course, activities, laundry, select uniform, FGASA registration, exams, and moderation and PFTC certification (Rifle proficiency).

Please understand that as a foreigner, following the successful completion of your course, you would need to be offered a position of employment prior to applying for a work permit in South Africa. Quite a few of our past international students have gone on to work in the guiding industry here in South Africa, but they have been persistent. The problem is that because of the high rate of unemployment in our country, an employer must be able to prove that he/she cannot find a more suited South African candidate for the job in question before they employ a foreigner. This does make it tricky, but not impossible.

To be considered employable, the industry requires guides have at least FGASA Apprentice Field Guide, FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide qualifications and some practical experience. It was with this in mind that we created our highly successful one-year Professional Field Guide course. Graduates can walk away with FGASA Apprentice Field Guide, FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide qualifications, several short, specialised qualifications (Tracking, Birding/ Advanced Birding, Wilderness Medicine, 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 I would suggest you start with no less, should you be hoping to secure suitable employment here in South Africa.

As an international, getting a work visa for South Africa is difficult – that remains a reality. There is, however, plenty of opportunity in other countries such as Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, Namibia where work visas are not as We are in no way specialists on the matter, and you should get in touch with recruitment agencies or visa specialists for the best advice.

You need to be sponsored to apply for a long term / work visa, in other words you need an offer of employment from a lodge and then they will then act as the sponsor in the visa application. As such the process can only start once you’re qualified and are able to apply for a job in the relevant field. If you have any higher education qualifications (such as a university degree), this will significantly better your chances of getting a work visa.

To complete your studies with EcoTraining, the one-year study visa is what is needed. For more information, check out or

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.

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 FGASA Apprentice Field Guide qualification, you may have chance to start logging your hours towards Level 2. A great opportunity to implement your theoretical knowledge and develop your practical skill!

The position and estimated salary vary greatly from lodge to lodge and even more so when branching out to other avenues such as rehabilitation and conservation work. It does also depend on your performance and the character references you obtain while on course and on the Placement Programme. Students that do not pass their FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide qualification, for instance, cannot expect to earn the same as individuals who do. There are just too many variable factors. What we can say, is that Guides are usually employed and start out in a junior guiding position until such time as the Lodge feels you are competent enough to take their guests out unsupervised. There may be an in-house training programme involved. 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 all based on your performance, quality of work and competency.