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FGASA Professional Field Guide Course

Spend 23 or 50 weeks on one of the most comprehensive Professional Field Guide training courses available.

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FGASA field guide course description

Is your goal to become a Field Guide or work in the Eco-Tourism field? Do you want the most comprehensive field guide course available with a 6-month work placement? Bushwise Field Guides offers all of the above and guarantees a job offer for South Africans (T & Cs apply). Their Student@heart approach enables support from your initial enrollment, until long after you finished the course.

Overview of the course

The Bushwise campus is based opposite the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve, about 60 km from Hoedspruit in the Limpopo province. There is no better place in the world to do your field guide course. The South African Bushveld is known for its rich biodiversity and will offer you every challenge and opportunity to excel as an apprentice field guide. Bushwise has built a reputation as a leading training provider in the safari industry and offers one of the most comprehensive courses available. We strive to not only have a 100% pass rate, but also guarantee a permanent position for our South African graduates on the FGASA Professional Field Guide Course.  The course has been designed to develop highly skilled professionals in the field guiding industry through the FGASA curriculum. The aim of the course is to provide a well-rounded and specialised education, and is specifically developed to provide vocational skills and qualifications required by employers in the Southern Africa region. After completing and passing the 6-month course, students have the opportunity to do a 6-month work placement with a selection of prestigious lodges and game reserves in South Africa, like Mala Mala, Lion Sands, Londolozi, Sabi Sabi, Thornybush, and Singita. We have also had placements that have turned into permanent positions in Patagonia, USA, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and Rwanda. By getting experience in a luxury game lodge, animal rehab centre or at a wildlife research & monitoring centre, you can secure a permanent position as a field guide, reserve management, or conservationist around the globe. The academic curriculum at Bushwise is accredited by the Field Guide Association of Southern Africa (FGASA), the South Africa Qualifications Board, and the Culture Art Tourism Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA). All students are taught by professional guides and instructors, some who even trained through Bushwise. All additional qualifications are also attained through accredited training providers.   bushwise_tracking_week_03

Why choose us? 

  • Since 2012, 100% of all our South African students who graduated from the 50-week course were offered permanent positions.
  • We offer a 50% money-back guarantee*. If you don’t get a job offer within six months after graduating the 50-week course, 50% of your program fee will be returned to you.
  • Bushwise students achieved the highest marks of all the FGASA long term providers, and have done so for six years in a row. Our exam results average since 2013 is 88%.
  • We offer the most comprehensive course available in South Africa with the quality of training, professionalism, and ethical guiding standards as our top priority.
  • Bushwise students have gained employment at the finest lodges and research bases not only in Southern Africa but also all over the world. Lodges include Mala Mala, Singita, Lions Sands, ANDBeyond and Londolozi.
  • Bushwise graduates are sought after in the industry with many lodges contacting us to fill their Field Guide vacancies
  • Bushwise Recruitment is a free service to all past and current Bushwise students, helping you find the best job for your skills and interests.
  • We pride ourselves with our Students@heart policy, having an invested interest in each and every student, supporting and training them to the high standards that our industry demands.
  • Our trainers combined have over 50 years’ experience working in the industry.
  • We offer the most affordable daily rate when broken down in comparison to other training providers.
  • Students can get up to 8 certificates on our course, five of which are nationally recognised.
  • We make it easy for international students to obtain a Study Visa which allows them to get their SA driver’s license and then their PrPD. This allows you to be able to register as a guide, do a placement and maximise your chance of employment.

Program Details

The program runs for 4 weeks and then you will have 1 week off, you can stay on campus or you are welcome to go off exploring, see the “Free Time” tab for some options. Please note that during the off week food, laundry, and transport is not included during this time as the Bushwise staff will also be having time off. You must be focused, dedicated, and work hard to reach the standard required to pass both the theory and practical assessments. You will need a 75% mark to pass the course and be eligible for placement. 

Course Itinerary

The course varies between classroom based theory and practical sessions, the proportions of which depends on the module and course requirements. An average day could look like this:

  • 05h30 – 07h00: Meet in the kitchen for coffee and a light breakfast, then depart for the morning activity, either a walk or a drive, or a lecture in the classroom
  • 11h00: Brunch
  • 12h00: Free time
  • 15h00: Afternoon activity or lecture in the classroom

Bushwise carries out its practical training and skills development in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve, a vast nature reserve in the Lowveld covering an area of over 25000 hectares, dedicated to wildlife conservation and home to the Big Five.

