Wildlife Research Expedition


Through a combination of hands-on experience, game drives and lectures, you’ll develop proficiency in bush and field research.

Next start date 08 January 2022

Duration 23 weeks

Format On-campus, in-country

Accreditation FGASA & CATHSETTA

Age 18+ (We welcome individuals of all ages that can easily walk 3km)

Optional Extras FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide

price From £ 6,945



What is the Wildlife Research Expedition?

The Wildlife Research Expedition is as unique as they come. You will spend 6, 12, or 18 months in the field doing hands-on research, collecting specimens, uploading data and learning all the fundamentals to thrive in remote locations. Not only will you work alongside our very own entomologist, but you’ll be partnered with scientists in the field that focus on specialist topics.

We’ve partnered with Rhino Revolution and the Biodiversity & Development Institute (BDI) to conduct various research projects, allowing you to participate in ground-breaking biodiversity research and projects focused on rare and endangered wildlife.

The course includes in-depth lectures, practical surveys, research and training in tracking techniques on the ground. Your work alongside a specialist in the field will include carrying out surveys to help them on their projects. This work will include finding, mapping out the location of, photographing and collecting samples to support ongoing research. You’ll also learn to find, log and record species in the South African bushveld. Your focus could include any of the following target species:

  • Amphibians
  • Antlions and lacewings
  • Birds (special focus on vultures)
  • Butterflies and moths
  • Dragonflies and damselflies
  • Dung beetles
  • Freshwater fish
  • Mammals
  • Mushrooms and other fungi
  • Reptiles
  • Scorpions and spiders
  • Trees and plants (special focus on orchids).

Since Bushwise Field Guides has done incredible work in field research, we have gained special access to work in protected parts of Limpopo that rarely see human activity. These could include Chimoyo Game Ranch, Gravelotte cultural land, Lekgalameetse Provincial Park, Soutpansberg Mountain range, Wolkberg wilderness area and the Blyde Canyon Biosphere Reserve. These locations are so remote that you might spend up to a week camping remotely in the wild to conduct the necessary research for that project.

On your 6-month course, if mother nature allows for it, you will embark on two big road trips to conduct specialised research in certain areas. The first will be at the start of your course, to show you the fundamentals of remote field work. Your final road trip will be at the end of the course and will be part of an ongoing project that Bushwise leads in vital biodiversity surveys in a sensitive, undisclosed location.

It’s paramount that you acquire the necessary skills for remote working. This expedition could include these foundations for field work:

  • Introduction to 4×4, bush driving and safe vehicle recovery in remote locations
  • Dangerous animal behaviour in relation to data collection
  • Remote camp setup, management and logistics
  • Safety in the field (orientation, survival, weather and climate).

By joining any of our Bushwise programs, you’ll be able to apply the skills and knowledge you gained all over the world. And, since all Bushwise programs offer holistic training, you’ll be ready to both live and work in any remote locations in the field.

Your experience will equip you to do everything from managing a camp to promoting safety considerations and awareness in the bush. You’ll also learn orientation, identification of fauna and flora, the use of trail cameras for photographic surveys and to use fundamental field techniques for data collection.

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Through a combination of hands-on experience, game drives and lectures, you’ll develop proficiency in bush and field research.

Next start date 08 January 2022

Duration 23 weeks

Format On-campus, in-country

Accreditation FGASA & CATHSETTA

Age 18+ (We welcome individuals of all ages that can easily walk 3km)

Optional Extras FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide

price From £ 6,945


Program Details

Through a combination of hands-on experience, game drives and lectures, you’ll develop your bush and field research skills, and elevate your proficiency in field research.

The course includes several modules, including scientific research techniques, animal tracking, 4×4 knowledge, wildlife survey techniques, orientation skills, and opportunities to apply practical skills and theoretical knowledge.

During the first 6 weeks of the course, you’ll focus on the techniques and theory of scientific research. Thereafter, you’ll have the opportunity to select a focus species to specialise in. You’ll join a specialist in the field and support them with their research. You’ll carry out research, finetune your skills, provide feedback to the specialist and contribute to the success of their project.

In addition to working on your chosen species, you’ll still learn about all of the other target species during your course. You’ll also contribute to data collection efforts that are carried out according to set quarterly targets.

