FGASA Field Guiding and Conservation Careers InternshipYou don’t have to wait until you turn 21 to start your field guiding or wildlife conservation career.
- Program Details
- What's Included
- Free Time
- Dates and Costs
- Meet the Team
Are you under 21 and looking for a career in the wildlife sector? Bushwise Field Guides offers the most comprehensive field guide course in South Africa for under 21s. With career exposure placement options at 3–5 star lodges and research centres, you will have a big advantage when starting your career. Options for under 21s in guiding is limited due to professional driving permit (PdP) requirements, but Bushwise’s Conservation Careers internship gives you the opportunity to start your journey to become a professional field guide.
Overview of the internship
The Bushwise campus is based opposite the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve. It is about 60km from Hoedspruit, in the Limpopo province. There is no better place in the world to do your Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) accredited 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. The FGASA Field Guiding and Conservation Careers Internship is available to anyone over 18 years and provides a training platform for prospective field guides or conservation professionals. It also offers students exposure in various fields of safari careers to help them decide what they wish to do with their future careers. Students on this course have the opportunity to undertake a career exposure placement after completing the six-month, certified course. With the guidance of the Bushwise trainers you will choose the extent of your placement, ranging from one to three or six months, to gain valuable hands-on experience. Your placement will cement the information and skills learnt during the training period. See the project details tab for more information on each of the specific internship placements.
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 and Protected Widerness Area, a vast nature reserve in the Lowveld covering an area of over 25000 hectares, dedicated to wildlife conservation and home to the Big Five.
Bushwise has a structured, daily program in place so that students get into the routine of a working field guide. We aim to give a balance of theory and practical training during each day, but we do allow room to adjust to program requirements, seasonal changes and student needs.
The curriculum includes bush skills such a wildlife tracking, shooting competency, 4×4 driving, outdoor first aid, and wildlife photography. It also includes in-depth knowledge and practical application of subjects such as conservation, ecology, reserve management, geology and animal behaviour. All training is conducted by professional guides, registered trainers, and instructors.
The course is known for producing the highest calibre of graduates for a competitive industry. Throughout Bushwise’s years of operation, its graduates have, collectively, achieved the highest marks of all FGASA’s long-term providers, and are considered the best-trained professional guides in the industry.
- introduction to guiding in the natural environment
- creating a guided nature experience
- weather and climate
- biomes of Southern Africa
- botany – trees and grasses
- understanding animal behaviour
- conservation management and historical habitation
- vehicle skills and basic mechanics
- 4×4 training
- hospitality and hosting basics in a lodge environment
- principles of anti-poaching
- survival and navigation
- viewing potentially dangerous animals
- rifles and rifle handling
- bush first aid skills
- tracking (Cybertrack Track & Sign)
- wildlife photography.
The following placements are offered:
- Six months non-guiding placements
- Three months non-guiding placements
- One month non-guiding placements
It is important to know that the career exposure placements are determined by the Bushwise head trainer. The decision is based on your performance throughout the course, interest, and Bushwise’s formal Terms & Conditions.
The internship 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.
The Mahlala Bush Campus and Reserve
Students based at the Mahlahla Bush Campus will carry out their practical training on The Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve (GMPGR), a spectacular 26,000 hectares big five wilderness reserve in the Limpopo province. Featured reserves within the GMPGR where practicals are conducted include Pidwa Wilderness Reserve and Makutsi Reserve.
The Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve is situated west of the Kruger National Park. It is an ideal training ground with a variety of fauna and flora and promises intimate wildlife encounters with the big five. Other incredible species include cheetah, hyena, giraffe, zebra and kudu.
Accommodation & facilities at Mahlahla Bush Campus
Accommodation for the field guide training course is on the Bushwise Mahlahla Bush Campus, which is an 8Ha fenced lodge-style campus. The bush campus is safe from predators, so you are free to go for a walk or run anywhere on campus. We have a large variety of bird species that are regular visitors to the campus dam, and secretive species such as honey badgers and civet are seen almost every night, with the occasional visit from pangolins and leopards. You can sharpen your practical skills on bushwalks, go birding, and encounter game that roams the campus.
Students will share a chalet (rondavel) that accommodates two students. A laundry service is provided weekly for uniforms and bedding, free of charge, and students also have free access to the facilities for personal use.
The chalets, dining area, and laundry facilities are all clustered together. It’s a short walk around the dam to get to the classroom. It’s an open classroom with a roof and light shading on two sides to give that bush feel. There is a swimming pool next to the classroom that overlooks the dam for those hot summer months.
