Using Your Field Guide Experience Overseas

Using Your Field Guide Experience Overseas

Bushwise Field Guides welcome a fresh group of students every 6 months and the diversity of those attending is as vast as that of the surrounding African bushveld.  People from all walks of life are attracted to the opportunity of spending months in the bush learning all they can, with age, ethnicity, social status, employment history, sex and nationality being just some of the variables that always make for an interesting mix!

People come to the bush for many different reasons:

  • A career in field guiding
  • Peace and solitude
  • Relaxation
  • To gain a greater understanding of the natural world that surrounds us
  • Gap years
  • To gain practical experience for university credit
  • The adventure!

But whatever the reason behind the potentially life changing choice, one thing is for sure, that at the end of the course they will be armed with a multitude of new skills that will affect their lives forever.

The fundamentals of the Natural World

A field guide needs to understand the principles that govern our world.  Students spend months learning the theory behind such concepts as ecology, conservation management, weather and geology, for without a basic understanding, how could they interpret the bush around them to guests?

These skills are transferable across any ecosystem in any country in the world.  It will enable students to see so much more of nature even when they have returned to their homes.  Suddenly the complex strands that form the web of every environment can be identified and investigated.

  • Symbiotic relationships between members of an ecosystem can be found in every conceivable habitat
  • The skills learnt to identify trees and birds in South Africa are the same no matter the country
  • Rocks are formed in the same ways regardless of their geographical origin and these will influence the soil, the vegetation and the fauna associated with it
  • Whether you live in a cold wet climate, or a hot dry one, the concepts of weather remain the same

Regardless of the examples, the fact remains that a field guide qualification will allow you see nature in your environment with new depth and understanding.  And for those wishing to delve deeper, they are now armed with the skills to do so.

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Raising Awareness

For many, the knowledge gained about conservation and poaching issues hits a nerve that compels them to try and help.  For those worried what one person can do, consider the following proverb from the Dalai Lama:

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito”

Even simple acts can help make a difference:

  • Turning the taps off when brushing your teeth
  • Recycling
  • Using energy saving lightbulbs
  • Explaining the rhino poaching plight to your friends in the pub!

Whether it makes a difference in the world or simply in their hearts, this appreciation for nature can change their perspective on life, which in turn drives them to educate others on the importance of protecting the planet.

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Social skills

A field guide course usually involves a prolonged period of time spent with strangers in relatively simple circumstances.  Not to mention that privacy is hard due to long working hours and the inability to disappear for a walk due to the dangers lurking in the surrounding bush!  Life skills are learned on an almost daily basis.

  • Tolerance
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Diplomacy
  • Time management

These are just a few examples of skills that will be learned on a course and all of them are beneficial to everyone in every situation.


A guide can have the most incredible repertoire of information and understanding of science but without the ability to communicate it, they are worthless.  Communication skills come in a wide variety but all are transferable to public speaking, managerial or motivational roles etc.

  • Voice Tone and Intonation
  • Body Language
  • Eye Contact
  • Basic Psychology
  • Independence
  • Practical Experience

Whatever the reason a student decides to study to be a field guide, the benefits are enormous.  Do not be fooled in to think that when their time in South Africa is up, the knowledge they have gained is worthless.  Quite the opposite.  They will return home with a new perspective on life and the environment that surrounds them 24/7.  I guarantee you that they will see 200% more wildlife on their return now that they are in sync with it.  All the skills gained can be used positively in all walks of life and if nothing more, the experiences they had and the memories they gained will stay with them forever.