On the Wildlife Research Expedition, we focus on locations that have not been thoroughly surveyed yet. These could be within a day’s drive from campus or even further afield, which means we’ll need to set up a remote camping village in the bush.

Your days on campus consist of lectures, as well as practical sessions that cement the theory into your everyday life as a field researcher. Our research locations will give you the opportunity to embark on a practical adventure and further your experience in the field.

After the morning activity, which is either a lecture or a field excursion, you’ll enjoy a hearty brunch. The afternoon takes you out into the field for a practical session or a lecture that’s aimed at building on the skills and knowledge you gained that morning. All teams return to base for an evening meal around the campfire, which allows for bonding and reflecting on the day’s experiences.

The focus of your research will shift according to the opportunities available at the time of your program, and you may have the chance to work on multiple projects. This will allow you to experience different kinds of wildlife research, and to sharpen your techniques during your Bushwise training.

You’ll learn:

  • How to interpret animal behaviour so that scientific data can be collected safely
  • How to setup and manage a field camp in remote locations
  • How to use field surveying techniques to assess the environment for field safety
  • Methods for surveying reptiles, birds, amphibians and arthropods
  • Techniques and skills for studying wildlife, animal behaviour and biodiversity
  • The fundamentals of tracking animals using tracks and signs
  • The fundamental skills needed to identify fauna and flora
  • 4×4 recovery skills, and how to use very high frequency (VHF) two way communication radios.
FGASA add ons

The following courses can be added to the end of your 6-month Wildlife Research Expedition. The optional add on will teach you the necessary skills and qualifications to create a guided experience for safari guests. Your wildlife research experience, accompanied by a FGASA Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2) qualification, will enhance your opportunities for a permanent position in the wildlife industry.

FGASA Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2) course (6 months)

This course has been designed to develop highly skilled professionals in the field guiding industry through the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) curriculum. The course ensures a well-rounded and specialised educational experience, and was specifically developed to provide the vocational skills and qualifications required by employers in Southern Africa.

By pairing this qualification with your Wildlife Research Expedition, you’ll pair experience in wildlife research with specialised FGASA training. This means you’ll be able to secure a permanent position as a reserve manager, game ranger or conservationist anywhere around the globe.

The academic curriculum at Bushwise is accredited by FGASA; the South Africa Qualifications Board; and the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA). All students are taught by professional guides and instructors, some of whom have been trained through Bushwise themselves. All additional qualifications are also attained through accredited training providers.

FGASA Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2) and internship placement (12 months)

This program is made up of the FGASA Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2) course (6 months) and an internship placement (6 months). After completing and passing the FGASA Apprentice Field Guide course, students will embark on a work placement with a selection of prestigious lodges and game reserves in South Africa – like Moholoholo, Kapama, Africa on Foot, Siyafunda, Karongwe, and Motswari.

Our graduates have also been able to turn their placements into permanent positions and found work at organisations in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Patagonia, Rwanda, Tanzania, the United States of America (USA) and Zambia. Opportunities for a dream job in conservation are wide open for those who combine the FGASA Apprentice Field Guide qualification with a work placement, and 6 months of extensive wildlife research experience through the Wildlife Research Expedition.

Read about the Bushwise FGASA Professional Field Guide to learn more about why you should choose Bushwise.


Through a combination of hands-on experience, game drives and lectures, you’ll develop proficiency in bush and field research.

Next start date 08 January 2022

Duration 23 weeks

Format On-campus, in-country

Accreditation FGASA & CATHSETTA

Age 18+ (We welcome individuals of all ages that can easily walk 3km)

Optional Extras FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide

price From £ 6,945


Bushwise campus

The Bushwise Field Guides campus is based opposite the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve, about 60 km from Hoedspruit in the Limpopo province.

The South African bushveld is known for its rich biodiversity and will offer you every challenge and opportunity to excel as an apprentice field guide. There is no better place in the world to do your field guide course.

Bushwise has built a reputation as a leading training provider in the safari industry and offers one of the most comprehensive courses available.

We strive to not only have a 100% pass rate, but also guarantee a permanent position for our South African graduates on the FGASA Professional Field Guide course.

Campus tour

Join us on a vrtual tour of the Mahlahla campus at Bushwise. Wouldn’t you love to call this home?


Accommodation for the in-person courses is on the Bushwise Mahlahla bush campus, which is an eight-hectare, fenced lodge-style campus.