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Life on the course

Bushwise has a daily structure in place so that everyone gets into a routine of a working Field Guide. We aim to give a balance of theory and practical training during each day, but we do allow for program requirements, seasonal changes and students’ needs.

Typically your day will start between 5:30am and 6am. Your weeks will consist of different modules, including mammals, birds, 4×4 skills and rifle handling skills, just to name a few. Bushwise follows the FGASA curriculum, and all training is conducted by professional guides, registered trainers, and instructors.

On your practical sessions, which are typically bush walks or a game drives, you will concentrate on specific modules and put the theory you have learned in the classroom into practice. At the end of each week, all the students are tested on that weeks’ module before moving onto the next one. However, the learning of each topic will always be present in every week to cement the foundations of the previous weeks’ theory.


Topics included:

  • Introduction to guiding in the natural environment
  • Creating a guided nature experience
  • Geology
  • Astronomy
  • Weather & climate
  • Ecology
  • Taxonomy
  • Biomes of Southern Africa
  • Botany – trees & grasses
  • Arthropods
  • Amphibians
  • Reptiles
  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Mammals
  • Understanding animal behaviour
  • Conservation management & historical habitation
  • Vehicle Skills and basic mechanics
  • 4 x 4 training
  • Specialist guest speakers
  • Hospitality & hosting basics in a lodge environment
  • Principles of anti-poaching
  • Survival & navigation
  • Viewing potentially dangerous animals
  • Rifles & rifle handling
  • Bush first aid skills
  • Tracking (Cybertrack Track & Sign)
  • Wildlife photography


On the 50-week course field guide students have an opportunity to undertake a 6-month placement. The Bushwise head trainer will assess each and every student to see which placement suits them best, focussing on evaluating students based on performance, interest, and the students’ personality traits. That is why Bushwise has a 100% employment success rate for South African students. 

This allows students to gain valuable ‘hands-on’ experience, and cement the knowledge and skills learnt during the course. It also provides a valuable foot-in-the-door to the safari tourism industry, wildlife careers, and conservation careers. Here are the two main placement options:

  1. Professional Field Guiding. Work and guide in 3* – 5* safari lodges. This includes exposure to working and guiding on a big five reserve with dangerous game such as cheetah and hippo. Field guides interact with tourists visiting the private game reserves, and focus on sharing knowledge about nature and the environment. These guiding experiences are either conducted in a 4×4 vehicle or on foot. Field guides act as interpreters between the environment and the guests, with the ultimate intention of promoting conservation and environmental protection. 
  1. Wildlife Conservation or Management. Become part of a dynamic team of conservationists, wildlife researchers, reserve wardens, or managers as guides or support staff. Your placement will typically be within a wildlife conservation area, game reserve, wildlife rehabilitation, or animal care organisation. Availability on wildlife conservation or management programs is very limited and can only be offered when available.

All students must pass both the FGASA and Bushwise course requirements before being placed at any placement.


Nationally recognised certificates:

  • FGASA Field Guide national certificate, Apprentice Field Guide – NQF 2

  • FGASA Apprentice trails theory (practical add available) 

  • FGASA Field Guide (NQF4) knowledge

  • CATHSSETA national qualification (NQF Level 2) in Nature Guiding

  • Firearm Proficiency SASSETA
    • Unit Standard: 117705 – Knowledge of the firearm control act
    • Unit Standard: 119651 – Handle and Use of manually operated rifle or carbine
    • Unit standard: 123519 – Handle and use of manually operated rifle or carbine for business purpose
  • National Level 1 & 2 First Aid Wilderness certificate

  • National level 3, 4×4 driving qualification – Unit Standard: 254135)

  • Cybertracker Track & Sign qualification (SASSETA & CATHSSETA)

Inhouse and other certificates:

  • Bushwise professional field guide course certificate

  • Wildlife photography workshop

  • Bushwise birding specialist course

  • Reptile orientation course

  • Dangerous game experience

  • Social media module in the Field guide & Lodge industry

  • Advanced Rifle Handling


  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Off weeks
  • Ethical guiding practices
  • Electricity
  • Complete uniforms
  • Study manuals
  • Wifi
  • Reference books
  • FGASA registration, exam fee and assessment
  • Entrance fees for excursions
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off
  • Visits to unique nature reserves
  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Application interview
  • Access to alumni program
  • Daily briefing for following day
  • Laundry
  • Assistance with booking extra-curriculum activities
  • Final feedback survey and session
  • Final day ceremony and function
  • Visit by staff whilst on external placement
  • Bushwalks
  • Sleepouts in big 5 territory
  • On site registered shooting range

