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From Buckingham Palace to Bushwise: My journey to becoming a field guide trainer

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Welcome to the Bushwise team, Sophie Barrett! This blog was written by one of our newest trainers, who is based at our campus on the Southern African Wildlife College. In this blog, she introduces herself and shares why she’s passionate about being a field guide trainer. Words and images by Sophie.

3 min read

Safari Guide Trainer and Students Cooling off in a Pool after a Day of Learning in the African Bushveld

I recently joined the Bushwise team and received a message asking me to introduce myself to the world. A few key questions were suggested starting with “Who am I?”. Now, this is a pretty deep question to start a blog with. In this day and age, it is a question few typically have an answer to. Some people travel the world, exploring different cultures, environments and careers just to scratch at the surface of the answer. I, however, will start with the basics. 

My varied career history and how it led me to Bushwise

Expert Field Guides in Bush Clothing Having a Discussion on a Break During a Guided Bush Walk in the African Wilderness

I am Sophie; obviously not Sophie the Founder of Bushwise – so I guess you could say I am the “other Sophie”. A wildly passionate conservationist, inherent nature nerd, optimist, master of the Dad joke and a couple of other things besides. 

I have called the South African bush my home for about seven years and hope to continue to do so for an indefinite number of years to come. My career history has been erratic or, more kindly viewed, varied. If you name a job, I have probably done a stint in it. 

Expert Safari Guide Sophie Pouring Champagne for Guests During a Luxury Safari Experience in the African Bushveld

From bartending to working at Buckingham Palace, death metal music awards, global accountancy firms, oil and gas conglomerates, and a brief stint at CNN. I qualified and worked (briefly) as a lawyer. I have been a field guide for many years as well as an assistant head guide and head guide, Pangolin Project coordinator, conservationist, and long-time volunteer for a local conservation NGO. 

The significance of nature in shaping me as a person

Professional Safari Guide Sophie Using Binoculars to Observe Wildlife in the African Savannah

One of my favourite things about nature is that we are constantly learning. To find a career where you are seeing or experiencing something new on a daily basis is pretty special. I spend my free-time exploring the remote areas of South Africa. When you find yourself doing the same thing in your working hours as in your free time, you know you have cracked the code. 

I believe that life is made up of experiences. Some good, some bad, but all of them come together to create the person you’re meant to be at the end of it all. As a field guide, your job is unique. You are privileged enough to be entrusted to help people fulfil their lifelong dreams and as part of your daily ‘grind’, you get to share experiences that your guests will remember for the rest of their lives. Years, even decades from now, they will tell family and friends about the time they spent with you. For many years, I have loved being the custodian of those experiences.

Transitioning from a field guide to a field guide trainer at Bushwise

The author smiling while eating a snack on a Bushwise training course.

As a field guide trainer, I am looking forward to passing on my passion and skills to the next generation of guides. I am looking forward to honing a different set of skills as a trainer and to the opportunity to make an impact on the other side of the equation. And as a nature nerd, the return to education will enable me to work on and add to my various guiding and conservation certifications throughout my time with Bushwise.

Meet incredible people like Sophie on a Bushwise course. Interested in growing in your career like she has? Apply today!

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