Frequently Asked QuestionsHere you can find the answers to the most frequently asked questions by our prospective students.
What kind of visa do I need?
Please note that you need a full valid passport. Since you will be staying in South Africa for one year, you will need to get a year-long study permit. In order to get this visa you will need a letter from Bushwise which we will provide. The consulate usually takes 30 working days to process this visa application. Please begin the application process as soon as you have booked your place. We advise you to not leave your country if you do not have the necessary study visa in hand. You are not allowed to study if you are in the country on a tourist visa. In order to apply for the visa, take the following with you, but also consult home affairs and/or recent travellers:
- A full birth certificate (not an abridged one, it must include both parents details).
- Passport (valid for 30 days or longer after the expiry of the intended visit and with at least two facing blank pages)
- Police clearance certificate (not older than six months at the time of visa application).
- Letter from Bushwise to include details of your accommodation, that you have complied with our fees, and an agreement that we will advise the authorities if you leave the course.
- Proof of financial stability (bank balance/statement)
- Proof of medical cover (medical insurance policy)
- Medical report (a letter from a General Practitioner or hospital stating that you are fit to carry out your duties in SA, no older than six months at the time of application).
- Radiological report (a report from a radiologist confirming that you have been examined and have shown no signs of TB, no older than six months at the time of application).
- Flight details & evidence of onward travel out of South Africa.
- Two passport photographs
Most of our international students are able to obtain a study visa in order to attend the course. Please note that it is your responsibility to obtain the relevant information required for this visa application as well as supply the necessary documents on time as requested at the time of your course being confirmed. Visa processing can take up to 12 weeks. Bushwise will supply you with a study visa support letter as well as important information related to the application process. We recommend that you consult with a visa specialist for any advice or assistance with the application process. Bushwise cannot take responsibility for any embassy’s refusal to issue your study visa. In the rare event of this happening please consult with Kim@bushwise.co.za for alternative options.
I can only book my flights 11 months in advance. What shall I do?
Airlines will usually only let you book your flights 11 months in advance. You need to buy a ticket with a changeable return date. Once you are in South Africa you can change the date to suit the end of the course. Please be aware that most return airlines tickets are only valid for up to one year.
Why must I be able to drive a manual/shift stick car?
All the vehicles that Bushwise and the other game lodges use are manual. We cannot allow students to learn to drive manual vehicles at Bushwise as other students will be in the vehicles on the training game drives. All students must already hold a manual license, with at least a year of relevant experience before their application can be considered. Students will be required to pass an internal driving test at Bushwise before they are allowed to drive company vehicles.
How much am I likely to spend?
Participants typically spend approximately GBP 250 per month for day-to-day expenditure such as calling cards, personal items, and costs related to off weeks. We recommend that you travel with a credit/debit card as your main source of funds, although having cash as a backup is wise. ATMs are common throughout South Africa. Traveller’s cheques can also be exchanged in major towns, but this can take some time.
What are the other costs involved?
PDP license: The price for getting your Professional Driving Permit (PDP) license, should you not have a South African driver’s license, would be approximately R5200 through a registered driving school. This amount includes the booking and writing of learners license, and practical driving exams as well as lessons. The cost for the whole drivers licence and PDP procedure is the student’s responsibility and needs to be done during off periods so as not to interfere with course activities.
Uniforms: Two sets of uniforms are included in the course fees but extra items such as socks, shoes, jackets or extra uniforms, need to be paid for by the student.
Shall I bring my laptop?
Yes, you can use your laptop to edit photos, take notes, and do research in example. Wireless internet is available at the campus.
How old do I need to be?
You must be at least 18 to do a Field Guide course with us. Only students between the ages of 21 and 39 will be able to do a six-month field guiding work placement. Under 21’s will be offered what we refer to as a ‘non-guiding placements option’. This is due to the PDP requirements needed for field guiding placements which under 21’s are not yet able to obtain. For over 39s we cannot guarantee placements. If a placement is found this can be extended and the placement fee can be paid later.
How much spending money will I need each week?
It all depends on personal preference, with some people spending more than others. The course includes brunch and dinner. Soft drinks and snacks are for your own account. Keeping this in mind, most students spend in the region of R500.00 per week. Keep in mind if you are thinking of spending your off time exploring off campus, your costs will be a lot higher.
What is the difference between a game ranger and a field guide?
For an in-depth read on the difference between a game ranger and a field guide, please refer to our blog post here.
Do I require a FGASA qualification for any other career in conservation besides field guiding?
No. However, a field guide qualification is very beneficial and will definitely help you in securing a career in conservation. Bushwise courses offer you a fantastic platform, with the opportunity to get strong practical bush experience and exposure to the industry. You will gain transferable skills which can relate to any other wildlife career. Many students from various conservation and environmental backgrounds attend our courses to get practical field experience, especially concerning working in the African bush.