What’s not included:

  • Flights

  • Medical and travel insurance

  • Visa costs

  • Personal kit

  • Additional drinks and gratuities

  • International and domestic airport taxes

  • Laundry, food and transport during weeks off

  • Recommended reference books

  • Transport costs to placement

  • Professional drivers permit & licensing costs, including transportation

 Free Time


Saturday afternoons and Sundays are free time for students, although it’s recommended that students use this time for personal study and preparation for the upcoming lectures. After every 4th week, students also get a full week off and are encouraged to leave campus, travel and explore the local area. Some highlights to be enjoyed:

  • Head out to the Blyde River Canyon for boat trips, kloofing, whitewater rafting, hiking, hot air ballooning and camping.
  • The Kruger National Park gates are only 90min drive from campus. Day trips or overnight camping trips are available within the Park.
  • Moholoholo Rehab Centre is 60 min drive from campus. Spend some time exploring the rehabilitation of endangered species.
  • Do a 1-day panorama route and see Bourke’s Luck potholes, God’s Window, and many waterfalls with swimming spots.
  • Giant Baobab a.k.a Upside Down Restaurant is only a 50 min drive from campus/ They sell the best pancakes in Limpopo, be sure to try them. 
  • Debengeni Falls in Tzaneen is a stunning waterfall accessible by anyone. It offers picnic areas and hiking trails.

Dates and costs


South African Citizens
2020 23 weeks  R159,500.00 (incl VAT)
2020  50 weeks*  R179,500.00 (incl VAT)
2021 23 weeks  R175,450.00 (incl VAT)
2021  50 weeks*  R197,450.00 (incl VAT)

Payment Plan

A payment plan may also be arranged for South African citizens. Conditions apply, please get in touch for full details.

International Citizens
2020  23 weeks  GBP £11,950.00 / USD $16,450.00 / EUR €14,450.00 / 22,450 AUD
2020  50 weeks*  GBP £12,950.00 / USD $17,950.00 / EUR €15,950.00 / 24,950 AUD
2021  23 weeks  GBP £13,145.00 / USD $18,095.00 / EUR €15,895.00 / 24,695 AUD
2021  50 weeks*  GBP £14,245.00 / USD $19,745.00 / EUR €17,545.00 / 27,445 AUD

*Bushwise is recognised by most major South African banks including FNB and Standard Bank, South African citizens can apply in-branch for student loans to assist with payment of course fees!

95% of our students are being offered permanent positions within a month of graduation

Apprentice Trails Guide Course Add On
 2019  R18,050.00 (incl. VAT)
 2020 R23,000.00 (incl. VAT)

Course Start Dates

23 or 50 week course 7 January 2019
23 or 50 week course 8 July 2019
23 or 50 week course 7 January 2020
23 or 50 week course 8 July 2020
2019 Apprentice Trails Guide Add On 4 June – 15 June
2019 Apprentice Trails Guide Add On 4 December – 15 December
2020 Apprentice Trails Guide Add On 2 June – 15 June
2020 Apprentice Trails Guide Add On 2 December – 15 December

Personal costs – You can expect to spend approx. R750/GBP40/USD 65 per month depending on your personal habits. During weeks off you are welcome to stay at the campus, and just cover your own food costs. You will need to budget extra if you plan to travel in these breaks.


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On the 14 day Bushwise Apprentice Trails Guide course in conjunction with Lowveld Trails you will cover all the necessary requirements to meet the FGASA Apprentice trails guide qualification. Your time will be spent meeting the minimum number of dangerous game encounters, on foot and logging the minimum number of hours required. This course will also focus on the ethos of guiding, as well as bush skills.

Please take note, that this in only an add on option available to students who are booking in conjunction with the 23 week or 50 week FGASA Professional Field Guide Course.

The maximum number of students allowed on the course is 8. Book early to avoid disappointment.

For more information on the Apprentice Trails Guide Course, please click here.



Kate Nelson

General manager Camp Jabulani, Relais & Châteaux

“Bushwise is a professional organisation, committed to the welfare of its students and to ensuring that they enter the safari industry with the correct qualifications, a high level of knowledge and strong guiding ethics.”

Ben Tupper 

former Bushwise student, now GVI SANParks Internship Coordinator

“Signing up and completing Bushwise has changed the course of not only my career but my entire life. I now get to wake up every morning to the sounds of baboons and hyenas and end each day with the setting African sun; none of this would have been possible without undergoing the Bushwise course”

Bushwise is accredited by Field Guides Association of Southern Africa