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  • Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

Safari guide courses that’ll set you up for success

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

BY: Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

Deciding to become a safari guide is fairly simple for any nature enthusiast. But with so many safari guide courses to choose from, picking the right one  for you can be tricky.

You want to gain all the theory, skills and experience you’ll need, but this will all depend on the provider and course you pick. So how do you set yourself up to be the best safari game drive and walking safari provider? Let’s find out. 

How to spot the perfect safari guide course provider

It's important for a safari guide to know the different plants and animals in their location.

Photo by: Ben Klunder

Safari guides are conservation specialists whose daily responsibilities include:

  1. managing wild animals

  2. maintaining natural environments and reserve infrastructure

  3. taking safari lodge guests out on guided walking safaris or game drives

  4. building on the local communities conservation awareness through environmental education.

Any safari guide training course you sign up for should prepare you to take on these tasks and execute them fairly easily. 

And, because working in the wild is just about as rugged as it gets, your safari guide course should also teach you solid problem-solving skills and how to keep calm under pressure. 

Besides being a wildlife expert, you’ll need to be able to deal with all of the expected and unexpected challenges that come with a career in the wild – like being charged by an elephant or coming across poachers.

Bushwise students spot a herd of buffalos.

Photo by: Christie Janse van Rensburg

Bushwise Field Guides is considered an industry leader in Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA)-accredited safari guide training courses. 

Signing up for a field guide training course is a solid way to start out your career as a safari guide. This type of course will teach you the basics of working in the wild and add to your practical experience in a big way. 

You can clock up all the additional experience and knowledge you need to specialise as a safari guide on an internship or work placement. 

As a Bushwise student, you’ll be based at one of the Bushwise campuses, set in the South African savannah, on the border of the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve in Limpopo. 

A Bushwise student watches the rhinos graze.

Photo by: Carl Louis Steenkamp

Just travelling to Limpopo is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to working towards a career as a safari guide. Not only is this area home to the country’s well-known Big Five, it’s also where more than 5,000 plant species and an array of other mammal, reptile and insect species can be found. 

Because of where it’s situated, Bushwise is the best base for anyone who wants to be immersed in the savannah and learn about its plants and animals first-hand. 

Here’s a look at the top safari guide courses in the industry and how they’ll prepare you to work in the best safari lodges in South Africa and across the world. 

You can start with an online course to get started with your wildlife journey.

With travel restrictions coming and going, you may want – or need – to start off with an online FGASA-accredited course that’ll give you a headstart on building your wildlife expertise.

Bushwise offers one of the most reputable online safari guide training courses that you can do from anywhere in the world. 

With only 10 hours of learning a week for 12 weeks, you can be sure you’ll be upping your safari guide potential by taking this course.

And, you won’t be going at it solo. With Bushwise, online learning includes expert-led masterclasses as well as stimulating classroom discussions with your instructors and classmates.

You’ll walk away with 120 of the 400 hours you need to qualify as a field guide, as well as tons of wildlife knowledge. 

The views during a trail hike.

Photo by: Matthew Franklin

And, you can step straight into an in-country Bushwise safari guide course when you’re ready to venture into outdoor learning. 

Bushwise Professional Field Guides course

If you’re serious about becoming a safari guide as soon as possible, this is the perfect safari guide course for you. As the most comprehensive safari guide course on offer, you can be sure that you’ll have a meaningful experience in the African savannah.

You’ll have ample time to become an expert in everything you need to know, from how to create the best guided experience for safari lodge guests (whether on a walking safari or game drive), to how to keep your 4×4 vehicle in tip-top shape. 

As a Bushwise student, you will go through 4x4 training.

After completing this Bushwise safari guide course, you’ll have the FGASA Apprentice Field Guide qualification (NQF2), as well as the FGASA Field Guide curriculum (NQF4) under your belt. These qualifications will allow you to apply for work in the field. 

The course includes six months of theory and practical experience, with a six-month work placement where you could be placed at one of the best safari lodges in South Africa. This type of opportunity will catapult your field employability to new horizons early on in your career. 

To boost your employability as a safari guide even further – which is a specialised position in the industry – you can also sign up for our FGASA Apprentice Trail Guides course as an add on. 

This 14-day additional qualification will allow you to clock up the minimum amount of dangerous game encounters on foot, log essential hours in the field, and gain deeper insight into the ethos of guiding in the bush. 

Altogether, this is one of those safari guide courses that’ll have you completely covered when it comes to your professional foundations.

An elephant hides behind the trees.

Photo by: Brendan Davis

Becoming a wildlife expert can be in anyone’s blood, but it just so happens that qualifying as a safari guide has an age restriction – you’ll need to be 21 or older. But this doesn’t mean you can’t start off on your journey to landing a job at one of the best safari lodges in South Africa if you’re not yet of age. 

Our FGASA Field Guiding and Conservation Careers internship is one way to gather up all the skills you need to pounce on a professional qualification once it’s available to you. This course is similar to our Bushwise safari guide course for over 21s, since it runs over 23 or 50 weeks – depending on whether or not you take on the work placement opportunity. 

But, what’s the difference between this course and safari guide courses for over 21s? 

Bushwise students on a game drive.

Photo by: Taya Maasch

Well, it boils down to your professional driving permit (PdP). Since you can’t secure one until you’re 21, all the theory and practical experience you need to land this permit aren’t included in this internship. 

But, you can easily secure your PdP when the time is right.

Driving permit aside, this safari guide training course will get you up to speed on all the other theoretical and practical experience you need. 

If our conservation internship or professional safari guide course isn’t a possibility for you right now – because of time, budget or other constraints – our Wildlife Research Expedition may work.

On this program, you can choose to spend six, 12 or 18 months doing meaningful wildlife research in the field.

For this Bushwise safari guide course, we partner with Rhino Revolution and the Biodiversity & Development Institute

You can do meaningful research on rhinos, while doing a safari guide course.

Photo by: Ross de Villiers

Participants get to take a deep dive into projects focused on topics like anti-rhino poaching, and environmental awareness and habitat restoration all while working directly with field experts. 

These are some of the tasks you’ll be involved in on a wildlife research expedition:

  1. tracking down animal species and locating plant species of interest

  2. collecting specimens

  3. uploading data

  4. setting up and maintaining remote research stations. 

Anyone over the age of 18 can apply for this program and start building on their safari guide aspirations without delay.

How to get started on one of the best safari guide courses

Become a safari guide with Bushwise.

So you’re feeling ready to leap straight into one of our top-rated Bushwise safari guide courses?

What are you waiting for?

Find out more about our Bushwise safari guide courses and start planning for success today.


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