How old should I be?
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 areas, 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.
In order to attempt the FGASA qualifications, participants are required to be 18 years or older and be in possession of a valid driver’s licence.
What is the general age and nationality of the other students on the course with me?
The age ranges of students tend to be from 18-65 … We have a wide variety of people, from a wide variety of countries. Be assured that you will meet and study alongside interesting people who are passionate and enthusiastic about conservation, and more specifically about the bush.
What are the criteria for joining a course?
- Must be 18 years or older (FGASA courses)
- Must be in possession of a valid driver’s licence (FGASA courses)
- Must enjoy a reasonable level of fitness (all courses)
Can I bring along my partner as a non-paying participant?
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.
By when should I book my course?
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.
How do I get to camp?
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 four camps in southern Africa.
Alternatively, you can arrange a connecting flight to smaller airports nearer to our camps (Hoedspruit Airport for Karongwe 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 logistics department will be able to best advise you on your transfer options to and from the camp. Please make contact on firstname.lastname@example.org, should you require further assistance.
Is it safe to travel to South Africa?
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 our 23 years of operation we have not yet had a student fall victim to a serious incident of crime.
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.
What steps should I take to prevent contracting malaria?
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.
Is there WiFi connectivity at the camps?
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.
Can I join your courses without wanting to be a guide?
Absolutely; the bush is there for all to enjoy and gain knowledge about. Please feel free to enquire regarding any course at all.
When is the best time to visit your various camps?
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.
What reference books do you suggest?
Although our camp libraries are comprehensively stocked, we suggest you bring along the following reference books on course:
- Sasol Birds of Southern Africa – Sinclair, Hockey, Tarboton
- Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa – Van Wyk and Van Wyk
- F/G to the Larger Mammals of Africa – Stuart and Stuart
- Safari Companion – Estes
What are the visa requirement between Botswana and South Africa?
When travelling to Botswana you will obtain a visa upon arrival. The visa will be valid for a maximum number of days – 90 days per 365-day period (not calendar year). Certain nationalities have to obtain a visa beforehand, so please check with your local Botswana embassy or consulate.
If you are travelling to Botswana via South Africa (for example flying into OR Tambo and taking a road transfer to Botswana), you may request a transit visa upon arrival in Johannesburg – this way your 90-day visitor’s visa for South Africa will not be activated, and upon return from Botswana you will still have 90 days left.
Will I need a visa to join a course?
Usually, 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. EcoTraining cannot assist in this regard. Please contact your preferred travel professional for further advice.
As an international participant for the Professional Field guide course, you will be required to apply for a one-year study permit. Please follow the below links for some useful information on the application process:
Career courses and FGASA
How to start a field guide career
In terms of field guiding OR establishing a foundation in any wildlife-orientated career, we would suggest either our 55-day Field Guide Level 1 course (followed shortly thereafter by the 28-day Trails Guide course) or the Professional Field Guide course (just short of one year) – the Professional Field Guide programme being the most comprehensive.
Why should I do the Professional Field Guide course?
With our highly successful one-year Professional Field Guide course, graduates can walk away with FGASA Level 1 and FGASA Trails Guide Back-up qualifications, as well as several short specialised qualifications and modules such as Tracking, Basic Birding, Advanced Birding, Navigation & Orientation, 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, instructors and training, wilderness medicine course, activities, laundry, select uniform, FGASA registration, exams and moderation, PFTC and park entrances.
What are FGASA and CATHSSETA?
FGASA is the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. CATHSSETAis 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.
Can I still obtain my FGASA Level 1 qualification in 28 days?
No. It has been a FGASA requirement for some time now that the Field Guide Level 1 theory exam can only be written on course following a minimum of 55 days' training. Please enquire about the Field Guide Level 1 qualification.
Do you offer long distance or part-time/evening classes?
EcoTraining does not offer distance or correspondence learning. Our courses are full-time, 24 hours a day, in the bush. Our students obtain a complete connection with nature, which we believe greatly assists them in obtaining their qualifications. You will spend all your time in the bush, eating and sleeping in our unfenced camps. As animals are free to roam through and around our camps, you will experience this direct and hands-on practical training approach. This is our philosophy to field guide training.