What other types of guide can I become with FGASA?
The Field Guide Association of South Africa offers a number of different courses, depending on the field you would like to specialise in. Most of the additional courses listed below are speciality courses and you will still need to complete a Level 1 Nature Guide course, before pursuing the additional qualifications.
Nature Guide Categories
- Local Nature Guide
- Apprentice Field Guide NQF2
- Field Guide NQF4
- Professional Field Guide
Marine Guide Category
- Marine Guide NQF2
Dangerous Game Qualifications
- Apprentice Trails Guide
- Trails Guide
- Professional Trails Guide
- Professional SKS Dangerous Game
- FGASA Advanced Rifle Handling
- Tracker Level 1
- Tracker Level 2
- Tracker Level 3
- Tracker Level 4
- Senior Tracker
- Head Tracker
- Local Bird Guide
- Regional Bird Guide
- SKS (Birding)
Horse Guiding Qualifications (Non-Dangerous Game)
- Assistant Horse Guide
- Lead Horse Guide
- Advance Horse Guide
Horse Guiding Qualifications (Dangerous Game)
- Dangerous Game Assistant Horse Guide
- Dangerous Game Lead Horse Guide
- Dangerous Game Advance Horse Guide
- Specialist Wildflower Guide
- SKS Wildflowers
Biome Guiding Qualifications
- Biome Guide
- National Biome Guide
Other qualifications & Certificates
- Scout Qualification
- Commercial Cave Guiding Knowledge Certificate
- South Africa General Knowledge Certificate
- Commercial Cave Guiding Knowledge Certificate
- South Africa General Knowledge Certificate
- FGASA/ Sappi Tree Knowledge Certificate
- Nature Enthusiast Certificate (Non-Guiding) –
- Advanced Nature Enthusiast Certificate (Non-Guiding) –
- Specialist Nature Enthusiast Certificate (Non-Guiding) –
- Marine Enthusiast Certificate (Non-Guiding) –
- Wildflower Guide Certificate –
- Fynbos Biome Enthusiast Certificate
How do I get my Field Guide (NQF4) and Professional Field Guide qualification?
Who will I be receiving training from at Bushwise?
Director, Sophie Niemann – Degree BSC Honour & Masters Zoology, FGASAL level 1, Guide for 6 years, 16 years in management and logistics in the wildlife conservation and training arena for volunteers and students.
Head trainer, Gerhard van Niekerk – After 20 lucrative years in the corporate world Gerhard completed his safari and trails guide training. He spent six years working as a freelance trails guide at various 5 star Lodges in the North West Province and the Waterberg. It was then that he became very driven to start training new guides into the field guiding industry. After 2 years as a trainer, Gerhard joins Bushwise. He now furthers his eight years of experience and believes in a holistic approach as a nature guide trainer which includes having great skills, respect, knowledge and passion. Having these traits and being able to share knowledge about the natural world with PEOPLE from all over the world is amazing, by doing this one creates a sense of responsibility in the minds of your guests to become true custodians of the natural environment.
Senior Trainer, Trevor Myburgh – Trevor started off by doing a RAU Transport Management course through Damelin Financial Management. After leaving the corporate world and deciding to become a Field Guide Trevor got qualified with James Hatfield at Tshivingwe Bush Experience. Trevr currently hold a Fgasa NQF 4, ARH and Full Lead Trails Guide. He has been in the industry for a total of 13 years and has gone to work in the Bela Bela area as a Field guide, then onto the Vaalwater area doing Leopard Research & Reserve Management. He also did a bit of Overlanding. He then went back to Field Guiding and worked on Sanbona Wildlife Reserve (Western Cape) & Kapama Game Reserve (Limpopo)
Trainer, Vaughan Jessnitz – Vaughan has a BSC in Entomology from Stellenbosch University. Got his FGASA qualification through inhouse training at Legend Lodges. Qualifications include FGASA Level 2 (now Advanced Field Guide) Full trails, ARH. Vaughan has been in the industry for 14 years and worked at Legend lodges which included Zebra Country Lodge and Entabeni, Zingela Game Farm, Mohlabetsi Safari lodge, Honeyguide tented Safari Camp, Albatross travel & Honeyguide Rangers camp
Trainer, Edward Smith – Edward is currently the youngest trainer at Bushwise and has been part of the Conservation and Tourism industry since he left school back in 2010. At the age of 19, he qualified as both a field and marine guide but decided to kick-start his field-guiding career by taking an opportunity at one of South Africa’s oldest private game reserves. Known as one of the best birding destinations in the whole of Southern Africa. After a year in the field, walking, driving and guiding guests by boat, he decided to bite the bullet by leaving the lodge to further his studies before returning to the bush once again where his continuous dedication and aspiration to grow, would introduce him to all new aspects of the African bushveld.