The bush campus is safe from predators, so you are free to go for a walk or run anywhere on campus. We have a large variety of bird species that are regular visitors to the campus dam, as well as secretive species such as honey badgers and civet that are seen almost every night. We also have the occasional visit from pangolins and leopards.

In these surrounds, you can sharpen your practical skills by going on bushwalks, spending time birding, and encountering the animals that roam the campus.

Students will share a chalet (known as a rondavel) that accommodates two students. A weekly laundry service is provided for uniforms and bedding, free of charge, and students also have full access to the campus facilities for personal use.

The chalets, dining area, and laundry facilities are all clustered together. But it’s just a short walk around the dam to get to the classroom. The classroom is only partly enclosed, so you’ll remain immersed in the bush during training. It’s topped off with a thatched roof and light shading on two sides. And for the hot summer months, there’s a swimming pool next to the classroom.

Available on the

Bushwise Mahlahla bush campus

  • Shared rondavel (with fan)

  • Communal bathroom

  • Wifi

  • Juice, tea and coffee (available 24/7)

  • Swimming pool

  • Basic gym area (with weights to help you keep in shape)

  • Bow and arrow shooting range

  • Gardening in the Bushwise garden

  • Braai and social area

  • Game vehicles

  • Library of field guiding texts

  • Bushwise classroom

  • Emergency support from Bushwise staff


Through a combination of hands-on experience, game drives and lectures, you’ll develop proficiency in bush and field research.

Next start date 08 January 2022

Duration 23 weeks

Format On-campus, in-country

Accreditation FGASA & CATHSETTA

Age 18+ (We welcome individuals of all ages that can easily walk 3km)

Optional Extras FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide

price From £ 6,945



Safety in the field (orientation, survival, weather and climate)

Having the skills and knowledge to avoid getting lost, or to navigate yourself back to an area of familiarity when you are lost, is a vital skill for any field worker. This aspect of the course will focus on equipping you to interpret the environment around you for orientation, and will teach you about dangerous animals in the field. You’ll also learn first aid, and be introduced to field health and safety practices.

Training may include:

  • Basic astronomy and night orientation
  • Bush orienteering – with and without a compass
  • Global positioning system (GPS) use
  • How to get water and forage for food in the bush
  • How to signal for help when out in the field
  • Identification of common snake species, as well as the potentially lethal species of snakes
  • Recognition of the venomous insects and arachnids in South Africa
  • Understanding weather and climate
  • Wilderness first aid.
Camp setup, management and logistics

Camp life will have a large influence on your time in the field. Access to water, shade and emergency care are all important considerations in the bush. As you assess locations, you’ll discuss these practical aspects of bush life that make it a little easier to live and work in the field. This part of the course will also cover camp procedures such as sharing your estimated time of arrival (ETA) and notifying your team about where you have gone.

The skills you’ll learn could include:

  • Campfire cooking
  • Camp setup, logistics and management
  • Field health and safety practices – including risk assessment and management, crisis management, and Emergency Action Plans (EAPs)
  • Safely making a fire.
Identification of fauna and flora

When interpreting your environment, you need to know about the animals in the area, and have an understanding of the plant life in the environment where you are conducting research.

That’s because wildlife conservation and management efforts aren’t just about the large animals. The habitat and biodiversity that supports animal populations is just as important because of its influence on a particular animal’s behaviour, habits and survival. Our ongoing research on the biodiversity of various areas aids in understanding these intricate relationships, and helps us understand and conserve our environments better.

Alongside species identification, this section of the course will include an understanding of biomes, ecology and interspecies relationships. These skills will also be studied in the context of conservation management – as methods used by wildlife managers for wildlife conservation.

By the end of the course you’ll be able to:

  • Identify the common species of the region
  • Understand the concept of field management as a tool for wildlife conservation
  • Understand the difference between the different biomes in South Africa.
Animal behaviour in relation to safety and data collection

Many students may have research interests focused on wildlife species and their behaviour. But, learning about animal behaviour and how to interpret it is important for anyone conducting work in the wilderness. This aspect of the course will focus on animal behaviour, animal warning signals, learning how to track animals, how to identify animals by tracks, and how to stay safe around wild animals.

