Based on everyday calls and emails, we decided to highlight some of the most frequently asked questions by people regarding Field Guiding and the industry in general.
Even in this day and age of the internet and search engines, lots of information about this industry is confusing, misleading and incomplete. Changes seems to be quite regular and the laws and requirements out of reach for many, but there are ways and means all you need to do is make sure you talk to people in the industry who have the right connections and most up to date information.
As per the FGASA website, ‘It is important that all FGASA endorsed training providers make sure that any prospective learner is fully aware of the legal requirements pertaining to transporting people in a motor-vehicle for guiding purposes and that their age (if under 21) could prohibit them from employment if the job requirements include conducting guided experiences that involve driving a motor-vehicle.’
Sadly, from our experience and feedback from some students they were not properly informed and only during or after a course would come to find out that they cannot get a PDP either due to age restrictions or not being a SA citizen.
We have students at heart and feel that having all the information assist them with making informed decisions and giving them realistic guiding prospects for their future is so important. So here is all you need to know based on FAQ’S.
How do I qualify as a Field Guide?
You can either do this directly with FGASA and arrange your own practical assessment after passing your theory exam or do everything with an endorsed training provider.
Should you wish to do a course with a Training provider, there are courses that range from short courses with the basic entry level requirements to longer courses that include additional skills, qualifications, certificates and work placements. Keeping in mind that the more practical training you get and more skills and qualifications you gain, makes you more marketable and employable in this demanding industry.
You need to start with your Apprentice Field Guide qualifications, previously known as Field Guide NQF 4 or FGASA Level 1.
You will need to pass your theory examination (75% pass mark). Then you need to do your practical assessment with a FGASA endorsed assessor. There is a list of them provide on the FGASA website and from there you make arrangements as to where, how and when this can be done based on the area you live. Once you have passed both you will be awarded the appropriate FGASA Certificate when:
- All your required FGASA fees are fully paid up for the current year.
- The FGASA office has proof that you have been declared competent in the theoretical and the practical assessments and this has been moderated.
- You have submitted a copy of a valid (current) recognised First Aid certificate to the FGASA Johannesburg office.
CATHSSETA CERTIFICATION PROCESS
- Once an assessment is received and the member is declared competent, their achievements are then loaded on to the CATHSSETA database.
- If the member has submitted all the correct documentation (CATHSSETA/FGASA application form and certified ID) it will be sent to CATHSSETA so that they may issue a certificate. IF CATHSSETA do not receive these documents the member will not receive a CATHSSETA certificate.
- Please note that FGASA DOES NOT issue CATHSSETA certificates.
- CATHSSETA only print certificates 4 times a year – If achievements are loaded after a particular quarterly cut off date it can take another 4 months for CATHSSETA to issue a certificate number.
Please be advised that CATHSSETA certification is not an immediate process and may take a few months to receive a certificate.
If you have done a course with a provider many of them with do the above for you and have these fees included in their course.
Why do I need to be 21 to be a field guide?
This is because you need to be 21 YEARS OF AGE TO OBTAIN A PrDp (Professional Driving permit)
If a tourist guide is going to be transporting passengers (guests/visitors) in motor-vehicle s/he must be in possession of a valid PrDp.
- The PrDp is valid for two years and thus needs to be renewed before expiry.
- In order to attain a PrDp a guide has to be 21 years of age, thus if a learner qualifies and registers with National Department of Tourism and s/he is under the age of 21.
- It is important that learners who are striving to be guides are aware that they cannot conduct guided experiences while driving a motor-vehicle until they have turned 21 years of age and then attain a PrDp licence.
Do I have other options if I am not 21?
The good news is yes. You can try apply for a job at a venue where the guided experiences conducted by a guide are only by means of walking, bicycle, canoe, horse, and any other means other than driving a motor-vehicle of any kind with people.
Can I get a PDP as a Foreigner?
Only if you attend a course with a study Visa and if the course providers assist you with your application. The only other way is by have a work visa or residency. Doing a course on a study visa allows International students to apply for a SA drivers license and then apply for their PDP. Without this you cannot register as a guide or work as a guide in South Africa. With all this in hand, they get a guaranteed guiding work placement to get a foot in the door and an opportunity to gain working experience and impress a potential employee.
What is the difference between a Short course and a long-term Field Guide course?
Shorter courses may just include the entry level requirements as an Apprentice Field Guide and perhaps a tracking course and first aid. Longer courses give you more practical training and can include additional skills and qualifications that potential employers value and consider such as ARH, 4 X 4 driving skills, specialist birding, tracking courses etc. Thus making you a more experienced and qualified entry level guide.
