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Life as a safari guide

Safari guides (also known as field guides and nature site guides), act as interpreters of the natural world. They conduct guided experiences for guests at a lodge, private reserve or national park. They’re able to observe animal behaviour and explain things to guests in an entertaining and insightful manner.

But there’s no one simple definition for the term safari guide. As a safari guide, your life is full of learning and observing. Even experts who have put in their 10,000 hours admit that they’re constantly seeing new things. That’s why this job is so rewarding – and why you should consider a career as a safari guide.


What is a

   safari guide?

Safari guide: a day in the life

There are different types of safari guides, from entry-level guides to head guides, professional trails guides and freelance guides. A typical lodge-based safari guide job might look a little like this:

  • Wake up before sunrise every morning.

  • Greet your guests with coffee and snacks.

  • Go for a 3-4 hour game drive or bush walk, where you’ll share your knowledge with your guests while looking for wildlife.

  • Return to the lodge for administrative work while the guests relax.

  • Take the guests on another activity in the afternoon.

  • Host the guests at dinner, including storytelling.

  • Finish up any remaining admin then get some valuable sleep!

Who can be a safari guide?

The amazing thing about this industry is that it’s open to anyone. If you’re passionate about wildlife, interested in nature and keen to learn, then you can become a safari guide. At Bushwise, we have students from all over the world join our courses to become safari guides. People come from the USA, UK, Australia, Tanzania, Japan and everywhere in between. 

Each country has its own regulations and requirements for the safari industry. Once you’ve secured the necessary qualifications (and you’re able to work), you can be a safari guide.

How do I become a safari guide in South Africa?

In South Africa, the guiding industry is moderated by the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA), which standards for field guide qualifications. To become a safari guide in South Africa, you need to earn your CATHSSETA Nature Site Guide NQF2 qualification. To learn more about the different qualifications and levels, check out this article.

The best way to become a qualified guide is to do a course with an accredited training provider like Bushwise. They’ll ensure you gain all the necessary knowledge and skills to prepare you to enter the industry and succeed. By doing your course with Bushwise, you may also qualify for our employment guarantee – an industry first.

Bushwise Field Guides students are highly sought after in the safari industry. We guarantee a permanent position for all our South African graduates within six months of completing the Bushwise International Safari Guide Course. These include positions as field guides, reserve managers and conservationists in Africa and the United States. Start your safari guiding career with Bushwise and get the chance to work in places like Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Patagonia, Rwanda, Tanzania, or Zambia.

What experience do I need?

There are a few steps you’ll need to take before you’re handed keys to the game viewer. Becoming a safari guide requires committing a lot of time to training. Think of it like going back to school. You’ll need to learn the different species you see – including scientific names sometimes! – and their role in the ecosystem, as well as history, geography, geology, climate, animal behaviour and much more!

But don’t worry, you don’t have to figure this out on your own. While it is possible to self-study and take the safari guide exams on your own, there are also world-class courses that prepare you to enter the industry. That’s where Bushwise comes in.

How long is a safari guide course?

Safari guide courses vary in length from two months up to two years. At Bushwise, we currently offer two in-person courses where you can earn your CATHSSETA NQF2:



Besides time and cost, the difference in these courses is the number of qualifications you can get and the exposure you get to practical training. More time will give you a greater base on which to build your career, but you can certainly enter the industry ready to work after our 60-day Safari Guide course. We look forward to meeting you and helping you start your wildlife career!

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