By the end of this module, students will be able to:

  • Avoid, and if necessary, defuse dangerous situations with wildlife
  • Explain the differences between animal home-ranges and animal territories
  • Identify and interpret animal signs and sounds
  • Study animal behaviour in their natural habitat (also known as ethology)
  • Understand the concept of “animal comfort zones”
  • Understand the various types of defensive animal behaviours
  • Understand the warning signals of dangerous animals including large mammals and snakes.
Field research techniques

Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of data collection techniques during this module. Data collection techniques will be learnt alongside monitoring techniques and other practices used in field research. This highlights the importance of biodiversity field research and species observation for conservation management. They are then able to make informed and effective science based decisions to safeguard the biodiversity of an area.

Students will get the opportunity to put their knowledge into practise while out in the field, as well as for their research projects.

Data collection techniques covered include:

  • Rare and endangered mammal research
  • Arthropod biodiversity surveys
  • Biodiversity monitoring
  • Bird surveys and small mammal mapping
  • Data collection techniques
  • Mammal behaviour and monitoring techniques
  • Reptile and amphibian surveys
  • Use of trail cameras for data collection.
4×4 and bush driving

Most fieldwork in Africa will require you to drive a 4×4 on and off-road in remote areas. This can be very challenging if you don’t know the fundamentals, and even more so when driving in a remote location. Safety and awareness will be at the forefront of this part of the course. Skills covered will include the basics of 4×4 off-road driving, changing a wheel, fixing a tyre, and vehicle recovery in theory and demonstrations – all of which are common challenges in the field.

The module may cover:

  • Basic vehicle checks and troubleshooting
  • Safe driving manoeuvres
  • Safe driving techniques
  • Safe vehicle recovery
  • Suspension, tyres and chassis
  • Vehicle driver terrain
  • Vehicle 4×4 usability.
Animal tracking in the field

You can never guarantee that you’ll find your research subject in the bush. And, while trail cameras are useful, they can also lead to dead ends. But, animals are always leaving us information through their spoor (tracks). Learning how to interpret this data, and using some of the collection techniques associated with it, gives us vital information about some of the more elusive species. It also provides us with important information on how to be safe in the field.

At the end of this course students will:

  • Be confident in tracking techniques
  • Be able to identify tracks of animals and invertebrates in the area
  • Be able to interpret animal gaits and movements
  • Be able to collect data from spoor (tracks)
  • Have an understanding of the principles of tracking
  • Understand the study of animal behaviour and signs.

Not Included

  • Flights
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Visa costs
  • Personal kit
  • Additional drinks and gratuities
  • International and domestic airport taxes
  • Laundry
  • Food and transport during weeks off
  • Any recommended reference books

“Bushwise has been sending us placement students for the past few years. We are very impressed by the quality of the preparation of the students who start their internship with LEO Africa and some of them were also offered a job after their internship. We highly recommend Bushwise as a training facility if guiding or conservation are your passions and you would like to work in the field and have a great preparation.”

Leo Africa

“Bushwise is consistent in providing high-quality and informative blog articles for us to publish. Accompanied with stunning photos, their articles always make for a fascinating read, be it about a particular animal species or general facts on wildlife and guiding. No matter what the content, their articles can be considered as valuable resources for those interested in field guiding and to those interested in learning more about African wildlife.”

Theo Felmore, Content Editor Africa Geographic

“Lowveld Trails Company has enjoyed a productive professional relationship with Bushwise Field Guides, facilitating the practical component of their Trails Guide Courses for the past 3 years. Bushwise produces some top quality Field Guides, evidenced by the fact that one of their alumni is now employed by Lowveld Trails Co.”

Wayne te Brake, owner Lowveld Trails

“Bushwise have been traversing on The Greater Makalali Nature Reserve (GMPGR) since 2006. Bushwise offers Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) field guide training courses amongst others which are run over 60 days. Over this period the guides are trained in all facets of field guiding and ultimately come through the course with skills that allow them to start a career in guiding. The GMPGR has a variation of commercial lodges, private lodges and volunteer organisations operating on the reserve. Many Bushwise students/guides have been placed within these operations over the years. Due to the high standard of training of field guides Bushwise have developed a good reputation as a professional training organisation. They are always willing and eager to assist with training field guides within other operations on the reserve and helping wherever they can. As the Warden of the GMPGR I have come to expect friendly and professional conduct and behaviour from the Bushwise management, trainers and guides.”