You will be competing for similar jobs so having one or two more certificates can make the difference between getting the position or not. This will also factor towards your salary and what kind of lodge you could try get employment in terms of grading and reputation. Doing a longer course can also fast track you to getting your other FGASA qualification in that you are more prepared and ready. On our longer course we teach students up to the Field Guide (NQF4) theory equivalent, previously known as FGASA level 2 and they can do a 6 month work placement right after the course getting a foot in the door and an opportunity to gain working experience and a possible job offer.
How do I choose the right course or provider?
- It all depends on why you are doing the course. Are you an enthusiast, looking for an adventure, doing a gap year, contributing to practical experience for a University degree or looking for a career as a field guide? The shorter courses as good for 4 of the above but if you are looking for a career the longer more comprehensive courses will give you additional skills and qualifications. It will make you a more qualified entry level guide and in turn more experienced and employable. If you are doing a course that gives you a placement this will add to your experience, give you a foot in the door and get a better chance of being offered a permanent position.
2. First consider your budget and what you can afford.
3. Find out what the course includes and how comprehensive it is, check for value for money.
4. Find out who your trainers are, what their background and experience is. To be the best you need to be trained by the best!
5. Get in touch with past students who have done the course. Get first hand feedback from them and what their experience were like.
6. Find out what the success and pass rate is of past students, this will be an indication of the quality of training given.
7. Think about where you want to work, e.g. on a coastal reserve or in the Lowveld. Chose a provider based close by to learn the specific biomes, fauna and flora in that area.
8. Find out about where you will be staying, what the accommodation and facilities are like. The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to be focused and study hard. You will be amazed how much you appreciate a comfortable bed, a fan, a pool (in those hot summer months) and Wi-Fi in the middle of the bush. Especially if you are choosing a long term course and need to be there for 6 months or longer.
9. Look at where you could do a placement and how that would contribute and influence your future prospects
Is there an age limit for the course or trying to get into this industry?
Any person between the age of 18 – 75 can do a course or our 6-month Professional Field Guide course should their health and physical fitness allows them. For students over the age of 39, if they do our long term course we cannot guarantee a 6 month work placement afterwards.
What we know if that over the last 10 years we have seen how difficult it is to place students over the age of 39. The lodge industry is generally quite young and there are certain requirements they need and having a ‘student’ at an older age presents some challenges for them. It would be unrealistic for us to promise or guarantee a job as a guide to more mature students. It is not impossible though and some of our older have gone onto find amazing opportunities.
What is DEAT & LEDET?
DEAT means – Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
LEDET – Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism
Ledet is the umbrella for the government body in Limpopo who governs the above sectors of our government. Ledet then has a department (tourism) who they work closely with and register tourism guides with DEAT under the governing body.
So in fact, students still register with DEAT but under the Ledet umbrella.
How do students go about registering for DEAT?
If you do our course, we register all our students with Deat. It takes up to 4 weeks before we receive the card. For South Africans the Ledet is valid for 3 years, for internationals only 6 months – same length as their study visa for the practical. Internationals could renew if they obtain a work visa.
As a field guide do you work with animals?
There are many misconceptions where people are under the impression that as a field guide you work with animals, but this is not the case. Yes, you will be on game drives for up to 8 hours and surrounded by the nature every day but you are mostly dealing with guests.
Part of being a guide is to deal with guests. You need to be open, hospitable, friendly and be able to host your guests.
What salary can a field guide earn?
Most people getting into this field are more motivated by the type of work they do, the quality of life and experiences they will have doing this kind of work rather than for financial reasons. You will live and work on a game reserve, no crime, no traffic, no pollution or noise etc.
You must also keep in mind that your living expenses are significantly reduced in that you do not have to pay rent, buy your own food, spent money on fuel or general personal expenses as you would be based at the lodge for your entire working cycle.
Entry level guides can expect salaries between R4,000.00 – R7,000.00 a month. This is all dependant on what lodge you will work for, the size, the star grading, the rates, the area and the occupancy. You will also have the opportunity to earn tips. This is hard to estimate because it is so varied between lodges and occupancy but you can expect anything between R2,000.00 – R20,000.00 sometimes and even more if you can get into a lodge like Mala Mala, Singita or Royal Malewane. Tips there can reach R30,000.00 a month, tax free.
Your work cycle is usually 6 weeks on and 2 weeks off which gives you time to save you money. You will also not be spending much money during this period as you will mostly be at the lodge. Once you get more experience and better qualified your salary could go up to R12,000.00 Senior guides can get up to R14,000.00 and Head guides up to R18,000.00. From there you can go into Reserve Management, Anti-poaching or Lodge management depending on your skills, additional qualifications, interests and past work experience. Management positions can earn R30,000.00 + a month with benefits and much more if you end up being a Group Operations Manager that oversees many lodges/properties.
Hope this sheds some light on frequently asked questions into the Field Guiding industry in general. For more information please email [email protected]
Helpful links and references – https://www.fgasa.co.za/default/39/How%20to%20get%20qualified