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Frequently Asked Questions

Here 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 will take 30 working days to process this visa application, so 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 it is likely you will need to provide:

  1. A full birth certificate (not an abridged one, it must include both parents details).
  2. Passport (valid for no less than 30 days after expiry of intended visit and with at least 2 facing blank pages)
  3. Police clearance certificate (this should not be more than 6 months old at time of visa application).
  4. Letter from Bushwise to include details of your accommodation, that you have complied with their fees, and an agreement that they will advise the authorities if you leave the course.
  5. Proof of financial stability (bank balance/statement)
  6. Proof of medical cover (medical insurance policy)
  7. Medical report (a letter from a GP or hospital stating that you are fit to carry out your duties in SA, this should not be more than 6 months old at the time of application).
  8. Radiological report (a report from a radiologist confirming that you have been examined and have shown no signs of TB, should not be more than six months old at time of application).
  9. Flight details & evidence of onward travel out of South Africa.
  10. 2 passport photographs
  11. A deposit of £600 (amount subject to change) or equivalent in your country’s currency, to be refunded once you return to your home country or gain permanent residence in South Africa.

Please also note that all monies paid will need to either be in the form of a postal order or banker’s draft.

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 so 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. This license must have been held for at least 12 months before the course start date. 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 time off costs. 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 commonplace 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 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 it is a good idea to bring your laptop to keep notes and your photos on. Wireless internet is available at the campus.

How old do I need to be?

You must be at least 18 to do the 60 Day Field Guide course and Professional Field Guide course (23 weeks).  You must be between the ages of 21 and 39 to do the full year field guiding program (incl. work placement).

How much spending money will I need each week?

This is a difficult question to answer and obviously depends on personal preference, with some people spending more than others. The course includes brunch and dinner. Soft drinks and snack are for your own account. Keeping this in mind, most students spend in the region (sometimes a bit more, sometimes less) of R500.00 per week. Keep in mind if you are thinking of spending your off time off campus exploring the area 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?

In short, no. However Bushwise courses offer you a good platform to start your career,  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. We have had many students from various conservation and environmental backgrounds attend our courses to get practical field experience, especially in relation to 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
Level 1 Nature Guide
Level 2 Nature Guide
Level 3 Nature Guide
Marine Guide Category
Level 1 Marine Guide
Dangerous Game Qualifications
Back-up Trails Guide
VPDA Certificate
Trails Guide
Advanced Trails Guide
SKS Dangerous Game
Rifle Handling Certificates
FGASA Basic Rifle Handling
FGASA Advanced Rifle Handling
Tracker Qualifications
Tracker Level 1
Tracker Level 2
Tracker Level 3
Tracker Level 4
Senior Tracker
Master Tracker
Scout Qualification
Birding Qualifications
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
Wildflower Qualifications
Specialist Wildflower Guide
SKS Wildflowers
Biome Guiding Qualifications
Biome Guide
National Biome Guide
Other Certificates
Commercial Cave Guiding Knowledge Certificate
South Africa General Knowledge Certificate
Minimise & Manage Safety and Emergency Incidents
Research and Design Certificate
Guiding Conservation Management Certificate
Guiding Tourism Management Certificate
FGASA/ Sappi Tree Knowledge Certificate
Bird Knowledge Certificate
How do I get my FGASA Level 2 and 3 etc?
In order to become a level 2 field guide, the guide must already have a minimum of 1 year (260 days) practical active guiding experience as a nature guide.
Once you feel you have the necessary skills and knowledge you can apply to write your FGASA Level 2 Field Guding exams and complete the practical. If you pass both the exam and the practical, you will require a valid first aid certificate and can then register as a level 2 field guide.
As you gain more experience and knowledge you can work towards a Level 3 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, Ben Coley – Ben has a BSC in Psychology from Plymouth University in England. Came to SA and got qualified at Bushwise Field Guides in 2006. Qualifications include FGASA level 3 (now Professional field guide), Lead trails, ARH, SKS Birding theory, SKS Astronomy, Track and sign Level 4, FGASA assessor and moderator & Range officer. Ben has been in the industry for 11 years and has worked as a guide at Savana Tented Camp in the Sabi Sands Wildtuin, Thanda Game Reserve in KZN, Palahala Tented Camp in Tanzania, Sabi Sabi in the Sabi Sands Wildtuin and then became a trainer and worked for Eco Training before joining Bushwise

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


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 – 26 students on each course 23 week course. With 4 trainers, that equates to approximately 6 students per trainer. Groups gets trained by 4 different trainers each bringing their own style, interests and point of view across.

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?

On our long term, comprehensive course you can get up to 8 Nationally accredited certificates on the 6 month course – FGASA Level 1, First aid level 1 & 2, Trails theory, 4 X 4 Driving course, Cybertracker, SASSETA firearm certificates & Advanced Rifle Handling

Other valuable certificates & skills learnt: Bushwise course certificate, Birding specialist, Snake handling course, Photography workshop, Wine tasting, Survival skills, Basic mechanics, Hospitality training, Social media, Advanced astronomy, Navigational & Orientation skills, Principals of Nature Conservation which forms part of our day to day training.

What are my employment possibilities after finishing a course with Bushwise?

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. Since 2012, 100% of our SA students who have graduated the 50 week course have been permanently employed. The statistics for International students has varied between 50 – 70% for permanent employment since 2014.

What is a placement and why is it important?

This is where we place you at a lodge for 6 months as a student to do a work placement and get actual working experience. The placement is not paid, but includes accommodation and food and the opportunity to earn tips. It is important because this gives you the chance to put your training to work, get valuable experience, a foot in the door and an opportunity to get a permanent job offer. During this time you can build on your Back up or Full trails walking hours and encounters as well as your guiding hours to build u to getting your FGASA level 2. You will be able to learn from your fellow guides and Head guide and you will be able to get a work reference for this 6 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 can't students under 21 apply for the 50 week course?

Any person between the age of 18 – 75 can do the 6 month Professional Field Guide course should their health and physical fitness allow them to. What we cannot do is guarantee a 6 month work placement after you have done the course, should you be under 21.

This is due to PrPD requirements as explained earlier. You can only apply for this when you are 21 and then register as a guide to then work as a 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