Rob Panos, Warden The Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve

“Bushwise is highly regarded in the training arena and students from all over the world and Southern Africa attend the course at a unique location within the Lowveld area. The facilities, level of training and standard of the graduates is exceptional and as such, guides graduating are sought after by the Tourism Industry.”

Michelle du Plessis, Managing Director FGASA

“Nestled between the Blyde River Valley and Kruger National Park, Kapama’s four individually appointed and luxurious camps offer an escape for nature lovers from across the globe. This untouched part of Africa is home to some of our most endangered, beautiful and fascinating wild life.”

Kapama Private game reserve

“Africa on Foot specialises in walking safaris in the big five Klaserie Private Nature Reserve; a wildlife rich region in the heart of the Greater Kruger. The Klaserie shares unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park which means predators and other wildlife roam freely throughout.”

Africa on Foot

“To Learn and To Teach” ("Siyafunda" in Zulu) are the objectives on which Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation is founded and the basic principles that drive our projects. Our aim is to obtain a greater understanding of wildlife and the environment in which it thrives and to teach our knowledge to all who assist us at our Siyafunda projects.”


“Harnas Wildlife Foundation is an experienced and active player in the conservation of Namibian wildlife, the protection of natural resources and is providing social, rational and physical education to those who seek the benefit thereof. But above all, Harnas Wildlife Foundation strives to give back to every living being what is relevant to its existence as far as our capabilities will allow.”

Harnas wildlife foundation

“Garonga offers a true Big Five safari experience, with expert guides and trackers who are knowledgeable about the wide variety of animals in our nature reserve. Track wildlife in the pre-dawn or enjoy traditional early morning and late afternoon game drives.”

Garonga Safari Camp

“Situated at the base of the majestic North Eastern Lowveld Drakensberg mountain range in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, Moholoholo offers a unique experience to all nature enthusiasts. Here at Moholoholo “The Very Great One” we offer travellers a time to unwind, relax and enjoy our beautiful Lowveld region.”


“NYATI Safari offers world-class safari in our own exclusive safari lodge in South Africa. Our safari lodge is located in our private 10,000 ha "Big 5" wildlife reserve, which is part of South Africa's famous Kruger National Park. Here we can guarantee that you will get close to Africa's wildlife - and most likely "The Big 5"; The lion, the leopard, the rhino, the buffalo and the elephant.”

Nyati safari lodge

“Bundox Safari Lodge & Retreat is an authentic safari getaway situated in a private nature reserve, located on the doorstep of South Africa’s most visited wildlife region, Kruger National Park, Panorama Route, and the Blyde River Canyon within arm’s reach.”

Bundox Safari Lodge

“Bush breakfasts on the edge of the river, daily game drives, sundowners and expeditions into the neighbouring big five Balule reserve are just a few of things to expect while on safari with us.”

Rukiya Safari Camp

“Bushwise graduates are the best suited candidates for our placements. They have to be strong minded, dedicated and have a passion for wanting to protect rhinos and other animals from poaching. Bushwise does a great job of selecting those candidates for us and they have been a great addition to our Anti poaching field ranging teams. We would not hesitate to permanently employ Bushwise graduates”

K9 Conservation

“"we have no hesitation in recommending Bushwise to other lodges or operators. Their students have always proven to be enthusiastic, motivated and of a high caliber, slotting in quickly and easily to the busy operations of our lodges. We commend them on always matching our needs with that of a suitable profile and personality of student that fit the Thornybush portfolio"”

JB Burger Thornybush Luxury Game Lodge Collection

“Ivory Tree Game Lodge is situated in the north-eastern region of the Pilanesberg National Park, in an ancient amphitheater divided by riverine woodlands. The central facility includes a pool, bar, conference room, dining room, boma, reception and curio shop. Ivory Tree Game Lodge offers 5-Star accommodation in the malaria-free, Big Five Pilanesberg Game Reserve. All 67 rooms are decorated in earthy tones and offer comfortable outside seating areas to enjoy the surrounding wilderness.”


“Bushwise is a professional organisation, committed to the welfare of its students and to ensuring that they enter the safari industry with the correct qualifications, a high level of knowledge and strong guiding ethics.”

Kate Nelson Camp Jabulani, Relais & Châteaux