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Training as a nature guide in the African bush

Nature guide, nature site guide, field guide or safari guide. You might have heard these terms used interchangeably before. In South Africa, these are all terms used for people who lead guided experiences in the African wilderness. 

A herd of elephants walks across an open space in the African lowveld. Taken during a course for nature guide training.

Safari guides are most often associated with iconic African wildlife, like lions and elephants. 

But with the same national qualification – NQF2 Nature Site Guide – someone could lead camping tours in South Africa’s vast interior landscapes, or take people on guided hikes through our tropical coastal forests. It just depends on where you’re qualified to guide and the kind of program you studied through.

Nature guiding has many different applications across South Africa, as long as you’re appropriately qualified. So what does it take to become a nature guide? What’s nature guide training all about and how can Bushwise get you there? Let’s learn.

What is a nature guide?

Bushwise students training as field guides on a walk in the South African bush.

Nature guides are ambassadors of the natural world. They facilitate human-nature interaction through guided tours, whether in a game viewer, on foot, on horseback or even on bicycle. 

In South Africa, a nature guide or field guide is someone who is certified to lead tours in a specific area (like Kruger National Park or a private game reserve). They have qualifications under CATHSSETA (explained below) and often another accredited training provider, like Bushwise or FGASA.


A little bee-eater perched on a branch with an insect in its mouth. One of the more colourful birds found in the Lowveld.

CATHSSETA is the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority. It is one of the 21 SETAs established under South Africa’s Skills Development Act, specifically to define and recognise qualifications in these industries. 

When you become a nature guide, you receive a certificate from CATHSSETA recognising your qualifications (Bushwise and FGASA help with this process). This certificate is a national document, but you will still need permission from regional authorities to guide in a specific area. 

Understanding all of this can be a bit overwhelming – luckily when you do a course with Bushwise, we help make it easier to manage!

How do I become a nature guide?

Part of becoming a nature guide in the African savanna is learning to lead game drives.

If you’ve found this page while searching for information on nature guides and field guides, then you’re in luck. Bushwise is a world-class training provider of field guides in southern Africa. 

We operate near the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa, where you can earn your CATHSSETA NQF2 Nature Site Guide qualification as well as your FGASA NQF2 Apprentice Field Guide Qualification. 

FGASA, or the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa, sets the gold standards for field guiding in southern Africa. These qualifications are essential if you’re going to become a field guide in the African bush!

A lone zebra looks across the screen towards its herd.

Join nature guide training with Bushwise by signing up for our Professional Field Guide course. This is a 6- or 12-month training course that will give you all the theory and practical experience and knowledge you need to pass your exams. 

Just like preparing to enter any other career or industry, you must work hard to succeed, and Bushwise helps get you there. 

What does a field guide do?

A nature guide student explains something to his guests while practising during a Bushwise field guide course.

The most traditional experience of a field guide looks a little something like this. You’ll wake up every day before sunrise to prepare to take your guests on safari. You’ll meet them for coffee and snacks before heading out on a game drive, bush walk or other guided experience. 

Over three or four hours you’ll share your knowledge with your guests, imparting wisdom through stories, interpreting animal behaviour, or simply discussing our natural world as you observe animals going about their daily lives. 

This is an extremely rewarding experience as you’ll see things many people never see in their whole lives!

A nature guide, or safari guide, gets ready to take her guests on a game drive.

After the morning activity, you take the guests back to the lodge and spend the bulk of the day completing your other responsibilities – whether that’s taking guests to the airport, running errands, leading special activities, or taking care of administrative tasks. 

In the afternoon, you’ll lead another activity, either with the same guests or new arrivals. This process repeats each day for the duration of your work period. Most guides working for lodges in the Greater Kruger will work for a few weeks, then have a week or two off. 

A happy nature guide standing with a walking stick, ready to take his guests on a bush walk.

Being a field guide, nature guide or safari guide is a unique and rewarding career. 

If this sounds like something you’d love to do – consider applying through Bushwise for nature guide training. Launch your field guide career, today!

Did this blog speak to you? Have you always wanted to work with animals – but aren’t sure how? Get started with jobs working with animals.


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