Available on the Bushwise Mahlahla Bush Campus
- Shared rondavel (with fan)
- Communal bathroom
- Free wifi
- Juice, tea and coffee available 24/7 on campus
- Basic gym area with weights for keeping in shape
- Volleyball court
- Shooting range for bow and arrow
- Gardening in the Bushwise vegetable garden
- Braai and social area
- Game vehicles
- Field guide related library
- Bushwise staff also reside on campus in the case of an emergency.
These placements provide you with the opportunity to gain valuable experience in various fields such as research, anti-poaching, reserve management and lodge management. These are all vital skills for a professional field guide.
To operate as an Apprentice Field Guide, FGASA requires you to have a Public Drivers Permit (PdP). This enables you to legally transport guests on public roads. Unfortunately, you can only apply for this when you are 21.
However, for under 21s that cannot obtain a PdP immediately, we offer non-guiding placements. This means that your placement will not involve any driving of guests in a game vehicle on public roads.
Instead, there are a range of other placements which you can undertake:
- Wildlife research and monitoring: Spend time with a dedicated team of researchers learning about what life is like as a field researcher. You’ll learn about logistics, and practise research techniques and data collection.
- Anti-poaching: Learn from the dedicated anti-poaching personnel about anti-poaching techniques, dealing with dangerous situations, and anti-poaching ethics. This is a real hands-on and “boots on the ground” experience.
- Ecotourism lodge: Assist in all the departments of a luxury ecotourism lodge for work experience, new skills and insight into the dynamics of an ecotourism lodge.
- Environmental education and animal rehabilitation: Help a team in teaching local people about the importance of protecting wildlife, and caring for injured or abandoned wildlife.
- Game farming and reserve management: Get involved in the ins and outs of a game farm and in wildlife breeding programmes. Get stuck into some hands-on reserve management tasks and activities.
- Wildlife volunteer management: Help to guide volunteers through the experience of conducting wildlife conservation research.
All students must pass both the FGASA and Bushwise course requirements before being placed at any placement. For more information on placements, and the lodges we work with, navigate to placements.
Kapama River Lodge
Nyati Safari Lodge
The Bushwise students we received from Bushwise thus far have all been very knowledgeable well trained and very eager to work with excitement in everything they do.
Africa on Foot
Maholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
Nationally recognised certificates
- FGASA Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2)
- FGASA Apprentice Trails Guide (practical add on available to complete qualification in full)
- FGASA Field Guide (NQF4) theory
- CATHSSETA national qualification (gained with NQF 2) in Nature Guiding
- Firearm Proficiency SASSETA
- Unit Standard 117705: Demonstrate knowledge of the Firearms Control Act 2000 (Act No 60 of 2000) applicable to possessing a firearm
- 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 and 2 First Aid Wilderness certificate
- National level 3, 4×4 driving qualification
- Unit Standard 254135: Apply the techniques for operating four wheel drive (4WD) vehicles, in on-road and off-road conditions
- Cybertracker Track & Sign qualification (SASSETA & CATHSSETA)
Bushwise certificates and training
- 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 and lodge industry
- Advanced rifle handling
- six months work experience from placement venue (50-week course)
- experienced, long-term staff conducting all the necessary course training
- all necessary FGASA course manuals and materials
- safe, but basic accommodations (usually shared)
- two sets of uniforms
- all compulsory books (if included)
- limited internet access at no extra cost
- t-shirt, fleece jacket, cap and beanie
- all meals while on the course (except during off weeks)
- visits to other reserves or places of interest.
- other activities, such as sleep outs, Kruger National Park trips
- welcome meeting
- location orientation
- pre-departure support and discounted services
- 24-hour emergency phone
- airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
- 24-hour in-country support
- ethical guiding principles
- camp management and leadership skills
- basic vehicle mechanics
- hospitality training
- basic astronomy
- survival skills
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 fourth week, students also get a full week off and are encouraged to leave campus, travel and explore the local area. Here are some of the highlights that can 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 a 90-minute drive from campus. Day trips or overnight camping trips are available within the park.
- Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre is 60-minute drive from campus. Spend some time exploring the rehabilitation of endangered species.
- Spend one day on the Panorama Route and see Bourke’s Luck Potholes, God’s Window, and many waterfalls with swimming spots.
- The Giant Baobab (formerly known as the Upside Down Restaurant) is only a 50-minute drive from campus. They are rumoured to sell the best pancakes in Limpopo. Be sure to try them.
- Debengeni Falls in the town of Tzaneen is a stunning waterfall accessible by anyone. It offers picnic areas and hiking trails.
