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The best way to become a qualified safari guide

Updated: Jun 12

So you want to become a safari guide in South Africa (or further abroad). You might have read that there are a few different avenues you can follow to reach your goal. In this blog, we outline some of the most common ways to become a safari guide, and our recommendations to start your wild career!


Read time: 5 min


How do I become a qualified safari guide?

A student with Bushwise, training to become a FGASA field guide.

If you want to become a certified field guide (also called safari guide or nature guide) in southern Africa, one of the best and most well-respected ways to do this is by completing a CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide NQF2 qualification through an accredited training provider (like Bushwise). You must pass both written (theory) and practical exams to qualify.


There are two common ways to earn your CATHSSETA qualification. The first is a full-time training program where you live and study in the bush, learning from experts and trainers who really know the material. At Bushwise, our courses are driven by the International Field Guide Association (IFGA) standards and CATHSSETA requirements. With IFGA, the qualification goes even further than South Africa, providing you with a base to become a guide anywhere in the world. Learn more about IFGA here.


The second way to become qualified is to self-study and write the exam in your own time, either by following an online course or reading the books and doing research on your own. Beyond the online course, this option requires an in-person assessment by a qualified training provider, like Bushwise.

A happy Bushwise student getting into a game viewer for the day’s activities.

While either option can get you your field guide qualification, it’s essential that you don’t undervalue the significance of proper field experience. To be a successful field guide, you’ll need skills like 4×4 driving, track and sign, birding, first aid, PrDp, and much more. 


What does CATHSSETA stand for?

CATHSSETA (Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority) is one of the 21 SETAs in South Africa. The SETAs were established in 2001 to facilitate skills development in their relevant sectors.


Two Bushwise students looking out of a game viewer towards a sighting.

The major functions and responsibilities of CATHSSETA are:

  1. Develop and implement a skills plan for the sector, and prioritise skills development.

  2. Support the NQF implementation.

  3. Conduct and undertake quality assurance.

  4. Disburse levies.

  5. Report to the Minister of Higher Education and Training.


Through our training programs and curriculum, Bushwise follows the guidelines and standards as set out by CATHSSETA. When you qualify as a safari guide with Bushwise, we register you with CATHSSETA.


What does it mean to be an IFGA guide?

A white-bellied sunbird sitting on a branch. Birding is an important part of training to become a FGASA field guide.

With the IFGA name by your qualification, you’re telling future employers that your safari guide education was gold standard. This is because IFGA sets a high bar for skills and experience of qualified guides. If a guide has the letters IFG by their name, it means they were successfully accepted into – and passed – the most selective guide training program in the world.


What’s the difference between NQF2 and NQF4?

Two students, both training to become a FGASA field guide, listen to their instructor while learning about plants in the bush.

The acronyms NQF2 and NQF4 come from the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). This is a national system in South Africa that recognises education levels – across all industries. In field guiding, NQF2 applies to the first level of Nature Site Guiding (also called field guiding in the industry) while NQF4 is the second level. At the moment, there are only NQF2 and NQF4 qualifications for field guiding by CATHSSETA.


Can you study field guiding online?

You might be hesitant to jump right into a 6- or 12-month training course to become a qualified field guide. That’s okay! We completely understand – and it is possible to start your field guide career from the comfort of your own home. Bushwise offers three different online courses to get you started.


Our online field guide course will get you started with the knowledge you need to become a qualified guide. With this head start, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a professional in the field guiding industry.


Once you’ve finished the online course you can sign up for our 60-day Safari Guide course to get your essential field experience, do your practical assessment and complete your certification. 

Interested in becoming a qualified field guide? Join a Bushwise course today and launch your wild career.


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