All you need to know about the Trails Guide qualifications
Updated: Nov 2
‘The FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide is an individual who is in training (in an apprentice programme) to become a Trails Guide and will learn how to function as 2nd Rifle and later as 1st Rifle during the training phase. The apprentice programme is a stepping stone in the process for a guide to attain a FGASA Trails Guide Qualification and is not qualified to conduct trails or walks in areas with dangerous game in absence of a FGASA Trails Guide (NQF4), Professional Trails Guide, or SKS (DG) Guide’
It is many people’s dream to experience Africa’s iconic animals on foot but to be able to do that safely, people should be led by experienced trails guides. These trails guides need to get through a difficult training course before they can even start to acquire the necessary experience to do this.
What are the basic requirements and steps to achieve the qualification?
Here are some requirements and steps to follow on how one finally get that trails guide qualification in order to lead people safely through the African bush.
Before anybody may be allowed to enter the trails guide course they need to get another minimum qualification first. The entry level qualification is the FGASA Apprentice Field guide qualification. Previously know as FGASA Level 1 field guide or Field Guide NQF4. Any higher field guiding qualification would obviously be accepted aswell. Bushwise field guides do offer training to obtain qualification at a high standard as well as additional skills and qualifications.
After passing the entry level qualification then one may be allowed onto the trails guide course. It consists of theoretical and practical parts. After passing the 2 theoretical tests of: View Potentially Dangerous Animals ( VPDA) and the Advanced Rifle Handling test ( ARH ), then there is a very difficult practical ARH assessment to pass. Very important to note that in South Africa nobody is allowed to handle any firearm without going through a SASSETA Rifle competency course and passing a competency test. This competency test is also set up by Bushwise for their students to make things a lot easier for them. Any guide who wants to lead people out into a safari also has to be in possession of a valid first aid certificate. Even this part is offered on the Bushwise campus! When a person has acquired all of the above then only the other practical training starts.
The candidate needs to then log a minimum of 50 hours on a foot trail as observer led by two FGASA Trails Guides (NQF4) or 2 Professional Trails Guides, or SKS (DG) Guides. A combination of these kind of guides is also accepted. These bushwalks should be conducted in areas where free-roaming dangerous game occur. Dangerous game is regarded as: elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and hippos. During these bushwalks the candidates should also log 10 encounters with any of the dangerous game in their FGASA dangerous game logbook. After the 50 hours as observer, the candidate needs to apply to enter the FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide Programme, with a mentor which can be a Professional Trails Guide or SKS (DG) Guide currently endorsed by the FGASA SKS (DG) Standards Committee).
After this, the candidate must then be mentored, coached and assessed over a minimum of 10 hours by the mentor to assess the applicant’s suitability to enter the programme. This must include:
1st and 2nd Rifle brief and de-brief
Dry fire rifle exercises with both rifles using the “Three Command System”
Roles of the 1st and 2nd Rifle
Rifle carry and also attain the
Tracker level 1 certificate.
Only after the mentor approves the applicant, this will be recorded in the applicant’s logbook by the mentor and is then signed off by the FGASA Office. The applicant’s status is then updated to that of an Apprentice Trails Guide. If the applicant‘s application is approved the applicant may then be allowed to start with the trails guide level of the program.
The Apprentice Trails Guide now needs to log a minimum of 50 hours on trail as 2nd Rifle carrier led by a mentor (an approved FGASA Professional Trails Guide or SKS (DG) Guide). This can be in the work place during guiding based activities, during a FGASA endorsed course, or during Wilderness or Backpacking Trails in areas where free-roaming dangerous game occur.
The Apprentice Trails Guide should also log a minimum of 20 encounters with at least one encounter from each of the dangerous game categories as 2nd Rifle on hikes led by a mentor (an approved FGASA Professional Trails Guide or SKS (DG) Guide). This can be in the work place during guiding based activities, during a FGASA endorsed course, or during Wilderness or Backpacking Trails in areas where free-roaming dangerous game occur.
When this is achieved then the Apprentice Trails Guide needs to start to log a minimum of 50 hours on hikes as 1st Rifle carrier with a mentor as the 2nd Rifle carrier. This can be in the work place during guiding based activities, during a FGASA endorsed course, or during Wilderness or Backpacking Trails in areas where free-roaming dangerous game occur.
After this is completed and logged then the Apprentice Trails Guide needs to log another 50 hours on hikes as 1st Rifle with an approved FGASA Trails Guide (NQF4), Professional Trails Guide or SKS (DG) Guide as 2nd Rifle. This must be in the work place during guiding based activities with regular paying guests to the lodge/reserve on the walk/trail and may not be in a training context.
While working towards these 50 hours the applicant needs to Log a minimum of 10 encounters from at least three of the animal categories as 1st Rifle on trail with an approved FGASA Trails Guide (NQF4), Professional Trails Guide or SKS (DG) Guide as 2nd Rifle. This must be in the work place during guiding based activities with regular paying guests to the lodge/reserve on the walk/trail and may not be in a training context.
Finally the apprentice need to complete a FGASA Trails Guide Practical Assessment (VPDA). This is conducted by a FGASA Professional Trails Guide Assessor and is a multi-day walk spanning over a minimum of two full days (two morning and two afternoon walks) and a minimum of 10 hours on foot and must include at least two encounters with at least two different dangerous game categories. At least four categories of free-roaming dangerous game must be present in the area where the assessment takes place and the candidate must be assessed in the roles of both 1st and 2nd rifle with clients.
As you can see, this is a long and difficult process but this process will help ensure that the guests and the animals are safe during these bushwalks.
Bushwise could make this dream qualification a reality to you. All you need is to start by enrolling in our field guide course today in order to start the process.
Blog by Gerhard van Niekerk
For more information and other resources please go to https://www.fgasa.co.za/membership/qualifications.