8 week Field Guide Course - South Africa & Botswana

South Africa

If you intend on becoming a Safari Guide, or want to immerse yourself in nature, this Level 1 Field Guide course is for you. Every minute is a learning experience, where you will be surrounded by iconic wildlife and awe - struck by Africa's natural beauty.

Whether you’ve chosen a professional career linked to wildlife or nature or even if you just want to learn more about every aspect of the African bush, this accredited Level One course is perfect.

You will cover a broad spectrum of subjects both in a formal lecture environment as well as out in the field, where nature will be your classroom. You will be based at one or two of three different wilderness camps in South Africa.

Many participants enrol onto this course for a gap year experience or extended bush holiday. It is an amazing opportunity to spend time in the African wilderness, while learning about the amazing natural beauty around you.

You will undertake daily morning and evening activities, alternating between game walks and drives. Lectures are usually between breakfast and lunch, with a break after lunch for private study and relaxation. As well as learning about wildlife, trees, reptiles and birds, you are also required to learn about camp management and maintenance of equipment and vehicles. You will also learn about bush safety and how to be responsible towards other guides, guests and animals in the wilderness.

This course is available at three amazing private game reserves in South Africa. Two are concessions neighbouring the world-famous Kruger National Park and the other is a private reserve home to strong populations of cheetah and leopard. You may also choose to go to Botswana and spend part of your time in the stunning Tuli Game Reserve.

WHY CHOOSE THIS COURSE

This course is presented by one of the first and best providers of nature guide training in Africa. You will be based at some of South Africa’s finest private game reserves where you will get a deep understanding of Africa’s iconic wildlife plus learn about animal behaviour, ecology and guiding techniques.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Anyone aged 18 years and over
How long is the course: 55 days
Accommodation: Tent shared between two people (same sex). Single supplements available.
Transfer time: Varies depending on location
Pick up from: Johannesburg / Victoria Falls (depending on location)
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Course numbers: Up to 20
Start dates: Various from January - November
How much: from ZAR 76,900 (approx $7,100)

About the Course

Every minute of this 55-day programme will be a learning experience. You will be submerged in nature and constantly exposed to every part of the African bush.

- Cover a broad range of subjects in daily lectures and practical activities
- Undertake game walks and drives accompanied by experienced professional trainers and guides
- The course provides a foundation for a career in field guiding and many other wildlife careers
- Immerse yourself in African wildlife and learn about the plants and animals, trees and birds
- Live in unfenced wilderness campsites surrounded by the sights and sounds of the bush

You will be based in camps in prime wildlife areas and partake in wilderness walks or game drives twice a day. Depending on which course you choose, you will be trained on up to two different game reserves, exposing you to a diversity of habitats and species. No other training provider can match this variety of training environments or frequency of practical activities we offer to our students.

What sort of things will I be doing?

You will study 16 modules during your course and cover theoretical and practical skills in wildlife guiding and conservation management, as well as learning about the wildlife which surrounds you.

The Level 1 Field Guide course covers:


- Introduction to the natural environment
- Guiding and radio procedures
- Geology
- Astronomy
- Weather and climate
- Basic ecology
- Basic taxonomy
- Plants and grasses
- Insects
- Amphibians, fish and reptiles
- Birds
- Mammals
- Animal behaviour
- Tracks and signs
- Conservation management
- Historical human habitation

Students will also gain skills in off-road driving, guiding and hosting clients, navigation and orientation and vehicle maintenance. These will be covered in formal lectures and workshops as well as out in the field - observing and learning about what is around you.

While this course forms the foundation for a career in guiding, many students enrol for a gap year holiday or extended bush experience. You do not have to pay for and take the field guide assessment at the end if you simply wish to use the course to further your own knowledge.

Participants of any age over 18 who hold a full (manual / stick shift) driving licence are encouraged to enrol. If you have a full driving licence for an automatic vehicle, please let us know when booking your place.

Base 1 - West Kruger

Where will I be based?

The West Kruger Camp is situated on the banks of the Selati River in a 33,000 hectare (81,545 acres) game reserve to the west of the Kruger National Park. This is a large, undeveloped reserve with diverse topography and biodiversity, and you will cover much of this vast wilderness on the course.

Features

To the east of the reserve are large granite koppies (hills), where Black eagles and Klipspringers can be found. The dominant vegetation types are Combretum and Mopane woodland, which is a habitat well suited to large elephant and giraffe populations. The reserve is dissected by the Selati River which dries up in winter into large rocky pools of water. These pools are good places to view concentrations of birds and animals such as Nyala. Special species occurring here include the rare Sable Antelope and Eland.

      

Wildlife

A wide range of animals inhabit the reserve, including lions, elephants and leopard - the reserve is renowned for its sitings of lion and elephant. Plains game such as giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, kudu, impala, baboons and monkeys are plentiful and you might even get to see large herds of eland, as well as the rare sable antelope.