Dates and costs
|South African Citizens|
|2021||23 weeks||R175,450.00 (incl VAT)|
|2021||50 weeks||R197,450.00 (incl VAT)|
|2022||23 weeks||R175,450.00 (incl VAT)|
|2022||50 weeks||R197,450.00 (incl VAT)|
|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|
|2022||23 weeks||GBP £13,145.00 / USD $18,095.00 / EUR €15,895.00 / 24,695 AUD|
|2022||50 weeks||GBP £14,245.00 / USD $19,745.00 / EUR €17,545.00 / 27,445 AUD|
Payment Plans Plan 1:
- R15,000 (2000USD/GBP/CAD/AUD/EUR) deposit needed to secure your booking
- first instalment due 20 weeks before the course start date
- final instalment due 12 weeks before the course start date
- 30% of the full amount to deposit to secure your booking
- The remaining balance will be split of six instalments leading up to the course start date.
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!
|Apprentice Trails Guide Course Add On|
|2020||R23,000.00 (incl. VAT)|
|2021||R23,000.00 (incl. VAT)|
Course Start Dates
|23 or 50 week course||7 January 2021|
|23 or 50 week course||8 July 2021|
|23 or 50 week course||7 January 2022|
|23 or 50 week course||8 July 2022|
|2021 Apprentice Trails Guide Add On||4 June – 15 June|
|2021 Apprentice Trails Guide Add On||4 December – 15 December|
|2022 Apprentice Trails Guide Add On||2 June – 15 June|
|2022 Apprentice Trails Guide Add On||2 December – 15 December|
Personal costs – You can expect to spend approx. R4500/GBP250/USD280 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.
Our expert instructors have backgrounds in both conservation and the tourism industry. They will teach you solid fundamentals and how to apply your knowledge practically in the industry. Trevor Myburgh General Manager & Trainer Trevor is a trainer at the Mahlahla campus and has been in the lodge and guiding industry for seven years. He has held various positions including lodge management, leopard research, capture and relocation, wildlife rehabilitation, overland guiding and guiding in Big 5 reserves in various parts of South Africa. Vaughan Jessnitz Senior Trainer Vaughan has been part of the tourism industry for the last 10 years, guiding and managing camps throughout South Africa, specifically in the Greater Kruger National Park. Throughout his career, he has been involved in various conservation and research projects specialising in entomology and biodiversity mapping throughout South Africa. He has been working at Bushwise for the last four years. Edward Smith Trainer 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 kickstart his field guiding career by taking an opportunity at one of South Africa’s oldest private game reserves, Bonamanzi Private Game Reserve in Hluhluwe, KZN. Jack Hutchinson Trainer Jack was a Bushwise student back in 2009. He has been guiding for the last 11 years in 5-star lodges such as Imbali Safari lodge, Lion Sands and Thornybush in South Africa. He has been working at Bushwise since January 2020. He is currently training to become a FGASA assessor and mentor for trail guides. Lindi Hutchinson Trainer Lindi finished her apprentice trails guide training in 2011. In November 2013, she started her guiding career at Entabeni Game Reserve in the Waterberg, South Africa. She has worked in numerous different reserves and biomes and is now a professional field guide with FGASA Level 3 and Full Trails qualifications. She has been working at Bushwise since January 2020.
Our passion for nature, conservation thereof, and the education of prospective field guides are evident in all our on-campus programs. Our professional trainers deliver with utmost dedication to achieve outstanding results through all our courses. Let’s hear what the alumni have to say. Read more about our alumni’s success stories.
Sophie Pyper, United Kingdom, 2020
I had the most amazing 6 months with Bushwise and cannot praise highly enough the quality of training and friendliness of all the staff. The experience and knowledge I gained goes far beyond what I expected, with trainers passing on information that you cannot possibly learn in textbooks! The Bushwise campus is the perfect balance between a professional training environment and a family atmosphere where you instantly feel safe and comfortable in the bush. As an international wanting to get into the industry there are additional challenges compared to South Africans, but again the support and patience from Bushwise was and still is incredible!
Jenny Draime, United States, 2020
Bushwise was amazing! Not only have I gained an incredible knowledge about the bush I have also made many awesome friends! The trainers are absolutely great as well! They take the time to teach you about everything they know and especially what they are passionate about! I’d definitely recommend Bushwise
Zander Schoeman, South Africa, 2020
Choosing Bushwise was one of my best choices I made in life. Being part of Bushwise becomes so much more than just nature. Becomes a family. And they take very good care of everyone – and I can stand as witness that there is so much more going on behind the scenes that you don’t always know of where they will do anything in their capability in order to help you in whatever it may be.Lot of oppurtunities under them which will take you further than just a stepping stone.
