I am often asked, what exactly is involved in training to become a Field Guide (the industry term for a safari guide)? Well, first of all safari school isn’t like going to a ‘proper’ school – our lecture hall is the bush itself! We sleep, eat and learn in the bush, 24 hours a day, for a minimum of 55 days. A typical day involves a morning game drive or walk. Each day, one student gets the chance to practice guiding by taking us on a safari and imparting their knowledge. This way we all learn from each other. During the drive the instructor will also periodically cut in with added information and advice. Over 55 days, we all saw a huge improvement in our knowledge and skills!
Back in camp, there is time for breakfast before a lecture from one of the instructors. This could be on anything from animal behaviour to the anatomy of a spider! Our free time is mostly taken up with completing the compulsory workbooks and revision. There is a friendly study area with lots of books and research material where many of the students get together. After lunch, we head out again on a second game drive or walk, this time with the obligatory sundowner drinks. Finally, at the end of the day we congregate at the fire for dinner – often a popular safari school special, a bush braai.
Overall, safari school is pretty intense, especially when the exams begin to loom over us. However, we almost always find time for a game of volleyball or a cheeky documentary to keep us going. Not to mention plenty of nights drinking by starlight around a fire, or even the odd sleepout in the bush! Having experienced it myself, and spoken to many other trainee guides, I know that the friendships made during these few short months often last a lifetime. After all, we are all there for the same reason – for the love of the bush.
After completing FGASA Level 1 (the minimum requirement for guiding in South Africa), you can enhance your qualifications further by learning to become a trails (walking) guide and begin building knowledge in certain specialist areas, such as birding.
Ecotraining (who I trained with) also offer a 6-month internship to get that crucial lodge work experience in the hopes of getting a job at the end of it. I can honestly say that my time at safari school was one of the best times of my life! It was hard work, and it certainly had more than one moment that brought me close to tears, but the friendships and memories I made, not to mention the skills I learnt, will hopefully last a lifetime.
Want to know more? Find out out my life on the safari guide internship here.