Temperature and weather

Summer temperatures average from about 35-37°C during the day, dropping to mid 20°C at night. Winter temperatures drops to about 4°C at night and averages between 18 -25°C during the day. Occasional winter showers prevail, but are unusual. Rain in the summer takes the form of heavy thunder-showers, or frontal rainfall over a longer period of time. If you are coming in summer - bring a rain jacket and if you are coming in winter, bring warm sleeping clothes, gloves and hats.

Accommodation

The camp consists of 10 simple dome tents, each containing two mattresses with pillows (two students per tent, same sex sharing). There are shared bathroom facilities and a central communal area overlooking the dry river bed. Students must bring their own bedding. Please bring an additional pillow should you require two. There are no mosquito nets so please also bring your own if required.

      

Communal areas

This area consists of a thatch-roofed open sided deck where all meals, lectures and studying takes place.

Course dates 2017-2018:

The 2017-2018 dates for the Field Guide course at this location are:

9th September 2017 - 3rd November 2017: West Kruger & South West Kruger
6th October 2017 - 30th November: West Kruger / North Kruger
5th January 2018 - 1st March 2018: South West Kruger & West Kruger
10th March 2018 - 4th May 2018: South West Kruger & West Kruger
12th April 2018 - 6th June 2018: Botswana & West Kruger
6th May 2018 - 30th June 2018: South West Kruger & West Kruger
2nd July 2018 - 26th August 2018: West Kruger & South West Kruger
8th September 2018 - 2nd November 2018: West Kruger & South West Kruger
4th October 2018 - 28th November: West Kruger
 

If these dates are not convenient, take a look at the dates for one of the other locations running this course.

Alternatively, there is a 7 and 14 day EcoTracker course run from this location, plus a 28 day Safari Guide Course, which covers much of the same material but does not have an official accreditation at the end.

If nothing suits your dates, please enquire and we will do our best to find you an alternative placement!

Base 2 - South West of Kruger

Where will I be based?

This camp is on the banks of the Karongwe River (mostly a dry river bed), in a 9,000 hectare (22,239 acre) game reserve to the south-west of the Kruger National Park. Through the reserve flow three rivers, tributaries of the Olifants River, carving their way through the bedrock and dividing the reserve.

Features

This reserve has undulating hills and valleys and broad-leafed woodland. The vegetation of the reserve falls within the Savannah Biome of southern Africa with distinct vegetation zones being represented – mixed Lowveld and Mopane bushveld along with grass savannah, riverine vegetation and rocky outcrops. You will traverse over most of the reserve, except for one small section in the northern part.

      

Wildlife

This base is a good place for viewing leopard, lion and cheetah as well as elephant. As the camp itself is unfenced, you will frequently have four-legged guests visiting during the day and night! Hyenas make nightly patrols of the camp, and elephant, cheetah and lion have also made appearances on occasion. There is abundant wildlife with over 60 different mammal species in the area.

Temperature and weather

Summers are warm to hot, with temperatures ranging from mid 20°C on the cooler cloud-covered rainy days, to the high 30°C on average days. Occasional hot day’s temperatures can exceed 40°C. Winters are usually dry, with the average morning temperature of 6°C, with occasional cooler morning temperatures; afternoon temperatures average in the mid 20s°C to 32°C expected. Occasional winter showers prevail, but are unusual. Rain in the summer takes the form of heavy thunder-showers, or frontal rainfall over a longer period of time.

Accommodation

The camp consists of 10 walk-in style Meru tents, with twin beds (students share tents) and supplied bedding (a duvet and one pillow); although you might want to bring an extra blanket for the winter months and an additional pillow should you require two. There are shared ablution facilities and a central communal area. There are viewing decks in the central area of the camp, and many students choose to make the viewing decks their “bedroom” for part of or for the full duration of the course. The camp itself is unfenced.

      

The Communal Area

This area is made up of four tall thatch-roofed open-sided decks which forms a square that encloses an open campfire area. One of the deck structures serves as the open air dining area, lecture room and study area. Two decks remain open to welcome the adventurous who want to spend their nights as close to nature as possible, while the last deck is the home of the head instructor.

Course dates 2017-2018:

The 2017-2018 dates for the Field Guide course at this location are:

9th September 2017 - 3rd November 2017: West Kruger & South West Kruger
5th January 2018 - 1st March 2018: South West Kruger & West Kruger
10th March 2018 - 4th May 2018: South West Kruger & West Kruger
6th May 2018 - 30th June 2018: South West Kruger & West Kruger
2nd July 2018 - 26th August 2018: West Kruger & South West Kruger
8th September 2018 - 2nd November 2018: West Kruger & South West Kruger

Alternatively, there is a 7 and 14 day EcoTracker course run from this location, plus a 28 day Safari Guide Course, which covers much of the same material but does not have an official accreditation at the end. If nothing suits your dates, please enquire and we will do our best to find you an alternative placement!