Daniel Mogale, South Africa, 2019
The whole experience for being in outdoors most of the time,enjoying nature at it best and staff is very friendly,crazy and awesome. Thanks for evrything BUSHWISE…!
Devlin Loader, South Africa, 2019
This area is fantastic. The trainers at this institution give all their effort into making sure that we get the best education there is. The accommodation is great and the people you meet will for sure be friends for life.
Mara Vinnik, United States, 2019
This is the place to go if you are passionate about learning about the bush and the life it holds. The staff’s desire to constantly learn and teach are unique in terms of experiences you can have in the bush.
Georgie Hall, United Kingdom, 2019
Bushwise has been everything I could have hoped for and more. It has given me more knowledge than I could have imagined and feel like I’m only just at the tip of the iceberg. The staff and trainers were excellent and so passionate about not only wildlife but teaching their students more than what was required and educating us about the ethical way of guiding. The admin team are also extremely helpful for international students as they take care of all of the extras needed to complete the course. I’ve made friends and work colleagues for life and can’t recommend Bushwise enough.
Shawn Gardner, South Africa, 2019
Bushwise has been one of the best experiences of my life. The amount of knowledge that you gain from the trainers, all while meeting friends for life, is amazing. Constantly being surrounded by people who share the same passions as you, want to be in the bush and learn as much as possible sets Bushwise apart from other training providers. The training staff is so knowledgeable and have a way of spreading their infectious attitude about the bush. If you’re debating doing a field guide course, choose Bushwise!!
Elandri du Plessis, South Africa, 2019
It was the most exciting 6 months of my life! I had learned so much about the bush as well as myself. Being in the bush every day learning about the big and small was a privilege that I would recommend to anyone wanting to make a change in their life. There is never a dull moment in the bush!
Lucia van den Berg, United Kingdom, 2019
If you are tired of the same routine everyday and you want to change your life then Bushwise is the place for you. If i look back at how much i have learnt since the day i arrived at the Bushwise campus i can’t put into words how incredible the amount of information i have been able to absorb in my time here. You need to be able to deal with a simple way of and leave the luxuries at home. Its not easy and it takes some time getting use to but once you adjust bush living is the best thing ever! The noises, the animals, the birds, everything makes it amazing! You just feel emerged in the environment living on this campus. You make amazing friends and you learn things you would never expect. I would recommend this course to anyone that wants to learn everything there is to learn about the bush.
Claire Hopkins, United Kingdom, 2018
Quite simply the best 6 months spent with the best people! Fantastic trainers with an exhaustive knowledge of every detail of the bush and a passion for passing that knowledge on to the students. Would do it all over again if I could!
Antony Peel, United Kingdom, 2018
Amazing 6 months with more amazing people. A place that offers a lot more than knowledge and training in the bush, but friendships for life and experiences you will unlikely get anywhere else. Can’t wait to continue my second 6 months at work placement!
Ellie Schwartz, United States, 2018
Bushwise has been such an amazing experience and I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to become a field guide! The staff members are incredible and have vast knowledge of the bush; be prepared to work hard and learn lots. For any internationals looking into the course, be prepared to overcome unexpected challenges that South Africans may not face and work extra hard during placement in hopes to secure a job afterwards. I’ve enjoyed my time here so much and met so many great people and lifelong friends. Sad to leave, but excited to expand my knowledge and teach others about the bush at my placement!
Tasha van den Aardweg, South Africa, 2018
DO IT! Honestly was the best time. Met the most awesome people and made life long friends. Learnt so much about the bush and experienced epic sightings! Thanks to all the trainers and staff for making the last 6months unforgettable
Gina Ferguson, South Africa, 2018
A most incredible six months spent at Bushwise. The trainers are exceptionally enthusiastic and have an extensive knowledge of all aspects experienced in the bushveld. The campus gives off an extremely homely feel due to the support staff and familial relationships formed during our time spent here. Would definitely recommend to any budding field guides!
Mark Kaptein, Netherlands, 2018
Awesome experience during which I learned a lot about the bush and guiding. I can’t think of a better preparation to start in the safari industry than following the bushwise course. A lot of practical activities like game drives and special skills are combined with theoretical knowledge. The trainers are very passionate about their job and I would certainly recommend the course!
Amy Villis, United Kingdom, 2018
This course has been fantastic! My husband and I have enjoyed every minute and it has been better than we ever imagined. The trainers are very experienced and give a lot of help and guidance along the way. And the course content is really interesting and fun. We’ve made some fantastic friends and awesome memories. I’d highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to do their FGASA Level 1.
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.”
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”