Gap Year

Gap Year

Gap Year Programs

Joining a Bushwise field guide course or conservation program is an awesome way to spend your gap year. Head to the South African bushveld and live in Big Five territory – in a safe and fenced camp – while learning all about animals, their habitats and ecosystems.

Alongside fellow students, you’ll learn how to run a guided experience in the African wilderness. You’ll drive a 4×4 vehicle down dusty game paths while looking for elusive leopards and lions. Spend six or 12 months doing something incredible and make your gap year count.

What is a gap year?

A gap year is a period of time (most commonly a year as the name would suggest) where you “take a break” from the ordinary to try something new. Around the world, the term gap year means different things. People go backpacking in Europe, join research projects (like sea turtle conservation in Thailand), spend time volunteering or learn a new language. For some new graduates, the opportunity to train and become a safari guide is an excellent way to spend six months or a year when they’re fresh out of school.

Is a gap year right for me?

There are many reasons to take a gap year. The most common time to take a gap year is between high school (matric) and college or university. At this point in time, recent grads are often considering their options for career paths, and gap years offer a great way to press pause and figure things out while experiencing something totally new!

Of course, you can take a gap year at any point in your life. It’s an opportunity to step away from the ordinary, test the waters in a different career, explore a passion or discover a new side of yourself. It’s becoming more and more common for people to take gap years or sabbaticals from work; this could even be a positive thing on your CV.

The important thing when deciding to take a gap year, is finding something you’ll enjoy. Step away from normal everyday life and try on something new! There’s a rising interest in conservation and wildlife in gap year programs, and Bushwise offers a great opportunity to experience this first-hand.

How to take a gap year

Whether you’re taking a gap year abroad or staying local, the first thing you’ll need to do when taking a gap year is to decide what you’ll do with your time. As conservation careers are becoming increasingly popular, many people are turning to experiences in nature and wildlife for their gap year. This is where Bushwise comes in!

If you’ve just graduated from college (or even high school), a Bushwise field guide course can also be a way to gain valuable skills and knowledge that transfer to a job back home. In the USA, for example, there are world-class national parks that are always looking for top talent to join their teams. Positions might include park rangers, tour guides, naturalists, wildlife guides and more.

At Bushwise, we have a few options that are excellent gap year choices. Students on our courses might be pursuing a conservation career, doing an international gap year, exploring their passion for wildlife, or gaining new knowledge and skills. As we discuss on our careers page, a Bushwise course can prepare you for many different career paths. Or, you could just have an amazing, life-changing gap year!

Let’s take a look at two of the options we recommend for your gap year experience with Bushwise: the Bushwise Professional Field Guide course and our Wildlife Conservation Program.

Safari guide teaches students in the bush

Bushwise Professional Field Guide course

Spend your gap year learning all about wildlife, living in a game reserve, and becoming a certified safari guide in southern Africa. Join students from around the world as you train to become a FGASA-certified Apprentice Field Guide. Go beyond the basics as our experienced trainers, with over 100 years of collective experience, introduce you to additional knowledge and skills to make you a world-class safari guide. Whether on the Greater Makalali Private Reserve or in the Greater Kruger National Park, you’ll train in Big 5 territory and hear the sounds of the bush day and night.

This course is designed to combine field guiding theory with practical experience. You will be introduced to theoretical concepts in the classroom on campus by our instructors and trainers. Then head outside for safari drives and bush walks where you can see the concepts applied in the real world. Typically, you will have two training sessions a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During the course you’ll complete essential FGASA exams to become a qualified field guide.

After completing and passing the six-month course, students have the opportunity to do a six-month work placement with a selection of lodges and game reserves in South Africa, like Thornybush, Timbavati, Makalali Private Game Reserve and Kapama to name a few. Our graduates have worked around the world, in places like the USA, Patagonia, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and Rwanda.

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wildlife conservation participants researching the bush

Wildlife Conservation Program

Experience conservation first-hand through our wildlife conservation programs at Karongwe Private Game Reserve (KPGR) near Kruger National Park, South Africa. Join other wildlife enthusiasts, budding conservationists and nature-lovers as you monitor large predators and mega-herbivores on the reserve.

You’ll join us for three to six months – living in the African bush, working with a research team, sharing meals around the fire, and gaining life-changing experience. Spend your days learning research techniques, gaining new skills and knowledge, and assisting with a variety of research projects.

During the wildlife conservation program, you can earn a GVI Biological Survey Techniques certificate and complete the GVI Team Leadership course. You will also have free access to our online courses to prepare yourself for this incredible experience. These courses are endorsed by the University of Richmond School of Professional Studies.

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Who else has taken a gap year?

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Georgia is originally from Devon, England. She was working in entertainment TV production and wanted to gain more practical wildlife experience, as she made her move toward science and nature filmmaking. She came to South Africa in 2019 for a gap year to join a field guide course. She absorbed information like a sponge and absolutely loved the African bush. After she qualified as an apprentice field guide, Georgia went back to the UK to continue working in film production. Georgia’s gap year in South Africa was one of the best decisions she ever made, and she often reflects on how that experience helped shape who she is today. She’s currently working on an environmental impact film and gets back to Africa every chance she can get.