Base 3 - Botswana

Where will I be based?

You will be based in the Land of Giants, in the Tuli Game Reserve, located at the confluence of the Limpopo and the Shashe Rivers, in the easternmost corner of Botswana. The Northern Tuli Game Reserve is the collective name for several privately owned game reserves, including the Mashatu, Ntani and Tuli reserves, covering all the land north of the Limpopo River.

Features

Tuli forms a key part of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with majestic rocks, diverse vegetation, abundant wildlife, a profusion of birds and a rich archaeological heritage, and spans more than 25 000 ha of pure unadulterated wilderness, the perfect place to reconnect with nature.

Botswana-field-guide

Wildlife

Besides elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena, general game such as giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, eland and a variety of antelope, and nocturnal species such as the springhare, bat-eared fox, civet cat, genet, honey badger and mongoose, are prevalent throughout the reserve. You will do night drives and, with the aid of spot lights, the bush will come to life.

The birdlife is prolific, with the game reserve recording at least 366 different species.

Temperature and weather

In this part of Botswana you'll find a subtropical climate, with hot summers (average 36˚C) and warm, dry winters (average minimum 9˚C and average maximum 22˚C). However, be sure not to be caught out by the intermittent summer rains which fall between October and March. Early mornings and late afternoon/evenings during the winter do get cold, so be sure to bring sufficient warm clothing for early morning drives such as woolly hat, scarf and long trousers - think layers!

Accommodation

The camp consists of 10 simple dome tents, each with two mattresses and pillows (two students per tent). Please bring along your sleeping bag and an extra blanket/pillow if required. There are shared bathroom facilities, and a central communal area overlooking the river bed.

Course dates 2017-2018:

The 2017-2018 dates for the Field Guide course at this location are:

12th April 2018 - 6th June 2018: Botswana and West Kruger
 

Alternatively, there is a 28 day Safari Guide Course run from this location, which covers much of the same material but does not have an official accreditation at the end.

If nothing suits your dates, please enquire and we will do our best to find you an alternative placement!

Base 4 - Victoria Falls

Where will I be based?

You will be based 10km from Africa's adventure capital, Victoria Falls, in a 6,000 acre private game reserve located at an oxbow of the Masuie River, a tributary of the might Zambezi River. Students will also get the opportunity to visit Chobe National Park in Botswana, the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe and, of course, the majestic Victoria Falls.

Features

The Reserve falls within the recently-declared KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area, the largest conservation area in Africa. The KAZA TCA extends across the boundaries of five countries: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, and aims to achieve goals of sustainable ecotourism in the area.

The vegetation and fauna characteristics are similar to that of the surrounding National parks and safari areas, with large numbers of raptors being present due to the Vulture Restaurant programme in place on the Reserve. The dominant vegetation type is Zambezi Teak forest. The reserve also holds a large dam along the Masuwe River which flows through the Reserve, and into the Zambezi River.

Wildlife

The reserve is the only property in the Victoria Falls region where Africa’s Big 5 (lion, buffalo, rhino, elephant and leopard) can be viewed. The evenings transmit the characteristic calls of spotted hyenas, their tracks often being found right outside camp in the early morning.

There is a great diversity of wildlife on the reserve, from invertebrates, frogs and reptiles to birds and mammals. The bird species in the region include “specials” such as the broad-billed roller, Western banded snake eagle, Schalow’s turaco, Narina trogon and Taita falcon.

Mammals are abundant – from small gerbils and other rodents and several species of smaller carnivores to antelope, and right through to the large cats (lion, leopard, cheetah) and the African elephant and black rhino.

Temperature and weather

In this lowveld part of Zimbabwe you'll find a subtropical climate, with hot summers (average 36˚C) and warm, dry winters (average minimum 5˚C and average maximum 22˚C). However, be sure not to be caught out by the intermittent summer rains which fall between October and March. Early mornings and late afternoon/evenings during the winter do get cold, so be sure to bring sufficient warm clothing for early morning drives such as woolly hat, scarf and long trousers - think layers!

Accommodation

The camp consists of 20 single rooms, 9 accommodating students on the Field Guide Course, with shared ablutions (usually between 2-4 people). Each room has a single bed with sheets, duvet, two pillows and a spare blanket for the colder months. Each room has a ceiling fan.

The communal area consists of the open braai (barbecue) area with a swimming pool, an open canteen area and a lecture room with a basic resource library. There is WiFi access at the centre. Participants are encouraged to contribute their experiences through electronic social media portals, in exchange for this service.

There is a fridge in the entertainment area, where students can store their drinking water/juices. A selection of affordable drinks are available on site.