We do understand that it is not always possible to attend a course in the bush immediately, and would then definitely recommend contacting Todd at Wildlife Campus, who offers online courses. We have supplied him with much of his syllabus content, and can therefore verify that a course like Wildlife Campus’s would be very good preparation until such time that you could do a full course in the bush!
Please link to www.wildlifecampus.com for more information pertaining to the online courses.
Where will my FGASA certificates allow me to work?
Many countries throughout Africa do not have guiding authorities of their own (such as FGASA in South Africa, BOTA 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 licence may be required and this will need to be applied for.
I have already obtained my Level 1 theory; how can I obtain the required practical experience in order to pass the practical assessment?
We would suggest no less than 28 days of practical training out in the field, should you hope to obtain the practical experience in order to pass the Level 1 practical assessment.
There are two options we can suggest for this practical training that will largely cover the Level 1 syllabus, and allow for a comprehensive practical component – the 28-day Safari Guide course or the BOTA (Botswana) 28-day Vehicle Nature Guide course.
Can I attend the Trails Guide course without first having obtained my FGASA Field Guide Level 1 qualification?
If you are aiming for the FGASA qualifications, then yes, the Field Guide Level 1 course/qualification is a prerequisite for the Trails Guide course. If you want to do the Trails Guide course for the experience only, then you are welcome to attend without first having done the Field Guide Level 1 course.
Please bear in mind that the Trails Guide course is designed as a follow-on course to the Level 1 course, so that syllabus covered will be somewhat more advanced than the Field Guide Level 1 syllabus. You will also need to be reasonably fit; the activities consist of mostly walking in a dangerous game area. If walking/hiking are your thing, then this is the course for you!
Do I need a SASSETA certificate to handle a rifle while on course?
PFTC has taken over the quality assurance from SASSETA.
There is an arrangement that future training service provider certificates will be issued with a PFTC barcode to verify the training.
Do I need a PFTC certificate to handle a rifle while on course?
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.
What is a 'white card'?
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.
Do you offer FGASA Level 2 courses?
EcoTraining does not offer FGASA Level 2 courses (also known as Level 2 Nature Guide). Your Level 2 can be obtained while working in the industry. FGASA requires certain encounters and hours to be logged before attempting to do your FGASA Level 2 qualification. The same applies for FGASA Level 3. For more information on the procedure and requirement, please click here.
What happens if I only have a learner driver’s licence?
You will not be permitted to drive the game drive vehicles while on course, with only a learner’s permit. FGASA will allow a walking assessment, but it will prove difficult for you to find work as a guide or for us to place you while on the lodge placement with only a learner’s permit.
What is a PDP, and how do I get one?
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.
Will my international PDP be equivalent in SA?
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.
Do I need a first aid certificate?
You will require a Basic First Aid certificate for the Field Guide Level 1 course only.
First aid training is not included in the Level 1 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 Level 1 course, 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.
Will my international first aid certificate be valid?
FGASA will accept a first aid certificate issued internationally.
Does EcoTraining offer bursaries or scholarships?
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!
Will international participants find work in South Africa?
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.
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 suitable South African candidate for the job in question, before they employ a foreigner. This does make it tricky, but not impossible.
Which course will make participants the most employable?
To be considered employable, the industry requires guides have at least 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 Lodge 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.
Do you guarantee placement at a lodge following my course?
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 whatever else possible, in order for you to secure employment.
Will I be paid while on the Lodge Placement Programme of the Professional Field Guide course?
During the lodge 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 Level 1 qualification, you may have chance to start logging your hours towards Level 2. This is a great opportunity to implement your theoretical knowledge and develop your practical skill!
What starting salary can I expect as a junior field guide?
It is very difficult to give an estimate on starting salary. This varies 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 lodge placement.
Students who do not pass their Trails Guide Back-up 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 they 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.
Can I volunteer with EcoTraining?
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 lodge placement, 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.