Trainer, Lindi Hutchinson – Lindi has always had a passion for nature and started her FGASA training in 2010, and finished her apprentice trails guide in 2011. In November 2013, she finally decided to follow her dream, starting her guiding career at Entabeni Game Reserve in the Waterberg. “It was the best decision I have ever made!” In the past six years I have worked in numerous different reserves and biomes, gained a lot of experience and raised my qualifications to Level 3 and Full Trails. I am not planning on stagnating any time soon and hope to have Professional Trails by the end of 2020 as well as Tracker Level 2.
Trainer, Jack Hutchinson – Jack was a Bushwise student back in 2009 under the guidance and mentorship of Mark Mongomery, Sean Robinson and Wayne Te Brake. “I said to Sean and Wayne I wanted to do training back then and I have done full circle and returned to share my passion, my drive and experience to new potential guides.”I have been guiding for the last 11 years all in 5 star lodges, in and around KNP, Sabi Sands, Timbavati and Thornybush. I have been in the Thornybush Nature Reserve for the past seven years. I wish to keep walking and tracking and get enough experience to attain a higher tracking qualification and eventually become a FGASA SKS DG Guide
and the ultimate, FGASA Scout.
Angéle Rouillard from Canada
“Unforgettable 6 months, during which, getting FGASA Level 1, was only one of many things I loved. Being immersed 24/7 in the bush, is the best way to get to know it. I have learnt to see, hear and smell things I hadn’t noticed before, realising the Big 5 are only a tiny piece of an amazing net of beings. Nothing better than sharing this with the beautiful people I was lucky to do so!”
How many students are on the course?
We take 22 – 40 students on each 23-week course. Roughly six to seven students per trainer. Groups are trained by different trainers which allow unique guiding style, interests, and point of views.
Why should I choose being a field guide as a career?
A job as a field guide is incredibly rewarding. Being able to give guests a memorable experience and show them things they have never seen is very gratifying. Your work environment and quality of life is great. No ‘hustle and bustle’ of city life, traffic, pollution, noise or light pollution. You get to live and work on game reserves and be surrounded by incredibly beauty and getting amazing sightings every day – most people have to pay allot of money for this. You can make lifelong friends with fellow staff members at the places you work and can form personal connections with guests that goes beyond just being their guide. You will have the chance to work in reserves all over South Africa. Some lodges offer staff beds night and this allows your family to be able to come visit you and give them the same experience as your guests.
Which qualifications can I receive from completing a course with Bushwise?
Nationally recognised certificates
- CATHSSETA (The Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector, Education and Training Authority) National Qualification (Level 2) in Nature Guiding
- FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) Field Guide national certificate – NQF 2 – practical and theory
- National LEVEL 1 & 2 First Aid Wilderness Certificate
- National level 3, 4 x 4 driving qualification
- Cybertracker track & sign qualification
- SASSETA (Rifle handling, proficiency, maintaining of firearms and shooting)
- Bushwise Birding specialist
- Social media understanding in the Field guide & Lodge industry
- Advanced Rifle Handling
- Reptile orientation course
- Wildlife photography workshop
- FGASA Advanced Field Guide knowledge (previously known as Level 2)
What are my employment possibilities after finishing a course with Bushwise?
The longer more comprehensive Bushwise courses will help you be a more qualified entry-level apprentice field guide, with more experience and more employable.
Since 2012, 100% of our SA students who have graduated the 50-week course have been permanently employed. Read more on the Bushwise Employment Guarantee.
What is a placement and why is it important?
The six-month work placement is an opportunity for students to gain valuable experience in the industry. The work placement is not paid but includes accommodation, food and the opportunity to earn tips for guests. It’s important because this gives you the chance to put your training to work, get valuable experience, and an opportunity to get a permanent job offer. During this time you can build on your Apprentice Trails Guide walking hours and encounters and gain guiding hours to qualify as a Field Guide NQF4. You will have the opportunity to learn from your fellow guides, head guide and you will be able to get a work reference for this six month period.
What is a PrDP?
This is a Public Drivers Permit. A PrDP will allow you, as a guide, to legally transport guests on public roads as well as to cover their insurance requirements. You can only apply for this when you are 21 and you require this to register as a guide and be able to legally guide.
Why do I need to be 21 to be a field guide?
As explained earlier, this is due to PrPD requirements. You can only get this when you are 21, and therefore only register as a guide when you are 21.
How do I choose a training provider?
1. 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 our 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