Course dates 2017-2018:

The 2017-2018 dates for the Field Guide course at this location are:

2nd August 2017 -26th September 2017:Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
12th August 2018 - 6th October 2018 :Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

If nothing suits your dates, please enquire and we will do our best to find you an alternative placement!

Details

Do I need any experience to join the course?

You do not need any prior wildlife experience to enrol on this course but students must have a good grasp of English, if it is not their first language, and a keen interest in conservation.

You must also be over 18, hold a valid drivers licence (to drive a manual / stick shift vehicle) and an accredited, valid and current first aid certificate.

First aid certificate: this must preferably be done before arriving, but you can also do it after the course. It can be done at any accredited institution in any country. Note that you will not receive your certificate until you have done your first aid course.

How do I get to the project?

Projects in South Africa or Botswana:
If you arriving into South Africa by air, please fly into O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg. From there you are welcome to take advantage of the transfer bus laid on by the project, which goes to both the South African reserves and to Botswana. Please enquire for times and prices. 

Should you arrive into Johannesburg before your start date and wish to take advantage of the bus, you will need to return to a backpackers / guest house close to the airport to meet the transfer.

Projects in Victoria Falls:
Please arrange to arrive into Victoria Falls the day before your course starts and overnight, ready for your collection on your project start date.

General details about the camps

- Electricity

Unless otherwise stated in the project info, there is no electricity at any of the camps (with the exception of Victoria Falls) – paraffin and solar lamps are used for all lighting and a generator is used to charge camera batteries and other essential electricals. Studying at night with paraffin lanterns can be challenging so a headlamp is recommended as well as an extra battery operated lamp if you wish to study in your tent at night. The kitchens are equipped with gas fridges for storage of all perishable food items. Fresh drinking water, cordial and teas and coffees are freely available and the camps also sell a selection of affordable fizzy drinks (cash only).

The generators are for camp use and will not be switched on for the sole purpose of charging cameras or other equipment.

- Laundry

A hand washing laundry service is provided at a nominal weekly fee. Students are asked to please wash their own underwear.

Staff in Camp

For the duration of your stay, there will usually be a head instructor, assistant instructor and camp coordinator, plus kitchen and cleaning staff.

- Communications

There is no wifi and very limited cell phone coverage at any of the camps (except in Victoria Falls). Please let your friends and family back home know that communication will be sporadic.

A day in the life

Volunteers will usually get up around 6.00-6.30am to get started before the day heats up.

Your morning activity may be a bush walk or game drive where you will learn about a specific area such as tree identification or mammal tracking. Take a look and see if you can identify what nocturnal animals have left tracks in the sand and try and identify which way the elephant herd was moving. Play the part of the guide as you take your class-mates on a perfectly guided game drive!

After breakfast head into the classroom for a lecture to learn the theory behind the environment you are working in and learn the differences between different biomes.

Enjoy lunch with the volunteers on this programme and watch the animals come to drink at the waterhole in front of the dining deck. Take a dip in the pool to cool off during the heat of the day.

Spend a few hours studying in your room (there is a lot to learn!) before heading out again mid-afternoon for a game drive. You will learn about the geology and ecology of the game park and learn to navigate using the trees and the natural environment around you.

Head back to camp and enjoy a hearty dinner as you chat about the animal sitings of the day. Students on this course will also use evenings to learn about the night skies and using the stars to navigate and will also do night drives to learn about and see the nocturnal animals and birds.

Pricing

When can I volunteer?

The 2018 course start dates are:

10th March 2018 - 4th May 2018: South West Kruger & West Kruger
12th April 2018 - 6th June 2018: Botswana and West Kruger
6th May 2018 - 30th June 2018: South West Kruger & West Kruger
2nd July 2018 - 26th August 2018: West Kruger & South West Kruger
12th August 2018 - 6th October 2018 :Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
8th September 2018 - 2nd November 2018: West Kruger & South West Kruger
4th October 2018 - 28th November 2018: West Kruger

2018 Pricing:

55 day Accredited Field Guide Course: ZAR 89,000

What's included in the price:

  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry (exc. alcoholic and fizzy drinks)
  • Instructors and Training
  • Bush walks and drives
  • T-shirt, shirt and cap
  • Practical instruction on wildlife and plant identification as well as spoors, tracking and
  • animal behaviour
  • All course-related transport and equipment required to do your work
  • 24 hour support from the course leaders

The price does not include:

  • Flights
  • Visa fees
  • Personal expenses such as souvenirs, drinks, snacks etc
  • Pre-programme accommodation (if required)
  • Transfers from Johannesburg to the first project location (South Africa and Botswana projects)
  • Advanced first aid certification (if required)
  • Examination fee (optional)

Project Gallery - 8 week Field Guide Course - South Africa & Botswana

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